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!
National Youth Jazz Orchestra pulled together a spectacular show at the Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre. Featuring the cream of young jazz talent from all over the UK, many of whom are currently studying at the London conservatories, the show raised the standard in both performance, composition and arrangement.
The programme explored the array of jazz and big band writing that has taken place since World War II, in the UK. The earlier half of the programme concentrated on ‘straight-ahead’, more traditional idioms; beginning close to home with the angular, quirky and cell-driven ‘Soho Hubub’ by Jason Yarde, featuring Chris Whiter on baritone saxophone. Some of the compositions featured a wordless vocal ‘backdrop’; shadowing, in unison, the melodic leaps and skips of the thirteen-piece brass section, such as in the shimmering, smoky veils of Nikki Iles’ ‘Hush’, which swept the listener through a beautifully sweeping soundscape of peaks and climbs, and adding the contemporary touches of lead guitar, flute and horn to the environment; and in Kenny Wheeler’s ‘The Know Where You Are’ taken from ‘Sweet Time Suite’ on ‘Music For Large And Small Ensembles’. Highlights of these two pieces were the improvised solos by Nadim Teimoori (tenor saxophone) and Rob Luft (guiitar).
From this point, the programme moved further into dissonant, Avant Garde ideas, with Stan Tracey’s ‘Afro Charlie meets the White Rabbit’ from the suite ‘Alice in Jazzland’, which whips the soloists through a frenzied rhythm changes, featuring Chris Eldred on piano; and Loose Tubes’ ‘Sad Africa’ adding yet more interesting instruments to the mix - everything from ‘Eb’ penny whistle (Helen Wilson) and soprano saxophone (Phil Meadows), right down to bass clarinet and tuba. This composition also included some accomplished choral harmonies emanating from the brass section - nice work lads! In sections, it descended into chaotic, free improvisation, before reuniting in wide, grandiose pastures.
One feature that I particularly liked about this concert, as well as the contemporary jazz and big band writing, was the utilisation of ethnic rhythms and styles. While the Loose Tubes’ ‘Sad Africa’ toyed with South African township grooves, Joe Harriot’s ‘Freeform’, dedicated to the late Michael Garrick brought the Jamaican influence into British Jazz - a reminder that Pan-Caribbean cultures are a cherished part of British heritage. It featured terrific solos from Sam Razer (alto saxophone) and Nick Dewhurst (trumpet).
Vocalist Emma Smith added words to Stan Sulzmann’s composition ‘A Warm Rocky Place’, originally an instrumental, and she delighted all with her cool, silky interpretation. The programme continued with two compositions by members of NYJO, past and present, tenor saxophonist Tom Stone’s ‘Return Flight’ and percussionist Felix Higginbottom’s ‘The Change’. Felix featured throughout the set on various percussion instruments including congas, vibraphones and glockenspiels. His ecological work represents a journey from the rainforest to the urban metropolis, held together by the antagonisms of thematic development and preservation.
After a brief sorbet of bebop, with Tubby Hayes’ ‘Suddenly Last Tuesday’, which featured some rip-roaring, wood-shedding sectionals from the brass and saxophones, Tim Garland’s ‘Dawn Before Dark Before Dawn’ lifted the momentum to cataclysmic heights. Finally, distinguished vocalist Emma Smith returned at the end, leading the big band in a funk-influenced arrangement of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’, arranged by the band’s own director Mark Armstrong, which featured more incredible soloing from guitarist Rob Luft coupled with the clarity, warmth and charisma of the female vocalist, who awed the audience with her effortless vocal talent and skill.
Altogether, it was a momentous set, with the fuel, drive and spirit maintained and delivered right until the last notes. Listening to the music, it is so easy to sit there and simply lose yourself in the walls of brass, bathing your ears in the fabulous oceans of harmony that they create. The rhythm section arrangements were intricate, unveiling so many different techniques and formulations, integrated in such a sophisticated way - astounding, given the age of the band members - and it is difficult to believe that most of the members are either still studying, or having just graduated, because they play like seasoned professionals. Overall, some incredible music happening, and some inspiring creativity unleashed.
J-Sonics cooked up a bountiful funk-rock, implanted with laser horn hooks over jubilant melodies, thick, pulsating guitar licks, and crackling, rubber conga patterns. The ensemble was as tight as the skin of a drum, the horns locking in with the bass and percussion, catching the back of the beat and ‘nipping it in the butt’. This line-up really excels itself with its rhythmic exploration, with standard binary and tertiary metres divided and subdivided with pinpoint precision accuracy.
