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David Wright reviews Paradox Ensemble at Scarborough Jazz Festival

Consisting of a standard jazz rhythm section with a frontline of trombone, tenor and alto sax, the addition of Aidan Shepherd on accordion and the pumping Sousaphone grooves of Ben Kelly, Paradox Ensemble make for an unusual 9 piece line up.

Led by the long-bearded trumpeter Nick Walters, their driving bass lines and contrapuntal front line melodies (two or three melodies playing at once) are further enhanced by atmospheric electronics triggered by Walters from a laptop by his side. If you count the laptop as another instrument, there's an awful lot going on with this 10 piece at times and the accordion is sometimes lost in the mix. When it can be heard in highly effective contrasting quieter sections, with just bass, drums and keyboard backing, it adds real character and a further dimension to Walters' arrangements.

The foundation to it all is drummer Yussef Dayes, an amazing player who drives the ensemble and sets up the intensity of many of the arrangements as the different layers of sound grow. A class act, as is pianist Rebecca Nash, whose "Rhodes" electronic piano sound adds further texture to some of the arrangements.  It is as a whole unit,  working and gelling sounds together, that make Paradox Ensemble masters of creating impressive soundscapes. One can imagine that a natural side step for them would to be as film soundtrack composers.

With influences such as Aphex Twin and Tortoise, Paradox perhaps aren't everyone's cup of tea and a few members of the audience rather rudely walk out during the middle of some numbers. Paradox are at times a challenging listen, compositions tending to merge into one after a while, following similar patterns and with Walters only speaking towards the end of the set and not naming any of their compositions, this perhaps does add some distance between themselves and a few in the crowd. Personally, I am happy to let them leave their interesting sound sculptures to do the talking and would like to hear this inventive Ensemble in a different environment, say a small club, late on an evening, when one imagines their music may sound even more stimulating.

 

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