REVIEW: Keith Tippett and Louis Moholo-Moholo Duo at the Vortex

Keith Tippett and Louis Moholo-Moholo
at the Vortex

Keith Tippett and Louis Moholo-Moholo Duo
(Vortex, 28th April 2017. Review by AJ Dehany)

There is a queue stretching outside the Vortex. This is not usual. The reason is this: tonight, playing as a duo for the first time in over three decades, we’re going to hear Keith Tippett and Louis Moholo-Moholo together. It seems important.

Tippett and Moholo embody our notions of freedom in jazz. They’re free players, sure. There’s also that shared and vital personal and political freedom which is the broader spirit and meaning of the music.

The South African drummer Moholo and the Bristolian pianist Tippett recorded as a duo in 1980, at the “Workshop Freie musik” in Berlin an album released in 1982 as No Gossip – which has been recently rereleased by Destination: OUT (link).

Music can in principle be just music, but really? The four selections are called Black and White Unite, Dedicated to Mandela, Biko, Sobukwe, Zimbabwe is Free and All People… God’s People… Don’t Worry!

Listening to No Gossip is a good way to understand what Tippett and Moholo-Moholo have been doing since, musically as well. Moholo you can call a melodic drummer, a confusing appellation that nonetheless captures his ability to work tonally just by sheer technique while never letting go of his achingly subtle but motorific command of the beat, even when playing against different time signatures. Tippett can at times be contrasted as the rhythmically steadier player in this partnership, particularly given the extensive use of prepared objects jammed into the strings of the piano, that enrich the timbre and make us feel like we’re listening more than just two musicians. The clinch is, well, he has a sonorous lyricism, a bleak romanticism and an intuitive understanding of how we use music to help us feel our feelings.

The experience of Tippett and Moholo playing together as a duo is a distillation and crystallisation of everything they’ve every played, everything you’ve ever heard them play, and everything else too. An eager punter beckons to me, and says “He’s playing the Rite of Spring.”

He’s not, of course, though Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is a touchstone for its commanding left-hand hemiolas and right-hand clashing chordalities, both of which are hallmarks of Tippett’s style.

I asked him whether he had any particular ballads in mind during the surprising balladic phases that he briefly dipped into towards the end of the first set.

“No. It’s just stream of consciousness.”

It’s not though, is it? Moholo and Tippett were both born in the 1940’s (’40 and ‘47 respectively). In his irresistible soundbite before the gig he announced “Between us we’ll be bringing 146 years of music, experience and comradeship to the occasion.”

In a gentler fashion Tippett tells the rapt Vortex that he and Louis met at Ronnie Scott’s old place in “Sixty-seven, maybe… Little was I to know a year later we’d be playing together, and little did we know that fifty years later we’d be playing together… and I love him.”(28 April 2017)

The piano ready for Keith Tippett

Categories: miscellaneous

2 replies »

  1. Thanks for the evidence Sa, and fair cop. I (Seb) as editor will take this one for the team. AJ was merely reproducing a direct quote from the pre-gig publicity material.

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