Friday, 30 October 2015

Ben Montague - Paradise Found

Ben Montague - piano
Ben Montague launched his second album, 'Back Into Paradise', at St Pancras Old Church in London early this month (01/10/2015). He has just finished a UK wide tour which included two nights alongside Simply Red in Brighton. The album and the night in question further cements Montague in the annals of populist music, where the good guys win and human connections are concrete bridges to a better world.

Ben Montague - guitar
The first impression of Ben Montague reads like a sommelier's notebook detailing a Shiraz's finer points. He was confident and strong, there was crispness, a simplicity but overall a full bodied experience. In fact such was the crowd's jollity you wouldn't be surprised if they had imbibed a few themselves, they sung out loud and smiled at each other conspiratorially.

There was a whip about Ben Montague, he plays his guitar through his shoulders, freewheeling as much as possible and there is no need for the audience to pedal, such is their momentum. His freshness is not unique in the music industry but you cannot help but feel the sting of pure morning air on ripping lungs, and that satisfaction from cool clean mouthfuls of water or new metaphorical births.

Mark Pusey - drums
Both our lead man and drummer Mark Pusey could be happily described as trim, with Montague taking the Haircut 100 plaudits. Their ease at the altar of St Pancras Old Church lent more to a denim spirit rather than that of a hair shirt cassock. There was no self flagellation but there was introspection and after the thick jam spread of 'Haunted' came the simple lines of 'My Father Said', which was as strong and vibrant as Montague's smile and just as genuine.


Friday, 23 October 2015

Emma Stevens - Shifting waves

Emma Stevens
The subtleties of Emma Stevens didn't instantly shine in the crepuscular air of St Pancras Old Church (01/10/2015) yet her rays of positivity would always reach out and break into the darkest recesses of our urban hearts.

Sam Rommer -
percussion and bass
Emma Stevens' willowy presence bent in the cynical breeze that emanated from the St Pancras streets. Her first song 'Anywhere' blew fallen leaves in the air, she kicked up the sticky seeds so beloved of naughty children, and they cemented themselves upon this grumpy city dweller. Two songs, 'This is for you' and 'Make my day', flowed past before we could feel the real heat of Steven's desire with 'Helium'. This was anything but odourless, tasteless and inert. It had the classic bite of a frost, the hard split of cracking ice and made you lick your lips against the cold. 

Much of Emma Stevens' repertoire talks of Nature and the sea, 'Helium' leaves the wave motif of her most recent album to turn the tide on something deeper. Her themes are the needle point rocks that rise far into the sky, not the brooding crags that scuttle ships and buccaneers, these were as elegant and long as Stevens' neck and we were lucky enough to juxtapose this elegance with Sam Rommer's excellent bass solo. Darker waters, deep swimming.

Sam Whiting - guitar
There was plenty of skipping optimism, time upon time you imagined you heard the sound of laughter from cohorts of greeting friends. 'Sunflower' broke this pattern, it conjured visions of a perpetually growing beanstalk, just like that of Jack's. It reached higher over days and nights, but it pushed harder and keener during the midnight hours, forever trying to find the moon. 'Riptide' let us dig our toes into the shifting pebbles beneath us, it stopped us being knocked from our feet.

A quick note to say how much I enjoyed sketching guitarist Sam Whiting. Check him out at @samtwhiting

Buy Emma Steven's Wave Deluxe CD on her website. The first 100 copies ordered will be gift-wrapped with a personalised, signed message from Emma and the chance to find one of three Golden Tickets for two free tickets and a meet 'n' greet at one of Emma's future headline shows.

Best of luck.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Izzii Moulsdale - St Pancras Old Church

Izzii Moulsdale
Joe Jackson - guitar
The words are brief because there was a problem with my press pass at St Pancras Old Church on October 1st 2015. Once inside this atmospheric venue you always appreciate that the stage is set for singers to sing and us the audience to sit quietly and listen. It is a simple equation in a beautifully complicated and symbolic interior. I know not whether singer Izzii Moulsdale is the complicated type but her singing has a simplicity and purity that made it easy to cast away the manic air that exits beyond the church walls in the urban jungle.

You can follow Izzi Moulsdale on Twitter at @izzimoulsdale
and listen to her on her Soundcloud page.


