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December 02 2010

Tim Whitehead: Colour Beginnings – review


You don't need to know that UK saxophonist Tim Whitehead has been a fan of Turner's paintings since he found himself crying in front of one many years back. Nor that injury in 2006 gave him the time to ponder a musical tribute to the painter. Nor even that this project made him the first musician to be an artist in residence at Tate Britain. No, Whitehead's music always stands on its own feet. His bands are consistently fine examples of attractively song-rooted composing and cutting-edge postbop improv, and his collaborations with Liam Noble inspire some of the gifted pianist's most memorable recorded playing. But the triggers here are transcribed from Whitehead's original solo improvisations recorded while viewing Turner's work – particularly the painter's fastest and most intuitive sketches and watercolours. Some of the music unfolds in twisting, long-lined themes, some in softly exhaled solo-sax reveries; there are skittish dancing melodies and speculative group conversations that suggest Wayne Shorter's musings. Noble often echoes Whitehead or plays in unison – and, like all the performers, he plays as deeply inside these pieces as if he were as personally involved as their originator.

Rating: 4/5 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

November 07 2010

Play fullscreen

"Once Upon a Time (A Children's Tale)," from Marion Brown, Geechee Recollections [Impulse]. Marion Brown, alto and soprano sax; Wadada Leo Smith, trumpet; James Jefferson, bass, cello; Steve McCall, drums; William Malone, autoharp, thumb piano; A. Kobena Adzenyah, African drums. Released 1973.


Georgia Recollections: Goodbye, Marion Brown : A Blog Supreme : NPRGeorgia Recollections: Goodbye, Marion Brownby Lars Gotrich

Marion Brown on the cover of Geechee Recollections, part of his trilogy about Georgia.

Marion brown
Enlarge Courtesy of the artist

Marion Brown on the cover of Geechee Recollections, part of his trilogy about Georgia.

As I see it, Georgia didn't open up to me until I left home. Don't be fooled: Atlanta suburbs are not the Old South. Neighborhoods are named for the farmers who once plowed the soil, and sweet-tea-sipped accents are at least five counties away. Not until I moved to Athens, Ga., and eventually to Washington, D.C., did I see Georgia for the weird and surreal place it was and is.

Marion Brown was born Sept. 8, 1935 in Atlanta (or 1931, depending on who you ask). He stayed in Georgia long enough to see the Confederate stars and bars added to the state flag at the height of desegregation. His travels took him to New York, where Archie Shepp and Ornette Coleman encouraged Brown to develop his talents. The alto saxophonist appeared on John Coltrane's Ascension and Shepp's Fire Music, his reflective and sometimes playful tone an ear-bending foil to the fire-breathing of his peers.


After time in Paris and touring Europe, Brown returned to Atlanta, where a surge of creativity flowered like dogwood: Beautiful and bright, but burnt at the tips. Inspired by the stark Southern reflections in Jean Toomer's epic work Cane, and his own birthplace enlightenment, Marion Brown released a trilogy of records dedicated to Georgia: Afternoon of a Georgia Faun (1970), Geechee Recollections (1973) and Sweet Earth Flying (1974). (The latter two remain out of print.) Adorned with pastoral poetry and folksong, these albums evoke a Southern experience.

At a certain point of reflection and education, I became a conflicted Southerner. I sought the harmony of my past, the understanding of a history I adopted as my own. (My family moved to Georgia at age seven, but "American by birth, Southern by the grace of God," we say). Like its soul food, Georgia's history is lush and cooked down, yet brutal in its lumbering wake. It's near impossible to reconcile what came and what is to come with a state that only in the last decade removed the Dixie from its flag. It is our heritage, yes. And in an odd way, those of us who've struggled with those issues are proud still.

There is hurt in Marion Brown's trilogy. How could there not be? Jean Toomer wrote of "Thunder blossoms gorgeously above our heads […] Bleeding rain / Dripping rain like golden honey." Beautiful and terrifying: In its unique and abstract way, this is how I eventually came to see my home. The quiet, percussive "Afternoon of a Georgia Faun" as a haunting spirit of the swampy urban jungle; the rhythmic dance of "Once Upon a Time (A Children's Tale)" as the celebration of summer; the solo bookends of the Sweet Earth Flying suite, played by Paul Bley (Fender Rhodes) and Muhal Richard Abrams (piano), two soulful and somber blues rendering Georgia dawn and Georgia dusk.

While this Southern trilogy certainly doesn't capture the breadth of Brown's work, it's a personal statement that speaks beyond music. It should be part of the Southern canon along with The Color Purple, Coca-Cola, Rev. Howard Finster, James Brown, the Stone Mountain laser show and Sid Bream's slide into home plate.

Multiple sources are reporting that Brown died in his assisted living community in Hollywood, Fl. this past weekend. Out of sight for the past three decades due to illness, Marion Brown was a musical spirit guide to those lucky to find him. Cradled between Anthony Braxton sides at WUOG was Afternoon of a Georgia Faun for me to discover in 2004. Listening then as now, I'm taken off I-85 and down the winding, unlit roads of 441, hearing the South in moving fabric. I'm home.

More remembrances and archival interviews: Clifford Allen, All About Jazz, Peter Hum.

August 17 2010

Herman Leonard obituary

Photographer famed for his jazz images that captured the very essence of the music

The photographer Herman Leonard, who has died aged 87, earned enduring fame for his images of jazz musicians that seemed to embody the very essence of the music. "My whole principle was to capture the mood and atmosphere of the moment," he said. Widely reproduced – there are few books on jazz that do not contain his photographs – they became almost as well known as the music itself. Leonard's shots stand examination as a definitive record of jazz music's greatest period, when mid-century New York was home to its most innovative practitioners.

Leonard's evocations of the jazz life merited that often over-used term "iconic". A typical example – and possibly one of the most celebrated jazz pictures of all time – is his photograph of the bebop tenor-saxophonist Dexter Gordon on the bandstand at the Royal Roost club in New York, staring into space, the smoke of his cigarette curling up behind him. "That smoke was part of the atmosphere and dramatised the photographs a lot, maybe over-stylised them a bit," Leonard said.

Always a fan, he retained an almost starry-eyed delight in what he had achieved. "I took advantage of being a photographer to get myself into the clubs so I could sit in front of Charlie Parker. I got to listen to the music in person," he told the Los Angeles Times, while admitting that had he realised that Parker, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie were to become world-renowned figures, "I would have shot 10 times as many pictures."

His parents were Jewish immigrants from Romania who had arrived in New York in 1912 and then moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where Leonard was born. He was the youngest of three children. His father founded a business manufacturing women's foundation garments. Given his first camera by his brother Ira when he was 12, Leonard became his high school's official photographer, taking pictures for the yearbook and immersing himself in every aspect of photographic technique. After graduating in 1940, he enrolled at Ohio University to study photography, eventually gaining a bachelor's degree, although his college course was interrupted by his wartime call-up.

Leonard served in the US army medical corps from 1943 to 1945, not as a military photographer but as an anaesthetist with the 13th Mountain Medical Battalion in Burma. Constantly under fire, he kept his camera with him, developing his pictures at night with chemicals mixed in an army helmet. Jazz, Giants and Journeys (2006), the most complete survey of his lifetime of photography, includes a number of shots from this period.

Leonard completed his degree course in 1947, developing his trademark back-lit style in the college laboratories. He was then apprenticed to the photographer Yousuf Karsh as an unpaid assistant. Helping Karsh with his celebrity sittings gave him insights into lighting techniques and tonal nuance: "Karsh knew how to handle people so as to get what he wanted in the photograph."

