Camelot Lounge, May 23
The first hint of where this band could go came five minutes into the opening Birth Song. Jeremy Rose felicitously landed upon a fluttering soprano saxophone phrase that was echoed by Hilary Geddes’ guitar, and suddenly you felt the band, with pianist Zela Margossian and tabla player Bobby Singh, cohere that magical fraction more.
The second time came on the fourth piece, Smoke and Flames, which began with the elevated artistry of Singh, who did not solo so much as have the improbable array of sounds he elicits converse with each other. A four-way unison melody beckoned a more spacious groove than the preceding material’s, allowing the piano, guitar and tabla to merge in a haze of overtones.
As the ensuing Water, Sea and Rain confirmed, the music mostly worked best when at its starkest. The gripping rubato introduction had Rose’s throaty, portentous bass clarinet heard against tremolo picking on the guitar, interspersed with glints of light from the piano. The subsequent rhythm was as stately as the melody was mysterious, and Margossian’s enchanting solo saw Singh repeatedly catching her ideas in mid-air.
This was the quartet’s first performance, the project comprising compositions by Rose and Margossian, with the Nar of the band’s name being the goddess of water in Armenian mythology. Given this impetus, one might have expected more elemental force in the music, and it arrived when Geddes, soloing for the first time about an hour into the concert, roared into a space that sonically and stylistically lay entirely outside of idiom. She featured again on the next Daughter of the Seas, delivering a grittier solo studded with pearl-like harmonics.
Rose’s tenor reinforced this more primal edge on the introduction of Child’s Dance, which spawned spirited playing from all, without the fussiness or tentativeness that compromised such earlier pieces as Revelry. But then a new band can be forgiven for being nervy on its first gig – even one containing players of this calibre. When you read this, they’ll be recording an album. That will be interesting.