Music review: Jonny Mansfield’s Elftet, Jazz Bar, Edinburgh

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Any uninformed who may have presumed an elftet to be an ensemble of delicate sprites would have been instantly disabused by the formidable opening blast from the 11 musicians crammed precariously on the Jazz Bar’s stage. With brass fanfaring giving way to fiery electric guitar work and an elephantine bass clarinet stomp, Silhouette introduced this young band’s bewilderingly varied tone palette, led by award-winning vibraphonist Johnny Mansfield and pitching a muscular brass and reeds quartet alongside cello and violin, guitar, electric bass, drums, plus singer-flautist Ella Hohnen-Ford.

Jonny Mansfield’s Elftet, Jazz Bar, Edinburgh ****

Ford’s vocals were sometimes overwhelmed by the instrumental forces surging around her, but she crooned a cover of Norah Jones’s Painter’s Song that glided with the plomb of a Forties dance band. While inevitably evoking rumbustious shades of Loose Tubes, Elftet generate an idiosyncratic vibe of their own: the smooth bossa jog of another number might have been the theme for a Sixties movie, although with trenchant interjections from James Davidson on flugelhorn and Tom Smith on alto sax.

Mansfield’s vibes whirring over ascending bass clarinet (George Millard) and powerful brass outbursts transcended the whimsical lyrics of Wings, while Tim Smoth’s Big Day out, described as a journey, certainly travelled, from a neo-baroque prelude from violinist Dom Ingham, through quirky tempo changes and robust sax and flugelhorn breaks, to a powerful finale. Their closer, the leisurely-paced Sweet Potato, was a fine distillation of their protean nature, combining spot-on brass work with engagingly down-homey guitar from Oliver Mason. - JIM GILCHRIST