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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.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Bill Laurance @ Sage Gateshead - April 6

(Review by Chris Kilsby)

A packed Sage 2 (including Level 2) for the fifth appearance at Sage Gateshead of the now well established "jazz maestro" pianist Bill Laurance.  This time solo, with one of Sage's Steinways augmented by various boxes of tricks to reproduce live the multi-effects on his new solo album Cables.  I had seen him twice before at the Sage, but with excellent bands, including colleagues from Snarky Puppy, the international jazz/funk collective phenomenon he co-founded.  I approached this gig with interest, to see if he could match the levels of composition and playing of those superb outings on his own. 

The first four numbers were on "clean" piano, starting with an old familiar favourite, December in New York, from his 2015 album, Swift. This gorgeous tune went down well, as ever, although I missed the deluxe rhythm section on the recording and previous outings.   A similar treatment of the second number, Chia, from Flint, 2014, and then onto the first new number, Ebb Tide.  Laurance's classically founded style in full flow here, with arpeggiated and repeated block chords, interspersed with long, meandering right hand runs and slides, varied and stretched to the maximum effect, wringing out the last drop of emotional highs and lows, much to the appreciation of the audience (and some of my party...)

Laurance is an assured performer nowadays, his easy rapport enhanced through lengthy, personal chats between songs. He addressed the issue of solo touring, saying how much he relished the simplicity and independence, and not waiting for the drummer to get out of bed for "lobby call". Now, I know some drummers, ironically, aren't good at being on time, but by now I was thinking a drummer (and bass player) of the calibre he is used to would be well worth waiting for!

The next number was one of only two mainly improvised pieces, based around House of the Rising Sun, perhaps an unspoken homage to our local Animals?  He then announced a change of mood, closing the first set with Kinsman, ramping up to the second "party set" by unleashing some of the synths, prepared sounds, loops and (lots of) reverb: moving away from Go Go Penguin and Einaudi territory, into Vangelis (!).
The second set opened with The Keeper introducing the drum machine, matching the "moral of this song, if there is one" which was "the significance of persistence". The idea was "try, try again", but I reckoned the tedium of the machine came through, and Laurance followed up, admitting he missed the chemistry of a drummer when faced with the "on-off" nature of the machine.  His introduction to the title track expounded the album concept as the "connected" nature of modern life and humanity, with the advent of AI and the machine. This was inspired by The Transcendent Man, a documentary film of Ray Kurzweil and his predictions of androids by 2029. 

The feel of the second set was rather more DJ than the album, including a session with vocoder before the final song, Cassini, inspired by the trajectory of the space mission to Saturn.  This held my attention well, with variety and structure, and a welcome dose of the melodic invention that catapulted him to fame.   Enthusiastic applause delivered a contrasting encore:  improvised clean piano for a change, showing real jazz chops around what my son's sensitive ears detected as the classic Caravan, but I guess the Michel Petrucciani version rather than that of Duke.

Overall, a well appreciated evening, but for me not reaching the heady heights of his previous ensemble efforts.  Too often, the playing fell back on the formulaic pseudo-classical, tending towards cheesy film-music at times, but obviously very popular with the paying public. The synth elements are more effective on the recorded work and detracted from Laurance's undoubted melodic inventiveness.   If the moral for this concert was to be "the significance of persistence", then please Bill, give the drummer (and the other fabulous musicians) another try!

Chris.

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