It’s always a pleasure to see music played live in St. Anne’ Church; a beautiful light baths everything as it pours through the stained glass windows. On occasions such as today, when the music has a certain majestic quality to it as well, audience members can end up being privy to something quite special; Stuart McCallum’s Manchester Jazz Festival commission here a couple of years ago was one such time, and there are high hopes for Neil Yates’s antiphonal performance this coming July too. But today it was the turn of Olivia Moore and her Unfurl group to inject some splendour into the lazy Manchester Sunday afternoon.
Moore has been an active part of the city’s alternative music scene for some years now, and her approach to music is one well worthy of admiration. Having trained originally as a classical violinist her playing has a purity about it, that when mixed with her interests in Arabic, Indian classical and jazz forms too, and it becomes is a heady concoction of energy and serenity in equal measures.
Showcasing Unfurl’s relatively recent line-up revision this concert was eagerly anticipated by fans who had enjoyed previous live performances. Alongside Moore on violin were percussionist, and long-time collaborator, Adam Warne; Jim Faulkner who has taken over from Stuart McCallum on guitar; bassist Gavin Barras; and finally second percussionist John Ball, who has now become a full time member of the group following his successful appearance with Unfurl at last year’s Manchester Jazz Festival.
The group performed tracks from Moore’s debut outing Amaghasiddhi, as well as several of those compositions featured in at the the Manchester Jazz Festival commission. There were also a few new peices that went a long way in showing how the new members of Unfurl were influencing the groups overall sound. As usual Moore’s compositions were exuberant and poignant affairs; each section of music acting like miniature vignettes. This is music that is intricate and yet capable of telling a universal story, what that story is, is probably very different to each listener, but it is this ability to conjure vivid imagery that makes it hugely accessible. There is no doubt that this is serious music, but many of Moore’s compositions have a devious or off-kilter feel to them. This is particularly true of the infectious Amitabha; a track akin to the more joyful and melodic early period The Penguin Cafe Orchestra. ‘City’ too was a particular highlight, with guitarist Jim Faulkner and Moore diving and swirling around each other playfully. In contrast ‘Fire’ was an altogether more edgy affair with Gavin Barras taking the group down a trance-like path with his pulsing bass riff. Rhythm dominated melody in this instance, resulting in a frantic swirl of sound that was reminiscent of The Master Musicians of Jajouka from Morocco.
This group has a very personal sound that is truly unique. Obviously each member brings a vast array of global influences to the table, but this is not ‘world music’ or ‘ethnic music’; it is simply music – a fusion in the truest sense. Enriching and full of life, this was one Sunday event well worth getting out of bed for.