Jazz In the Round, Sam Barnett Quintet & Interchange, Cockpit Theatre, 30 October 2017

While Waiting For Action

This was a well cool evening of jazz.  An exciting new 10 piece (dectet) of female jazz players supported by a quintet of extremely talented teenagers.

It is all explained in this Jazz In The Round at The Cockpit link – click here.

Just in case they aren’t so good at archiving at The Cockpit, I have scraped the raw HTML so you’ll still be able to read the text at least here.

I happened across this pretty much by chance. Rohan Candappa is going to try out a new performance piece at The Cockpit 31 October, so I looked at the website for the place, as I didn’t know it, although it is more or less “on my manor”.

I spotted this concert and checked out a couple of YouTubes and audio links  for the performers. I liked what I saw and heard – Janie did too – we booked it.

This is the YouTube I checked out for the Sam Barnett Quintet:

I found the following Spotify link for the Interchange/Issie Barrett stuff – click here or below.

First up, the youngsters. Jez Nelson from Jazz FM introduced the acts:

Jez Nelson with the Sam Barnett Quintet

All good musicians, but Sam himself plus the drummer Zoe Pascal were the standouts:

Janie felt that the Sam Barnett compositions were too reminiscent of the greats, e.g. Miles Davis. “Not original enough”, she said. “He’s sixteen years old for goodness sake” was my response to that.

Composing Their Own Stuff

The Interchange dectet also compose their own stuff; not just Issie Barratt but all of them compose. We heard five pieces by five different members of the ensemble. The standout piece for us was Palmyra by Shirley Smart the cellist. All ten are superb musicians. The standouts for me are the multi-instrumentalists Yazz Ahmed, Helena Kay & Tori Freestone, plus the percussionist Katie Patterson.

To add to the arty coolness of it all, Gina Southgate was there, right behind us, painting the ensembles as they played:

Gina Southgate’s jazz art

Slightly to detract from the late-nighter coolness of it all, I was well tired after a weekend of outings and I’m back here again tomorrow, so I fired up my smart phone and pressed the “come and get me” buttons as soon as the gig ended, which slightly curtailed Janie’s chat with Gina Southgate.

Anyway, we’d had a great evening, which we rounded off with some smoked fishes, salad and wine back at the flat, before flaking.

The Alehouse, Bjarte Eike & Barokksolistene, Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, 29 October 2017

We liked the sound of this 17th Century alehouse music concert, described thus:

They will transform our candlelit space into something close to a 17th-century alehouse, with a menu of highly entertaining, touching and beautiful folk music.

So we awaited the concert with rapt attention:

Rapt attention considering the show hasn’t yet started
A Shakespearean pre-show double-selfie

In the first half Bjarte Eike explained the 17th century alehouse music phenomenon to us and demonstrated the fusion of serious and folk music through the material played – several pieces of Purcell for example. Some with Shakespearean themes to make us feel at home; Timon Of Athens, Midsummer Night’s Dream, you get the idea.

In truth, we found the first half of the concert far more to our taste than the second half. The first half had a bit of audience participation with a sea shanty and stuff, but the second half seemed to weird out completely, seeming more like a bawdy modern Gaelic cèilidh than a 17th century alehouse.

Of course this was never really meant to be a truly authentic depiction, but we felt the project must have run out of material that related to its purpose, or simply found that they could only get the audience going by playing more familiar stuff.

It just felt a bit gratuitously bawdy at times and bit of an ego trip for some of the performers to show off their favourite tricks.

Here is a link to the Shakespeare’s Globe page on the event we attended.

Below is a video of the performers taken recently.

This search term – click here – should tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about them, even if you have been afraid to ask.

I must say The Globe rather irritates us now. The bars and other audience facilities are very utilitarian and the bars always seem to have just run out of the thing you want. There’s something a bit amateurish and/or touristic about the whole set up; the prices are far from amateur.

But the setting is superb and was ideal for this concert – or at least what this concert was purported to be.

The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse; an ideal setting for Alehouse music

We enjoyed our evening but we won’t be rushing back, either to Barokksolistene or The Globe.

