LIVE: Loz Speyer and Time Zone

10 October 09 words: Ian Kingsbury
Splicing cool, often muscular and modern jazz with the rhythms and textures of Afro-Cuban music

Loz Speyer - Photo by Bob Meyrick (c)

Loz Speyer - photo by Bob Meyrick

If, like me, you enjoy swimming, drinking and gig-going, then your excitement valve may explode on learning that you can do all these things under one roof, some of them simultaneously (although I was accosted by the shallow end, having smuggled through a triple Malibu in my Speedos).

Jazzsteps have kicked off their new season of live jazz at the Bonington Theatre, above Arnold swimming baths (with a few gigs also at the Lakeside Arts Centre) and tonight saw a healthy turnout for trumpeter/flugelhornist Loz Speyer and his band Timezone.

Loz Speyer - Photo by Bob Meyrick (c)

Timezone - photo by Bob Meyrick

Eschewing the dapper threads of most jazz groups, Timezone strolled on and swung into 'Katakusi', written by Loz whilst in Cuba. Clearly this trip had quite an effect on Mr Speyer, whose sound is best described as straight-ahead jazz with a strong Afro-Cuban inflection. Loz's flugelhorn and Martin Hathaway's bass clarinet made for a refreshing textural change to the standard trumpet/alto sax combo. Simon Pearson's wonderfully fluid drumming, Ryan Trebilcock's fluent and propulsive double bass and Alejandro Martinez's tirelessly polyrhythmic congas made for an outstanding rhythm section and some delicious grooving, brilliantly counterpoised by patches of more free-form fragmentation, where the band seemed to be desperately trying to pull apart like five cats tied together.

Loz Speyer - Photo by Bob Meyrick (c)

Martin Hathaway - photo by Bob Meyrick

'Fire Lines' opened with a cool, funky loping feel before heading back to Cuba. This fusion approach is a fertile seam running through Loz's music, which enables the band to switch moods as they switch styles. Speaking of which, 'Mood Swings', also written by Loz, represents his attempt to capture and replicate the sounds of Cuba. With a deprecating modesty Loz joked that "everything is in the wrong place" and likened his writing of the song to the work of a lift repairman friend, who cannibalises defunct lifts to repair others. But this ‘Frankenstein’ school of composition is actually a great strength, lending the songs a unique charm in the splicing of cool, often muscular and modern jazz with the rhythms and textures of Afro-Cuban music. As a drummer myself, I had a bit of a moment with one of Simon's solos, which saw him fizz and swoop around the kit. Personally, I have my own barometer for judging a band: when any lingering drum-envy is converted to drum-awe by sheer dint of technique and imaginative flair, I know I'm in the presence of a top ensemble. Happened within the first song tonight.

Loz Speyer and Timezone - Photo by Bob Meyrick (c)

Loz Speyer and Timezone - photo by Bob Meyrick

The aptly named 'Bilingual' introduced a hip-hop flavour which segued surprisingly fluidly into a Cha-cha, and it was polyrhythms a-go-go as Loz switched from trumpet to clave and jammed along with the increasingly buoyant kit and congas. Jez Frank's guitar solo was an object lesson in eurhythmy as he gyred and jittered along to some scarifying runs. Other highlights included 'Snake Path', a swung, skippy Cuban ditty, 'Buy One Get One Free', for which the band entered more avant-garde, atonal territory recalling Roland Kirk at his more outré, 'Waiting List' which achieved an entrancing, hypnotic circularity, and 'International Dateline' featuring Loz on deadpan narration somewhere between Ian Dury and Ivor Cutler.

Loz and Timezone have a deep, organic understanding of Afro-Cuban rhythms and textures, which they fuse cleverly and compellingly with the more improvisatory jazz of the US mainland. The group deftly navigate between incoherent eclecticism and the limiting 'sameyness' of staying within a single musical tradition. All in all, another delicious evening of first-order live music.

Photos courtesy of Bob Meyrick (c)

Loz Speyer & Timezone played for Jazz Steps at the Bonington Theatre in Arnold on Thrsday October 1 2009.

Jazz Steps website


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