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Friday, October 19, 2018

People Band 10-14-18. Exploratorium, Berlin.

The People Band (l-r): Paul Jolly, George Kahn, Terry Day, Mike Figgis, Charly Hart, Davey Payne.
Photo courtesy Fotoarchiv exploratorium berlin
By Paul Acquaro

Tucked away on an upper floor of a re-purposed chocolate factory in Berlin's Kreutzberg neighborhood sits the Exploratorium. Hosting workshops and concerts with a focus on improvised music, the center has provided me, so far, with two wonderful musical experiences - the first, the Schlippenbach Trio’s Winterreise tour on my first visit to the city back in 2012, and just this past week, the legendary People Band.

The People Band is a musical collective with its roots in late 1960's London. I became aware of the band via Trevor Barre’s detailed examination of the UK free music scene, and was excited for the chance to see them in the flesh.

Tonight the group's evolving line-up consisted of all original members, adding an extra boost to the anticipation. Terry Day, on drums and percussion, was physically and musically the center piece of the group. His playing both rhythmic and colorful, driving the band when the tempo picked up, and centering the group when the mood was explorative. Mike Figgis on trumpet and electric guitar provided texture and hypnotic riffs. Charlie Hart on electric bass, and in the second set, violin, was also key in providing momentum - some of the most interesting passages came when his bass work grew agitated and kinetic. On saxophone and flute, George Khan and Davey Payne flanked the group, providing excited solo moments and reacting to the goings on in the rhythm section with both musical agreement and disagreement. Paul Jolly, poised towards center left on bass clarinet, saxophones, and flute, brought other textures to the group sound and offered several powerful saxophone, and deeply resonant bass clarinet, solos.

The first set was a dramatic, tension filled, 45 minutes (or more? I didn’t really keep track), starting with Payne wandering about an eclectic array of chimes, gongs, and bells. It rose to a climatic outpouring of emotionally melodic snippets and fierce runs, and ended in a hushed whisper. The second set took on a totally different approach, also with sublime moments mixed with the infuriating (i.e. the ‘Earth Angel’ progression). Overall, it was an exciting, adventurous, and fulfilling night of the musically unexpected.

Some other exciting shows coming up at the Exploritorum include the Tiger Trio with Joëlle Léandre, Myra Melford and Nicole Mitchell on Nov 11th, and renowned bassist Barre Phillips with the Ensemble de Musique Improvisée en Résidence on December 16th. Check it out here:


Martin Schray said...

Unfortunately, I couldn't be there (Karlsruhe is 700 km away from Berlin), but just yesterday a talked to a friend of mine who helped to organise this concert. The people band is legendary indeed (note that guitarist Mike Figgis is really the director who's responsible for films like "Leaving Las Vegas" or "Stormy Monday"), but in spite of that only 30 people turned up for their show. He also said that the music was What's more is the fact that the Exploratorium will have to leave its original premises in the Sarotti-Höfe in Berlin-Kreuzberg next year and has to look for an adequate new place, which will be quite difficult in a city that suffers tremendously from gentrification.