Christopher Tye and Claude Le Jeune: 16th-century musical radicals, Wigmore Hall, 22 October 2017

I got several e-mails from the Wig slightly changing this concert; at one point swapping an artiste, at another tweaking the programme. At no point undermining my purpose, which was to hear viol music by two Renaissance composers whose viol music I had never heard before.

Here is the Wigmore Hall page on the gig we finally saw.

We really enjoyed our evening.

It was more or less exactly a year ago that we saw and heard Phantasm do a wonderful job of Orlando Gibbons – click here.

In truth, I think Gibbons is the better gig – or at least more to our taste.

The Tye is rather relentlessly somber. But he must  have been a spunky chap. Word on the street is that Queen Elizabeth did not like his playing and sent a verger to tell Tye that he was playing out of tune. Tye sent back the message that it was her ears that were out of tune. I’ll remember that riposte for my baroq-ulele playing and singing.

Still, we preferred the Le Jeune, who was new to both of us as a composer and far more upbeat.

Janie was a little disappointed that the lute was such a bit part for these pieces. We had recently seen Paul O’Dette’s superb solo concert – click here – but of course when the lute was part of an ensemble it tended to have a continuo role in those days.

We always get a warm feeling with Phantasm. Laurence Dreyfus comes across so nicely and explains things without the slightest note of condescension.

Yes we enjoyed very much indeed. If you have never seen Phantasm live, seek them out. If you live in a remote place, I would recommend the Gibbons as a place to start listening,ahead of Tye or Le Jeune,  but for sure do listen to some…

…and if it is the Tye you fancy, you can click the image below and Amazon it:

Catharsis, Xavier Sabata, Armonia Atenea & George Petrou, Wigmore Hall, 9 October 2017

Our Daisy is partial to a bit of countertenor singing and this Wigmore Hall concert looked a bit different and interesting, so I booked it.

We quite like Monday night concerts at The Wig, not least because they are a darned good excuse (not that we need excuses) to take a Monday off.

Goodness knows where the Monday went…indeed where the whole weekend went, but there you go.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall resource on the concert.

It started with a rather jazzed up version of one of Vivaldi’s well-known concerti. We thought the whole concert might be jazzed up, but in truth only that first piece was.

Then enter the countertenor, Xavier Sabata, who is a rather big and fearsome looking chap. Very dramatic delivery style. Wonderful voice.

The ensemble is Greek, of course, but Xavier Sabata is Catalan. He looked as though he might make a unilateral declaration of independence any moment and frankly no-one in the hall looked able to stop him if he were to do so.

Daisy got the sense that the ensemble were not in the best of moods, either with each other or their situation. That certainly didn’t reflect in their playing, which was excellent. Perhaps it was the multiple encores at the end that bothered them and left Daisy with that sense; George and Xavier might well have gone on for an extra half hour were it not for the Wigmore Hall aficionados calling time after the second encore.

It turns out that this line-up has recently recorded an album named Catharsis, basically a collection of these full-tilt countertenor arias.

Here (or the image) links to Catharsis on Amazon – other retailers are available.

Much as we very much enjoyed the concert, we weren’t motivated to buy the album, but it would be a good way to hear what this beautiful music sounds like if you weren’t at the concert.

Erica Jeal in the Guardian reviewed the album – here.

David Vickers reviewed the album in Gramaphone – here.

Barry Creasy on www.musicomh.com gave the concert a superb review – here.

We ate light after the concert, back at the flat; open smoked salmon sandwiches and a very jolly bottle of Austrian Riesling. Nothing baroque about the supper…unlike the delicious concert.

Will You Go Walk The Woods So Wild? Paul O’Dette, Lunchtime Concert, Wigmore Hall, 2 October 2017

I used to say that there are only two places left in the world where stewards and patrons still call me young man; Wigmore Hall and Lord’s.

Today I must sadly report that I went to both places and was referred to not once as young man. This is becoming a pattern. What is going on?

Still, apart from my awareness of my fast disappearing “youth”, the lunchtime concert at the Wigmore Hall was an absolute delight. Janie and I both very much enjoy the relaxing nature of this type of music…perhaps it’s our age?

Paul O’Dette is no youngster either – indeed he looks a little like father Christmas these days, making his press photos a little dated, perhaps.

