Interview / Preview: A Love Supreme Re-Envisioned at Meltdown plus Journey to the One St Barnabas Soho

Steve Williamson, Shabaka Hutchings

London Jazz spoke to Paul Bradshaw about the upcoming reworking of ‘A Love Supreme’; happening on 22nd June at Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of Meltdown Festival. Tickets are available HERE

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London Jazz: Paul, you were known as the pioneering editor of Straight No Chaser which stopped publishing in 2009. What are you mainly doing these days?

Paul Bradshaw: After doing Straight No Chaser for nigh on two decades it took a little time to re-calibrate the vision. I launched my own on-line journal – http://ancienttofuture.com – to satiate my own cultural pre-occupations, returned to freelance writing and decided to explore the art of curation.

2012 was a busy year. Along with two other art related projects I embarked on a serious music/spiritual jazz project – Sacred Music Sacred Spaces / Enlightenment: a Re-envisioning of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’. With the help of the PRS Foundation and Sound & Music we performed the piece in Chapel in Kings College on the eve of the summer solstice 2012.

LJ: In July you are curating a performance at this year’s Meltdown on the South Bank and then a series at The House St Barnabas in Soho

PB: The performance of ‘Enlightenment / A Love Supreme’ is on the 22nd June, midsummer’s day, the final day of James Lavelle’s Meltdown. Doing that is a major buzz! I’m even a touch nervous. I’ve known James Lavelle since he was 17 when we gave him a column ‘Mo Wax Please’ in Straight No Chaser. He’s obsessed with music and art… culture. Both James and Jane Beese, who is head of contemporary music at the Southbank, are totally into the concepts behind the ‘A Love Supreme’ piece and it’s brilliant to have it included in a line up the spans Goldie, Jeff Mills, Neneh Cherry, UNKLE and Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan (Queens of The Stone Age).

The House Of St Barnabas is a charity working to break the cycle of homelessness and they’ve hosted a range of music events in the Chapel, curated by people like Gilles Peterson, to attract publicity for their work. I was asked by the programmer at The House to curate a summer jazz series which I’ve called Journey To The One. It kicks off on June 16th with Mancunian trumpet player Matthew Halsall and his Gondwana Orchestra (TICKETS). It’s promises to be a transcendental session that extends the vibe of the Coltrane project . Matthew’s wonderful 8 piece ensemble – which includes harp and koto – explores the modal and mystical. A perfect combination in the intimate spiritual atmosphere of the Chapel.

LJ: You’re also celebrating the Sun Ra centenary with the London Art Collective?

PB: That’s on Monday July 7th. (TICKETS) This performance originated some years ago when it came alive in the Scala in Kings X and featured Carl Craig’s drummer, the amazing Francisco Mora, and a light show by the Light Surgeons. The meticulous scores for those Sun Ra compositions were written by Rowland Sutherland and had been gathering dust. We felt the Chapel would be a great place to pay tribute to Ra and those strange celestial roads. The London Art Collective includes Rowland, Black Top duo Orphy Robinson and Pat Thomas, bassist Neil Charles, percussionist Maurizio Ravalico and saxophonist Rachel Musson. I love Ra’s music and still can’t believe I saw the Arkestra play in the Mean Fiddler in Harlesden… I’m seriously vibed on this.

LJ: Your last event features Nina Miranda on the 13th August. She’s is a new name to me. Who is she?

PB: This session (TICKETS) has a post- World Cup Brazilian dimension. Nina was the vocalist with Brazilian ensemble Da Lata and Marc Brown’s Smoke City and has performed with an array of “world music” superstars. She’s just contributed to Gilles Peterson’s forthcoming Sonzeira album and is poised to embark on her solo career. On this night she will be joined by percussionist Anslemo Netto and legendary Osibisa guitarist Alfred ‘Kari’ Bannerman, both of the much lauded Ibibio Sound Machine.

Also on the same night is Adriano Adewale’s sublime quartet. Adriano taught me (or tried to teach me) how to play pandeiro and his skills have been rightfully compared with those of Nana Vasoncelos and the inimitable Trilok Gurtu. His quartet features the excellent Kadialy Kouyate on kora, bassist Nathan Rikki Thomson and flautist /saxophonist Marcelo Andrade. Their ‘Raizes’, CD on the Cabloco label was described by John Fordham in the Guardian as “superb”.

LJ: Going back to the Meltdown, I presume you are a big fan of the original ‘A Love Supreme’ album? Does it have personal associations for you?

PB: I grew up hearing Coltrane. My dad was a devotee. I played ‘Wise One’ from the ‘Crescent’ LP at his funeral. He’d grown up listening to jazz, he listened to everything. He was undaunted by the challenge of the Free Jazz explosion. In the Sixties he’d go to Barry’s in Manchester and snap 2nd hand copies of things like Trane’s ‘Meditations’ and ‘Cosmic Music’ or Ornette’s Golden Circle LPs or Cecil Taylor. Basically, it was music a lot of straight ahead jazz fans couldn’t handle.

In many ways, ‘ A Love Supreme’ was the bridge between my own evolving musical tastes and his. I was at art school and among the music heads ‘A Love Supreme’ was essential listening alongside Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart or the Mothers Of Invention.

LJ: This December sees the 50th Anniversary of the recording of ‘A Love Supreme’. Was this a catalyst for the project? What other reasons did you have for wanting to do it?

PB: Not really. I was aware that the 50th anniversary was coming up but I was more into extending the original Suite to embrace instrumentation from different spiritual traditions around the world – many of which also reside in our own inner cities.

LJ: What is your objective for the project? What do you hope to achieve (musically) with the performance?

PB: We live a world where there is so much hate and conflict, a portion of which is generated by religious division. ‘A Love Supreme’ is a devotional statement, it’s about Love. We need more love in this world. ‘A Love Supreme’ is an iconic album written for a quartet and the score, which has been done by flautist Rowland Sutherland, aims to retain essence of each of the four parts in the suite while introducing a whole new range of colours and sounds.

We listened to what others have done with ‘A Love Supreme’ like the Turtle Island Quartet, Anga Diaz and especially Alice Coltrane. Rowland was definitely influenced by the one live performance the quartet did at Antibes. We checked out Archie Shepp on the album’s out-takes, reflected on Trane’s earlier rapport with Eric Dolphy and his latter years relationship with Nigerian master drummer Babatunde Olatunji. Ha, it’s a big responsibility re-imagining a piece of music like ‘A Love Supreme’.

LJ: What instrumentation will you be using?

PB: Along with traditional jazz quartet back line of bass, drums and piano we have tenor, bass clarinet, flute, various melodic Indian instruments and percussion, bata drums, kora and electronics.

LJ: What made you choose the musicians you have for the group?

PB: They are all great musicians… most are associated with Jazz Warriors International and I’ve known them for a long time.

LJ: You must be pleased that the original gig is sold out!

PB: Amazing. The evening performance sold out in 10 days and we’ve been able to add a matinee that is also set to sell out. We’ve just heard that Jazz on 3 will record it. So, yeah, it’s great.

LJ: Have you got any plans to tour the project after the festival?

PB: It’s an ambitious venture and it got great reviews when we did it in the Chapel at Kings College but sadly, our attempts to have the piece performed around the UK have fallen largely on deaf ears and stony ground. That said, people might just wake up to it now that we are scheduled to perform it twice in the QEH on the same day! We’d love to take it to Europe… Japan… Zanzibar.

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