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Intimacy: missing in action

''And all its aching joys are now no more,/And all its dizzy raptures'' (William Wordsworth, 'Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798') Where were we? Oh, no gigs – again. …

Published: 11 Jan 2021. Updated: 3 months.

''And all its aching joys are now no more,/And all its dizzy raptures'' (William Wordsworth, 'Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, On Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour. July 13, 1798')

Where were we? Oh, no gigs – again. However preposterously even in normal times by the banks of the Wye.

The enduring problem during Pandemic despite occasional escapery back in the autumn to Ronnie's when it managed to open for a bit, the Jazz Cafe, Vince Power's PowerHaus in Camden. Sadly not the Vortex since hearing Xhosa Cole and Jay Phelps and of course it's dismal beyond words that the Pizza has been shut since last spring.

It's interesting, I don't know about you, but I really only miss the clubs. The big halls I don't miss one bit although I have a soft spot for one or two. Lots of stuff on the Internet however tries to fill the gap including ''almost'', ''not really,'' ''vaguely'' and occasionally even actually ''live'' performance give or take a few latent seconds.

Here's the thing though. I was thinking about this the other day and how much I for one take for granted the stuff I never really thought about when I was out there week in week out reviewing at a gig. These ''invisibles'' are incredibly important though and cannot be replicated at all online sad to say. Without being a Luddite at all (because here I am writing stuff on the Internet) I still don't buy into sitting down properly and experiencing an online gig from start to finish. It seems so fake and actually pretty unnecessary because records are usually better or even switching on the radio and somehow encountering the occasional sensible DJ who actually doesn't mumble about their new haircut too much and has somehow managed to find a record you'd want to listen to without preferring instead monastic silence because of all that inane wittering that goes on.

Of course it makes sense doing these ''live streams'' particularly if anyone can make money out of them although come on let's be real half the time there are about 13 viewers, presumably a few canines are present in the room too, on a good day dipping in and dipping out not really thinking about chipping in much. Actually the pooches probably get better remuneration in terms of snacks. From the point of view of keeping the profiles of jazz clubs up it's a good idea, however. Let's face it a bit of profile at least means Joe Public knows someone is keeping the lights on rather than the place as ''bleedin demised'' as a Norwegian blue.

So, top of the moaning to you anyway, the stuff I take for granted is mainly about actually sitting among people being human and participating by doing this. At the moment audiences are completely AWOL to everyone apart from the data geniuses who know that there are two 92-years-old from Osidge watching old Buddy Featherstonhaugh bootlegs on YouTube at this very moment, their favourite colour is dark blue and they occasionally like a Redchurch IPA if available.

Jazz sounds radically different when musicians are actually playing to people they can see 20 feet in front of them and nobody has to use a computer to access the sight of a humble chin.

The place itself contributes more than we really knew. It's special, from the pictures on the walls to the creative people who run them and keep them going and make it possible for everyone to play and express themselves.

Of course everyone has their favourite places for the acoustics and the way the sound is engineered by the talented in-house crews. Ronnie's is impossible to beat but lots of places have great sound, eg the way Ali sets up at the Vortex, Luc at the Pizza, both also pretty much top of the tree. The sound at Brilliant Corners in Dalston is also pretty incredible too and in Dublin the International Bar sound is also excellent probably more to do with the historic room itself. Alas, all silent as lambs with no sheepish present.

No gigs – again. Memory only, Wordsworth, apt enough if you like, for now instead as he had it, ''a dwelling-place/For all sweet sounds and harmonies''. The scene is as desolate as a ruins covered in ivy. The only way is admittedly up. SG

Ronnie's neon, top. Shine on. Photo: marlbank

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Palle Mikkelborg and Bjarne Roupé, Pieces: Generations at Sunrise

Aura, the 1989 Miles Davis album produced, composed and arranged by Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, is not just one of my favourite late-period Miles albums, it's one of my favourite Miles albums. With Mikkelborg, who turns 80 in a few months, …

Published: 10 Jan 2021. Updated: 3 months.

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Aura, the 1989 Miles Davis album produced, composed and arranged by Danish trumpeter Palle Mikkelborg, is not just one of my favourite late-period Miles albums, it's one of my favourite Miles albums.

With Mikkelborg, who turns 80 in a few months, it's impossible not to think of that classic but also when you hear him on this superb album, his sense of space and freedom and that yes Milesian sound is always compelling. Palle's artistry I'm certain is firmly embedded in the internal vision a generation later of another Nordic great, Nils Petter Molvær.

Storyville is not a label you necessarily turn to as a priority even though it has been a stalwart trad outfit over the years. That is until a recent purple patch often involving reissues and a few choice new albums have raised the bar once again. They have definitely excelled themselves with Mikkelborg and Bjarne Roupé's Pieces: Generations at Sunrise to be released on Friday.

Basically a very elegant and sometimes quite moving quartet affair recorded at the JB10 venue in the Danish town of Næstved, Mikkelborg, bassist Anton Langebæk, percussionist Benjamin Barfod and electric guitarist Roupé all take their time and you could easily imagine yourself lying down flat chilling to opener 'Witchi-tai-to'. Nothing much happens for quite a while and then suddenly however everything pops into place and Barfod provides a really tactile percussive opening to John Coltrane classic 'Naima,' Roupé's riffing eventually leads us into the glorious tune interpreted by Mikkelborg by this very scenic route. In other words even if you know the melody (of course you do), you won't recognise the introduction at all. It's a composition all by itself. When Mikkelborg comes in eventually it's a great moment and the album is full of them. I'm sure the synaesthetes among you will have a field day with this record, it certainly has a sensory and imagistic factor that lifts it higher in its best passages. I'll not bang on but even 'Nature Boy' as familiar as your own face at the end sounds brand new. A case if ever there was one of let's get lost in the Mikkelborg sound all over again and let it wash all over. SG On Storyville, out on 15 January