EFR - Reviews of From the Horse's Mouth @ Edinburgh Fringe

From the Horse's Mouth @ Edinburgh Fringe

Sat 8th – Wed 19th August 2015

reviews

Michael Roderick

at 12:43 on 13th Aug 2015

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Beneath the din of the Chiquitos on Frederick Street, there sits a drab and unassuming little room. With no window, whitewashed walls and a dampish odour, one would think that no amount of razzmatazz or singsong could enliven its boxy dullness. Of course, you’d be wrong, for that’s exactly what the live jazz and spoken-word poetry group From The Horse’s Mouth manage to do – with such energy and skill that (and this, remember, is a free show) I’d happily pay to see it again. And again. Without a doubt, the group warmed the basement of this desultory Mexican restaurant with the cool atmospheres of a late-night jazz joint

The show is marketed as primarily a jazz act, but there’s actually quite a bit more on offer here, both in tone and content: spoken-word poetry that ranges from the clever, quick-tongued ditty, to long melancholy lyrics and fantastic raps. There is singing, too, and a hint of stand-up comedy. All, however, is backed by a jazz band (Jacob Ewens on trumpet, Harry Davidson on bass, Bobby Goulder as pianist and Jack Chown on drums) of tremendous vigour and an impressive knack for improvisation (I realise this is probably a requirement of jazz bands, but my novice ear was utterly charmed).

The meat of the show, as I say, is taken up by poetry and singing. The poets all radiate charisma, warmth and humour, and interact wonderfully with the audience, but each has their own individual persona: Jaylee Ali seemed cutely awkward and wonderstruck, Toby Thompson absurdist and sardonically buffoonish and the emcee Doug Taylor finding a comic balance essential to his role, though his poem about his Serbian grandfather and the atrocities of that blasted region proved, for me at least, a highlight. It was welcome and impressive that all were capable of modulating their tone from comic, to charming, to wistful, to downright mournful.

Heather Young sings two magnificent songs – Stevie Wonder’s Overjoyed and Blackbird by the Beatles. The only slight criticism I might have is, I think, to be found in my prejudice- if you dislike the sometimes annoying mannerisms of spoken-word poetry, the always optimistic movements and signs of joy and rhythm, you’ll probably find the this particularly exasperating. No one, however, seemed to dislike this show. So marvellous, so infectious and so delightful was the whole thing that I absolutely want to see them again. And again.

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Katie Heath-Whyte

at 12:49 on 13th Aug 2015

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From the moment the four-piece jazz band struck up and compere-poet Doug Taylor took the stage, From The Horse’s Mouth transformed the room’s atmosphere and let their audience know they were in for something special. The hour long show was crammed with variety, energy and talent, and the room was left buzzing with an infectious vivacity.

Hailing from Oxford, From The Horse’s Mouth packs in a brutally talented lineup of singers, musicians, poets and performers. Each soloist held the audience rapt as they stepped up, carefully manipulating the tone of each piece with accompanying music and engaging delivery. The tightness of the group is clear, every member visible to the audience throughout the show, responding to their fellow performers and never once disengaged. Several solo spoken pieces are heightened by a chorus sung by the others, and occasionally by audience call and response that was pitched just right for the relaxed vibe.

Each performer had a distinct style, though with soloists performing two or three compositions, they were also able to showcase their ability to embrace varied subject matters. Rapper Jaylee Ali brought a smile with his rhythmic, uplifting words and dynamic presence. With phrases expressing a love for music and life, Ali worked his magic best when joined by the skilled beats of Jack Chown on drums, and Harry Davidson’s lively basslines. Performance poet Toby Thompson, though initially seeming less comfortable in the space, captivated the audience with his lyrical poems. Thompson was often accompanied by the twinkly ornaments and impressive improvisations of keyboard player Bobby Goulder, and the blues sounds of Jacob Ewens’ muted trumpet added to the magic of Thompson’s ethereal words. A highlight of the evening was Thompson’s ‘Buzz Lightyear’, with improvised backing provided by the band in a key of the audience’s suggestion. A feat of skilfull wordplay, the rhymes of Thompson’s poem drove forwards a foot tapping rhythm and clear enjoyment from the audience who participated in the chorus with enthusiasm. As well as holding together the show with his compering, Doug Taylor’s poetry ranged from comic to genuinely moving; his poem dedicated to his grandfather being another notable performance.

Spoken word and poetry was interspersed with sung jazz, and Heather Young’s soothing, classic voice gave the audience a moment’s respite from the tangle of tripping words thrown at them from the other soloists. The band’s clever interpretation of an otherwise overdone song was an audience favourite.

Though composed of solo acts, the uniqueness of the evening arose from the togetherness of From The Horse’s Mouth. The range of pieces gave the night an appreciated variety, but once the audience had been wooed by the band, the acapella pieces felt somewhat lacking. Nevertheless, this did not detract from the enjoyment of such a tight, clever and downright fun exhibition of undeniable and wide ranging talent.

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