Gig Review: Ancient Infinity Orchestra at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

The Brudenell Social Club was fully enraptured by the jazz epics of Leeds collective Ancient Infinity Orchestra, in both their plaintive and barnstorming guises.
Ancent Affinity Orchestra at the Brudenell Social Club. Picture: James KilkennyAncent Affinity Orchestra at the Brudenell Social Club. Picture: James Kilkenny
Ancent Affinity Orchestra at the Brudenell Social Club. Picture: James Kilkenny

The constantly captivating dynamics of Ancient Infinity Orchestra – a rotating cavalcade of highly skilled musicians – delighted a packed audience at the famed Leeds venue with their new album; they also debuted some magnificent newer material.

Tiny details of the 14-strong band gleamed all the brighter live, especially the plethora of percussion – from a string of tin can lids to the cabasa.

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Where Greeting was a welcoming ambient pool with a burgeoning haze of percussion, Rejoicing saw a gently rising but emphatic display of their virtuosic skills, which nevertheless retained an emotional core.

This featured a divine tenor sax solo from Will Howard, strengthened by rigid double bass cycles. Whether keeping the band synced with the double bass or in his role as conductor, bandleader Ozzy Moysey led a controlled, majestic musical force.

Nayima and Equanimity were truly multi-sensory, as dancers processed through the audience, their movements as expressive as the diverse sounds onstage.

The former’s dazzling flame coursed through breathtaking alternations of unified orchestral marches and the tenor sax leading the clarinet and baritone sax in galvanising glory. The latter used similar approaches to buttress the sax, oboe and flute conveying deep prongs of emotion.

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They were joined here by the incisive words of poet Seki Lynch, elaborating the track’s instrumental gravity with stirring phrases like “bombs forever falling/hearts eternally breaking”, framed by the fitting refrain of ‘peace’.

The first new track of the night held filmic sensations with hints of early Sun Ra, steered by prominent double-bass twanging and complimentary strings that incrementally ratcheted up their voluminous tension.

This sonic delirium, set to a drum beat more buoyant than their sometimes-restrained rhythms, hypnotically led to a searing baritone sax solo. Here, Oliver Dover resurrected the spirit of Roland Rahsaan Kirk himself.

The second new offering wore its Moroccan influences firmly, a lysergic trumpet solo from Olivia Cutill diffusing a Bitches Brew atmosphere. Non-album track Moontide soared to transportive heights as drummer John Arnesen delivered an Elvin Jones-esque solo steeped in post-bop fervour.

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Like these newer tracks, Arc of the Sun oozed neo-classical shades. The track was markedly darker live, the haunting mandolin melody bordering complex melancholy. This was followed by the noir-ish sweeping saxophones of River of Light, a wholly spellbinding standout, the dancers slinking back in similar sensuality.

Though they were joined by other talents throughout, the ever-growing ensemble was graced by further aural might on the moving, epiphanic Pharoah Sings, the verses shared by their harpist/vocalist and the addition of Thanda Gumede’s stunning baritone: a deep, powerhouse resonance.

As much as they broadened the enigmatic appeal of their album, Ancient Infinity Orchestra also pointed toward a doubly fascinating future.

River of Light, Ancient Infinity Orchestra’s debut on Gondwana Records, is out now.

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