Leonard set up his own studio in 1948 in Greenwich Village in New York, selling his jazz shots to magazines and record companies. Painstakingly setting up his pictures and adapting studio lighting techniques to location work, Leonard used his 4x5 Speed Graphic camera to brilliant effect. He was happy to give prints to the musicians and for club owners to use them for advertising purposes. He also began to take on glamour shoots for Playboy magazine. Recruited by Marlon Brando as his personal photographer, Leonard travelled with him to the far east in 1956.

In the first of a series of relocations with his family, Leonard moved to Paris that year and worked for Barclay Records. He photographed Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong on the set of the 1961 movie Paris Blues. He also gained lucrative commissions for advertising, fashion and travel photography.

Having zigzagged from Paris to London and on to Ibiza, Leonard "dropped out" for several years before returning to London in 1988. He was given a solo exhibition at the Special Photographers' Gallery, which 10,000 people visited during its month-long run. His career apparently reborn, Leonard returned to the US and settled in New Orleans. His home and business premises were badly damaged when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, but thousands of his negatives were saved, having been deposited at the city's Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Leonard left the city for California. This painful episode was documented in Leslie Woodhead's film Saving Jazz.

Leonard's photographs have enjoyed a secondary existence as posters, greetings cards and calendars. His work has been collected in a series of four books overseen by the photographer. Leonard, who received many prizes for his work, never seemed to overstate his own importance. He knew his subjects well and they trusted him, allowing him to photograph them in intimate situations. The record producer George Avakian spoke of Leonard as "a wonderful guy. In every respect, he brought happiness to us all."

Leonard married Jacqueline Fauv- reau in 1960. They had a daughter, Valerie, and later separated. He also had a son, Mikael, by Attika Ben-Dirdi, and a daughter, Shana, and a son, David, with his longtime partner Elizabeth Braunlich. He and Elizabeth separated in 1987. Leonard is survived by his children and six grandchildren.

Leslie Woodhead writes: In November 2005, I filmed with Herman Leonard as he went to work in the only surviving darkroom in post-Katrina New Orleans. In the weeks after the hurricane, which had wrecked his home and destroyed thousands of his prints, I watched as the master photographer began to rebuild his archive of jazz images.

For decades I had known and loved Herman's pictures. Now I was able to see him at work. A photograph of the 19-year-old Miles Davis swam up from the developer and Herman teased out the glow in Miles's skin and the detail in a shirt collar. I then worked with Herman on Jazz, a new book of his photographs, to be published in November, including dozens of images retrieved from his archive. I came to know him as a very special man – funny, warm, tirelessly creative. I shall miss him greatly.

• Herman Leonard, photographer, born 6 March 1923; died 14 August 2010 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 26 2010


Die Schönheit liegt im Ohr des Betrachters.
Die Wikipedia über den amerikanischen Jazzer Thelonious Monk (1917-1982):

• Thelonious Monk, “Round About Midnight”:

(Gefunden bei thisisnthappiness)

Reposted fromglaserei glaserei viaschoenswetter schoenswetter

May 25 2010

May 23 2010

Here comes summer

Stevie Wonder hits the UK, Toy Story goes 3D, and it's the last ever Big Brother – our critics pick the unmissable events of the season


Stevie Wonder

Anyone who can't face braving Glastonbury to see the Motown legend's Sunday-night set can head to London's Hyde Park for this headlining show. It's likely to be heavy on the hits, but a little too heavy on the audience participation, if complaints from disgruntled punters at Wonder's recent shows are anything to go by. And be warned: Jamiroquai seems to have been enticed out of retirement to provide support. Hyde Park, London W2, 26 June. Box office: 020-7009 3484.

T in the Park

This beloved Scottish festival is prized as much for its atmosphere as its lineup. And they're certainly wheeling out the big hitters this year: Eminem, Muse, Kasabian, Jay-Z, Black Eyed Peas, Florence and the Machine, La Roux, Dizzee Rascal and Paolo Nutini, among others. Balado, Kinross-shire, 9-11 July. Box office: 0844 499 9990.


There are those who would argue that going to a festival with no camping doesn't strictly constitute going to a festival: equally, there are those who wouldn't countenance doing anything else. Either way, this year's Wireless lineup looks strong: it includes Pink, the Ting Tings, LCD Soundsystem, Lily Allen, Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, Plan B and Friendly Fires. Hyde Park, London W2, 2-4 July. Box office: 020-7009 3484.


If you're prepared to travel abroad for your festival jollies, Spain's Benicassim can offer things no British event can: a beach and guaranteed good weather. This year you can also catch Kasabian, Ray Davies, the Prodigy, Lily Allen, the Specials, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Vampire Weekend, PiL, Dizzee Rascal, Hot Chip, Goldfrapp and the intriguingly named Love of Lesbian. Benicassim, Spain, 15-18 July. Box office:

Green Man

Of all the boutique festivals, Green Man is the longest-established. This year's eclectic bill sees something of a shift away from its nu-folk roots – but they presumably know their audience well enough to know what they'll like. Doves, Joanna Newsom and Flaming Lips are among the headliners; also on the roster are Billy Bragg, Fuck Buttons, Wild Beasts and Steve Mason. The traditional end of things, meanwhile, is held up by the Unthanks and Alasdair Roberts. Brecon Beacons, 20-22 August. Box office: 0871 424 4444.



An indie comedy from Noah Baumbach, creator of The Squid and the Whale. Ben Stiller is Roger Greenberg, an unfulfilled middle-aged guy who house-sits for his more successful brother Phillip in LA, and begins a relationship with Phillip's nervy assistant Florence, played by mumblecore star Greta Gerwig. Released on 11 June.


The Batman movies made Christopher Nolan one of Hollywood's biggest hitters; now, he raises the stakes with this non-superhero film. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Cobb, a guy with a unique gift in a strange dystopian future where corporate espionage has engendered an unsettling new technology. Released on 16 July.

Toy Story 3

The first two Toy Stories were sublime, so hopes are high for the third instalment. Woody, Buzz and his toy pals are facing the much-feared betrayal/abandonment issues hinted at in the previous film. Their owner has grown up, and they are headed for the charity bins, to be played with by kids who do not appreciate them. So the toys plan a daring escape. Released on 21 July.


This movie from South Korea has acquired cult status on the festival circuit, and makes a welcome appearance in the UK. Kim Hye-ja plays an elderly woman whose twentysomething son still lives with her. When he is charged with murder, it is up to her to right what she is convinced is a terrible wrong, and to track down the real killer. She is a formidable amateur sleuth. But what will she – and we – discover? Released on 20 August.

The Illusionist

Sylvain Chomet, the director of the hugely admired animation Les Triplettes de Belleville, has scored another hit by resurrecting an unproduced script by Jacques Tati and bringing it to life with complete fidelity to his spirit. It is a gentle, melancholy tale about an old-school vaudevillian magician and entertainer who finds that modern showbusiness is leaving him behind. But a young girl still thrills to his act. Released on 20 August.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Comic fans suffering from withdrawal after Kick-Ass can find comfort in this adventure. Based on the graphic novel by Brian Lee O'Malley and directed by Edgar Wright, this stars Michael Cera as the introspective rock musician Scott. He falls hard for Ramona Flowers, but discovers that he has to vanquish her seven ex-boyfriends before he can win her heart. Released on 6 August.


Ghost Light by Joseph O'Connor

In Edwardian Dublin, a young actress begins an affair with JM Synge. This latest from historical novelist O'Connor, author of Star of the Sea and Redemption Falls, is loosely based on the real story of the great Irish playwright's affair with Molly Allgood, moving between 1907 Dublin and 1952 London. Harvill Secker, 3 June.

Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis

Twenty-five years after Ellis burst onto the scene with Less Than Zero comes this sequel to his story of disaffected LA teenager Clay and friends. Middle-aged Clay is now a screenwriter, returning to LA to cast a movie and catch up with ex-girlfriend Blair, childhood best friend Julian (now a recovering addict running an escort service) and their old dealer Rip. Picador, 2 July.

Faithful Place by Tana French

Every holiday needs a good crime novel and French's skilful thrillers are tailor-made to terrify. This follows the story of Frank Mackey, who planned to run away to London with his girlfriend Rosie, aged 19. She failed to turn up; 20 years later he's still in Dublin, working as an undercover policeman. And then Rosie's suitcase is found. Hodder, 19 August.

A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Reasons Why We Can't Stop Reading Jane Austen

Authors from Jay McInerney to Fay Weldon, Alain de Botton and Susanna Clarke ponder Austen's enduring appeal in this collection, edited by Susannah Carson. Martin Amis, for one, dreams of a 20-page sex scene between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy, with Darcy "acquitting himself uncommonly well". Particular Books, 3 June.

Visual art

Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception

Belgian artist Alÿs, now based in Mexico City, has pushed a block of ice through sweltering streets, had 500 volunteers move a Peruvian sand dune, and walked the 1948 Armistice line between Palestine and Israel, trailing green paint behind him. This will be the largest survey of his work ever held. Tate Modern, London SE1 (020-7887 8888), 15 June-15 September.

Martin Creed: Down Over Up

A mid-career survey show of the Turner Prize-winning artist who made the lights go on and off, filled galleries with balloons, and had runners sprinting through Tate Britain. Creed works increasingly with performance, both with his band Owada and with dancers. His art can be funny, touching and outrageous, all carried off with wit, charm and a lack of pretension. Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (0131-225 2383), 30 July–31 October.

Alice Neel: Painted Truths

Alice Neel (1900-1984) was a tough, single-minded and wonderful American portraitist whose subjects included her family and art-world friends, such as Andy Warhol (whom she painted in bandages after he was shot). An artist's artist, her work is idiosyncratic and acute. Expect art schools to be filled with teenage mini-Neels next term. Whitechapel Gallery, London E1 (020-7522 7888), 8 July–17 September.

John Cage: Every Day Is a Good Day

Cage did much more than compose 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence. The composer, writer, mushroom-hunter, unconventional artist and collaborator with Merce Cunningham and Jasper Johns is undergoing a major revival. This show is curated by artist, writer and long-time fan Jeremy Millar, and is organised according to Cage's ideas of chance and indeterminacy. Baltic, Gateshead (0191-478 1810) 19 June‑5 September.

Picasso: The Mediterranean Years (1945-1962)

Complementing Tate Liverpool's current Picasso show, this exhibition, curated by Picasso biographer John Richardson and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, focuses on the artist's Mediterranean roots, with portraits, sculptures, ceramics and prints, mostly taken from Picasso's own collection. Gagosian Gallery, London WC1 (020-7784 9960), 4 June–28 August.

Wolfgang Tillmans

Based in London for 20 years, Tillmans takes his relationship with the city as the starting point for this show. Abstract photographs and snapshots, portraits and places, old things and new: Tillmans's subjects are as rich and varied, as surprising and askew as the world itself. Serpentine Gallery, London W2 (020-7402 6075), 10 July–17 October.

Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries

An exhibition for anyone interested in the skulduggery of forgery; the mangling of old paintings to make them fit later taste; or in the science of restoration and CSI-type investigation. The show analyses work from the gallery's own collection. National Gallery, London WC2 (020-7747 2885), 30 June–12 September.


Women, Power and Politics

Nine dramatists, including Bola Agbaje, Moira Buffini, Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Sue Townsend, join forces to create a two-part show exploring the role of women in British politics. Given that there are more Lib Dems than women in the current cabinet, it seems a timely venture. Tricycle Theatre, London NW6 (020-7328 1000), 4 June-17 July.

Morte d'Arthur

Having adapted The Canterbury Tales for the RSC, the writer-director team of Mike Poulton and Gregory Doran now give us a compressed version of Malory's epic on Arthurian legend. Expect the round table, the holy grail and the hot, adulterous passion of Lancelot and Guinevere. Courtyard, Stratford-upon-Avon (0844 800 1110), 11 June-28 August.


Playwright Laura Wade and director Lyndsey Turner have just had a hit with Posh at the Royal Court. Now things get curiouser as the pair collaborate on a new version of Lewis Carroll's novel, in which Wonderland looks suspiciously like Sheffield. Over-eights only. Crucible, Sheffield (0114-249 6000), 17 June-24 July.

Greenwich and Docklands International festival

This outdoor festival can hold its head up proudly among its European peers. French company Ilotopie return with a new show, Oxymer – and there is a dazzling array of work from Catalonia. All events are free. Various sites around London, 24 June-4 July.

The Critic/The Real Inspector Hound

Sheridan is matched with Stoppard in two of the funniest plays ever written about theatre. In the first, a ludicrous play about the Spanish Armada descends into chaos; in the second, two critics get caught up in a Christie-style whodunit. Jonathan Church, who has boldly restored Chichester's fortunes, directs. Minerva, Chichester (01243 781312), 2 July-28 August.

You Me Bum Bum Train

Two hundred performers and an audience of just one – you. This show has been six years in the making, and now gets a full-scale production courtesy of the Barbican's BITE programme. LEB Building, London E2 (0845 120 7511), 6-24 July.

Earthquakes in London

Rupert Goold directs a Mike Bartlett play promising a rollercoaster ride through London from 1968 to 2525. Themes include social breakdown, population explosion and paranoia: a chance for Goold to exercise the expressionist talents he used in Enron. Cottesloe, London SE1 (020-7452 3000), from 28 July.

The Gospel at Colonus

Classic Greek drama is given a twist by US director Lee Breuer, who relocates Sophocles's tragedy to modern America and throws in a gospel choir, Blind Boys of Alabama, to collectively play the role of Oedipus. Edinburgh Playhouse (0131-473 2000), 21-23 August.


The Serpentine Gallery summer pavilion

The gallery's 10th summer pavilion is as red as a London double-decker. It's also Jean Nouvel's first building in Britain, but only just: the French architect, best known for the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, has nearly completed a controversial office block in the City of London. This boldly geometric pavilion will be home to a series of cultural events. Serpentine Gallery, London W2 (020-7402 6075), 10 July–17 October.

Venice Biennale

The 12th International Architecture Exhibition is curated this year by the Pritzker prize-winning Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima. This is one of the most delightful places to encounter the latest ideas in architecture. Venice, 29 August–21 November. Details:


Secret Diaries of Anne Lister

Anne Lister was a woman way ahead of her time. A Yorkshire industrialist, land-owner and traveller, she was also a lesbian and lived with her lover, long before lesbians officially existed. Best of all, she was an avid diarist, recording her life in great detail – and often in code. Maxine Peake stars as Lister in this one-off 90-minute drama, written by Jane English and directed by James Kent. BBC2, June

Big Brother

Love it or hate it, there's no denying BB's influence and impact on the first decade of the 21st century. Remember the chickens, and Nasty Nick? And how much nastier it got over subsequent series? This is the end – the last BB ever. (To be read in Marcus Bentley's Geordie voice: It's D-Day in the Big Brother house ...) Channel 4, June

Father & Son

A four-part thriller written by Frank Deasy (Prime Suspect: The Final Act and The Passion) about an ex-crim who returns to Britain from a quiet life in Ireland, to save his teenage son from prison. Starring Dougray Scott, Stephen Rea, Sophie Okonedo and Ian Hart. ITV, June


A three-part comedy drama about a pair of cops (Toby Stephens and Lucy Punch) with a lot of chemistry between them, as well as issues at home. Written by Howard Overman, who penned the hit show Misfits for E4. BBC2, August

I Am Slave

A one-off drama from the people who created the feature film The Last King of Scotland, tackling the issue of slavery in contemporary Britain. Inspired by real events, it tells the story of a young woman's abduction from her home in Sudan to London, where she is enslaved. Channel 4, August

Classical and opera

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Bryn Terfel finally sings a role he was born to play – that of Hans Sachs, in Wagner's most life-affirming work. Welsh National Opera presents Richard Jones's new production in Cardiff and Birmingham, before bringing it to the Proms as a concert performance. Millennium Centre, Cardiff (029-2063 6464), 19 June-3 July; Hippodrome, Birmingham (0844 338 5000), 6 & 10 July; Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (0845 401 5040), 17 July.