Thursday, 15 October 2015

Brandon Moore - UNT on the square

Brandon Moore - Saxophone
Out of London and into the wilds of Texas. Denton is a low rise town spreading out from its central square. Hickory crosses Elm and Oak cuts Locust and the Denton County courthouse sits in the middle like the sentry who is so still that they have been forgotten.

The heat of September in Texas was dipping after the bright high of nearly 100 degrees but the body still recoiled from the burning memory of walking across lonely parking lots earlier in the day. We sat above the square eating yet more dripping beef, the balmy carefree air dropping our shoulders as we forgot for a moment to over-English our sentences with matey colloquialisms for American ears.

It was a last night in Denton for myself and only one thing remained to be done. The Brandon Moore Quartet were off square and under the green branded placard of the University of North Texas. Through the open door was the cultural oasis of UNT on the square, part gallery, part hub, but all Art and Music on this night (24/09/2015).

In front of house was the Brandon Moore Quartet with saxophone, bass, piano and drums. My sketches will do the talking because I have no more information at this stage. Although there may well be an epilogue once I have made contact with the leader of the quartet, Mr Moore, who led with his saxophone.

The remainder of this season's UNT concerts on the square are....
Oct. 15:
7-8 p.m. – Freestyle jazz band Chordless Quartet, consisting of UNT music students
8-9 p.m. – Free/avant garde improvisation ensemble, consisting of UNT music students
Oct. 22:
7-8 p.m. – Students of Carol Wilson, professor of voice, performing songs by 20th and 21st Century American composers
8-9 p.m. – UNT L5 and Super 400 Jazz Guitar Ensembles, consisting of UNT students and faculty
Oct. 29:
7-9 p.m. – Students of Grammy-nominated Jennifer Lane, associate professor of voice, performing classical vocal music

AL (with Harvey Wells and Kevin Acott)

Monday, 5 October 2015

Raga Garage - Carnatic strings

Jyotsna Srikanth
The Carnatic Strings are the sinuous threads that tug the heart like miniature campanological hands lurking in the rib cage. Untrue of course, Carnatic is the adjective denoting the main style of classical music in southern India, as distinct from the Hindustani music of the north. These internet pages have never strictly adhered to what is reality and fiction, but lets start with some facts.

Robert Atchison
Four piece Raga Garage performed to a crowd of Carnatic lovers at the Purcell Room on London's Southbank (21/07/2015) in a smear of colour and cascade like an autumnal Hyde Park on a windswept day. Orange, browns and reds aplenty but also that puce that lingers on chapped cheeks were the sentiments and the vision. There was a glistening varnish to the perspiring brows of Jyotsna Srikanth (Carnatic classical violin), Robert Atchison (western classical violin), Shadrach Solomon (piano) and NS Manjunath (percussion).

Robert Atchison is a familiar entry in the sketchbook of this blog, more often than not seated amongst the London Piano Trio, under the high ceiling of St John's Smith Square. Tonight he was the beauty and the glide, the swell, the fall, the wind and more often than not the pace of this quartet. His violin created the broad threads that Jyotsna Srikanth cut through, she pierced him, re-stitched in a complexity that was part mathematics and part patchwork.

NS Manjunath
The violins trod different paths, as you would expect from animals born in separate cultures but they ran together too. Atchison had a squirrelling verve while Srikanth's poetic themes uplifted the spirit and made you want to dash your new found zeal against her rocks.

Away from centre stage and the obvious spotlights was where the percussion of NS Manjunath awaited if you so dared to enter his layer. He laid the road for all three of his fellow musicians, although excitingly it was not all a pathway of granite slabs but tilted and bucked as though situated on the San Andreas fault. More than once he broke it apart and brought it back together again like a cultured navvy who is daydreaming of jigsaw pieces.

Shadrach Solomon
In the obsidian night lurked Shadrach Solomon who was barely visible, he laid his notes of discord, and they were snares for the heart. Once caught, my mouth filled thick with the violin of Jyotsna Srikanth, she was tempting me to choke my doubts away and drink in big cinematic gulps of sweeten air.


See Robert Atchison perform the Beethoven Cycle with the London Piano Trio during October, November (2015) and January (2016). Details below.