Gig review: John Law’s Boink! Stratford Jazz, 12 March 2014

BoinkThis was a gig I savour more in my mind 24 hours after the event than when I was actually there.    I have had this feeling before:   the first time I saw Brad Mehldau’s Mehliana at The Village Underground.  I just didn’t get it. It was too loud,  I couldn’t see.  Then I saw him again at the London Jazz Festival and it clicked.  This new project of John Law has the same effect.    Boink! is the electronic brainchild of guitarist Rob Palmer and John Law.   The press release says  the idea is to explore “electronic sounds and effects over drum grooves. Spontaneous group interaction between keyboards, soprano/bass clarinet and guitar, coming out of pre-composed electronic music scores. Underpinned by propulsive drum grooves. Jazz, rock, ambient, electronic…”    So we knew what we were in for.  Or did we?

But seeing the project live, with a screen showing videos by  Patrick Dunn which became increasingly interesting, absorbing and distracting as the evening wore on, I felt I was being overloaded with sensory experiences – I just couldn’t absorb them fast enough.   Now as I unpick the experience I can see that the concept is extremely good, it just needs a bit more time to bed in as a live venture.   There were so many experiences crammed in – an obscure  piece of Samuel Beckett, our responses to 9/11,  the challenge of being a jazz musician performing to an indifferent chattering sophisticated audience, what it’s like to be a tortoise ( yes!).    I wondered what it was like on the stage – the musicians couldn’t see the visuals behind them or our expressions as we listened.   Maybe in future the setup could allow visuaIs to be seen by everyone so there was true interactivity? I missed the cool clarity of Jon Lloyd’s sax (he is on the album and Laurie Lowe is on drums).   But I admired the  delicate poise of Lloyd Haines on drums, the quick thinking of Rob Palmer  who could change mood swiftly (this was 90% improvisation after all) and as always the  mesmeric skills of John Law on keyboards.

I hear that John’s next project is an animated version of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.   Please slow down John and let us grow into Boink!  The album really does grow on me, I just need to catch up.

John Law, keyboards, iPod
Rob Palmer, guitar
Lloyd Haines, drums
Patrick Dunn, visuals

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