Friday 17 August 2007

Gregory Walker - COS & CMC Presents

OK – this is a bit of a cheat. I’m covering two gigs in one piece here. Yes, yes, I know, I have no professional scruples. Of course, that would only be of relevance if I were being paid and, even then, it may be viewed as highly efficient – who knows?!? Anyway – onwards! This week’s gig(s) is(are) – I’m confusing myself here. Cork Orchestral Society presents… Gregory Walker: The Jazzical Violin (Thursday 2nd August 1:10pm) and Cork Music Collective session with Gregory Walker (Thursday 2nd August 9:30pm) – so good she saw him twice, yeah? Firstly, the lunchtime gig.I’m delighted to note that this series of gigs is gathering popularity and this one was nearly a full house. The demographic is also shifting so there is no excuse for not checking them out. You might learn something. Even if it’s just more to add to the list of what you don’t like. (I’m all for the 'why not? what’s the worst that could happen?' school of thought.) Gregory Walker is a tall, gangly, Hasidic-looking gentleman (and I mean that sincerely). Incidentally, I just looked up Hasidic and it comes from a word originally meaning ‘lovingkindness’ – it suits him rather well. I think you can guess by now that I was rather taken with Mr Walker. This tall, smiley man followed his wife and accompanist (Lori Walker) out onto the stage and just started into one of his own compositions, Blues, an unaccompanied number which built from a simple beginning to a full bluesy end. The Jazzical Violin, he explained, is a project started to explore music, specifically for violin and piano, written by classically-trained composers who admired and emulated the world of Jazz. Composers like George Gershwin, Miles Davis (where Mrs Walker got to shine – lovely sound and light hand on the keys) and Maurice Ravel were included. I’m not going to say much about this particular gig for one simple reason – I loved it. He is a man totally at home with his instrument. (Stop giggling down the back.) Seriously – if you want to be free in what you’re doing, then you’ve got to know what you’re doing and how to do it. Three chords and the truth is all very well but what if you want to sing a different song? In anything – singing, recording, playing – the more au fait you are with your particular medium, the better and more versatile the product. Mr Walker is an excellent proponent of this. He played fearlessly. Just one other note on this gig – Igor Frolov. Not a name, or nationality (Russian), you would normally associate with jazz but Frolov’s Piece in Blues Style was my personal highlight. It just goes to show. Now the evening performance. I was not the only member of the lunchtime audience drawn across town for his second outing. There were a number of the COS crowd sitting among the regulars in the Roundy for the gig. Well, it was less of a gig and more of a trial by fire. Invited along for a jam session by a CMC member who is also a COS member (it’s a small city), this was not a scheduled gig for him but more something to do in the evening. Brave man. The set-up was that he opened the gig (on someone else’s 5-string electric violin, having left his elsewhere – does his courage know no bounds?) solo and then willing members of the Collective would join him on stage and see what happened. What can I say? Well, looking back over my notes, scribbled comments include ‘f***ing bizarre’, ‘sounds like a sub-marine conference of hippos’ and ‘more of that, please’. Depending on who or what combination of musicians were up there, the music was free-form experimental (Han – guitar) to more coherent, traditional-sounding results (Andrea Bonino – guitar, Dave – upright bass, Lucas – drum, Derek – electric bass). When there was a gel, the place rocked. When there wasn’t (which, in fairness, was rare), the audience were riveted to see what would happen next. The only downside for me were two ladies who arrived upstairs in the last 10-15 minutes of the session and, seemingly failing to notice that a) there was a gig on and b) everyone else in the room was listening closely to what was happening on stage, proceeded to have a rather vocal conversation which was, for me, audible no matter where I stood. Why? How did they not notice? It is not a big place. Also, everyone was looking in one direction and, this is important, not talking (!). Very annoying. The highlight, for me, was when, just before they took a break, the trumpet player from Poles Apart joined him with others and there was a superb one-up-man-ship between the fiddle and the horn. According to Mr Walker, he has never participated in anything like that before and found the concept rather nerve-wracking but was now intending on ‘inflicting’ it on his ‘victims’ back home. Tee hee! Gregory Walker is concertmaster of the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra, has collaborated with people such as Yo Yo Ma, Itshak Perlman and James Galway and is a pioneer of experimental styles, such as his rap symphony ‘Dream N. the Hood’. Lunchtime Programme Walker, G.T.S. Blues Gershwin, G. Prelude No. 2 & It ain’t necessarily so Ravel, M. Sonata, “Blues” Frolov, I. Piece in Blues Style Davis, M. So What? Bonfa, L. A day in the life of a fool Jobim, A.C. The Girl from Ipanema Walker, G. Fantasy on Óró sé do bheatha bhaile Evening Line-up Poles Apart – various members – drums, percussion, trumpet, electric bass Han – guitar Andrea Bonino (Hadasha) – guitar Niwel Tsumbu (Sumu, Clear Sky Ensemble) – guitar Dave – upright bass Chris Percival – guitar (For those contributing whose name I did not get fully, I apologise.)

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