Tag Archives: flute

March 2016 – upcoming gigs – a polymusical London Wednesday and weekend – young Royal Academy of Music composers invade the Forge; King Capisce, Jam Tarts Choir and Grace Lightman mellow out at Daylight Music; and Nøught, Golden Oriole and Dead Days Beyond Help (with Alan Wilkinson) tear up Café Oto

9 Mar

Some gig previews for what remains of the week…

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The first of the three gigs I’m posting about here features music that’s mostly new enough not to have any videos or soundclips available… If I’m wrong about this, I’ll post a few up later, but since I’m putting the original post up on the day of the gig, if you’re going you’ll just have to go on faith…

Academy Composers at The Forge: a concert of new works by composers from the Royal Academy of Music
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Wednesday 9th March 2016, 7.30pm
– more information here and here

“Join us for an exciting evening of new music and film! The concert will showcase a selection of new works by young composers, performed by the Royal Academy of Music‘s talented student ensembles and soloists. The evening will also feature a screening of new animation shorts, created during the annual collaborative project between the Royal Academy of Music and the Bristol School of Animation.”

Programme:

Short films from the Bristol School of Animation
Thomas Gibbs – Etudes Tableaux
Yuanfan Yang – Silhouettes
Maya Hishida – Three pieces for flute and piano
William ColeHer face was full of woe (for solo harp)
Matthew Olyver – Miranda’s Lesson (for mezzo soprano & accordion)
William Marsey – Three piano pieces about food
Tim Tate – Endless Present

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Daylight Music’s offering for this coming Saturday shows their knack for promoting and harbouring music which walks a line between the intriguingly arty and the lunchtime cosy. This week, they’re putting on a young singer-songwriter who melds the sex-kitten rasp of Eartha Kitt with the sinous, sensuous spiritual dissolve of a latterday Kate Bush piano ballads; plus one of those energetic pop choirs which specializes in indie hits; and finally, a band which merges indie-rock and jazz (falling somewhere between Duke Ellington, South African township jazz, the easygoing Anglo-romanticism of Perfect Houseplants and string-shredding Mogwai-ish post rock).

Daylight Music 219

Daylight Music presents:
Daylight Music 219 – King Capisce + Jam Tarts Choir + Grace Lightman
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 12th March 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-want event (suggested donation: £5.00) – more information

Over to the Daylight word-of-mouth machine…

King Capisce is a five-piece from Sheffield have been moving from strength to strength in recent years, gathering praise from ‘The Guardian’ and ‘Drowned in Sound’. Tom Robinson at BBC 6Music, claims they’re “an exciting cross-genre talent, fusing jazz with other influences to create a sound that is unmistakably their own”.

The current set for 60-piece Brighton indie choir Jam Tarts Choir includes barnstorming interpretations of songs by artists as diverse as The Cure, Goldfrapp, Arcade Fire and Lambchop.

There’s something timeless about Grace Lightman. Maybe it’s that honeyed voice that ever so gently tugs at your heartstrings. Perhaps it’s those careful and considered nods to the iconic moments, faces and places of musical history….”

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The third gig rounds up jazz, prog, noise, grandeur and chaos and flings them all at the wall…

Nøught @ Cafe Oto, 13th March 2016

Nøught + Golden Oriole + Dead Days Beyond Help (with Alan Wilkinson)
Cafe Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Sunday 13th March 2016, 7.00pm
more information

“A killer, high-voltage line-up…

Nøught is a synthesis of the experimental, avant-punk, jazz-prog and noise-rock credos, distilled into the paradoxical confines of a musically volatile, instrumental power-quartet. Originally formed in Oxford in the late 90’s by eminent guitarist James Sedwards (also of Thurston Moore Group, Guapo ,The Devil), the current line-up has been based in London since 2002. Their music is profoundly exhilarating when encountered and often provokes an hypnotic sensation from an audience as their incendiary live performances can easily entice and captivate a listener, due to the highly artful, polished and demanding compositions. Pieces span the extremes of short, catchy, three minute eruptions to long, dense and evolving half-hour incantations. Nøught’s music provides an uncommonly refreshing, non-derivative sensibility and approach, and they continually astound as they develop, invoke and deliver their singularly potent blend of sonic diabolism.

“Featuring members of Norwegian noise-rock bands Staer and of Tralten Eller Utpult, skull-twisting face-melters Golden Oriole produce abstract and minimal music – musique pommes frites meets funky concrète.


