Celebrating 25 years of performing ensemble, saxophonist Buckland and pianist Lawson’s hour long programme covered a vast range of material ranging from the strange to the obscure, boasting a wealth of talent shared between them.
First up was Takashi Yoshimatsu’s Fuzzy Bird Sonata – 1. Run, Bird, a predictably flighty and fast paced piece, replete with extensive runs and arpeggiated melodies from the saxophone. However, less expected was the way Buckland on occasion angled the bell of his alto to the lid of the grand piano for reverberation, as if hinting at the experimental nature of the music to come. Yoshimatsu’s bird not only ‘ran’ but also, presumably, ‘flew’, illustrated beautifully by soaring female soprano lines on the sax, wholesome melodies underpinned by crunchy piano chords.
Tim Garland’s The Brother’s Gift and Blues for Little Joe featuring soprano sax- the first a swaying lullaby, the second a tumbling, bubbling number, juxtaposing the contemplative with the jovial. In Blues, Lawson demonstrated excellent finesse on his instrument, holding the spotlight for much of the piece.
A recital of Barbara Thompson’s Green unsurprisingly called to mind pastoral landscape; gentle piano arpeggios and sweetly drawn out sax melodies conjuring up rolling English hills. Lawson’s solo lines became progressively more exotic, weaving through flattened intervals and accidentals, transporting us away from the West Country towards the Middle East.
The final section of the programme included Lawson’s own AltoGenesis, in which plain weirdness gave way to soporific melodies, and Aeolian Harp and Exultation (Garland), giving Buckland centre stage. Other than demonstrating how much a piano can sound like a harp, and ensuring perpetual lower back issues due to craning inside the grand’s cavity, the music was relatively unremarkable.
A perfectly executed concert that, with an exactness of articulation and delivery to die for, pointed firmly in the direction of classical music; right down to the pauses of utter silence between some pieces. However, the music was undoubtedly jazz inflected and filled with many a blue and flattened note. Even though there were more ‘free’ sounding moments rhythmically and harmonically, arguably it was Lawson’s complete lack of note bending that cements this music in the classical genre. On such a fluid instrument, it is somewhat surprising that its scope for this in particular was not much explored. Yet perhaps this is a necessary sacrifice for ‘fusion’.