Another symptom of ageing – mine – is that I get to see less live jazz year on year. The fact that I went to Dalston’s Café Oto, home of the avant garde and free, to see the American trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith was down to Jack McNamara, director of the stage version of Darkness, Darkness, whose bag – as they used to say – this is. And was I glad that I took his advice and joined him there. Smith played with a terrific sense of continuity throughout, his style and tone managing to sound contemporary whilst referencing the mainstream jazz trumpet tradition from Miles Davis back to Louis Armstrong. And the supporting band, with the amazing Steve Noble on drums, were just great too. Thanks, Jack!
Otherwise, the musical highlight of the year for me was listening to the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted with quiet intensity by Juraj Valcuha, playing Shostakovich’s 8th Symphony. Astonishing.
What else? The LPO under Osmo Vanska playing the entire cycle of Sibelius symphonies over four nights at the Royal Festival Hall; Billy Bragg and Joe Henry bringing their songs of the American railroad to a crowded Union Chapel on US election night; and a joyous evening at Rich Mix in Shoreditch listening to the Fitkin Band doing their minimalism-jazz-70s disco thing, and featuring, in their second set, a new set of songs under the heading Don’t Take This the Wrong Way, featuring Melanie Pappenheim on lead vocals and counter-tenors Fergal Mostyn Williams and Tom Scott-Cowell brilliantly and so happily singing back-up. (You had to be there!)
Performance of the year : Patti Smith singing Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall at the Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony.
Song of the year: Joe Henry’s Our Song …
This was my country
This was my song
Somewhere in the middle there
It started badly and it’s ending wrong
This was my country
This frightful and this angry land
But it’s my right if the worst of it might
Still somehow make me a better man
Album of the year – for, sadly, all too obvious reasons: You Want it Darker by Leonard Cohen
I wish there was a treaty we could sign
I do not care who takes this bloody hill
I’m angry and I’m tired all the time
And I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty
Between your love and mine