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In the current climate we are doing our best to keep everyone up to date. All gigs, as we all know, are off.

However, good old YouTube has plenty to offer both old and new to help us survive whilst housebound. Plus now is a good time to stock up on your CDs.

Also, keep an eye out for live streaming sessions.

Alternatively, you could do as they do in Italy and sing from your balcony.

Today

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 16, 2019

Tusk Festival: Magma @ Sage Gateshead – October 13

(Review by Steve T/Photos courtesy of Ken Drew)

I was on the verge of embarrassment for the second time in a fortnight over low turnout for the two most stupendously stunning gigs in the region so far this year, when the hordes gradually began to stream in.

I say hordes, but somebody confirmed ticket sales of around three hundred, which isn't bad for such complex, difficult, challenging and genre resistant music, sung by French singers in a made-up inter-galactic language.

In their seventies heyday Magma were lumped in with the progressive rock groups as a default position for anyone breaking musical boundaries. All of the progressive groups had a high jazz content, though it was generally jockeying with classical music, folk music and just about everything else. Magma stand with Soft Machine, Henry Cow, Jade Warrior and Red era King Crimson as the most jazz oriented of the lot, often classified with jazz-rockers like genre leaders the Mahavishnu Orchestra, as in Sage Gateshead's blurb for this gig, which also cited Coltrane, Glass and Funkadelic, though I'm not splitting hairs pointing out alter-ego band Parliament are much nearer the mark. In his book Listening to the Future, Bill Martin claims equal parts Coltrane and Carl Orff.  

They're a band who are seriously difficult to pigeon hole, but it seems to me Zappa would be the nearest touchstone. A rock band with a high jazz content and classical music, including opera, though - being from continental Europe - it's prominent and taken seriously, unlike Zappa's occasional parody.
The chap sitting behind - who must have had inside info - was also correct when he said that they'd do an eighty five minute set of just two pieces. They're not a band for people with weak bladders and their devoted fans - and I saw at least one singing in Kobaian - wouldn't dare miss a moment.

I found the opening piece unconvincing, confirmed by new fan Mrs T, before the two singers - one man and one woman - withdrew to the back of the stage as the tempo kicked in behind a ferocious guitar solo. From then on it was like climbing a mountain; just as you thought you'd reached the summit, another level would be revealed, successive layers of soundlike waves on a beach at high tide.

The second piece featured the two singers prominently at the back of the stage, lots of intricate drumming and interplay between subtle guitar and vibes before the two in unison.
Magma were the vision of drummer and sole permanent member Christian Vander, who then sang an extended aria, backed by lightly riffing guitar and keyboard before bass and vibes came back in leading to some thunderous drumming from the leader. The two singers resumed their places centre stage and took it up to a resounding finale which really didn't leave anywhere else for them to go.  

Over sixty musicians have been through the ranks of Magma throughout its existence and tonight featured Vander, the two singers (one his wife Stella Vander), a vibes player and keyboardist, guitarist and bass player whose parents probably weren't born when Magma set out on their fifty year (and counting) mission to boldly go where no band had gone before.
Steve T

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