St.Georges is another Hawksmoor designed church, and it has an amazing history. It is connected to both Emily Davison (suffragette)  and legendary leader Haile Selassie (who attended in the 1930s) , and is one of six in London alone. It has a four second plus natural reverb, which of course becomes a very important member of the band!  Thanks to this wonderful  series – designed by the recent incarnation of the Jazz Warriors – and Cleveland Watkiss and Orphy Robinson in particular – the format of the evening moved from solos , duos and then to trio. Tonight also featured the awesome flautist Professor Roland Sutherland,  and extraordinary Brazilian percussionist  Adriano Adewale.  The seminal playwright Bonnie Greer OBE- who recently became new Chancellor of Kingston University – was both hosting and reciting poetry.

Rowland performed first , and i think the mix of solo flute with such a sumptuous acoustic was magical. He performed Honami by Wil Offermans, and Winter Spirits by Katherine Hoover.  The first piece had a wonderful blend of Shakuhachi and contempory classical and extended approaches. The latter piece was native American influenced. Being sat upstairs in the gallery – it was quite incredible to think this was early evening in Holborn (central London) – as the outside traffic and bustle had been totally wiped away. Check out his website here .

Adriano then performed a solo set. This was a mix of theatre, capoeira gait, audience vocal participation, and the masterful selection of instruments from a priceless collection. No mean feat for this to work so well in a large church. So this was to link the usage of Berimbau, Pandiero, water, singing , vocal rhythmics, and whistle playing. The result was a mesmeric performance with so many influences – Brazil, Angola, Nigeria, UK …

I played a set consisting of  Lullaby No1, Confession (both lh only) and Cumulus. Although separate entities – the other St Georges i performed on this tour in January had a really old Bechstein grand piano as well. It is also a  Hawksmoor building as well .Resonances from inside the piano frame (when used percussively) could travel up to the high ceiling , and this keyboard was allowing the lower melodic voice in A Confession to come through with less effort (which was appreciated!).

The second set began with a duo from Rowland and Adriano. Freely improvised –  the links between the percussive and the vocal were highlighted and weaved into a seamless 20 min conversation. Loved the flute trading with water. A wonderful space reverent approach combined with a rare type of duo format . This should be more frequent. I think this was a debut performance of great elegance.

I joined Rowland for a duo performing the music of  William Grant Still. The first African American to conduct a major orchestra (Los Angeles Phil – 1936 – at the Hollywood Bowl) – and a major historical figure in American music. This was a debut for me playing his music – and it was hugely enjoyable. There is a clear relationship with the rhythmic and harmonic influence of spirituals. And then the arranging, orchestration, and ambition of a great musician who was supported in what were still very difficult times. I think his is ultimately a triumphant life. We performed Bayou Home, If You Should Go, and Song For The Lonely. Bonnie Greer introduced the second tune, with an extract from a poem by Countee Cullen (a leading Harlem Renaissance poet, and very famous in the US for a while in the 20s).

And finally –  we performed as a trio. I last performed with Roland in the 90’s (!) and had once jammed with Adriano a while ago.  We performed some Jobim, and an extended improvisation – and i think this was a really wonderful debut, and an ensemble that needs to do more. A lovely conversational aspect was there. Watch this space.

Can i extend thanks to – all who attended – Orphy Robinson and Cleveland Watkiss – for such creative organisation, Bonnie Greer , Ruth Fisher, Mark Summerbell and all at St Georges, and for Roger Thomas for these great photos (all credited, with a couple from my phone too!). Can i also thank Adriano and Rowland for stellar playing.  I think the series at St Georges will go from strength to strength and its great to be involved in a Warriors production again after ‘the gap’! It was hugely enjoyable as both listener and participant.

Next and lastly on this solo tour – Dempseys, Cardiff 22 May (as the October show in the Whirlwind Fest will now be happening next year). Interviews forthcoming as well…