Carol Grimes/Dorian Ford andTim Cumming
(Map Studio Cafe, Grafton Road NW5. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
I've moved to within walking distance of a delightful small venue, The Map Studio Cafe, which has the boldness to present a varied programme. The audience is supportive, it's the kind of space where new things can be tried out. It also has good wholesome food.
Once a quarter on Saturdays, it hosts a New Moon Jazz Poetry night, which, according to the blurb, presents: "poets of experience and musicians that understand the art of improvisation and the key to its delivery."
On Saturday this series featured Carol Grimes, and it was a great pleasure to be in right at the very start of such a genuinely promising venture as her Autobiography, an item tucked into her programme of songs, which itself was tucked into a varied evening, of which I heard the first two acts.
The Autobiography is spoken rather than sung. With Dorian Ford on piano, her narrative flashes back and forth between her uncertain teenage years, when a fairytale future as a gamine rock icon was seemingly on offer, and now. This is a project to watch out for as it develops. (The concept is far from new. Schumann, as just one example, wrote spoken melodramas to words by Friedrich Hebbel.)
Grimes has a fascinating story to tell. She also has a command of shaping and delivering words, a performance sense, and the musical and human depth and warmth to really make something of this. The story pulls in songs which reference times of her life. This project has such a strong heart, it really could go anywhere as it develops. It could be a stage play, or radio drama, or album, or any combination of these. Dorian Ford has no music, just her words in front of him. His ability to match mood or word with chord or line, to evoke the ghosts of songs past, is a revelation too.
The opening performance of the evening was a series (cycle?) of poems by Tim Cumming, with video and photographs as backdrop. He did a remarkable job as he brought to life the sights, sounds,the dangers, and - almost - the smells of the Moroccan port of Essaouira at Gnaoua Festival time. Very evocative indeed.