2018: A Year In Food
In 2018, my gym coach assigned me to keep a food blog so he could track my meals. Through developing healthy eating habits to satisfy all of my nutritional needs and a rigorous exercise programme, I lost the 21 kg between January-August 2018 I'd gained on anti-depressants.
I wanted it to be somewhere more private rather than being shoved down people's throats (literally) through Instagram/WhatsApp. Hence I've posted my culinary creations here.
Being vegetarian and/or vegan always presents a challenge in terms of hitting the protein target so this was particularly the most interesting challenge for me.
I made a conscious decision to stop food blogging in 2019 (due to time restraints), but it's useful to have a year's diet documented as a reference and a source of inspiration!
Matt Roberts Big Band @ Southbank Centre
Matt Roberts presented his all-star big band lineup made up of current and ex-students from the London music colleges, in the front room of the Southbank Centre, as part of the London Jazz Festival. The concert consisted of five compositions, all written by Matt Roberts himself. His progressive compositional style is gloriously reminiscent of Bob Curnow and Pat Metheny, combining an age-old charm with the new and challenging ideas. The symbiotic relationship between the classical and the jazz elements that Matt Roberts writes about on his website is evident, for there is a distinctly orchestral or 'wind band' feel to his sound, which interchanges seamlessly with fluid jazz essence. Horizontally (structurally), the compositions explore the antagonism between concordance and dissonance, ever progressing towards symphonic, culminating moments of accomplishment - perhaps with the exception of the fifth composition, New Horizons, which is cyclic and infinite. Vertically (texturally), the emphasis is constantly shifting between the objective, organisational ensemble writing, and the subjective autonomy of its individual soloists; each composition like a tasty sandwich, with thick crusty brassy textures, and thick, buttery chords.
The first two compositions offer explorations into rural, almost neo-medieval landscapes; dripping in modalism analogous to feudalism, and weaving lavishly integrated tapestries of texture, harmony and melodic interplay. The first composition, inspired by the constellation Orion, is a strident 12/8 feel, with a valiant thematic language evocative of Bob Curnow's Celtic Big Band sound world. The programmatic 'jazz' landscape, with its peaks and valleys, is like a fantasy film score to an epic legend - think Robin Hood or King Arthur - with the fanfare-like interludes playing out noble struggles and triumphant victories, underpinned with a folky, almost Celtic lilt. The harmonies are tonally centered, and for the most part, conventional, however they occasionally extend themselves outwards in a technically sophisticated manner without losing their immediacy. Structurally, there is a satisfying interplay between the saxophones and brass, and the gradual building up towards the climactic, jovial moments are very well restrained and controlled. The 'Minuano'-like cross-rhythms produce a brilliant counterpoint of rich, shimmering textures, like a stained glass window of sound. The second composition starts off languid, like a river, with a spongy, mellow flugelhorn line intertwining with the smooth tone of the soprano saxophone, played by Johnny Griffiths. The mood is grandiose, yet gentle, with lazy melodic musings and chiming, expansive, bell-like chords that fluctuate like the subtle shifting of tectonic plates gradually building mountains over time, culminating in majestic peaks with soaring trumpets on the horizon reminiscent of hillside fanfares.
The third composition, Oligopithecus, inspired by an early human primate, is placed at the mid-point of the programme, and is a stark contrast to the other compositions; bringing into relief an alternative, more avant-garde dimension to his writing - both in its fusion of irregular time signatures, and in its heavy emphasis on free improvisation. The dissonant tritonic and diminished harmonies, coupled with the mischievous, gyrating groove, hints that trouble is brewing. Although the mood of the composition is comparably darker, it does not lose its comical edge. The focal point of the composition is the enacted 'battle' between two soloists (or primates, as indicated in the commentary). The chaotic, gritty improvisations manifest the animal-like shrieks, whimpers, cries and moans of primal beasts in the thick of turmoil, punctuated by militant, charging ensemble sections.
The fourth composition is structured in two parts, a ballad and a waltz. The ballad begins with an improvised solo piano introduction, played by Sam Leake - daylight filtering in over the aftermath of the battle in the previous composition - with an improvisation demonstrating a poignant sensitivity and subtlety. The texture is soon moistened with lush curtains of brassy texture, with dovetailing call-and-response melodies that ripple and overlap one another over the course of the ballad. The waltz section re-introduces the rolling 3/4 and 6/8 cross-rhythms of the first composition. Here, off-beat brassy chords are thrown directly across the beat, and the dotted crotchet is marked by the cymbal bell, further distorting the rhythmic perspective. Tom White's trombone sound has a deep, rounded and sweet tone, his fluttery, fluffy improvisation flossing organically through the additional sheets of chordal material that fall around its shoulders. After a brief, folky bridge of hammering triplets, Laura enters with a trumpet solo; initially shrouded in dark mystery, but increasingly gutsy, flighty and discordant. This builds up until the orchestra, in unison, plays an ascending five-note scale which swells upwards and explodes into the original, expansive, ballad feel, indulging in plenty of juicy suspension chords.
The fifth composition, New Horizons, is inspired by a photograph of the planet Saturn. This composition is again different, and, in my opinion, the most compelling musically, for it demonstrates an extraordinary degree of maturity for a writer so young. The composition starts and ends with a space-age 7/8 ostinato pattern on the guitar harmonics, calculatedly revolving in an enigmatically coded combination of notes. The mood is celestial and contemplative, with kaleidoscopic, cyclic melodies that arc inwards and (for the most part) coalesce around themselves - although occasionally folding outwards in funky linear inflections, expelling rays of melodic light. The harmonies, in contrast to the first two compositions, are more dissonant, with juxtaposed seconds and sharpened elevenths, rendering a focused, ultra-modern lens. Behind the piano solo, played by Sam Leake, the saxophones and lower brass blow a ghostly wind, like a star field shimmering in the depths of space. The dynamic is controlled, occasionally rippling with threatening ruptures, but for the most part tactfully restrained. The ascending phantom-like, reverse pedal guitar solo demonstrates great technical accomplishment, considering the difficulty of learning and applying the technique which is often heard within the context of psychedelic, progressive rock. As the solo builds, the nauseous brassy undertow rises up again, and the 12/8 cross-rhythms return, building into a deafening wall of sounds and culminating in a florid bridge that prompted a spontaneous burst of delight from the audience. The music swiftly shifts through a number of skeletal segments, and then comes to rest on a drifting, floating piano improvisation which twinkles like stars up in the stratosphere, clearing to leave the original, resolute guitar harmonic ostinato which prevails long after the band has finished, eventually fading into blackness. This recurring ostinato technique is effective, for it implies that there is no beginning or ending to the composition; rather, that the composition itself has merely tapped into an infinite stream.
Altogether, the programme was well-balanced, since it started and ended on a cosmological note, with the celestial themes of the two outer compositions - which, in themselves, seem to embody tradition and modernity, or astrological and astronomical perspectives, respectively. The middle tune progressed from the macrocosm - space, to the microcosm - man, in its anthropological premise. Moreover, it is so pleasing to hear modern big band writing that both acknowledges the traditional idioms of modalism and neo-classical tonality yet embraces the contemporary influences of fusion and free improvisation that we have heard elsewhere in the festival, thus bridging a thematic continuum that is relative and innovative at the same time. This is the ultimate strength of the Matt Roberts Big Band. I look forward to hearing much more writing from this talented young composer, and trumpet player.
Rory spent the first few years of his life in an ice cave, carving out his palace of wonder. He's a bit of a love doll, but he who melts the ice shall have their reward.