Chamber: musicians nearly outnumber audience

Last night, on spec, I went to the Capstone Theatre to see a group perform which I’d never heard of before.  Chamber  consists of  guitar, double bass, drums and a three-piece string section.  So there were six performers on stage – just two more than the number in the audience: an unusual experience for me – and, I hope, for the performers too.

Chamber is a brand-new project from guitarist and composer Nick Tyson who has other things on the go, including the dub, ska and roots reggae outfit Gentleman’s Dub Club – which I hadn’t heard until I looked up the video below on YouTube. Chamber is entirely different-sounding kettle of fish. The blend of acoustic bass and cello with electric violin and viola results in cinematic, almost orchestral sound that I thought, especially in the fuller passages, had a tendency to drift towards the middle of the road and the sound of a film score.

Nevertheless the compositions are inventive and exciting, seeming to blend all kinds of influences, from middle eastern, folk and celtic traditions. In the second half, especially, the interaction between a group of sterling musicians was uncanny.  When individual instruments emerged from the orchestral weave, there was some truly fine playing.

Kate Shortt (above) extracted sounds from a cello that you would not believe, while there was some fine interplay between Nick Tyson’s guitar, Paul Baxter on double bass, and percussionist Sebastian Hankins.  I’m sure others would disagree, but for me the electrically amplified violin and viola (Charlotte Glasson and Ruth Gibson) were the reason that the sound sometimes became rather too sweet.  I longed for a sax or a trumpet to carry their lines.

But these are excellent musicians and did not deserve such a small audience.  Their first outing together was only a week ago at the Vortex in London, and they are now touring.  You can download a couple of the tunes they played at the Capstone for free here, and this is their promo video:

Nick Tyson graduated with a first class honours in Jazz Studies from Leeds College of Music in 2007, and was subsequently awarded the first Parliamentary Jazz Award for outstanding young musician. He has established himself on the UK Jazz scene as an instrumentalist, composer and improviser, but also as a member of the dub and ska band, Gentleman’s Dub Club.  This is Gentleman’s Dub Club performing ‘High Grade’:


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