Pop & Jazz: Live: Kitchen-sink superstars
Kenny Wheeler/Lee Konitz/John Abercrombie/Dave Holland St George's Brandon Hill Bristol
Friday 29 January 1999
The setting of St George's provided a suitably ecclesiastical context for the almost devotional quality of the music, and the wonderfully airy acoustic flattered the sounds of Wheeler's flugelhorn, Konitz's alto sax, Abercrombie's almost apologetically electric guitar and the deep, woody tones of Holland's double bass, to near perfection. Though at first the tuning was a little off, slowly but surely each instrument found its own level and before long the whole hall seemed to be singing, the sound hanging suspended in the air like a hi-fi fan's dream. While most good concerts offer at least one moment where the listener just has to stop and say "Wow!", here there was an almost continual stream of suitably gob-smacking opportunities. Everyone knows that Dave Holland is a wondrous bass-player, but the extent to which he amazed us was quite incredible, and all done without recourse to vulgar showboating.
As a trumpeter (although he in fact played the conically-bored flugel throughout), Kenny Wheeler is unusual in that he neither wheedles nor whinnies, favouring instead a full, plangent, almost classical tone. In the lower registers there's a satisfyingly deep bottom, and at the high end he has made a language entirely of his own, with breathy, expressionist smears that sound as though the air in the valves is shooting towards the surface like a submarine, spilling out aqueous waves of half-formed phrases as it rises.
On alto sax, Lee Konitz remains, at 71 years of age, an eccentric marvel. A student of Lennie Tristano's quiet revolution in jazz aesthetics, and part of the "Birth of the Cool" school with Miles Davis's nonet, Konitz has an effortlessly hip and indirect way with a solo. On the one standard of the night, a showcase feature of "Body and Soul", Konitz sounded as Charlie Parker might have done if he had favoured tranquillisers.
Replacing the album's Bill Frisell on guitar, John Abercrombie was unusually restrained, but the combination of his off-centre chording and Holland's magisterial command of time provided a rhythm section to die for. By the end of two long sets, you were beginning to miss the lure of dishcloth and Fairy Liquid, but this remained one of the great jazz gigs. And although no one is likely to notice, Kenny Wheeler is probably a genius.
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Peter Lik: The self-proclaimed 'fine-art photographer' whose work sells for millions
The best underrated Christmas movies from Love, Actually to While You Were Sleeping
Grace Dent on TV: The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies was a beautifully shot, immensely considered drama
The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies, review: Jason Watkins is brilliant, but real victim Joanna Yeates is reduced to a footnote
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
Shock poll shows voters believe Ukip is to the left of the Tories
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
New era of cheap oil 'will destroy green revolution'
Ukip founder Alan Sked and Nigel Farage 'begged Enoch Powell to stand as a candidate'
Ukip candidate jokes about 'shooting peasants' in racist and homophobic rant