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Peter Gregson @ King’s Place

November 15th, 2010
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I promised Alasdair that this review would actually be about the music. Not me. I intend to keep that promise, so here we go: It was a crisp Autumnal day when I rose from my slumbers. I stretched, scratched and showered with a blissful languor before heaping little black piles of coffee into the machine and watching as the first blobs hung then fell into the pot like inky raindrops. As I watched the brewer steam, splutters and spew I couldn’t help but think of my childhood, iced with snow and tainted with sadness… Then I drank the coffee, left the house and went to see a gig.

Actually it wasn’t a gig, it was a laser, haze and cello spectacular. But more on that later. The plucky Scot and I had been invited by GetJazzical favourite Peter Gregson to King’s Place in Norwth Landon to see him and friends play as part of a series called ‘Faster than sound‘. This was something of a landmark concert for us as:

  • The last time we recorded a show was when we played Gregson and I had wistfully mused that we may one day drink a G & T with him at The Hospital Club. Well, shortly after that we did and, in the manner of Chris Evans, Orson Wells and Boyzone, we peaked and let ourselves slide into a mire of Japanese beer, tattooed waitresses and Jude Law. Have you seen Entourage? Well it’s been a lot like that but with classically trained musicians.
  • This was the first time we’d actually seen Peter Gregson play. I know. Top quality journalists, right? In our defense we’d totally heard his records and stuff it’s just we’d seen him holding a beer more often than a cello. Whatever, don’t judge us!

When we met Peter for an informal chat after an extended soundcheck, he told us there was enough technology in the hall to cure all disease, but instead they’d chosen to use it to power a ‘hyper bow’ which enabled a sensual string experience of previously unimaginable aural awesomeness. The interview was epic – he dropped gold like a fleeing robber trying to ditch the evidence, but you’ll have to listen the exclusive GetJazzical interview to hear it all!

But I can say we were promised lasers, lights and fake smoke from a man who’d rigged the stage for Jay Z, U2 and the X Factor.   Alasdair was staring hungrily at Peter by this point with what I imagined to be desire, but what turned out was actually just hunger, so we left Peter to be alone with his tea and went to Nando’s.

When.. sorry *where* Peter was playing

Chickens later we returned to the undulating glass and stone pebble which is King’s Place and descended into Hall. One. Hall One. Feeling like a Chilean miner as I stared up at sea level I tried to recall what Peter had told me about the concert: It was part of Tod Machover‘s pioneering work at the MIT media lab into hyperinstruments and the application of technology onto music, sort of Spotify meets Stradivarius. With the aid of “a computer under my chair!” Gregson would control not only computer generated accompanying chords but also the the visual effects (with which body part I did not dare to guess).

The usual suspects made up the audience – geeks, old dears and hip young podcasters. The first half was… technically interesting. All the pieces followed roughly the same format: A chap who looked like he’d be more at home inventing Facebook clambered on stage with a doppelganger in tow (no chicks but loads of ponytails if you know what I mean). One would sit in front of a laptop and the other would pick up an instrument. Now I’ll preface what I’m about to write by admitting that I’m a boring traditionalist who likes melody, rhythm and consonance. With that in mind:

It was daring and undoubtably technically brilliant – I heard instruments like the midi drums, piano and cello making sounds that I had never heard before; first a footstep, then a crash, then a bass throb all from playing with tempo and pitch. It was pretty remarkable but I’m not going to pop on headphone and drift away to it anytime soon.

Confused, wary and a little drunk we took seats (not sure if they were ours by this stage) for the second half and waited. The space was in darkness now and a cello lay in the middle of the stage surrounded by a dozen or so black poles making it look like the instrument was imprisoned. Peter was not lit as he took the stage and the audience did not applaud – it actually felt disorienting and tense: A trip into the unknown.

