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A Love Supreme // Re-envisioned

July 2, 2016

I was having a tough day yesterday and while making a cup of tea our producer for the programme I work on – Jazz Now – ran over to me and asked me to make a tea and coffee for the guests who’d come in to be interviewed. I happily got to work then asked who the guest was. When she said Nikki Yeoh – NIKKI YEOH – I quickly dropped everything and tried to find her as soon as possible. Nikki Yeoh might be one of the country’s best jazz pianists, but she’s also my Jazz Mum. She taught me in a jazz band for four years and completely influenced and moulded the way I relate to jazz. There’s nothing to brighten up a bad day like being reunited with the woman who taught you not just how to play jazz, but how to feel it.

She recorded a beautiful flowing interview with Emma Smith talking about her new album Solo Gemini which will be coming soon on Jazz Now.

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I later went on to the Union Chapel in Islington where she was playing a solo set and then in a superband who were getting together to reimagine John Coltrane’s legendary album, A Love Supreme. The solo set was beautiful. She started off with Mutual Serenade and then moved on to Dance of the Two Small Bears which I didn’t realise until last night that she wrote when she was just 19. 19. The track is so intricate so delicate and tells the story of two bears who meet and dance and fall in love together more clearly than if you were watching it. It’s my Dad’s favourite track of hers, and it was mine too until I heard track 3.

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Track 3 was inspired by her great aunt Ivy who had tragically lost her two sons. It was a track filled with mourning and sorrow. It was beautiful, and exactly what I needed to hear as that day I mourned the loss of a wonderful woman in my church family who died that very morning. The piece brought me to tears, and was a beautiful release after a very sad day. Honestly, I can’t remember what she played after that, because I was so moved by the track before, but suffice to say her set was gorgeous.

Her album, Solo Gemini is available here

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Shortly after Nikki’s set the group took to the stage for what was an extended (or at least long) reimagining of John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. It begun with a gentle introduction from Ansuman Biswas on the santoor. It was very delicate and contemplative After a while it built up and Juwon Ogungbe read out part of Coltrane’s poem, A Love Supreme while Cleveland Watkiss joined him singing. Interestingly they changed Coltrane’s God in his poem from a ‘He’ to a ‘She’ clearly making a statement.

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The performance was continuous for over an hour and included very intense crashing chaotic parts and also very gentle, tender and sensitive sections. It was a beautiful emotional experience, but also slightly uncomfortable for me. As a practicing Christian, that night, it was difficult to separate spirituality from music. While it was beautiful, the spiritual dimension was unsettling for someone who may not have felt that they were comfortable with it. Still, Coltrane’s album really paved the way, in a sense, for spiritual jazz, and it was all too right that the night reflected that. Whether I’d feel comfortable going to a gig that I felt was that spiritual again, I can’t say.

Shabaka Hutchings played the tenor saxophone and was enthralling. His energy, his deep and rich tone made him mesmerising to watch and listen to. Shabaka doesn’t play jazz, he experiences it, he shares it, he feels it, he does it. None of the musicians that night were just playing jazz, they were living it.

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For me, music isn’t about switching off. Music is about being challenged, feeling something new, thinking about something new, reimagining, being unsettled, but also being comforted. Last night was spectacular and although aspects of it made me feel unsettled, I think that’s what it was all about…

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From → Jazz, Music

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