Susan Alcorn Quintet, Pedernal

Pedal steel guitar is not usually an instrument that I madly adore or even think much about. That may change thanks to Susan Alcorn leading her group who not only carries the torch of her instrument and a lot of the sheer momentum but also burns a …

Published: 8 Dec 2020. Updated: 24 months.

Pedal steel guitar is not usually an instrument that I madly adore or even think much about. That may change thanks to Susan Alcorn leading her group who not only carries the torch of her instrument and a lot of the sheer momentum but also burns a trail that often detours into very scenic routes that eventually provide panoramic views that you probably never knew were even there. With her are violinist Mark Feldman, double bassist Michael Formanek, guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Ryan Sawyer who magnify the material into a collective endeavour. Throughout the five pieces there are shifts that encompass Americana, chamber music, a rural spirit and that is only the half of it. Halvorson in the band sound in all her engrossing detunery as usual makes her presence felt. As does Formanek although you can't really hear him too much in the mix his presence is still actually very significant probably most of all on the tricksy countable big fun of 'Northeast Rising Sun'. Feldman as usual has incredible tone and that classical purity he is renowned for that in the company of fellow improvisers always goes to places you'd never think are on anyone's itinerary. 'A Night in Gdansk' is the mightiest piece on an album that is full of interest anywhere you care to listen. Alcorn has epic curiosity and the way the afternotes hang in the air is a thrill. SG Out now on Relative Pitch records

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Dom Pipkin, Voodoo Lounge, upstairs in Ronnie Scott's

When a lot of places are shut or having to resort to streaming and folks are staying home due to Covid you have got to search mighty hard for the real McCoy. When you find it, what a joy. Happen when you venture out a night of deep New Orleans …

Published: 8 Dec 2020. Updated: 24 months.

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When a lot of places are shut or having to resort to streaming and folks are staying home due to Covid you have got to search mighty hard for the real McCoy. When you find it, what a joy.

Happen when you venture out a night of deep New Orleans blues awaits – such a night – you may well consider yourself very fortunate indeed to clamber up the stairs at Ronnie Scott's to the voodoo lounge and count your lucky stars.

Beginning with Jelly Roll Morton, later Allen Toussaint and other New Orleans classics, 'Careless Love' early on was fine and mellow but there was much bounty to come oh yes and more.

Pipkin, in thrall to Jon Cleary, and to James Booker and to Fats Domino, the Englishman has a fine voice, a sort of a bluesy alto and a wonderful intuitive piano style: rolling. His album C'mon Sunshine (Hambone) is out at the minute and the singer-pianist played a few of his own songs among the classics. Pick of the night? Without a shadow of a doubt Pipkin's cultured take on the butterfly master James Booker's 'Classified'. Stunning sounds on a blue Monday as Soho slumbered. What a left hand. Dom Pipkin, above upstairs in Ronnie Scott's. Photo: marlbank