What are Years

The highlight of Pierre Boulez's first-ever appearance at the Aldeburgh festival promises to be the world premiere of 101-year-old Elliott Carter's Marianne Moore song cycle, with Boulez conducting soprano Claire Booth and Ensemble Intercontemporain. Snape Maltings Concert Hall (01728 687110), Aldeburgh, 26 June.

The Duchess of Malfi

English National Opera and the theatre company Punchdrunk join forces to take over a vacant site in London's Docklands for an "immersive" production of Torsten Rasch's new opera, based on John Webster's 17th-century revenge tragedy. Great Eastern Quay, London E16 (0871 911 0200), 13-24 July.

Bach Day

As usual, the Proms will mark most of the year's significant musical anniversaries – Schumann, Chopin, Scriabin, Mahler – and will devote an entire day to Bach. John Eliot Gardiner conducts the Brandenburg Concertos, David Briggs plays organ works and Andrew Litton takes on an evening of orchestral arrangements. Cadogan Hall & Royal Albert Hall, London SW7 (0845 401 5040), 14 August.


The European colonisation of the new world is the theme of this year's Edinburgh international festival – and Carl Heinrich Graun's rarely performed opera from 1754, with a libretto by Frederick the Great of Prussia, fits into it perfectly. A Mexican production team stages this story of the Spanish conquest of Mexico, with a cast drawn from both the old and new worlds. King's, Edinburgh (0131-473 2000), 14, 15 & 17 August.

East Neuk festival

Expect high-class chamber music at this Scottish event, with both the Belcea and Elias quartets in residence. Programmes range across more than three centuries, from Tallis to Britten. Various venues, Fife (0131-473 2000), 30 June to 4 July.


Wynton Marsalis

Marsalis and the Lincoln Center orchestra celebrate 80 years of big-band jazz history with three big London concerts, as well as workshops and jams at the Vortex Club and elsewhere. The Hackney gigs feature both an afternoon family concert and evening show, while the Glasgow performance is part of the Glasgow international jazz festival. Barbican Hall, London E8 (0845 120 7500), 17-18 June; Hackney Empire, London E8 (020-8510 4500), 20 June; Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow (0141-353 8000), 27 June.

The Necks

Every performance by Australia's cult improv trio the Necks is different – though you can be sure that each will be a seamless episode of free improvisation. Hypnotic hooks emerge and fade from trance-like drones, jazz phrasing is touched on and abandoned, and drum sounds are both textural and rhythmic. It's a unique ensemble, with a big cult following. Tron Theatre, Glasgow (0141-552 4267), 22 June.

Pat Metheny Band

Guitar star Metheny came to Britain with his one-man-band Orchestrion project earlier in the year, but this show represents the Metheny his long-time fans know: the leader of an accessible quartet fusing Latin music, jazz themes and lyrical guitar. Regulars Lyle Mays (piano), Steve Rodby (bass) and dynamic drummer Antonio Sanchez complete the lineup. Barbican, London EC2 (0845 120 7500), 10 July.

Kurt Elling

Jazz singer and multi-award nominee Elling has it all – Sinatra's soaring sound and charismatic cool, a dazzling jazz-improv technique, and an intelligent audacity about picking unusual material. Ronnie Scott's, London W1 (020-7439 0747), 30 June-3 July.

World music


This festival can either be a miserable mudbath or an easy-going weekend in the Wiltshire countryside – but it's worth risking it for an impressive lineup. From Congo, Staff Benda Bilili play rousing rhumba-rock from their wheelchairs; and from Australia there's the soulful Aboriginal star Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu. Plus Nigeria's master drummer Tony Allen, the Kamkars from Kurdish Iran, and great American veteran Gil Scott-Heron. Charlton Park, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, 23-25 July. Box office: 0845 146 1735.

Cambridge Folk Festival

There are dozens of good UK folk festivals this summer – but Cambridge still has the highest profile, partly because it has become an international event with increasing emphasis on American stars. This year the line-up includes country legend Kris Kristofferson, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the multilingual Pink Martini, along with Malian star Rokia Traoré. The British contingent includes the Unthanks and Seth Lakeman. Cherry Hinton Hall, 29 July to 1 August. Box office: 01223 357851.


Pleasure's Progress

Will Tuckett visits the dark underbelly of 18th-century England, mixing dance and opera in this homage to William Hogarth. The cast includes the excellent Matthew Hart. Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich (01473 295230), 18-19 June, then touring.

Russian ballet in London

Heavyweight Moscow ballet giant the Bolshoi and the St Petersburg featherweight, the Mikhailovsky, fight it out for London's summer ballet audience. The Bolshoi have a new staging of Coppélia and Ratmansky's Russian Seasons, while the Mikhailovsky bring the classic Gorsky-Messerer Swan Lake, as well as Chabukiani's uber-Soviet ballet Laurencia. The Mikhailovsky are at the Coliseum, London WC2 (020-7632 8300) from 13 July; The Bolshoi are at the Royal Opera House, London WC2 (020-7304 4000), from 17 July.

Carlos Acosta

Acosta returns with his latest mixed programme – and his performances include debuts in the beautiful Russell Maliphant solo, Two, and Edwaard Liang's Sight Unseen, with Zenaida Yanowsky. Coliseum, London WC2 (020-7632 8300), from 28 July.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: Agua

Following Bausch's death last year, her company opted to continue touring her work. Agua, seen here in the UK for the first time, is a tragicomic take on life played out against Brazilian landscapes. Playhouse, Edinburgh (0131 473 2000), 27-29 August.


Penn and Teller

Stand aside, Derren Brown. Perform your disappearing act, Paul Daniels. Las Vegas magic act Penn and Teller are coming to town, for five nights in London this July. The duo's 30-year partnership has yielded multiple Emmy nominations, an appearance on The Simpsons – and, of course, their hit 1990s Channel 4 series, The Unpleasant World of Penn & Teller. This is their first live UK appearance in 16 years. Hammersmith Apollo, London W6 (0844 844 4748), 14-18 July.

Hans Teeuwen

Already confirmed for the Edinburgh fringe this year, the once-seen, never-forgotten Dutch comic Teeuwen unleashes his new show Smooth and Painful on an unsuspecting world. Even if you've seen the twisted cabaret of this demoniacal Nick Cave of comedy before, you've no idea what he'll come up with next. Pleasance Beyond, Edinburgh (0131-556 6550), 4-29 August.

My Name Is Sue

Winner of a Total Theatre award at last year's Edinburgh fringe, this frumpy cabaret once again unites the talents of composer/performer Dafydd James and director Ben Lewis, of the terrific Inspector Sands theatre group. James dons a blouse and skirt to play the titular housewife, who sits at a piano and whacks out the musical story of her unheralded life. Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff (029 2031 1050), 4 and 5 June. Then touring.