But boy can he play the lute, jamming good with Byrd and Dowland…

…here is the Wigmore Hall resource on this concert, so you can read all about it.

There was a rather lovely Bacheler Pavane and Galliard between the two pieces listed for Bacheler on the above resource.

This was a BBC Radio 3 lunchtime concert, so still available at the time of writing for another four weeks or so if you are in  the right country or can convince the BBC iPlayer that you are – click here.

There was a delightful encore of an Italian Renaissance piece – sadly I missed the name of it and the broadcast missed the piece completely. It was lovely.

As was the whole concert. Very soothing music. I realised that this type of music would suit me very well for when I’m working or relaxing, so I downloaded some and bought a couple of CDs on-line too.

The above double CD was the closest I could find to the concert we heard (and lots more besides). I snapped up the last currently available copy at a sensible price on Amazon, but you might want to look occasionally and/or elsewhere for it.

Janie and I enjoyed a fine lunch at The Wig after the concert, then on to Lord’s (via Noddyland) for the end of season Middlesex Forum and drinks party, not that there was anything to celebrate. Still, the forum went as well as can be expected and it was good to see people at the end of the season.

This evening (the next day), I am mellowing out, listening to Paul O’Dette on the lute, while writing this Ogblog piece. Such sweet sounds.

Simon Jacobs, Circle Line, Album Launch Showcase, Old Paradise Yard, 10 September 2017

To Old Paradise Yard in North Lambeth to join Simon Jacobs, friends, family and groupies for the launch of Simon’s long-awaited album, Circle Line.

I say long-awaited…some tracks on the album, the song Circle Line included, I recall Simon playing and me bootlegging onto cassette 35 to 40 years ago.

People had come from far and wide for this launch. As far west as Bristol, where Simon’s kid sister Sue lives…

Sue and Ian swap tales of the wild west

As far north as Lincolnshire, where several of Simon’s family members live. As far south-east as Hong Kong, from whence the delightful and redoubtable Ting Ting had ventured specially to support the launch.

Party time at IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, before the performance

The venue was Eduard’s IKLECTIK Lab at Old Paradise Yard. Eduard himself was one of several really interesting, good company people we got to meet and chat with over the evening. Timothy, Lydia and Ting Ting were similarly people we met for the first time with whom Janie and I felt immediately at ease.

Then the performance/launch:

Simon announced…
…Simon sang…
…Simon stomped…
…Simon tinkled the grand piano ivories.

Although Simon did not quite tinkle in the András Schiff, Well Tempered Claiver stylee Janie and I had experienced a few days earlier, Simon did emulate the great man by not doing an encore.

“I don’t have any more…just relax and party”, said Simon.

And so we did.

Mark Lewis turned up, which was a very pleasant surprise, having not seen him for decades. Janie enjoyed meeting him too. Mark triggered an old memory or three that I must retro-blog soon while the memories are fresh. Indeed, seeing several members of the Jacobs family gathered together again, including Simon’s mum, brought back many memories too.

It was a very enjoyable evening, the purpose of which was to launch Simon’s Album Circle Line, which is available from iTunes (where I indeed found it simply by searching the term Circle Line) and also on Amazon, from whence I actually bought the download, as it was 10p cheaper there.

Don’t just sit there, click through and buy the darn thing. You’ll love it.

We had a great evening – thanks Simon.

The Well Tempered Clavier, András Schiff, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 7 September 2017

It’s years since we have been to the proms. I used to go regularly, even before I met Janie.

Then in our early days together…indeed for many, many years, we would take The Duchess (Janie’s mum), as she liked the place and the concerts. But once the Duchess went off the idea of going out to concerts, we focused our concert-going on smaller, more intimate venues such as The Wigmore Hall and St John’s Smith Square.

Anyway, Janie called me excitedly earlier in the week, as she was with Joyce Ma, who had excellent tickets for this concert and couldn’t use them. Would we like them?

It was hard to say no to such a kind and generous offer. We both love Bach and we both thought it would make a real change for us to visit the Proms again.

Further, as Janie was spending the day with Charlotte and I was spending the day at Lord’s with Chris – it was a very practicable arrangement for Janie and I to meet up and go on to the concert via a scrub and change at the flat – click here.

