Archive for July 2018

Gig review – Wynton Marsalis quartet, 19 June 2018

One of the so-called “young lions” of jazz in the 1980s, Wynton Marsalis has carved out a name for himself in jazz and classical circles.  He’s the artistic director and the leader of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.  Lauded for his technical prowess on the trumpet, I was expecting Marsalis to be a larger than life character when I saw his quartet play at London’s Barbican centre, which, according to the gig’s announcer, has been a long time coming.

Marsalis was joined by younger brother Jason on drums, Dan Nimmer on piano, and British talent Mark Lewandowski on bass.  Despite its size, the four musicians occupied a small and intimate section of the stage, which lent a certain charm to the gig.  Added to this was the choice of material.  Marsalis and his band served up some oldies, some of which I didn’t know – Goodbye (Gordon Jenkins, 1935), After You’ve Gone (Creamer and Layton, 1918) – and some which I did – Stardust (Hoagy Carmichael, 1927) and Ramblin’ (Ornette Coleman, 1959).  The best way I can describe the band and its music is natural.  Nothing was forced or out of place and every note seemed right. This was jazz at the highest level.  There is a certain thing that happens when you see players of the highest calibre; they make it look easy.  It’s only when you sit behind the piano (or whatever your choice of weapon) the next day when you appreciate that it takes a lot to look easy.

Marsalis lived up to all of my expectations, his playing and otherwise.  He reminiscences of Ornette Coleman and others kept the audience enrapt, as did his ventures out into the stalls. The gig felt like a real event rather than just another gig and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for when Marsalis next visits these shores.

Book review – A German Requiem

A German Requiem is the final part of Philip Kerr’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’.  I’d enjoyed the first two parts, March Violets and The Pale Criminal, enough to keep on going.  The first two books saw us in 1936 and 1938, respectively.  A German Requiem finds us after the war, in 1947.  Bernie Gunther is back in his job as a Private Investigator and is now a married man, residing in a divided Berlin.

We’re not in Berlin for long, however.  Most of the novel is set in a similarly divided Vienna, where an old colleague of Gunther’s is in jail accused of the murder of an American officer.  Gunther is of course hired to exonerate the former, bringing him into close contact with the Brits, Austrians, ‘Amis’ and ‘Ivans’ and a secret organisation of former Nazis.

The book is well written and evocative of post-war Vienna. Gunther himself seems to be a harder character than in previous books but remains one of the good guys.  Like the other parts of the trilogy, the plot is an elaborate one, where, in true noir style, it’s not entirely clear what’s going on (well, not to me anyway!).  And true to the formula of Violets and Pale Criminal there’s more going on than at first appears.  While I can understand the author’s desire to keep his cards close to his chest as long as possible, this is somewhat of a shame as I think the book would benefit if the ‘reveal’ arrived a little earlier.

Nevertheless, like the other books in the Berlin Trilogy, Requiem is well worth the read. I’m sure I’ll delve into more of Kerr’s Gunther novels, not least as some of them are set during the war, plugging the gap between Pale Criminal and Requiem.