Lay Low is one of the newer Jazz nights to have sprung up in Glasgow, kicking off late last year. Curated by saxophonist Mateusz Sobieski (check out our interview with him here), it’s a chilled affair with the audience sitting on the floor strewn with rugs and cushions and a general kind of ‘early morning in the Avalon fields’ vibe going on. Tonight is only the second live outing for Modernistic, a collective of musicians led by pianist Ewan Johnston.
Opening a cover of their namesake, ‘You’ve Got To Be Modernistic’, seems like a statement of intent from the young band. James P Johnson’s ragtime piano is transformed by a repeated sax and drum line into a J Dilla-influenced groove. Set between the contrasting vocals of rapper ACE V!S!ON’s percussive lyricism and a wordless float from Gaïa Jeannot, a simple lick becomes complex and multi-textured. ‘Best One’ written by Johnston follows it up, the two vocalists weave together with the breathy flutter tone from Simon Herberholz on saxophone, building to a huge crescendo that pulls attention all over the stage.
There’s an impressive range on display; a fret-leaping bass solo from Norman Willmore full of technical harmonic playing opens the second set, the forceful and considered spoken word of ACE on ‘Confronting Within’ bringing a meditative hush. Jeannot twists sensual growls and ethereal lightness together with a playful delight. There’s a sense of a group of skilled musicians bouncing off each other, testing and pushing to see what happens, and enjoying the process.
Johnston’s compositions have a feel of Acid Jazz and 90s New Jack; helped by his rounded piano funk and a fluid rhythm section, and that’s cemented in the choice of covers – an Eryka Badhu track that shows off Jeannot’s vocal range and some glitchy Robert Glasper. Modernistic feel like a band on the cusp of discovering something, pulling their influences together into something bigger, and pushing each other to see just how far they can go.
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