In a fascinating concert Ambleside residents and visitors were invited into the beguiling sound world of Kevin Figes’s Wallpaper Music. An intriguing booking by Zeffirellis for such an adventuress band, and once that yielded some thought provoking and most enjoyable music.

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Kevin Figes has been making some of the most interesting small group music around. Quite how he does it is a mystery, and he pulls music that takes its cues from jazz, rock, classical composition and free improvisation.

The musicians heard at Zeffirellis in Ambleside were the same as heard on the excellent Wallpaper II album released earlier this year, and it was a real delight to hear the music performed by Figes on alto and soprano saxophones, alto flute and electronics, vocalist Brigitte Behara, Jim Blomfield on piano and keyboard with bass guitarist Ashley John Long providing some thumping grooves alongside some nimble and intricate basslines that always seemed to keep the music moving. No drums on this occasion as it appears that regular stick man Mark Whitlam was not allowed out to play, or more accurately was unable to be released from his duties in a show in Bristol.

Not to be deterred, the quartet delivered up a set that featured pretty much all of the music from the album and did so in a manner that was both engaging and stimulating. After becoming familiar with the music from listening to recording, hearing the music unfold live was an altogether different experience.

While the music is tightly structured and carefully thought out by Figes the composer, as an improviser Kevin Figes has been clever in the way that the compositions can be stretched out as the performance develops. The level of spontaneity that creeps into these well crafted pieces is often very subtle. No long solos, but brief flashes of inspiration sometimes giving the impression that they are gatecrashing the party only to be thrown out as the music moves on.

And move on it does, from the opening ‘Amethyst Stymied’ with a wonderful dialogue between Brigitte Behara wordless vocals and soprano saxophone, that is again featured to wonderful effect on ‘The Time Has Come’ in which Behara’s solo is a particular highlight.

Described as autobiographical by Figes, ‘Fear of Fiasco’ features the saxophonist on alto in a lyrical and flowing composition, while ‘Mock Turtle’ delivers up an intro from alto and voice before the riff gigs in. Jim Blomfield gets in a great solo on this number that morphs into a dialogue with Ashley John Long’s bass guitar.

In a varied couple of sets, the quartet also drew upon a couple of pieces from the bands debut album Wallpaper Music in ‘Half Sunk, A Shattered Visage Lies…’ with text by Shelley, and the final number, ‘Fear of Failure’ performed as a trio for voice, piano and alto flute that featured a lovely duet between Figes and Blomfield.

Not all plain sailing for the audience that was a mixture of diners and a few dedicated members of the audience who had come to hear the music. ‘Patterns of Decay’ that closed the first set is an abstract composition that clearly threw the aforementioned diners who stoically carried on their conversations as the piece gradually evolved into more clearly defined melodic motifs.

Not music for dining to, but for those who cared to listen a most stimulating and rewarding concert.