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!
The club was packed full and everyone was in high spirits. Walking in there, it really felt like jazz festival fever was beginning to settle in, as the light fades earlier, and the hard core gig goers come out of their shelters. Township Comets really got the audience going. Featuring the South African vocalist Pinise Saul, who has played with the likes of Hugh Masekela and most notable for directing The South African Gospel Singers, the band delivered a vibrant, colourful afternoon set.
One of the earlier numbers, a brisk, twelve-eight shuffle shows off the vibrancy of the three-piece brass section, consisting of saxophone, trombone and trumpet, which lays down some thick, modal horn arranging, finished with jazzy inflections, while the lead vocalist throws in some of her own embellishments. During the solos, she adds spontaneous shouts, yodelling and vocalisations to encourage them on, as the other horns pitch in with some sweet harmonic backings.
Vocalist Pinise Saul is completely at home on stage, radiating a warmth, wit and lustre to melt the most hostile of audiences. With her conversationalist style of delivery, she does not take herself too seriously, and in some of her songs, it is almost like she is telling a story of her own life, through the third person. The slow funk number shows off the warmth and depth of her emotion and personality, within a soulful offloading of revolving shapes, anchored by horn hooks and refrains that turn and coalesce around themselves. The electric piano adds a softer, silkier touch, so that the band are simmering a steaming incantation that seethes at the climaxes of each solo, and boils right down again as a new solo begins.
One of the later numbers adopted a Sonny Rollins-style, up-tempo afro-jazz-highlife, and featured Rob Townsend on alto / soprano saxophones, who delivered a blistering solo, steadily building, and cooked up with layers of backing and vocal shouts, integrated in a call-and-response, and creating a continuum between vocal shouts and brass stabs. The music was spiritual and accessible, and even incited the bartenders to dance!
The best thing about this performance is that it speaks to the whole room. Even if you were stood right at the back, or serving at the bar, Pinise Saul and her band transmit an energy that is all-inclusive. This was not limited to the stage either; she came out and engaged with the audience, so that everyone was invited to participate, and there was no longer an audience - just a massive, feel-good party, whipped up in the frenzy of danceable, addictive music.
Combining interlocking clarinet and trumpet threads, solid, chugging guitar and bass, and rocking rhythm sticks, this traditional band puts the tickles into the Dixie. Featuring their own takes on traditional songs such as Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘Oh Didn’t He Ramble’, Woody Allen’s ‘Swing A Lullaby’ and the Allman Brothers’ ‘Don’t Want You No More’ as well as original tunes such as ‘Monkey Puzzle’, the band brought a fresh face to traditional jazz.
Dom James’ clarinet has a superbly clear, liquorice tone, and employs an effective use of slide and glissando techniques - critical to get right for this style of music. Moreover, he has a strong sense of rhythm, and he can hold down a rag without support from the rest of the band. One thing that I particularly liked about their sound is the way in which the pieces begin with barely nothing - solo clarinet or percussion - and then gradually build up as other instrumental layers enter. The intertwining melodies - sometimes fixed, memorised material; other times improvised - have a neo-classical, almost symphonic (major to minor) feel to them, given the European elements derived from Beethoven and subsequent composers, which permeated the early African styles via colonialism. The musicians interpret these treasures without a single sheet of music in sight - impressive for a music so intricate and complex. During the clarinet and trumpet solos, the supporting instrument also adds in gestures, which they pick up together, and lace into the structure. The band itself used little or no amplification, thereby preserving the authenticity, and their sound projected perfectly within the reverberant concavities of the dingy railway bridge nightclub.
The slow, trudging twelve-bar blues ‘Don’t Want You Know More’ featured some chunky drum and tambourine rolls, and a trumpet solo from William Roxton, who brought a contemporary edge to the traditional blues by ‘going out’ of the harmony and adding in some nice upper structures, diminished substitutions and rhythmic diminutions - inciting the drummer to kick into double-tempo in some bars. His ideas, while captivating, were finished off with those New Orleans stylizations that preserved the continuity of the band’s oeuvre.
My favourite piece was the sleek, feline tango, with its haunting, Hispanic inflexions, cooking up a broth of dissonance, surrealism and bohemian, Gershwin-style licks. Dynamically, it would drop down to a purring brew before thrashing back with stonking, kicking quavers.
Sudanese singer charmed the Vortex with her beautiful fusion of African music with jazz, soul and influences from Latin America and the Middle East.
Her free, floating voice is like a swallow, sailing over a sea of warm, strummed guitar, taking you on a musical odyssey. The mood is unequivocally humane - whether introspective and nostalgic, or quivering with ecstatic passion - and is characterised by its mix of indigenous African and Arabic inflections. Special guest Morizo Soher ‘spices things up a bit’ in ‘Chauff D’Amour’ (‘Seeing The Light’), an original composition inspired by Sudanese Sufi chanting and the trance-like states that these incite. Here, she urges you to close your eyes, and to use your imagination, as the sedated, sun-soaked triangular polyrhythm of the guitar swathe your eyes, shadowed by the ghostly flute and breathy backing vocals, delicately spinning a yarn and leaving you light and content.
‘Yamara’ (‘Oh Woman’) is dedicated to women, because she loves women (so do the men!). The gliding, cyclic six-eight metre projects a sonic tunnel through which the lead vocalist imparts her heartfelt tribute to ‘her sisters’. As the flute improvises, the guitar textures bristle into flame accompanied by the gentle rattle of the chekere and almost flipped into a binary metre by the percussion hits. ‘The Shattering of the Mirror’, which Amira personalises as ‘The Shattering of the Illusion’, encapsulates that moment when things do not seem to go as planned. This song brings in some clave ideas from Latin America, and incites the audience to clap along. Finally, Amira dedicates the last piece to her father, who taught her to question and challenge everything, which is the reason that she is in the Vortex. As well as there being many people present from the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS), many people have travelled from all over the world, some as far as Syria and Sudan, to witness her performance, to savour those rolling cross-rhythms, and to relish in this exquisite world music melange.
It is a very rare occurrence to be able to witness a musician who not only has two sidemen nominated for the Mercury Music Prize playing in his band, but also one who is so humble, personable and focused on his art. Oud player Attab Haddad is just this, accompanied by an all-star line-up of Vasilis Sirikis (percussion), Matt Ridley (bass), Ben Davies (‘cello), Phillipe Barnes (flute) and Kit Downes (piano). Their repertoire weaves a montage of traditional flamencos and bulerias with free, improvised jazz. Many of the songs played tonight come from their new release, ‘Days Indistinctive’, and have a distinctly twilight and meditative spirit. The Middle Eastern drones and Hispanic flourishes converge in a remarkable Pan-Mediterranean, ‘east meets west’ soundscape, before spinning into a mystical, breathtaking yarn, which is, in itself, captivating, unearthly and indescribably beautiful.
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.