sun 14/07/2024

New Music Reviews

Natalie Merchant, Conway Hall

Robert Sandall

As a curtain raiser for the most ambitious album of her career to date, Natalie Merchant’s concert last night at London’s Conway Hall was an entertaining but strangely low-key affair. Merchant has spent the past six years recording dozens of songs based on poems themed around childhood, 28 of which she plans to release on two CDs early next year.

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Tomasz Stańko Quintet, QEH

Anonymous (not Verified) Melancholy light: Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stańko

There’s something of a Polish theme to the London Jazz Festival 2009, part of the “Polska! year” celebration of that nation’s art and culture. Trumpeter Tomasz Stańko is by some margin the strand’s biggest name. The man who once explained the mournful, meditative tone of his (and his country’s) music in terms of the “melancholy light” he’d known since birth took to the stage in appropriately sombre attire: suit, shirt and hat alike in any colour as long as it was black.

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London Jazz Festival: Roberto Fonseca & Mayra Andrade

joe Muggs Roberto Fonseca, demonstrating 'jazz cool'

I have seen Roberto Fonseca play before – in Havana backing Omara Portuondo and in London with the incomparable Ibrahim Ferrer - so although I was well aware of his ferocious talent I had no idea of how he would fare as a solo star. And I have seen plenty of jazz before, including Latin-style jazz – but only in venues the size of pub function rooms, generally full of nicotine-stained old men, so I had some trepidation about how it would come over in a venue as...

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Rustie, Dâm Funk, Lightbox

joe Muggs

Londoners, we know, can be spoilt. Certainly the crowd, predominantly of nerds in rare and expensive trainers, at the Lightbox last night didn't seem to be overly bubbling with enthusiasm despite an exciting lineup of talent and astonishing surroundings. The main dancefloor area of Lightbox lives up to the club's name, being an arched space with the entire wall/ceiling surface covered in colour-changing LED lights that allow pictures and patterns to dance across the room. 

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Martha Wainwright sings Piaf, Barbican

Robert Sandall

Martha Wainwright’s decision to perform and record a selection of songs by the late Edith Piaf is a bold, not to say high-risk strategy that made for a fascinating one-off concert at the Barbican last night.

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Staff Benda Bilili, Barbican

Thomas H Green

The stage of the Barbican is alive with black dudes in wheelchairs going bonkers. It's an extraordinary spectacle. To rocketing afro-funk, backed by a drum-kit of boxes and bells, Staff Benda Bilili's frontmen are rolling their chairs back and forth. Two of them face each other and perform loosely synchronized hand dances, another wearing an ecstatic grin clambers out of his wheelchair.

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Nneka, ULU

howard Male Nneka: 'pop stardom beckons whether she likes it or not'

Many hip-hop artists go on about “respect” ad nauseam, but perhaps you need to be outside the Western consumerist bubble before such language can be turned from mere solipsistic hot air into a heartfelt plea on behalf of a continent. May I point you in the direction of a YouTube clip in which a surprisingly camera-shy Nneka shares a Nigerian proverb with the interviewer: “One day the bushmeat go catch the hunter,” she says in pidgin English. In other words, one day the prey of the hunter...

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Singles and Downloads

Thomas H Green Slagsmalsklubben: seven inches of Scandanavian synth heaven

Slagsmalsklubben, Sponsored By Destiny (Zarcorp)

When white 7" singles drop though my letter box with commercially suicidal band names, they're usually from artists just starting their career, boutique vinyl being cannily collectable in our MP3 age. Slagsmalsklubben, however, which means The Fight Club in their native tongue, are a six-piece...

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Fleetwood Mac, Wembley Arena

joe Muggs

The first signs were good. I've been to a lot of shows by “heritage bands” in my time, but I don't think I've ever seen a crowd for a band of Fleetwood Mac's vintage that had such a relatively even age distribution. Sure, it was weighted towards the greying end of the scale, but every age group down to teens – including teens there in groups under their own steam, not just with parents – was well represented, right across class boundaries too.

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Bellows, Komedia, Brighton

Thomas H Green

The exploratory outer edges of jazz have been rich and fecund in recent years. Among other things, bands such as MoHa and The Thing have pushed jazz into avant-garde noise and heavy rock, wild-haired drummer Seb Rochford has come up with project after project that fascinates far outside the jazz community and even Radiohead have been accused of dabbling. It's in this area that Bellows reside, musical territory that doesn't yet fall under strict genre categorization but touches on post-rock,...

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