 

Dead Days Beyond Help (Alex Ward and Jem Doulton) take the physical assault of rock and the free-wheeling exploration of post-idiomatic improvisation to new levels of power and density, while Alan Wilkinson comes blazing out of a saxophone tradition that includes the likes of Albert Ayler, Roscoe Mitchell, Mike Osborne, Evan Parker and Casper Brötzmann with a highly vocalized and personal style. DDBH’s most recent album (2014’s “Severance Pay” on Believers Roast Records), was described by ‘The Wire’ as “a reminder that there are still thrills aplenty to be gained from the pursuit of complexity”; and Stewart Lee has called Alan Wilkinson’s trio with John Edwards and Steve Noble “as powerful as The Stooges and as fluid as John Coltrane”. Given their collective pedigree of collaborations with such luminaries of free music and avant-rock as Derek Bailey, Thurston Moore, Tatsuya Yoshida, Talibam!, Weasel Walter and Chris Corsano, it is no surprise that when the three musicians join forces the results are brutally intense, deliriously virtuosic, and utterly untrammelled by stylistic constraints.”

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More March gigs to follow…
 

February 2016 – upcoming gigs – London end-of-month assortment – Project Instrumental play string quartets for free; Eddie Parker’s Mister Vertigo ascends again; an even more diverse Daylight Music than usual (with Stick In The Wheel, No Cars and Alabaster dePlume)

24 Feb

Two shows coming up on the Friday…

Project Instrumental, 2016

Friday Tonic presents:
Project Instrumental
Central Bar @ Royal Festival Hall @ Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 8XX, England
Friday 26th February 2016, 5.30pm
– free event – more information

“Making its Southbank Centre debut in quartet form, players from Project Instrumental invite you to greet Friday evening sipping on the sonorities of some 21st-century string quartets. Described as “simply knockout” (Alex Julyan, Wellcome Trust Fellow) and selected as a Time Out London Critic’s Choice, Project Instrumental brings thrilling performances to unbounded audiences. Instrument-inspired, rather than genre-led, the group evolves around a core of strings and what can be done with them, across genres and instrumental combinations, to create truly enlivening performances, for anyone. Bold, imaginative and boundary defying, this virtuosic group strips back the peripherals with their straightforward contemporary approach to, to create not just concerts, but experiences.”

Programme:

Thomas Seltz: String Quartet No.1
Joby Talbot: String Quartet No.2
Nico Muhly: Diacritical Marks
Bryce Dessner: Tenebre

Though Project Instrumental haven’t made this explicit, all of the contemporary classical composers whose quartets are being played either originally stem from, or confidently dip into, a broad field of popular music. Nico Muhly has long been a byword for latterday classical/pop crossovers, balancing operas and contemporary music ensemble commissions with arrangements and co-writes for Grizzly Bear, Björk, Antony and the Johnsons and Philip Glass. Joby Talbot spent nine years playing on and expanding Neil Hannon’s chamber-pop songs for The Divine Comedy before moving on to a diverse compositional career of ballets, concerti, orchestral and choral works and madrigals (while still doing film scores and arrangement works relating to pop, such as his reworking of songs by The White Stripes for choreographer Wayne McGregor). Bryce Dessner is still best known as half of the guitar/compositional team for Brooklyn indie-rock darlings The National, but balances this against a powerfully prolific output of orchestral, percussion, film and installation-based instrumental works, as well as classical improvisation with the Clogs quintet and work curating Cleveland’s MusicNOW New Music festival for ten years.

Even the most obscure of the four, Thomas Seltz, spent his teenage years recording and touring as a rock guitarist and songwriter with French rock bands (most notably TORO) before making the shift to classical composition at the University of Edinburgh from 2006. Since then, he’s maintained his interest in the classical/popular faultline, writing an electric bass guitar concerto (for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and John Patitucci), ‘Awesome X’ (a comic opera about reality TV) and ‘Mandarin’ (a concerto written for Chinese erhu player Peng Yueqiang and Edinburgh crossover-chamber ensemble Mr McFall’s Chamber).

All four composers refuse to be pigeonholed either by their established classical reputations or by their current or past roots/impingements upon pop and rock, seeing it all as a set of disciplines between which they can step as they choose. Seltz’s quartet (completed only last year) documents and honours his musical history, in particular his transition from rock musician to contemporary composer, via rock-inspired “strong dynamic, rhythmic and melodic elements”. Talbot’s possesses a wheeling dovelike softness in its graceful minimal approach, while Dessner’s takes tips from Reich, Adams and Glass but explodes them with a hoedown vigour. Sidestepping his confessed anxieties regarding the emotional exposure of the form, Muhly’s is bookended by an emphasis on lively ticking mechanisms and accents, counterbalanced by a more rhapsodic (and possibly concealing) middle section.



