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Bebop Spoken There

Randy Brecker: "It's still a thrill for me today to stand out front of a big band as the soloist and hear all that sound going on behind you. It brings the best out of me" - (DownBeat June 2019).

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2019 Parliamentary Jazz Awards

The voting is open between now and May 31 to enable site visitors to nominate their choices in the various categories of this year's APPJAG awards which can be done here.
BSH was very proud to be nominated and to win the 2018 Media Award and hope we can have your support again this year.

Today Tuesday May 21

Afternoon

Jazz

Classic Swing - The Ship Inn, Front Street, Monkseaton NE25 8DP. 0191 251 3677. 1:00pm. Free.

Evening

Kamasi Washington - Sage Gateshead, St Mary’s Square, Gateshead Quays, Gateshead NE8 2JR. Tel: 0191 443 4461. 7:30pm. £30.00.

River City Jazzmen w. Maureen Hall - Block & Tackle, Blackthorn Way, Ashington NE63 8NN. Tel: 01670 813983. 8:00pm. £5 (raffle inc.) Bob Wade, Gordon Solomon, Keith Stephen, Phil Rutherford, Tommy Graham.

Lindsay Hannon Band - Fox Inn, West End Terrace, Hexham NE46 3DB.Tel: 01434 603681. 8:30pm. Free (donations).

To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

CD Review: Theo Bleckmann – Elegy

Theo Bleckmann – voice; Ben Monder – guitar; Shai Maestro – piano; Chris Tordini – double bass; John Hollenbeck – drums
(Review by Hugh C)
German-born vocalist, Theo Bleckmann, now resides in New York.  He has been described as a “sound painter” - on this CD he uses his instrument to create both broad brush strokes and delicate patterns, he has also composed most of the material.  Bleckmann has had a musical association with guitarist Ben Monder and drummer John Hollenbeck for over two decades, but a more recent association with pianist Shai Maestro and bassist Chris Tordini.
Elegy sets out to be an “exploration of death or transcendence in some existential way”.  Bleckmann states that in this album he wants to “create songs that deal with this subject matter not in a morbid way, but with some light to it”.  

The CD consists of a series of songs contributing to the exploration, with short instrumental interludes, each of which are improvisations on Bleckmann's written material.  Semblance is the first of these and rapidly moves into Comedy Tonight, setting Sondheim's words and arranged in memory of Bleckmann's mother, who died recently at the age of 91 still looking for things to make her laugh.  Bleckmann's atmospheric take on Sondheim's lyrics are supported by Maestro's solo piano.  Fields, followed by The Mission feature the whole band in balladic mood, with Bleckmann's vocalese floating over the instrumentalists.  After another brief instrumental interlude – Littlefields - comes the title track, Elegy, which has a darker musical texture, through which emerges the more uplifting finale.  To Be Shown to Monks at a Certain Temple, based on an 8th-century Zen poem by Chiao Jan, is about not giving up and exhorts the listener “not to think about death, but keep on moving; not to be morose, keep on living”.

Another instrumental interlude - Cortege - precedes a short reprise of Elegy, leading into Take My Life.  Bleckmann composed this thinking about Bach and his cantatas, especially “Ich habe genug” - Bach was looking forward to the afterlife; Bleckmann here imagines in his lyrics what it would be like to die, but ultimately finds “no other God but silence”.  Wither (sic) – no h and no question mark - is another vocalese, no lyrics.  This reverts to the ballad format with fine piano from Maestro, sensitively supported by the three other band members.  A final instrumental improvisation, Alate, closes the set in a rising chordal progression, rather in the manner of an old black and white film ending, with a slowly closing iris ultimately forming a small central dot, followed by the word FIN.

This is certainly a thought-provoking offering.  The musicianship of all the band members is beyond question.  I think it would probably pass Lance's Outré test.  It is certainly unconventional (even for an ECM recording) and could possibly be considered bizarre.  I do think that Bleckmann has probably achieved his objective and created songs that deal with this subject matter [exploration of death or transcendence in some existential way] not in a morbid way, but with some light to it.
Hugh C

Elegy is now released on ECM (ECM 2512  479 9717)

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