A lovely gig with Chris Dowding’s trio hymn last week in Norwich, part of a new concert series of improvised music called Camouflage, made special by two factors: the premiere of a long newly-composed piece by Chris called ‘this ghostly aura’, and the presence of two guests, turntablist/sound artist Graham Dunning and the wonderful violinist and bicycle wheel-player Sylvia Hallett. (I’d first seen Sylvia at the legendary old railway club was it venue of the London Musicians’ Collective c. 1985.) Below are a few photos of the band in action taken by All About Jazz critic John Sharpe, from his Twitter feed, with thanks.
Lovely set from @chrisjdowding's expanded edition of hymn at the Fat Percy in Norwich on Thursday as part of @CamouflageJazz, with aching melodies emerging from a gnarly scratchy undertow created by the combined strings, trumpet, loops, turntable and electronics. pic.twitter.com/leeCnwb6FG
[a new blog and film by me produced for the EU-funded Cultural Heritage and Improvised Music in European Festivals (CHIME) project website]
Most villages in Norfolk have at least one ancient church, flint-built, with round or square tower. So I was looking of such a building when driving to the gig last night in the village of Spooner Row, as part of this year’s Wymondham Music Festival. But surprisingly the church here is built of brick, slate rather than lead roof, no tower, just one bell, that hangs outside (and was taken from another church). I looked it up: Spooner Row church was built in 1847, in the Victorian period when many of the Saxon and medieval churches (which had managed to survive the English Civil War) were themselves having their interiors ‘improved’.
The band I was in is called hymn, a trio of trumpet/loops, percussion/electronics and double bass. As the name might suggest it’s a slightly slow music, harmonies and simple melodies, layered but spacious, perhaps contemplative or immersive. Kinda fitted the venue. The other band, Arthur, consist of alto sax, tuba, drums; their repertoire is inspired by the music of the late African-American saxophonist Arthur Blythe, and is somewhat more fiery, driving, and loud than hymn’s.
I filmed a bit of Arthur’s set standing in the rather sparsely populated graveyard of Spooner Row church, in the early evening summer sunset, at the end of a glorious English day. I wanted just to think for a moment about the location, the mature trees all around and fields beyond, the quiet graveyard, the setting sun, a nearby row of cottages, the striking building of this unusual Norfolk church, at one of the outlying events of a music festival centred on the local market town of Wymondham.
I realised that this concert I was playing at was a CHIME event in a modest way, in the manner that all of these re-soundings in mild surprise of musical gatherings that are organised in festivals everywhere are CHIME events. The warm clash of sound and setting, improvisation (music) and solid foundation (building), are one of the things we can expect of a festival.
At this one I thought, too, of how in fact this church and the jazz are not so very far apart in their chronology, or originary narrative, both being made, sort of, arguably, in the same century for a start. Made me think, as I stood in the English churchyard last night, how old that music of modernism is—modernism is—then how very recent.