It came to me quite suddenly – those half remembered words of John Keats “full-throated ease” and after the concert I hurried back to Ode to a Nightingale to rediscover what had prompted this image in my mind. For truly many of the sounds we heard from the guitars of Maciek Pysz last night at the launch of his second album A Journey at The Forge in Camden were full throated like a nightingale, gorgeous, rising above the other instruments effortlessly, hanging in the air, trailing off so gently and gracefully. The evening was one for the senses and for our imaginations. For Maciek’s dazzlingly memorable tunes and rhythms prompt you to see with his eyes, hear with his ears – whether it is a sophisticated Venice in Water Streets, a Paris basement jazz club or memories of his childhood.
And Keats’ warm South was there too in the shape of Italian ECM artist Daniele di Bonaventura on nostaglic bandoneon and rippling piano. The delicate abstract conversations between bandoneon and guitar in Ralph Towner’s Innocente and Pysz’s Desert highlights of the evening. This was an evening to savour the sight as well as the sound of music-making – sometimes Daniele looked to the ceiling, gently rocking in his chair, the sound of buttons lightly touched like tiny gasps. Maciek’s guitar sits so easily in his lap, a natural extension of his arms and fingers, his fingers a blur – can he really be the only person making all those beautiful sounds? And Yuri Goloubev‘s wry lop-sided smile as he cascades up and down his strings faster and faster, AsafSirkis‘ closed eyes as he plays, his hands pitter-pattering on the udu. And surely this is why we come out to concerts – to see as well as hear? Recent tragic events were not forgotten as Maciek dedicated his spirited, stylish Paris to the people of the city he loves very much.
We would have loved an encore but our time was up. We walked off into the night aware we had had a rare experience, a bit like hearing a nightingale.
Maciek Pysz’s tour continues until 28 November 2015
Brazilian guitarist and singer Ife Tolentino waited eight months to launch his album Você Passou Aqui (You Were Here) in the UK because he wanted to launch it at The Vortex, and The Vortex is always busy so he had to wait. Such loving attention to detail distinguishes this album of standards and compositions from more familiar Brazilian music. You think you know what Bossa Nova sounds like, but this album has something else. It has a fragility which hints at its inspiration – Iceland, land of ice and fire, but also of tiny alpine flowers, midnight sun, silent landscapes, which contrasts so powerfully with the fecundity of the Brazilian landscape of lush forest, beaches and exotic blooms and flamboyant carnivals.
The album was recorded in Iceland with the Icelandic musicians listed below. It consists of standards like S’wonderful (which sounds as if it had been written by Jobim, not Gershwin), compositions by Jobim himself and own compositions. Especially beautiful is Me Chama (Call me) which has a haunting refrain which prompts me to reflect on the fragility of life in Iceland, where short days, tiny population and possible volcanic extinction make for a very thoughtful approach to life where you savour life’s beauties, especially if they are fleeting. The lyrics are poetic, sparce and beautiful. All the musicians are caught in the spell, tiny cameos such as the sax on Como num Conto, sparkle like stars.
At The Vortex, Ife was joined by Liam Noble on piano and Julian Siegel on saxophone. Ife’s vocals are unhurried, intimate like conversation, he makes it sound very easy and natural. The languor was reflected in Liam Noble’s sparce piano accompaniment, his fingers barely spanning a few keys yet sometimes delicately skittering or bubbling like lava. In Teco Teco Julian Siegel had no difficulty shadowing Ife’s tongue-twisting lyrics and speed, like dancing on coals. I do not speak Portuguese so to me most of the compositions sounded sunny but reading the sleeve notes I see this is misplaced. Many are sad, lonely and wistful. But George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun reminded us that album launches are joyful times. It was a special evening and it’s a lovely, gentle, thoughtful album by a very accomplished singer guitarist.