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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 Wednesday May 22

Afternoon

Jazz

Vieux Carré Jazzmen - Cullercoats Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 4QS. Tel: 0191 253 0242. 1:00pm. Free admission.

Julija Jacenaite & Alan Law - Jazz Café, Newcastle Arts Centre, Westgate Road, Newcastle NE1 1SG. Tel: 0191 261 5618. 2:00pm. Free. Café Mezzanine (first floor, access via crafts shop).

Evening

Take it to the Bridge - The Globe, Railway Street, Newcastle NE4 7AD. 7:30pm. £1.00.

Blues

Moonshine Sessions - Billy Bootleggers, Nelson St, Newcastle NE1 5AN. 8:30pm. Free.

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

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Ushaw Ensemble: St Cuthbert’s Suite and The Sound of Achill @ The Gala Studio, Durham - August 25


(Review by Brian Ebbatson)
The Ushaw Ensemble was put together by Musical Director Paul Edis to perform Paul’s St Cuthbert Suite on the occasion of St Cuthbert’s Day 2016 at Ushaw College and in the Chapel in Durham Cathedral. This was - to my knowledge - only its third public performance.
Paul was somewhat nervous as to how the Durham Gala Lunchtime concert audience would respond to longer compositions, requiring more engagement. However, his two pieces were received with the warmth and appreciation now customary at these concerts. Many in particularly commented on the depth and inventive narrative of the music, as well as its interpretation by the band.
The suite - in two parts - follows the life of Cuthbert in Melrose, Richmond, Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands, his death and subsequent canonisation, Viking raids, and the flight and wanderings of the Lindisfarne monks with his coffin, their Gospel and other treasured possessions to their ultimate refuge on the peninsula in Durham. Paul’s programme notes guided the audience through the suite and were important to the understanding and appreciation of the musical narrative and exposition.

The instrumentalists assembled through the Ensemble allow the work to feature a wide sound palette, exploring the different tones and textures offered both by conventional jazz instrumentation as well as that from Northumbrian folk traditions, while the composition reflects the moods and emotional impact of composers such as Debussy and Ravel, Ellington and Messiaen. All instruments contribute both to the ensemble work as well as featuring in solos. The combination of violin and reeds is familiar to jazz composition, and pipes and violin to folk music, but the combination of pipes, violin and brass (not to mention flute and bass clarinet) produce new and exciting ensemble sounds which merit further exposure.

The Suite opens on violin with St Cuthbert’s Theme, which is developed and returned to throughout the work. Andy’s pipes feature first on A Shepherd from Melrose, backed by trumpet, sax and piano. They are joined in impressionistic lines by Emma’s violin for Cuthbert’s Vision, with harmonies from the other players. Trumpet and pipes, piano and sax all feature on The Indefatigable Evangelist, which concludes with an abrupt stop, after which the musicians move straight into Solitude, a reflective piece depicting the saint’s later hermit life on Lindisfarne and the Farne Islands. Paul Susan’s pizzicato double bass introduces the melody, which is then picked up by Graeme’s bass clarinet, another beautiful tonal combination, followed by a carefully constructed solo by Graham on flugel. Then flugel and sax develop the thematic lines, with Emma concluding Part I as she began it on violin.

Rob’s muffled percussion creates the setting for Many Miracles, opening Part II. Pipes, sax, trumpet and violin develop the musical narrative against Rob’s compelling percussion. Emma’s violin introduces The Death of Cuthbert on an exquisite high note, with accompanying harmonies from the front-line players. In contrast, The Vikings is a more explosive and at times violent piece. Paul Susan’s slow dark bowed bass line foreshadows the ensuing tumult, strident trumpet notes and piano chords build the tension, the drums crash as the ominous mood builds. The bass, now plucked at pace, leads in to the onslaught, the percussion clashes wildly, Graeme’s tenor improvises screeching lines up, down and across the scales, Rob’s lengthy drum solo reaches a rolling climax and the music fades back to the bowed bass as the fighting concludes.

Paul’s piano sets out in 7/8 time for Seven Years Wandering as the monks flee Lindisfarne with Cuthbert’s coffin, Graeme solos on tenor, followed by Paul on piano, Emma’s violin, Graeme’s flute, Paul Susan’s bowed bass and Rob’s cymbal crash. The Wonder Worker of England restates the opening Cuthbert’s Theme, featuring tight ensemble playing, and the suite concludes with Dunholme, in which the musicians improvise around the sounds of birdsong on the banks of the Wear. The pipes close the suite with a final lament.

The Sound of Achill is a new piece, approximately ten minutes long, so the audience was treated to a World Premiere! It seeks to depict both the serenity and the wildness experienced on Ireland’s Atlantic coast.  Again the pipes play the introductory theme, backed by trumpet, sax, and violin. Then piano, accompanied by pizzicato violin, lead to sax and trumpet weaving patterns around the theme. Paul’s piano introduces a pipes solo, bass and drums in support. Rob changes the rhythm and Paul stretches out on a long solo, building intensity to lead to Rob’s final drums – no serenity here. The piece concludes with bass and pizzicato violin again, and brass and pipes bringing the piece to close.
This ensemble and these compositions certainly deserve more exposure, either through performance or recording, particularly as the repertoire expands. Perhaps we can only then gain and give a full appreciation of their music. Hopefully the logistics of getting the musicians together and the finances will not overly restrict the opportunities.
Brian 
Paul Edis (MD/composer/piano); Graeme Wilson (saxes/bass clarinet, flute); Graham Hardy (trumpet/flugel); Emma Fisk (violin); Andy May (Northumbrian pipes); Rob Walker (drums/percussion); Paus Susans (double bass).

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