Get the Blessing
Bristol's finest jazz rock fusion group leave fans of Portishead and deadpan banter 'flooded with endorphins' in the Limelight
Song featuring no music at all, a Belfast shipyard riveter who suffers a nasty accident and a mass clapping season to release endorphins – welcome to the weird and wonderful world of experimental jazz rock band, Get the Blessing.
The Bristol-based outfit have an enthusiastic audience at the Limelight in Belfast riveted with its combination of hard rock riffs, trip hop grooves and pulsating free jazz.
The quartet stroll on to the stage wearing their familiar uniform of sharp, charcoal grey suits and open-necked white shirts, but without the trademark paper or plastic bags that cover their heads in their quirky photo shoots and videos.
Bass guitarist, guru and cosmic pastry chef, Jim Barr – who has the lugubrious features of a young, cooler Clement Freud – is famed for his deadpan, surreal introductions to songs during gigs.
At the end of a crashing opening tune, which pulsates with astonishing musicality and changes in tempo, Barr explains that the song is dedicated to all those ‘unlucky people who are allergic to music, as it contains no music whatsoever’.
He then declares that the second track – featuring touches of heavy 1970s funk, interspersed with Miles Davis-style minimalist trumpet solos – is from ‘an imaginary police show where all the police officers are very tidy dogs'.
The aforementioned Belfast shipyard worker then gets in on the act, falling into the sea after a spark from a red hot rivet sets his overalls on fire. The poor man manages to escape from the freezing cold water before crawling home, naked, to his shipbuilder’s cottage where he has a nice plate of cheese and toast and watches The Simpsons on TV.
Get the Blessing tread the same boundaries between rock and jazz that characterises bands such as the now extinct pioneers, Acoustic Ladyland, and the very much alive Polar Bear. But the dichotomy between heavy rock and improvised jazz works very well and never seems forced. Get the Blessing's sound combines the energy and attack of rock with the subtlety of modern jazz.
The band's leader and drummer, Clive Deamer, along with Barr, form the rhythm section of cult Bristol band Portishead, while the other two members of the quartet, saxophonist Pete Judge and trumpeter Jake McMurchie, are deeply immersed in the jazz tradition.
Deamer uses all the tricks of a jazz drummer, employing a variety of implements including the ubiquitous brushes and maracas to create different sounds and effects.
Many of the songs build up to an ear-splitting crescendo of noise, which is exhilarating to experience but there are many mellower, more reflective moments where Judge and McMurchie are able to show off their experimental jazz chops.
Their tunes are catchy and irresistible, structured one minute, loose and trippy the next. They display an impressive versatility from mournful, wailing sax solos to Hendrix-style guitar feedback and amazing, space age electronic effects.
Barr, poking fun at the accusation that avant garde jazz takes itself too seriously, labels the final song of the band’s first set as ‘pretentious'. 'It has literary leanings to some fine Irish literature which we won’t go into here,' he deadpans.
The second set begins with some beautifully lyrical trumpet reminiscent of Davis in his iconic Sketches of Spain album.
We were then treated to another self-styled ‘pretentious’ song, which Barr explains is 'based on a very long novel by the Argentinian author Borges, in which a man waits a very long time, then waits a bit longer and then he waits and waits… for a pint of Guinness'.
But the band’s bass guitarist and resident comedian doesn’t have to wait so long for the black stuff as a punter promptly walks up to the stage with pint as the song progresses.
At the end of the night, Barr announces that their penultimate song signals the ‘gratuitous audience participation section’, calling on the crowd to rhythmically clap their hands, which will leave us ‘flooded with endorphins and feeling like Kings and Queens’.
And so it came to pass. By the time the final song of the night, ‘Cake Hole’ – a fantastic piece of danceable punk jazz – has been played, the crowd file out feeling very happy indeed.