Jazz: Added interest
EQUAL INTEREST QUEEN ELIZABETH HALL LONDON
Thursday 25 November 1999
This was always a well-starred union across generations. Veterans of the Sixties avant-garde, Joseph Jarman on woodwinds and Leroy Jenkins on violin, and pianist Myra Melford, younger but already thriving in the company of people such as Butch Morris and Dave Douglas.
It's a show of two halves. First half, the trio. Second half, Equal Interest plus six well-chosen British players. They open with "Blood Garden", a piece by Melford. Her playing is strong, bluesy, lyrical. Imagine a gospel pianist suddenly questioning their faith and you get close.
Things really fall in with the third number, Jarman's "Rondo for Jenny", with the composer on flute and Melford on harmonium. Improvised music owes more to folk forms than to popular music, and these tunes resonate with field hollers and recall the hoe-down or church social. The folk feel continues through Melford's "Beauty we Love", where the lower tones of Jarman's bass flute merge with those of Jenkins's viola. All the while Melford's harmonium has all the slowness and stateliness of religious music. It's downright spooky.
Jenkins's "B'pale Knight" is the most jazz-like of the set, with Jarman's alto saxophone solo sounding more like that of a tenor sax - rather like you would expect to hear from Parker, Coleman or Coltrane. They finish the set with an Armenian dance tune, closing the unbroken circle that began an hour before.
They close the evening with a Jarman composition, "The voice". It's dedicated to Lester Bowie, his friend and one-time collaborator, who died recently. It was a thing of beauty, that reminded me how music can say things you can't even form as thoughts. From Chris Batchelor's trumpet to Roland Bates's trombone through the alto of Steve Buckley to the cello of Nick Cooper, if tears were notes they'd sound like this. I can think of no more fitting way to remember and say farewell.
At Southampton Turner Sims tonight; Bristol Arnolfini tomorrow
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