GoGo Penguin Bring Their Avant-Garde Jazz to The MIM

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GoGo Penguin performing at the MIM

Review and photos by Fred Kuhlman
Venue: Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
Date: Thursday August 9th, 2018

GoGo Penguin is a jazz trio from Manchester, UK.  The band consists of pianist Chris Illingworth, upright bassist Nick Blacka and drummer Rob Turner.  The group has created 4 albums and 1 EP.  The majority of the music tonight was from their latest album, A Humdrum Star.  GoGo Penguin is one of those groups that you would expect to see in a small bar where everyone is sitting back drinking and listening to some mellow jazz.  But the group has a large enough following that they have outgrown the bars and moved on to small concert venues where the audience can still get a drink and sit back and listen to great music performed by 3 amazing artists.  From Rob’s rhythmic beat on the drums to watching Nick as his fingers float over the neck of his upright bass and then adding Chris’s melodic piano melodies brings the whole experience together for the audience.

GoGo Penguin performing at the MIM

They started the show with 2 songs, “Prayer” and “Raven” from their latest album.  A couple of songs later when “A Hundred Moons” starts, it reminded me of an American Indian dance with its rhythmic drum beat and sound of ankle bells.  As with a lot of jazz, there are no vocals during the set only incredible music.  For their last song they played “Transient State” but instead of the industrial drum/cymbal sound to start the song, Rob played a version where he hit the drum stick on the metal rim of the snare drum and used regular cymbals.  “Transient State” is an amazing upbeat song that was a great way to end the show.  If you like smooth jazz with a little avant-garde flavor added in then you must go see GoGo Penguin.  You can check them out on You-Tube and I would definitely recommend “Transient State” as a good starting point.

The MIM is one of those venues with a sound system that is just perfect for this style of music.  The acoustics are so good that I could hear every note played by Nick on the bass and Chris on the grand piano. We could clearly hear Rob as he played using a Brush drumstick on the cymbals and snare drum.  If you get to see a performance at the MIM, it is well worth it.  From the small venue to the outstanding sound system, it is one of the better concert venues in Phoenix.


I would like to thank GoGo Penguin’s sound engineer, Joe Reiser for providing a copy of the setlist.

GoGo Penguin Setlist:            (Album)
Prayer                                      (A Humdrum Star)
Raven                                      (A Humdrum Star)
One Percent                             (v2.0)
Bardo                                       (A Humdrum Star)
A Hundred Moons                     (A Humdrum Star)
Home                                      (v2.0)
Ocean In A Drop                       (Live at Abbey Road EP)
Reactor                                    (A Humdrum Star)
Strid                                         (A Humdrum Star)
Murmuration                             (v2.0)
Hopopono                                (v2.0)
Transient State                         (A Humdrum Star)

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