Thursday, December 08, 2011
I've only just come across this intriguing little clip of a live Yes instrumental improvisation from 41 years ago - with Bill Bruford on drums (well, cymbals), Chris Squire (bass), Jon Anderson (tambourine) and pleasingly left-field performances from Tony Kaye on organ and a barely visible Steve Howe on guitar. This was probably a segue into the band's fine cover of Stephen Stills' haunting 'Everydays' (Time And A Word). The recording is superb in quality, captured somewhere in Germany, and is sadly the only footage of its kind available. It is also post Peter Banks - thus Howe's presence.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
The annual jolly that is the Mercury Music (read: commercial music) Prize has thrown up another nominee who, while not necessarily token, probably have zip-all chance of winning... though if there was anything called musical justice, they would walk it. Led Bib (who also have a kind of anti- web page and can be heard on their MySpace) "mash up art rock, jazz, funk and good old-fashioned noise" according to the Beeb. In other words they operate somewhat in the anarcho-jazz zone opened up by the likes of John Zorn, but with rather more recognisably melodic content. Other comparisosn might include Acoustic Ladyland, Basquiat Strings and Polar Bear... with attitude.
On 'Yes, Again' you get a good feel for the way Led Bib (who are touring from September onwards) tread the line that joins head music and body music. Says John Eyles of their nominated fourth album Sensible Shoes : " Contrasting their power with more reflective interludes makes [their] punch more potent when it arrives... The sound of saxophonists Chris Williams and Pete Grogan is Led Bib’s hallmark. The two altos frequently work in tandem as a horn section but both are also fluid, confident soloists."
While I'd be prepared to eat my iPod if they come out ahead of the likes of Bat for Lashes and Kasabian tonight, they have the kind of attitude which might just make it possible for judges to swing their way. BBC Radio 6 will broadcast the verdict. Singer-songwriter Lisa Hanningan is also worth checking out, by the way. I'm no fan of the Mercury, but it has turned out occasional interesting victors like Dizzee Rascal. At least we don't have the previous farce of a contemporary classical entrant who really would be there to be patronised, and Led Bib ought to sell many more discs than would otherwise be the case. You can catch them at the London Jazz Festival and at Ronnie Scott's in London on 29 September '09.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Unable to bear the pain of her secret love for Jack The Knife, Tanya the knife-thrower's assistant decides to kill herself. Barney, the circus pony, just dreams of running in straight lines. Alice, the adolescent trapeze artist, longs for the deadly sensation of falling. All of them trapped in endless repetitions of that which is agony to them until the moment of crisis ...
The short piece, The Agony Of The Knifethrower's Assistant, that the remarkable Mike Henry and Adey Grummet wrote last year has been expanded into a theatre piece. And the wonderful Tête À Tête opera company is putting it all on stage at their Summer Festival this year. Plus Adey and Mike will be singing Tanya and Jack.
It will all happen on 1 August 2009 at 7pm at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London. Pop into www.tete-a-tete.org.uk or go to the Box Office on: 020 8237 1111
Thursday, March 19, 2009
While in New York this past week, I took in a fine concert at the Carnegie Hall (thanks to Steve Sullivan for the idea and the company)... Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, performing Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements and Four Orchestral Studies, Varèse's Amériques and Ionisation, and Elliott Carter's Réflexions. Carter, now over 100, was there to take his bow, which was great. The performances were both sinuous and intricate. There's a so-so review in the New York Times.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
Given the grim situation in Israel-Palestine, especially Gaza, at the moment, the musical and cultural bridges built by initiatives like the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra are going to be more important than ever before in 2009. As for the music I am celebrating the New Year with, it's Michael Tippett's entrancing 'Ritual Dances' from The Midsummer Marriage.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
When he wrote his autobiography, Sir Michael Tippett decided to call it Those Twentieth Century Blues, bringing together the archetypes of a transformative musical language, historical tragedy, and the light and dark of a life observed and a dream re-visited. There is no doubt that if he was with us today, he would be thrilled by the advent of Barack Obama in the United States, more for what it represents in terms of the experience of Black Americans and oppressed peoples than for any anticipation that the world's political systems will suddenly put themselves in order.
