Relocating - please follow the link for new content

This archive will stay here - but you can find new posts (as well as this archive) at my new website which is at It's the new home for Stuart Eglin Online - including the blog, musings, and details of the publications and services which I have available. Take a look - it's worth a visit!

Monday, 29 November 2004

normblog: Jan Garbarek in Manchester

Follow the link for a review by Norman Geras of the Jan Garbarek Group's concert in Manchester, England. Norman was less impressed than I was. Same songs, same musicians, different reaction!

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Jan Garbarek Group in Concert: Liverpool Philharmonic 20th November

This was the third time I had seen Jan Garbarek live. The first time, at the Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool, was an incredible night when he performed with Eberhard Weber, Rainer Bruninghaus, Bugge Wesseltoft (I think), and Nana Vasconcelos on percussion. That was in the 1980s. Then a few years ago I saw the current line-up of the group at the Philharmonic just after the ‘Rites’ double album had been released. Again, it was a marvellous night.

Seeing him this third time, I was a bit concerned that the concert might not take me anywhere that I hadn’t been before. I was so wrong. In the space of two and a quarter hours the music took in reggae, South African township, tango, Indian raga, as well as the sounds you would expect if you’d heard anything by this jazz saxophonist. The music was the expression of cool that you would expect from a Scandinavian jazzman, but at times it really rocked too.

The stage was set out with four clear spaces, one for each of the musicians. A grand piano and keyboard marked out the space for Rainer Bruninghaus, a stool, and Eberhard Weber’s unique upright electric bass together with foot pedals and monitors set out another area. Then there was a huge arrangement of percussion, gongs, cymbals, pots and drums where Marilyn Mazur would play. Finally a microphone waited for Jan Garbarek, who brought his saxophones and flute onto the stage in a leather bag.

The music was a mixture of pieces taken from the Garbarek back-catalogue and after more than fifty releases in various groups, solo and with other artists, there was a wealth of material to choose from. The sound was a bit muddy to begin with, it was difficult to hear Weber’s bass. This was soon resolved though, and the interplay between the four musicians became increasingly intricate, balanced and beautiful. This was four individuals who have learnt to play together without the interference of ego. Each gave the other space – there were solo pieces from Bruninghaus, Weber and Mazur – each of these was stunning. Bruninghaus produced a piece which had echoes of Debussy and Bill Evans. It was magnificently lyrical. Weber used an echo pedal to create loops and layer the sounds as he put together a frenzied piece. There was humour too, as he played around with the sounds he created. Mazur was as much the dancer as the percussionist, moving effortlessly around the enormous battery of instruments. Talk to anyone about a drum / percussion solo and we mostly yawn. But this was different – she produced such a melodic approach to the work that one was left breathless. It was a real piece of performance.

And beyond all of this, there stands Garbarek himself. His modesty on stage is clear to see. The music he played was beautiful, at times lyrical and at others stark. The emotion in the music is that of something which finds its way to the soul within. Garbarek at his peak has the ability to reach within and find something that resonates to a universal depth.

This was a wonderful night of entertainment – moving and engaging. I guess I am just going to have to spend the next few weeks listening to more and more of the CDs I have by Garbarek, and buying more to fill the void.

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

In Praise of Jan Garbarek

OK, it’s a bit of a corny title for this post, but I just couldn’t resist it. I have already done this post once, but the system crashed as I posted it and lost the entry, so I am trying to re-create it from scratch which is a bit of a nightmare for someone with such poor short-term memory.

At the weekend I went with my family to see the Jan Garbarek Group in concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Halls. It was an amazing concert. A review will be the next post to this site. But in the meantime, I thought it would be useful to write a bit about Garbarek’s work over the years.

I heard my first Jan Garbarek album back in 1980. It was ‘Places’, an album recorded with Bill Connors on guitar, John Taylor on organ and piano, and Jack de Johnette on drums. It was the most amazing music I had heard, unlike anything I had experienced at that point. This was music for the heart and soul. It took me a while to figure out that it was the absence of a bass guitar on the album which contributed to its unusual feel.

