This month has been a wonderful one for new music, particularly with regard to the announcement and single releases of some really exciting upcoming albums. Something that I would like to do, however, is to mention some of the older bits and pieces that I’ve stumbled across recently before I put out my March Review Roundup. In my pursuit of all that new music has to offer, I find myself neglecting the past more than I would like, so in this (hopefully) monthly new feature, music that has played a significant part in shaping the new albums covered on this blog will be displayed with reverence and affection.

Bootleg: Old and New Dreams w/ Paul Motian

In anticipation of Joshua Redman’s upcoming tribute album to Old and New Dreams (the wonderful 70s/80s Ornette Coleman inspired quartet, featuring Redman’s father, Dewey), entitled Still Dreaming, I’ve been looking back at the original quartet’s brilliant, but not expansive, body of work.

The lack of recorded material from Old and New Dreams is the project’s only real shortcoming, which is why I got so excited when I saw this tweet from former The Bad Plus pianist, Ethan Iverson:

The linked, bootlegged, live recording is from a Bandcamp record label, named Condition West Recordings, and they have a pretty substantial back catalogue of bootlegged 70s and 80s live jazz recordings. This one is Old and New Dreams Live in Saalfelden, 1986, with Paul Motion subbing in for Ed Blackwell on drums. The band’s bassist, the late Charlie Haden, is front and centre on much of this recording. One of the tracks, ‘Charlie Haden: Bass Feature’, is (as indicated by the title) dedicated to Haden’s extended technique-filled improvisation. What stuck out to me, however, was his more minimal solo on the track, ‘Lonely Woman’. It’s got that same simplistic tonal signature to it that Haden employs on ‘Two Folk Songs’, the opening track to Pat Metheny’s 80/81, and considering that record is one of my earliest conscious experiences of jazz, it’s a sound that carries a lot of nostalgia for me.

Nyckelharpas and the Joy of Mucking Up

If you follow my Instagram (@healthymusicobsession) you’ll know that since the beginning of 2018, I have been endeavouring to learn a new fiddle tune on my mandolin every week this year. It’s been going pretty well, but since there’s only one decent traditional music session that I know of in Liverpool, I’ve only been able to test out the Irish tunes with other musicians. Now that I’m back in London for the Easter break, my friend Isaac and I took it upon ourselves to take advantage of the wide variety of folk sessions in the city.

On Tuesday, we went to a Scandinavian session at the Green Man pub near Oxford Circus. By way of preparation for the unfamiliar phrasing of Scandinavian fiddle tunes, I listened to what I have since decided is the best recorded work of renowned Swedish trio, Väsen – the 2004 masterwork, Keyed Up.

 

The delightfully scratchy unison melody playing of Olov Johansson (nyckelharpa) and Mikael Marin (five-string viola), backed by the imaginative and animated accompaniment of Roger Tallroth (12-string guitar), is more filled with the spirit of life than on any of their previous or subsequent recordings. Keyed Up features my three favourite Väsen compositions: ‘Flippen’, ‘Hasse A’s’, and ‘Appalachen’, none of which I had heard in their original recorded format, before finding this record in the midst of an archaeological dig through the band’s significant back catalogue.

Whilst the record definitely gave me a greater appreciation for Scandinavian traditional music, it didn’t prepare me in the slightest for the session in which I took part on Tuesday. I fumbled and flailed my way through a few tunes in the Green Man’s upstairs room, before giving in, sitting back and watching the experienced nyckelharpa, fiddle and bouzouki players do their thing. It was a privilege to see those brilliant musicians keeping their tradition alive, here in the UK. Never have I enjoyed failure quite that much before.

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