That the former Grand Kinema in Clitheroe should be playing host to the last date of Get The Blessing’s current tour of England would seem to be entirely apposite; movie reference points can be plotted right across the sight and sound of the Bristolian quartet’s widescreen vista. From the anonymous silhouettes they cast in their Reservoir Dogs’ dark lounge suits and crisp white shirts to the cinematic sweep of their music, everything they do speaks of anamorphic cool.
Get The Blessing is Pete Judge on trumpet, saxophonist Jake McMurchie plus Jim Barr and Clive Deamer, the two men who fire up the engines of the considerable Portishead rhythm section when it is out on live action. Together they dismantle the genres of free jazz, rock, electronica, ambient, dancehall and most all points in between and recreate it as something that is quite memorably different and most astonishingly unique.
Opening with ‘Music Style Product’ and ‘Torque’, from their second and third albums respectively, both songs are about as far away from Jim Barr’s subsequent, playful description of them forming part of a series of Lancashire bossa novas as you could possibly care to imagine. The former is a driving twin-horned blast of passion, style and movement that pauses periodically just to catch breath, whilst the latter evokes vague memories of the influences of Spanish folk and classical music that Miles Davis drew upon for Sketches Of Spain, albeit pushed through a mesmeric force field of reverb and delay.
The set is taken from across the entire Get The Blessing recorded canon though in essence the tour is to promote Lope and Antilope, the band’s recently released fourth album. Already described on these pages as having achieved “the right balance between what once was and what now is”, ‘Antilope’ is the first song from that recording to rear its noble head tonight; a beautifully subtle exercise in lyrical coherence which defies the purely improvised nature of its conception. Not for the first and most definitely not for the last time this evening, the dexterity and fluidity of the playing is nothing short of breath-taking.
In all of its gangster movie gravitas, Jim Barr’s remark that ‘Equal and Opposite’ – from their début album All Is Yes – is about car chases involving Mark I Ford Cortinas is probably just about right save for the marque of motor-vehicle. Given its twin-horns, sharper contours and radiator grill rhythm, ‘Equal and Opposite’ surely has to be a Zodiac Mark III.
With its blending of concepts and taut, suspenseful structure, ‘Adagio In Wot Minor’ is the aural representation of film noir. Set In North Africa in some forgotten past, guest guitarist Keith Phillips transports it to the present day by adding some gloriously understated colour to the starker monochrome complexion of first McMurchie’s sax, and then Judge’s plaintive trumpet.
A triumvirate of songs from Lope and Antilope – ‘Numbers’, Little Ease’ and album opener, ‘Open’ – are all re-imagined in the live setting as more muscular, more powerful interpretations of their studio counterparts, fusing elements of jazz, rock and what you imagine may well be a deep love of French New Wave cinema as they do so. Both on their own, as well as together, these four men clearly enjoy the space their music affords them; to be able to express themselves and to experiment but without ever losing sight of the notion of melody or composition.
During penultimate song ‘The Waiting’, Ornette Coleman meets up with Joe Gibbs as the quartet embrace the “wild bunch” sounds of their home city and place that particular dub and roots reggae perspective within the wider context of the free jazz movement. Yet again Get The Blessing transcend their individual and collective listening histories and musical experiences. And yet again, just like the very best in film-making, their music is instinctive, evocative and conveys a story with a strong emotional impact.