Monday, December 24, 2007


Warm Christmas wishes to all NewFrontEars readers, whatever kind of music chimes with your festive mood.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007


This year I've missed a host of concerts that, in a less complicated world, I simply wouldn't have contemplated slipping past my ears. Post-minimalist contemporary classical ensemble Pianocircus with Bill Bruford alongside , for a start, and also the London live debut of innovative drummer Brufordfree form pianist Michiel Borstlap in November 2007 at the London Jazz Festival. Thankfully the BBC is helping me (and possibly you) out, because it recorded the show and it can now be heard on Wednesday the 12 December on Radio 3's 'Late Junction' at 11.15pm GMT. The duo have recently released their album, In Two Minds, on the Voiceprint label. Bruford, who is now a well-recognised jazz and experimental musician, but whose fame came from stints with Yes and King Crimson during the 'art rock' era, is interviewed on web radio here and featured in The Times newspaper here. Famous for "never playing the same thing once", he declares: "Happily jazz exists. Everyone hates ‘jazz’ but it’s the only word to describe a musician who wants to say something fresh and react to what others are doing around him." His longstanding project, Earthworks, is currently in abeyance. “It’s parked up, refuelling. The key is still in the car and I can drive it any time but I do think you do need a clear idea of what you’re doing when you play a concert.” Borstlap (left in the picture above), a conservatoire trained musician who has also moved into the zone of freedom labelled 'jazz', has had few headlines over the years (no bad thing, many would argue), but makes up for it in creativity and intensity. They are a formidable pairing.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007


Virtuoso cellist Steven Isserlis (pictured) was charm itself during his appearance on BBC Radio 4's iconic Desert Island Discs this week. That was not just a personality thing, but a consequence of the fact that he has a real passion for music, which forms an essential part of his life. Well, he's a musician, of course. And I'm certainly not saying that the programme should be restricted to musos. That would miss the point entirely. But too many of the guests that get on to the show these days seem to be there simply because they are 'celebrities' or otherwise prominent in the Beeb's lexicon of 'public life'. The problem arises when it becomes evident that the choice of music is basically an incidental feature of what can easily become another PR interview. ("Ah yes, I need to stick in another record now, don't I? Well, let's try this one. Now, about that important career highlight of mine we were talking about...")

is the radio show many music-lovers would die to go on. For my licence-fee money, that ought to be a non-negotiable requirement for anyone appearing, famous or not. BBC Radio 3's Private Passions, with composer Michael Berkeley, is a counterpoint to DID, of course, and one I also love. It's more cerebral, more musically involved, and much less focused on the non-musical elements of its subjects' existence. By contrast, the joy of Desert Island Discs, when it works, is that it shows how good music of all genres can be an illuminating and enlivening part of the fabric of anyone's life, narrating its sorrows, joys and moments of sheer inspiration. But they've got to care about it, in whatever way, for that to be the case. [Pic (c) BBC]

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