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!
At face value, Esperanza Spalding may strike you as something of a crossover between Kenny Wheeler and Beyoncé, but there is much more to this, for her sound soaks up the richness of R&B, soul and contemporary jazz, all complemented by her unique character. With the big band, she is never outdone or out-phased by its wall of sound; and her message never has to strain to be heard. Even in those moments where her voice is subservient to the rest of the band, it speaks through with a crystal clarity and immediacy.
‘Hold On Me’ displays the strength of her vocal technique. More impressive still, is the way in which she assimilates this with her bass playing, as one unit, a single musical voice and line of creative thought, like an internal dialogue, the one informing the other. Whether she is playing, singing or speaking, it does not matter; it is the substance of what she is conveying that is important.
Her music is permeated with dialectic interaction at all levels. Much of the drama unfolds in the dialogue between Esperanza the individual soloists, such as the alto saxophone in the third composition ‘City of Roses’, in which conceptual talk meets with abstract saxophonic expressions in a seamless integration of verbal and non-verbal discourse. The saxophone solo cascades upwards to stellar rhapsodies and cosmological heights, and is composed with soft inward centres and soulful interiors.
‘Hold On Me’ and ‘City of Roses’ are thematically opposed; ‘Hold On Me’ representing ‘what happens when things go wrong’ and ‘City of Roses’ representing ‘that silver lining’.
As well as having a discernible musical gift, Esperanza has a real talent with words and conceptual ideas. Improvised poetry and spoken word were as much a part of her upbringing as her musical discipline, and Esperanza exudes emotion and personality from every single note and phrase - stating ‘I believe in poetic justice’. Throughout the course of her live performance, Esperanza freely intersperses running commentary and compere with melodic passages and lyrics, creating a fluid continuum of the cognitive and the abstract. At times, she steps out of the musical flow to verbally observe and comment on what is going on. She does this with a sharpness, wit and clarity so accessible to the listener, at one point, summarising the moment in the phrase ‘music speaks louder than words’.
Esperanza transforms like a chameleon or a phoenix, adopting different characters and sentiments between songs. ’Crowned & Kissed’ talks about the ‘little things that you forget to notice, which are sometimes there right in front of you…’ Coincidentally, this composition emphasises the finer, positive aspects of life within a world that over-stresses the negative, and it fills you with a wonder and optimism that makes you think and re-evaluate your life. Her music is, again, all-inclusive and interactive - it is as much about YOU as it is about them. Esperanza and her band work with the energy of the audience, its spontaneous whooping and cheering becoming an integral part of the performance. It is as if the entire performance were written and expressly performed just for YOU, on this very night, and it makes you wonder how much of it was composed and how much of it was improvised.
‘Black Gold’ features a male vocalist, Algebra Blessett, adding an alternative personality to the mix, with his lamenting, melismatic excursions interposed with supporting comments from the former female presence, adding ‘a little medicine for your soul’. This composition reminds me that her music has roots and foundations as well as staggering heights, with its soulful R&B and danceable grooves, executed with an immersive jazz sensibility. The male and female vocals combined added a shimmering richness, and the brilliance is enhanced by the classic key change, which takes the momentum up another notch and empowers it onto another plane.
‘Vague Suspicions’ blends gliding cross-rhythms with kaleidoscopic rays of harmony, coloured with silky, cocoaesque vocals, soprano saxophone and flute; with swishing piano and gentle cymbals crashing under swathing sheets of texture. The music never lingers too long on a particular vibe; like Esperanza herself, it is forever shifting and evolving through seemingly endless subjects, from within itself, growing and transforming. And just when you think that it cannot get any higher or go any further, it surprises you again and throws something new onto the table.
‘Cinnamon Tree’ transmits powerful imagery, which make out Esperanza as much a romantic as she is a voyeuristic, her sentimental poetry pleasing those young couples who are only too happy to waltz with one another in contemplative bliss. Esperanza refers to each composition as a ‘scene’ - almost like the concert is a moving film or motion picture that submerges your ears into a fabulously warm ocean of sounds and sensations. The distinctions between compositions are subtly blurred, as the pacing is very fluid, yet each composition still maintains its own cognitive boundaries.
‘Endangered Species’ is a Wayne Shorter composition that was ‘perfect just how it was’, but is now enriched with lyrics, again, presenting us with something new and unexpected, and revealing another side to her personality. Here, Esperanza exploits the power of the voice as an instrument as much as for its lyrical potential. Sometimes, especially when it is subservient or equal to the rest of the band, it resonates with the subconscious rather than the conscious, and you do not always notice it, but if you tune your ears and mind, then you realise that it is omnipresent. The overall forms and instrumental combinations are like auditory illusions; you can listen to the music in a multitude of different ways, and it would probably still make sense if it were played backwards, because the unity and structure is so immanent. Listening through its multitude of layers, you can hear internal structures interacting with one another at different levels - not limited to the surface.
‘I Just Can’t Help It’, featuring saxophonist Joe Lovano, has to be my favourite track on the album. The slinky, sensual cross rhythms, purring saxophonic trails and kaleidoscopic vocals throw your mind and senses into a disorientating star field of speculation and wonder.
Her live shows seem to have no beginning or end. The compositions tap into streams of consciousness that are already there, like telescopes uncovering entities that were always lingering beneath. This is a testament to the strength of her music, and to the compositions, in themselves, which transcend technical boundaries and become a platform for social engagement and improvisational mastery.
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.