13 November 2017
A very musical week full of inspiring musicians, starting with the London Jazz festival and ending in Bristol, at the Colston Hall, a historical venue celebrating 150 years of service. We start with the elderly Italian poet and jazz enthusiast Paolo Conte conducting his full band in front of a full house at London’s South Bank Centre. This is not the first time I see Conte live. It is remarkable he still feels the urge to entertain despite his getting weaker with age. The concert is slick and observing his musicians move between instruments onstage is like witnessing a well-choreographed ballet. The music slides smoothly on our tired limbs after a busy working day. Conte’s understated but steadily influential music and rough but velvety voice and rhymes lull us into a sense of false security, transporting us into a world of glamorous, cool musical cats. One just hopes reality never sets in and we can be transported forever in music paradise where the only fight worth having is with a green milonga… where we can dance our way around dreariness, sipping martinis under the jazz stars… yes.
16 November 2017
The change of scene is sudden when by Thursday we find ourselves sat in the plush red seats of the Wigmore Hall for a totally instrumental treat: Justin Kauflin jazz trio bridging the gap between Virginia Beach and Denmark, where the bassist, Thomas Fonnesbæk, hails from. A mixture of jazz classics cleverly executed, original compositions and a couple of unexpected covers brighten our dreary November evening. Amazingly reinvented, the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever sounds as if it was always meant to be played by a jazz pianist and we also witnessed possibly the most moving rendition of a Sufjan Stevens’ song, Johnny My Beloved. Musical genius.
17 November 2017
The time to blink and we are speeding on the motorway westbound to catch Robert Plant’s latest tour, as a few tickets become suddenly available – the whole tour is obviously sold out. I’m panicking that we might miss it for some stupid reason, Friday the 17th is the worst day in the calendar for people like us hailing from Italy. We don’t miss it, of course, we are well on time, bags of time before Seth Lakeman takes to the stage. A man and a violin/acoustic guitar and percussions under his feet. Powerful, full of life and drenched in the history of the British west coast. Lakeman inscribes himself in the folk tradition and is a terrific fit when he later joins Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters on stage.
Plant is funny, still a very imposing figure, his red locks steadily turning to white. On stage he starts by presenting his latest creation, Carry Fire. Of the new songs he says: “we are not ashamed of them”, making no excuses for concentrating on the new compositions. His voice at times betrays his age but at times shines with the power of his inimitable style, so widely influential. Pigeonholed in the Led Zeppelin as a heavy metal band, despite half of their productions being acoustic, he has had to prove time and again his song writing skills are as powerful, not just wishy washy hippy escapism but poetical and at times political. “I don’t think a solution can come from any political leader”, he quips, “but hey here we are, we have all the answers” he jokes in his introduction to Misty Mountain Hop. The most moving moment is the rendition of Please Read the Letter, written in desperation in London, he says, recorded by chance in Nashville with Alison Krauss. Baby I’m Gonna Leave You is also monumental, showcasing the skills of his lead guitarist Liam Skin Tyson. Credited to Joan Baez, but originally written by Anne Bredon, this version alone is worth the price of the ticket. The energy and the passion of the performance, the fun you could read in the musician’s faces is more than one can ask really, it is a source of continuous inspiration.
18 December 2017
Finally hailing from Greensboro in North Carolina, Rihannon Giddens a powerful voice and a mean banjo and violin player, reinterpreting the history of black musical America and rewriting it with her own ebullient personality. Surrounded by a tightly-knit set of musicians their concert was sheer joy, in the midst of suffering, pearls in the desert, sheer foot stomping joyful release.