Emo Philips

A UK comedy favourite since the 1980s, Philips returns for the first time since 2006 to play – er, a tent in a field in Suffolk. Signing up the falsetto-voiced man-child is a real coup for Latitude: judging by his last British shows, age (he's now in his mid-50s) hasn't mellowed this relentless dispenser of disturbed one-liners. Latitude festival, July 18, then touring; at the Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh (0131-556 6550), 5-29 August.

• Previews by Peter Bradshaw, Alexis Petridis, John Fordham, Michael Billington, Lyn Gardner, Robin Denselow, Brian Logan, Andrew Clements, Sam Wollaston, Judith Mackrell, Adrian Searle, Jonathan Glancey and Alison Flood © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

May 13 2010


Springville - Miles Davis & Gil Evans Orchestra | ~ 1959


Summertime - Miles Davis - Gil Evans Orchestra | ~ 1959


All Blues - Miles Davis | rec ~ 1959

May 12 2010

Mingus, Monk and Mailer

A maverick prone to obsessiveness, photojournalist W Eugene Smith was drawn to Pittsburgh's 'vistas of melancholy', but his greatest legacy was a monumental archive that chronicled the city's legendary jazz scene

Robert Frank described W Eugene Smith as "the last American photographer who believed that his work was the message and he was the messenger to tell you that it was true and that it will survive."

It's an interesting description, hinting at Smith's extraordinary self-belief, as well as his devotion to his subject matter – which bordered on the monomaniacal. The industrial city of Pittsburgh – which he first visited in 1955, having just terminated a lucrative contract with Life magazine (one too many rancorous rows over editorial control) – was both his greatest project and his ultimate undoing. Having joined the Magnum agency and been commissioned to provide one hundred photographs over a three-week period for a book on the city's bicentennial, Smith stayed for a year, shooting over 17,000 frames in the process.

What he called the city's "vistas of melancholy" mesmerised him. He returned there in 1956 and 1957, paring down his vast body of images to two thousand prints. Smith originally made his name as a war photographer – and ever since being seriously injured by fragments from a Japanese bomb in Okinawa, he suffered from severe migraines and extreme mood swings.

By the time he moved into a rundown loft at 821 Sixth Avenue later in 1957, his marriage had capsized, and his dependency on amphetamines and alcohol only added to his obsessiveness.

For the next eight years, the building became his home, his studio and, to an extent, his world. It also became the home of what came to be known as the Jazz Loft, a rehearsal and performance space that attracted the likes of Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans, as well as their retinue of musicians, hangers-on, dealers, girlfriends, visiting writers and photographers, and various colourful characters from the city's demimonde. Diane Arbus passed through, as did Norman Mailer, Salvador Dali, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank. It became a kind of microcosm of the ever-changing nocturnal city.

From 1957 to 1965, Smith took an estimated 40,000 photographs of the jazz scene in and around the Loft. He also spent endless nights photographing the surrounding streets from his windowsill on the fourth floor. Frustrated by the limits of the still image, he placed microphones throughout the building to record rehearsals, impromptu sessions and even conversations. The end result is monumental: 1740 reels of audiotape amounting to 4,000 hours of ambient sound that included performances from Sonny Rollins, Roland Kirk, Don Cherry and Alice Coltrane.

Smith's Jazz Loft Project might well have remained a semi-mythical footnote to his career as an esteemed documentary photographer, had it not been for the writer Sam Stephenson, who was researching a book about Smith's Pittsburgh photographs in 1997. On an extended visit to the Centre for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona, where Smith's vast archive now resides, Stephenson came upon a row of cardboard boxes containing the 1,740 reels of audiotape from the Jazz Loft. Smith has since worked tirelessly on transcribing and digitising them, uncovering, among other extraordinary vignettes, the sound of the great pianist Sonny Terry overdosing near-fatally on heroin on a stairwell.

Stephenson, who edited the excellent Dream Street: W Eugene Smith's Pittsburgh Project 1955-1958, is currently working on a biography of the photographer many consider to be one of the greatest American documentary photojournalists. In the meantime, The Jazz Loft Project: Photographs and Tapes of W Eugene Smith from 821 Sixth Avenue, 1957-1965 is a riveting work of social archaeology, and extraordinary testament to artists whose music caught all the tumult and excitement of a fast-changing America.

It is also a glimpse inside the frenetic mind of a photographic pioneer; an obsessive, maverick genius, who died, poor and relatively unsung, in 1978, leaving behind some twenty-two tons of archive material, including his unfinished and ultimately unfinishable Pittsburgh Project.

The year before he died, Smith wrote: "I think I was at my very peak as a photographer in 1958 or so. My imagination and my seeing were both … red hot … Everywhere I looked, every time I thought, it seemed it left me with great exuberance and just a truer quality of seeing. But it was one of the most miserable times of my life, for I had little time to put it into real usage." At last, a half-century on, someone has found the time. Through Stephenson's diligence and focus, Smith's exuberant way of seeing has at long last been illuminated.

Now see this

The new issue of Foto8 magazine, which is dedicated to new reportage from around the globe, re-imagines Detroit, the murder and unemployment capital of America, as "one of the first post-industrial cities". It also features Marco Vernaschi's visceral mages from Guinea-Bissau, Africa's new hub for cocaine trafficking. On a lighter note, Jane Hilton's wonderful portraits of 21st-century cowboys are also on show in an accompanying exhibition, Dead Eagle Trail, at the Host Gallery from 21 April to 15 May. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

April 25 2010


April 16 2010


February 26 2010

Die Fahrband

Gert Wilden, der führende Filmkomponist der Sexwelle in den sechziger Jahren, mit dem luftigen Instrumental “Tage hängen wie Trauerweiden”. A German would call it “flott”:

(Gefunden bei Easydreamer)

Reposted fromglaserei glaserei

January 29 2010

Voyage of rediscovery

This journey through the culture of the Black Atlantic – from Primitivist modernism through to postmodern video work – is full of startling insights, even if it eventually loses its way

Jacob Lawrence's Street to Mbari, a picture in pencil, tempera and gouache of a crowded market in Nigeria in 1964, is the kind of work that curators put into a group exhibition at their peril. It is so good, so convincing, that it almost blinds you to the merits of every other artist in Afro Modern: Journeys through the Black Atlantic, which opens today at Tate Liverpool. And yet Street to Mbari – a portrait of Africa by a great African American artist – is also an argument in favour of this exhibition, and a way to penetrate its complex ideas.

Tate Liverpool seems an apposite place to explore the bleaker aspects of the Atlantic. The museum is contained within the forbidding 19th-century warehouses of the Albert Dock, which speaks more lucidly than any other British setting of the history of the slave trade, documented in detail at the International Slavery Museum nearby.

But Afro Modern is more complex than that. It is inspired by a book, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness, first published in 1993 by the British cultural critic Paul Gilroy. Gilroy's thesis, reacting against essentialist Afrocentrism, is that black culture's response to the modern world, into which Africans were transported so violently, has been ambivalent. As I understand it – and it is a difficult book – Gilroy believes that although African migration in the 18th century was brutally enforced, the development of black consciousness in the Americas and Britain was never just a rejection of "white" culture, but an engagement with it. Black culture, in other words, has crossed and re-crossed the Atlantic – at first in chains, but then willfully and creatively.

