I reviewed this gig for the LondonJazzNews blog; here are some photos I took, too.
Aside from the John Taylor gig, I went to three gigs in the Glasgow Jazz Festival, all of which were in the City Halls’ Recital Room, a space I’d not been in before. It is a light, airy room with a high vaulted ceiling. It is quite an intimate space with, in this case, chairs arranged around tables. For all the gigs I was close to the performers, sitting in the second row from the front. It actually felt like a privilege being so close to the musicians.
Zoe Rahman seemed slightly awestruck with the space, and particularly the Steinway piano, as if she couldn’t imagine why so many people would want to be there with her. And then she spent eighty minutes showing exactly why we would want to be there: to hear her music.
In many ways, her performance was similar to Taylor’s a couple of nights before, reflecting their common influences (probably common to jazz pianists anywhere) – Ellington, Monk, Evans, maybe a bit of Jarrett thrown into the mix, too. She opened with a long exploration of an Abdullah Ibrahim number, and included another in her set, together with a beautiful rendition of Duke Ellington’s Single Petal of a Rose (one of my favourite tunes, so she couldn’t lose!), Monk’s Ruby My Dear, a couple of Bill Evans’ numbers, as well as several of her own tunes, often infused with traditional Bengali notes.
It was a lovely show; it felt like Rahman was sharing something with the audience rather than performing for us. She explained how every time she plays a new piano, it’s like building a new relationship, exploring the keys. She clearly bonded with the Steinway, and had a very creative connection!
Evan Parker, honoured by Edinburgh University the day before (together with George Lewis) played a concert with a somewhat slimmed down Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra. They played three improvised pieces, the first featuring Parker on sax, the second directed by Parker and the third a completely free piece.
All three were very enjoyable. In the first and last piece, Parker’s playing was superb. He played a couple of long solos in the first piece. The band were good, too, Catriona McKay being inventive with her harp, and some lovely trumpet playing from Robert Henderson. The pianist (whose name I missed) did some inventive things with the inside of the piano, as well as using it as if tuned percussion (something both John Taylor and Zoe Rahman did, too. It must be something about that piano!).
All in all, a very enjoyable afternoon of improvised music. And great to hear Evan Parker in Scotland!
You wait for a jazz gig with a harp and then two chime along on the same day… Following the GIO gig was a duet of
Calum Gourlay on bass and Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian on harp. (The tickets and website called her simply Cevanne, maybe because they ran out of space on the ticket, or perhaps because it is easier to spell. I can use copy and paste, so I shouldn’t have that problem, though my spellchecker may disagree.) They played a set of mostly Ellington pieces, interspersed with some Monk, a piece by Johnny Dankworth, a couple of Armenian folk tunes (reflecting Horrocks-Hopayian’s origins). And some Hendrix, too.
Nothing if not eclectic, then, but they also presented a very coherent sound. I love Gourlay’s bass playing: great tone, wonderful feeling, and intelligent improvisation. He was very at ease with the Ellington repertoire, playing slower titles such as Solitude, Mood Indigo and African Flower, as well a couple of faster tunes in Caravan and It Don’t Mean A Thing.
Horrocks-Hopayian sang on some numbers, as well as playing harp. She has a strong voice, well-suited to the wordless tunes and the folk numbers. I liked her harp playing too, though occasionally it sounded more classical than jazz – a bit too “nice” for the blusier numbers.
The sequence dedicated to Jimi Hendrix was particularly interesting. Gourlay played a solo piece dedicated to Hendrix, predominantly bowed to suggest the wail of feedback, and then the bad and harp played a transcript of the wall of Hendrix’s flat in London: a friend took a rubbing from the wall on manuscript paper, and they edited the marks down to notes, and used it as the basis of composition. As a process, the starting point for music, it is a fascinating idea. Better still, the music they made from it worked, too.
A couple of weeks ago, I managed to catch Evan Parker play at Cafe Oto, where he had a weeks’ residency. The night I could make, his trio with Mark Sanders on drums and John Edwards on bass were joined by Polish saxophonist Mikolaj Trzaska.
To be honest, I wasn’t really in the mood. Trzaska seemed full on, a strident stream of notes flowing from his alto, and after a while it felt overwhelming. I didn’t stay for the second set.
I had been back in London a month when I thought I would like to go to some jazz; so I went to two gigs in the space of a week, in the same venue.
I had been to the old Vortex, which was around the corner from the original Jazz Café on Newington Green; but that was getting on for over fifteen years ago. The Vortex moved a couple of years ago, a mile or so to Dalston.
What attracted me to the first gig was the drummer. Well, the saxophonist too – it was Evan Parker’s gig – and he had Louis Moholo–Moholo playing with him, on a visit from South Africa. I have seen Moholo play a lot over the years (I first saw him in 1974…) in a variety of bands, often with Parker in the band too. [He used to be plain Louis Moholo, but he is now billed as the double barrelled Moholo-Moholo, so I guess that’s how he wants it, and I see no reason to dissent.]
They were playing in a quartet under the name Foxes (Slightly Foxed), with a bass player and pianist I didn’t know – John Edwards and Alexander Hawkins respectively. I knew they’d be pretty free, but they were a lot freer than I expected: there were no “tunes” played that night. It was good – Parker is an exciting saxophonist, Moholo-Moholo is a great drummer (though it wasn’t a night for him to swing – it wasn’t that kind of music) and I was impressed by the Hawkins and Edwards – but it was a bit too free for me.
The Vortex was packed, though – surprising, frankly, given the nature of the music: free jazz is not usually a sell-out. I was chatting to a couple of guys on the same table who said that Parker’s regular gigs at the Vortex are always popular.
So I was really surprised that the gig I went to on Monday night was practically empty – there were twelve punters (including me) at the start of the gig, and fifteen at the end. Maybe because it was a Monday night? Strange.
This gig was in honour of Ornette Coleman; he is curating this year’s Meltdown Festival, including playing a couple of gigs himself, but I am away for the whole of that (shame, there are some great gigs in addition to Coleman’s – Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra, The Bad Plus, Han Bennink with Evan Parker), so I decided to catch this show by Martin Speake and Chris Batchelor celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the recording of Coleman’s classic album “The Shape of Jazz To Come”.
This was the second gig I had been to recently celebrating a fiftieth anniversary – back in March I went to Colin Steele’s quintet celebrating Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue. There was a lot happening in 1959 – Mingus Ah Um (a brilliant, wonderful record) was also recorded then (just over fifty years ago – May 12, 1959). Whilst I know Kind of Blue and Mingus Ah Um very well, I am much less familiar with Coleman’s record – I have heard it (and I have seen Coleman play several times, mostly with his electric group Prime Time – a remarkable free jazz dance band. Really..), but I don’t know it.
This quartet – Speake in Coleman’s alto role, Batchelor taking Don Cherry’s trumpet duties – was made up with Calum Gourlay on bass (who I saw at Islay last year) and Gene Calderazzo on drums (he was in Edinburgh with Zoe Rahman a couple of years ago. Gourlay seems to be playing quite a bit in London – he has another gig at the Vortex in a week or so.
It was great music. It is still difficult – even after fifty years of mellowing: it has a spiky, angular, jagged quality; and at times it sounds discordant; it stops and starts (Gourlay and Calderazzo did a great job keeping the rhythms going) – but it also swings – it has a real life to it. The sax and trumpet were excellent – some great solos.
Shame there weren’t more people to hear it!