Wednesday, November 14, 2012

London Jazz Festival: Celebrating Friedrich Gulda

What is the definition of good music? There are thousands of answers to that. Mine, at this moment, is a simple or even primitive one: when you leave the venue, whether a tiny, basement club or a 2000-seat concert hall, you still have the beat, the vibe and the mood. So the actual concert is only the beginning of a longer personal association with that piece of music.

Last night, after the first set with the BBC Concert Orchestra playing Fredrich Gulda was finished, and when an interval of 20 minutes began in anticipation for the next set with Shabaka Hutchings, me, standing on the terrace of Queen Elizabeth Hall and its magisterial view to the Thames, and smoking the life away in hand-rolled cigarettes, felt that music of the first set was still physically present inside my - growing in me. What moved me so profoundly and brought the joy so easily was Fredrich Gulda's cello concerto, conducted by Mark Lockhart and soloed by Benjamin Hughes whose sensitivity as a great player was mixed with authority and preciseness. What could easily get into your system was a joyous "mish mash" (Lockhart's words) of the Viennese swing and marches, flickering sounds of woodwinds on the background which elaborate the tense presence of cello. It was good enough to literally overshadow what was followed in the concert.

Monday, November 12, 2012

London Jazz Festival: Celebrating Gil Evans

Gil Evans' arrangements in jazz are like Michelangelo Antonioni's landscapes and cityscapes in cinema: they are suspending spaces, inhabited and lost, in time. Cold, estranged and wintery, even if it is set in Africa (The Passenger), or in Evans' case, it is an arrangement for a classic like Summertime. Arrangements aside, his writings are even more fascinated with abstractness and low-register sounds of odd instruments (tuba, French horn, many trombones) which depicts the lower, or hidden corner's of its composer's sad soul, a Californian from Irish-Scottish origins whose apartment's door on West 52nd Street was open to revolutionaries of jazz and new sounds of surprise in the 40s and 50s.

Last night's concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, a tribute to Evans the writer and Evans the arranger, was a proof of still how vivid and valid is his music, more than half a century after its creation, unlike many of the modern big band and classical-oriented compositions of that period which seems heavy and stuffy today, in another word, dead and gone. Ironically, Gil's orchestration of bleakness has stayed more vivacious than his contemporaries.