Geoff Winston's Review of 2013 

ICP Orchestra at the Vortex
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved
Geoff Winston writes:

Dalston has been my main focus and the Instant Composers Pool Orchestra's 5-night residency at the Vortex was an incredible start to the year. The boisterous Dutch jazz collective has its roots in the 60s and we were privileged to witness two of its founders together onstage - the irrepressible drummer, Han Bennink and pianist, Misha Mengelberg, who, on the penultimate night brought great authority to the keyboard and the entire group - overcoming personal ailments to add extra depth to the ICP's dynamic solo and section work that hovered with humorous abandon on the line between anarchy and muscular, disciplined ensemble work.

Pianist Ahmad Jamal at 83, accompanied by his superb quartet at the Barbican, played with a staggering technical and imaginative agility underpinned with an elegance and intelligence that would leave most younger players gasping for breath! A true great.

... and at 86 saxophonist Lee Konitz teamed up with pianist Dan Tepfer at the QEH to deliver one of the most beautifully crafted and conceived sets I've seen.

Cafe Oto's tremendous programme had so many rich offerings that it's almost impossible to pick out stand-out concerts from those I've attended. In March, New York-based guitarist Marc Ribot gave a glowing, improvised solo acoustic performance, feeling his way over his lovingly wear-worn instrument as though it was Braille-encrypted. He commented that he felt perfectly at home at the venue - "nice messy dressing room, cool people, good acoustics, good beer."

Henry Grimes at Café Oto.
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


Ribot followed up in October with two nights - 'intense, hair-raising and joyful rollercoasters' - with his wonderful trio, rooted by the dignified authority of the great bassist, Henry Grimes.

Keith Tippett at Café Oto.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All rights reserved.


Keith Tippett's remarkable solo piano debut at Cafe Oto was stamped with 'a technical virtuosity that all but defied credulity' - improvisation on an extraordinary high plane - and a moving humility - he couldn't believe the standing ovation he received. There was no other response possible!

Steve Noble, Jason Adasiewicz, John Edwards, Peter Brötzmann
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


Peter Brötzmann continued his series of extemporisations with Chicagoan vibes player, Jason Adasiewicz, teaming up with the unfailingly inventive percussion and bass of Steve Noble and John Edwards to deliver one of the least predictable and most rewarding excursions of the year, which had Adasiewicz all but rip up his vibraphone keys from their cords at one point! "It was, for us, a great adventure," declared Brötzmann!

Wadada Leo Smith at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's 3-nighter at Cafe Oto as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, was a remarkable experience, bringing together his own superb Golden Quartet with the British string players, the Ligeti Quartet, in a unique 7 hour interpretation of his major work, 'Ten Freedom Summers', that had the walls resonating with his articulation of the history of the Civil Rights movement - a moving blend of score-based improvisation and individual invention.

The Necks at Café Oto
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


The trailblazing Australian trio, The Necks, basked in the ambience of the venue for 3 nights. The first set of the final night was one I'd pick out to take with me to a desert island - a magical, beautifully paced set which had all the tensions and structural delicacy of a spider's web in construction.

Evan Parker at the Royal Naval Chapel Greenwich.
Drawing by Geoff Winston. © 2013. All Rights Reserved


Evan Parker wove a different magical spell in Greenwich, at the Royal Naval Chapel - a touch of Prospero, perhaps. In his solo performance he created 'a trance-like tension with interplay between upper and lower registers, notes flew around the room, different tempos closed in on each other and overlapped ...'. And the bonus was his post-concert conversation with Martin Speake at the Trinity Laban theatre, where he described with an illuminating clarity, the ways in which he approaches his music.

As for albums - well, I'd single out Nic Bullen's expertly and respectfully composed electronic essay, 'Component Fixations', and The Necks 'Open', a beautiful and subtle journey creating space out of the trio's intensely crafted abstract sonic encounters.

Sad that four heros of mine are no longer with us - Bobby Bland, one of the greatest blues singers of all, whom I was privileged to see live on several occasions. Lou Reed - whose uncompromising Metal Music Machine concerts threw down the gauntlet when I witnessed them in 2010. And two true masters, Chico Hamilton and Jim Hall, musicians' musicians, who made immeasurable contributions to jazz. Hamilton, whom I wish I'd seen, notably gave Eric Dolphy his break. Hall was always a joy to witness live - the pinnacle of precision, craft and creativity.

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