TG Collective & Mike Fletcher Trio @ Kings Place

Double bill @ Kings Place, London – 30th May 2015

Words: Erminia Yardley

Unassumingly astounding

Kings Place, just off Kings Cross station, on York Way, a magnificent venue for art, conferences, eating and drinking and, most importantly, for jazz music on Saturday nights!
At 8pm, we enter Hall 2 downstairs and take our seats. It is a spacious and well laid out hall.

The double bill that’s in store is a treat and a rather special one as showcased by the Birmingham based and incredible Stoney Lane Records label.
The company was created by guitarist and co-founder of TG Collective, Sam Slater.
Sam tells me briefly there will be far more extensive touring around the UK and Europe from early next year to support a new album release in the spring.
There will be more gigs planned, especially in London perhaps at Ronnie Scott’s, I suggest? (I jump with joy at the thought! That would simply be awesome).
Having started a label company of course was not the only plan Mr Slater had in mind; he is involved in other ventures, like working closely with the Town Hall & Symphony Hall Birmingham, to name one.
TG Collective takes the stage first soon after 8pm with 7 musicians ready to amaze. The stage is filled with talent. The audience awaits.


The line-up is:
Jamie Fekete / Sam Slater – guitars, oud
Percy Pursglove – double bass, trumpet
Holly Jones – flute, alto flute
Lluis Mather – clarinet, bass clarinet
Kit Massey – violin
Joelle Barker – percussion

“Release the Penguins” from TGC’s 2012 album opens the show and it is a joy to be sitting in a room whose acoustic is so perfect to re-emphasize and amplify the powerful sound of this band.
TG Collective, with their signature eclectic sound full of gipsy jazz, flamenco influences and classical tones have strength and fluidity and if “Release the Penguins” is an excellent opener, then “Silhouette” is a mighty follower echoing the beautiful sounds of the Orient.
On “Songe d’Autumne”, Luis Mather’s clarinet is refreshingly good, but then “Sutta” follows, being a track of the most fragility and power at the same time, written by Bryan Lester, TG Collective’s guru apart from being a guitarist, pianist, composer, arranger and trainer as well. He has written and co-written a few tracks on TGC’s “Release the Penguins”.
With “Absurdist Cartoon Variations #7” as composed by Jamie Fekete (TGC other wonderful guitarist), we enter the realm of originality and innovation.
A couple more tracks follow, “Grasshopper” which the band have not performed live before and “Donuts” where there are only 4 players left on stage, a double bass, 2 guitars and a violin. Fabulous rendition. Mr Percy Pursglove on double bass has to be given special mention and not just because I am slightly bias towards the instrument in general, but because he IS amazing at his playing, a creator of “special effects”.
The band finishes with “Astounding Eyes of Rita” into an arrangement of Paco de Lucia’s “Zyryab”, Sam Slater on oud offers a great improvisation of oud composer and player Anouar Brahem’s eponymous album track of 2009 on ECM Records, the iconic German jazz label, the album recorded in 2009 in Italy. Note to the reader: Brahem’s album is astounding, a must listen (my favourite track being: “Waking State”).
Another special mention is due to Joelle Barker on percussions. An incredible player.

We need to see and listen to TG Collective: their innovative sound, their skills together with their fabulous imaginative writing deserve the grandest praise.
More please!

Mike Fletcher Trio

Continuing on the double-bill treat by Stoney Lane Records is the mesmerizing Mike Fletcher Trio, composed by Mike Fletcher on C melody saxophone, Olie Brice on double bass and Jeff Williams on drums.
Most of the tracks played on the night are taken from the trio’s latest album as released in January this year called “Vuelta” (Spanish for “return”).
The first two tracks are good openers to warm up the atmosphere although here is a warning: there are going to be darker notes played and if we were to compare the first bill of the evening to the second we’d be in trouble, but we are not, we cannot. And that is why one has to love Stoney Lane Records: diverse and imaginative.


Mike Fletcher Trio comes onto stage and possesses it straight away in a more subdued way than TG Collective, but there are strands of obscurity there which need investigating.
Mike Fletcher plays the saxophone immersed in his zone, raw notes step out of his instrument fading into the night air.
As one listens to the Trio playing, one is transported onto a different dimension: there is a definite Hispanic inspiration behind the music, Mike says, in between tracks, he is after all living on the south coast of Spain.
So when “A Dino” comes on, Olie Brice’s double bass is reminiscent of a cool Summer night spent promenading along some deserted streets of some Mediterranean village. Not all notes are dark so when “Her Grace” comes on, the sax is tender, subtle and yet raw. The track was composed by Mike when Alice Coltrane passed away.
It is gentle, but offers free-flowing inspiration behind it. Mike Fletches believes in balancing composition with improvisation and what subsequently ensues from this mélange. The importance of the creation of a piece of music that stirs something inside one. A vital read on this topic is Garrison Fewell’s book “Outside Music, inside voices” – dialogues on improvisation and the spirit of creative music.

Penetrating the night’s scent with such tonality is a track called “In Memoriam” by the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig with music by Mike Fletcher.
This goes to show once more how deep the love of the saxophone is for Fletcher. One is humbled by his timid ways with the microphone, but one has to rest assured it is because his heart an soul are totally immersed in the music.
The Trio plays one short encore before disappearing off stage.
Never a show has been so enticingly addictive.