Those journeys are well captured by the work of Jacob Lawrence, who was born in Atlantic City in 1917 and in the aftermath of the Great Depression, created the most important American history painting cycle of the 20th century, The Migration Series. It portrays the journeys of black people from the oppressive south to the northern industrial cities in search of work and freedom. Lawrence's Street to Mbari is the exhilarated, ecstatic, yet composed and detailed record of an outsider's response to Africa. In Lawrence's eyes, Africa is the new world. It is a painting that travels; not a document of "homecoming", but as a record of complex perspectives, of what was gained as well as lost.

The show is more subversive than it first appears. Yes, there are nods to the Harlem Renaissance – notably poems by Langston Hughes illustrated by Aaron Douglas – and documents from the civil rights era, including a telling work by David Hammons in which black faces and hands press desperately at the glass panel of the door to a university admissions office. But here too are works by white artists who were entranced by "the primitive". Picasso's 1909 Bust of a Woman comes from the same period as Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and shares its deliberately jarring, shocking transformation of a face into a carved wooden African mask.

Man Ray's photograph Noir et Blanche (1926) portrays the famous Parisian avant garde muse Kiki of Montmartre resting her pearl-complexioned face next to a mask from Africa. The picture finds a similarity in the almond shapes of their faces that, too, echoes Les Demoiselles. These images take us to the very heart of the fascination with African art that so inspired European modernists a century ago.

These are artists whose views on race would probably seem highly offensive to us. And not so long ago, an exhibition such as this would have felt obliged to point this out, to provide long wall texts explaining that modern art's "primitivism" was the racist culture of an age of empire. But this exhibition is far more ambivalent: it documents the jazz age dances of Josephine Baker as comic, self-conscious, dramatisations of the kind of fantasy Picasso indulges in Les Demoiselles, with watercolours and magazine photographs that reveal how she became an icon for Parisian artists. It sets a painting of Harlem by the strange British painter Edward Burra alongside jazzy works by the Harlem Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas – the pure shapes of Douglas's murals contrasting with Burra's meaty caricatures.

Near Lawrence's street scene is Constantin Brancusi's abstract sculpture The Blonde Negress (1926): a shining metallic vision of a futurist head that resembles a cross between yet another African mask and a design for a beautiful robot. Brancusi's eroticised, idolised visions of an abstract human form indicate how modernists drew on Africa to invent a utopian model for a new humanity. Elsewhere, a film by the surrealist Maya Deren records Voodoo rituals in 1940s Haiti – the very appearance of which reminds us that no history of the Black Atlantic world can just be aesthetic or art-historical.

One of the best things about Gilroy's book was the way in which it broke up the distinctions between high art and popular culture, and between history and the new, that limit conventional views of modernism. The Black Atlantic discusses JMW Turner's 1840 painting of a slave ship and tells how its bloody sky and sea scattered with flailing African bodies so upset its first owner, John Ruskin, that he sold it. Yet it also discusses how Quincy Jones was influenced by a stay in Sweden in what Gilroy sees as his pivotal role in the reinvention of jazz. Gilroy sees such music as one of the fundamental black contributions to a "counter-culture of modernity".

In the early galleries of Afro Modern, the curators follow this principle, mixing jazz culture and art together – Langston Hughes's poems are modelled on blues lyrics and eerily evoke Robert Johnson, but read with enormous weight and clarity on the page. Yet in the later rooms of the show, recent art is treated in isolation from that kind of larger cultural history. The least impressive room is the 1960s display, whose protest art seems narrow in comparison with the possibilities of 1920s modernism: you simply don't get the same sense of creative dialogue between black and white artists, although Frank Bowling's painting Who's Afraid of Barney Newman?, which reinvents Newman's abstract vertical bands in tropical colours and places on them a spectral map of South America, is a highly honourable exception. The last room presents Chris Ofili's painting Captain Shit, with its psychedelic black superhero, whose powerful features suggest Japanese comics. But offering the work in isolation from 1990s hip-hop, whose aesthetic it so clearly shares, is surely a bit po-faced.

In fact, the entire argument about the Black Atlantic seems to dissipate as the show goes on. Only fleetingly does its big themes surface in the contemporary work on display. In Ellen Gallagher's spooky painting Bird in Hand (2006), for instance, which resembles a design for a crazed countercultural remake of Pirates of the Carribean. And there is a hypnotically horrible film by American artist Kara Walker, Eight Possible Beginnings; or the Creation of African-America, in which the history of the US is told by puppets in black-and-white silhouette. They begin in folksy, sickly-sweet nostalgia, but rapidly degenerate into scenes of rape and abuse. I can't count the number of times I have encountered films by Walker in group shows; each time they grow to consume surrounding works. Here is an artist whose sense of history seems to be choking her, and threatens to swallow us.

Outside, rain lashes the pool at the heart of the Albert Dock, out towards the Mersey and the Atlantic beyond. This exhibition is a brave, intelligent – and at its best – transformative encounter with that melancholy ocean and its voyagers.

Rating: 4/5 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

December 31 2009

What to see in 2010

Can Martin Scorsese pull off a horror movie? Is Glasgow the new Venice? And what's Ricky Gervais up to in Reading? Our critics pick next year's hottest tickets


Cemetery Junction

Having conquered Hollywood, Ricky Gervais is coming home. With his long-time collaborator Stephen Merchant, he has set out to create a British film in the tradition of Billy Liar and the Likely Lads – and of course his own masterpiece The Office – about three blokes working for the Prudential insurance company in Gervais's hometown of Reading. Released on 7 April.

A Single Man

The smart money says Colin Firth will be bringing home a certain gold, bald-headed statuette for his performance as a bereaved gay man in Los Angeles. Based on the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood, the movie – fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut – follows one day in the life of Firth's literature academic as he confronts his own mortality. Released on 12 February.

A Prophet

Tahar Rahim is Talik, a scared young Arab guy in jail who is made an offer he can't refuse by Corsican mobster César, played by Niels Arestrup: he must murder a supergrass, or be killed himself. A gripping prison movie from French director Jacques Audiard. Released on 22 January.

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese's much-anticipated new movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio was originally slated to come for autumn; the delay was reportedly due to its promotional budget getting credit-crunched. Anyway, better late than never. It's a mystery thriller with a generous spoonful of horror – a new generic twist for this master director. Released on 12 March.

The Headless Woman

A wealthy woman accidentally hits something in her car. Was it a dog? A person? She slips into woozy confusion, and the movie mimics the woman's disorientation and denial as she attempts to carry on with her life. An arthouse cult classic from Argentinian director Lucrecia Martel. Released on 19 February.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Edgar Wright is the British director who struck gold with Shaun of the Dead. Now he tackles his first proper Hollywood project – a wacky comedy based on the Bryan Lee O'Malley comic-book series. Michael Cera plays bass guitarist Scott Pilgrim, who, having fallen in love with a woman, must now do battle with her seven former boyfriends. Released on 27 August.

Father of My Children

A discreetly directed and superbly acted drama based on the tragic life of the French film producer Humbert Balsan. Grégoire is a much-loved mover-and-shaker in world cinema whose finances are crumbling. The ensuing crisis is brilliantly portrayed. Released on 5 March.

Visual art

Glasgow international festival of contemporary art

A huge, budget-melting installation by Swiss artist Christoph Büchel in the vast Tramway; a major new film by Gerard Byrne; works by Fiona Tan, Douglas Gordon, Linder and many more spread around Scotland's liveliest city, in the UK's best annual visual arts festival. Forget Edinburgh, forget Liverpool: this is the one. Venues across Glasgow (0141-287 8994,, 16 April-3 May.

