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Bebop Spoken There

Val Wilmer: "The festival [New York Musicians Festival], an impressive exercise in African-American self-reliance, had come about after the promoter George Wein had moved his annual Newport Jazz Festival to New York the previous year [1972], and paid scant attention to the avant garde." - (Wire June 2020)

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As we all know there are no live gigs taking place in the immediate future. However, any links to jazz streaming that are deemed suitable - i.e. with a professional approach - will be considered for posting.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Maja Bugge + Lilli Unwin Band @ The Bridge Hotel, Newcastle - October 8

Maja Bugge  (cello)
(Review/photos courtesy of Ken Drew)
Maja Bugge is a Norwegian cellist and composer based in Lancaster. She is currently a Northern Line artist for Jazz North where she performs music inspired by the simultaneously beautiful and brutal landscapes of the north of Norway, where she was born and brought up. Maja’s unique sound explores stillness and repetition, harmony and dissonance. Her music balances melody and rhythm with external ambiance, acoustics and atmosphere.  So says the info preceding this concert, and it is spot on!  Tonight we heard beautiful, meditative soundscapes blending everyday sounds, melody and improvisation, coupled with the expressive sounds of a lone 'cello sounding out the natural ambiance and acoustics of the performance space which for tonight was the Bridge Hotel (where many musicians enjoy and comment on the acoustics of the room). But her background is more wide-ranging than this…..
First tune - an image of the Lofoten Islands featuring the sounds of gulls diving into the sea. Having been there, and seen gulls (terns) in action, diving for food, it was quite an evocative piece nicely depicting that atmosphere.   Then an excerpt from a piece played the day before in the Standedge Tunnel (as part of the Marsden Jazz Festival) - recreating the various sounds heard from a travelling barge. These included slapping the cello and scraping/sliding hands over it to simulate the sounds of a barge being ‘walked’ through a canal tunnel, plus the sounds of dripping water.   Next, Meditation depicting peace and chaos. We were invited to close our eyes and enjoy, if not fall asleep, to these gentle sounds.  Quite slow, soulful, almost poignant sounds, sometimes wailing too, but overall, meditative and calming.  This was followed by a ‘local piece’ where the audience were invited to suggest themes for Bugge to depict. So ‘trains’, ‘river’ and ’hen parties’ were suggested.  A rather brief piece not quite capturing the ambiance of Newcastle we were expecting, but a brave attempt.  I think an immersive experience is called for!

Then Echoes, a piece Bugge performed in a huge oil container where I guess the ambient reverberation made quite an impact to the piece. It was not so easy to imagine the sound within a huge cavernous oil drum, but an echo effects machine would certainly have killed the moment.  Finally, Shelter (I think).  Back to the sea again, producing the sounds of waves lapping up against the sandy beaches around the Lofoten Islands.   The sounds of rippling waves were very distinct and effective.  Included bowing the strings very close to the bridge to alter the tonality, just as you hear as you walk along a beach with overlapping waves racing to greet the shore.

One personal observation I made was that whilst the cello has an easily recognised soft-toned sound, it seemed to me that Bugge produced sounds not only as expected – soft and soothing, but also with a strong hint of viola, if not  Hardanger Fiddle, but more ‘raspy’ and raw, with very little bass resonance.  Along with the impromptu percussion effects, this made for an interesting range of sonorities on which to construct these soundscapes.

More info:    As a Northern Line artist, Bugge is currently touring and there is a short descriptive video on their website (including photos of the oil tank performance)

Also, for those intrigued by (or, in my case simply couldn’t get to) the Maja Bugge performance in Standedge Tunnel as part of this year’s Marsden Jazz Festival, there is a photo gallery in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner here:

Lilli Unwin
Lilli Unwin (vocals)   Corrie Dick  (drums)   Loz Garratt  (Bass)   Matt Robinson (Keys)
Twenty-four-year old Lilli Unwin is an enchanting and soulful young singer, composer and arranger with an authentic sound and a penchant for intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics, blending subtle grooves and story-telling into an engaging jazz performance.

Starting with a lively bossa/samba based song which included quite a bit of scat vocalese.  Overall, a typical jazz café feel to it, and a good opener. Followed by Lucky to be Me then Stay Close - a first outing for this new tune by Unwin, and likely to appear on the next album. Quite lively and full of personal meaning, with a pleasant and varied melody.  Icarus then preceded a Rodgers & Hart tune Falling in Love with Love. Initially, with vocals and bass only, keys and drums then joining in to swell the sound and pick up the pace. Some interesting discordant ‘close notes’ were carefully placed for good effect, plus a little bit more scat which worked well to provide a distinctive take on this standard.  Worked well.
Then finally, City of Love – self-penned by Unwin  - a lively, bouncy tune with a skipping feeling, playful & joyful,  bringing a much appreciated final song to the evening …..  until cries of “MORE!!”
For an encore, Unwin chose Bess You Is My Woman – her very own take on this wonderful tune, and certainly made it her own, with nice dynamics and lots of feeling.  Good ending!! 

Overall, two distinctly different performances, but as Wes said in his introduction, this was programmed to provide a wind-down following the fireworks of the varied performances we saw at last week’s Festival.  It certainly did that, with quality and style.
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Photos.
Ken

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