 

It seems as if this Project Instrumental set (or most of it) will be repeated at a National Portrait Gallery Late Shift appearance on April 1st (PI have been performing versions of it since at least last November). I’ll repost details closer to the time. Also in April, look out for a Britten Sinfonia mini-tour featuring a Bryce Dessner premiere.

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Eddie Parker, 2016

Eddie Parker’s Mister Vertigo
The Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, Dalston, London, N16 8AZ, England
Friday 26th February 2016, 8.00pm
– more information

Ever since I was a teenager I’ve been crossing paths with Eddie Parker on record, in concert and (on a few occasions) in person. Back in the ‘80s he was a key member of the raucous, expansive yet deceptively deep-thinking jazz band Loose Tubes, holding his own as both player and composer alongside Django Bates, Steve Berry, Chris Batchelor and many others who went on to shape both pre-millennial British jazz and what came afterwards. While Loose Tubes may always be Eddie’s best-known gig (he also went on to play and write in the sequel band Delightful Precipice), like most jazz musicians he has form elsewhere; having worked as part of John Stevens’ Freebop and as an outstanding soloist and collaborator in the band of South African pianist Bheki Mseleku, as well as leading various groups including the “quartet of twenty instruments” Twittering Machine. In all of these projects, he’s known predominantly for the assured brilliance of his flute playing. Elegant and assertive, full-toned and flexible without ever being forced, it’s an expression of a supple mind-muscle which can shape-shift from tripping lightness to pooling shade in a single graceful motion.

Eddie should, however, be at least as well regarded for his skill as an all-in composer. Drawn from his early training in avant-garde classical, fleshed out by his immersion in jazz, and characterized by both an egalitarian ethos and a sophisticated-magpie taste for eclectic listening, his compositions draw on a vast array of ideas, influences and traditions. Around jazz touchstones such as Gil Evans, Mahavishnu, Eric Dolphy and Weather Report swim disparate seasonings and elements – South Africa, Stravinsky and Debussy; Elizabethan chamber music; salsa and progressive rock; mantras and mediaevalism; Bartok, Berg, Berio and Brazilian – but never in a mere showy and dyspeptic jam of ideas.

Many composers (jazz or otherwise) turn out music which seems to be disassociated from their day-to-day personality, or which is at least canted towards a slightly different space or a stand-alone ideal. This is not the case with Eddie. His tunes and arrangements are a clear reflection of the man himself – by turns committed, kind, cheeky, bucolic and fiery; all with a glittering riverine current of lively intelligence and an eye on the small details of the world. He’s also pretty lucid as regards talking about them – his own blog comments on early and recent material that he’s written for Loose Tubes are well worth reading.

These skills haven’t gone unrecognised, and commissions for Eddie from the Apollo Saxophone Quartet and Ensemble Bash are just part of it: but there’s also been immensely valuable community composing, promotion and guidance work from Eddie, such as his efforts with with Impro Integrated and his ongoing children’s educational project Groove On. His 2001 endeavour ‘People Symphony’ picked up on the human and cultural complexity of London, sprawling via public performance and collective practise across four London boroughs and thirty pro musicians plus students of all ages, abilities and disabilities, joining in a rich stew of Indian, Brazilian, African and Turkish-inspired music mingled with jazz, rock and pop. All of this is memorable – still, in the process of digging up information for this news post, it struck me how little information on it survives. Perhaps much of Eddie’s work is like most jazz performances – a collision of opportunity and uniqueness tied to a particular time and place, a particular coming-together of people which (especially on a good night) results in a grand flare of cooperation and shared memory, echoing on in the minds and the rolled-out histories of those who were there, but forever unknown to everyone who was outside that room on that night. Maybe there’s something precious in that, but I can’t help but feel that there should be more memory, more awareness… a fuller appreciation of what’s gone down and soared up.

Rather than go on in this vein, instead I’ll be a little more positive and draw the attention to Eddie’s longest-running concern: his Mister Vertigo sextet, who play in London this weekend. Eddie’s longterm cohorts Steve Watts (double bass, another Loose Tuber), Julian Nicholas (saxophone) and Mike Pickering (drums) have been in the band since its mid-‘90s inception, while the newest recruits are up-and-coming guitarist Rob Luft (replacing John Parricelli) and pianist Matt Robinson, who follows in the footsteps of Troyka’s Kit Downes and the band’s long-standing original piano maverick Pete Saberton (who died in 2012). As a unit, Mister Vertigo is a light-footed, easily accessible ensemble whose apparent breeziness subtly disguises the opportunity to experience Eddie’s compositional work up close and intimate. Expect fine playing, a warm chamber of illuminated discourse and wide-ranging thought.

