The Globe’s renowned Sunday evening performances continued this weekend, with saxophonist Josephine Davies and an incredible duo stepping in for her band, Satori. However, this performance was very different to previous sessions – there was a live audience back in The Globe for the first time! With Steve Berry on bass and Nick Smalley on drums, the usual Satori trio was reshaped for this one-off Newcastle performance – and what an accomplished set of players and an electric atmosphere. Davies is known for her inventive and expressive playing, her assertive style, and her focus upon collective improvisation. Her group, Satori, is an ever-evolving ensemble which ‘defies categorisation’ in many ways, yet maintains the musical focus of collaboration and freedom in improvising and creating. This focus definitely came through during Sunday’s performance, especially considering the trio set up which omitted a harmonic instrument. The absence of a regular harmonic progression allowed the trio to be even more free in their playing, and take the audience wherever they wished. Davies’ style definitely draws from the free jazz and avant-garde jazz traditions, yet also blends this with mainstream jazz music too, making for an extremely engaging yet challenging performance.
The performance featured two exceptionally diverse sets with a break in between, drawing from all three of Satori’s albums, and many of Davies’ personal influences such as Ornette Coleman, Cole Porter and Sonny Rollins. From Satori’s first album, Satori, the audience were treated to ‘Something Small’, ‘The Yips’ and ‘Paradoxy’, Davies’ switch up of Sonny Rollins’ famous tune. Although this album is now 4 years old, each track felt completely new and refreshing when played live by the trio. Whilst ‘Something Small’ was quietly atmospheric and explored many different musical textures and timbres, ‘The Yips’ and ‘Paradoxy’ were upbeat, warm and incredibly complex. Sunday’s performance was typified by interesting grooves, lengthy solos and sensitive musical interactions between each player, and ‘The Yips’ was no exception – the call and response between Davies and Smalley was intensely performed and intensely felt. Having a live audience really increased the intimacy of the atmosphere on tunes like ‘Something Small’, and heightened the earnestness on tracks like ‘Paradoxy’. Davies’ reshaping of Rollins’ ‘Doxy’ was innovative, dynamic and complicated the audience’s expectations; it also allowed for some brilliantly tight ensemble playing from the trio.
From Satori’s second album In The Corners of Clouds, the trio played ‘Song of the Dancing Saint’, dedicated to John Coltrane, the title track ‘In The Corners of Clouds’, and ‘Lazy’. Davies’ control over her instrument really shone on these tunes, due to the need for controlled tone, breathing, vibrato, and intonation. On ‘In The Corners of Clouds’, a slower track which featured a breathy, wistful sax solo, Davies’ breath control and tone was immaculate. Her choices also felt extremely deliberate and considered in a way which contrasted the spontaneous freedom of other pieces. ‘Song of the Dancing Saint’ and ‘Lazy’ then provided further contrast, with intense, faster playing, yet maintaining a warmth which left the audience feeling satisfied rather than confronted. Again, the ensemble playing and trades between players were tight, dynamic, and perceptive. The audience seemed to be thoroughly enjoying every piece, clapping and whooping at every turn.
Finally from the selection of originals played by the trio, the set featured ‘Mudita’ and ‘Daya’ from Satori’s latest album, How Can We Wake? Davies explained that ‘Mudita’ was inspired by Ornette Coleman, and therefore was originally named ‘Or Not’; yet, the concept of the newest album changed the title to ‘Mudita’, which means joy. How Can We Wake? features pieces which each explore ‘one of Patanjalis’ definitions of states of being, encompassing both positive and negative moods’. This concept was fascinatingly conveyed by the trio during the performance, as ‘Mudita’ embodied joy and ‘Daya’ embodied compassion. There was so much beauty and intention in ‘Daya’, featuring wave-like soundscapes from Smalley on drums and slow, breathy vibrato from Davies which illuminated her individuality. The bop influences of ‘Mudita’ created a stark contrast, as it was a hard swinger with brilliant moments of vocal-like phrasing, drum trades, and solo runs.
Interwoven within the performance were also tracks which revealed Davies’ love of free jazz and hard bop players. The trio played ‘Turnaround’ by Ornette Coleman, ‘Ask Me Now’ by Thelonius Monk, and an encore of ‘Everything I Love’ by Cole Porter. The trio’s bluesy interpretation of ‘Ask Me Now’, blended with many other influences, allowed the piece to stand out against the others in the set. The encore of ‘Everything I Love’, requested by the enthusiasm of the audience, really completed the evening with a swinging intro, big drum hits, and an incredible solo from Davies. All in all, Sunday’s performance was an immense exploration created through the collaboration of three brilliant individual musicians, which was a pleasure to experience. Although many of the pieces were complex, Davies and her trio were captivating as performers; the variety of the set alone allowed everyone to be engaged, constantly renewing our expectations. The atmosphere was magical – what a brilliant way to reintroduce us to live music.
Author: Evie Hill
Image: Screenshots – Ken Drew