Afterword – ‘Mother Tongue live’

This was an amazing night of music and to those who missed it – shame on you. If you have a domestic air ticket lying about or are living in the lower North Island or South Island you can still catch the act (see previous post). Carolina is quite something on her ‘Mother Tongue’ recording but to see her perform live is to experience much more. She is a singer who should be experienced live because she is also a stellar performer. The intricate sinuous hand gestures as she sings, create an added texture to an already rich and evocative music.

This band is first class and what they brought to the music was simply wonderful. Having two of Auckland’s best drummer/percussionists in the one band did not hurt at all. They were similar in style to Manu Katche and Nano Vasconcelos who have often performed together in such Jazz/World music. It was the second time that I had caught Chris O’Connor at a gig and I can see why he is so in demand – especially for intricate drum work like this. Ron Samsom’s skill on the drum kit was already very familiar to me and it was fascinating to watch these two percussion masters swap roles throughout the performance.

Roger Manins did not play his usual tenor saxophone but showed his chops on the bass clarinet (Eric Dolphy and others used this axe to great effect). The deeper and woodier sounds were entirely appropriate for this ancient music and Roger still managed to stretch out convincingly. He also played the more traditional clarinet and the flute.

Nigel Gavin used a resonator guitar and a manouche guitar, and he stunned with his combination of lightening speed and middle eastern modal riffs. Although his guitars were amplified and had the usual array of pedals, his contributions were so well placed and appropriate to the music that it was hard to imagine the pieces without him. Kevin Field (piano), Matthias Erdrich (bass) and Jessica Hindin (violin) performed their parts with ease and this underscores their musicianship as none can have been that familiar with such diverse musical genres.

Apart from the Sephardic music we heard songs in Hebrew, English and Gaelic. There was also a standard, ‘Black is the colour’. This old english ballad was so beautifully executed that the audience seemed to hold their breath at each phrase. No one wanted to miss a single note.

I have long wondered why Jan Garbarek‘s compositions and arrangements are not used more by Jazz musicians and on Wednesday I had that view reinforced. A version of Garbarek’s arrangement of the traditional Nordic piece ‘Gula Gula‘ from ‘I took up the Runes‘ was played. It was the best version you could ever hope to hear and Carolina who is a gifted linguist had learned the Gaelic pronunciation of the song. During this piece the band stretched out and went crazy. It was one of those moments when you hoped that the music would never stop. If I have one plea it would be; perform more Garbarek compositions and arrangements please – perhaps with a bowed electric bass Eberhard Weber style.

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