CD Review: Julian Joseph – Live at the Vortex in London

Julian Joseph – Live at the Vortex in London
(ASC Records asc cd 132. CD Review by Chris Parker)

It’s difficult to believe that one of the pivotal figures in the much-vaunted 1980s UK jazz ‘renaissance’, pianist Julian Joseph, has not made a recording for over 15 years, but he has toured the world in this period, premiered two operas, and presented radio programmes galore, so his reputation with the public – as demonstrated by the rapturous reception he receives on this rare gig from the Vortex in 2008 – remains undimmed.

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As a solo performer, he brings a veritable cornucopia of musical styles to the table: he is as familiar with Bartók, Prokofiev and Gershwin as he is with Monk (here represented by ‘Think of One’), and as the sleevenote to this album proclaims, ‘from classical to rock and pop, everything is relevant’ to him.

Such natural eclecticism is manifest to varying degrees in everything he plays, although his default position is a florid, Tyneresque tumultuousness that builds, frequently via thunderous double-time passages, from original themes such as the opening ‘Bluesprovisation’ or the evocative ‘The Reverend (back home to glory)’. Such slow-burning but relentless power might perhaps have been set off against the odd quieter moment to bring a little dynamic variation to the set, but this is determinedly a tour de force in which all Joseph’s considerable chops are on display throughout, and is, arguably, none the worse for that – a wildly enthusiastic Vortex audience certainly (and audibly) enjoys every moment of his 45-minute performance.

ASC Records

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