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!
Jean Toussaint + Ivo Neame
Jean Toussaint (tenor saxophone) and Ivo Neame (piano) gave an intimate performance at Ray’s Jazz Stage. Toussaint’s saxophone has a wonderfully rich, organic and oak-smoked tone with a soft, breathy underbelly and kinetic elasticity. Playing timeless classics by Thelonious Monk, Victor Young and Tadd Dameron, he hushed the audience
Ivo Neame (piano), in his controlled style, paints a nice array of dynamics and colours. With a strong sense of rhythm, Ivo Neame - instead of relying purely on the outer pulse - builds his metre from the inside, with confidence and assertion. Filling in the harmonic framework with voicings that drip exquistiveness and charm, the saxophone outlines their points, joining the dots, and exploring some interesting, interlocking constellations of melody.
Toussaint’s saxophone improvisation is progressive, yet fleshed out through repeated cells varied through transposition and fragmentation. ‘Ladybird’ includes a nicely written piano introduction, after which the saxophone flirts decadently with the head, weaving in and out of its contours, without straying too far from the original notion.
Aquarium quartet, led by Sam Leak (piano), exemplifies a melodic, poetic and measured style. The original compositions display some imaginative, original writing and ideas. During improvisational solos, the musicians are listening intensely, creating plenty of space and reflecting off one another in sensitive, mutual interaction.
‘Chasing Away’ demonstrates some haunting, ambient piano, over a soft, rolling tom-tom groove and pedaled bass, with contemporary harmonies that relay a smooth, cosmopolitan sensibility. Calum Gourlay (bass) draws together some thoughtfully structured lines in his soloing, complemented by the silky, sweet tone of James Allsop (tenor saxophone) and undulating rhythms of Joshua Blackmore (drums).
Harmonically, the quartet tinkers with the boundaries of tonality, yet lingers within its nether reaches, without being contained by them - especially during the solos given by Sam Leak (piano), who plays up and around the ascending bass lines, earmarked as a definer. His flowing ideas roll and cascade with ease, revealing an incredibly sensitive and soulful touch. His alluring enclosures and interwoven passages are not limited by the confines of line and meter; instead, they work their way inwards, to the centres. The ideas come and go at different points of the cycle, so that when they do ‘lock in’ together, this occurs with breathtaking impact. When the melodies move into bridges and counter-subjects, these take the ear away from the comfort and security of the original themes, and gently lift you into another moment, or plane of existence.
I caught up with Sam briefly after the performance, and I asked him about the inspiration behind the project. Citing Keith Jarrett, Paul Blade and Anne Rampling as his major influences, he writes with specific intentions in mind, and not merely for the sake of writing. Personal experiences inspire his work, for example, ‘February’ is a wistful, melancholy composition about a month during which he had an unfortunate experience on the street amidst romantic problems. Their London Jazz Festival show previews their new album, due for launch at King’s Place in January - definitely one to check out.
Open Souls is a new collaboration between Indian vocalist Ranjana Ghatak, beat boxer and electronics artist Jason Singh and Seb Rochford (F-IRE Collective / Polar Bear) on drums. Their music blends the traditions of South Indian Karnataka music with contemporary, free improvisation.
Jason Singh explains that the music explores spiritual cycles. The compositions are inspired by the music that he grew up with, and given the wide range of artists with whom he has collaborated, which includes Nitin Sawhney, Matthew Halsall and Stuart McCallum (Cinematic Orchestra), his music does not really fit into any particular ‘box’. Instead, it brings all of these influences together, and also incorporates interdisciplinary arts across audio, visual and linguistic mediums. His beat boxing is clean and rhythmic, with an impressive range of vocalised percussion techniques and effects - sucking, breathing, clicking and popping - spun together in a web of interconnecting texture.
Ranjana Ghatak overdubs her softly layered ambient vocals, which revolve and float via loop pedal, and blend with sitar drone and synthesised beats. Over these, she adds some stylised melismas and vibratos, which lock in perfectly over the backings. Renowned for her work with Nitin Sawhney, Ranjana released her debut album ‘Awakening’ in 2011, which has since received much critical acclaim. Here, she flourishes and transforms Open Souls into a trancelike, soulful incantation of meditative magic.
