El Pricto (clarinet)
Naná Rovira (bass clarinet)
Luiz Rocha (clarinet, bass clarinet)
Enric Ponsa (drums)

Jazzers are familiar with the concept of the Great American Songbook, and particularly its inclusion of non-jazz tunes which have become classics, interpreted over the years with various degrees of latitude. John Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things” springs to mind, as does Miles Davis’ “Porgy and Bess”. But in the heart of Barcelona, there seems to be a bid to establish… well, let’s call it the Great British Heavy Metal Songbook.

The Discordian Clarinet Trio + Drums performs for the third time in two months, growing ever more at home with the surprisingly expressive early years of Black Sabbath. Sure, Ozzy & Co have been ‘jazzed up’ before. But probably not with such dedication, intensity, or sense of humour. Nor, I suspect, with a 3-clarinet front line.

Anyway, by this third gig (the second at Taller Milans) a regular setlist is beginning to emerge; tonight the order was:

Children of the Grave
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Lord of this World
Black Sabbath
Sweet Leaf

Broadly speaking, as last time, El Pricto rips into the vocal lines and Rocha and Rovira cover the heavier riffing; meanwhile Ponsa takes Bill Ward’s classic 70s drum patterns and turns them this way and that before applying his own peculiar combination of weight and delicacy (from the listener’s point of view, it’s a little like being politely beaten to a pulp). However, things are far from restrictive and the three woodwinds freely (and with only the semblance of chaos) swap roles and juggle each tune between them. For example, on Children of the Grave, Rocha holds down the recognisable riff while Pricto and Rovira exchange subtly aggressive solos; then on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (fast becoming this quartet’s trademark song) it’s Rovira who carries the menace as queen of the heavy riff, while the free frenzy belongs to the other two sets of lungs.

Something that seems to build with each successive gig is the audience response. Always enthusiastic, this time, tunes are interspersed with guttural “yeah!”s and during Snowblind and Lord of this World, I see several heads nodding along. And of course, there’s the usual small crowd in the street outside, peering through the windows to see who or what is making this glorious screeching racket.

Other highlights? How about Ponsa’s raindrop percussion and Rocha’s mouthpiece-less wheezing for the stormy night intro to Black Sabbath (exceeded only by Rocha’s vocalising: “What is this that stands before me? …etc.”

Then there’s the extended nearly 9-minute version of Sweet Leaf, reimagined as a free jazz classic without losing any of the originals ponderous agility and hypnotic tongue-in-cheek humour.

So, BS of the very best kind from Discordian… and I’m going to repeat my plea from the review of the second gig: if I don’t see an album of this material by the end of 2015, I’ll tell Ozzy and he’ll bite all your heads off. After all, if the recording I made on my sad little Samsung sounds good, imagine the results in a proper studio environment… 😉