Since that first listen, I have accumulated some 21 albums by Garbarek, ranging from the frequent trips with his Jan Garbarek Group, which has settled in recent years as Marilyn Mazur on percussion, Eberhard Weber on bass and Rainer Bruninghaus on keyboards and piano. Then there has been Garbarek’s work with various Asian musicians including Zakir Hussain, Trilok Gurtu, Shankar. Work with Anouar Brahem has taken in Arabic music from Tunisia. Singers like Marie Boine and Agnes Buen Garnas have brought Scandinavian folk music into the mix. And finally, the hugely successful collaborations with the Hilliard Ensemble has brought jazz improvisation to the world of classical choral music. Throughout all of this, there is the sure tone and soundscapes that Garbarek has made his own. His growing body of work encompasses all that is Nordic, all that is Scandinavian, north European, and pulls further out to capture the soul of humanity.

His ability to work the tone of his saxophone into the timbre of any of the wide range of other instruments and voices he has worked with, is striking.

I have seen him live three times, and am always struck by his incredible ability, combined with a humility on the stage. His stage presence is quiet and unassuming, but his music is at once passionate, lyrical, and then gentle and yearning.

The latest album, “In Praise of Dreams”, is a beautiful work of understatement. Garbarek works with Kim Kashkashian on viola and Manu Katche on drums for this latest album. His compositions capture beautifully the interplay between viola and saxophone. The melodies are stunning. It’s an album that rewards patience and repeated plays. Having just looked on the ECM Records website (Garbarek’s label for the last 30 years or so), I see that this album has remarkably managed to chart in both Germany and Norway. That’s quite an accomplishment for a jazz album that makes no compromises to popularity. Not only am I listening to this album, but it has also drawn me back to the other albums I have by Garbarek.

Coming next… the review of the concert.

Thursday, 18 November 2004

The impact of rain

Rain makes me feel
deep oblivion
and nothing

Rain sounds on roof
coldness too
and the open-ended glide
that eases into my mood

Tuesday, 16 November 2004


Today I am posting a poem from the next booklet to be produced by bluewater books. This booklet is due out in the next couple of weeks.


gardens of gardenia blooms
of second glances never sent
melancholic sycamore copters
spinning at my feet.

nose-caught scents of cow-slips
which recall beechams empty bankments
steam gone, are now held together
by the bankments of the sea-side place.

recollections make me age
make me youthful again and yet
awareness of years spinning faster
closer to ground the staleness of age.

second glances never as strong as the first
once seen is enough to myth
is too much to revisit and demystify
like tyntowyn now not canute's cave.

private symbols are not the language
of public words but the comparison
of fates leaves us spinning together
like copters on an autumn afternoon.

Monday, 15 November 2004

77/78 - Television and Suicide

Yesterday I bought a couple of new albums from my local Music Zone. This store has radically changed the pricing of CDs in the UK. By selling CDs cheap, they work on the basis that the customer will buy more items. Small margins but big turnover. It works. As a result, over recent months I have been buying lots of music that I used to listen to on vinyl a long time ago. I will happily pay £5 to £8 for these on CD - but not much more than that. The pricing policy of Music Zone has had a big impact on the bigger music stores who have radically cut prices on back catalogue material.

Anyway, this entry wasn't going to be an advert for a record shop. I bought two fantastic albums which sound as good today as they did when I first heard them. Television's first album, 'Marquee Moon' came out in 1977, just as punk was taking hold in the UK. I remember being really impressed with their attitude, the guitar work, the sharp lyrics, and the tightness of the music. It still sounds fresh and alive after nearly 30 years. There is a re-issue of this CD with bonus tracks, but I went for the basic album which is just an excellent exercise in economy and precision. As a band, their tightness of form and total sharing of the space in the music reminds me of jazz rather than rock. All four musicians are working away in every second of the music - but it's music at the heart of rock's new wave of the late 70s, forming a neat bridge between the excesses of late prog rock and the primitive naivete of punk.

