Tag Archives: Leonard Bernstein

June 2015 – upcoming London gigs – A Formal Horse & Ham Legion; Olga Stezhko; The Spiders of Destiny play Frank Zappa; a Bowie Night in Soho

29 May

Here’s some quick info on upcoming gigs in early June which I’ve heard about – all of them in London.

Over the last couple of years, Westminster Kingsway College has established itself as one of the capital’s finest homes for quirky art-rock – by which I don’t mean student hobby bands thrown together for campness or for ironic prankery, but a rich, complex, committed electric music spanning the range between gutter-punk and flouncing prog via metal, jazz, folk, avant-gardening and anything else which gets melted down into the stew. Here’s one of those gigs that proves the point.

A Formal Horse, 2015

A Formal Horse + Ham Legion (Westminster Kingsway College, 211 Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1X 8RA, Tuesday 2nd June, 6.30pm)

A Formal Horse is a new progressive rock quartet based in Southampton. Although the band’s sound is difficult to pinpoint, their dense instrumental passages are reminiscent of King Crimson and Mahavishnu Orchestra, whilst Francesca Lewis’ lead vocals evoke the whimsical surrealism of the 1970s’ Canterbury scene. Wonky melodies and serene vocals over a brutal sound – their music keeps you on your toes. However, A Formal Horse go beyond simply regurgitating the music of their predecessors. With influences as diverse as Bartók and Bon Iver, the band prove that there is still much territory to be explored in the field of British progressive rock.

In June 2014, the band released their debut EP, which was recorded by Rob Aubrey (IQ, Transatlantic). They went on to perform at London’s Resonance Weekend alongside Bigelf and Änglagård, and were described by Prog Magazine as a “festival highpoint”. Since, they have shared stages with Knifeworld and Lifesigns, cementing their position at the forefront of the British progressive scene.

Ham Legion spent 2014 honing their sound and developing a storming live show. You can expect a collision of beaming up beat power pop, grinding metal outbursts, dramatic changes of mood, sudden passages of twistingly epic prog then moments of restrained delivery and somber reflection. They are striking out in 2015 with the release of their debut album towards the end of the year.

Tickets available here – £6.00/£5.00

Olga Stezkho: 'Eta Carinae'

Olga Stezkho: ‘Eta Carinae’

Olga Stezhko (the far-thinking Belarusian classical pianist whose ‘Eta Carina’ album impressed me so much last year) has two London concerts coming up in the first fortnight of the month. The second’s likely to be an all-access crowd-pleaser. Given its charity fundraiser status, I’m not sure whether the first is likely to feature or indulge any of Olga’s intriguing conceptual preoccupations with Scriabin, Busoni, cosmology and early twentieth century consciousness, but even if it isn’t it’s a great opportunity to see a fine musician at work in a grand location.

Olga Stezhko charity piano recital in aid of Friends of the Belarusian Children’s Hospice (St Pancras Parish Church, Euston, London NW1 2BA, Thursday 4th June, 1:15pm – 2:00pm)

Programme not revealed – free admission, donations requested.

EC4 Music in aid of The Prince’s Trust (Barbican Hall, Tuesday 9th June, 7:30pm – 9:30pm)

The choir and orchestra of London-based EC4 Music return for their seventh fundraising concert in aid of The Prince’s Trust with a stirring selection of music from both sides of the Atlantic.

Programme:

Leonard Bernstein – Overture from ‘Candide’
Aaron Copland – Appalachian Spring
George Gershwin – Rhapsody in Blue
Vaughan Williams – Serenade to Music
Leonard Bernstein – Chichester Psalms
Eric Whitacre – Water Night
Hubert Parry – Blest Pair of Sirens

Performers:

EC4 Music Choir and Orchestra
Tim Crosley – conductor
Olga Stezhko – piano
Claire Seaton – soprano
Roderick Morris – countertenor
Thomas Herford – tenor
Adam Green – baritone

Tickets available here – prices from £10.00 – £35.00 plus booking fee.

Some of London’s most active art-rockers are brewing up a free Zappa homage in Croydon at around the same time. Details below:

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The Spiders of Destiny play Frank Zappa (The Oval Tavern, 131 Oval Road, Croydon, CR0 6BR, Saturday 6th June, 8:30pm)

Great googly moogly! On June 6th, nine-piece tribute band Spiders Of Destiny come to The Oval Tavern to play a marathon set of music by the late, great Frank Zappa. Featuring world class performers with a sense of humour from notable prog/alternative bands such as: Knifeworld, Perhaps Contraption, Pigshackle, Medieval Baebes, The Display Team, Hot Head Show, Poino, Spiritwo, First, A Sweet Niche and more. So polish up your zircon-encrusted tweezers, trim your poodle, learn the mudshark dance and join us as we propagate the conceptual continuity instigated by one of the masters of modern music.

More info here – this gig is FREE ENTRY but there will be a donations jug doing the rounds during the intermission.

book-bowiespianomanAnyone with an interest in David Bowie, rock history, cabaret, electropop and all of the other things that get swept up into Bowie’s art should head to Soho on Thursday 11th June for A Bowie Night at Gerry’s Club, at which pianist and writer Clifford Slapper launches his book ‘Bowie’s Piano Man: The Life of Mike Garson‘ (which also has its own Facebook page).

