The Wonderful Sound Of The Cinema Organ – Oporto, Leeds, 30th Apr
The red velvet curtains to the entrance had been drawn and a huge projector screen over Oporto’s front window rolled down. Outside’s urban night-life was all but concealed from view and despite the chatter from the adjacent bar any other world we had been part of now seemed so very far away. Smiling faces around tables illuminated by candle-light reflected the length of the city’s demographic span and the breadth of its cultural diversity; a lady seated alongside happily sketched one of Memo Trio’s profile. The three men performing under that name played their way into the dispatches of support acts who will forever deserve an honourable mention with a triad of sonic movements which took you on an elliptical journey from the mesmeric influences of the East way down through the endless autobahns of early seventies Krautrock.
Born of guitarist and composer James Grunwell’s spirit and imagination, the evocatively named The Wonderful Sound Of The Cinema Organ similarly harks back to a distant past, though theirs is equally one which is permeated by the contemporary essence of their relative youth. With a saxophonist, trumpeter and bassist studying jazz at Leeds College of Music and both a cello and violin in their eight-piece midst, it is difficult to escape from the embrace of the Hot Club de France that holds their music. And then there is the grainy footage taken from old newsreels and scenes out of early silent films projected onto the screen behind the band and which speak loudly of a deep love for nostalgia and a long forgotten age. But to paint this octet into the corner of misty-eyed revivalism, reminiscences gone astray and some good old fashioned vintage would surely be to miss the point of their existence.
The texture of The Wonderful Sound Of The Cinema Organ is both fresh and alive and for sixty minutes a magical spell is woven across this intimate room. With the fluidity of their arrangements drawing upon the more traditional aspects of manouche jazz, Afro-American gospel and southern soul, they also manage to harness these influences to the beat of an altogether more different, more modern drum. Plus they have the voice of Nick Rasle, a hybrid of Anthony Hegarty and Tim Buckley and an instrument in its own right as its floats over and above and in and out of this chromatic landscape.
Nine pieces for which the term song would be all too brief and suite probably far too long, they still effortlessly fuse into each other to create one luxurious passage of music into which one can just serenely sink. From the opening You’ll Never Know with its beguiling gypsy violin and muted horn, to the delicate pastoral beauty of the concluding On The Borderline, these are the titles which will most probably adorn the back cover of their debut album when it arrives. Speaking afterwards, James Grunwell conceded that its construction has been a slow process, hampered by the band members often competing and conflicting work schedules, but like The Wonderful Sound Of The Cinema Organ itself you feel that the record is something which will ultimately defy time.