Monday, 31 October 2016

Gonzalo Rubalcaba Quartet @ Teatro Pérez Galdós

After almost two years of walking past it on a daily basis, Timur and I finally made it to Teatro Pérez Galdós. Thanks to Gonzalo Rubalcaba, we know at last where the entrance is.

I wanted to see the Cuban pianist playing live since I heard his album Diz some twenty years ago. And now the chance presented itself. Tonight, Gonzalo Rubalcaba Quartet featuring bassist Matt Brewer, saxophonist Will Vinson and drummer Jeff Ballard presented a tribute to the great late Charlie Haden, Rubalcaba’s long-time friend and collaborator.

Inside the modern cuboid of a building, we found a rather traditional wedding-cake type of theatre, complete with stalls, balconies and boxes as well as classically-inspired frescoes by Néstor. We were sitting in “the gods”, as those were the cheapest seats on offer (and €20 is quite expensive by Canarian standards). In spite of relatively recent refurbishment, there was not enough legroom. This could have made the experience uncomfortably similar to a Ryanair flight. However, the theatre was far from being packed, which was a shame really. Whether it was competition with Hallowe’en parties (I did not realise until now just how popular Hallowe’en became in Spain) or typically Canarian poor publicity, I can’t tell you.

As I was perching on my seat, I couldn’t help thinking how incongruous was the music with this environment. Jazz is egalitarian and playful. Jazz ignores, bends and breaks the boundaries. It is a complete antithesis to the rigidly stratified microcosm of the opera house. The music tonight was thoughtful, at times sombre, with great chunks of silence. Far cry from bebop nuevo of Diz era but as (or even more) engaging. It should have been played in a more chamber settings, if only for the sake of interaction with the audience. Besides, the smaller sold-out venue is always better than a bigger and half-empty one.

After the show, Timur confessed that this is not his favourite sub-genre of jazz, as he put it. He prefers big bands. Fair enough. I think know where we’re going to watch next time.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Never Happened

a film by Mark Slutsky

Swap the first two lines of Bohemian Rhapsody. Those must have been the two questions that quite naturally came to my mind after watching this short. And then there came other ones but I’ll say no more.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Blue Breeze

by Livin’ Blues

For me, Blue Breeze, released 40 years ago (I can’t find an exact date, does it really matter?), was a revelation, if not the revelation. I heard blues before, but this was my first encounter with the band so dedicated to blues. And, of all blues bands out there, neither American nor British but Dutch. How cool is that? Very cool, I say. Very underrated too, and not that well known, even in The Hague.

Here’s the story: A childhood friend of mine asked me and my brother to look after a stack of her (or, rather, her “crazy” mum’s) vinyls throughout the summer of 1977. Those included records by ABBA, Puhdys, assorted rock’n’roll compilations and two strange albums pressed in Poland, viz. Live ’75 and Blue Breeze. All of the summer passed without us ever taking those latter two out of their sleeves. And then, a day or two before returning them, we finally decided to give them a go. What a discovery! Unfortunately, we had only one spare reel of magnetic tape in the house, and there was no way to acquire another one in the remaining hours. So. Blue Breeze, it was decided, in a hope to catch up with Live ’75 some other time which, naturally, never came. Amazingly, that reel, still playable, stayed with me until early ’90s.

A few years later, I got hold of most of Livin’ Blues back catalogue reissued on CDs. Still, Blue Breeze is my favourite record of the band as well as one of my favourite blues-rock (or, indeed, any) records of all time. If you’ve never heard it, find it and listen to it.

Blue Breeze

Side A

  1. Shylina (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      A blues-rock-waltz that never fails to give me goosebumps.
  2. Back Stage (J. Fredriksz, R. Meyes)
    • They really knew how to craft a rock ballad.
  3. Midnight Blues (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      Humourous country(ish) style blues.
  4. Pisces (T. Oberg)
      An instrumental of almost unbearable beauty.
  5. Bus 29 (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      Since I first heard this song, I wanted to ride the bus #29 for no (other) reason.

Side B

  1. Blue Breeze (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      Vinyls have two sides for a reason. You see, one can’t simply stick a blues of epic proportions like this one in the middle of a record. It just has to be a (or, in this case, b) side opener.
  2. Pick Up On My Mojo (Johnny Winter)
      Trust me, the only track not composed by the band members is every bit as good as the original. Or better.
  3. That Night (A. Reijnen, J. v. Heiningen, J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      Featuring one of the finest rock bass solos I ever heard, this song, together with the title track’s bass line, is probably responsible for me ever trying my hand at electric bass.
  4. Black Jack Dilly (J. Fredriksz, T. Oberg)
      A rocker of a song with rather silly lyrics.

  5. John Fredriksz: vocals and backing vocals
    André Reijnen: bass guitar
    Jacob v. Heiningen: drums
    Ted Oberg: electric and acoustic guitars, dobro, banjo and electric sitar
    Margriet Eshuys and Maggie Mc Neal: backing vocals on Bus 29
    Martin Agterberg: additional keyboards