On an otherwise quiet Tuesday night in Central London, rising stars Henry Spencer and Juncture drew a sell-out crowd for the launch of their debut album. More than two years in the making, The Reasons Don't Change combines hard-driving 1950s-style jazz with the emotional punch of the Cinematic Orchestra.
Tonight the band seem to be enjoying their freedom from the constraints of the studio, giving themselves ample room for improvisation across two sets at Soho's Pizza Express Jazz Club. Spencer is a jovial and confidant host, gently mocking his bandmates between songs and directing them with the hand signals of a Wall Street trader. Switching between trumpet and flugelhorn, he specialises in simple, catchy motifs and mournful solos. At his most sombre on 'Joanne's Diary' and 'Hopeless Heartless', his group are always close behind, urging an emotional resolution, with blasting beats and loud, towering harmonies. This sense of camaraderie between the friends and Guildhall alumini often escalates the tension to hypnotic effect.
Central to the action, drummer David Ingamells impresses, whether he's barely hitting the kit or pounding through an all-out wall of rhythm. Pianist Matt Robinson gradually expands three-note melodies over guest guitarist Ant Law's single chord riffs with a rumbling energy that belies his calm, upright posture at the keys. And double bassist Andrew Robb shapes the drama with low-end hooks. Tucked in a corner, string ensemble the Guastalla Quartet add a symphonic quality to four of the band's compositions and premiere a short chamber piece by George Stevenson.
Throughout both sets, there is a keenness to reinterpret Spencer's work rather than simply playing through the songs on the record. The approach creates some of their finest moments, such as the closing number 'The Survivor and the Descendant', where the musicians give the reprise an avant-garde twist, thick with atonal squalls and clattering rhythms. A haze of noise around him, Spencer takes a swig of beer before firing a final series of drawn-out notes. An evening of resonant jazz dowsed in rock'n'roll fury.
– Edward Lander