Norma Winstone/Klaus Gesing/ Glauco Venier plus Charles Lloyd Quartet
(Barbican Hall, part of London Jazz Festival, 17th November. Review by Alison Hoblyn, photo credit: Roger Thomas)
In the comfort of the Barbican Hall’s plush purple seats and mellow wood, a serious audience was treated to a double bill of longstanding ECM label artists. Norma Winstone‘ s trio was up first, with Glauco Venier on piano and Klaus Gesing on sax and bass clarinet. The ensemble had walked on to the stage without fanfare and very humbly just got on with the job of making great music.
Winstone sang many of the numbers from the new ECM album Stories Yet to Tell (reviewed HERE) It was a pleasure to sense the strong interacting and the intense listening going on between all three musicians.
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In Among the Clouds her voice blended with tympanic piano and ceded to a bass clarinet solo. The perfectly controlled diminuendo at the end faded seamlessly into the introductory instrumental for Just Sometimes; as she sang this, the audience attention fell on her like a spotlight. She certainly drew me into her storytelling. For quite a while, I realised, it had completely escaped my mind that I was sitting amongst hundreds.
I came mainly to hear songs from this favourite album. There was some extemporising, and every note and every word was discernible. But if I knew what to expect most of the time I was surprised by her rendition of Harry Nilsson’s Everybody’s Talking at Me, so different from the bouncy Midnight Cowboy theme. As she sang the word ‘ocean’ in one of the phrases she rolled from a pitch-perfect note to exquisite dissonance and back to pitch again in a breathtaking display of technique and intuitive emotion. The piano was jaunty and trilling and Norma let rip; her voice echoed the upper registers of the clarinet and her expressive jazz hands fluttered from the ends of her black sleeves.
By the time she got to the last number, Goddess, the audience was less serious and more involved; and generous with its applause. As she sang the words ‘shrouded in moonlight’ the silvered blue lighting picked out her earnestly leaning form. Just as I could have taken more, she made an efficient check of the Timex, a generous credit to her fellow players and they were off with no fuss.
In complete contrast, there was no downplaying when the Charles Lloyd Quartet (above) colonised the stage. He was a real ‘geezer’; styled as everyone’s vision of a jazz musician in free-form jacket with scarf, beret and shades (below!). The light was now hot pink and patterned. Lloyd played a lyrical and heartfelt solo on his beast of a saxophone and then stood apart to paternally watch his ‘boys’ gently deconstruct the piece. There was a sense of them really enjoying the performance and it spread to the audience. Some riveting double bass solos – Reuben Rogers , piano parts with great slabs of chords from Jason Moran and highly inventive drumming from Eric Harland engaged us. Even though everything was delivered in an unhurried way there was no lack of physical energy; Moran nearly fell off his piano stool and Lloyd was prone to a little light calisthenics in the background as the boys played on.
If you missed these aerobics, you can hear these great performances on Radio 3 Jazz on 3 on the 22nd November at 11.15pm.
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I appreciate that it was important to give a fullsome report of the finely executed set by Norma Winstone and her two excellent co-musicians. However, having attended the concert, a few additional words on Charles Lloyd's quartet might not go amiss, as their one and a half hour set was one of THE standout concerts of the year, and maybe they haven't quite been given full credit for this in this review. Their playing was absolutely stunning – there are no other words for it! Very rarely does one hear and see musicians with such superlative musical sense and playing of such a high calibre. Lloyd's lyrical tone and phrasing were a dream – soft, fluttering and flowing, yet sharp with an edge when it mattered; an unmistakably individual voice. The trio of Eric Harland, Jason Moran and Reuben Rogers gelled beautifully, in perfect harmony with Lloyd's musical vision. They were breathtaking in their command of the art of musical understatement, yet you knew that they were driving with full power under the bonnet. Moran's gentle lyricism complemented Lloyd's fluent, single-minded delivery – and when that rhythm section got moving they must have posed a certifiable risk of combustion to the sedate Barbican Hall. There was a total awareness of what each was doing and exactly when to make a sound or a silence that ran through the whole performance. They could have played pretty-well anything and you know it would have come out sounding superb; they were, frankly, jaw-droppingly brilliant! I'd love to see them play a small club as well as the concert hall stage.
Not to mention a thrilling solo from Eric Harland at the end – a perfect execution of technique and musicality – and a spoken finale narrated by Lloyd (also at the piano) with a hypnotic chant sung by Harland and beautifully accompanied by Rogers and Moran. It was a spiritual and moving conclusion to an incredible evening by these two symbiotic super groups.
Here is a review by someone who was convinced he would absolutely hate this gig. IT'S WORTH A READ
Beautiful! Music can change …