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Showing posts with label Jacqui Dankworth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jacqui Dankworth. Show all posts

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Time Takes its Time* : Poised to perfection

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2017 (19 to 26 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

A review, by Tweet and in other text, of John Lill's recital at Thaxted Festival, on Saturday 24 June 2017 at 7.00 p.m., is now accreting here...




End-notes :

* The title of a song, by Jacqui Dankworth, from her album Detour Ahead in 2004. In a review in The Guardian (where it was Jazz CD of the Week on 30 May), the song is described thus :

She imparts a mesmeric stillness to her own piece 'Time Takes its Time', and her straightforward 'On the Street Where You Live' is the best jazz version I have heard.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Friday, 31 March 2017

Solstice¹ at Cambridge Modern Jazz : set-lists and a few comments

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

30 March

Set-lists from, and a few comments about, the gig by Solstice¹ at Cambridge Modern Jazz (Hidden Rooms, Jesus Lane, Cambridge) on Thursday 30 March at 8.00 p.m.

Solstice¹ : time at which the sun is furthest from the equator
and appears to stand still before returning.

Personnel :

* Brigitte Beraha ~ vocals
* Tori Freestone ~ flute / saxes
* Jez Franks ~ guitar
* George Hart ~ drums
* Dave Mannington ~ double-bass
* John Turville ~ piano

First set (maybe missing an item after no. 4) :

1. Ultimate big cheese (Dave Mannington)
2. Mourning porridge (John Turville)
3. The Anchor Song (Björk, arr. JT)
4. Tilt (Jez Franks)
5. Solstice (Brigitte Beraha ??)
6. Random acts of kindness (JM)

We were told that 'Mourning porridge', a Latin-infused number with wordless vocals, had been written with saxophonist Tori Freestone's oat intolerance in mind.

'Solstice' was a disquieting melody, which 'undeveloped' into primal and alarming rawness - shrieks, laughter and bellowing from Beraha, which may not have caused some to relate it to what the name of the sextet or that of the piece means (please see above), as an evocation of how unsettling, in terms of not knowing what was happening to the Sun at these times of year, they might have seemed to our ancestors.

Second set (assuming seven numbers in the first set) :

8. Quetzalcoatlus (JM)
9. Hear words like butterflies (sic ?) (BB)
10. Avocado deficit (Tori Freestone)
11. Unspoken (BB)
12. The universal fall (TF)

The band had titled its album 'Alimentation', but (as with intolerance) 'Avocado deficit' appeared predicated on someone who had not eaten one in a very long time (and was in funeral-march time ?). In 'Unspoken', singing words now seemed to fit Beraha's voice better than earlier². After a rocking solo from Jez Franks, and as with her tenor solo on 'Quetzalcoatlus', Freestone showed her expressive versatility and accomplishment, this time in rumba rhythm.

Encore :

13. All the things you are (Jerome Kern)

The choice of encore seemed an impromptu choice. As well as singing a capella, Beraha brought out and exploited the interpretative possibilities of pausing slightly between 'You' and 'are' (in lines such as 'You are the promised kiss of springtime'³), and Freestone and Franks took solos that showed adventurousness, playing with the song's metre, and reinterpreting its theme.

End-notes :

¹ The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology edited by C. T. Onions. Oxford University Press (Oxford), 1966.

² In the first set, Beraha had seemed better at blending and melding when singing wordlessly : probably through lacking in a proper feedback monitor (rather trying to bring off Jacqui Dankworth’s singing-style, but without the necessary voice).

³ In the more subtle music and language, that uncertainty is there about whether springtime will come...

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Friday, 18 November 2016

Compelling unity at the Unitarian Church (work in progress)

This is a review of Kate Williams with Four Plus Three in Cambridge

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2016 (20 to 27 October)
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

18 November

This is an accreting review [first set covered] of Kate Williams with Four Plus Three for Cambridge International Jazz Festival at Cambridge Unitarian Church (Emmanuel Road, corner of Victoria Street) on Friday 18 November 2016 at 7.30 p.m.

First set :

1. Love for Sale (Cole Porter)
2. Portrait in Black and White (Antônio Carlos Jobim) (Retrato Em Branco E Preto, or Zingaro)
3. Eleven Tonal (KW original, which derives from having been a long intro to a Bill Evans treatment)
4. B Minor Waltz (Bill Evans)
5. Dream Dancing (Cole Porter)
6. Triste
7. Walking Up (Bill Evans)

Whether one likes to listen out for a theme, such as that of Cole Porter’s sultry (1) ‘Love for Sale’, and puzzle at the known amongst the unknown, say, as it emerges from the shadows of street-walking into lamp-light, or more passively have a number come to one – there simply is no right or wrong way to listen, and one’s preferences may change in dependence on mood, levels of energy, or simply whether one ever knowingly heard the melody-line before…

Very early on (when, frankly, jazzers and string quartets may not always be a match made in heaven¹), pianist / composer / arranger Kate Williams gave us the assurance of three things here, that :

