|Idle Moments at Brilliant Corners
Foreground: Mark Lockheart
Played Twice, Grant Green’s Idle Moments
(Brilliant Corners, Kingsland Road. 14th March 2017. Review by Leah Williams)
Brilliant Corners on Kingsland Road E8 serves up not only tasty Japanese food and cocktails but an eclectic range of music events. One of their regular nights is Played Twice, where you get the unusual luxury of not only listening to a classic jazz vinyl played over a quality sound system, but also then get to hear it played live immediately after.
Last night, the album of choice was Grant Green’s Idle Moments. One of the unsung heroes of jazz guitar, who died at the age of just 43, Green is often left out of the history books despite his incredible musicality and instantly recognisable sound. Apparently, he listened mostly to horn players, rather than other guitarists, and this influence really shows in his preference of virtuosic lines over chords. Idle Moments is described by Blue Note to be Green’s most “vital and adventurous recording”.
Before the needle is released, we are told politely but quite firmly “not to talk, fidget, or go to the bathroom” but just to take it in. It’s nice to have the opportunity to truly lose yourself in the sound of the music with no distractions this way, although it is perhaps a little uncomfortable at times when you feel you might be ostracised for changing position slightly. We might forgive the owners this slight over-enthusiasm though knowing that they went to the trouble of borrowing the pressing from Gilles Peterson to make sure it would be of the highest quality!
In any case, the tones of the album, which take us on a journey from mellow to utter excitement and back, keep the crowd in their seats and after a short break we’re getting ready to hear it live. It’s an exciting set-up with Rob Luft taking Grant Green’s leading seat on guitar, Johnny Mansfield on vibraphone (the first time Brilliant Corners has ever hosted one, apparently), Mark Lockheart on tenor sax, Trevor Watkis on piano, Tom Herbert on bass, and Rod Youngs on drums.
As leader of the band, Rob Luft – just returned from the Montreux Young Artists Academy – really stood up and stood out, despite his young age. His playing shone with brilliance and he also spoke with confidence and ease, cultivating an intimate rapport with the audience without ever undermining the seriousness and passion with which he approached the music. Having played with all the other musicians at one point or another, he brought them together specifically for this gig. Wise booking it seems, as the synergy was quite simply amazing with mere, almost imperceptible glances the only thing apparently guiding this complex musical adventure.
When introducing the album, Rob said that it was such a great honour and privilege to play as, along with Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue, it was the album that got him into playing jazz. An album with a “really deep, beautiful energy” that gave room to the talent of each soloist. Better recreated it could not have been with sure, controlled, fluid and exciting playing that really brought the music of the album to life. Not to make an exact carbon copy – “as it’s 2017 we thought we should explore some of the sounds that perhaps weren’t available back then” – we were also treated to some modern soundscapes that were both vibrant and dreamlike at once, giving a new edge to this timeless music.
There was a slightly stifled atmosphere to begin with, perhaps the silence rule went a bit too far and people found they were no longer sure if they were even allowed to applaud the solos as they usually would? The undeniable excellence of the playing meant unbridled enthusiasm eventually won out though and there was an electric atmosphere by the end. Especially vocal appreciation was given to vibraphonist Johnny Mansfield, whose incredible relaxed demeanour belied the quite mystifying way he managed to make this complex instrument sing. Improvisations of all the players were really quite breathtaking and perfectly enhanced Grant Green’s album.
Listening to Idle Moments played twice was certainly no chore, in fact I’d bet most people would have been happy to hear them play it a third time.