A collective quiver of excitement ran through the heat, chatter and eclectic turnout of those waiting to see Alfa Mist at Band on the Wall. If you’re hot on jazz, the show is an obvious choice. His latest project, 2017’s Antiphon, alludes to a psalm, verse or chant, and is painted with a hue of heartfelt sincerity that reflects the composure and mellow tone of its name.
Born of the ‘longest conversation [he’d] ever had’ with his brothers surrounding mental health, relationships, and everything in-between – famously and tragically oft-shunned topics amongst young males – his honesty alone is applaudable. For many, these topics are relatable, and Alfa Mist’s dextrous exploration of them creates a sense of openness and unity between himself and the crowd. The result is music that probes and unsettles at depth.
Antiphon itself is truly beautiful, rippling with animation that’s scourged with melancholy. Devoid of all pretentiousness and interwoven with hip-hop beats, there’s little room for slack repetition. Tonally, it is both stimulating and soothing, with a touch that feels like warm water. Live, this translates into a bewitching performance, with every short break between songs carrying a hungry anticipation for the next.
A hugely compelling part of the whole process is the total humility of all the musicians, who make no attempts at showmanship, choosing instead to play in a way made all the more transfixing by the lack of flashiness. Alfa Mist himself is a self-taught pianist, and many of the tracks begin with solo piano, before the rest of the band, made-up of trumpet, guitar, bass and drums, join in. Rising above the immense technical skill involved, they each further lend astonishing, inimitable levels of creativity to their instruments, and each is given the solo space to demonstrate it at various points. Their take on jazz feels innovative and exciting. More astounding still is the bassist’s transfer to singing for the track ‘Breathe’, which she delivers with such admirable modesty whilst managing to leave mouths gaping across the room.
One recommendation: get there early. Unless the venue has a balcony like Band on the Wall, or you’re blessed with height, it’s well worth being near to the front. You’ll be especially happy the instantly likeable Barney Artist comes on for a song, brimming with energy. He features on Alfa Mist’s 2015 album Nocturne, which is more hip-hop tipped than Antiphon, and also counts Tom Misch amongst its collaborators.