Troyk-Estra : Live at Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2013.


You can tell a lot about people by asking what Cheltenham means to them. Inevitably, festival will feature in the answer. Book Festival, racing festival, jazz festival.

I haven’t been to Cheltenham to see the racing, but after listening to this superb eight track CD from Troyk-Estra, I might just pay a visit to the jazz festival.

According to the sleeve notes,  20 members play on the recording – four on trombone and four on trumpet – and you can, from the off, expect something gloriously raucous.

To begin at the beginning: the Troyka trio (Chris Montague on guitar, Joshua Blackmore on drums and Kit Downes on keyboards) has been at the cutting edge of jazz for the past four years, and this recording is the result of an epic collusion with an orchestra conducted by the Royal Academy of Music’s Nick Smart.

It has been noted elsewhere that Troyk-Estra is a blend of meth metal and electronic noise, with more than a passing nod to the influence of Loose Tubes founder Django Bates. But I beg to differ: Troyk-Estra has moments, many in fact, when the sound is in a universe of its own.

Montague’s Gain Noon Soon opens like a dawn chorus competition between the trumpets and keyboards, but Josh Blackmore’s percussion and Louis Van Der Westhuizen’s bass dovetail the separate parts into an energetic flow, with strong tenor solos, and what began as a suggestion is now an effusive harmony.

There is, admittedly, resonances of the direction Miles Davis was going in when he performed Bitches Brew on Live AtThe Fillmore East – once he added Keith Jarrett – but doesn’t distract from the synchronous pitch of the performance.

As with much modern jazz, bands are continuously about making space with sound:Coley opens with a blast, like a jazz band from the fifties, underpinned by great bass and percussion, switching mood in a beat; alternatively Hip Clan is guided to shore by a lustrous guitar, with the pulse of a clock ticking, almost Pink Floyd-like, and ushers the inevitable orchestral tsunami of Neon BirthsTroyk-Estra : Live at Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2013 is epic undertaking, adroitly executed.


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