Star rating: ****
Venue: Acoustic Music Centre @ St Bride’s (Venue 123)
They opened with an Argentinian tango that became an eastern European soundtrack for a Keystone Cops car chase, then moved on to Timgad, suffused with North African heat, as Mario Caribe’s double bass sounded out a sonorous, oud-like introduction and Greg Lawson’s violin sang out mournfully. The dignified stepping of a klezmer hora cascaded into the heady rush of pianist Phil Alexander’s imaginary Philip Glass composition, Tantz Glassidic – Glass at the gallop, one might say – while accordionist Pete Garnett’s worryingly-titled Zen and the Art of Wallpaper Stripping, far from a case of watching paint dry, worked up quite a sweat.
Their amplification was at times a bit overwrought, harshening the fine tone of Lawson’s violin and exaggerating Guy Nicolson’s percussion work, but they performed with style and infectious zest, not least in the unbridled high spirits of Hiya, while Lawson’s lyrical New Morning was an elegiac but ultimately joyous memorial to the late Martyn Bennett.
Then we were globetrotting again, with Caribe’s rumba tribute to his Brazilian-domiciled Spanish grandmother initially stalking with Iberian hauteur before evolving into a Latin-American good-time tune, giving pianist Phil Alexander license to let rip and for the whole band to make a rare and probably advisedly short-lived venture into song. They travel hard and fast, but it’s well worth hanging on for the ride.
Until tomorrow, 8pm.