Hymns and visions: the quiet fire of Tord Gustavsen and Simin Tander

Hymns and visions: the quiet fire of Tord Gustavsen and Simin Tander

The Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen is renowned for the hypnotically hushed tones of the half-dozen albums he has recorded for ECM during the last 15 years. So we were not entirely surprised on Saturday evening, in the stripped-back surroundings of the CBSO Centre in Birmingham, to experience jazz at its  quietest and most minimal. Continue reading “Hymns and visions: the quiet fire of Tord Gustavsen and Simin Tander”

George Martin and The Beatles: 10 great moments

George Martin and The Beatles: 10 great moments

Yet another legend of popular music passes on. It was Ringo Starr who first broke the news of the death at 90 of George Martin via a tweet. Later, Paul McCartney added his own tribute to the Beatles’ producer, saying:

He was a true gentleman and like a second father to me. He guided the career of The Beatles with such skill and good humour that he became a true friend to me and my family. If anyone earned the title of the fifth Beatle it was George.

Continue reading “George Martin and The Beatles: 10 great moments”

Andy Sheppard and Joanna MacGregor: A Song of Two Humans

Andy Sheppard and Joanna MacGregor: A Song of Two Humans

I went to see pianist Joanna MacGregor and saxophonist Andy Sheppard play their new live score for Sunrise, F.W. Murnau’s 1927 silent film, more for the jazz. I thought I might be slightly irritated and distracted by the flickering images above the musicians’ heads.  I could not have been more mistaken: I was totally enthralled by Sunrise, and now understand why it is regarded as a cinematic masterpiece. Images from it have haunted my mind ever since the screening. Continue reading “Andy Sheppard and Joanna MacGregor: A Song of Two Humans”

Rocking gently: Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal in concert at RNCM

Rocking gently: Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal in concert at RNCM

Last weekend, at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, we were treated to a stunning display of instrumental virtuosity by Ballake Sissoko, kora master from Mali, and Vincent Segal, French conservatory-trained cellist. Since 2009 the pair have recorded three albums together, delicate and lovely conversations between instruments from two classical music traditions. Continue reading “Rocking gently: Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal in concert at RNCM”

Two fine concerts wrap up the 2016 Liverpool Jazz Festival

Two fine concerts wrap up the 2016 Liverpool Jazz Festival

This year’s Liverpool International Jazz Festival concluded with two superb sell-out concerts.  On Saturday evening Courtney Pine and Zoe Rahman showcased songs from their duet album, Song: The Ballad Book, and on Sunday Andy Sheppard brought Bristol Hotel, his quartet of Bristol-based musicians to close the Festival. Continue reading “Two fine concerts wrap up the 2016 Liverpool Jazz Festival”

Janis: Little Girl Blue: break another little bit of my heart

<em>Janis: Little Girl Blue</em>: break another little bit of my heart

Janis: Little Girl Blue is a documentary directed by Amy Berg about Janis Joplin.  It’s a story with which you’re already familiar, and a subject that might too easily appeal to those harbouring a lurid interest in drug-fuelled sexual excesses or a tie-dyed nostalgia for the sixties. Berg, though, avoids sensationalism or pathos (except perhaps in the title), and her film features few of those music biz talking heads, familiar from Friday evening BBC 4 music documentaries, blathering on about how so-and-so was such a wonderful person who single-handedly changed the course of modern music. Continue reading Janis: Little Girl Blue: break another little bit of my heart”

Vieux Farka Toure live in Liverpool: jaw-dropping guitar virtuosity

Vieux Farka Toure live in Liverpool: jaw-dropping guitar virtuosity

Another visit last night to Liverpool’s excellent new music venue, The Music Room at the Philharmonic, to see a superb display of guitar virtuosity from Vieux Farka Toure. Son of Ali Farka Toure, his playing is still reminiscent at times of his father’s style, but there’s no doubt that he has now emerged as guitarist with a style that is uniquely his own, a jaw-dropping blend of psychedelic blues-rock à la Hendrix and the loping, rhythmic desert blues played by Saharan bands like Tinarwen or Tamikrest. Continue reading “Vieux Farka Toure live in Liverpool: jaw-dropping guitar virtuosity”