Debbie playing with The Lefkas Town Band- Our very own ace Blowout Sax Teacher shines like the star she is

Written by  on November 17, 2016

Having just arrived for our Autumn break in Lefkada we were sat in the sunshine with our friends Spiros and Jessica, the girls drinking fizz and the boys enjoying a beer or two with plenty of “Yammas!” (Cheers if you didn’t know) to make it a real Greek social.
Today was Sunday and on Friday it would be October 28th, a date celebrated throughout Greece every year as Oxi Day – the day in 1940 when General Metaxas said no to Mussolini’s ultimatum for Italy to occupy strategic positions within Greece or face war…..war it was then! The Greeks defended their land heroically leading to Winston Churchill saying “Hence we will not say that the Greeks fought like heroes but heroes fight like Greeks”.
Clearly this is an important day in the Greek calendar. Trumpet playing Spiros then announced that he would like me to play with him in the procession in Lefkas Town to commemorate the day, before I could answer he was on the phone to the maestro and I was in! This was the start of 3 evenings of loose rehearsals, 90 minute round trips to the islands capital Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday it was just me in a classroom with the Lefkadian equivalent of Blowout Sax students going for their lessons, if you could call them that! One poor lad who was clearly justing starting out had a highly invigorating lesson where he blew through his crook whilst his teacher proceeded to push his shoulders back and pull his chin up – bet that he can’t wait to go again!!!!!!!
Friday arrived and everything went just great, marching with Lefkas Town Band through the streets of the town with the pavements full of proud Greeks, Priests, military and townsfolk alike. A very proud and honourable event to be part of.
Sean Macey

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Jan Garbarek Group at the Royal Festival Hall (2016 EFG LJF)

Written by  on November 15, 2016

indexReturning to London for the first time in four years, the inimitable Jan Garbarek Group took to the stage during the opening weekend of the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival to play to a full house. On the face of it, the four musicians make an unlikely combo, spanning a diverse range of musical influences, genres and styles quite apart from their very different stage personae, and in the process show an extraordinary versatility.

Garbarek’s longstanding German pianist, Rainer Brüninghaus, is commandingly regal and rebelliously boogie-woogie in equal measure.
The electric bass player, brazilian Yuri Daniel, is just as adept at slap bass as he is when meting out a lyrical melodic line that sounds like a deeply sonorous sitar – not surprising given his collaborator on percussion, Trilok Gurtu, tabla player supreme, who looks just at much at home on a conventional drum kit.
And then there is Jan Garbarek himself, the consummate tenor and soprano saxophonist, playing more tenor than normal but treating both instruments to his precisely honed, fine-hued sound, that is limpid and graceful but somehow never cloying.He uses the echos and delays to clever effect on his wondrous tone.
Without ever speaking between numbers to announce a tune or to introduce themselves, the foursome nevertheless communicated on a very human level, weaving together spare but complex melodies with complex rhythmic textures, the forms loose and dynamic, the solos crafted and thoughtful.

Garbarek’s tunes are characteristically spatial, and as performers they also gave each other a lot of space – both musically and literally – on many occasions three musicians would leave the stage to allow one player to take the spotlight.
In fact, each have done a solo gig and the audience would have been more than happy, especially when Gurtu turned to the array of percussion instruments behind him and began to implement one after another during an extended improvisation. This culminated with him playing a galvanised bucket full of water, tapping the handle while immersing a brass tray into the water and vocalising konnakkol, as he splashed both sound and water with abandon. Garbarek, spurred on by this unorthodox display, returned to the stage with a wooden flute to accompany Gurtu.
Other memorable moments of pairings were Daniel and Brüninghaus trading micro phrases, teasing and chiding having a musio moment,before melding their sound into an epic intro for another tune.
Whilst at times the cool, nordic vibe prevailed, veering towards an expectedly plaintive tradition, referencing Garbarek’s extensive work with exponents of plainsong and Gregorian chants, the folk motifs and use of non-western scales made for a more ethnographically diverse repertoire than I had anticipated.

Now forty-odd years into his career, Garbarek is as close to perfection as it’s humanly possible to achieve, showing himself to be a master of silence as well as ‘the poet of sounds,’ of striking rhythmic figures as much as achingly beautiful phrases.This is the 5th time I have seen him and the whole gig was more joyous and less intense even getting the crowd to clap in 3s on the repeat stab.