“Sounds like nothing you have heard before” is the sort of exaggerated statement we expect on publicity material, but when it is applied to the young quartet that started out busking on London’s South Bank and now regularly sells out concert halls around the land it all makes sense.
This makes describing the music of the Portico Quartet a little difficult. It’s a bit like hearing an indie band but without the vocals. The band members, with their check shirts and skinny jeans, could be playing rock, or folk, or Americana, or grunge. The influences they do bring to bear include minimalism, jazz and, increasingly, electronic music.
Having made their name featuring the percussion instrument called the hang, which makes a sound somewhere between marimba and steel pan, alongside bass, drums and saxophone, with their third eponymous album, just released on Real World to general acclamation, the use of, keyboards and laptops to widen their sound world has been really striking.
From a relatively intimate sound that felt most comfortable on a small area of pavement or in a relatively small club space, they have, like EST before them, cleverly adapted that sound and style to be able to fill big concert halls while at the same time not sacrificing the intimacy and approachability of their music.
So, the band is particularly compelling seen and heard live, and they come to Birmingham Town Hall on Wednesday, March 7, with Manchester trumpeter Matthew Halsall’s new trio in support. The concert starts at 8pm, and £15 tickets are available from www.thsh.co.uk or on 0121 345 0600.
Another young band, a very different venue, but an equally intriguing gig - that’s Partikel at The Edge Arts Centre in Much Wenlock on Saturday.
Partikel is the London-based trio of Duncan Eagles on saxophone, Max Luthert on bass and Eric Ford on drums, and they bring this often challenging format right up to date with some odd time signatures made more accessible through the use of strong grooves with Latin and World influences.
The band has its second album, Cohesion, out on Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind label, and is touring the country expanding on it via lively improvisational interaction.
For more information and to buy tickets for this gig which starts at 8pm, go to www.edgeartscentre.co.uk
And before all that, check out how jazz’s future is sounding at the Rush Hour Blues tomorrow evening, when the Birmingham Jazz Ensemble takes the stage. BJE is the result of Birmingham Jazz’s educational work and the band has been working with trumpeter Abram Wilson. The music starts at 5.30pm and entry is free.
Tuesday evening’s sessions at The Spotted Dog in Digbeth are continuing to attract some big names. Last week it was drummer Gene Calderazzo, and this week it is saxophonist Dave O’ Higgins. These days we usually get to hear Dave in the ranks of the BBC Big Band, so it will be real pleasure to experience this fiery player in close quarters.
Expect him to rip the roof off the place. It some time after 8pm, and a hat usually goes round. Find out more at www.cobwebcollective.com