Movies and music for Christmas and beyond

This time last year I posted a piece highlighting some favourites movies of mine which had been released on disc during 2017; I hoped it might prove helpful for anyone wondering what to buy for Christmas presents. It seemed to go down quite well, so this year I’ve decided to repeat the exercise, with some … Continue reading Movies and music for Christmas and beyond

Of Old Songs and New Beginnings: three terrific new jazz albums

I’ve been listening a lot recently to three terrific new jazz albums which illustrate just how widely varied the musics covered by that term may be. I’m not using the word in the almost ludicrously catch-all way deployed these days by the London Jazz Festival, where virtually anything that isn’t classical music might get a … Continue reading Of Old Songs and New Beginnings: three terrific new jazz albums

At last: Doctor Atomic on CD

For my first three decades, even though I liked classical music (my main interests were then pop, rock and jazz), I would tell friends – and, indeed, myself – that I had no time for opera: that it was a mish-mash of inferior drama, inferior poetry and inferior music. Naturally, I’d reached this absurd conclusion … Continue reading At last: Doctor Atomic on CD

Glimpses of a guitar great: meeting John Abercrombie (on film)

Those of you who have visited my website more than once or twice may be aware of my enduring interest in much of the music released by ECM. One of the mainstays of the label over the years, alongside the likes of Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Norma Winstone,  John Surman and others, was the great … Continue reading Glimpses of a guitar great: meeting John Abercrombie (on film)

Stops Making Sense: Organ music with a difference

Year in, year out, Easter throws up gigs galore with music that’s good for the soul: Bach, of course – especially the Passions, for obvious reasons – but also masses, motets and so on by the likes of Pärt, Pergolesi or Poulenc, Tavener, Taverner or Tallis, not to mention Handel’s inevitable Messiah. Evidently, the profound … Continue reading Stops Making Sense: Organ music with a difference

Norwegian Good II: Bjarte Eike and Jon Balke

For many years now I’ve been taking an enthusiastic interest in Scandinavian music: not just that of my long-term favourites Sibelius and Nielsen, whose work I’ve adored since I first discovered it in my teens, but more contemporary fare, particularly in that fertile territory situated somewhere between jazz, folk, chamber music and experimental improvisation. It’s … Continue reading Norwegian Good II: Bjarte Eike and Jon Balke

My Best Moments of 2017: films, music and other stuff…

What with the depressing political mess we found ourselves in throughout 2017, which tended to privilege prejudice over reason, brazen deceit over factual truths, personal profit over compassion for others, and the short-term gains of the present over the long-term requirements of the future, it could be difficult to find cause for hope. But that … Continue reading My Best Moments of 2017: films, music and other stuff…

Now Streaming… The Musical Treasure Trove of ECM

When the news broke a few days ago that ECM, the illustrious and proudly independent Munich-based music label founded by Manfred Eicher in 1969, was making its remarkable back catalogue available to major streaming services, a film critic friend sent me a piece in the New York Times which singled out 21 ‘essential’ ECM albums. Knowing … Continue reading Now Streaming… The Musical Treasure Trove of ECM

Anouar Brahem: back with another musical jewel

I first became properly aware of the musical genius of Anouar Brahem back in 1998, and like most revelations it was accidental. I had, as it happened, already heard the Tunisian playing his oud – a North African lute-like instrument – first, unconsciously, on the soundtrack he composed for Moufida Tlatli’s 1994 film The Silences … Continue reading Anouar Brahem: back with another musical jewel

The Sound of Distant Memories: Valentin Silvestrov

Of the many fascinating composers who began their careers under the artistically reactionary regime of the Soviet Union and later found fame in the West – besides the obvious example of Arvo Pärt, I’m thinking of figures like Sofia Gubaidulina, Giya Kancheli, Tigran Mansurian, Alfred Schnittke and Galina Ustvolskaya – one of the most distinctive … Continue reading The Sound of Distant Memories: Valentin Silvestrov