Somnambule - Writing About Music

Fertilizer Festival

May 2004, 93 Feet East

This was the second Fertilizer Festival, the first instalment of which focused upon the Norwegian new jazz scene and featured a concert by the Anglo-Norwegian quartet Food. The English member of that group, Iain Ballamy, was subsequently asked by the BBC’s Peter Marsh what he thought of the fecund Norwegian scene. He responded “I do think it's a bit ironic that there's this interest in Norway while at home the sparrows are dying on our doorsteps.” As if in response this year’s festival focused upon homegrown talent and reflected both the cosmopolitan nature and the breadth of different musics offered up by the UK music scene. Accordingly jazz artists such as Iain Ballamy, Matthew Bourne and Soweto Kinch were scheduled alongside rapper Blak Twang and clubland acts including Phil Asher, Debasser and Mark De Clive Lowe.

Soweto Kinch played on the opening night of the festival’s long weekend and delivered a typically ebullient performance. The set was similar to his concert at last year’s London Jazz Festival and featured the crowd pleasing It’s A Jazz World as well as a tribute to Shake Keane. Kinch is clearly a very talented saxophonist and a credible rapper, but it will be interesting to see whether he can expand the boundaries of the postbop world he currently inhabits. On the following night at the Spitz Matthew Bourne’s The Electric Dr M. treated the audience to an electric jazz onslaught powered by two drummers. The music was akin to breakbeat played by a marching band versed in 1970s electric jazz. The arrival of Spring Heel Jack for the second set upped the ante still further and had this listener grinning from ear to ear. The equal of their international peers, what this homegrown talent needs is a UK label along the lines of Rune Grammofon, Jazzland or Thirsty Ear to promote these players outside the UK. If there’s anybody with the determination to make such a project succeed, there’s certainly enough talent to fill the roster.
Colin Buttimer
Published by Jazzwise magazine