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Fitkin Band V Trinity Laban  (1): Musicians and Dancers from Trinity Laban and the Graham Fitkin Band: Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 24.3.2011 (BBr)

Totti, Bait, Danse Real

Dominic Murcott: Segue (world première)

Fitkin: Powder Trap (Arranged by Andrew Gorman)

Timothy Cape: Segue (world première)

Fitkin: South, Mistaken Identity , Torn Edge

Liam Mattison: After They Got to the Sunrise (world première)

Amir Sadeghi Konjani: Compass of Existence (world première)

Christopher Starkey: O (world première)

Dominic Murcott: Segue (world première)

Fitkin: 3n + 1 (world première),   Hotpo (world première)

The Graham Fitkin Band comprises

Joby Burgess (marimba and percussion)

Graham Fitkin (piano)

Simon Haram (saxophones)

Noel Langley (trumpet)

John Lunn (double bass and bass guitar)

Nick Moss (saxophones and bass clarinet)

Adrian Spillett (vibraphone and percussion)

Alan Thomas (guitar)

Ruth Wall (harps)

When Graham Fitkin unveiled his new band - I had the pleasure to review its third performance at King's Place, a little over a year ago - it was obvious that here he had a slick ensemble ready, willing and very able to do his every bidding and bring his brilliant and colourful music vividly to life. Tonight we heard a band which has grown and matured through the experience of performance - and it was cooking!

is always welcome as the opening item for it is irresistibly rhythmic and bright. The title refers to the Italian footballer, Francesco Totti, by the way. Bait was new to me and it seems to have brought a new aggression to Fitkin's music which brought to mind, in feel only, not sound, Don Ellis's Electric Bath and his music for William Friedkin's The French Connection. This was a powerful and forceful performance of music of a similar nature. It found a perfect foil in the archaisms of Danse Real and the simply perfect, and hypnotic sound world of Powder Trap, a beautiful realization by Andrew Gorman for the harp of Ruth Wall and seven harpists from Trinity Laban. After South and the excellent funkiness of Mistaken Identity, Torn Edge again brought a more angular and uncompromising music, more fully developed than much of Fitkin's music. This was music which promised much and that opened the door to what was to come.

That Fitkin's music just gets better and better, whilst expanding and growing, was obvious from the two new works which ended the show. Scored for his band with a chorus and orchestra (saxophones, brass and strings) of students, 3n + 1 was positively symphonic in its outlook; it has a broad sweep, is built in bold strokes and has all the contrast necessary to make such a structure work successfully - although I doubt that Fitkin has pretensions to large scale symphonic thought this music bodes well for his creating bigger concert pieces. Hotpo was the lighter, and more approachable, younger brother which made a super close to a show which was a fine showcase for Fitkin's music.

The rest of the show was made up of short(ish) pieces by students of Trinity Laban which all had something in common - they were all far too dour and spoke in too many well known, and over used, musical languages. Whilst I will always applaud the encouraging of young talent perhaps a firmer hand is needed at the helm to open the young composer's ears to wider and more varied trends and styles, for the more music heard and absorbed, the more chance of a varied and interesting new composition.

Bob Briggs

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