An inclemently cold and wet Friday evening in Leeds, and England are playing Sweden as part of Euro 2012 on the big screen in the bar of the Fox and Newt on the outskirts of Leeds city centre. Upstairs in a peculiarly v-shaped room, Fusebox are hosting their final jazz/improvisation event of the season. This evening celebrates album releases from two of the city’s finest exponents of experimental music. As the room slowly fills to the strains of Fela Kuti’s “Zombie” album over the PA, Leeds based Roller Trio take to the stage. Featuring James Mainwaring on saxophone and electronics, Luke Reddin-Williams on drums and Luke Wynter on guitar, Roller Trio deliver an incendiary combination of disparate influences which come together to form a truly distinctive sound. At times throughout the set one may have been reminded of music from Miles Davis’ “In a Silent Way” or “Dark Magus”, at other times the guitar passages were reminiscent of the almighty Sonny Sharrock. Add to that mixture Eastern flavour, and the dissonance of some of the greatest purveyors of improvised saxophone such as Evan Parker, Albert Ayler and Alan Wilkinson, and you come close to imagining the sound of the Roller Trio. The use of electronics to mutate acoustic sound can occasionally be overdone, and subtlety can often be the key to success in mastering the effect. Thankfully the Roller Trio have integrated these elements into miniature landscapes of beauty and fire. The pieces tonight appear to be fashioned from extended improvisations that have been bolstered, rather than overwhelmed, by electronic trickery.
After a short interval, to funnel the audience back downstairs to the bar area, and back, trioVD take command of the stage. It is indicative of the influence and appeal of the band that their latest album “Maze” has been reviewed in magazines that specialise in jazz, classical music and extreme metal, and on the strength of tonight’s performance it is not difficult to see why. Eschewing the traditional tactic of promoting the latest album by playing it in its entirety, Chris Sharkey, Chris Bussey and Christophe de Bezenac embark on an extended improvisation incorporating their traditional guitar, saxophone and drum amalgamation, enhanced by electronics, found sound, distorted samples and the lonely voice of Bob Seeger on “Hollywood Nights”. Elements from their latest release were incorporated into the set, and indicate that the band are honing their formidable blend of angular riffs, mathematical time signatures, chanting vocal and high speed cut ups. The sound of trioVD is an amalgamation of witticism, tense arrangements and violent tangential meanderings. There was genuine humour in the performance tonight, as Sharkey and Bussey toyed with their assortment of gadgets, which lifted it up out of a more traditional arena and into one that could appeal to a wider, receptive audience. The audience at the Fox and Newt were obviously mesmerised by the set, and some members were seen to be dancing to these peculiar tempos in the manner of Stacia at a Hawkwind concert in the early 70’s (fully clothed).
The characteristic sound of Leeds jazz has matured, it could be argued, from its close affinity to the local DIY alternative music scene. Hopefully this marriage will prosper to produce more music of the sort that was in evidence this evening, and hopefully organisations such as Fusebox will continue to work hard to bring it to those willing to listen. The sign of a successful concert can sometimes be gauged by the activity at the merchandise stall at the end of the evening, and hopefully no one was disappointed with their purchases that night.