When you haven’t seen a band or artist for years, there is a sense of anticipation that you try to control. But when you sit in the Barbican and the hollers and whoops that greet a band as they step onto the stage are loud and long, then you know you can let your hopes off the leash because you KNOW you will not be disappointed. This was the case with Punch Brothers on 16 November 2018 at the Barbican, opening night of the EFG London Jazz Festival. A band that can make a virtue of tuning “I have eight strings, you only have five”, that clusters around one microphone, that jokes about their country being a circus, that looks like they are actually enjoying themselves, this band could sing the phone book and I’d be happy. It is hard to take your eyes off Chris Thile whose extraordinary falsetto vocals and mandolin, nimble movements and facial winks and contortions reminded me of a court jester, and as bitter. The sound man must have had a heart attack when they walked away from the microphone, walked to the edge of the stage and played their encores acoustically.
Absolutely every minute was perfect but I will never forget their title track All Ashore. When it finished, I was choked with tears (as usual) and I am sure Chris Thile had a lump in his throat. There was a nano second of silence before the applause. “Momma cuts like a man-of-war through the fog of an early morning with nothing more than a coffee filling up her sails.” This is why we go to live music, to feel overwhelmed by beauty and artistry in the presence of other people.
Seeing fado star Mariza on 17 November was moving for different reasons. Another set close to two hours, it never felt that long. She also attracted like a magnet, her voice hard to describe, strong yet vulnerable, her presence commanding, her band providing a gorgeous backdrop with the delicate sound of the Portuguese guitar and accordion magic-carpetting us to Lisbon. When she stepped off the stage into the audience, slowly singing her way to the back of the stalls, then worked her way back shaking hands and receiving genuine thanks and appreciation from the many Portuguese people in the audience, I found myself moved again, by her warmth and humility. Look at her face and those near her in the picture below, they are spellbound and happy and she is the real thing.
Really I could sum up my thoughts on this album in just a few words: Oracles by Ana Silvera is the most beautiful album I have heard for years. It grabbed me with the same sense of wonder I felt when I first listened to Maria Callas sing Tosca. I saw a different performance of that role at the Royal Opera House in 1977. There was Pavarotti as Cavaradossi and Raina Kabaivanska as Tosca. I scurried off the next day to a record store on Tottenham Court Road and came home with Maria Callas’ Tosca on vinyl. Fast forward to 2018. Most of us will never be in the situation of poor Tosca, but we all experience grief, struggle daily with our losses. The music is Ana’s response to the death of her brother, to whom the album is dedicated. I feel years of thought have gone into this album, it’s symphonic in its scope and stature, a complete and perfect work of art. There is a small stellar orchestra and choir, and rising above it all the wonderfully affecting voice of Ana Silvera, as fragile as a moth yet strong as sinews.
Oracles is seven compositions that string together like pearls, with delicate lustre, their beauty revealed with repeated listens. The words will stick in your head, you’ve been there: “I stood under the bridge on the eve of his birthday”, “I wasn’t meant for this life”, “I love you so hard I feel my heart break”. Thank you Ana for such beauty, for inspiring such satisfying performances from everyone involved, and for your bravery in letting us into your grief and growth.
What is the Aarhus sound and why do I love it? The Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark has turned out some very good musicians such as Alex Jønsson Christensen (TheLost Moose), Jens Mikkel (Lift Me Up SoI Can Reach) and Jakob Sørensen (Bagland). All of these musicians have produced works of outstanding musicianship, atmospheric and recognisably Nordic. Hmm… there seems to be a pattern here… and here’s another one – double bass player Anders Ammitzbøll with his debut album (financed by Kickstarter) Hymns For Hearts, as exuberant and fresh an album as those which went before from fellow alumni.
The combination of two guitars makes for a bubbly texture, the two instruments weaving in and out of each other. There is an African highlife lilt to the sound of the two guitars which is very attractive. Anders told me he chose two guitars in order that one could create soundscapes while the other plays a more “traditional” role and it certainly works in this live recording.
The album could be considered as a symphonic shimmering whole, the lovely tunes gently unfold until the uneasy, freer Paranoia. There is the some delicate songlike solo work – sometimes just guitar, sometimes double bass – and plenty of space for the drums. The sound is beautiful, made for vinyl.
This is an impressive, accomplished and confident debut album and we can expect to hear more from this bassist and I hope from this band.
The nominations for the 2016 Jazz FM Awards have been announced. The most prestigious ceremony in the jazz, soul and blues calendar is this year taking place on Tuesday 26th April at London’s Bloomsbury Ballroom and will feature a performance by Gregory Porter, who will also receive the Jazz Impact Award.
Once again the public will be able to vote for the winner of three categories Album of the Year, UK Jazz Act of the Year and Live Experience of the Year. Voting will be open from 24th February to the 31st March via the Awards website. This year also sees the addition of a new award, the Digital Initiative Award, that has been created to recognise a musician who has harnessed the power of technology to engage with audiences.
You can read the full list of nominees here but my interest is in the new award Digital Initiative of the Year (Sponsored by 7digital) with nominees:
Tin Men and the Telephone
Jacob Collier is recognized as one of the world’s most distinctive, inventive and prodigious young musicians. Based in London, Jacob has been inspired by many sounds – his music combines elements of Jazz, A cappella, Groove, Folk, Trip-hop, Classical music, Brazilian music, Gospel, Soul and Improvisation (to name a few), which culminate to create the world of “Jacob Collier.” Jacob grew up in a family of musicians, and has honed his musical ideas from a very young age.
He has embraced the world of the internet to share his uniquely creative talent, becoming best known for creating his trademark multi-faceted YouTube videos from his music room at home, wherein he sings all the parts, plays all the instruments, and visualises every component with a mosaic of screens. Since his first YouTube upload in December 2011, Jacob’s online social channels have gathered over 70K international subscribers and more than 4.7 million views. With viral hits such as his rendition of the Stevie Wonder classic, “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing,” Collier has garnered a global following, and some of his greatest fans among the elite Jazz community include Quincy Jones, Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Steve Vai and Take 6, to name a few (and me!).
He has collaborated with many different musicians, including being featured on Snarky Puppy’s Family Dinner Vol. 2 and collaborating with Take 6. Jacob was also most recently involved in Beats by Dre’s Ruby World Cup “The Game Starts Here” television and online campaign, where Jacob arranged and recorded “Jerusalem” as the soundtrack for their spot. The video on YouTube has garnered over 7.5 million views.
I can’t wait to see him live at Cheltenham Jazz Festival on Friday 29 April, I’ve been admiring his trajectory for a few years now and I wish him good luck in the awards!
Would you like to see the great bassists Christian McBride and Edgar Meyer in Brighton on 23 March 2016? Just put the correct answer in the form below and your name will be entered in a draw to win two free tickets to the concert at Komedia, Brighton on 23 March 2016.
How many Grammys has Christian McBride been awarded?
The competition has now closed and the lucky winners have been notified. Thanks for your interest.