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A happy birthday

Steve Beresford 1

The pianist Steve Beresford is celebrating his 70th birthday this weekend with three shows at Cafe Oto, mixing and matching friends and colleagues each night under the rubric PIANO TOYS MUSIC NOISE. The bill is a fine reflection of the generosity of spirit that has made Steve a key figure in the London scene for four and a half decades, whether as a collaborator with Derek Bailey, the Flying Lizards, John Zorn, Tristan Honsinger, Evan Parker, the Dedication Orchestra and countless others or in his role as a senior lecturer at the University of Westminster.

Last night I particularly enjoyed a half-hour set by a quartet of musicians (pictured above) who hadn’t played as a unit before. Douglas Benford played various instruments, including bowls and a miniature harmonium; Hyelim Kim played a taegum, a big-bore bamboo flute from Korea; Martin Vishnik played an acoustic guitar; and Crystabel Riley played a drum kit with no cymbals and two bass-drum pedals. It was the sort of collaboration that gives free improvisation a good name: all four musicians listening hard, giving each other space, alert to signs, not afraid to gives cues of their own. The playing was exquisite, making effective use of the silence, the breathy sounds and the bell tones that this music has absorbed from Far Eastern idioms (most obviously Buddhist rituals), grounded in Riley’s truly extraordinary contribution: an underscore of rumbling and tapping, permanently in movement without seeming restless or overbearing, always alert to shifts in the music’s density and trajectory and ready to orchestrate, with Vishnik’s help, a truly gorgeous ending.

Steve himself played first with the violinist Satoku Fukuda and later with David Toop and Peter Cusack, his old colleagues from Alterations. Tonight and tomorrow the programmes will include a performance of John Cage’s “Indeterminacy”, Steve’s duo with the violinist Mandhira De Saram, and the pianist Pat Thomas playing Ellington. Not a bad birthday party, all told.

* Details of tonight’s and tomorrow’s programmes on the venue’s website: http://www.cafeoto.co.uk/events/

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks to Paul Kelly’s highly creative booking policy ( like me he was a student at Warwick University in the late 70s) the university jazz club presented consistently remarkable cutting edge British and international jazz artists including the likes of Steve Lacey, Evan Parker ( whose beard then was black as coal), Eberhard Weber. Particularly memorable was a duo I had never heard of before – Derek Bailey – gtr and .. Steve Beresford – piano. I will never forget being astounded by the sight of a clockwork soldier suddenly marching across the Students’ Union carpet in the Elephant’s Nest and then realising this was part of the performance… Happy Birthday Steve Beresford and long may you continue to astound us!

    March 7, 2020
    • Adam Glasser, many thanks for the namecheck but you give me much too much credit. There were three or four of us programming Warwick University Jazz Club and it was a team effort particularly involving Tony Barley and a tall bearded Yorkshireman called Phil, whose full name I have shamefully forgotten and who is sadly no longer on the planet. Tony and Phil both played hard hitting Ornette influenced alto sax and it’s largely down to them that we booked Evan Parker, AMM, Steve Lacey, Stan Tracey solo and possibly John Stevens and Trevor Watts. I just made the phone calls and did the paperwork. I know we booked Derek Bailey but had completely forgotten he came with Steve Beresford. The brain cells ain’t what they used to be. But I can categorically say that Eberhard Weber did not appear for at Warwick. I promoted Eberhard and ‘Colours’ with Birmingham Jazz at The Grand Hotel the year after I left Warwick and was working for the Jazz Centre Society. That was a gig I do remember well for all sorts of reasons.

      March 9, 2020

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