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Bebop Spoken There

Dave Gelly: “From 1 January 1920, when prohibition was imposed in the US, people didn’t stop drinking, they just stopped drinking legally.” – (Jazz Journal October 2017).

Regina Carter: “When I was a teenager, I would daydream about going out on a date and dancing to Ella’s music.” (Down Beat October 2017).

Today Wednesday November 22

Afternoon
Vieux Carre Jazzmen - Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 3OS. 1pm. Free.

Evening
Take it to the Bridge - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. £1. 8pm.

Billy's Acoustic Blues - Billy Bootleggers, 28 Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9pm. Free (weekly).

The Village Hall New Orleans Band - Springwell Village Community Venue, Fell Rd., Gateshead NE9 7RP. 8:15pm. £3.

BBC Big Band - Middlesbrough Theatre, The Avenue, Middlesbrough TS5 6SA. 01642 815181. 7:30pm. £24.50.

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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Ushaw Ensemble @ The Jazz Café - October 31. A Jazz North East ‘Schmazz’ presentation.

Paul Edis (MD/piano); Andy May (Northumbrian pipes); Ed Cross (violin); Rob Walker (drums); Graham Hardy (trumpet/flugel); Paul Susans (double bass); Graeme Wilson (tenor sax/bass clarinet/flute).
(Review/photos by Ken Drew).


Durham-born Paul Edis was commissioned by Ushaw College in 2016 to write St Cuthbert's Suite, a musical account of the life of St. Cuthbert, and so The Ushaw Ensemble was created. Its world premiere took place on March 18 at Ushaw College and was also performed the following day in Durham Cathedral.
Tonight, we were to be treated to another world premiere. The anticipation of hearing Edis's St Cuthbert's Suite in the second set was heightened by the presentation of a more recent three part suite in the first set. An introductory piece, The Sound of Achill, enabled us to become accustomed to the line-up where the inclusion of violin and Northumbrian Pipes provided a significant folk component to the overall sound, together with compositional elements covering a wide range of musical styles from contemporary classical music to jazz improvisation, with many other influences in between.


First set: The Sound of Achill began fully charged - straight in. A very lively tune with Northumbrian pipes distinctly in the mix and solos from May, Cross, Edis and Walker. Very tight playing!
Here and Now and Gone Forever. The three-part, 30-minute piece, was glued together with segues which meant the music flowed seamlessly, giving little opportunity for applause, but the audience's keen attention made up for that. 
We were treated to very strong solos all round, a mix of instruments where flugel and bowed bass were used to good effect, a range of rhythms from gentle, though bluesy to lively.  Wilson gave an extended solo, playing as good as ever, if not bettering it here, and the suite ended with a thundering drum solo from Walker.
Overall - a very pleasant and lively sound with the often occurring distinctively shrill sound of the Northumbrian pipes. Never too much, just nicely evident throughout the 3 sections.

Second set:  St Cuthbert's Suite. So, how to review a performance which has such a broad range of musical styles and influences drawing upon influences from jazz, folk and classical music, written by a well-respected local musician, performed by some of the best musicians in the North East, and by invitation from Jazz North East?
Well, the first set was a revelation as to how accessible this ensemble can be, and a good fore-runner to this ‘more established’ piece.

The programme notes (two full sides of A4!) were quite detailed and very helpful, providing a brief historical background and an outline to the musical progression of the Suite, making a useful and meaningful contribution to the overall performance.  The main musical instruments in a particular section were highlighted and an outline provided of the compositional thinking behind what was being offered. As MD, Edis occasionally conducted from the piano, becoming quite animated for a short but obviously intricate section. 

Here's a recap of the 11 sections, showing that a lot of research, and compositional thought as gleaned from the programme notes, had gone into this commission.

St Cuthbert's Theme - carried by the violin
A Shepherd From Melrose - Northumbrian pipes bringing a distinctive air of Northumberland.
 3 A Vision – with slower dreamlike qualities.
The Indefatigable Evangelist - the main theme carried by pipes/flute/trumpet followed by improvisations, the piece ending with an abrupt stop.
 5 Solitude - Bass with bass clarinet. Then the main theme developed by trumpet & sax. This ends the first part of the suite with the violin restating the main theme.
Many Miracles - Introduced by the drums, then the main theme emerges from the pipes/flute and trumpet.
The Death of Cuthbert - based around the main theme, accompanied by pipes & flute, trumpet & tenor.
The Vikings - Cuthbert's resting place soulfully depicted by the double-bass then overtaken by the free and frantic sound of tenor sax & drums to very effectively depict the invasion.
Seven Years Wandering - escaping the Danish invasions, wandering for 7 years, indicated by a varying time signature.
10 The Wonder Worker of Britain - Following Cuthbert's death, the main theme recurs in a Messiaen-like style.
11 Dunholme (now Durham) - mainly improvised, and including references to birdsong along the riverbanks of Durham.

The audience was engaged and appreciative, with good applause at the end of the performance. Paul had suggested we could clap during the Suite were we inclined to do so, but this rarely happened due I feel to the likely intrusion into the flow of the piece.

Overall, the musical styles were well chosen for the mood for each piece. Edis cites influences from composers as wide-ranging as Ellington, Debussy, Ravel and Messiaen, but with strong themes and the inclusion of improvised sections, this makes for a robust and wide-ranging piece. A sensory delight in fact! 
As was noted in the publicity: "Paul Edis is pushing at instrumental and stylistic boundaries to create something distinctive and wholly beguiling." How true that is.
Ken, 

Afterthought: This would be a delightful piece to hear played in a bigger acoustic space with an acoustic grand piano, somewhere in Northumbria of course. How's about Durham Cathedral, Lanercost or Brinkburn?  How's about adding a multimedia slide projection to depict the history as it unfolds accompanied by a live performance of the whole Suite? And how's about complimenting that with the first Suite being part of a ‘Son et lumière’ show? Whatever the future for these pieces - think big! The compositions, the performance and the overall impact warrant it.

1 comment :

Hugh said...

Great ideas, Ken. The Cuthbert Suite was premiered in a bigger acoustic space, the piano was electronic though

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Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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