GILAD ATZMON & THE ORIENT HOUSE ENSEMBLE
NORWICH ARTS CENTRE
It was back in the very early 90s when the man who I’ve since come to think of as my father-in-law hooked me up with a copy of A Love Supreme by John Coltrane, and so began a quarter century love affair with one of the greatest musicians who ever lived. 26 years and counting, and still I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface – still so much of his work to listen to and digest, still hearing new things in records I’ve played hundreds of times. So, to embark on a tour billed as the Spirit Of Trane, promoting an album of the same name felt like a very bold move and I wondered whether Israeli born, British jazz musician Gilad Atzmon and his band would be able to do justice to the great man’s music.
Within moments of opening number In A Sentimental Mood all of my fears had been allayed. Gilad is a world class musician in his own right, as were the Orient House Ensemble – Frank Harrison on keys, Yaron Stavi on double bass and Enzo Zirilli on drums. The packed, seated audience were immediately drawn in and for the next hour it only got better. Most of the songs were either Coltrane originals, or pieces which he used to perform, but there were also a few originals included, most impressively a track called (I think) Minor Key from the new album. It instantly sounded like we’d heard it before – the trademark Coltrane ‘sheets of sound’, the constantly shifting beat, the strolling bass and keyboard stabs underpinning the piece. Almost as though some epic Coltrane recording had been unearthed from a long forgotten vault.
Gilad was a brilliant, sweary self-deprecating host. He is a very outspoken critic of the Israeli government and as a consequence he told us he has been attacked in the street and opponents have been trying to get this current tour called off by contacting the venues. I can’t pretend to fully understand the ins and outs of such a complex issue, but I am happy to see Gilad defying his critics and coming to play for us.
There was a 20 minute interval then another hour of transcendent brilliance; disciplined freedom at its best. Coltrane was a deeply spiritual man and this shone through in his music and there is something truly enlightening about what we were hearing. From the gentlest poignant ballads to the most ‘free’ music you will ever hear, Gilad and band nailed every note perfectly. As ever with jazz each member took time to play their own solos throughout the set, showcasing their immense skills.
I would have liked to have heard them play A Love Supreme or Olé, otherwise I can find no fault with my evening’s entertainment. The sound mix, as commented on by Gilad, was perfect and after no live music for six weeks or so it was good to kick off the autumn season with something as memorable as this.