As well as readings and signings there will be performances of Bowie songs from avowed fans Danie Cox (from “flock-rockers” The Featherz), Ray Burmiston (of ’80s heroes Passion Puppets), club siren Katherine Ellis (Freemasons, Ruff Driverz, Bimbo Jones etc.) and acoustic singer Jorge Vadio. There’ll also be a performance from a longtime ‘Misfit City’ favourite – London balladeer, Brel translator and onetime ‘Pirate Jenny’s’ host Des de Moor, who’ll presumably be singing his Bowie-gone-chanson interpretations from his ‘Darkness and Disgrace’ show. (I’m particularly pleased to see that Des is back onstage. It’s been a long time.)

More on the book below, and more on Gerry’s Club here.

“It is pointless to talk about his ability as a pianist. He is exceptional. However, there are very, very few musicians, let alone pianists, who naturally understand the movement and free thinking necessary to hurl themselves into experimental or traditional areas of music, sometimes, ironically, at the same time. Mike does this with such enthusiasm that it makes my heart glad just to be in the same room with him.” – David Bowie

Mike Garson has played piano on sixteen David Bowie albums, including Aladdin Sane, with his celebrated piano solo on its title track, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, 1. Outside and Reality. He has also played live with Bowie on countless tours and shows, and remains his most long-standing and frequent band member.

For some time Clifford Slapper has been working very closely with Garson to write a book which explores the life of this extraordinary and eccentric modern musician. It documents in detail how as a pianist he was catapulted overnight from the obscure world of New York’s avant-garde jazz scene to a close and long connection with Bowie. In addition, Garson is recognised as a classical virtuoso, a jazz master and one of the world’s greatest exponents of improvisation. He has also recorded and performed live with other rock legends such as the Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails. All of this is covered by this first ever biography of Mike Garson.

Its starting point was several days of in-depth and frank conversation with Garson himself, and covers a wide range of themes which will be of interest to all Bowie fans, but also to anyone with a passion for music, social history or the process of creative inspiration. Input has also come from many interviews with those who have worked with him over the years, including Earl Slick, Trent Reznor, Sterling Campbell, Reeves Gabrels, Dave Liebman and many others.

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August 1993 – live reviews – Martin Taylor @ Ferens Live Art Space, Kingston-upon-Hull, England, 5th August (“like hearing crystallised music”)

8 Aug

It’s nice, for a change, not to have to do anything except sit back and listen.

Listening to Martin Taylor is like a breath of fresh air after a particularly sticky storm. He stands alone on a little white block of a stage with only his guitar and gently tapping foot, and gently unravels a long flowing river of melody to soothe the heart and to excite the brain. Pure and simple music. After a surfeit of analysis, a slew of post-modern criticism, a stew of eclecticism and image, it’s nice to get back to that once in a while.

Listening to Martin Taylor allows you to rediscover a love of the old tunes. He’s not a composer; his strength lies in the re-interpretation of classic standards, but rather than murdering them by pouring on strings and pallid flutes to make them ripe for serving up in the air conditioning, he offers you the chance to hear him dust down an oldie, hold it up to the light and then skilfully polish it, smiling as he shows it to you again and points out a hundred little details which you never saw before, a source of fresh wonder.

Because listening to Martin Taylor is like hearing crystallised music. You can distinguish the original tune somewhere in the glittering web of notes which his fingers are drawing out of the guitar – maybe it’s a ballad from ‘West Side Story’, maybe Duke Ellington’s Just Squeeze Me or a Hoagy Carmichael piece – but it’s been reflected and amplified through so many harmonies, echoes and byways along the way that what finally emerges bears as much resemblance to the original as a cut diamond does to glass. Old tunes turned corny and worn down by their own familiarity re-emerge as multi-faceted gems, cut and refined by a master’s technique, multi-layered and ornate.

If you stop listening to Martin Taylor for a moment, you might be able to hear the sharp clicks as the jaws of the guitarists in the audience drop smartly onto the floor. This crystalline music – richly syncopated melody and harmony played together, simultaneously with swooping basslines – is, after all, being played by one man without even the whiff of an effects pedal. During the interval, people are overheard wondering if there are four other guitarists concealed under the stage or behind the curtains. But there’s no denying that this music is being played by a human being; no pristine technician, Taylor’s impeccable skill is shaped as much by punchy string snaps and fretboard noise as it is by his carefully considered polyphony and his vertical, dense approach to arrangement. He’s as likely to use a violent slide up the bass strings as he is to tease out a gentle classic jazz chord in the treble; and, as the most exciting musicians do, he lets you hear him stretching towards his objective rather than simply delivering it ready-packed and icily perfect.

Listening to Martin Taylor when he stops playing and talks for a while is, in its way, no less of a joyful experience. Here we have one of the world’s greatest and most underrated jazz guitarists and he turns out to be a warm, humble and self-effacing guy with a nice line in gentle humour and a shy manner, as if tonight was his first gig. Taylor is possibly also one of the world’s first motherable jazzmen. No guitar god here: even when he speaks of his sessions with the legendary likes of Joe Pass and Chet Atkins, he makes it sound like a comfy jam session after an evening at the pub. Very British. I’m not sure if these isles can produce a legend of their own these days – we’re just no good at mystical PR…

No matter. Who needs a legend or the cartoon padding of a star, anyway? Taylor’s music is possessed of enough to soothe, stun, stimulate, delight and relax without recourse to tortured artistry, space-cadet communion or outlaw chic. And if he prefers to continue playing gorgeously low-key and intimate gigs, just one man and a warm-toned guitar, then I for one will continue to turn up to listen to Martin Taylor.

Because listening to Martin Taylor makes you remember just how wonderful listening can be.

Martin Taylor online:
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