Portico Quartet, St Barnabas, London

St Barnabas, London

The Portico Quartet play a mix of hook-based music out of the traditions of Philip Glass and Steve Reich and contemporary jazz, with engagingly chiming themes delivered by steel pan-like Hang drums. The band have only just got around to releasing an album but - thanks to word of mouth, the web and the enterprising Vortex Jazz Club - its young fans already know their tunes by heart.

Tonight, they have curated an evening's music, song and poetry from their own favourite rising talents, including singer/cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson, whose combination of resonant straight-classical cello intros, pizzicato bass-like lines and delicately bending soul and R&B vocals featured on Courtney Pine's recent Afropeans show. Flautist Mikey Kirkpatrick and drummer Aki Fujimoto deliver a duo jam, at one point veering into an eerie hip-hop account of Nature Boy and a funkily strutting Caravan.

Portico Quartet take the stage for the last half-hour. Saxophonist Jack Wylie's pure, fluting tone suggests a classical player with fitful jazzy leanings, but Portico use him as a textural element more than a full-on improviser. The band are sometimes described as "postjazz", which misleadingly suggests evolutionary development - in fact, the group's work is as traditionally hook-based as anything from rock to hip-hop to systems music, and decisively downplays anything resembling unpredictably free-associative playing. Portico's hooks are undeniably attractive, though - partly through the band's seductive melodic instinct, and partly through the warm and liquid sound of the Hang percussion. Knee Deep in the North Sea is a lilting melody over a mesmeric shuffle, Steps in the Wrong Direction is delicately shaded by Wylie's floating soprano lines, and The Kontiki Expedition is a typical Portico splicing of hypnotic grooving and an airily haunting theme. The audience rapturously shout a list of titles as encouragement to an encore, eventually concluding with, "Anything!".

Contributor

John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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