True to contemporary jazz band form, they start us off gently with tuneful licks and comprehensible harmonies, the dissonance beginning to creep in after a few bars, as if on cue. Before long you are floundering in a sea of bewildering added note chords and scales altered beyond recognition, wondering if you will ever see dry, tonally consistent land again.
Quasi-order is resumed later with a funk inspired number, the highlight of this varied set, complete with splashing cymbals and twanging guitar, and a keyboardist who can hardly stay sitting due to rocking out so hard to his own sustained chords.
Mercury plays new track Hex, on which the term ‘futuristic waltz’ sits quite happily, a triple time piece peppered with harmonic quirks. Thorpe’s introduction to his bass clarinet is akin to ‘I bought this because I felt like it’ – arguably enough reason for anyone to do anything ever. Why isn’t our entire musical attitude of this ilk? Let’s have less talk about what chord should go where, according to some fossilised rules based on 17th century Bach chorales, and more appreciation for doing things a particular way because it feels good.
During an alternative rendition of The Beatles’ Here, There and Everywhere Thorpe walks right off stage which, if you are so cultured or old to have experienced Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, then you will know this is very much the done thing. The bassist is able to solo to his heart’s content, the spotlight entirely on him, his weaving melodies decorated by shimmering guitar chords. Thorpe is unceremoniously passing the baton, banishing the hierarchical conductor-orchestra, front-back desk tensions oft present in classical set ups.
Drummer Molyneux fairly walks his way through the track, lightly brushing toms and flicking cymbals in the same breezy, offhand manner as the rest of the band. But make no mistake, he is adept at making intricately complex rhythms look elementary.
The group functions as a single organism, playing off each other with perfect spontaneity and fluidity. Not to mention the coordinated uniform of casual shirts, loafers and unshaven jawlines- it’s art-smart with a touch of geek, like the way their music is edgy, cool and clever all at the same time.
Mercury is fully kitted out in jazz traditions; present and correct are the trademark signs of openhanded drumming and flat handed keyboard playing, but it would be a mistake to think these guys fit the jazz mould. Truly they are testing boundaries and blurring lines between genres, their sound a multi-faceted construction of styles and influences.