This concert was the very first time that the whole of Book One of The Well Tempered Clavier had been performed at the Proms. Interesting choice for a late night concert, as the 21:00 start meant for a 23:00 finish.

Imagine my delight when we entered the hall and I realised that Joyce had chosen pretty much exactly the seats I would have chosen myself “back in the day”, when I used to choose my seats with a connoisseur’s precision.

András Schiff performed the whole of The Well Temered Clavier Book One from memory, which seemed the most extraordinary feat in itself to me. He also performed with a wonderfully light touch and supreme confidence.

Michael Church in The Independent gave the performance a rave five star review – click here.

Fiona Maddocks in The Guardian also went for five stars – the Schiff is reviewed right at the end of her composite piece – here.

Boyd Tonkin at theartsdesk.com also gave a rave review and shows some lovely photos – here.

Both Janie and I nodded off at times – that is a compliment in a way because the music was so relaxing. In truth, The Well Tempered Clavier is not, to my taste, the most interesting work for listening rapt with attention. But it is delightfully easy on the ear if you listen to relax. This performance was a classic of a classic; it was just wonderful to end our day with it.

Janie took her own photos when Schiff took his well-deserved standing ovation and bow:

More…more…more…
No encore? Humph…just kidding!

A very special evening – thanks again, Joyce!

Out of the Deep, The Cardinall’s Musick, Wigmore Hall, 18 July 2017

The Boy (Morales) From Seville

Janie and I really like this sort of 16th century music and here was a rare chance to listen to Cristóbal de Morales’s requiem, along with a swathe of English stuff from a similar period.

Morales was from Seville although his sound is heavily influenced by his years in Rome too.

Here is a link to the Wigmore Hall’s information on the gig.

Jolly it wasn’t, but then what do you expect when you choose to hear requiem masses, Jeremiah’s lamentations and that sort of thing?

But very beautiful it was.

I especially enjoyed the Morales, which was the main reason I booked the concert. We hear quite a lot of the 16th century English stuff, whereas the Morales felt like a rare treat.

This type of music (mostly 10 voices in five parts) works so well in the Wigmore Hall and The Cardinall’s Musick are really superb at delivering this stuff. Andrew Carwood always explains the context in detail, but not painful detail.

The audience lapped it all up and managed to coax the team back onto the pitch for an encore – I think it was the first two verses from Tallis’s Psalm 1 setting.

It was a Tuesday evening and Janie had early patients etc. the next day, so we didn’t dine together – I think Janie got home just before the heavens opened. Good job I was in the flat when the rains came – it was torrential and I had left windows open. There’d have been Jeremiah-style lamentations from me if my computer and/or baroq-ulele had got wet.

Dinosaur, Wigmore Hall Lates, 14 July 2017

“Hello, we’re a couple of Dinosaurs”, I said, as we arrived at the Wigmore Hall for the late night concert.  The programme notes distributor smiled; perhaps a knowing smile – she probably thinks of all of us Wigmore Hall-istas as dinosaurs.

Wigmore Hall, like Lord’s, is one of the very few places in the world where I might still be addressed as “young man”.

But this was quite a youthful concert – a young jazz combo, Dinosaur,  playing an interesting mix of styles, a bit jazz-blues-rocky, a bit avant-garde, a bit electric.

The Wigmore Hall information had revealed little about them – click here –  but we like these late night concerts and I sampled a bit of Dinosaur on-line and liked the sound. I think I might have sampled the following piece:

This type of music works better live than recorded, in our view. It certainly did work well at the Wigmore Hall.

Laura Jurd seemed genuinely awe-inspired by playing at the Wig, which was rather sweet. Dinosaur played several tracks from their acclaimed first album plus one or two bits of new material.

They are all genuinely talented musicians.

The bass player played acoustic double bass as well as an electric bass guitar – an unusual-looking five-course jobbie rather than the conventional four course instrument shown in the above vid.

Before the  concert, I served dinner at the flat; the very last of Big Al DeLarge’s meatballs with pasta and salad. We also had time for a drink at The Wig before the concert.

We stayed for an after concert drink and some more jazz in the bar – simply a pianist playing in a hotel lobby or restaurant style (second time in a row), rather than the more unusual/interesting stuff we got in earlier years after Wigmore Hall Lates – oh well.

