Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival: Terry Riley
St. Luke’s Church, Brighton
Monday 8th October, 2018
Celebrating its third successful year, Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival was fortuitous enough to have some of the biggest names in contemporary music listed on its programme.
As sunset hit the high gothic points of the magnificent venue that is St Luke’s Church on the high hill of Brighton’s Elm Grove, the atmosphere was one of mysticism and wonder. A fitting scene for the artists that would be taking part in this unique performance.
First to take the stage was the duo Mesange, bringing their own handcrafted brand of dark gothic experimental fusion. Consisting of guitarist Luke Mawdsley and violinist Agathe Max, Mesange managed to weave together the effects-laden performance one might find in the middle of an unknown Thurston Moore album. With both instrumentalists sporting an array of effects pedals which, along with perfectly executed musicianship, were able to conjure up a variety of sounds. Ranging from the bright steel twang and soothing hum one would expect to hear from electric guitar and violin, then suddenly unleashing a soundscape entirely its own. Bringing floods of imagery from dark forests and babbling brooks to the neverending unknown regions of outer space, giving us a portrait of emotions while the relationship between audience and performer was free to the will of the individual.
Next up and the final act for the night was a man whose name alone brings a glint to any music lover’s eye. A giant of not just classical music but a strong pillar in the evolution of modern music in general. All was quiet in anticipation of the appearance and performance of music legend and composer Terry Riley. Now when uttered, this name usually evokes the warm familiarity of his famous compositions such as In C, A Rainbow In Curved Air and his extensive work with neo-classical outfit the legendary Kronos Quartet. Instead here we are given a complete juxtaposition. Stripped back to just piano and guitar as Riley is accompanied in an intimate duo with his son Gyan, an accomplished and brilliant musician himself. This performance saw the two Rileys jumping through realms of jazz, experimental, minimal and Indian sacred music. Some tunes were graced with Terry’s meditative Indian classical chants, while Gyan’s steady support of spacious and lyrical guitar concreted the pieces. The set gave way to heartwarming moments as father and son exchanged gleaming glances as they let their interplay and intuition run wild. The whole performance saw tunes ranging from spiritual exploratory tunes to a straight-up jazz duo bouncing ideas and melodic motifs off of each other. This was a different side to the music that most people first encounter when hearing Terry Riley, but still this unique performance was nothing short of amazing with both listener and composer moving forward through the music as one.