A showcase of ‘jazz for the playlist era’, SymphRONica aims to change preconceptions about jazz and bring it up to standard for modern ears. Made up of the classical pianist, electric guitarist and drummer, but also a string quartet and double bassist, this eight-piece band certainly does succeed in subverting the layman’s expectations of a jazz group. And when they start to play, it’s clear that jazz-lover or no, we’re all going to be taken for a wild ride.
The eponymous Ron Davis on keys is also the composer of most of SymphRONica’s groovy and bubbly tunes. With a wide range of inspirations from North African influences in one piece to the combination of Johan Sebastian Bach and metal music in another, Davis’ work is not only unique but hardly imaginable until you hear it with your own ears. Although the addition of strings to a jazz band is quite the twist for the uninitiated, who might have been expecting the more conventional set of brass, when you take into account this massively varied set of influences, it all falls into place. This is no elevator jazz – it’s avant-garde, it’s experimental, it’s absolutely captivating.
Quick glances and grins between the performers only solidify that they’re having as much fun playing as we’re having listening. There isn’t much that’s more heartwarming than watching musicians really feeling the music and enjoying themselves on stage. That the tunes are brilliantly crafted and expertly played is the cherry on the cake, but a huge part of what makes SymphRONica – and all good jazz – great is the laid-back, intimate feeling of sharing good music in good company.
In all, SymphRONica is an evening of jazz like you’ve never heard it before. It’s an astRONomical experience, this reinvention of jazz for modern ears, well worth a listen even for jazz novices and especially for seasoned musicians looking for a change of pace.
SymphRONica was on at TheSpace Niddry Street – Lower Theatre
Image: Douglas Robinson