Tippett had an unshakable faith in people, ins pite of everything, and when he put together the defining oratorio of the last century, A Child Of Our Time, he famously adopted African-American Spirituals to perform the function of Bach-like chorales, and to reflect something that had changed in the landscape of our imagining forever. Being married to an American and caught up, as we all are, in the invitation to a sea-change across the Atlantic, the five Spirituals had to be what I turned to musically to comprehend the paradox and promise of what is going on.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
So much happening on planet(s) music, so little time to reflect on it. For me, anyway. There's been the Proms Season (which I mostly missed, unfortunately), the 40th anniversary Yes tour in the USA (likewise, due to its cancellation), masses of 'new music' events, the Pierre Boulez birthday celebrations - and a fabulous London reunion gig for Chick Corea and friends in Return to Forever. That was an amazing musical evening, and also a reunion with my friend Jonathan Crawford. He and I had managed to lose touch over the past few years, and then he rewarded me with third row centre at the O2 Indigo. Life has its compensations. Next up, a Tippett orchestral concert, Allan Holdsworth back at the Jazz cafe (unexpectedly soon) and Porcupine Tree. I shall seek to catch up with the scribing, and also some comments on Maestro (BBC2) and Goldie.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
The Guardian has this week been giving away a series of booklets (also viewable online) featuring "great lyricists". I'm an enthusiast for both Morrissey and Joni Mitchell (pictured), of course. Dear old Bob Dylan has to be in there, too -- even though he can't sing for peanuts (and still, oddly, has a great voice). I'm less convinced by Chuck D. But Leonard Cohen is on the way, apparently. That will please my wife.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Reviewing the new album 'Spring is Here (Shall We Dance?)' in The Guardian, John L. Walters has its creator well summarised: "Django Bates's music... revels in its complexity like a brainy kitten with a ball of fibre optic cables. But within his own parallel universe (aka Denmark's Rhythmic Music Conservatory), Bates has reduced his simmering brew to its necessary components: sneaky, snarky basslines, asymmetric patterns that groove, sweet vocal melodies, as well as passionate ensemble writing with a sense of humour that redrafts Charles Ives, Spike Jones and Frank Zappa for the age of Britain's Got Talent. Yet Bates is serious too, with such inventiveness, mastery of orchestration and flair that he runs rings around his contemporaries in every genre." [Label: Lost Marbels, 2008, £12.99]
Sunday, June 22, 2008
I'm pleased to see that Sam Wollaston of The Guardian also liked the Berlin Philharmonic programme the other night: "The Berlin Philharmonic is like one of those amazing swarming flocks of starlings, made up of individuals yet able to suddenly morph into a single being, with one brain, operating in extraordinary telepathic unity. Except that they make a nicer noise than starlings. A flock of nightingales then, if such a thing existed."
What pleasantly surprised me was his predilection for Adès (pictured). As soon as I saw the composer's name, I expected the usual "modern music is noise" stuff which you even get from savvy media people these days - those who pride themselves on their cultured taste in theatre and literature, but for whom the world of music ended in the nineteenth century or with the arrival of rock'n'roll. Sam, however, writes: "The Thomas Adès piece they play is eerie and beautiful, and looks fiendishly difficult to play, even for these guys. Then, when they play Beethoven, you can see them relax; they could do this all day, with their eyes closed. They don't even need Sir Simon, who goes and sits down in the auditorium."
The composition concerned, by the way, was Asyla, which was premiered in Symphony Hall, Birmingham in October 1997 by Simon Rattle's previous outfit, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at the 1997 BBC Proms. I was there, I'm gratified to say. This work also received the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 2000, making Adès the youngest ever to receive that prize.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
There was a great documentary film on BBC1 last night, in the Imagine series, looking at Simon Rattle and the legendary Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra on tour across Asia - including China, South Korea, Hong Kong... and Taiwan, where, incongruously, they were greeted like teen rock stars. Rattle was eloquent as ever, you gained some insight into the inner machinations of what is probably the best-oiled (and distinctly un-mechanical) musical machine in the world, and it was a joy to see them struggling in rehearsal with some fiendishly difficult Thomas Ades. The instrumentalists provided much of the commentary themselves, talking about what it means to be a musician and the impact it has had on their lives and relationships.
One felt for the young woman on probation, evidently a stellar player in any other context, who didn't make the final vote to get into the BPO. The ruthlessness and ego, as well as the tenderness and passion, of the outfit was all-too-evident. There were telling psychological as well as musicological insights. SR has done a good job pushing the boat out and conserving the tradition of one of the world's great musical institutions. The ghost of Karajan was, of course, at this feast. But the focus was elsewhere, and this Asian encounter was magical and revealing.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The tragic death of the 44-year-old pianist in a diving accident has robbed the world of a sensitive and interesting musician. The Esbjörn Svensson Trio, founded in the early 1990s, played an unclassifiable brand of music which incorporated elements of jazz, art rock and minimalist classical music in constantly varying proportions. Here's an accompanied EST with Round Midnight.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I'm looking forward to seeing the Steve Howe Trio doing two sets at the legendary Ronnie Scott's Club in London on Saturday night (15 June 2008). I see that my friend Henry Potts is quoted at the end of the website write-up on the impending gig. Ironically, due to schedule issues, I may miss the concert at the Phoenix Theatre in Exeter (18 June) where I live. The Trio, who re-arrange some of Howe's eclectic compositions and move his guitar stylings ever more in a jazzward direction, may do some more touring this summer - since the planned 2008 Yes tour in the US, marking the progressive rock band's 40th anniversary, has been cancelled due to singer Jon Anderson's ill-health.