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!".


John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Portico Quartet St Barnabas, London

St Barnabas, London.

John Fordham

01, Oct, 2007 @10:43 PM

Portico Quartet: Isla

With this release, Portico Quartet have had to juggle adherence to their signature sound with the pressure to branch out, says John Fordham

John Fordham

22, Oct, 2009 @8:41 PM

Portico Quartet/Penguin Cafe – review
The Portico Quartet's sublime, balm-like melodies – despite being played with sticks, like percussion – form a core ingredient of its mesmerising sound, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

09, Feb, 2011 @7:30 PM

Portico Quartet: Line and Rubidium live session - video

London electronic outfit the Portico Quartet perform a combination of two of their pieces, Line and Rubidium

Ben Kape and Andy Gallagher

19, Apr, 2012 @10:01 AM

Portico Quartet | World music review
Koko, London
The shimmering Steve Reich-like patterns of this British world music group have a folky, rural feel, writes John L Walters

John L Walters

05, Nov, 2009 @10:00 PM

Portico Quartet: Knee-Deep in the North Sea – review
The live recordings on this update of the band's 2007 debut sufficiently ramp up their melodious murmur to attract new listeners, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

03, Feb, 2011 @9:46 PM

Shabaka Hutchings/ Portico Quarter, Vortex, London

Vortex, London

John Fordham

30, Apr, 2007 @11:20 PM

Paul Morley Showing Off ... Ms Dynamite, M People and Portico Quartet

Paul Morley introduces the Mercury prize nominees and winners that make up his prizes and awards discussion panel

Paul Morley

03, Sep, 2010 @3:56 PM

Portico Quartet: Portico Quartet – review
Snappy grooves with chattery percussion patterns underpin cinematic themes here, as Portico find themselves a contemporary sound, writes John Fordham

John Fordham

02, Feb, 2012 @11:00 PM

John Fordham: Portico Quartet's Mercury nomination illustrates the jazz dilemma

The Portico Quartet's Mercury sales spike proves jazz needs and deserves a wider audience

John Fordham

11, Sep, 2008 @2:01 PM