Best of a bad year: movies, music and other highlights of 2020

In the few years I’ve been posting best-of blogs in the face of worsening political circumstances, I’ve often expressed a rather forlorn hope that things might improve the following year. Well, it turns out, obviously, that the hope I expressed last year could not have been more forlorn. How terrible 2020 has been… not only … Continue reading Best of a bad year: movies, music and other highlights of 2020

In Search of Marcel’s Music: Isserlis and friends explore Proust’s passions

Even under normal circumstances – and the recent far-from-normal circumstances have only slowed me down further – I am not a fast reader; consequently, vast swathes of literature of the lengthy variety remain uncharted by yours truly. (That said, I am still, I think, the only person I personally know who has read Don Quixote … Continue reading In Search of Marcel’s Music: Isserlis and friends explore Proust’s passions

Distance and intimacy: a welcome festival of new music

Names like Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001), Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) and Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) often sound alarms in the minds of music-lovers attuned to Mozart or Mendelssohn, Bach, Beethoven or Brahms, or, perhaps still more off-puttingly, in those who favour pop, rock, jazz, soul, hip-hop or all manner of ‘popular’ music. It’s perhaps hardly surprising if most … Continue reading Distance and intimacy: a welcome festival of new music

Musical Marvels: The Wigmore Lockdown Concerts

If by any chance you follow me on social media, you may recall that before the coronavirus took hold in the UK, I was an almost absurdly frequent visitor to London’s Wigmore Hall, one of the world’s finest venues for performances of chamber music; for some years I had been going there so often that … Continue reading Musical Marvels: The Wigmore Lockdown Concerts

Viola, Viola (and the Wigmore): new music for troubled times

Last week was a pretty good week for me, musically – quite possibly the best I’ve had since the one that ran from Friday 28 February to Thursday 5 March, which was my last week of live concerts. (For the record, and partly to remind myself because it now feels so long ago, I squeezed … Continue reading Viola, Viola (and the Wigmore): new music for troubled times

My best movies, music and other moments from 2019

This time last year, in introducing the lists of my favourite films, music, etc, etc of 2018, I expressed the admittedly somewhat forlorn hope that 2019 would give us less reason to have to seek solace in such things, and that peace, tolerance and reason would prevail. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way, … Continue reading My best movies, music and other moments from 2019

How Garbarek Got His Groove Back (plus a Gig by Joe Lovano)

It being 50 years since Manfred Eicher first set up his ECM label, it was perhaps unsurprising that this year’s London Jazz Festival should mount an ‘ECM day’, with three concerts featuring artists associated with the label. I missed the first, by the Julia Hülsmann Quartet, but managed to catch the second and third, and … Continue reading How Garbarek Got His Groove Back (plus a Gig by Joe Lovano)

Of Life (and Death?): new music from Carla Bley

The first time I saw the American composer and pianist Carla Bley perform live was back in June 1974, when she played keyboards for the Jack Bruce Band; a couple of years later; the first of her albums that I bought was ‘Dinner Music’, released a couple of years later. Thereafter, I not only made … Continue reading Of Life (and Death?): new music from Carla Bley

When Will The Blues Leave – a posthumous gem from the great Paul Bley

A few weeks ago I read something that both surprised and greatly pleased me: an announcement of the imminent release of a new CD featuring the great Canadian pianist Paul Bley (1932-2016), in a live performance recorded in Lugano in 1999 featuring the illustrious trio of Bley, bassist Gary Peacock and the late, likewise great … Continue reading When Will The Blues Leave – a posthumous gem from the great Paul Bley

Giovanni Guidi: great jazz pianist and versatile composer

Since its inception 50 years ago, the ECM label has become a haven for great jazz pianists – only last week I wrote about a new album from Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer. But the label is perhaps especially famous for having promoted a particular kind of piano trio, where bass and percussion carry as … Continue reading Giovanni Guidi: great jazz pianist and versatile composer