Hats off for Stetson's big blowout at Brighton's Duke of York

 Stetson2

Colin Stetson has enough draw to fill this arthouse cinema on a Sunday night; his collaborative discography reads like the tracklist for a Starbucks compilation full of bands who make the sort of poignantly uplifting, evocatively progressive music often associated with hipster-indie movies, from Bon Iver to Arcade Fire to Feist to The National, so it's a fitting choice of venue.

A lone figure in jeans and white t-shirt, bearded and neatly coiffed like an urban lumberjack, he covers himself with contact mics in the mode of an undercover agent on a sting, then selects an alto-sax from the array of gleaming pipework before him, raises it to his lips and launches into 'Spindrift' from his most recent album, All This I Do For Glory. A glittering torrent of arpeggiated triads burst forth, delivered in a hard, skirling tone, amid a wash of cavernous reverb. His mastery of circular breathing is soon apparent as the streams of notes gush forth in an unyielding fortissimo, the enormous reverb causing the overtones to build into shifting, overlapping patterns, like a one-man Steve Reich ensemble, while the amplified clicking of the pads provides a rhythmic counterpoint. The ferocity of his electronically-augmented onslaught occasionally threatens to overwhelm the PA's capabilities; a pulsing major third in the low register sets up a driving bassline, and then Stetson simultaneously begins to hum a wordless melody from back in his throat, which floats spectrally over the hypnotic waves of sound.

Stetson3

After this first salvo, it's time to bring out the big gun - his trademark bass saxophone. The thunderous impact of its low-end draws whoops from the crowd, entirely filling the cavernous space. During 'Judges', from his 2011 release, Stetson sets up a harmonically simple bassline that cycles round a minor key chord progression, adding roars and yelps in the upper harmonics like a didgeridoo player, while the clicking of the pads add a driving percussion. The ability to play multiple parts at once, without recourse to loop pedals or other sampling technology, is Stetson's great discovery – all his compositions are cut according to the same template, with repeating bass figures marching under ghostly high-frequency melodies, and despite the occasional controlled outbreaks of skronking free-jazz chaos there's a simple, wistfully big-sky melodic sense going on that explains his fit with his indie collaborators, and which contrasts intriguingly with the undeniably macho demonstration of physical strength.

If the bass sax was low, the contrabass clarinet is even lower – 'Between Water And Wind' commences with a dense fog of low frequency enveloping the auditorium and continues with the unrelenting buzzsaw drone and hum of industrial machinery. It's fascinating and a little unnerving to see a man push himself to the limits of physical endurance in the name of art – "We usually get some fainters in the audience," says Stetson, and those susceptible to panic attacks should perhaps approach with caution. For the most part, the music arising from this unique performance style, utterly devoid of dynamic variation or any interspersion of silence, has an otherworldly, hypnotic power, but on occasion Stetson's yelping and hooting over the endless grind shades over into the cartoonish, like listening to the Clangers lost and adrift in a bottomless chasm. The Duke of York's was originally opened as a turn-of-the-century music hall and variety theatre, and one could imagine the watching spirits of it's vanished prestidigitators, quick-change artists and escapologists would have felt a kinship with this remarkable performer.

– Eddie Myer
– Photos by Agata Urbaniak 

 

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website

If you do not change browser settings, you consent to continue. Learn more

I understand

Breaking News

Szun Waves launch New Hymn To Freedom with live dates

Szun Waves launch New Hymn To Freedom wi…

Electronica jazz trio Szun Waves release their second album, New...

Read More.....
Donny McCaslin’s big Blow set for Scala

Donny McCaslin’s big Blow set for Scala

US saxophonist Donny McCaslin follows the breakthrough success of 2016's...

Read More.....
PRS Foundation Momentum Music Fund now open for applications

PRS Foundation Momentum Music Fund now o…

The PRS Foundation's Momentum Music Fund has helped the likes...

Read More.....
Beats & Pieces Big Band launch Ten with video and tour

Beats & Pieces Big Band launch Ten w…

Manchester's mighty Beats & Pieces Big Band continue their yearlong...

Read More.....
Robert Glasper leads R+R=NOW for stormy Celebrate Brooklyn blow-out

Robert Glasper leads R+R=NOW for stormy …

The history of collectives in jazz are nearly as old...

Read More.....
Are you ready for the Write Stuff? 2018 Applications Now Open

Are you ready for the Write Stuff? 2018 …

Budding music writers listen up! This year's Write Stuff music...

Read More.....
John Coltrane’s The Lost Album: Both Directions at Once hits Top 20 Albums

John Coltrane’s The Lost Album: Both Dir…

Last week's release of John Coltrane's The Lost Album: Both...

Read More.....
Boogie at the Bandstand - Love Supreme's festival within a festival

Boogie at the Bandstand - Love Supreme's…

With an abundance of big names on the larger stages...

Read More.....
Keyon Harrold, Vijay Iyer and EXPO Commissions for 40th Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Fest

Keyon Harrold, Vijay Iyer and EXPO Commi…

The 40th edition of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival...

Read More.....
Roy Carr 1945 – 2018

Roy Carr 1945 – 2018

Doyen of the music press for half a century and...

Read More.....
Pharoah's Prophecies Pave Way For New Wave Of Spiritual Sentinels At This Year's Love Supreme

Pharoah's Prophecies Pave Way For New Wa…

"I've already had my mind blown once today," a geezerish...

Read More.....
Meshell Ndegeocello and The Bad Plus for Innervisions Fest at Under The Bridge

Meshell Ndegeocello and The Bad Plus for…

Chelsea music venue, Under the Bridge, will play host to...

