Even before the live music began there was a sense that something extraordinary was about to happen in the snug confines of the artsy Rose Hill pub on Tuesday night. The stage was set, dismembered guitar, clamps and vintage vox amp to the left, a yawning cabinet to the right, sprawling with leads that buried twitching lights and in the centre, set back from a bed of pedals, the regal presence of a massive bass saxophone leaning calmly on its stand. Each time a person walked in to search a seating spot, they paused, humbled by the sight of this rare breed and hushed in anticipation of what was in store.
This was Constellation artist, composer and saxophonist Jason Sharp’s first solo date in the UK, part of a short tour around the country where he would be revisiting his seismic latest release ‘Turning Centre Of A Still World’, a record of expansive beauty which pushes electro-acoustic music to discover deeper emotional spaces. Looking at the gear he had brought with him from Montreal and knowing that he was driving himself between the dates, there was also a fair chance he would be a car packing expert by the end of the run. But for tonight everything was unloaded, systems running and ready to introduce the huddled Brighton punters to his visceral approach to music making.
As a way in, the support slot was handled by Paul Khimasia Morgan, the man behind the refashioned acoustic and vox on stage, who like Sharp connects with his instrument’ through intricate electronic investigation. Sat stoic and still, wired guitar body on lap, Khimasia Morgan interpreted the inner strain of the guitar box through the stroke and press of his large hands. Watching him coax harmonic drones, prickly interference and whirring pulses from his chair full of pedals and paraphernalia, paralleled spying on craftsmanship in slow, sensitive action. His extended improv piece made for the perfect ‘warm up’, a way to tune in the concentration.
It’s that same level of individual commitment that Jason Sharp’s immersive music rewards. He literally puts himself into sounds then invites you to explore. As he explained in a recent interview with Backseat Mafia. the Bluetooth heart-monitor that he wears while playing is patched into his bespoke synth construction, generating the rhythms from this bio-feedback to underpin those expansive chord forms gently pressed from his pedal board mosaic. Swimming within this oceanic electronica Sharp’s sax surfaces and submerges, a whale-form of the agile resonance.
You get swept along by the beauty of the music on the album but live the impact is more astonishingly powerful and mesmeric. Playing the ‘Turning Centre Of A Still World’ as a continuum may have been the premise but extending the compositions in the moment was the driving force here. Although structured around reassuring recurring themes, this was a version that would never be replicated, shaped by Jason Sharp’s musical intuition and reacting to his physical state that evening. The sound was thrillingly alive.
So to describe the show in set-list sequence would be redundant. Within the hour plus performance high points clung together in the memory and won’t be easily forgotten: the sax shifting imperceptibly from sonorous sub – bass to fluttering hyperactive patterns, sometimes sultry ,sometimes angered; the delicately threaded song-lines coaxed from the fluted Lyricon; synth chord washes that brought warm melodic swells and icy underground drones; and beats that ebbed and flowed, injected at techno pace or hinting at a softer rhythmic whisper.
The visual element was also fundamental. This wasn’t dark-cloaked electronics or ‘close your eyes’ ambience. Projectionist Guillaume Vallee’s films sensitively framed the music and movement on stage, abstract, shifting, ghosting colours and responding to Sharp’s inner rhythms and breathing patterns. It was those most elemental of sounds that drew the narrative to a close. As the music seeped away, Sharp rested his sax on its stand and jogging on the spot, let his quickening breaths and rising pulse shape the final moments. Yes, this was the real, personal music and it had spoken emphatically to everyone.
Jason Sharp’s UK and European dates continue at:
Wednesday 11 May 2022 Glasgow, GB Glad Cafe
Thursday 12 May 2022 Sheffield, GB Sound Junction
Friday 13 May 2022 London, GB Cafe OTO
Tuesday 17 May 2022 Copenhagen, DK ALICE
Friday 20 May 2022 Berlin, DE Kiezsalon
Tuesday 24 May 2022 Dresden, DE Jazz Club Tonne
Thursday 26 May 2022 Vendôme, FR Fabrique du Docteur Faton
Friday 27 May 2022 Nantes, FR Wine Nat White Heat
Tuesday 31 May 2022 Dijon, FR Festival MV
Get your copy of ‘Turning Centre Of A Still World’ from your local record shop or direct from: https://jasonsharp.bandcamp.com/album/the-turning-centre-of-a-still-world