Embeddable examples of Eddie’s work are thin on the ground, but here’s a brief video of Mister Vertigo in action (albeit with Eddie leading from keyboard rather than flute) plus a Debussy-inspired piano piece from Groove Music…



 

Incidentally, Eddie’s occasional keyboard work has developed into a fuller occupation in recent years, due not least to his work as one of a battalion of keyboard players in the vintage analogue synth group The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble, for which he also composes. He’s just released an album of synth compositions called ‘The Exoplanets Suite’, which will be launched at the Mister Vertigo gig (copies should be available there for about £12.00, but can also be ordered via Eddie’s Facebook page).

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The following evening, there’s a Daylight Music afternoon with no particular theme… or, to put it another, an afternoon of their own free eclectica.

Daylight Music 217, 27th February 2016

Daylight Music presents:
Daylight 217: Stick In The Wheel + No Cars + Alabaster dePlume
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 27th February 2016, 12.00pm
– free/pay-what-you-like event (£5.00 donation suggested) – more information

Stick In The Wheel are a folk band from East London. Championed by John Kennedy (Radio X/Mercury judge) and fresh from winning fRoots Magazine’s 2015 Album of the Year, they’re “ripping apart the preconceptions surrounding folk music to retrieve the tender, beating heart at the centre of traditional English culture” (CLASH Music) – as the band themselves put it, “this is our culture, our tradition.”

No Cars is a Japanese pop band formed and based in Hackney, London UK – a mixture of rock, garage, gipsy, swing, jazz, calypso, punk, Punjabi etc. with a Japanese pop twist.

 

Alabaster dePlume (Gus Fairbairn), is a performer, writer and musician. Since 2011 he has produced three albums on Manchester label Debt Records, toured Europe as a solo performer, produced short films, and written/performed a play with circus-aerial in Dublin. He has also presented a series of combined-arts events, and his recordings are played on national radio, most recently described as “cheerfully uneasy” on Radio 3.

Joel Clayton – from Indo-Anglo folk-fusioneers (and unlikely steampunk-scene heroes) Sunday Driver, and sometimes known as trappedanimal – joins us on sitar in our fourth/in-between slot this week.

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News on March concerts coming up shortly…
 

REVIEW – Theo Travis: ‘Heart Of The Sun’ album, 2001 (“one of Britain’s finest yet least precious saxophonists”)

12 Aug

Theo Travis: 'Heart Of The Sun'

Theo Travis: ‘Heart Of The Sun’

Having followed a series of assured, wide-spanning loops passing through jazz, art-rock, prog, ambient electronics and Gong’s fertile psychedelic universe, perhaps it’s time for Theo Travis to come home. Or, perhaps, to build a home.

One of Britain’s finest (yet least precious) saxophonists, Travis has paid tribute to the post-bop traditions of Coltrane and Tyner, blown full improv and racing fusion, played balladeer and pop romanticist, and breathed frost over ambient darkness. ‘Heart Of The Sun’ summarises this breadth on a single album, unifying itself around his compositional variety and the flexible determination of his playing voice. It’s remarkable for the humility and warmth of its approach – partly from Steven Wilson’s beautifully atmospheric mixing (an object lesson in letting jazz studio performances breathe as naturally as live gigs), but more significantly from Travis’ uncomplicated attitude towards allowing music to happen.

A sometimes-unguarded, sometimes-studious musician – who gives his all either way – Travis is also someone who doesn’t need to throw a leader’s weight around. Subtly poised and authoritative, he stands back from the obvious limelight throughout ‘Heart Of The Sun’, allowing his guests (in particular, pearly-toned trumpet veteran Palle Mikkelborg) to illuminate the music, and then gracefully reflecting that light back himself. Grinding no axes, ‘Heart Of The Sun’ sits itself down at the accessible end of jazz, with Travis discreetly polishing his musical breadth to a smooth evanescent ‘Kind Of Blue’ consistency.

