This concert was one of several in an all-day celebration at the Southbank Centre to mark the 50th anniversary of ECM Records. The Queen Elizabeth Hall was a rather large venue for such intimate music. Although the sound was captured beautifully and reflected throughout the room, there was little interaction between the performer and members of the audience. Looking around at the audience I seemed to be one of the few fresher faces enjoying this wonderful musical experience. For the duration of the performance, there was no movement from the audience, all sitting still and quietly. This setting was far too formal for the music we were enjoying.
As the afternoon of musical entertainment began, we were welcomed by Elina Duni and Rob Luft. A Swiss-Albanian singer, Duni has been signed to ECM since 2012. Her short set incorporated a blend of traditional Albanian folk songs and contemporary jazz. Loft gave us an incredible display of guitar looping, demonstrated perfectly. His minimalistic background combined with Celtic folk brought both a melodic and harmonic approach to this performance. The set list provided a variety of spacious textures as well as rhythmically syncopated pieces. Duni played not only a melodic role in the duo, but also a percussive accompaniment for Luft.
After a short interval, Lovano and his trio emerged and performed four consecutive pieces. Lovano was again looking for new ways of expressing himself in different musical contexts. I admired the fact that he spoke roughly three times, allowing maximum time for music making. These compositions were based on a 12-tone system that Lovano created and were written specifically for the musicians that he performed with – Marilyn Crispell on piano and Carmen Castaldi on drums.
A highlight was Catch Me If You Can. This composition involved all three musicians weaving between each other and floating sparse notes across the hall. This piece gave an amusing insight into Lovano’s process of composition as he looked to the audience puzzled. Another special moment during this set was Lovano playing the gongs alongside the saxophone and táragató. There seemed to be a noticeable correlation between the timbre of the gongs and the horn. It was a unique experience, a live performance of eloquent music; Lovano is certainly a treat to watch.
Joe Lovano’s Trio Tapestry plus Elina Duni and Rob Luft. Joe Lovano (ts, ss, tár); Marilyn Crispell (p); Carmen Castaldi (d). Southbank Centre / Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 17 November 2019 as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival