28 November 2012

Same as it ever was

They say the classical composers used to improvise, so maybe Marc Hannaford’s solo piano concert at the Loft was an experience like that. It was intimate, with a smallish audience encircling the piano - lots of closed eyes and quiet attention – and it was something very special and also quite unusual. Marc improvised two sets. The first set was based on an infinitely rising Bach canon dedicated to Frederick the Great and a Scriabin second movement based on seventh intervals.
The second set was formed over Jelly Roll Morton, Bud Powell, Messaien and a return to the Bach canon. Each set was a medley of tunes and improvs based on those tunes and each lasted about 50 minutes of intense and varied solo playing. The tunes were well worked. I hadn’t even realised it was Bach that Marc was playing until he introduced it post-set. I’d heard polyrhythms and dissonance and four-note solo phrasing and lyrically changing harmonies and stolid pedals with overlying morphing harmony and chord clusters and anticipations. So this comprised all manner of improvisatory techniques, but stylistically I heard it somewhere in the first half of the twentieth century; I thought Debussy or Ravel. I chatted with Marc in the break and he agreed: 20th century, French or Russian, not German. In the second set, when I knew to listen for it, the Bach became obvious although still well transfigured. And the stride and other jazz styles were obvious although also recast. There’s a deep understanding and commitment required to come so close to such pieces. It’s an understanding of the essential structure and themes of the composer that allows this improvisation. This is more than just the dots. His playing is actually hard and insistent rather than delicately formed classical. It’s an exploration rather than an interpretation that he offers and it’s essentially compositional in its concerns. Marc also mentioned that he doesn’t like being limited in style. He introduced the concert saying he may play from the 14th century to today. Certainly, he played as far back as baroque and stride and his post-modern inclusiveness is a thing of today. It reminded me, too, of the strength which the Music School had with its collocation of classical and jazz streams. I talked with jazz trumpeter Alex about practising Elliot Carter and transcribing and that also crossed these boundaries. It’s all sound and these are all Western forms and they are actually heavily influenced one by the other (although more jazz by classical, given timing). This was fabulous and almost unique in my experience. I was enthralled. Marc Hannaford (piano) played solo at the Loft.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I for one found the performance lacked imagination and dull and apparently he says Chris Abraham sounds like he does not practice....wow which is missing the point altogether if anything. I found Marc Hannaford's playing over-practiced, and only or a brief moment near the middle of the second set was he making something interesting, over wise it was a case of noodling over notes without any particular direction. Certainly it he could have taken the music in new directions and expanded on small figures but he would do this only for a brief moment before changing. Changing for changing's sake is not interesting one has to have some heart as well as head.