Maria Grapsa Transports Us To A Jazz Dreamland At The Ruin

Writer Mirab Kay / Photographer Alice Needham

The Ruin, on Floodgate Street, is a cosy little inn recently provided a home to some notable jazz talent, and will continue to do so on the second Sunday of each month.

On 10 April, only the second show since the series began, we observe Greek-born pianist and composer, Maria Grapsa, take the stage alongside resident double bassist and drummer, Thomas Marsh and Reece Downton.

First, we are treated to one of Grapsa’s delightful compositions ‘Nothing is Static’, which is due to be released in the coming months. The title is apt, as the intensity of the piece surges and dies out seeming to take joy in toying with our musical expectations. Normally we find comfort in a return to the tonic of the key, but not in this strain of improvised jazz.

Grapsa cunningly violates our trust by slowly building our hopes, readying us for a resolution. Then, shocking us with a divergent phrase or an extended, dissonant chord. Soon, we learn to expect the unexpected.

Her other compositions, ‘Seattle’ and ‘Almost Ready’, follow the theme of improvisation and continue to rise in excitement and intensity as the ensemble relaxes into the surroundings.

Downton, Marsh, and Grapsa provide an engaging show, but Grapsa steals it with her frantic piano playing – her fingers releasing the keys as if they are hot iron. Her expressions range from deep concentration, to satisfaction, to a reassuring glance at Downton and Marsh. They captivate the audience and I find myself unable to look away.

‘Seattle’ piques my interest in Grapsa’s writing style, the repeated motifs feel warm and familiar among the rapid, descending scales sprinkled with accidentals.

Sandwiched between Grapsa’s set is a jam session and the floor opens up to allow musicians in the audience to create improvised mini-masterpieces with the composer.

The idea is genius, a showcase of local jazz musicians and motivation to keep them returning. Variations of the original trio plus members of the audience successively take their places behind the drums and double bass, with the occasional addition of an electric guitar.

Needless to say, I am shocked by the talent and grateful that I get to witness it. Will I be returning next month? Absolutely.

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