And so to the Capstone Theatre, where Penguin Cafe alumnus Arthur Jeffes – son of Penguin Cafe Orchestra originator Simon Jeffes – awaits us with a Steinway Grand, a violinist called Olly and a Dulcitone.
There’s something a little odd about musicians’ offspring playing their father’s work; there’s actually no reason whatsoever why they should be any more perfect a fit than any session musician out there.
So it’s doubly odd that Arthur Jeffes seems to be every bit as good on the piano, every bit the experimenter. It’s too soon to say whether he’s every bit the composer his father was, but there’s certainly promise here.
That Jeffes is an accomplished pianist is beyond doubt, that he enjoys messing about with complex time signatures and unusual techniques is clear after a few tracks, which largely derive from his post-Penguin Cafe Orchestra album, which is confusingly attributed to Penguin Cafe. He was appearing tonight, possibly, as Sundog, though promotional material seemed unsure.
Frequently accompanied by violinist Oli Langford – applying light pressures with his bow to create a soft, slightly reedy, scratchy sound – Jeffes unveiled a collection of old Penguin Cafe Orchestra tunes, new Penguine Cafe music and some other collected curios.
Most of the pieces revolve around fast, interrupted, arpeggiated rounds stumbling, syncopated time signatures. They must be incredibly hard to play, but Jeffes seems at one with the music; the violin accompaniment apparently half-playing, half-extemporizing a melody over the Cutting Branches for a Temporary Shelter, a beautiful, simple tune played on a Dulcitone, a rare beast that uses hammers to strike tuning forks that is probably the most beautiful instrument ever.
Jeffes’ new tunes shine too – the driving Landau working beautifully on piano and violin. Coriolis is a lovely little tune and Shadows In The Water is certainly a statement of intent for what is to follow.
Some of the pieces appear half-baked, but that rather lends to their charm. However, some seem a little heavy handed – a little too grand and straight-laced – while a couple are even a little dull.
But it all made for a rather enchanting evening with moments of real magic – a pot pourri of sources and commentary and rhythms. It was criminally under-attended but we’d have to question the tickets at £16.50; the Capstone is an excellent performance space – even if the half-time drinks have to be enjoyed in the lobby – but that asking price on a Thursday night in a venue hardly central for the first ever live performance of a brand new band struck us as remarkably optimistic.
It didn’t dull our enjoyment at all, but Jeffes’ music deserved a wider audience.