The Real Van Gogh: the Artist and His Letters

Van Gogh was erudite, intelligent, a great artist and an inveterate writer of letters. But he also did that thing to his ear, drank too much absinthe and killed himself. This show looks at his art in the light of his letters, recently published in English in full. Royal Academy of Arts, London W1 (020-7300 8000), 23 January-18 April.

Chris Ofili

Manchester-born Chris Ofili has rolled joints from elephant dung, made paintings decorated with dung, and moved on to territory that brings together German expressionism, Trinidadian myth, lovers, prophets, gods and ghosts. Promises to be blasphemous and inspiring, elegiac and sexy. Tate Britain, London SW1 (020-7887 8888), 27 January-16 May.

Jenny Holzer

There's more to American artist Holzer's work than an endless tickertape of words spelled out  in LED lights. There are billboards, benches, condom wrappers and paintings. This is poetry with a plug, light shows with literature, an art of anger and beauty. Baltic, Gateshead (0191-478 1810), 5 March-16 May.

Sixth Berlin Biennial

The Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art is always fascinating, and sometimes great. In a city infested with artists and overshadowed by history, it attracts fewer wannabes, hangers-on, art-surfers and arrogant airheads than Venice. Berlin is serious, the food is a joke, the weather uncertain and the art at the time of writing a complete mystery. Go anyway. Venues across Berlin (00 49 [0] 302 434 5910,, 11 June-8 August.


Paul Gauguin, stock-broker turned post-impressionist and symbolist painter and sculptor, mystified Van Gogh, with whom he shared a house for a while. What an odd couple. Gauguin died in French Polynesia in 1903 at the age of 54. His art, however, is a time bomb, still ticking in the 21st century; and this is the first major show in Britain for 50 years. Tate Modern, London SE1 (020-7887 8888), from 30 September.


Whitney Houston

Houston's misadventures during the last decade made the likelihood of her touring again seem nil. But here she is playing her first UK dates since 1998, rehabbed and in robust voice – although her ability to hit those power notes has diminished somewhat. Which may be a good thing. MEN Arena, Manchester (0844 847 8000), 8-9 April. Then touring.

Green Day

Here's a thing: an overtly political US band who are big enough to play stadiums. Mind you, if Green Day's views weren't complemented by radio-friendly rock, their two British summer dates would probably be somewhere cosier. Old Trafford (0871 2200 260), June 16; Wembley, London (020-7403 3331), June 19.

The xx

It's all about understatement and nuance with this indie band, earmarked just about everywhere as 2010's ones to watch. Don't expect fireworks or obvious "wow" moments on their first major headlining tour: they and their acclaimed self-titled album are very much insidious pleasures. Komedia, Brighton (0845 293 8480), 1 March. Then touring.

Lily Allen and Dizzee Rascal

Lily and Dizzee have more in common than you would think: they easily rank with 2009's most successful British musicians, and she's as influenced by Rascal's hip-hop milieu as he is by the pop world she inhabits. MEN Arena, Manchester (0844 847 8000), 5 March; 02 Arena, London (0844 856 0202), 7 March.


The daddy of them all celebrates its 40th anniversary, and Glasto virgins U2 will be among those braving the mud to celebrate. Sold out, but returns go on sale in the new year. Worthy Farm, Somerset, 23-27 June.

Jazz and world music

Jerry Dammers Spatial AKA Orchestra

Specials and 2 Tone co-founder Dammers pays tribute to mystic free-jazz bandleader Sun Ra, who died in 1993, with a mix of jazz, funk, reggae, dub, hip-hop and rock. The all-star lineup includes Nathaniel Facey, Zoe Rahman and Jason Yarde. Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry (024-7652 4524), 4 March. Touring until 9 April.

Dan Berglund's Tonbrucket

Swedish pianist Esbjörn Svensson's death in 2008 wound up popular jazz trio EST, but bassist Dan Berglund and drummer Magnus ­ Ostrom visit not only EST's music, but Pink Floyd, Arvo Pärt and more in their new quartet. Queen's Hall, Edinburgh (0131-668 2019), 13 March. Touring until 1 April.

Wynton Marsalis

The prolific Marsalis and his Lincoln Center Orchestra celebrate 80 years of big-band history in three major concerts, with jams all over London, including the Vortex. Barbican, London EC2 (0845 120 7550), 17 and 18 June; Hackney Empire, London E8 (020-8510 4500), 20 June.

African Soul Rebels

Mali's Oumou Sangaré, famed for her bravely outspoken views, is one of the stars of the sixth African Soul Rebels outing. She's joined by the rousing big band Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, and the veteran South African experimental political band, Kalahari Surfers. Poole Lighthouse (0844 406 8666), 18 February. Then touring.

Ali and Toumani

The most eagerly awaited African album of the year, this is the final recording by the great Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré, and the kora virtuoso Toumani Diabaté – recorded a few months before Touré's death. Out 22 February.


Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

After the shock of Bausch's death this summer, her company has announced plans to continue under the joint direction of Dominique Mercy and Robert Sturm. In April, they come to London with Kontakthof, Bausch's 1978 meditation on love and human foibles. It will be performed by two radically different, alternating casts – one made up of senior citizens, the other of teenagers. Barbican, London EC2 (020-7638 8891), 1-4 April.

Mark Morris Dance Group

Morris made L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, an ecstatic embrace of a dance, more than 20 years ago; it still ranks as one of the great experiences in the repertory. Handel's score will be played and sung by members of English National Opera. Coliseum, London WC2 (0871-911 0200), 14-17 April.

Hofesh Shechter

The rise and rise of Shechter continues with Political Mother, a large ensemble piece that plays with definitions of shock and normality, and comes with Shechter's own score. Dome, Brighton (01273 709709), 20 and 21 May; Sadler's Wells, London EC1 (0844 412 4300), 14-17 July.

Merce Cunningham Dance Company

A posthumous season for the late, great Merce includes the UK premiere of the work he choreographed just months before he died. Nearly Ninety belies its title with a score including music by Sonic Youth. Barbican, London EC2 (020-7638 8891), 26-30 October.


Arthur and George

David Edgar adapts Julian Barnes's gripping novel about a Birmingham solicitor who, after being convicted of a grisly crime, recruits the help of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Fact merges with fiction in a story that deals with race, innocence, guilt and spiritualism - with echoes of Sherlock Holmes. Rachel Kavanaugh directs what promises to be that rare thing: a necessary adaptation. Birmingham Rep (0121-236 4455), 19 March-10 April.

Peter Pan

David Greig relocates JM Barrie's masterpiece to a gas-lit Victorian Edinburgh. Director John Tiffany (Black Watch, The Bacchae) and designer Laura Hopkins are at the helm, so this Pan shouldn't simply fly, but soar. Kings, Glasgow (0844 871 7648), 23 April–8 May. Then touring.


Once again, it looks like we're set for a major battle of the princes. John Simm has first crack at the title in a Paul Miller production in the refurbished Sheffield Crucible. Then Rory Kinnear takes on the moody Dane, with Clare Higgins as Gertrude, directed by Nicholas Hytner at the National. Some people, recalling the very recent David Tennant-Jude Law clash, resent this duplication. I say: "Bring it on." Crucible Theatre, Sheffield (0114-249 6000), from September; Olivier theatre, London SE1 (020-7452 3000), from October.


Just in time for the general election, Laura Wade's new play deals with a group of Oxford hearties, all members of an elite student dining society. They hunt, booze, take illegal substances (possibly) and are, it seems, destined to rule over us. It's good to see Wade, who made a big impact with Breathing Corpses in 2005, resurrecting the class war in a topical Court production, directed by Lyndsey Turner. Royal Court, London SW1 (020-7565 5000), 9 April-22 May.

