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.