A Certain Ratio: Lyceum, London; Pinski Zoo: The Venue, London

WHO WOULD have thought, after it had been received into the White House and on to the Parkinson show, that jazz could ever again become a symbol of dissent, danger, glamour and romance? That, however, seems to be what has happened with the current pop musicians: in their quest for a music that kicks against the traditions of rock, they have reinvested such heroes of the early 1960s as Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Sun Ra and Eric Dolphy with the potency of rebel figures.

A Certian Ratio, a Manchester group, performed a set in London last night that owed most of its substance to the work done by Miles Davis immediately before his retirement in 1975. The music was a disciplined kind of neurofunk, powered by volcanic bass and Donald Johnstone’s hairt-rigger drumming.

Their cool, clipped delivery is the filter for the Davis influence and lends them a measure of real originality; no one should be fooled into believing that the aloof stance drains the vital juices from their music.

Earlier, at the Venue, a Nottingham quintet called Pinski Zoo had offered a variation on the same jazz obsession. Led by a saxophonist, Jan Kopinski, whose interest in Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Pharoah Sanders, Roland Kirk and Albert Ayler was everywhere apparent (he used an electronic foot-pedal to mimic Ayler’s broad, bursting vibrato), they were closer to the freewheeling spirit of Rip Rig & Panic, displaying an ability to channel their enormous zest through the conduits of attractively structured compositions.

In one piece Kopinski burst through the cloud of percussion with a lovely snatch of repeated melody, just like Gato Barbieri in his round-up-on-the-pampas mood. We have not heard the last of these goings-ons.

© Richard WilliamsThe Times, 19 February 1982

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