The group Moonlight Saving Time, led by Bristol based singer Emily Wright, played a very engaging set to a full house at Pizza Express Dean St last Monday, 24th June. The band plays popular standards and arranges them in a very interesting way. It takes a lot of skill to take someone else’s music and make it your own but they accomplished this task remarkably well with their picturesque interpretations. The clearly impressed audience rewarded every song with strong applause.
Having really enjoyed listening to the EP it was great to hear couple of favourites from the recording. Isley Brothers’ Footsteps In The Dark, very nicely arranged by bassist Will Harris and the introduction NICU by Emily Wright added as a special treat; Chick Corea’s Open Your Eyes You Can Fly was the highlight of the concert, you could really see the band shine here and deliver the music with great passion and energy.
Throughout the concert I couldn’t help but notice very nice chemistry between the band members. Leader and singer Emily Wright was projecting warmth and positive energy with her subtle and beautiful voice; pianist Dale Hambridge sounded excellent and played very well structured solos; trumpeter Nick Malcolm is the second voice of the band and plays with just he right amount of heart and soul; drummer Mark Whitlam and percussionist Rory Francis delivered high energy grooves and double bassist Will Harris kept everyone together with very solid bass playing.
Other standouts from the evening were Charles Mingus’ Goodbye Pork Pie Hat which blended naturally into Coltrane’s Naima. The encore, Orange Blossoms in Summertime, was at times reminiscent of Sade. All and all the band achieved something remarkable, they are bridging the gap between jazz and more accessible music in a very clever way, with musical quality aligned with the potential to be appealing to a wide age range.
Moonlight Saving Time is clearly a band with potential that could break into the mainstream market. Their EP comes highly recommended.
The attendance, during yet another monsoon evening, says it all – the Colston Hall foyer is jammed with around 200 people celebrating the release of Moonlight Saving Time’s debut EP. The project’s been maturing for two years, during which time the vocal-led contemporary jazz band have grown to a sextet and their music has matured into something of exceptional quality. Opener ‘Footsteps In The Dark’ lays out their wares, a murmuring intro of Emily Wright’s suave low-register voice and the perfectly matched tone of Nick Malcolm’s trumpet ride into the verse while a light-touch rhythm liberates the ploddy Isley Brothers original to become a great jazz number. Timely solos from Malcolm and Dale Hambridge’s electric piano are each stylish and impressive without over-reaching and the number arcs neatly to its conclusion thanks to Will Harris’s smart arrangement. ‘Afro Blue’ is even better – rendered into five-time, it gains both urgency and, oddly, African-ness, providing a platform for a breath-taking flight of improvisation from Malcolm and the first chance for guitarist Jon Hyde to assert himself. Less of a vocal number, the arrangement (featuring guest percussionist Rory Francis on congas) gives a real sense of the band sound, the rapport between Harris’s bass and Mark Whitlam’s drums and the balance between guitar and keyboard nicely judged and always leaving space for the voice to merge in as a sixth instrument. But for all the great arrangements and collective strength which mark this out as a superior outfit, it is Wright’s voice and Malcolm’s trumpet that set it apart. Either would be a formidable asset but as an interactive duet their impact can be stunning, and if thoughts of Norma Winstone’s long association with Kenny Wheeler might seem far-fetched, Moonlight Savings Time’s rendition of Wheeler’s ‘Skylark’ makes the point. A bass and drums intro sets an atmosphere for a crisp and rhythmic vocal and then Malcolm’s caressing trumpet soars like the eponymous bird while Hyde’s distant guitar echoes and Hambridge’s keyboards clip the beat. With such a deft arrangement and well-judged playing, it’s a memorable tribute to one of jazz’s great pairings from a new generation that promises plenty of good things to come. (Tony Benjamin)
Cycling up the hill in the rain (in Oxford style) to the gig, I was thinking about the band’s name- it suggested something eccentric and English, like a Django Bates album title, and wasn’t sure what to expect. I arrived to find this Bristol-based band – whose name, it appears, is derived from a kookie Blossom Dearie song – playing a moody 5/4 version of Afro Blue, with Emily Wright’s deep-toned vocals in unison and harmony with Nick Malcolm ‘s trumpet. There was a real band sound, not just soloists with backing- improvising all together over their loose, understated latin and funk grooves. Emily has a beautiful voice, strong and clear with just an undertone of breathiness, and very accurate on the tricky intervals of tunes like Black Narcissus and Corea’s Morning Sprite. At times it reminded me of Flora Purim’s wordless improvising, with a dash of Julie Tippetts and even soul singer Corinne Bailey Rae. Emily named particular influences as Kurt Elling and Gretchen Parlato. Her duet with double bassist Will Harris on You Must Believe in Spring was a highlight – and the audience were quiet for the fine bass soloing and lovely vocal solos. Will Harris ‘s strong rhythmic double bass pulse underpinned Mark Whitlam’s rich drum textures, particularly strong in the latin and funk grooves of Spain and the Isley Bros’ Footsteps in the Dark. It was good to hear the voice as a front line instrument with trumpet. Nick’s energetic flurries of chromatic notes, cool tone and playful squeals made me think of Freddie Hubbard and Tom Harrell at times. Jon Hyde, on guitar, was at different times melodic and angular with a beautiful harp-like intro to Spain. Hints of Herbie Hancock’s Fender Rhodes style were in Dale Hambridge’s keyboard playing, both virtuosic and expressive, Not quite Difficult Listening Hour, as the thoughtful arrangements led the audience through unusual timings (Chick Corea’s Open Your Eyes, You Can Fly in 7/4) and spiky chromatic improvisation. It was a full house, and the audience was with them right from the start. The choice of tunes was refreshingly imaginativeness – it would be great to hear some originals and a recording too. This is music for the heart and the head, and on the strength of their sell-out performances at Brecon (where they had to be moved to a larger space) and Glastonbury, Moonlight Saving Time are ready – and surely deserve – to play at bigger venues soon. (Alison Bentley)