Léonore Boulanger Brings Parisian Avant-Garde Jazz To The Edge On 21 October

Writer & Photographer Emily Doyle


On Friday 21 October audiences are welcomed into The Edge, a former boiled sweet warehouse tucked away in Cheapside. A fire roars in an empty oil drum outside, the woodsmoke mingling with the smell of the vetkoek cooking indoors. The venue feels like an antique shop, with mismatched wingback armchairs and bean bags dotted around the space.

Settling in for the evening’s entertainment, with an ale from the amply stocked bar, feels like being welcomed into the living room of an eccentric, well-travelled aunt. Our host Judy Brush (who bears an uncanny likeness to local songwriter, and all round good egg Anna Palmer, of Dorcha and Pretty Grim fame) opens proceedings with their sixteen-minute experimental opus, ‘Return of the Bean Birds’.

A collaboration with artist Luke Humphries, who wrote the words, the piece veers between shimmering ambience, and agitated synthetic disco – which seems symptomatic of the time it was written (hello, lockdown one). Brush is magnetic, selling the spoken word passages with calculated comic timing before launching into impressive vocal acrobatics.

They treat us to more bite-sized compositions later in the evening, a clever mixture of backing track and live-looped guitar, and vocals that shows them not only to be a formidable performer, but an inspired musician to boot.

Avant-punk songwriter Howie Reeve begins his set perched on a chair onstage with his feet resting on their own little fold out platform, noodling away on an acoustic bass. The pose lends him an impish energy, which only becomes more exaggerated as he wanders among the crowd later in the set, climbing onto chairs and into the lap of Leonore Boulanger’s guitarist.

He demands audience participation in the form of improvised beats and vocal drones, and serenades individuals with music-hall mischief: “It’s the a capella section/it’s giving you all an erection…”.

Returning to the stage, Reeve is at his best when showcasing his percussive, finger picked bass skills, his playful lyricism still shining through.

The Léonore Boulanger trio have filled the stage with assorted instruments ahead of their set, including (but not limited to) a shakuhachi, a slide whistle, a Casio SA-46, and a toy megaphone. The trio fuse different flavours of jazz and folk in a way that’s poppy and playful.

The ever-evolving instrumentation gives their sound a chaotic texture, but it’s all held together by the trio’s jazz discipline.

Jean-Daniel Botta’s intricate guitar work and Laurent Sériès’ inventive percussion underpin Boulanger’s vocals, which swing from the ethereal to the animalistic. It’s a real treat to see this ingenious act in such an intimate venue.

For more from Léonore Boulanger, please go to www.lesaule.fr/leonoreboulanger.htm
For more from Howie Reeve, please go to www.howiereeve.bandcamp.com/music
For more from Judy Brush, please go to www.instagram.com/judy_brush_

For more from The Edge, please go to www.frictionarts.com/project/the-edge