Live Music + Gig Reviews

Alabaster DePlume @ Chalk, Brighton

12 November 2023

English saxophonist and orator delivers a smouldering and flamboyantly contagious meditation on the soul

Alabaster DePlume (Photo: Chris Almeida)

Alabaster DePlume (Photo: Chris Almeida)

Coming to the end of a mini tour in support of his newest record Come With Fierce Grace, saxophonist and verbal agitator Alabaster DePlume has had a sudden epiphany. The audience are not here to see him tonight, rather it’s the other way around. The Brighton residents, to whom he appears so enamoured, are what DePlume refers to as true leaders for their alleged carefree attitude and willingness to live authentic lives free of judgement. Whether that’s a true representation of the city or pandering on his behalf in order to generate goodwill in the face of exhaustion is unclear. The crowd certainly seem to lap up his exaggerated theatrics and diaphanous semi improvisatory noodling.

Perhaps inspired by the defiant, and rather foul mouthed, poetic musings of support act and long time friend Thick Richard, the Dalston native, himself a spoken word provocateur in a past life, seems content toying with notions of confidence, activism and privileged self awareness. Between numbers he appears to conjure freeform word associations out of thin air, built on the trite positivity that has flooded social media of late, coming across both Rumi and claustrophobic at the same time. He calls for political unity and global connection whilst bemoaning his right to ask so high a request as a self confessed hipster and calcified slacktivist.

Not wanting to dryly soapbox, DePlume instead plays jester to the ambivalent attendees, mischievously inferring the incremental tasks and herculean challenges to the status quo, that will create societal change for the better upon the audience. The implication being that, of course, we will bring about revolutionary acts, upon returning to our rarely mundane lives.

There are occasions when he does seem to be genuine, namely when thanking his bandmates for their willingness to indulge his rambling whims and also when he brings his melodic ascensions to life. He’s by far a better instrumentalist than orator, though in fairness he does have a whimsical deprecating way with language that recalls the late Mark E Smith of The Fall. On the track Don’t Forget You’re Precious from last year’s Gold album, for example, he recalls how he remembers to check his Instagram account, to change at Highbury overground station and the German word for calculator, but forgets that he is, in fact, a precious creature. And later, on People: What’s The Difference? he lyrically questions the distinctions between folk, listing a litany of variables “people in the shop, people in the playground people at the gig” before settling on a menacing chorus lamenting over and over the “people in the sea”.

Peculiarities aside, much like his choice of stage name, DePlume delivers a smouldering and flamboyantly contagious meditation on the soul that gently mocks the conventions of spiritual jazz and performance art whilst also submitting to the charms of both.

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Alabaster DePlume @ Chalk, Brighton