Friday, November 30, 2018

Dellee Dube at the Royal Albert Hall

London. Friday 30-November-2018.

Part of the late night jazz series in the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall.

This was a bit of a gamble as we knew nothing of this lady but we thought we’d give it a go. The plan was simple: nice meal in the Verdi restaurant followed by cabaret style relaxing in the Elgar room.

The meal was excellent and then we repaired to the Elgar room to take our seats. Deelee and band were fine musicians but rather too easy listening, dinner jazz style for our taste.

Due to the hecticness of the previous week we found ourselves “resting our eyes”. So when Deelee took a break between sets we decided we were too tired and tiptoed out leaving our seats for our neighbours to move forward to a better vantage point. Sorry, Deelee!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Lucky Peterson at Ronnie Scott's

Soho, London. Wednesday 28-November-2018.

We first saw Lucky Peterson earlier this year at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival 2018. When his name came up on the Ronnie's mailing list we were right there.

Lucky Peterson at Great British Rock and Blues Festival 2018 

We went with another couple, Suzanne, who Mary had met at a fitness Boot Camp, and her husband James. It turns out they are respected, published authors on the topic of requirements management, a methodology area of expertise we share, me having spent many years on structured methods for IT development. We didn’t talk shop fascinating though I’m sure it would’ve been. Instead we had an excellent evening of music.

Once again Ronnie's introduced us to an superb support act that we had never heard of and that we were greatly impressed by. In this case Martin Harley a singer-songwriter who plays Weissenborn lap slide guitar. As well as playing some excellent blues he also had a wickedly dry sense of humour. Fortunately his album Live at Union Chapel was available on vinyl as well as CD so we snapped them up at the interval.

As luck would have it he is appearing at the great British rock and blues festival in Skegness later this month, whichwe have tickets for, so we will get to see him all over again.

On to the main act and Lucky Peterson did not disappoint. He was as excellent as last time and, in the more intimate venue of Ronnie Scotts, you get to see the man close up and personal. Good stuff.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Adventures in Odissi and Kathak - Darbar Festival at Sadler's Wells

London. Sunday 25-November-2018.

The second of two visits to Sadlers Wells and the second "compare and contrast" event (see Rambert and Rambert2). This time East and Odissi vs. Kathak.

The first act was Odissi which is very much what I image when I think of Indian dance. The hand gestures and arm poses are very crisp and precise. I was put in mind of Madonna's Vogue: "Don't just stand there, let's get to it, Strike a pose, there's nothing to it". The body moved in similarly stylised ways.

After the interval Kathak was very different: the hands are very fluid, the arms curved and is in motion; the body is continuously whirling motion reminiscent of Flamenco.

The third part was introduced by Akram Kahn who curated the festival's dance content. This segment was a fascinating duet not only of the two solo dancers but also both sets of musicians. Many of the movements were shared but done in such different styles.

An interesting review at Young Talent:
My favourite part of the show was the final piece at the end, when both the Odissi and Kathak musicians and dancers came on stage to perform a joint piece. The dancers duet was so beautiful, it was truly amazing to watch both dance styles side by side and how they really complemented each other." Full Review...
A view shared by Asian Culture Vulture:
Seeing two such distinct styles complimenting each other with such harmony showed just how different the two art forms are, while reinforcing why they are so precious. Full review...
All in all a fascinating and enjoyable evening.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Macy Gray at Ronnie Scott's

London. Saturday 10-November-2018.

A contrasting pair of of performances, a cheerful and enthusiastic support act and a slick, professional but dour main act.

Being booked for the first house we get a support act. This is Ronnie's opportunity to introduce us to bands we may not otherwise have heard of, in this case the excellent Braxton Cook, a young saxophonist, and his band.

In marked contrast to the Macy Gray he was clearly thrilled to be appearing at the legendary Ronnie Scott's. He smiled, he chatted, he introduced himself and the songs, giving a little background to each number. Sure the music should speak for itself but some context adds to the enjoyment.

In the interval I rushed out to reception but there were no CD's on sale, Fortunately his manager came to the rescue and produced a pile. I thought cash from physical sales at gigs was an important source of revenue for all but the biggest artists. The few thousandths of a cent per stream that Spotify pay won't cover the mortgage. We have listened to the CD several times now with great pleasure - well done Ronnie's for a great support act!

And then we have Macy Gray.  She came on 25 minutes late. With only 1 hour 15 minutes for the set and a second house to follow I was not impressed. Any band should be set up, sound checked and ready to roll at the appointed time. To be fair they did finish late so we got our allotted time but that might have given the house a rushed changeover to prepare for the second house.

The music was superb but the chat was minimal and a smile would have helped.

The reviewer at The House that Soul Built writes:
"‘All the crazy bitches say “yeah”!’ A thoroughly packed audience whooped and hollered to Ms Macy Gray’s encouragement. However, I’m sure Gray wouldn’t be offended by the suggestion that she was probably the craziest presence at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club last night. And it’s a craziness and peculiarity she’s always embraced. She’s had no choice but to with that shredded, breathy, and frankly quite odd voice of hers. [...] Armed with a fully-decked band including two backing vocalists (clad in feathery red dresses and purple wigs), Gray delivered a set balanced between her greatest hits and her new material." Full review...
So that was nice.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Rambert and Rambert2 at Sadlers Wells

London. Wednesday 07-November-2018.