The trumpet player brought a bright, cutting and clean tone, working the outlay of his ideas, supplanted by the building rhythm section. Tenor saxophonist Matt Telfer pulled off some ripping solos, drawing whoops and cheers from the audience. Endings were slick and well rehearsed. The overall delivery was mean, with bags of attitude. These guys are truly on a mission to bring raw, razor-edged funk to British audiences.
Bambus City Strut are a London-based, ten-piece line-up, bringing a fresh, youthful swagger to the British funk / soul scene. Sasha Patterson is a fabulous front-lady, with a natural confidence and ability to break the ice, talk to the audience, and make everyone feel included. Add to this a strong vocal quality oozing radiance and persona, and you’ve just bought yourself the ultimate party starter.
James Goodman (keyboards) fills out the texture with some lush, succulent jazz harmony - using Hammond organ and synthesiser pads to great effect. The horn section, made up of Simon Platts (saxophone) and Phil Chadney (trumpet) are completely ‘on the ball’, with the lines and settlements under their fingers. One thing that I particularly enjoyed about this band is the dynamic call-and-response interplay between the vocals and horns, written into the arrangements: upward-snaking torrents of brass met with elastic vocal harmonisations.
The set consisted mainly of their own songs, such as the lively, cruising ‘Nobody Else’ and the strident, batucada-infused ‘Let The Light Shine’ - yet this did not stop them slipping in the odd cheeky cover, including Breakestra’s ‘Cramp Your Style’ and Booty Collins’ ‘I’d Rather Be With You’. I would go so far as to liken their sound to more established acts such as Incognito or PB Underground, despite the band having only been together since 2009.
In terms of presentation, the band looked the part. The swaying front-line soon got everyone dancing, and the upright, swerving delivery of the rhythm section settled the score. The overall feel was sharp, snappy, heated and ‘down to business’. The group released their first EP in 2011, and are due to release their next offering early next year. I believe that they have a lot of potential, and exciting things to offer on the horizon.
Milano alto saxophonist Tommaso Starace, together with his band, Frank Harrison (piano), Will Collier (bass) and Chris Higginbottom (drums), presented a concert celebrating the life and work of the late French pianist Michel Petrucciani. Being an avid lover of Petrucciani’s work, this concert leapt out of the pages for me. Sure enough, as I entered the room, the band were in full swing with none other than my favourite Petrucciani composition ‘Looking Up’ - and I knew that I was in for a good night. The subsequent set did not disappoint, and included many of his classic compositions such as ‘September Song’ and ‘Brazilian Suite’.
Unlike many of the performances that are fiery, intense and passionate; this group have a cool, introspective nature about them. Tammaso Starace (alto saxophone) has an intricate, nimble-fingered touch. His fluttering improvisations shimmer with the quicksilver speed at which he flies through montages of notes. His ability to construct elaborate fragmentations - that is, repetitive, interlocking cell-cycles that work across the beat - create swirling, rippling sonic forms that melt delightfully into the slipstream of his dispatch. On ‘Looking Up’ and on some of the slower tunes such as ‘Hidden Joy’, Tammasco exudes a sweet, silky saxophone tone with well-controlled use of sliding glissandos, wavering vibratos and Paquito D’Rivera-style altissimo embellishments.
Frank Harrison (piano) has a breezy, refined style. His improvisations are relaxed, liberally sprinkled about with dancing clusters and melodic crystallisations that tinker in the stratosphere. His thematic development is nicely paced, restrained, and he gives the music plenty of space within which to breath. Delicately applying sophisticated jazz voicing’s that reflect a sensitive ear; his contemplative nature is evocative of Keith Jarrett, with its haunting, vivid clarity.
Chris Higginbottom (drums) maintained an easy, swinging jazz-samba / bossa nova mettle throughout the set. His solos accent certain sections of the bar to bring out alternate rhythmic orientations, without losing the pulse - occasionally unravelling into six-eight and three-four metres to mesh out his ideas - constantly developing the feel into new and ever-fluctuating planes, yet managing to pull it back with style. Will Collier (bass) tempered some melodious improvisation, bleeding in and around the harmony, with its subtle, chanson-like style.
There was a full house in tonight. However, Posk Jazz Cafe is a wide enough space allowing for people to stretch out and feel at ease, without losing its sense of community. The ambience was cosy, relaxed and open. The audience was attentive, but not deadly silent, and the hubbub of quiet discourse melded in to become a part of the musical dynamic. There was a unified sense of togetherness, intimacy and oneness, solidified towards the end whereby Tammaso Starace enticed everyone to start clapping on beats two and four, and walked out into the audience, playing to the front rows closely. His overall delivery was charming, personable and sweet. His group has a refined sparkle, a genuine love and a subtle immediacy with listeners and enthusiasts alike.
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.