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

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

Reworking music from the movies: Norma Winstone’s ‘Descansado’

‘It’s always good if you can find a theme for an album. In this case, what happened was this: Glauco often plays little tunes during sound-checks, and when you ask him what the music is, it frequently turns out to be from some film. So I thought it would be nice to take music which … Continue reading Reworking music from the movies: Norma Winstone’s ‘Descansado’

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

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

Turning Tarkovsky into music: Nuit blanche

A confession: while I recognise the cinematic importance of the late Andrei Tarkovsky – his influence on certain filmmakers, and the high regard in which his work is widely held – I myself have never been a great admirer of his films. I like Ivan’s Childhood and Andrei Roublev well enough, but I have always … Continue reading Turning Tarkovsky into music: Nuit blanche

From The Colour of Pomegranates to the Armenian genocide: some notes on Tigran Mansurian

If you’ve ever seen Sergei Paradjanov’s remarkable and unforgettably odd film, you will probably recognise the striking tableau above as one from Sayat Nova, released in the West as The Colour of Pomegranates. However much I admire the movie for its bold originality and painterly beauty, I must confess that its radical, highly allusive style … Continue reading From The Colour of Pomegranates to the Armenian genocide: some notes on Tigran Mansurian