Second day Gent Jazz: Gogo Penguin helps you into a trance

With a piano trio that draws its inspiration from dance, Gent Jazz also had a danceable closing on day two. The audience was also able to rock along with other acts.

From the start, pianist Chris Illingworth made it clear what Gogo Penguin stands for: a frisky motif, which is repeated seemingly endlessly, on top of the clattering double bass of Nick Blacka and the sharp drums of (new band member) Jon Scott. It got the tent dancing again on day two of Gent Jazz in no time.

Gogo Penguin may look like a regular piano trio, but the music it produces breathes dance and other hip electronic music. Their music has already been called acoustic electronica, and there is a lot to be said for that. Illingworth’s piano still sounds like a piano, but he uses all kinds of effects to make them reverberate a little longer or to color the sound extra – sometimes he muted the strings with his left hand, to play lines with his right hand that were actually reminiscent of an African kora.

Very occasionally, as with ‘Wave Decay’ from their recent EP, Illingworth played an electric piano, opting for darker colours. But most of the time he went all out for high, somewhat thinner sounds, in minimalist melody lines that are easy to listen to, but that can sometimes get a bit boring with the endless repetitions. Especially because the new drummer plays less hyperkinetic than predecessor Rob Turner, who gave the music more energy.

But at best, Gogo Penguin lets the music swell up nicely and puts the listener in a trance, which – given the many dancers in the tent – ​​was also successful at Gent Jazz. Gogo Penguin is one of the most talked-about bands on the British jazz scene for a reason, even if they come from Manchester, not London.

Gogo Penguin, seen on 8/07/2022 at Gent Jazz (***)

Photo: Bruno Bollaert

Yesterday we were presented with two other fine examples of the hip London scene. Theon Cross has actually made the tuba, that very heavy instrument, hip, we know from his work with Sons of Kemet. But he also made quite an impression with his own band at Gent Jazz. He often also plays with electronic effects, which makes the already strong sound of his instrument even more impressive, but the best moment was yesterday when he left out all electronics and only went on a rampage accompanied by bass and drums.

Theon Cross, seen on 8/07/2022 at Gent Jazz (***)

What Oscar Jerome put down was also excellent. Once we saw the man all alone as the opening act for Gogo Penguin and he reminded us very much of Gil Scott-Heron. This time he had brought a band, and the emphasis was much more on his guitar playing, which is as funky as George Benson. And he has a warm, sometimes slightly sultry voice, which fits perfectly with his sometimes dreamy, sometimes danceable songs. ‘I know: this is a jazz festival. But don’t feel inhibited from dancing anyway,” Jerome said, and the audience didn’t let themselves be told twice.

Oscar Jerome, seen on 8/07/2022 at Gent Jazz (****)

Second day Gent Jazz: Gogo Penguin helps you into a trance

Photo: Bruno Bollaert

Lady Blackbird also has a powerful voice, who settled on Gent Jazz after a remarkable visit to Werchter. The American singer mirrors herself to Nina Simone, but rather reminded us of the soul of Tina Turner – her success record from last year is called ‘Black acid soul’ for a reason. And she already has star allures, we learned from her set. But the audience clearly liked it.

Lady Blackbird, seen on 8/07/2022 at Gent Jazz (***)

Yesterday there was also a band from home that made an impression. Because what Dishwasher put down illustrated why the Ghent band has been selected as Young Jazz Talent 2022 this year. A trio of alto sax, electric bass and drums, and again a lot of electronics. Werend Van Den Bossche’s alto sax sounds more like a crazy synthesizer than an alto sax, and what Louise van den Heuvel conjures up from her five-string electric bass is also very special. Next year this trio may open Gent Jazz, we are already looking forward to it.

Dishwasher, seen on 8/07/2022 at Gent Jazz (****)