After playing in a barn on the Isle of Skye New Focus came to Stirling’s historic Tolbooth to play tunes from their latest CD New Focus On Song. Billed as “one of the most appealing, most beautifully realised projects to emerge on the UK jazz scene in recent years”, the Tolbooth’s main auditorium was set up cabaret style and we were treated to an intimate, acoustic set by the band.
The band opened with three melodic tracks from On Song; Air in D Minor, Green Park and Sophia’s Song. Konrad Wiszniewski and Euan Stevenson then introduced the theme of family inspiration into the evening. Next we heard Leonard’s Lament (a tribute to Leonard Cohen) and Dziadzio (Grandfather) which was inspired by Konrad’s Polish family heritage. During this tune we heard a skillful solo from Andrew Robb on double bass. Both of these tracks are from their first CD the self-titled New Focus. The final tune of the first half was Corea Change. We heard and saw some amazing brushwork by Alyn Cosker in a short drum solo.
The second half opened with Flora followed by Fourths Ostinato, a jazzier number which is great to hear performed live. Then to mark the occasion of the hottest day of the year we enjoyed a sweet, laid back, quiet version of Lovely Day by Bill Withers. The filmic sounding tune Braeside also from New Focus On Song lead onto the joyful, upbeat tune Parson’s Green. During Parson’s Green Alyn Cosker played one of his tremendous solos where he combines precise, engaged and defined playing with a huge amount of energy that never fails to astound the audience. (Yes, there was wooping and whistling!) It is always a treat to see Cosker play up close and personal, you can actually see all the stick changing and the tiny nuances he fits in between larger beats.
New Focus should be seen live. Much of the work on their CDs is recorded with strings for a bigger more complex sound but seeing the musicians play live really lets you understand the essence of their music, enjoy its well-tuned richness and appreciate the skillful playing of the musicians. The musicians work well together and have cultivated their own sound, they speak to the audience and each other which is something that I love. Euan explained during the gig that their second CD was titled New Focus: On Song because they were exploring the type of songwriting that makes people happy. Judging by the round of applause and the smiles on faces at the end of this gig that idea was definitely well translated into the music we heard.
New Focus (Duo) are playing a free lunchtime concert this Friday, June 2nd, from 13:00-14:00 at Glasgow University.
The New Focus Quartet: Konrad Wiszniewski – Tenor and Soprano Saxophones, Euan Stevenson – Piano, Andrew Robb – Double Bass, Alyn Cosker – Drums and Percussion