(a) The writing for quartet fitted the instruments (first and second violins, viola, cello), and is in the idiom of what is strong about using those forces,

(b) The piano trio (piano, upright bass, drums) was just as much real jazz, and not just written-out parts (though all seven players are music-literate, and had scores), and, most importantly and in consequence,

(c) What resulted was not arbitrarily a quartet playing alongside a trio (Four Plus Three), or vice versa, but a planned scope of the broad interaction of the two principal groups of instruments that insulted no one’s intelligence – hardly the prettifying effect of just bringing in a rich string-sound ensemble to tug at the heart-strings (naming no names for such historic uses, in many sorts of recorded music), but otherwise scant integration with the whole ethos and feel of the piece !

Looking back on both sets, and as they unfolded, one cannot say that there was ever the usual feeling of needing to build the audience’s acceptance of what it was listening to – the appreciation was warm and sincere right at the outset, and one can also challenge anyone there with this observation : unlike the typical way in which a pair of set-lists is put together, could one ever say, of a few items in the first set, that they were less assured, and slipped in as material 'to run through', in the knowledge that the best would be in the second set, and with the first concluding on at least one ‘safe’ number ?

Back at the opener : other than feeling straightaway that, with Kate Williams, this project was both sound, and its execution and scoring in safe hands, this arrangement of (1) ‘Love for Sale’ drew our attention to her use of and delight in cross-rhythms, which she used, in (2) ‘Portrait in Black and White' (Zingaro), to bring out the rocking movement in its moment-to-moment structure.

The third number, (3) ‘Eleven Tonal’, Williams explained² that she had liberated, from the role of an extended introduction to a cover of Bill Evans' ‘Twelve Tonal’, to a free-standing Evans tribute (the first of several, since she was unhesitant in expressing her admiration) – and this was our first chance with her more compositional side, and hearing her own vitally alive, and syncopated, stamp of creativity – as neatly followed by hearing her arranging Evans’ (4) ‘B Minor Waltz’ for strings [i.e. quartet] alone :

Down to the care in and behind the set-list, and the genuineness with which Williams could be seen to acknowledge our response, the whole evening was opening out with a wonderfully powerful feel of very appropriate curation in a jazz context, with the sense of Four Plus Three’s discrete sound-groups, but of acutely careful and compositionally minded ways of making a synergy – hence ‘Plus’. Thus, for example, (5) ‘Dream Dancing’ may have had a string introduction, but that did not, per se, mean that the quartet’s players were not otherwise (going to be) integrated closely into the tune and how Williams directed its development, even if the succeeding moment had us pass over to the forces of the trio, in a working-out that, with the true beauty of a piano trio matched with a string quartet. The piece came to a close with a heartfelt sense of not a diminuendo, but a ‘slippin’ away’ – this Cole Porter number had, after all, been played in a tribute to the fact that the late Bobby Wellins had liked playing it. (He had died on 27 October.)

Next, the classic (6) Triste (whose origin no one ever dares admit that they do not know… ?) – in arranging which Williams had given the quartet that kind of interaction where, to talk in film terms, Foley and music become very familiar bed-fellows : that metallic sound that one can produce, with varying timbres, and with residual, if unplaceable, pitch by bouncing the bow on one or more strings of, usually, a violin or viola. Williams was to revisit that moment towards the close, but the trio next gave us upthrusts and plunges in dynamics, and with that sense of quirkiness where her playing and writing not only come into their own, but also appear to come into line – until we become thwartingly out of measure once more, and then - via the ‘bounced’ bowing - to end with harmonics from the upper strings…

(7) ‘Walking Up’, the last item before the interval, was a third Bill Evans number, and Williams showed versatility, both of the quartet and of her arrangement, by colouring it with a ‘nutty’, banjo-style pizzicato - all in all, an excellent opening set, which cohered between items and within them !

Second set :

8. Storm Before Calm (KW original)
9. Twilight’s Last Blink (KW original)
10. Big Shoes (KW original)
11. How Deep is the Ocean ?
12. Round Trip (KW original)
13. You Know I Care (Duke Pearson)


End-notes :

¹ Jacqui Dankworth is a great and sensitive vocalist, but it was a little painful that, in a first set with The Brodsky Quartet at King’s Place, the otherwise interesting arrangements (usually brought to us by viola-player Paul Cassidy) palpably left her uncertain when her entry actually was...

² Some leaders can be drawn into being a little too expansive, and do not just tell us a little about what is to come next - then, actually, Less is more… As for Stacey Kent, one night, in the first set of a gig at The Arts Theatre (Cambridge - @camartstheatre), where one had to conclude that Jim Tomlinson made her aware of it during the break : a kind and natural impulse that can 'get in the way' of the music ? (Whereas, for quite other reasons, Clare Teal or Katie Derham always say far too much, and can have the effect of excluding one from what they introduce and / or appreciate... ?)

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)