Read More.....
Brockley Beer & Improv Sessions Brew Up New Series

Brockley Beer & Improv Sessions Brew…

Connoisseurs of craft ales and well-crafted extemporisation, rejoice! Another series of...

Read More.....
Archie Shepp, Phronesis, Kandace Springs and Kit Downes added to EFG London Jazz Festival

Archie Shepp, Phronesis, Kandace Springs…

The line-up for this year's EFG London Jazz Festival, which...

Read More.....
Wynton Marsalis Quartet open up to the spirit of Ornette at Barbican

Wynton Marsalis Quartet open up to the s…

Wynton Marsalis is more forward-thinking than he gets credit for...

Read More.....
Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas step up with Sound Prints at the Village vanguard

Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas step up with…

Joe Lovano remarked that "it was the end of an...

Read More.....
Jazz Women celebrated at Jazz Centre UK exhibition

Jazz Women celebrated at Jazz Centre UK …

Southend-on-Sea's Jazz Centre UK presents a major exhibition, Jazz Women...

Read More.....
Boggamasta boogie on down at Brussels Jazz Weekend

Boggamasta boogie on down at Brussels Ja…

The UK equivalent to the Brussels Jazz Weekend would be...

Read More.....
Orphy Robinson gets Gibraltar rocking beyond Borders

Orphy Robinson gets Gibraltar rocking be…

British vibes virtuoso Orphy Robinson is artist-in-residence at the year's...

Read More.....
Vijay Iyer Sextet and Julian Lage jive to Jazz Cafe

Vijay Iyer Sextet and Julian Lage jive t…

Having reopened its doors in January 2016, following a multi-million-pound...

Read More.....
Jon Hiseman 1944-2018

Jon Hiseman 1944-2018

One of the UK's foremost drummers and bandleaders, Jon Hiseman...

Read More.....
Airto Moreira's Afro-Samba Anthems Raise Roof At Ronnie's

Airto Moreira's Afro-Samba Anthems Raise…

  No greater sign of changing times comes than in this...

Read More.....
Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Binker & Moses head to Harrogate

Ayanna Witter-Johnson and Binker & M…

The Harrogate International Festival, which has been running for over...

Read More.....
Voting Now Open for 2018 Parliamentary Jazz Awards

Voting Now Open for 2018 Parliamentary J…

Voting is now open for the 2018 Parliamentary Jazz Awards...

Read More.....
Lost John Coltrane Quartet Album surfaces on Impulse!

Lost John Coltrane Quartet Album surface…

A previously unreleased session by the classic John Coltrane Quartet...

Read More.....
Etienne Charles Triumphant At The Tabernacle With Timely Blend Of Defiance And Celebration

Etienne Charles Triumphant At The Tabern…

  This venue has deep historical resonance for black music in...

Read More.....
Jean Toussaint All-Star 6Tet Shine Bright At Ronnie Scott's

Jean Toussaint All-Star 6Tet Shine Brigh…

  'All-star' is a term mostly out of fashion these days...

Read More.....
Horn Doyenne Holsen Hones Minimalist Drones For Hubro Album Launch

Horn Doyenne Holsen Hones Minimalist Dro…

The Norwegian brass-band tradition, which first evolved in that country...

Read More.....
Vandermark and Nilssen-Love Blow Down Brighton's Green Door

Vandermark and Nilssen-Love Blow Down Br…

  The streets of Brighton have been overflowing with music fans...

Read More.....
Tully Takes The Prize To Ronnie's

Tully Takes The Prize To Ronnie's

  What better way to celebrate the conferring of an honour...

Read More.....
Rebirth Of The Cool: Shabaka Hutchings, Thundercat and Nubya Garcia lead a jazz takeover at Field Day

Rebirth Of The Cool: Shabaka Hutchings, …

  After years of going to jazz gigs and being the...

Read More.....
Anthony Braxton's ZIM Sextet go exploring at Cafe OTO

Anthony Braxton's ZIM Sextet go explorin…

  With the death of Cecil Taylor a few weeks ago...

Read More.....
New British Jazz Generation Blasts Bath With Spiritual Baptism

New British Jazz Generation Blasts Bath …

Bath Festival applied radical surgery to their roster of festivals in...

Read More.....
PYJAEN Prosper At Peckham's Ghost Notes

PYJAEN Prosper At Peckham's Ghost Notes

Catching bands at the beginning of their journeys is so often...

Read More.....
Sons of Kemet, Ashley Henry and Yussef Dayes groove at the Great Escape

Sons of Kemet, Ashley Henry and Yussef D…

Since its beginnings in 2006, Brighton's festival of new music...

Read More.....
Zara McFarlane and Jazzmeia Horn among highlights at St Lucia Jazz Fest

Zara McFarlane and Jazzmeia Horn among h…

In recent times this event has had a tenuous relationship...

Read More.....


Subcribe To Jazzwise

Advertisement

Call 0800 137201 to subscribe or click here to email the subscriptions team

Get in touch

Jazzwise Magazine,
St. Judes Church,
Dulwich Road, 
Herne Hill,
London, SE24 0PD.

0208 677 0012

Latest Tweets

Brighton Alt Fest returns with typically brilliant and eclectic line-up, ft Peter Brötzmann, Irreversible Entanglem… https://t.co/ChKZ97Eb0N
Follow Us - @Jazzwise
@slothracket @ripsawcatfish yeah, we were all getting a little flustered over how the grinding abrasiveness might h… https://t.co/JDa7TYAF5o
Follow Us - @Jazzwise

Newsletter

© 2016 MA Business & Leisure Ltd registered in England and Wales number 02923699 Registered office: Jesses Farm, Snow Hill, Dinton, Salisbury, SP3 5HN . Designed By SE24 MEDIA