Posts Tagged ‘Peter Gregson’

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:

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Sticky: Season 2 – Episode 4

March 30th, 2010
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Click here to download the MP3 directly

Look at them all! They're like ants!

This episode almost never happened because Olly just had to go and go to Rome didn’t he? The combination of girls, gelato and grappa were very nearly too much to resist and we almost lost him. In fact on his last day in the ancient city he was found, his arms wrapped around a Corinthian column, screaming that they’d have to prise him loose. They did and he’s back. On an aside, do you know how many tourists there are in Rome? F’ing loads of them! Absolutely everywhere like a dirty smear on a silk dress – if you’re the kind of person who clings to your sense of superiority to keep you buoyant in this world of chavs, bursting hospitals and early releases then Rome can be hard to get along with cos it’s really hard to feel elite when you’re being jostled by an overweight Texan man who inexplicably keeps trying to smell your hair as you admire the Sistine chapel.

But the episode… Golly gosh, gee and wow – this is something else. In the runup to the OXFORD JAZZ FESTIVAL your friends at GJ have pulled out the stops with a luscious playlist including:

Adam RaffertyChameleon: This guy beatboxes whilst he plays the guitar and he covers Herbie Hancock. Now read that again. Yeah, I know. He is spectacular and he’s playing at OxJazz so you and I get to see him LIVE! Lucky us.  Tickets and more here.

Carly CommandoBear:  Olly loves this chick. She made a new album called ‘One Take’ and it’s available on her MySpace right bloody now – smooth and rhythmic, listen to it naked. In the bath, obviously.

The Fauxharmonic Orchestra - Beethoven Symphony No. 1 in C 1st Movement: So much more to say about this incredible guy. Paul Henry Smith takes control an enormous library of musical notes played by real orchestras and ‘conducts’ them live with two wii-motes. Seriously incredible and just the sort of thing that gets our engines running here at GJ. Check out this video for more:

Peter Gregson - Omina: Very daring, very avant-garde, Peter uses beats, licks and harmony more like a DJ than the professional cellist that he is. Peter is currently ‘genius in residence’ at The Hospital Club which has become a new obsession for us here at GJ and we often recline and dream of planning our next podcast whilst sipping a cool G&T in cool surroundings with cool people at the club. One day. One day

Clara Sanabras & The Real Lowdown - Love for Sale:  ANOTHER OxJazz artist and a doozy at that, we have a feeling she’ll be incredible live and can’t wait to find out if we’re right.  Tickets here.

It’s big, it’s clever and it doesn’t care who knows it – send us a tweet, buzz us and BOOK YOUR TICKETS TO OXFORD NOW! We got a pretty sweeet last minute hotel deal here and you should too, you can even stay in a prison which looks super foxy.

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