Sur Ecoute – Superb French Jazz has tingling effects…

This band appeared at Teignmouth Jazz Festival last weekend, and at Ashburton Arts Centre on Tuesday 22 October 2019. They appeared here last year, at VERY short noticed, and elicited a rather extraordinary review from a long-suffering wife.

Andy Williamson writes: Sur Écoute’s performance in Ashburton on 28 March last year was arranged after I’d heard just a few days earlier that the gig they were expecting to do that night had been cancelled. They sounded worth hearing, and we managed to attract a small but perfectly formed audience to turn out on very short notice; they were delighted with the gig – as was my wife who wrote on Facebook later:

“Here’s what I experienced last night, Wednesday 28th March 2018 at the Arts Centre with Sur Ecoute. Who I’d never heard of before.

[my husband said,]“There’s these musicians…their gig’s fallen through and they’re coming past Ashburton. I just have a feeling they should play here…only trouble is I’m putting on two gigs already this week… I’ve made you dinner. I made it for the band too. It’s at the Arts Centre.”

“7pm, straight from the school play, straight from work. Last thing I want to do is eat with strangers. But the first one I meet is a Frenchman called Kevin. That’s new to me. The next is called Greg. They do have French accents though, so they must be French. They’re both young and friendly. Bertrand and Matthieu turn up. Eating is fine. Kevin washes up. I like them.

“I’ve stayed this long, may as well stay to listen to the first tune. Kevin is shuffling around his Drum Kit rifling through a plastic bag to find his gear. The rest of the band are already started. Its a comical sight and I wonder how bothered he is about the gig. But then — oh. Its not funny. It’s beautiful. I’m losing my thoughts about the day and getting drawn into their world of sound. Even though I promised my daughter I’d only stay for one tune, I sneak another. Greg does something with the sax to make silent breath notes then seamlessly makes full ones again. It’s astonishing to behold and very melodic, despite the silence. Kevin is demonstrating his utter mastery on his kit. Soft to full, strong beats that make you want to arch your back and beg him to do it again. A pulsating bass in the back filling the sound, piano in perfect accord with the rest. My ears are full and my heart — well it’s like a bruise on my heart that I want to keep pressing because it feels so good. Kevin ends a tune with a beat that ties the whole piece together — its not a final drum flourish for the sake of it or to merely signal the end. It adds to the whole and creates utter sound perfection. I hadn’t known it could be like that. They are as one, it’s sublime. Guiltily, I check behind the scenes and daughter gives her blessing to 3 more songs. I gratefully hurry back for more. She curls up, her head on my lap for the second set. We can’t leave now. As if from the best sort of massage, my body is tingling in anticipation of the next stroke. I’m not sure we can get that high again. But then…how can a drum solo be bewitching? It is. Each solo. dispersed throughout the set, is a joy and not in any way an indulgence to endure. Ending with a composition of Greg’s, the prowess he displays is stunning: moving the instrument side to side, creating sonic ripples through the room. By the time the notes have died away, I’m wondering at the miracle I’ve just witnessed. Skill, melody, rhythm and something unfathomable. So intimate and pleasurable I feel I’ve committed adultery even thought my husband is here in the room with me. I can’t know how he’s received it. But it’s been hot. Very hot. It made me grin and gasp in delight. Looking round, I see delight on every face. It’s just a Wednesday night. So glad I have a crazy husband who dares to say ‘yes’. ”