His standard quartet members – David Gordon on piano and organ, Andy Hamill on double bass and Marc Parnell on drums – are the album’s backbone (with occasional rhythm section substitutions from Stefan Weeke and Björn Lücker). Theo’s partnerships with these players allow him to exercise some more straightahead jazz moves, via a tenor sax tone blending the polished New York bite of Michael Brecker and Dave Liebman with the earthier strengths of British bluesman Dick Heckstall-Smith: as demonstrated on the velvet-smokey blues of All I Know. On the other hand, the standard crew also raise the stakes on Fast Life, in which Andy Hammill makes the most of his experiences backing contemporary drum’n’bass luminaries like 4 Hero and LTJ Bukem. It’s a nimble, daring demonstration of how clubland’s drum’n’bass beatscapes are both nourished by jazz and able to feed back into it. Hammill, Parnell and Gordon slip and slide through a succession of sleek, exciting, ever-morphing junglist pulses, like Red Snapper in black ties. Travis and Mikkelborg travel cheek to cheek over these flexing surges, quoting mischievously from mariachi and Mission Impossible, Mikkelborg occasionally rinsing the beats in a wash of wah-wah’ed electric trumpet.

It’s also the standard quartet who are behind the very different approach of Northern Lights – texturally, a close cousin to Travis’ dark-ambient work as half of the electronica duo Cipher. His soprano sax (making its only appearance) stands poised in a lonely, bowed-head intro, redolent with melancholia, over Eno-esque dark-water atmospherics. Mikkelborg responds with a silvery, fantastically tender muted melody – comforting and passionate – that comes and goes like caught breaths and compassionate advice above the carpet of Gordon’s Hammond organ, slowly warming and soothing that initial exposed chill.

The quartet – this time augmented by Mystics guitarist Mark Wood, a companion from Travis’ nights in the improv lab – turn in a relaxed yet magnificent performance on Barking Dogs And Caravans. A musical picture of childhood holidays and British holiday camps, it provides Travis’ best melodic solo of the album. But with its friendly air of disarmed tongue-in-cheek pomp, the barrel-organ Hammond figures and Wood’s Frisell-ish lacing of bell-like guitar, it’s also an opportunity for Travis to explore the more unselfconsciously affectionate corners of the British jazz impulse. Here, you can hear the same mingling of warm, pubby matey-ness and superbly expressive playing as found in the Loose Tubes school of Django Bates and Iain Ballamy: particularly when Travis cuts loose with some celebratory, laughing tenor wails.

Elsewhere, British improv-scene tendencies get a look in on That Old Smile: initially a deceptive, straight sounding blues strut driven by Parnell’s haughty cymbal. Wood – using a solid-yet-limber blowtorching tone – moves outward from a supporting position via a series of iridescent bubbles of sound, allying themselves with Gordon’s increasingly shardlike organ, The piece’s impatiently accelerating choruses (and its nods to the excitability of prog) moves to a point where the playing melts, with a dropping silence, into a heated atonal Bitches Brew jam. Inflamed by hissing cymbal work, Wood’s Sonny Sharrock-ish car-crusher guitar explorations utterly displace the saxophone as the heart of an aggressive whirl of mutinous invention.

More extra-curricular activities are represented by Gong guru Daevid Allen. His infamous glissando guitar (a gentle, thrilling shiver of sound, like sheets of luminous rain stroked by fingers of wind) adds an unearthly, spine-prickling element to offset the familiarity in the album’s lone cover – Van Heusen and Burke’s Here’s That Rainy Day. The returning Mikkelborg (on serenely confident flugelhorn) and Travis (in luxuriant, purring ballad mode) handle the traditional melodics, while the subtle icicle colorations of Gordon’s piano and Björn Lücker’s steady click of rimshot mingle with Allen’s eerie distortions of the atmosphere.

More outright subversion of tradition comes with the surreal Last Flight From Twinwood – an impressionistic, pulse-free, last-days-of-Glenn-Miller tribute in which a spectral big-band sound is provided care of multi-tracked Travis flutes and the one-man clarinet ensemble of Stewart Curtis (moonlighting from Kletzmer Groove). Mikkelborg’s delicately wah-ed electric trumpet haunts the music’s open spaces; Travis’ sometimes anguished tenor cuts across them. But the trump card comes in the unrepentant, disincorporated screech and spring-noise of Mark Wood’s distant guitar, a harbinger of failing aircraft machinery…

The sixteen-minute trail of Bass Rock is a final piece of Travis landscape portraiture, tracing a fluent and understated post-bop slide. Its freedom is defined by Stefan Weeke’s beautifully-timed, gliding elisions on double bass and the casually intent whisper of Lücker’s brush-drumming. And also by its cessations into near-silence but for oscillating ambient loops. Here, Gordon’s flickering touches of piano are sometimes the only foil to Travis’ sax – liberated now from discretion or restraint, to cry with a kind of baffled joy into the night. An open-ended homecoming.

Theo Travis: ‘Heart Of The Sun’
33 Jazz Records,  33JAZZ063 (5020883330631)
CD/download album
Released: 2001

Buy it from:
Amazon

Theo Travis online:
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