Below are two reviews written about LOCUS during their UK tour in November. Ian Mann’s review was written about their EFG London Jazz Festival appearance, and Rob Adams’ review refers to their date at the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh. Corrections are given in […] and italics.
The early evening free performance at the QEH Front Room was by Locus, a young sextet co-led by alto saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper and trumpeter Kim Macari. The pair were joined by Riley Stone-Lonergan on tenor sax, Sam Leak on piano, Tom Wheatley on double bass and Jay Davis at the drums.
I think I’m right in believing that most of the members of Locus are alumni of Leeds College of Music. Scottish born Gough-Cooper also studied at Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA where she recorded the album “Future Pop” released in 2010 and reviewed elsewhere on this site.
She and Macari first played together as members of the Scottish National Youth Jazz Orchestra [National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland] some ten years ago. Leak is leader of the band Aquarium and is also a member of the Duncan Eagles / Mark Perry Quintet. Stone-Lonergan was one of NYJO’s star soloists when the band appeared at the 2014 Titley Jazz Festival.
Today’s performance was the final date of a short UK tour undertaken by Locus and it was obvious from the start that this was a band in top form with the three horn front line combining effectively with an accomplished rhythm section. The focus was on the writing of Macari and Gough-Cooper, their brand of contemporary post bop compositions leaving plenty of room for fluent solos by all three horn players plus Leak on the venue’s handsome grand piano.
Macari’s opener “Glass In Hand” [Leah Gough-Cooper’s tune – The Blackened Hand] featured solos from both co-leaders plus an effective duet between the composer and Leak at the piano. This formed a link into the insistent and hard hitting “Hive Mind”, an appropriately busy composition featuring some sparkling trumpet and tenor exchanges plus the garrulous buzzing of the three horns as they approximated the kind of sounds suggested by the title.
Also by Macari “The Eternal Child” was more reflective and ballad like with the composer dedicating the piece to her friend the actress and dancer Judith Williams. The normally forceful Stone-Lonergan revealed his gentler side on tenor with Leak showing similar lyricism at the piano.
The final two tunes, presumably by Gough-Cooper [Riley Stone-Lonergan’s Icicles and Leah Gough-Cooper’s Ex Machina] went unannounced but featured more fine playing from this talented young band, the first piece featuring a major tenor solo from the talented Stone-Lonergan.
Overall I was very impressed with Locus. I don’t think they’ve had the opportunity to document this music as yet but any subsequent recording should be well worth hearing.
Inspiration for jazz compositions can strike from any quarter. Not so long ago we had a whole suite generated from the various codes that humans have used to transmit ideas through history. Here it was the bees’ turn in Hive Mind, a musical depiction of how bees, and other creatures, can make collective instinctual decisions. And it was a typically thoughtful piece, this time from trumpeter Kim Macari, from a group whose compositions suggested longish periods of consideration rather than being quickly turned out as mere vehicles for the more pressing jazz musician’s cause of improvising.
Macari and alto saxophonist Leah Gough-Cooper, two Scottish musicians who have moved to Leeds and the U.S. respectively to further their careers, front this sextet, standing either side of tenor saxophonist Riley Stone-Lonergan and integrating their three horns in their writing with calls and responses and phrases that use their varying tones and textures to good effect.
Stone-Lonergan also contributes to the band book, including the skipping-rhythmed Meteors, which opened the second set, and the catchy piece dedicated to his home in Ireland that closed the concert on a good groove. He, like his fellow horn players, is a skilful soloist, constructing lines with purpose and on a couple of occasions, no little heat.
Another of his pieces opened and closed with a repeated piano figure that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in Penguin Café’s repertoire, and pianist Sam Leak made the most of it with the urgency and vigour he brought to his soloing, working closely with the attentive, musical Jay Davis on drums while bassist Tom Wheatley lent quiet assurance.