So, I attended my THIRD live gig of the year last Sunday. (In 2020, I managed FOUR of same, so I may even exceed that figure this year, with any luck.) Three of these events, over 2020/2021, were put on by the London Improvisers’ Orchestra (LIO), divided between Lambeth’s Iklectik and, on Sunday, St. Mary’s Church in Stoke Newington, which overlooks Clissold Park. Whilst Ikectik is an intimate space, Saint Mary’s makes social distancing demands somewhat easier to adhere to, with its many rows of wooden pews. Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, the number of those on stage (22) again slightly outnumbered those in the pews (around 18) in this weekend performance. However, in the spirit of the Little Theatre Club, the musicians gave as purposeful a performance on the night as they would if they were playing at the Albert Hall. Physical scale, for these guys, seems as relevant in these settings,as musical ones.
The sacerdotal environment reminded me of how many great performances have taken place in such spaces, from AMM’s Crypt session in 1968 in Ladbrooke Grove, through to ECM’s recordings in St. Gerold’s church in Austria, through to Islington’s Union Chapel. Although these sites can be freezing in winter, their acoustics can be enjoyed in comfort in the summer/autumn months. While my previous two LIO gigs featured downsized ensembles, Sunday had the full monty, with some conductions, or guided improvisations, led by, to give two examples, Steve Beresford and Dave Tucker (both are invariably reliable ‘conductors’, in my experience), and some great single improviser sections. (Phil Minton gave us some wonderful whistling, and someone, perhaps Adam Bowman, provided some inspiring dog barks, which I, probably fancifully, felt might have been an oblique salute to the late Lee Perry.)
I’m looking forward to seeing Phillip Jeck at Ikectik at the end of this month. It’s always reassuring to see and hear ‘Best of British’ artists, but at the same time I regret the continuing absence of European and American performers, never mind those from even further afield. (Listening to Hurricane Ida devastating the south-eastern of the USA, I am reminded of the sound of Merzbow, the two proving almost indistinguishable, surely a hats-off tribute to the ‘Japanoise’ master?) As the twin disasters of Covid and Brexit continue to unfurl, it seems that we should continue to be grateful for the amount of home-grown talent that sustains us through these bad times.