The first of two visits to Sadler's Wells. An unintentional exercise in nested contrasts both between and within the two shows. This performance West / youth vs. experience, and East / Odissi vs. Kathak.

The Evening Standard was not entirely convinced: Rambert - Two review: A study in endurance, but not for the dancers. 3 out of 5 stars.
Rambert’s mixed bill is a study in endurance and determination — and we’re not talking about the dancers. The first chance for London to meet the company’s new junior troupe, Rambert2, made up of fledgling professionals aged 19 to 25 [...]
The night ends with its weakest work, Killer Pig, a long, preening piece by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, which hurts the ears and tries the patience. [...] An interesting, if flawed night. Full review...
The Guardian was more enthusiastic: Rambert: Two review – spiky, sassy dancers seize the stage. 4 out of 5 stars. Rambert showcases its new sister company in Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar’s knockout Killer Pig, plus work by Benoit Swan Pouffer and Rafael Bonachela Lyndsey Winship
Rambert proper perform Christopher Bruce’s Ghost Dances, in its last run before being retired from the rep. The 1981 work - a tribute to the disappeared of Pinochet’s Chile – seems like an odd programme choice, quaint by comparison, with its painted backdrop, melodic score and theatricality, but compellingly crafted choreography doesn’t date and neither does divine dancing. [...] 
In Killer Pig, by Sharon Eyal with Gai Behar, this aggression and the sheer volume at its climax becomes stressful. But that brazen intensity is part of its power and it’s the standout work. Part club, part catwalk, there’s spikiness and sass. [...] It’s exactly the kind of work a young company like Rambert2 should be doing: edgy, cool, challenging, excellent. Full review...
You pays your money and you takes your choice.

For me a lot of modern dance is a bit like a Rorschach test. I do not necessarily know what is going on, what the choreographer is trying to say, so I watch and let my mind roam where it will.

Rambert2 BBC London news piece - Nov 2018:

I will leave the final word with the Telegraph: "An impressively danced but oddly programmed evening, then, one that seems to suggest an effervescently creative past and a tediously one-note future – a bizarrely undesirable mission statement. The evening is far from a failure, but those 13 bright young things deserved a fairer choreographic wind on their maiden voyage. " Full review...

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Chucho Valdes at Ronnie Scott's

Soho, London. Sunday 04-November-2018.

The joys of being a member and getting advance notice. Mary was able to get tickets for this show before they sold out. We went with our friend Kath and had booked superior seats. Being regulars we knew to ask for the corner seat so that, after eating, we could shuffle round and all see comfortably without one of us having to swivel their head like an owl.

It being a Sunday we get no support act and two sets from the main artist which was a real treat. Couldn't find any reviews of this particular concert but he had a week's residency at Ronnie's three years ago which says it all:

Chucho Valdes/Irakere review – a Cuban hurricane of brass and bata
4 out of 5 stars. Ronnie Scott’s, London
The Cuban masters delivered a vibrant set that mixed intense big-band jazz, funk, rock, ritual percussion and vocals. John Fordham writes in the Guardian:
"Now celebrating their 40th anniversary under the brilliant pianist Chucho Valdes’s continuing leadership, Irakere are a hurricane where the Buena Vistas were a summer breeze. They launched a week’s residency at Ronnie Scott’s club on Monday with the elated parade of big-band jazz, funk, rock, classical music, and African-rooted ritual percussion and vocals that have been their trademark from the start." Full review...
Mary says he's one of the best pianists we've seen. It is amazing how different the same piano sounds with different players at the keyboard. Although I cannot but help but think that the sound engineer might have a contribution there as well.

It was fascinating watching the drummer use a whole variety of weird percussion instruments to conjure up a soundscape but it did occur to me that the pull of the visual perturbed the musical balance. Listening with my eyes closed I got a better sense of the total arrangement.

Excellent stuff.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Walking in the Lake District 2018 - Day 2

Coniston, Cumbria, UK. Friday 02-November-2018.

This was a much longer walk than the last but not as hilly, a circumambulation of Coniston Water.

25.41 km Distance 5:24:36 Time 12:46 min/km Avg Pace 371 m Elev Gain 1,886 C Calories

The weather couldn't make up its mind if it was sunny or overcast so we got a mixture of blue sky, cloud and rain.

A field of alpacas was a bit of a surprise after all the sheep.

Lovely autumnal walking. The outbound leg followed the Cumbria national trail first along the lake shore then headed up the slope of the hills and looked down on the lake.

A sizeable flock of Canada geese. In London parks they are a pest, they eat all the grass, crap all over the place and intimidate the other birds. Here I would hope they are less of an issue with more space to spread about in.

The return leg up the Eastern shore dropped back down to the shoreline.

We passed Brantwood - once the home of John Ruskin, a leading Victorian art critic.

Autumn berries.

As it was getting late and dusk was falling we avoided the high path back and came along the road. instead. Almost back to base, to compensate for the drizzle we got a rainbow.

Back to Coniston for a quick beer in the Crown Inn and then a drive home to the hotel for a long soak in the bath and a glass of champagne.