Courtney Pine and John Surman at Brecon

What a treat to pop over with my friend (and soon-to-be-collaborator-on-the-Rosebush-project), composer and singer, Sarah Harman to Brecon Jazz to see John Surman, one of my all-time-favourite musicians playing a late set on Friday night, and then a double-bill on Saturday afternoon of Zoe Rahman and Courtney Pine.

Brecon Jazz is very different these days now that it is no longer held at venues spread all over the town, and there was a quieter feel to it, with the more raucous stuff seeming to happen in the “fringe”, which didn`t seem to restrict itself to jazz! But it is still a truly fantastic chance to hear live performances from top musicians, and both John Surman and Courtney Pine and their bands were fantastic.

John Surman is a composer and sax player who hails from the West Country and I listen to his music a lot when I am working. I have never seen him perform live before, and when I saw he was coming to Brecon I knew I had to go – I was not disappointed! His music evokes landscape for me and a particular highlight was violinist Rita Manning playing The Spaces In Between which was composed specially for her…Sarah and I could just imagine her playing that in the quarry at Rosebush!

Courtney Pine`s set was from his new “Europa” album which comprises new material based on his travels around Europe and his research of history, traditional songs, myths and stories. His playing of the bass clarinet was legendary and his obvious delight in research and in connections between people and places was inspirational. I am especially interested in the parallells he draws between the artists striving for something to take “me out of the ordinary” and the search for a Holy Grail, “that thing that’s on the edge of a distant horizon or that dream that you can’t remember just out of reach but within eyesight”… He is an artist who continues to take risks in his work and who is also committed to encouraging young musicians – oh, and he’s also a really nice guy, he promised to send me some notes to expriment with in my glass work.His band are all fabulous musicians, in particular watch out for Amanda Drummond, his spectacular viola player, she is really a gem.

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