Moses Boyd’s Last Blast at Electric Brixton in a Pre-Lockdown Sign Off

As published in Jazzwise, 14 April 2020

On the eve of the cessation of live gigs in the UK and across the world, Christine Hannigan caught a commanding performance from the top UK jazz drum-slinger.

Photo by Fabrice Bourgelle

A benefit of living in a city so awash in musical talent is that concert openers are equally worth arriving early for. Boadi began the night, his band elegant in jackets befitting classic, sexy soul sounds under a stage awash in warm pink and purple lights. Boadi has a spirited stage presence. It is not hard to imagine him in front of a gospel choir. He’d punch the air downwards on the band’s clean hits, making them all the more satisfying.

The standout song was ‘Bye’, which opened with Boadi impressively sustaining a barely audible high note before cascading into a ballad. Boadi’s vocals and charisma held everyone’s attention, but Harry Denton (drums), Mark Laing (bass), Charlie Morten (guitar), and David Thomas (keys) jammed for several minutes, showing off their respective chops and building anticipation for Boadi’s EP later in the year.

Moses Boyd’s band was introduced by a rousing cadence performed by the Resonant drumline, a percussion crew comprised of Marcus AntiKarl PhillipsJordon Williams and Colette Gordon, who reappeared several times in the show with their 28-inch bass drum, three snares, cymbals, and quad drums. As soon as everyone was situated, tenor saxophonist Quinn Oulton opened with a wailing solo. Oulton did the work of an entire horn section throughout the evening with versatile voicings, stamina, and a customisable midi controller connected to Ableton software to replicate the layered harmonies of Dark Matter’s melodies.

Each band member was afforded expansive solos showcasing the multi-genre influences that shape Dark Matter. Boyd had several enthralling solos throughout the night, one of which was uncannily evocative of a storm, his sticks mimicking pattering rain and the kickdrum rolling thunder. The stage was dimly lit in tempest-like monochrome suiting the album’s name and themes, most aptly dark blue during ‘Shades of You,’ for which Poppy Adjudha joined the band onstage and lent her rich voice to the melancholy, deceptively straightforward tune. It was a powerful, tone-setting aesthetic, but intense strobe lights intermittently beaming into the crowd went on for several minutes too long.

However, during guitarist Artie Zaitz’s climbing solo in ‘What Now’, the stage was bathed in orange, complementing his warmer, brighter sounds. Renato Paris (keys), who like Oulton did the work of several instruments on a Yamaha (for solos), Korg (for bass), and Nord (for piano/EPs), dazzled with a far-reaching solo on ‘2 Far Gone’ that blurred the grimy melody into a synthy, frenetic expanse.

Dark Matter is an album that also gets the body and brain moving; Boyd explained it was written as a natural product of the UK political turmoil: “It wasn’t an overtly political statement… I wasn’t trying to shove things down people’s throat, it was just a way to respond and put things in some form of art,” he explains.

Even without the most explicitly political song from the album (‘Dancing in the Dark’ featuring Obongjayar), the ominous edge was enhanced by the military, masculine cadences of Resonant played to a predominantly male audience in the build-up to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Boyd is in the cohort of prominent jazz musicians who benefited from funded music programming in schools (“it’s incredible to think that was a thing in the UK”). When asked about how austerity will impact the evolution of the UK music scene, Boyd said: “some of the best art is made through pressure cooker situations, but people always find a way.” Boyd and Marcus Anti of Resonant are childhood friends and took drum lessons together; the former pursued drum set, the latter drum corps. Younger musicians have Boyd and his peers’ success as inspiration, and can learn from them directly – all four members of Resonant teach drumming to youth groups.