One of my aims with this website is to be a non-denominational space where all forms of string music are equally respected and appreciated. I believe that’s the way the world is going – barriers between music styles around the world are falling, (just as political tribalism is taking hold – but that’s for someone else’s website). As Chris Thile says here: ‘You’ll see so much genre-hopping in the near future that it’ll cease to be genre-hopping. The walls will be so worn that you don’t need to hop, you’ll just casually step over them.’ And as Duke Ellington said, there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. Or rather, in the context of this website, music I really like, and music I don’t like as much as the music I really like (it’s relative, after all).
So I was excited to discover Classical Kicks last night, upstairs at the legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. The concept was devised by violinist Lizzie Ball in 2012, her idea to put together a whole range of music styles in one programme. Yesterday’s presentation began with a solo piano set from Christina McMaster balancing relatively new pieces by Stephen Montague and Alasdair Nicolson with works by Samuel Barber and Bill Evans. We moved through some well-known tango hits by Piazzolla, and took in a truly modern piece by the group’s cellist Daniel Keane (finished at 4pm the day before), winding up with rap star Tor Cesay’s tales, including a clever allegory about getting lost in Australia. To round the evening off in style everyone came together for Piazzolla’s Libertango.
And it worked, brilliantly. For a start, having it at Ronnie Scott’s is a coup. I’ve often felt that classical music is more sinned against than sinning when it comes to being exclusive. I wrote here about how hip cultural festivals and venues rarely include classical music, and regard it as uncool – so who's being exclusive? To have one of the most famous jazz venues in the world supporting this project gives it an instant kudos that certainly helps the cause.
Of course, there are always issues with having relatively quiet acoustic music in such venues – extraneous noise is one, with the clack of glasses and tumbling of ice cubes coming from behind the bar, the thump of the bass lines emanating from the gig downstairs, and the occasional loud talk of over-enthusiastic (drunk) people invading the music. At one point Lizzie Ball had to ask for quiet. But for me, all these noises were part of the atmosphere and failed to distract from the music. And the advantages of the venue were clear, in creating an intimate and special environment that fostered open minds.
The flow of the different pieces worked so well that one wouldn’t even want to categorise it. Was the piano music jazz or classical? Was the Piazzolla folk, world, classical? Who cares, or needs these categories, anyway? It all just worked as part of a whole, with the rap music fitting right in and receiving a rapturous response. Here's to the future of music!
You have to be there to appreciate the atmosphere, but here's a video from 2012: