Artist: Elastic Axis
Venue: NCEM, York
On first impression The National Centre For Early Music seems a somewhat strange venue. Located in one of York’s many converted churches, it doesn’t appear to be the most obvious setting for a modern jazz gig. However, the open spaces and high ceilings create an impeccable acoustic environment and make for a refreshing alternative to the cramped and sweaty bars where most small gigs are held.
A jazz quintet of guitar, bass, drums, trombone and a woodwind player, Elastic Axis were playing as part of the centre’s Late Music Festival, which focused on 20th century music in all its forms. Appropriately, they displayed an impressive command of a wide range of music, drawing on sources from jazz to classical, through calypso and eastern European styles such as klezmer. Individually the musicians were of an extremely high calibre, and as a unit the quintet seamlessly mixed recital with improvisation. The piece that best demonstrated Elastic Axis reach was their thundering adaptation of Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Dance of Fury’. Originally written and premiered when Messiaen was interred in a German prisoner of war camp during WWII, Elastic Axis captured perfectly the sense of humanity at the limit of its endurance; a very human and inspiring performance.