Here is a selection of my writings for London Jazz News, items of news or competition results.
Here are some of the reviews I’ve written for London Jazz News. Please follow the links to read them.
I’ve been very fortunate to be able to write for London Jazz News over the years and I’m very grateful to the editor Sebastian Scotney for encouraging me and for putting opportunities in front of me. Most special of all was interviewing the late John Abercrombie, his last interview.
Below is a selection of my writings, links only. Please follow the link to read the interview or review on London Jazz News.
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.