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London Calling

2004 in Review: From John Cage to John Peel

By Published: January 2, 2005
More sad news; after years of fighting for survival, the Vortex in Stoke Newington finally closed on May 31st when its lease ran out. We are promised that the club will re-open in February 2005 down the road, at the new, purpose-built Dalston Culture House. However, the Vortex Foundation is still fund-raising to equip the new premises, so watch this space...

And let's not forget Elvin Jones ...

June ... or Ray Charles or Steve Lacy . Lacy's death led me to recall a conversation I had last year with a distinguished jazz reviewer (hi, Brian) about the common problem of storage space for an ever-expanding numbers of CDs. He said that his solution was to ration himself to a fixed number of recordings of any particular artist, so that if a new one was included, an old one had to go to make room for it. His sole exception was Steve Lacy, who was given as much space as he needed. Amen.

June 10th. One of the most enjoyable concerts of the summer featured the contrasting talents of siblings Lola and Roland Perrin. Roland performed with The Blue Planet Orchestra, his ensemble that is steeped in African and Latin American influences and is guaranteed to get any room dancing. Fine as they were, it was sister Lola's opening set that easily stole the evening for me; her solo piano set held the audience spellbound, and you could have heard a pin drop in Spitz. Lola's music is as much ambient as it is jazz; tellingly, her set opened with Brian Eno's "Forced to Choose," and her own "Perpetual Motion" suite has many of the same qualities, radiating a mesmeric sense of peace and calm. Parts of "Perpetual Motion" were accompanied by visuals by Thomas Gray, abstract images derived from natural forms such as animal fur, running water or grass blowing in the wind. This marriage of sound and visuals was as good as any I have seen, even the works of Philip Glass and Godfrey Reggio—praise indeed. Click here for a taste of Gray's visuals with Lola's music. Lola Perrin's Perpetual Motion , and Introducing The Blue Planet Orchestra are both available on Blue Planet Records . Also, you can see Lola for free on Thursday February 10th at 6pm, when she appears at Ray's Jazz in Foyles Bookshop , 113-119 Charing Cross Road.

July Another very sad death—Paul Foot, campaigning, investigative journalist par excellence.

August Resonance 104.4FM goes from strength to strength. Listen!

September One of London's longest-running (and wackiest) club spaces, The Klinker , branched out further. After years of operating at the Sussex Arms in Dalston, The Klinker is still there every Tuesday and Friday, but it is now also south of the river at The Ivy House Pub in Nunhead every Thursday. Its programming remains as joyously idiosyncratic as ever, blending improvised music and performance art.

October Since they recorded their Disappeared album in 2000 and included John Surman on it, Spring Heel Jack have become a vital presence on the London improv scene. After releasing albums such as Masses, Amassed and The Sweetness of the Water on Thirsty Ear, the duo launched their own Treader label. The first three releases look amazing & highly distinctive, and feature music that demands to be heard. The music here is a logical extension of Spring Heel Jack's recent work with Evan Parker and Mark Sanders, live and on record.

Evan Parker with Birds

(for Steve Lacy)


Parker duets with recorded birdsong. How is it that so many people can proclaim birdsong to be utterly beautiful and yet not appreciate its qualities in improvised music? Discuss.

Trio with Interludes


The trio consists of Coxon, Parker and Mark Sanders, with interludes from Coxon &Wales.

Mark Sanders

Swallow Chase


A completely solo album from Sanders, displaying the qualities that make him the drummer of choice for so many musicians.

Bruce Naumann has converted the vast Turbine Hall at Tate Modern into a modern day Tower of Babel. After the past two years' imaginative uses of the space—Anish Kapoor's Marsyas , an enormous curved surface, and Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project —Naumann's Raw Materials is the boldest project yet, providing nothing to see, but a fascinating soundscape that alters endlessly as one wanders through the space. It runs until March 28th and is free. If you really cannot get to Tate Modern, you can hear the sound samples here . But they are a poor substitute for the real thing!

Another national institution died suddenly, John Peel, the only old age pensioner DJ on BBC Radio 1. Peel's openness to and enthusiasm for new music was awe inspiring. He is literally irreplaceable. End of an era.

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