The first act on was the Manchester based world music collective, Project Jam Sandwich. There are 5 members of the group. They play Violin, percussion, Double Bass and Spanish Guitar. The 'Jam' of course refers to the musical sense of the world, a tasty mix of flavours that is both jazz and classical influenced. They played re-imagined versions of classic folk songs. Including their take on 'gypsy jazz' and 'Whiskey in the Jar'. Which they have added to their set to give the audience something familiar as they know their shows can be a weird and wonderful experience. Project Jam Sandwich prove that Jazz and Classical music, as well as being able to innovate in music, does not have to mean being overly pretentious or serious. The only quiet part of the show made their double bassist nod off, and need waking up by playing something a bit more energetic. Project Jam Sandwich are amazingly talented. They mix loads of different genres and influences together to create something unique but most importantly, fun.
Yet when Iosif played I was amazed at the melodies, and depth of sound coming from this huge instrument. He plays with such precision and skill that it sounds as if there was a tiny orchestra coming out of it. He essentially plays two instruments at a time, while pushing and pulling those instruments together.
During his interview he explained that he has been playing accordions since he was 3 and started to learn professionally when he was 6 years old. And also that it is difficult trying to break through as a classical musician with such an odd choice of instrument, but he has no competition and no peers. Talent like his won't go unnoticed.
Hansu-Tori had the job of finishing the night off. A new Birmingham act who play free-form jazz. Apparently Birmingham has a long history of producing jazz pioneers and the band leader, Pianist David Austin Grey spoken highly of the Birmingham scene, not just the jazz scene but of the scene as a whole. he also explained the meaning behind the bands name ‘Hansu’ means ‘water‘. “A drop of water gathering to make an ocean”. Specifically Hansu represents strength, flexibility, harmony and water as the source of life. ‘Tori’ is the Japanese word for ‘bird‘. It can be thought to represent freedom and grace. Water and Japanese/korean influences are quite a big part of the bands music.
This is all great. Problem is that I don't like Jazz. I enjoy listening to the Token Jazz Mercury nominees as there is usually something I like there. At the Lunar Festival I made it my mission to be as far as possible from the Sun Ra Arkestra. I appreciate jazz and I appreciated Hansu-Tori's set. They are a fantastic bunch of musicians. Each one is hugely talented, and unlike in most genres of music there is no clear leader of the band. Each member contributes but no one dictates the sound. I liked the skittish, frantic drumming. I liked the funky double bass. The saxophones were a bit too overpowering for my taste. I enjoyed the quieter pieces and I have no doubt that Hansu-Tori are a seriously talented bunch, but are they actually any good? Fuck knows.
*There was a time when you could be arrested for playing bagpipes in public as they were considered an instrument of war. I think we should bring that law back.