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Bebop Spoken There

Raymond Chandler: “ I was walking the floor and listening to Khatchaturian working in a tractor factory. He called it a violin concerto. I called it a loose fan belt and the hell with it ". The Long Goodbye, Penguin 1959.

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Holly Cooper, Mouthpiece Music: "Lance writes pull quotes like no one else!"

Simon Spillett: A lovely review from the dean of jazz bloggers, Lance Liddle...

Josh Weir: I love the writing on bebop spoken here... I think the work you are doing is amazing.


16350 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 16 years ago. 230 of them this year alone and, so far, 27 this month (April 11).

From This Moment On ...


Sat 13: Giles Strong Quartet @ Claypath Deli, Durham. 7:00-9:00pm. £10.00.
Sat 13: Phantom Bagman + Forgetmenots @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 7:30pm.£5.00. + bf. Upstairs.
Sat 13: Rockin’ Turner Brothers @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Free. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig. Downstairs.

Sun 14: Am Jam @ The Globe, Newcastle. 2:00pm. Free.
Sun 14: 4B @ The Ticket Office, Whitley Bay Metro Station. 3:00pm. Free.
Sun 14: Alan Law, Jude Murphy & Tim Johnston @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 7:00pm. Free. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig.
Sun 14: JazzMain @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Mon 15: Dave Newton @ Yamaha Music School, Seaforth St., Blyth NE24 1AY. 1:00 - 1:45pm. £8.00. + bf. Newton, solo piano.
Mon 15: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Mon 15: Hideout @ Cluny 2, Newcastle. 7:00pm. £7.50 + £1.33 bf. Feat. Sleep Suppressor + Flat Moon.
Mon 15: Russ Morgan Quartet @ The Black Bull, Blaydon. 8:00pm. £8.00.

Tue 16: The Horne Section’s Hit Show @ Middlesbrough Town Hall. 7:30pm.
Tue 16: Jam session @ The Black Swan, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free. House trio: Bradley Johnston, Paul Grainger, Bailey Rudd.

Wed 17: Bailey Rudd (Minor Recital) @ The Music Studios, Haymarket Lane, Newcastle University. 11:40am. Bailey Rudd (drums). Open to the public.
Wed 17: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Wed 17: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Free. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 17: The Horne Section’s Hit Show @ The Gala, Durham. 7:30pm. SOLD OUT!
Wed 17: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free.

Thu 18: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside. 1:00pm. Free.
Thu 18: NONUNONU @ Elder Beer Café, Chillingham Road, Newcastle. 7:30pm.
Thu 18: Knats @ Hoochie Coochie, Newcastle. 8:00pm (doors 7:30pm). £8.00. + bf. Support act TBC.
Thu 18: Merlin Roxby @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Free. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig. Ragtime piano.
Thu 18: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. 8:30pm. Guest band night with Just Friends: Ian Bosworth (guitar); Donna Hewitt (sax); Dave Archbold (keys); Ron Smith (bass); Mark Hawkins (drums).

Fri 19: Cia Tomasso @ The Lit & Phil, Newcastle. 1:00pm. ‘Cia Tomasso sings Billie Holiday’. SOLD OUT!
Fri 19: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 19: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 19: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ The Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 19: Lindsay Hannon: Tom Waits for No Man @ Seventeen Nineteen, Hendon, Sunderland. 7:30pm.
Fri 19: Levitation Orchestra + Nauta @ Cluny 2, Newcastle. 7:30pm (doors). £11.00.
Fri 19: Strictly Smokin’ Big Band @ The Witham, Barnard Castle. 8:00pm. ‘Ella & Ellington’.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Kira Kira @ the Lit & Phil (Jazz North East) - May 19

(© Ken Drew)

Satoko Fujii (piano); Alister Spence (keys); Natsuki Tamura (trumpet); Tom Bancroft (drums, percussion)

Where to start?   Here’s the brief notes I made at the end of this stunning performance: 

Disparate array of instruments used by each musician.

Occasionally intense/heavily rhythmical/quiet and delicate solos.

Growling notes from the Nord keyboard.  

 Extraordinary! Unexpected! Inspirational!

    Briefly included a happy and glorious percussion ensemble at one point.

    Staccato attack. Surprise!  Prolonged intense release of energy.

  Conventional instruments often played in an unconventional way, wonderfully combined.

    Smiles across the stage!!! 

    “Organised chaos”. Phenomenal! Enthusiastic applause.  

    Telepathic rhythms and sonorities bouncing across the stage.

    Permeates the space & engages the audience and lifting their spirits.

