Bourne Davis Kane

The free jazz trio, featuring two of Northern Ireland's finest performers, 'play until they run out of ideas' at The MAC

That classic sketch where Andre Previn accuses Eric Morecambe of playing all the wrong notes (watch video below) springs to mind when piano prodigy Matthew Bourne introduces the penultimate song of an exhilarating Bourne Davis Kane concert in The MAC on an otherwise uneventful Sunday night.

The song is ‘Kid Dynamite’, the opening track from the free jazz trio's debut album, and Bourne wryly recalls that the late jazz critic and writer Richard Cook, on reviewing the track, suggested that Bourne had played all the wrong notes.

Morecambe’s memorable response to Previn was, of course, ‘I played all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order.' The same could well be said of BDK, who pursue their audacious and uncompromising artistic vision with surrealist wit, invention and lyricism.

The band's line-up is completed by two of Northern Ireland’s best improvisers, bass player Dave Kane and drummer Steve Davis. Tonight they are rounding off their tenth anniversary tour in the city where they first played as a group at the Belfast Festival at Queen's in 2002.

They dedicate this concert to the man who first brought them together, Brian Carson, CEO of Moving on Music, who takes to the stage at the end for a bow.

BDK like to surprise both their audience and themselves when playing live, and often dispense entirely with their written repertoire. A large slice of this two-hour gig is pure improvisation, with the band members communicating ideas to each other with almost telepathic understanding.

Avant garde jazz can sometimes be overly serious and self-reverential, but while BDK strongly believe in their music, they don’t take themselves too seriously and are able to bring the audience along with them on their wilder flights of fancy. The large crowd at the MAC enjoy a concert that is intellectually challenging, full of light and shade, subtlety and humour.

In between the improvisation, the band perform tunes from their previous albums, Lost Something and the Money Notes. They also play some new music from their upcoming, as yet untitled new album, which they begin recording in December 2012.

The gig begins on an atmospheric note, with a beautifully lyrical bass solo from Kane. Davis joins in with the most delicate of brushwork, before Bourne adds a series of crystal clear single chords. The simplicity of melody has echoes of the early Nordic minimalism of the Esborn Svennson Trio.

It becomes a little more left field with Bourne declaring that they are in a ‘strange mood after eating a strange meal tonight’. For the second track, he dispenses with the piano keys entirely, preferring to play the piano’s strings, while Kane’s steady bow and Davis’s use of cymbals and gong help to create a wistful, Icelandic mood.

This mood is quickly shattered with the next piece, a cacophony of free improv, full of restless, playful stop-start rhythms. Bourne tells his colleagues, 'Let’s just keep playing. We will play until we run out of ideas and then we will play some tunes.'

The next track bursts with inventive ideas. It begins with a quirkily atonal intro with echoes of Eric Dolphy’s seminal Out to Lunch album. The tempo becomes ever more frenetic, with all three playing as fast as they can to create a crashing crescendo of noise.

The playful mood continues with one of Bourne’s compositions, which starts with a quick, light tune almost like a nursery rhyme which segues into an achingly beautiful Chopin-like piano solo before returning to the breezy refrain.

The concert ends on a suitably eccentric note, with the BDK’s irreverent tribute to the classic trio of Keith Jarrett and his colleagues, Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette. Bourne declares that they had finally ‘run out of ideas. It happens to people like Keith Jarrett all the time'.