Gig Review:
Metamorphic at The Forge,
Camden Town, London NW1, Thursday, 22nd September 2011
Metamorphic at

The Forge Arts Venue

3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL
Thursday, 22nd September 2011, 8pm

Metamorphic are:

Laura Cole - piano, keys
Chris Williams - alto sax
John Martin - tenor & soprano sax
Kerry Andrew - vocals
Paul Sandy - bass
Tom Greenhalgh - drums

Date of Review: 2011/09/24, revd. 2012/01/24

Metamorphic Programme - Forge
Metamorphic's superb programme, presented in the form of a 'menu' and created
by Laura Cole. Enterprising, creative, and simply exquisite!
NB - Supplementary Note:

Since originally writing this review, several facts pertinent to its opening paragraph have come to my attention courtesy of the proprietors of The Red Hedgehog, referred to in the opening paragraph, which have also been confirmed by Laura Cole, leader of Metamorphic. In the light of these facts, it has become necessary to point these out here and to revise said opening paragraph accordingly.

The Red Hedgehog's proprietors pointed out to Ms. Cole that they considered their venue to be unsuitable for Metamorphic's planned performance before any booking and also pointed out all restrictions on sound levels before any booking. Thus, any unsuitability of the venue was purely the responsibility of Ms. Cole and not the venue's proprietors. The Red Hedgehog was conceived and designed for classical chamber and other purely acoustic performances, for which it is as eminently suitable as any venue.

The atrocious sound engineering referred to again was not the fault of the venue but entirely that of Ms. Cole and Metamorphic, who provided the 'sound engineer' (and equipment) themselves.

I would like to express my unreserved apologies to the proprietors of The Red Hedgehog for any previous misleading statements reflecting upon the venue. These were made in good faith based on information received.

Metamorphic at The Forge,
3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London NW1, Thursday, 22nd September 2011

After the - to put it mildly! - somewhat off-kilter gig at the Red Hedgehog in Highgate earlier this year thanks to the venue having been a poor choice by the band for a gig of this kind, not to mention the atrocious sound engineering (provided by the band), I felt Laura Cole's Metamorphic sextet were clearly deserving of a second review.

The chance for this arose with Metamorphic at The Forge, Camden Town, London NW1, on Thursday, 22nd September 2011. A great and relaxing venue with good acoustics and one of the finest baby grands in town.

A delightful surprise started this off with a programme, appropriately enough for the venue in the form of a 'Menu' (see above right), thoughtfully and inventively created by Laura Cole herself, presented on good quality A4 card. A very impressive, nice touch.

But what of the music, what of Metamorphic themselves? One could be forgiven for asking oneself if this really could be the same Metamorphic as at the launch gig in Highgate, or on the album, The Rock Between! (This latter, and its review, must surely be attributed to poor production and engineering.) Well, yes, these were all the same players, but this was a Metamorphic that had metamorphosed into a different band! From the 'starters' of the first set all the way through to the 'dessert' of the second set, this was a band that was at their ease and confident, and that let rip all the way through.

The flawless sound engineering provided by The Forge was a delight and meant that every last bass and piano note was clearly audible, no matter how delicate, even in the thickest full-band textures with both saxes and drums under full steam. Kerry Andrew (was this really the same vocalist?!) was completely transformed thanks to this excellent sound mix and sounded wonderful.

The material presented by Metamorphic on Thursday night was a good mix of all the main tracks from The Rock Between, and exciting new compositions by Laura Cole including a couple joined and arranged with other pieces (Little Woman, Lonely Wing - Cole / Coleman / Hendrix, arr. Cole, and The Juicemaster - Cole / Shakur, arr. Cole), and an arrangement by Ms. Cole of Revere's I Bet You Want Blood.

Laura Cole's originals are through-composed and as richly, even thickly, textured as ever. However, in the newer compositions, there seems to be much less of a reliance on a succession of ideas, with fewer being explored more thoroughly with both enthusiasm and even delicacy. Overall, improvisation came much more to the fore all round, with Ms. Cole leading much more 'from the front' on her excellent piano and keys than before, with some excellent 'unplugged' soloing.

The ensemble playing of Metamorphic could not be faulted if one tried, including Kerry Andrew's wonderful, sensitive vocals which particularly excelled with her exquisite interpretation of Bjork's Hyperballad. And the soloing all round was likewise just exquisite and 'unplugged,'   with  alto  Chris  Williams,   tenor/soprano

John Martin and drummer Tom Greenhalgh making particularly fine contributions.

Laura Cole has picked an outstanding team indeed to make up Metamorphic. In addition to her own strengths as composer, arranger, pianist and keyboardist, the double front line of altoist Chris Williams (of 2009 Mercury Award nominated Led Bib, where Williams is also part of a double alto front line) and tenorist and sopranoist John Martin (a long established figure on the Afro-Latin scene as well as leader of his own John Martin Quartet, whose debut album Dawning, reviewed here a while ago, is a remarkable tour de force of excellence) is formidable indeed. Williams and Martin are a well-attuned partnership, with well-developed, excellent voices on their respective axes, whose soaring improvs were most impressive. I am confident that we shall hear a lot more from both of these superb players as leaders yet.

Drummer Tom Greenhalgh's prog-rock informed style and great versatility is just perfect for Metamorphic. Everything about his percussion work is impressive indeed - be it his excellent rim, cymbal, soft stick, brush or hand work, or his likewise excellent timing and time keeping. As well as being a member of the Andrew Plummer-led group World Sanguine Report, since 2007, Greenhalgh is also a member of the acclaimed popular band Sarandon, but his distinctive style is bound to see him become more sought-after in the jazz and particularly fusion sphere. On Thursday night, Greenhalgh was just superb and exquisite throughout.

Paul Sandy is an excellent, sensitive bassist who has worked with Hey Negrita and a variety of other groups. His bass lines were clear, distinctive and excellent.

Vocalist Kerry Andrew, of vocal trio Juice and Dollyman, likewise fits this line-up to perfection, I have to say after last Thursday's performance. Ms. Andrew particularly impressed with her general sensitivity and often delicate understatement.

This excellent line-up that is Metamorphic gave a most remarkable, even breathtaking performance that deserves nothing less than the highest praise. Laura Cole's emotional, sometime emotive, music truly came to live with Metamorphic at The Forge, Camden Town, London NW1 last Thursday and you could hardly have asked for more! Except perhaps, an encore. Ms. Cole really is onto something with her experimental folk/jazz, and it's something rather special. So do keep an eye - and an ear! - out for this band. Metamorphic should go places!

Metamorphic rock!

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