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AA Gill is Away

A complicated eulogy

A photo posted by Thoms Rees (@thomasnrees) on

 

A friend bought me that copy of Previous Convictions when I was 17. Since then it’s been half way around the world with me. It’s battered and bruised, full of folded-down-corners and scribbled notes. It was in the rucksack I lugged across Latin America with a string of pearlescent green Mardi Gras beads and a leaky bottle of deet – hence the smudge on the cover. It’s pretty much the reason I got into travel writing. Gill’s prose has everything, and there have been times when it’s all I’ve wanted to read. 

Even so, I didn’t think his death from “an embarrassment of cancer, the full English,” would hit me quite so hard. I didn’t think I’d cry, sat alone at my desk, leafing through the obituaries. A few dry sobs, and all for a vicious, “baboon murdering bastard” (his words not mine) who once told Mary Beard she was too ugly for television.   Read On…

Florence

Memories from a trip last autumn. On beauty, sadism and steak

Florence is not a beautiful city, not by Italian standards at least. It doesn’t make you love sick or sweep you off your feet. It’s too brusque and businesslike, too solidly built for that.

It rained when I was there. The painted plaster-work of the buildings along the river Arno, all yellows and ochres, looked smudgy and dull in the half light. The cobblestones had an oily black sheen. But even when the sun shines, there’s something forbidding about the streets. They’re hemmed in by high walls, meters thick, that amplify the sound of voices, the whine of scooters and the rattle of bicycles. Many of them are studded with barred windows and iron rings that give the Tuscan capital a slightly sadistic feel. They’re the trappings of somewhere hard-edged and just a little twisted, of a city with a thing about power.  Read On…

Insta Gratification

I’ve recently joined instagram (a dizzying 28 followers at the moment, thanks for asking) and have been trying out a few bitesize reviews of albums and gigs that I haven’t been able to write up in full.

So far:

1. Work Songs a recent release by US drummer Jaimeo Brown and his Transcendence project (Motéma Music), which makes superb use of field recordings from around the world. Read

2. A set from Inuit throat singer/political firebrand/2014 Polaris Music Prize winner Tanya Tagaq at Cafe Oto. “Like watching a particularly messed-up exorcism.” Read

3. Free jazz legends the Art Ensemble of Chicago at Cafe Oto. Read

— Thomas Rees

Four reviews from the 2016 EFG London Jazz Festival

1. The New Jazz Blueprint

Terrace Martin, Makaya McCraven and Takuya Kuroda at the Jazz Cafe

Bass so heavy it feels like it’s massaging your internal organs. Grooves that walk with a limp, dreamy synth chords prefaced by that little lift (Robert Glasper’s sonic signature) and vicious snare drum backbeats like a captive bolt in your cranium. Beat three. It’s all about beat three.

That. Plus a young crowd, crammed in shoulder to shoulder, nodding heads and bare brickwork and blue light and segues and switches of feel that make set lists feel like mixtapes mixed live. That’s the new jazz blueprint – the defining sound, look and feel of the last few of years. It’s where the momentum is.  Read On…

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