    Joyous atmosphere. Stunning performance. Uplifting. Life affirming. Pure joy!!

(© Ken Drew)
The pre-publicity was spot on, yet it didn’t quite prepare me for the two excellent sets that followed. Each performer’s masterful expertise was quickly evident after just a few minutes, the flow of the musical/sonic  journey revealed just how accomplished they are both as individuals and as a group.  I noticed that several local musicians were among the audience – word had got round that this was simply not to be missed. To witness the merging of improvisational expertise from around the globe viz. Australia, Japan and UK (ok, Scotland!) was awesome and immensely rewarding.  It was literally a ‘Tour de Force’ and took us all on a wonderful journey.

Fujii, Tamura and Spence have performed together regularly in various group settings since Fujii and Spence first shared the stage with their respective bands at the 2008 Tokyo Jazz Festival. Kira Kira (meaning to sparkle or twinkle brilliantly) is a project formed by Fujii, Tamura and Spence as a commission for Melbourne International Jazz Festival 2017. The premier performance of Kira Kira at MIJF2017 featured Fujii, Tamura, Spence  and Tony Buck drums and was deemed ‘an absolute triumph,’ and ‘the highlight of the festival.’   A second performance by Kira Kira in Tokyo in 2017 was with the Japanese drummer Ittetsu Takemura.  Kira Kira has thus developed as a quartet of evolving membership.  During the last two years Fujii has taken it to cities in the US, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, always incorporating a performer or two from visited locations. So, for their one and only UK performance of their current tour, Scotsman Tom Bancroft took the percussion seat. 


Set#1: Seemed to be totally improvised, comprising one long, very dynamic piece then a shorter piece squeezed in to the available time. Both were immensely refreshing!   


Set#2: Featured their debut release ‘Bright Force’, comprising 4 sections. Each was distinctly different, and was basically scored, giving it structure, but heavily improvised throughout.  Full of dynamics and surprises, solos and duos. And then an abrupt, co-ordinated ending (led by Tamura’s occasional conducting, even whilst playing) brought this glorious performance to a close.


More notes:

Fujii on piano: beautifully played encompassing many styles with a few prepared devices including a hand cymbal resting on strings, or strumming strings with a small mallet.


Spence on Nord keyboard: Used a range of voices (only occasionally heard ‘piano’ from it) augmented with external devices played with various electronic effects. Plus a collection of percussion (cymbal etc) and other ‘jangly things’.  Played using a mini mallet along the piano keys!


Bancroft on drums: Usual kit plus extras such as  a string of cow-bells, bowed cymbal and hand hitting of cymbal plus other assorted objects selected as required together with a driving and forceful pace when needed.


Tamura on trumpet: Inventive playing techniques from rustling to percussive, but more often producing an overall beautiful sound from the instrument. Also used a foot operated cymbal (operated whilst playing trumpet!) plus hand cymbal when joining in, along with the occasional smile, in total unison with the others.


Overall this was a whirlwind of ordered chaos which grew as it moved along, constantly exploring new directions, yet still within the jazz idiom with more than a touch of being crazy and free, and fun!!  It is improvised and sonically charged, and embraces so many musical styles throughout, and on occasion indulged in a decent helping of free-jazz groove.


Kira Kira’s international acclaim is wholly deserved.  Whilst I usually refrain from ‘Gig of the Year’ nominations, I think this will stand firmly among the ‘gig of the decade’ amongst Jazz North East’s canon of visiting bands.  Bravo!!  Absolutely awe-inspiring music. 


This is surely the epitome of what Jazz North East strives to achieve in the music it brings to Newcastle. As confirmed by the respectful attentiveness and enthusiastic applause from the audience received from each set, and the queues of delighted people waiting to either congratulate or thank or briefly chat with them afterwards for the shared experience.  



I’d never previously heard of Kira Kira, nor of the band members (*) prior to this performance so I’m now compelled to dig deeper having witnessed their energetic, dramatic and spectacularly diverse musically sonic craftmanship.  For those who were there I recommend looking up the biogs of each performer, which provides the background to this globe-spanning behemoth’s capabilities. 


* I have seen Tom Bancroft from Scotland occasionally during on-line improv sessions from Scotland in his ‘Playtime Collective’ during the Lockdown years, and was thrilled to discover he was the ‘local performer’ for the visiting band.  Had he played with them before?  No!  Well …… apart from a live session, performed online with himself in Scotland and the rest of the band on the other side of the world.  Such is the power of improvisational expertise that practice is more likely a detriment than advantage in their endeavour to bring new ideas which thrill their audiences. Ken Drew

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