An icy cold blast direct from Reykjavik hustled round the corner of Sharrowvale Road as we made our way towards Ecclesall Road. On the corner huddled under a streetlight a handful of folks were chatting to a geezer whose silhouette I immediately recognised. It was Matthew Halsall, the leader of the Gondwana Orchestra. It was the trademark cap that gave him away. A quick “ Hail, friend well met” revealed that he “wanted some chips“, and off he popped.

We, however, were wanting to catch ‘Mammal Hands. The Millenhium Hall’s rather austere yet homely and convivial atmosphere greeted us . Sheffield Jazz is seemingly run by a group of extremely nice volunteers who made everyone very welcome.

Mammal Hands were in the groove. A trio of piano, drums and reeds, they were captivating . The trio were promoting the highly acclaimed ‘Animalia’ album. There is a sweet almost zen like feel to Mammal Hands live. With the absence of a double bass keyboard player, Nick Smart laid down a series of repetitive patterns for his brother Jordan Smart to weave sax lines in and around. Add to this the restrained percussive element from Jesse Barrett and you had something really special going down. Perhaps the key was in the arrangements. The dynamics appeared so natural to three musicians so in tune with each other . Rapturous applause greeted the trio at the end of the set.

There was a raffle in the interval . I was not a winner.

And onto the Gondwana Orchestra and Matthew Halsall. Mammal Hands were new to me, but I have become familiar with Halsall’s work recently . Having survived the rigours of drawing the raffle the Orchestra hit the ground running. The Gondwana sound is almost contemplative and restful. Percussionist Luke Flowers is a joy to behold, inventive and artistic, underpinning proceedings with his minimalist style.

Channelling compositions from the latest recording ‘When The World Was One’, we were treated to a set that sojourned from the joyous to the sublime indispersed with moments of pure rapture from a group of musicians on top of their game. Halsall’s sound echoes the reflective era of John and Alice Coltrane, and when Rachael Gladwin’s harp cascades across the hall we were truly transported during 'A Faraway Place'. If a composition required lifting, Jordan Smart and Halsall’s sax and trumpet rose and fall full of emotion. ‘Patterns’ hit a Miles Davis groove and was totally cool. A wonderful gig was propelled into the stratosphere with a cover of Alice Coltrane’s ‘Journey in Satchidananda’. My night was complete, and judging by the audience reaction so was everyone else’s.










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