All About Jazz

Home » Articles » Live Reviews

Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...


Grand Union at the Hackney Empire

Duncan Heining By

Sign in to view read count
Grand Union Orchestra
Hackney Empire
Undream'd Shores
November 2, 2014

A while ago, I started to suggest to Tony Haynes -Grand Union's artistic director -that he write an opera. I stopped mid-sentence, suddenly realising that he's been doing just that for years. Undream'd Shores is less an opera, more a song cycle but those familiar, recurring GUO themes of migration, exile, loss and ultimate transcendence were all present at this their most recent and elaborate show to date at East London's Hackney Empire.

Not that the denizens of West End jazz at the Barbican, Ronnie's or the South Bank would know it but GUO have been bringing together world jazz and theatre for thirty years in London's East End. On a drizzly November night, this stellar orchestra brought along their new Grand Union World Choir, the Grand Union Youth Orchestra String Ensemble and members of GUO's 2nd Generation project to create another unique and radical entertainment.

At times, it's hard not to laugh—from sheer delight. A female Bulgarian Latin percussionist, Lilia Iontcheva, teamed with Chilean Carlos Fuentes on congas and Yousuf Ali Khan from Bangladesh on tabla. Australian saxophonist and flautist Louise Elliott duetting with Chinese flautist Ruijun Hu. An English folk song sung beautifully by Chris Harrison and Akash Sultan with sitar drone accompaniment. It could only be Grand Union and the fertile imaginings of Tony Haynes.

There's so much going on that one is swept away in the moment and recall after the event is just a kaleidoscope of memories, brightly coloured but fleeting as the next one cuts in. But where else would you hear Claude Deppa on trumpet, Chris Biscoe on soprano and Tony Kofi on alto trading eights over big band, bebop chords following a heavy metal power trio section with blistering guitar from Gerry Hunt over a rock solid rhythm section? Or listen to echoes of the English brass band tradition give way to the Afro-Cuban celebration on "If You Should Fall."

But this night also marked the coming of age of GUO's youth section. The strings, none of them out of the teens were truly professional. These young musicians have, in the last two years, grown in confidence and skill quite remarkably. Mak Murtic on tenor from Croatia and British Caribbean bassist Josh Brandler were particularly impressive but saying that should take nothing away from their peers whose chance to shine will no doubt come.

And the way the band uses voices is just so inspiring and what voices! Gunes Cerit's plangent tones on an Anatolian folk tune lead inevitably—or so it seems—to Croatian Maya Riviç's gorgeous contralto on an Eastern European dance tune. Great dancing too! And as for Jonathan André's dramatic "Mr. Never Smile"—dedicated to immigration officers everywhere—and Congolese singer Jacqueline Lwanzo righteous along with other members of the choir—including another fine contralto in Noga Ritter—on the uplifting West African rhythms of "Twimbe Sana," this was surely the finest GUO show ever. Not that the denizens of West End jazz will notice.

East End jazz refreshes the parts West End jazz cannot reach!


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Tallinn Music Week 2018 Live Reviews
Tallinn Music Week 2018
by Henning Bolte
Published: April 19, 2018
Read James Blood Ulmer and the Thing at Bochum Art Museum Live Reviews
James Blood Ulmer and the Thing at Bochum Art Museum
by Phillip Woolever
Published: April 17, 2018
Read Jocelyn Medina at Jazz at Kitano Live Reviews
Jocelyn Medina at Jazz at Kitano
by Tyran Grillo
Published: April 16, 2018
Read Marbin at The Firmament Live Reviews
Marbin at The Firmament
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 15, 2018
Read Big Ears Festival 2018 Live Reviews
Big Ears Festival 2018
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 13, 2018
Read Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club Live Reviews
Meg Morley Trio at 606 Club
by Gareth Thomas
Published: April 13, 2018
Read "King Crimson at Lisner Auditorium" Live Reviews King Crimson at Lisner Auditorium
by Eric Thiessen
Published: November 1, 2017
Read "Little Feat at the Paramount" Live Reviews Little Feat at the Paramount
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: June 10, 2017
Read "Pat Metheny at Belfast Waterfront" Live Reviews Pat Metheny at Belfast Waterfront
by Ian Patterson
Published: November 19, 2017
Read "Redwood City Salsa Festival 2017" Live Reviews Redwood City Salsa Festival 2017
by Walter Atkins
Published: October 17, 2017