Hyperpotamus makes music with no instruments. Like a conductor with an orchestra of instruments and a choir voices at his fingertips, he packs an arsenal of a million different sounds in his vocal chords, layering and baking them with the aid of microphone and loop pedal, in a way that is spontaneous and informed by his surroundings.
Although the music draws together cycles that layer on top of one another, he builds in definition and shape, creating complex structures - complete with verses, bridges, choruses and refrains - with fluency, on the spur of the moment. He delivers these in a way that is completely in touch with reality and at one with his environment. There are no barriers between his internal creativity and what is happening on the outside; his resounding columns of sound are so natural, that they breaths and pulsate by their own accord.
Equally comfortable improvising words in English as well as his native Spanish, he exudes the phonetic potential out of every letter in the Latin alphabet. Even when he has a technical problem, he incorporates this humorously into his routine, singing ‘Got a technical problem, Gotta find a solution’, complete with perfectly rhyming couplets. His strong, projected tenor voice is operatic and controlled, comfortable in all ranges, from high falsetto (head voice) to dulcet bass tones, and equipped with a vast array of timbres.
Jay Phelps Quartet
When I heard the audience openly applauding before the end of each piece, I knew that we were onto some ‘hot stuff’! This quartet, led by up-and-coming giant of the trumpet, Jay Phelps, complete with his band, Reuben James (piano), Tim Thornton (bass) and Moses Boyd (drums) showcased new material from their latest album ‘J Walking’ at Ray’s Jazz Stage, Foyles, Soho.
‘J Walking’ blends a Dizzy Gillespie-style mambo riff with some steaming bebop, where fleeting moments and passages flicker by, revealing infinite shafts of depth and richness beneath the music, combining an intuitive feel with some smooth, confident playing. As a trumpet player, Jay Phelps has a vast range, and the fluency of his improvisation is second-to-none, working his lightning-fast, cataclysmic melodies and turnarounds into the breach of the rhythm section, and exploiting some expertly timed, intelligent ideas. His melodic phrases bolt through angular leaps, dips and thrifts. His advanced, virtuosic improvisation of this quartet reveals some scarily skillful chops and thoughtfully engaging material. Every idea is nailed to the fullest, put across clearly, and to the point, and anything that he so desires musically or wishes to develop in a certain way is executed with precision and style.
Reuben James (piano), barely nineteen years old, plays with a maturity so outstanding for such a young age. His improvisation percolates honky-tonk, bebop, soul, New Orleans and Latin influences drawn together in a web of breathtaking montage of rhythmic fragmentation and lightning pace, with ideas developed and fleshed out with incredible speed and dynamic. Tim Thornton (bass) has a wonderfully elastic, rubbery feel to his sonorous improvisation, creating shimmering mirages and elaborate rhythmic constructions - going rhythmically ‘out’ whilst not losing the pulse - without need for support from the rest of the band. Moses Boyd (drums) flexes some highly complex polyrhythms, under piano and trumpet backing figures. The snare rolls are perfectly coordinated, and his explorations of groove flit between signatures with ease and clarity, with sobering use of the standard patterns, which form a mystical backdrop to the style of this quartet.
By the second tune, Jay Phelps declares ‘These guys are cookin’!’ - an apt way to describe the energy and momentum of this skin tight unit. This composition is inspired by the music of West Africa, and in particular, Mali, in a ‘Mali to Mississippi’ blues progression. Jay explains that he tried to work out what that meant to him, and so devised a tune ’ ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ which fluctuates between swing and African six-eight. The composition pushes to extremes of shape and colour, wholly sealing the timeless connection between Africa and the Americas, and bringing this theme to the forefront with class and pristine finish, delivering a melting pot of old and new, in a collaborative conjunction that stimulates the mind, ear and senses.
Utilising traditional mediums and techniques in an unconventional, yet informed, modern way, Jay Phelps is the iconic example of a modern, experimental quartet, whose exciting blend of modern bebop, rooted swing and mediated, experimentalist conceptions will enthuse, delight and transfix audiences and listeners for years to come.
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.