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”

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”

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”

Keith Jarrett at the Royal Festival Hall: music can heal

Keith Jarrett at the Royal Festival Hall: music can heal

Play like you think it’s going to be the last time. That’s the only way to play.
Keith Jarrett

Precisely one week after the atrocities began in Paris we were in the Royal Festival Hall watching Keith Jarrett give one of his most intense and impassioned solo performances. Hunched over the Steinway, his face at times just inches from the keys, the man in the single spotlight and all of us gathered together to hear him play represented everything that the killers seek to destroy – a shared pleasure in music and the freedom to mingle at peace on a Friday night with other human beings from anywhere in the world, of all faiths or none.

Continue reading “Keith Jarrett at the Royal Festival Hall: music can heal”

Ensemble 10/10 explore Europe’s 20th century fault lines

Ensemble 10/10 explore Europe’s 20th century fault lines

In the gilded elegance of the Concert Room in St Georges Hall last week, Ensemble 10/10 led a small but enthusiastic audience on a journey through the aesthetic and  political fault lines that shattered 20th century Europe.

As always, Ensemble 10/10 – a splinter group from the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra – was led by Clark Rundell, who always communicates energy and enthusiasm for the pieces on the programme. I like these occasions for Rundell’s concise, informed introductions to each work, and because I get to hear music that is challenging and which I met never otherwise get to hear.

For example, the main event at last week’s concert was to be the world première of Bosnian Voices by Nigel Osborne, unknown to me at that point, whose new work sets to music verses composed by people of all faiths and backgrounds from the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia. Continue reading “Ensemble 10/10 explore Europe’s 20th century fault lines”

Blood and Roses: The Songs of Ewan MacColl

Blood and Roses: The Songs of Ewan MacColl

‘The world that I knew, it has vanished and gone,’ sang Eliza Carthy during Blood and Roses: The Songs of Ewan MacColl, a special concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic this week that marked the centennial of the songwriter and Communist activist’s birth. It was a marvellous evening of passionate songs of politics and love which caused me to reflect on the significance of MacColl’s songs in our changed times. Continue reading “Blood and Roses: The Songs of Ewan MacColl”