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[live review] Get The Blessing // Rochester International Jazz Fest

Get The Blessing is a 4-piece out of Bristol, England that could just as easily be categorized “instrumental rock” as “jazz.” Being that they were playing at a jazz festival, let’s call it jazz. Their name is Get The Blessing, they were playing in a church, and there was some congregational clapping, but this music wasn’t religious. In fact, bassist Jim Barr (nicknamed Captain Havoc by his bandmates), formerly of Portishead, explained after the first number, “Low Earth Orbit,” that the music they would play could be placed into two categories, science or sentimental rubbish.

Normally Barr would be joined on drums by Clive Deamer, his former bandmate in Portishead. Though since he is currently on tour with Radiohead, he was replaced by Dylan Howe, son of Yes guitarist Steve Howe. He literally didn’t miss a beat. Rounding out the band are Jack McMurchie on saxophones and Peter Judge on trumpet. Both horn players made use of pedal effects and loops, though subtly without overpowering or distracting.

The music centered on Barr’s bass lines, even on the occasion he switched to a guitar. Intricate, intense and moving, it’d make for interesting music all on its own. The horns added more melodic and atmospheric sounds swirling in and around the bass, all pushed along by Howe’s driving beats. While they leave plenty of space to improvise and explore the themes, the bulk of their writing is very catchy. I was resisting the urge to hum along to many of the tunes, most of which I knew from their brilliant album OCDC, released earlier this year. It’s one of the best albums I have heard so far in 2012.

Part of the appeal of the evening was the hilarious British wit that would introduce each song. “Pentopia” (video above) was introduced as a song for starfish to dance to since they didn’t have one. “They like it,” Barr said. Another song was about shaving your beard to find that you had no chin underneath. “Speed of Dark” was introduced thusly, “Everyone knows what the speed of light is, but what about the speed of dark?” They closed the set with “Einstein Action Figure,” funny in and of itself. Question is, was it a scientific song or sentimental rubbish?

Connect with Get The Blessing // web | twitter | facebook (Gotta love a band that quotes The Simpsons in the Twitter bio)