Oh! What a Lovely War

Joan Littlewood's timeless musical satire on the first world war gets its first major post-Iraq outing, with directors Erica Whyman and Sam Kenyon leading the troops over the top. Northern Stage, Newcastle (0191-230 5151), 6 March-27 March. Then touring.

The Persians

A Brecon military range becomes the setting for a site-responsive revival of Aeschylus's great play about war and defeat. Mike Pearson, who has been using found spaces with his legendary company Brith Gof long before it became fashionable, directs. Cilieni Village, Powys, Wales (01874 611622), 11-21 August.


Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford

Dynamic reconstruction of the famous 1930s theatre. New work includes a 1,030-seat modern take on a 17th-century courtyard stage, a revamped art deco foyer, a rooftop restaurant and a bridging tower linking old and new spaces. November.

Folkwang Museum, Essen, Germany

Six rigorously geometrical new wings parade around four urban courtyards in this major extension by David Chipperfield of a fine museum devoted to 19th and 20th-century French and German art. The model of a modern building for a (hopefully) less wilfully ostentatious era. April.

Rolex Learning Centre, Lausanne, Switzerland

This exquisite Swiss building – a single, undulating floor boasting lake and mountain views – is a coming of age for Tokyo's Sanaa, designers of the 2009 Serpentine Pavilion. A science research centre that's as much landscape as architecture. February.


Mad Men

The immaculately dressed alcoholic misogynists of the Sterling Cooper ad agency return to alternately horrify and entrance us. Nine months on, how is the company's merger with a London firm working out for boss Don, copywriter Peggy and co? And what state is Don's estranged wife Betty in? BBC4, from 27 January.


Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy's new musical comedy-drama about a high-school choir (the "glee club" of the title) is huge in the US. The club's show tunes and chart hits have sold millions, while viewers and critics have embraced the cast of engaging misfits (Murphy has a sharp eye for school dynamics, as fans of his shortlived cheerleader show Popular will recall). E4, from 11 January.


This two-part slice of 1980s nostalgia, based on Martin Amis's novel, should offer a thought-provoking look at the era of flash cash and queasy living. Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shawn of the Dead) stars as anti-hero John Self in a cast that includes Mad Men's Pete (Vincent Kartheiser). BBC2, spring.

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister

Maxine Peake (Shameless, Criminal Justice) plays a lesbian who keeps a coded journal of her love-life in a 19th-century Yorkshire village. Everything about this 90-minute drama screams "record", "hit" and "award-winning". BBC2, March/April.


Furtive hotel sex; frantic muffin-baking; guilty pinot grigio guzzling. This soapy drama about four Bristol thirtysomething women returns for a third series with some inspired new casting: Joanna Lumley joins as the bossy mother of muddle-headed doctor Katie, played by Sarah Parish. BBC1, late 2010.

Classical and opera

Mahler in Manchester

The most innovative celebration of Gustav Mahler's 150th birthday you'll hear all year: the Hallé and BBC Philharmonic's cycle of his symphonies, in which each symphony is paired with a new piece from an international line-up of composers, from Austrian surrealist Kurt Schwertsik to Parisian organist Olivier Latry. ­ Bridgewater Hall, Manchester (0161-907 9000), 16 January-5 June.

Placido sings Handel

Whoever thought you'd see this at Covent Garden? Placido Domingo takes the composer's greatest tenor role, Bajazet, in Tamerlano, with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in the pit. Mouth-watering. Royal Opera House, London WC2 (020-7304 4000), 5-20 March.

Elegy for Young Lovers

English National Opera continues its part-time residency at the Young Vic with Hans Werner Henze's 1961 opera on crazed creative amorality in the Alps, with a libretto by WH Auden, and a production directed by Fiona Shaw. The only chance to see Henze, the greatest living opera composer, in the theatre in the UK this year. Young Vic, London SE1 (020-7922 2922), 24 April-8 May.

WNO's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

The operatic role of the year: Bryn Terfel sings Hans Sachs for the first time in Wagner's Meistersinger. It's a part he should play even more convincingly than the Wotan he sang in Covent Garden's Ring. This new staging by Richard Jones could be the one that cracks Wagner's complex comedy. Welsh National Opera, Cardiff (08700 40 2000), 19 June-10 July.

Total Immersion: Wolfgang Rihm

No composer alive has written as much music as Wolfgang Rihm; yet no major figure in new music is as shamingly unfamiliar to British audiences. With this two-day event, part of its Total Immersion series, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with the help of the London Sinfonietta and the Arditti Quartet, put that right. Barbican, London EC2 (020-7638 8891), 12-13 March.


Dara O'Briain

From Three Men in a Boat to one man on a stage, TV favourite O'Briain takes to the nation's concert halls for a 64-date tour. A civilised and smart standup long before TV fame came calling, this is the Mock the Week anchorman's first tour in two years. Regent, Stoke (0844 871 7649), 1 March. Then touring.

Laura Solon

With her latest show, Rabbit Faced Story Soup, the winner of the last-ever Perrier award has turned her talent for creating comic characters into a comedy play about an ailing publishing house and its missing star novelist. Now she's taking it on a national tour. Junction, Cambridge (01223 511 511), 29 January. Then touring.

Pappy's Fun Club

The fast-rising young quartet take to the road with their Edinburgh 2009 hit show World Record Attempt: 200 Sketches in an Hour. It's less Fast Show, more nonsense cabaret, supplying music, anarchy and good cheer. Komedia, Brighton (0845 293 8480), 21 January. Then touring.

Chosen by Judith Mackrell, Michael Billington, Caroline Sullivan, Lyn Gardner, Jonathan Glancey, Peter Bradshaw, Adrian Searle, John Fordham, Robin Denselow, Brian Logan and Tim Lusher © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

December 02 2009

Photographer Nick Hedges's best shot

It was 1966 and I was living in Handsworth in Birmingham. I was a big jazz fan, and I found out about this pub, the Cross Guns on Soho Road, where there was a Caribbean jazz night. Back in those days, Handsworth had nothing like the racial tension that came later on.

The musicians weren't famous or anything – just a group of local men playing because they enjoyed it. It was a tiny room; the band took up at least half the space. The guy bent over in the middle, with the light-coloured raincoat, was the sax player and the band's leader. There's another guy with a banjo on his knee, and the one on the left was playing a mouth-harp, I think.

But the person whose presence I was most aware of was the guy with the double bass. He was taller than everyone else, and he had a very quiet, dignified air. I saw he was the group's focal point, and by placing myself behind the other musicians, I put myself in their eyeline, looking through them towards him. The only light was a couple of bare bulbs shielded by a nicotine-encrusted lampshade. I used a moderately wide-angle lens, probably a 35mm – anything wider and you'd lose the sense of crowdedness and intimacy, and then the shot's gone. It was very atmospheric – and it was great they were wearing those porkpie hats.

I was a 22-year-old student when I took this, and it set me on my way to being a professional photographer. I think documentary photography is a particular combination of craft, skill and curiosity about your subject. With this picture I was still learning, and shooting in very low light, so it was a useful experience.

I was lucky. I never had to work to a pressing deadline, so I had time on my side. If you can wait, you can observe situations as they develop, and encapsulate them. You have to be confident that what you are doing is true to the people you're representing, and the situation they are in.

Nick Hedges's Working Life archive is at


Born: Bromsgrove, 1943. Studied: Birmingham College of Art. Inspirations: "Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, W Eugene Smith and Robert Frank." High point: "A project I did in the late 70s about people who work in factories. I put on an exhibition in the works canteen." Top tip: "In talking to people you'll discover that everyone is fascinating." © Guardian News & Media Limited 2009 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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