Saturday, 19 June 2010

Beuys will be Beuys...

Fresh from a trip to London, here's a few low-res images taken on the iPhone which partly encapsulate the break. It was great to see one of my favourite pieces of art at Tate Modern (Joseph Beuys's 'The Flock After The Pack'), one which I wondered if I'd ever see...  


We also caught some cracking contemporary jazz at Ronnie Scott's from Kyle Eastwood's tight 'Metropolitain' band, had a memorable curry at Aladin's on Brick Lane, made good use of the iPad, did a modest amount of shopping at budget outlets including Skandium and Fortnum & Mason, and walked ourselves into the ground. 



While Louise was at the conference which provided the pretext for the whole trip I was pleased to catch up with my buddy Gregg Brennan, the now ex-Toronto based drummer/bandleader who has set down roots in London to get closer to the European music that inspires us both. The hours flew past, and hopefully it won't be long before he's got a band together to play his own stuff.


At the moment I'm putting the finishing touches to the interview I did with Tommy Smith last March, but as soon as I get that out of the way I'll make a concerted effort to do some more blogging and to get some old reviews posted. Not much live jazz coming up (I'm NOT going to hear Wynton Marsalis), but I'll be a happy spectator at a couple of gigs Louise has singled out - Suzanne Vega, then Elvis Costello's latest Americana inspired group (which should include the great Jerry Douglas)...

Fred Grand




Monday, 7 June 2010

Jan Kopinski's 'Mirrors' @ The Sage...


Anybody remember Pinski Zoo, that British harmolodic funk unit which enjoyed moderate to fair success in the '80s and '90s? Although the '80s revival is pretty much everywhere at present, the re-entry of tenor saxophonist Jan Kopinski into my world was prompted by something altogether different. Performing a suite-like piece called 'Mirrors' at The Sage's Hall 2 last Saturday, the event formed part of a wider series of Polish jazz, and indeed performing art, marketed as POLSKA YEAR! 

Of course Pinski Zoo are still around and occasionally reform, but opportunities to hear this slightly maverick original are all too scarce. The last time I saw him in fact was with what was then a new post-Zoo band known as 'Ghost Music', and that was so long ago that I can't even hazard a guess as to when it was. This particular series of three gigs opened with that well-known Pole Nigel Kennedy, and concludes on Wednesday with a return visit by Marcin Wasilewski's brilliant trio. I missed Kennedy and his acclaimed Polish group and will also sadly miss Wasilewski due to another comittment, but I was more than happy to renew acquaintances with this talented post-Coltrane man. A multi-media event, the gig also revealed several impressive and undersung dimensions to his art. Relying heavily on structured composition and tonal arrangement, this was certainly no free-funk burnout.

Performing beneath a large rear-projection screen, the images and music were complimentary without being over-powering. Kopinski's Reflektor project also sets music to moving images, but this project was something far more personal. Film footage sourced from several of the saxophonist's trips to Poland (dating back to the '70s) was carefully spliced and looped by Jim Boxall. Making an evocative backdrop for the loosely suite-like piece which Kopinski had titled as 'Mirrors', the work succeeded in its intended aim of portraying an intended evocative almost dream-like inner journey. It was hard not to feel the oppression of the communist era, and very noticeable how covert the footage of those years looked. Religious iconography seemed to be placed in opposition and suggested some brighter form of hope, but the over-riding impressions I took away from Kopinski's voyage were those of displacement and loss.



Joined by long-time collaborator (and Pinski Zoo member) Steve Iliffe on piano, his allotted role was pretty much that of accompanist. Setting the tone and building tension with repetitive vamps and slightly jarring Tyner-ish ostinatos, from the very outset the group's music more akin to control and discipline of the ECM school than the riotous Prime Time inspired antics of Pinski Zoo. Texture and timbre were all important here, and Kopinski's deployment of voice (Aniko Toth) and viola (Janina Kopinska) gave a suitably chamber-ish aspect to large sections of the work. Son Stefan played electric bass, and the hyper-kinetic Patrick Illingworth's drumming brought us closest to the dense laminal of Pinski Zoo. Sombre meditations on painful tragedies, a joyous (and Ornette-like) excursion into its folk music, menacing evocations of its political and religious turmoils (set to a backdrop of powerful iconography) and several apparently random but somehow symbolic vignettes all made for an engaging programme.

The music of 'Mirrors' placed Kopinski closer to the mainstream of contemporary European jazz than I've heard him at any time before. Highly impressionistic and with strong narrative and pastoral streaks, the biggest measure of tis success was the ease with which it imparted at times complex emotional content. Closing with a long claustrophobic piece which he called 'Corn Field', the disappointingly small crowd didn't clamour for an encore. The package deserves far wider exposure than I fear it will receive, and top marks to The Sage for picking it up...

(Fred Grand)