A Renaissance In Baritone Ukulele Lessons, Stourbridge, 3 July 2017

Technique?

“Renaissance music? – I thought the reason for your visit to the West Midlands that week was the cricket?” (I hear you cry) – click here .

But I also wanted to make some progress with my baritone ukulele lessons, or more specifically with my baroq-ulele lessons. Yes, I have two instruments; the one shown above and a baroq-ulele (click to see picture), which I use mostly at the flat and which I used in my Gresham Society soiree “performance” in 2015.

Indeed, it was at least partly with the next Gresham Society soiree in mind that I started having a few tutorials with Ian Pittaway, who is a bit of an expert (to say the least) on early, baroque and traditional music, not least Renaissance music – click here for his site.

I found Ian on the Facebook Early Music Group, which I frequent because Janie and I love listening to early music. But when Ian posted, on 1 April, a “recently discovered ballad that inspired Shakespeare” which sounded suspiciously like Delilah, we engaged in some correspondence (in the way only comedy/parody lyricists can) and one thing led to another.

I am mostly having the lessons via Skype, as Ian lives in Stourbridge. The first was on 3 May. I had a second lesson via Skype on 23 May and a third on 13 June.

The irony of using such a modern medium to learn how to play in such an ancient style is not wasted on us, but the Skype lessons really work.

Of course, the techniques that Ian is showing me don’t only work for early music. Several of the hands-on techniques that musicians started to use  from the Renaissance onwards (before that, such stringed instruments were routinely plucked with plectra only) are perfectly useful and relevant for modern music too. The simple thumb strumming and finger arpeggiation I was using “self-taught” would only ever have got me so far.

It is all a real test of my resolve and patience; I am naturally a magpie with music, wanting to play lots of different songs, tunes and styles without really mastering anything.

Ian seems to be a natural “go with the flow” tutor who is willing and able to impart his skills and knowledge on me in whichever ways I choose and enjoy, giving me gentle but very helpful steers on how to improve and things to try.

Anyway, it seemed to make sense that we have a face-to-face lesson when I was to be “just down the road” at Edgbaston, so I drove out to Stourbridge for a lesson with Ian after stumps on the Monday.

I am struggling with the “thumb inside” multiple plucking  which was the main technique in the Renaissance period. I am also struggling with genuine baroque rasgueado style, although there are some simplified “thumb outside” techniques which seem to come naturally to me. The history of all this stuff, if you are interested, is summarised on this link, which includes a wonderful four-and-a-half minute vid.

The key for me is to use less effort and get more effect; usually by anchoring with my pinkie finger or my thumb and making less extreme movements with the moving parts. Easier said than done, especially if you are me.

Anyway, we went through some of the songs I have been working on. I have gone back to some easier ones (three or four chords, mostly open ones) that enable me to concentrate on the fingering. For example, I have been using Horse With No Name (or rather, my “Song With No Tune” version) to learn thumb inside technique. Randy Newman songs, such as Simon Smith and Political Science, work well with the thumb outside and quasi-rasgueado. Country and dance songs seem to work well with that style too.

It helps that Ian seems to like a lot of the songs I choose. I have also recently returned to We Sell Everything by Leon Rosselson, for example, which works great with these techniques. Ian really likes that song and liked the way I mixed the techniques before he had the chance to suggest similar. On several others, though, Ian suggested some technique mixing which hadn’t occurred to me.

Parenthetically, here is a lovely vid of Leon Rosselson singing We Sell Everything, although he is using far more sophisticated chords and modern style arpeggiation. My version sounds very different but I think still works…

…anyway, you should be a writer of best-selling economics books before you are deemed qualified to sing that song.

Ian suggested that I try Rosselson’s (much harder) Let Your Hair Hang Down for next time and seemed very pleased to see that I already had the chords/words for it and that Janie really likes that song. So I’ll have another Skype lesson before my next face-to-face lesson, probably with Janie joining me, when we are both up for the Edgbaston test match.

Here is Roy Bailey singing Let Your Hair Hang Down. Unlike Leon Rosselson, Roy Bailey has a much better voice than mine, but like all of this stuff, I’ll try a few ideas out and give it my best shot.