Saturday morning: feeling decidedly lacklustre. I had just been watching a classical music documentary in which someone commented on the longevity of ancient wood and metal instruments. They have survived and still hold their mystery to us humans, despite the onslaught of technology in music. True – there is nothing quite like the hum of the human behind the playing. The thought struck and I was suddenly overcome, energised and needed to get out of the flat and see some live music.
Festival Hall: members’ bar packed as usual as I scurried to find space to finish off some work on my laptop. Some music scheduled for later in the day, but the Clore Ballroom is equally busy and buzzing with a loud and eager audience. I need to find somewhere smaller.
Facebook: work complete, I log in to see what my FB mates are up to. There’s a reminder from Zhenya Strigalev, a saxophonist I’ve been following since seeing him at Ronnie Scott’s late-night sessions about a year ago.
TODAY – Free Music Lunch – with Tim Lapthorn, Dave Whitford and Matt Fishwick and Z. From 2pm till 5pm. Nolias 11, 56 Stamford St, SE1 9LX. Waterloo tube.
Googlemaps: that’s right near the Southbank, just up near the Oxo. Ten minutes later, I’m there!
Nolias 11: a small restaurant with a downstairs jazz café. Perfect. Dark. (As my friend Rex says, jazz is best appreciated in dark, underground venues). I grope my way to a small table, dimly lit with a candle in a 70s red bulb holder, and peruse the cocktail menu while the band are on a break. Hmm – an Espresso Martini sounds like a good combo. I order one and the waiter gently dissuades me from also requesting a side order black coffee which could have delivered an unkind overdose of caffeine. The cocktail arrives just before the band reconvene. Curiously, it is a most apt mix, with the playlist selection a quirky blend of high-energy tunes like Thelonious Monk with sweeteners a la John Coltrane.
The talent: The tunes are punctuated by Strigalev’s announcements of suggested tracks and keys for the band to try, as Lapthorn on piano and Whitford on double bass swap notes and share scraps of paper with tune prompts.
As rehearsal sessions for later gigs, these sessions have a juiced, impromptu feel but married with the kind of talented, faultless playing that makes jamming and improvisation bearable. Matt Fishwick’s drumming holds everything together and lets Strigalev glide his sax over the top of the mix in whatever way he likes – classically cool, scarily straight or cut-snake crazy. What’s not to like?
A graduate of London’s Royal Academy of Music, Strigalev was a teenage virtuoso in his home town of St Petersburg. His influences are notably world-wise, from the be bop of New York city, to the discipline imbued by his stint in a Russian Army band during his compulsory military service.
Go to: Look, these guys are all top musicians who play around London at venues like Ronnie Scott’s. To be able to see them at a small, delectable space like Nolias11 is a real treat. Go for the cocktails, go for the lunch, go for the jazz – but just go!
Cheers for now, Beth