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Bebop Spoken There

Vadim Neselovskyi, Professor of Jazz Piano, Berklee College of Music: “Every pianist has to deal with a very complex left-hand part at some point. This is the essential pianistic experience – to split your brain into two halves and execute two very different tasks at the same time.” – (Down Beat September 2017).

Roscoe Mitchell: “To me, improvisation is trying to improve your skills so you can make these on-point compositional decisions. That takes practice.” – (Down Beat September 2017)

Archives

Today Saturday September 23

Scarborough Jazz Festival - Day two of three.
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Evening
Bradley Johnston (solo guitar) - Cherry Tree, 9 Osborne Rd., Jesmond, Newcastle NE2 2AE. 7:30pm. No cover charge.
Rockafellas - Billy Bootleggers, 28 Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9pm. Free.
Tobie Carpenter Organ Trio - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. 8pm. £10.
Thin Man + Jon Gordon - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. 8pm. Free.
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Nikki Iles & Stan Sulzmann - Great Hall, Hexham Abbey, Hexham NE46 3NB. 10pm. £10/£8.
Pat McMahon Trio - Tannery, Gilesgate, Hexham NE46 3QD. 01434 605537. 9pm. Free.
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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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Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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