Taupe describe themselves thusly: “a Newcastle-upon-Tyne based trio specialising in razor-sharp polyrhythmic play, exploratory improvisation and raw, high energy live performance.” In person, they’re a spare, suburban-looking three piece group, led by Jamie Stockbridge on the sax, with Mike Parr Burman and Adam Stapleford on guitar and drums. They played Edinburgh’s Jazz bar to a gradually thickening Thursday-night crowd, ending their set with a packed house.
Taupe claim influence from a wide array of sources and indeed, they have a huge range of sounds: from jarring, spastic effects pedals and soft drumming that made me think of the wind on Mars (Does Mars have an atmosphere? I don’t know, but it sounded like that) to chunky diabolical metal-ish guitar.
On the whole, though, they tended to mix these sounds a bit too much, to my mind: with the exception of a few that were decidedly more ambient, there wasn’t much differentiation in tone from one piece to the next. With the period right before the interval most closely resembling a second sound check, I could sense the audience getting a bit antsy. After all, there’s probably only so much avant-garde noise jazz you can listen to in one sitting.
I found the sax-led pieces the most engaging: they tended to be lively, dynamic and innovative, just melodic enough to keep me engaged but, like all the best jazz, also dissonant and slightly mournful. Taupe are especially good at building a sense of urgency: the music moved me, it made me nod my head and tap my feet and do a bit of wiggling. One guy was even escorted from the building for gyrating a bit too hard. I felt bad for his date.
I’d keep an eye on these guys. Their banter Thursday was charmingly oddball and slightly self-deprecating and overall they come off as both unpretentious and serious about their material. The format of the set may have been pushing it slightly, but that’s what jazz is all about, right?