Pop: Stretch Your Ears

The Independent's Guide To New Music
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The Independent Culture
THE ECONOMICS of music-making and CD manufacture mean that solo albums will always be with us. You can find a CD with almost any kind of solitary expression from hard-wrought compositional tours de force to the sound of someone leaning against an electronic keyboard. Yet making a solo album that people will actually want to hear requires courage, a great repertoire and instrumental mastery that bears close scrutiny.

Matthias Ziegler comes close to these criteria: his album Uakti (New Albion) features his pieces for various flutes with draughty adaptations of a couple of Recercadas by 16th-century composer Diego Ortiz. Beautifully recorded by Jan Erik Kongshaug, Uakti may not be profound or "significant" but it's a joy to hear someone take pleasure in music-making without the pressure of posterity or Christmas sales.

November is a good month for new music events, with the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (17-28 Nov) and the London Jazz Festival (12- 22 Nov), which umbrellas a score of venues and hundreds of gigs. ECM's "Selected Signs" series in Brighton includes the sublime Dino Saluzzi and Eberhard Weber (19 Nov) and Anouar Brahem and John Surman (tomorrow night), while the "Rainbow over Bath" series soldiers on with concerts by Regular Music 2 and Tim Brady (26 Nov), an electro-acoustic music weekend (27-28 Nov) and a chance to hear Howard Skempton's Hurdy-Gurdy concerto (28 Nov).

While Bath and Huddersfield take admirably wide sweeps across several musical types, broadly defined as contemporary, it is interesting to see how "jazz" festivals often have the widest programmes. As well as senior figures such as Joe Zawinul (Barbican, 16 Nov) and Carla Bley (RFH 20 Nov), the London Festival takes in Rhys Chatham's Hard Edge Quintet (Embassy Rooms, 16 Nov) and the ambitious hybrid of Grand Union's Echoes from Anatolia featuring Sabahat and Cemal Akkiraz (Union Chapel, 13 Nov). The LJF also dishes up the Irish folk fusion Sin (QEH, 20 Nov); Linton Kwesi Johnson with Dennis Bovell's Dub Band (RFH 18 Nov) and a Duke Ellington tribute from Mathias Ruegg's Vienna Art Orchestra (QEH, 12 Nov). There's no shortage of Ellington memorials at the moment, with new albums by Dr John (Duke Elegant, Parlophone) and Daniel Barenboim (Tribute to Ellington, Teldec).

Over at Huddersfield, the performers include Psappha (28 Nov) a student big band working with Louis Andriessen and Steve Martland (19 Nov), the Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Cornelius Cardew Ensemble with its 10- minute "pub operas". One of the festival's featured composers is Errollyn Wallen, working with locals for "Songs in the Key of Kirklees" and performed by the Kaleidoscope Ensemble (19 Nov), her own 10-piece Ensemble X (20 Nov) and electric cellist Philip Sheppard (22 Nov), who also plays a London date with Wallen at the 12 Bar Club, Denmark St (12 Nov).

Wallen's CD Meet me at Harold Moore's was closer to pop or theatre music than classical recital but full of the attention to detail that characterises her orchestral commissions. Some of her earlier compositions were written when she felt the need to conform to a modernist, serial way of writing. "I found it easy to conform," said Wallen. "I like numbers and I like manipulating musical material... but I thought it would be more interesting to see what notes I could put together when I didn't have a rule book.

"I remember going to a tutorial and my lecturer asking, 'how is it possible that you can just pluck notes out of the air?', but that's where they belong, that's where they live. They're not in a box!"

John L Walters