A year later the first album by Suicide was released - another band from New York. I bought both their first two albums as they were released, being really excited by the newness of their sound. They were minimal, proto-punk, and yet listening now it's obvious that they were also deeply rooted in rock 'n' roll. The first album is now a double CD with bonus tracks, and two extras on the second CD in the form of a live gig at CBGBs in New York and a live cut from Brussels. The live material is really interesting showing as it does the two extremes of reaction to their work. They live up to the idea that reaction is better than apathy. The crowds that saw their early worked reacted with passion or hatred. There didn't seem to be any middle ground. The Brussels concert ends in chaos.

Suicide's music still sounds cutting edge today - their experiments are still unsettling. The epic track 'Frankie Teardrop' still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end.

Friday, 12 November 2004

Songs for Emotion

I spent last night listening to a selection of great songs, taking the opportunity to pull at the emotions. Great songs should do that. I listened to:

Damien Rice - eskimo
Nick Drake - One of these things first
Johnny Cash - One
Neil Young - Like a Hurricane
REM - Night Swimming
David Byrne - Au fond du temple saint
Tears for Fears - Pale Shelter
Prefab Sprout - Steal your thunder

A couple of beers to go with it, and the result was a fantastic evening.

Monday, 8 November 2004

NaNoBlogMo Phenomenon

Well, I have stared writing the 50,000 words of novel for the National Novel Writing Month. It's going painfully slowly. I was struggling to find the motivation to get the thing moving along steadily. I had set up a separate weblog to post some of the material I create, and to post comments as I go. It can be found at . Well, after a few days it appeared on the nanoblogmo site ( I think it appeared some time on Saturday, and within hours I was receiving a huge hit rate. This is excellent - just the motivation I need to get writing some more...

So I will then...

Meanwhile hits to this weblog pour in steadily - I will soon be reaching my 300th visitor. And I will soon be posting my 100th post too, which surprises me. When I started this, I wasn't sure how long it would last for. At the moment it feels like something that is ongoing, that is adapting and adjusting to my tastes as I progress, and taking in different things as I go.

Troy vs Mona Lisa Smile

This weekend the whole family sat down twice to watch films on the DVD player. On Friday evening we watched 'Troy' starring Brad Pitt, Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Diane Kruger, Peter O'Toole etc. Now, when I watched this film I had read no reviews of it whatsoever, and had been vaguely aware of all the hype surrounding it. So, I began watching with a totally open mind. It's very long - 160 minutes. With some films that would be a good thing - with this one, it was too much. A bit of editing would have been helpful. Some of the dodgy lines, and over-egged scenes could have been cut. The battle scenes looked like remakes of the best bits of 'Lord of the Rings' without the strange creatures. I did enjoy watching the film - sort of! But it was so poorly scripted, and crass in its use of standard dramatic plot-lines. Does Hollywood really have to use the same formulas all the time - even when they are working with one of the oldest and greatest mythical narratives we have in the western world? The presence of a baby (Hector's son) as the dramatic prop designed to make us feel the impending dread of the invasion of Troy, was just too manipulative. All in all it could have been so much better than it was. With such an amazing story it should have been a better film. Mis-casting, and over-acting combined with dodgy direction to make a really clumsy film. If you want to see the worst bit, cut to Brad Pitt as Achilles staggering across the floor as he dies, pulling arrows from his chest. Please! It was just too much like a really awful spaghetti western.

Last night we sat down again and watched 'Mona Lisa Smile'. This time I was impressed. I'd heard this film described as 'Dead Poets Society' with women instead of boys. The comparison is inevitable, but I found the theme of feminism and the status of women in 1950s America really well handled. Julia Roberts was brilliant in the lead role. She underplays beautifully, giving space to the rest of the cast, leaving a clear impression of this character that she plays, someone who is struggling against a system, but with a share of doubts.

The scenes in the classroom are really well put together. The cast of girls (Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin) in the class that she teaches 'Art History 100' to, are brilliant. On the DVD there is a short documentary film where the actresses give their reactions to some of the art that is in the film. It's interesting to see them being interviewed - and see the changes from character to actress. And Juliet Stephenson as the school nurse is brilliant - dismissed from the film far too soon. This is a film well worth watching - and I didn't find myself laughing at scenes that weren't meant to be funny, which I did with 'Troy'.

As I type this I am listening to 'Genevieve' by Scott Walker - marvellous! It's amazing to be alive with so much culture around me to absorb.