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Review: Stoop Quintet @ QEH Front Room, 19.11.14


What a delicious treat it was finally to hear Stoop Quintet play at the QEH Front Room. Introduced as the ‘passionate and unpredictable’ group from the University of York, this was actually (unlike much jazz promo) a fabulously accurate description.

Starting with the punchy Stoop Kid, its angular shape unashamedly announced the group’s arrival with a kick.  Next up was Fable where the hypnotic minimalistic melody developed into beautiful guitar (Alex Munk) and sax (Sam Miles) unisons, with dovetailing piano lines. Miles played a beautiful tenor solo on this: he has a rich warm tone. Munk’s soulful solo sat easily alongside Miles’ and the pairs great soloing are a feature of the group.

Their third tune, Ranch, began with a simplistic repeated chordal piano idea – we had no idea where the tune was going to go. Once again it led to a screamer of a solo from Miles, with the tune ending in a way that can only be described as falling apart – leaves beautifully falling from a tree to the ground.

Despite Jonathan Brigg being band leader, the ‘rhythm’ section of Dave Smyth (Kit), Flo Moore (Upright Bass) and Brigg, feature significantly less as soloists within the ensemble. Instead they hold the complex grooves together, support and interplay with Miles and Munk like an experienced family and put the spark into the group. It’s actually rather refreshing that they don’t feel a need to solo to ‘prove’ themselves. The group would be severely lacking if they were not the backbone.

We wonder if the fifth tune Turn was so named due to the pedal-like melody ending with an embellishment, or ‘turn’, or whether it is that the tune reflects the idea of the piece as a whole. Either way – the relentless ostinato group that sat underneath the solos was beautiful.

The penultimate tune Confession was described by leader Brigg as exactly that: you will ‘hear our confessions’. Indeed the 7/4 groove set a tone of unease which led to a dark and rhapsodic piano solo by Brigg, really pushing the tonality of the piece. Munk and Miles soloed in by far the freest tune of the set. That said, the returns to the really rather rocky grooves acted as pillars supporting the work.

Having traversed many of the genres of contemporary music, SQ finished with Soldier On. Moore moved to the bow for this solemn and beautiful work. The simple but effective lyrical melody rhythmically (intentionally or not) fit to the words ‘Sol-dier on’. The melody thus literally telling us what to do.

Stoop Quintet are characterised by ostinato-esque melodies followed by chaos. They’re not afraid to let the music fall apart, disapparate* with timed elegance, then suddenly bring it back together as a coherent whole. It was a well thought out set, with movement of ideas and textures between tunes. Definitely worth seeing live.

Check our their website here. Set details below.


Stoop Quintet
Part of the Young & Serious arm of the EFG London Jazz Festival.
Foyer at the Queen Elizabeth Hall 19th November 2014, 18:00

Piano/Compositions: Jonathan Brigg
Guitar: Alex Munk
Sax: Sam Miles
Bass: Flo Moore
Drums: Dave Smyth

1) Stoop Kid ‘Inspired the the Hey Arnold character who had a difficult time getting off the front step’
2) Fable
3) Ranch
4) Spring Song
5) Turn
6) Confession
7) Soldier On

*yes, it’s actually a word, even if JK invented it.


REVIEW: BBCCO The Rest is Noise, “The Home Front”

quickieThis great night was part of the BBC Concert Series going through Alex Ross’ popular book ‘The Rest is Noise‘.  Tonight’s theme: “The Home Front”, including Ireland, Vera Lynne and Walton.  It’s difficult to go down a more ‘Accessible’ route than this.

But you know what?  It was just fantastic.  There was an audience sing-a-long for ‘We’ll meet again’ (I went with three singers, we loved it, don’t tell a soul!), with the rest sung beautifully by Laurie Ashworth.  Another great soloist, Pianist Victor Sangiorgio performed Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto with unhindered dexterous flyingly fast fingers.

The Walton (Henry V: a Shakespeare Scenario), complete with fabulous British actor Samuel West, was all an over eager audience member could want.  A ridiculous (that’s a positive thing) brass section, a massive and fabulous percussion section, and something wonderfully novel: melodies you could hum afterwards.  West was effortlessly musical in his role as narrator with such timings, slight nuances and charm that had an audience, who only moments before had been singing joyfully along, in silent awe, wrapped in the words of prayer to God, with thanks of a battle won.

The Hertfordshire Chorus sung well and Keith Lockhart was master at the reigns – bringing every cymbal crash, tuba blast and string vibrato line together with delightful energy.

Fine job BBC Concert Orchestra, Keith Lockhart (Conductor), Laurie Ashworth (Soprano), Victor Sangiorgio (Piano), Samuel West (Reciter), Hertfordshire Chorus!

If you’d like to listen, the concert will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in ‘Afternoon on 3’ on Tuesday 25th June at 14:00. (This was announced. Programme suggested broadcast date of 24th)

John Ireland: Epic March for Orchestra

John Ireland: Music While You Work medley (March ‘Calling All Workers’ Eric Coates, Bank Holiday from ‘Cockney Suite’ Albert Ketèlbey, Waltz ‘Nights of Gladness’ Charles Ancliffe, Merrymakers’ Dance from ‘Nell Gwyn’ Edward German)

Songs made popular by Vera Lynne: The White Cliffs of Dover, Yours, We’ll Meet Again.

Clifton Parker: Seascape from ‘Western Approaches’

Richard Addinsell: Warsaw Concerto


William Walton: Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario