Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Portico Quartet + Supanggah

I've just returned from a concert at the Purcell Room in the Southbank Centre - 'Portico Quartet + Supanggah,' part of the London Jazz Festival. The evening was divided into two halves. Supanggah played kendhang with the Southbank Gamelan Players (SBGP) for about an hour. Then there was a 25 minute interval, followed by a set by the Portico Quartet - a quirky jazz/pop ensemble made up onf sax, bass, Hang (a type of steelpan) and drums, nominated this year for the Mercury Music Prize. Supanggah played in one piece that he co-created with the Portico Quartet.

The SBGP were in good form, and played mostly arrangements and new gamelan work by Rahayu Supanggah. No programme was given out so I can't provide titles. Pak Panggah is an amazing kendhang player, and all the SBGP musicians were listening very closely tonight so ensemble was fine - with the exception of some loud passages and some choral singing. The gender, rebab and bonang playing were particularly fine tonight.

The new piece created by Pak Panggah and the Portico Quartet was a bit of a let-down though, frankly. It opened with a duet by Pak Panggah on rebab plus bass, followed by a long section where the Portico Quartet riffed on Pak Panggah's rebab melody, then a section for Hang & bonang (playing some interlocking patterns), then the Portico Quartet again, and finally a rebab solo. So not very exciting formally, and I am afraid that Pak Panggah's rebab playing was not up to his kendhang playing. Apparently they had a fortnight to prepare the piece, working in the gamelan room in the Royal Festival Hall. I don't think they used all the time rehearsing.

The audience was packed with Portico fans - many of whom arrived late for the concert and missed the first SBGP piece - and the Portico pieces got loud applause and the ensemble played an encore. There were fewer gamelan devotees in the audience. Maybe if the SBGP gets a Mercury Music Prize?

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