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Award-winning pairing of saxophonist Tori Freestone and jazz pianist Alcyona Mick creating a stir on the UK jazz scene

Tori Freestone/Alcyona Mick
at The Forge, Basingstoke
on Saturday, June 29


Winner of last year’s Ivors Composer Awards, Tori Freestone is now well established as a major contemporary jazz saxophonist, band leader and composer. This recital was the first in a new series of jazz presentations that will be heard in the Forge, the small, intimate performance space within the large Anvil complex.

The Forge is ideal as a room to present music like this, just Tori on tenor saxophone and flute and Alcyona Mick on piano.

These two blend together musically with ease, swapping lines back and forth or with one soloing and the other accompanying. Tori’s opening selection was inspired by a poem by John Donne and began with a flurry of notes through the registers of her tenor. Open, swirling lines explored the lower depths of her instrument and slowly blended into light, lyrical, melodic phrases. A honk here or there is one of many devices she uses in constructing complex, improvised lines.

Alcyona Mick supplies sturdy chords at the piano, her own inventive lines meshing so easily with the saxophonist. This blending of sounds and approach was even more apparent when the duo tackled They Can’t Take That Away From Me, a familiar standard tune where Alcyona’s brisk, chordal piano styling tied in neatly with Tori’s flowing tenor saxophone, her solo including dissonant notes and a high degree of inventive improvisation.

Both musicians enjoyed, or perhaps I should say were distracted during lockdown by birdsong at early hours of the morning. Alcyona composed and played Detachment which was inspired by bird song in her homeground of Wood Green, a London suburb area usually rife with traffic noise and busy movement of people, but not during the covid pandemic.

Her friend was many miles away in Tenerife at the time, but she was listening to bright bird song which she reproduced accurately on flute, playing Birds Of Paradise, faithfully accompanied by Mick at the piano. This music was part of a suite which later won Tori her Ivors prize. Although there is quite a distance between The music of Tori and Alcyona and that of Thelonious Monk, the duo played two pieces where they managed to conjure up the spirit of Monk’s music and keep to their own personal style of interpretation. Quite a feat that.

Monk’s Criss-Cross was well structured and floated along neatly.

Tori Freestone announced her very last choice as by a favourite composer, Joni Mitchell. Short, sweet and melodic, this selection was a fitting conclusion to a fascinating concert of improvised modern jazz.

It was a good start to a welcome forthcoming series of concerts.

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