Bar Under Solo, Inverness Street, Camden. The audience of 30-odd musicians and significant others has average age also of around 30. The vibe is friendly, the atmosphere anticipatory. The place is silently buzzing and no one quite manages to hide their excitement about what is going to happen. We have turned up to be wowed by some awesome musicians. The guys in the band are hot players, and the gig will be fantastic. On the menu is a spicy meal of fusion. The plan is pure self-indulgence, for musicians and audience. A girl positions the video camera and moves a sofa to accommodate it. She is relaxed, assured, as are the band when they shuffle on stage with all the panache and charisma of a West–End pit band trying to avoid being noticed. Three of the quartet are in tired-casual theatre blacks, with the drummer boldly sporting a grey t-shirt.

Then it begins. Chinese Haircut calmly and efficiently – yet with tangible energy – despatch two blistering Mahavishnu Orchestra covers. This sets the tone, the audience’s appetite whetted, along with the band’s. Throughout the gig everyone’s playing is faultless, but never sterile. The sheer, unrelenting energy of the rhythm section is electrifying – while they occasionally and tantalisingly simmer, mostly they burn with a fire that Cobham and Laird knew well: that Inner Mounting Flame. Louie Palmer is captivating on drums, and amazingly never seems to break a sweat, despite playing like a hurricane. Jon Harvey on bass maybe just wins the competition for the most complicated pedal-board, although Tommy Emmerton on guitar is a close second. Both strings-smiths wrote complex tunes to which the group give life tonight. The ensemble’s groove is tight and dynamic; the solos come from, and go in, all directions. Emmerton, especially, takes notes, licks and phrases on new wild journeys at every opportunity, and Rob Barron on keys twist and hurls improvised melodies across the keyboard with abandon.

Miles Davis birthed this style of music, and the exploratory spirit that he ignited and fostered is present tonight. This under-stated, under-sold band show us why it’s worth pursuing your art and craft to the highest level – good music like this is inherently wonderful.  The audience members leave the gig feeling better about themselves and the world. I called Emmerton after the show, and he self-deprecatingly said he thought the set needed some work. I think, instead, that the band deserves some work – all the work it can get.

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