When Peter began I was struck by a number of things: Firstly he is a fine live musician, the performance felt immersive, visceral and immediate – even if it did look in the gloaming like it was Brains from Thunderbirds playing. Secondly the sound produced was incredible in its depth and intensity, there was an ongoing argument between my ears which could hear chords octaves apart, tremble and bass along with erie reverberating pizzicato over the top and my eyes which could see a dude and his cello. It was all very impressive, but that was before Gregson cued up the visuals. Da wow. LEDs lit up and danced up and down the poles in etherial sync – one minute they would glow orange lighting up the stage and then extinguish before floating around like lanterns caught in the wind. The effect was marvelous and augmented the piece with sublime understatement.

It was a confident and genuinely original twenty minutes of music but I’m not going to say it was easy listening. It wasn’t meant to be. Like a designer dresses his catwalk models in clothes that most find outlandish and extreme, the concert was designed to be a showcase of what can be done and to highlight the possibilities inherent in Machover’s Hyperinstrument project. After all, this is the lab that invented the technology behind Guitar Hero. I can’t wait to see what they do next.  If you missed the gig, don’t worry you can watch it below:

Classical, Gigs / Concerts , , , ,

Jóhann Jóhannsson @ St Giles in the Fields

June 10th, 2010
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This is the church where it all went down.

Not a good start. Alasdair  (who has bought these tickets and is therefore responsible) and I are sitting on the cold, hard pews of St. Giles church and my buttocks are aching as very real pain creeps up my spine. Around us people are looking confused as the tortured tinklings of an Icelandic man dressed in black fill the room. This isn’t Jóhann Jóhannsson: Master of minimalist arrangement. This isn’t the man we’ve paid to see and as warm-ups go it’s positively shady. The music is OK. It’s like watching an Autumn breeze ruffling an old oak tree in the calm gloaming of sunset before realising that there are better things you could be doing like watching TV.

I last what I guess are two songs (it’s almost impossible to figure out when the pieces are over, as the piano just sort of dribbles to halt before starting up again with more clunky minor chords) I then rise from the wooden slats designed to remind church-goers of quite how much Christ suffered for their sins and I walk away, Alasdair in aghast tow.

“We can’t walk out!” he hisses as the man in black hammers away at the low notes.

The pub is a bit loud with a cover band lurching between Jason Mraz and The Sex Pistols but the wine’s cheap and it gives me a chance to vent. Alasdair reminds me that he paid for the tickets. I tell him it’s a moot point.

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Classical, Gigs / Concerts , , ,

INTERVIEW: Bad Ass Brass!

June 8th, 2009
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Click here to download the MP3 directly

Photo by Simon Allen

I sit here with my tender young hands wrapped around a mug of joe so big that ‘Venti’ cups look away in shame and I pronounce the legendary GetJazzical interview with Bad Ass Brass is, finally, complete!  It may have taken weeks to do but by gosh…it’s beautiful. Well actually Olly sounds like a posh snake with a lisp and Alasdair sounds a little frightened child when you can hear him at all.  It was, in our defense, recorded on an iPhone which kept going flat.  Thanks Steve Jobs.

This interview was recorded at the Blagclub in Ladbrokes Grove during a bold, brash and brassy performance by the band and the interview features Gemma Moore who plays the Baritone saxaphone and Jon Stokes who supplies Trombone and sultry vocals.

It was our first live recording and we’d like to thank the band for having us.  Please don’t forget to check out the rest of Bad Ass Brass on their MySpace.

Interviews, Jazz , , ,

Gig Alert: Bad Ass Brass

May 19th, 2009
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bad ass brass

You know a band’s good when they get played on GetJazzical. You know we’re fans when we play them twice. Now, on top of all that, your favourite hosts are about to step out into the public eye to experience the live sounds of Bad Ass Brass. And we’d love you to come too!

Blagclub is the place to be on Saturday 23rd May, with some Bad Ass Brass and smooth cocktails to compliment these hot summer nights … that we’re expecting soon. More information can be found here, and at £5 a ticket, doors open at 20:00.  Saturday night is going to kick off GetJazzical’s Summer of Jazz with a night not to be missed!

Oh, and you can also e-mail them (badassbrass@live.co.uk) to get on the guest list. Stick with us kids – we’ve got all the hook ups.

Gigs / Concerts, Site News ,