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Martin Longley

Martin Longley is frequently immersed in a stinking mire of dense guitar treacle, trembling across the bedsit floorboards, rifling through a curvatured stack of gleaming laptoppery, picking up a mold-speckled avant jazz platter on the way, all the while attempting to translate these worrying eardrum vibrations into semi-coherent sentences. Right now he pens for the Guardian, Jazzwise, and Songlines.

Sexmob and John Medeski at Jazz Standard, March 9th, 2018

Itching for action, Sexmob swelled up an introductory theme, doing battle with the Jazz Standard’s disembodied announcer, bandleader Steven Bernstein competitively laying down his own alternative house rules.

Savannah Music Festival

We could flit down from NYC to historically rich Savannah, Georgia, exchanging frostbite for mosquito-bite.

Jazzkaar; Tallinn, Estonia, April 20-29

Tallinn is renowned for the old and the new, its castle-walled quaintness and its digital advancement, its Old Town, and its cultural youth. Skype was born here, and Estonia is recently offering an amorphous (though effective) online residency e-status.

Moers Festival

Following the inspired-as-ever 2016 Moers Festival, there was a worrying period where it looked like this deeply entrenched alternative German institution would suffer a sudden death. Its artistic director for just over a decade was Reiner Michalke (he runs the equally alternative venue Stadtgarten in Cologne).

Punkt Festival

The Punkt festival in Norway revolves around a unique concept.

Green Man Festival

A towering green man looms over the Far Out area of the Green Man festival, in the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons. His fate is to be burnt at the witching hour, on the final midnight of this Welsh weekender, his leaves, roots, goat horns, and brandished bowl of fruit immolated just prior to an even bigger fireworks display. An ancient mythological figure of cyclic renewal, the green man’s roots might be pagan, but he persisted to the early days of church decoration, and his visage spans variegated global cultures. Greenery was fresh in the 2018 spring, but now as autumn falls, it’s time for flaming destruction. First, though, there were four days full of musical performances, with satellite spaces devoted to film, discussion, comedy, healthy living, installation art, and copious quantities of indigenous Welsh real ale and cider.

Sons d'hiver, Maison Des Arts

Sons d'hiver (Winter Sounds) has been running in Paris for almost three decades, presenting artists on the perimeter of jazz, usually with a pair of acts each evening, and taking up most of February. For the festival's last weekend (22nd/23rd) of its accustomed three-week run, Paris was basking in unseasonal sunshine, and spring sounds were already sprouting.

Ethno Port 2019

Unlike the soft fusions of many other global music festivals, Ethno Port adopts a hardcore folkloric approach, presenting unfiltered forms in the Polish city of Poznań. If styles are to be blended, their amalgamation usually has a harder surface of creative confrontation, or perhaps a subtle creeping together of twinned, introspective forms.

WOMAD

The World Of Music, Art & Dance has been running since 1982, when its inauguration was a glorious cultural success, but unfortunately a complete financial disaster. Peter Gabriel was a founding (and funding) force, so he decided to reunite with Genesis bandmates to play a massive benefit gig. Given a second life, the WOMAD organization began to build a sound infrastructure, and the festival has subsequently become a revered global music institution, maintaining its annual English core version, as well as sprouting offspring in Spain, Chile, Australia, and New Zealand. There was even a short-lived US edition, close to Seattle.

Opus Jazz Club

Opus presents jazz gigs on an average of five nights per week, its ground level acting as a mezzanine, with the main stage area squatting down in the basement. With its rows of tables, sonic warmth, and general aura being redolent of New York’s own Jazz Standard club, Opus is a fine haunt, with a diverse set of bookings.

Lydia Lunch’s Retrovirus And Other Sonic Infections

Sixty Sixth Congress is a fairly obscure bar on Greenpoint Avenue, and the gig happens in its rear room. Lunch held court just as much as performed, her lines as much poetry readings as rock’n’roll verses, her lolling demon tongue repeatedly sent out to taste the bad-droplet atmosphere. She was relaxed as she smoldered, spitting and mocking, drawling and growling

In Conversation

MARK DRESSER with Martin Longley

Participating musicians need high quality microphones and an audio interface for acoustic instruments, which is why universities are the axes for Telematics, rather than the bedrooms of performers. “Also, it requires ethernet connections,” says Dresser. “That has limitations for almost anyone. The challenge is how do you create a musical community, and work between levels of access?”

Citadelic: Astridpark, Gent, Belgium, 18th July 2020

Spaced-out performance is easier in a park expanse. Pandemic people-separation was observed, as the annual Citadelic festival persevered, even if it eventually happened a month later than its accustomed May–June dates. Presenting sounds that are on the improvising edge of jazz, or even completely free-form, the concept of not flooding the park with folks was manageable, given that the Citadelic musical stance is somewhat esoteric.

Nuits Sonores, Brussels

Nuits Sonores is an electronic music festival, but there is always room for a musical detour.

Aphex Twin

Avant Gardner thinks it’s an airport. Security is paramount—just look at their website to check out the heavy restrictions on what’s allowed inside its warehouse-like cavern. Rows of metal fences zig-zagged, herding this capacity crowd into a performance that was understandably in phenomenal demand.

Tallinn Music Week

There was a pivotal juncture shortly before this year’s Tallinn Music Week when fortitude bloomed and the organizers threw themselves into realizing 2020’s already postponed conference-cum-festival—the Estonian government giving permission to operate at a reduced venue capacity—across the city’s broad range of indoor and outdoor stages. Braving a steady domino-fall of cancellations by visiting international acts, as red-patches proliferated, TMW understandably placed the emphasis on indigenous artists, covering most styles, including rock, jazz, folk, hip hop, electronica, ambient, pop, and modern classical.

Fairuz and Her Family Fusions

Fairuz is now 85 years old, still the dominant female singer in Lebanon, and indeed the Arabic world itself. The departed Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum is the only other contender. Fairuz is the Arabic word for “turquoise,” her birth name being Nouhad Haddad. She started out as a radio chorus vocalist, which led to meeting the Rahbani Brothers, Assi and Mansour, who instantly clicked into a songwriting partnership with Fairuz. Assi and Fairuz married in 1955. This personal and professional relationship was sundered in 1979, from which point Fairuz inducted her son Ziad Rahbani as her chief composer and arranger.

Artonov, Brussels, Belgium, 7th-13th October 2019

Artonov is a young festival, only in its fifth edition. Its central concept involves risk, with a strategy of marrying art forms that would most often be separated. Even if a pair of disciplines might have an established relationship, it’s unusual for three or four vocabularies to be actively intertwined in one ‘happening’—music, dance, painting, storytelling, photography, costume design, even culinary adventure.

Jazzfest Berlin

Much of the music of this 56th edition moved further away from jazz, even in that music’s more out-there manifestations. Unlike some other wayward jazz fests, this Berlin four-dayer set the controls for modern composition, rather than rock, electronic, or global-rooted side-sounds—although all of those aspects were present to some degree.

Jazz Jantar Klub Żak, Gdańsk

The Jazz Jantar festival has now reached its 22nd edition, and is housed at Klub Żak in the Polish city of Gdańsk. This is a cultural center whose roots stretch back to 1955, though the present building was completed in 1991. Jantar is the Old Polish word for amber, a mineral that’s been central to this port city since the end of the 16th Century.

Brussels Jazz Festival

The festival offers three gigs each night for most of its 10-day run, with a few matinées to boot. Amongst a native Belgian core, there are always international invasions.

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The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2020

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