I had a very enjoyable evening out last night at The Hipsta Bar in SE1..Nestled in the shadow of Tower Bridge with all it’s weighty architecture and history, it’s a modern bar, with a clean, simple look which offers a great platform for some of London’s best jazz musicians.
It was my third ‘Prison Break’ gig since buying their debut album ‘Doing Time’ last year, an attendance record which I think speaks volumes in itself ! Having enjoyed the album tremendously, I was already a confirmed fan of Terence Collie’s compositions and very distinctive piano playing before seeing the band live.
A talent hitherto little known outside the music cogniscenti of his peers, he is now beginning to gain wider recognition.
The fact that several of my non-musician friends have bought the album since accompanying me to gigs says a lot about it’s accessibility, but the fact that it can be enjoyed by everyone bears no cost in terms of its content, there’s plenty to interest knowledgeable listeners too.
The core members of the band are John and Joe Sam on drums and bass respectively and of course Terence Collie himself on piano. I have seen three different tenor players with the band so far, each one bringing a new approach to the front of the stage and each one flavouring the music slightly differently with his own particular style of playing.
Terence often ventures onto the less trodden paths of unusual time signatures which he overlays with seemingly simpler lines which can then have the interesting effect of teasing us into thinking they might be something else. Watch out, there’s a surprise every seven beats ! Joe’s playing gives the impression of an imminent musical escape which is foxed at the last moment as he returns relentlessly to the driving centre of the groove, which itself is nailed uncompromisingly to the floor by John’s ultra dry, hard edged style. The overall impression is music with an intention, rolling urgently forward, transforming the constraints of its less easy divisions into the extra dimensions that they were always meant to be. The Sam Brothers are without doubt a huge part of what makes the music of ‘Prison Break’ hang together so brilliantly and render the more difficult aspects of it’s nature available to a wider audience.
There were some lovely solos…Joe’s bass solo was surprisingly guitaristic although quite short..I think his ideas could have stood quite a bit more exploration..he had me listening and wanting more..
I’m not normally that keen on drum solos because I find that the listener is often asked to take on responsibility for the groove while the drummer goes off and does his thing in less populated pastures..only to find that we’re then expected to pick it all up again from scratch when he’s back from his holidays…far too much effort for me when I’m supposed to be enjoying myself…not so in John’s case though, there was never a question mark over the groove as he built his solo around it, intensifying the energy and creating enough dry tension (not a splashy cymbol in sight) that the re entry of the band was a moment prepared by him to be savoured by us rather than the other way round. At bloody last ! Thank you John.
Terence, who has always had an unusual edge to his playing as well as his writing is moving yet further into his unique style which may yet prove to be located somewhat left of left field!
An unselfish, generous spirited player, his solos are never behind closed doors..he is a great listener and every musician is warmly invited to share the journey with him, the resulting music last night was a seamless creation which greeted us with one voice. I can’t wait to see where he will go next.
I thought guest tenor player Michael Newman who is visiting us from New York brought a very melodic interpretation to the whole gig which fully honoured the music of his hosts and I will certainly be looking forward to more contribution from him in the future.
Over the course of several performances, I’ve seen the band develop and I’ve had the fascinating experience of watching something begin to emerge.
Is it the familiarity with their own music that’s allowing greater freedom in terms of personal expression and musicianship ?
It seems almost like they are fully dressed in this music now and are ready to start building the thing it was written for…and I feel like I might be sensing the very beginnings of whatever this might prove to be right now.
They are already working on their second album between being very much in demand as freelance players and fielding the ever growing interest in their music.
‘Prison Break’ are a band to watch and I advise you to check them out at a gig near you as soon as you can.