Diary of a Separation (Jazz, Bach and Cinema)

Portrait of the artist’s wife as an artist in her own right

Photo by the author

Saturday 9th March 2019

It was great going back to 91 Brick Lane’s Jazz Lates. They had this young, up-and-coming singer tonight, Sahra Gure. She was really good. Full of confidence and pizazz. Excellent band, too. Especially the drummer.

91 has fast become my go-to venue for my regular jazz fix. There’s something about its location that appeals to me. Bang in the heart of hipster Shoreditch, yet the crowd is knowledgeable. They’re not there “to be seen”, but to listen to the music. Plus, the gigs are free.

I noticed also that there were a lot of people who were pretty familiar with Sahra’s music. Fans even. That was much welcome. I can’t stand punters who go to see a live act and start talking over the music instead. There was less of that tonight, but still too much of it around. Posers who want to be seen at chic venues instead of paying their respects to the artists on stage.

Tuesday 12th March 2019

Ao and I went to watch Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach at the BFI today in the evening.

Given how cutting-edge, revolutionary and even capricious some of Bach’s music sounds, the dead composer couldn’t have hoped for a better director than Jean-Marie Straub to be in charge of this production.

The starting point is so uncomplicated that I wonder how many other directors have had a similar idea: use music, not as an accompaniment, but as a creative component in its own right. The music in the movie is another character, with a leading role.

This endeavour is underpinned by a beautiful love story. That between the eponymous woman of the title and her famous (although not much at the time, surprisingly) husband.

Anna Magdalena, who gave birth to thirteen children and buried seven of them. Of course, there should be a movie made about her.

Thursday 28th March 2019

Essay Film Festival at the ICA and I watched a couple of shorts today: still here and Sun Song. These two films are part of a new wave of what I’ve come to call cinematographic poems (see also Black Mother and Field Niggas by Khalik Allah). still here is a rumination on the vast urban landscape of St Louis, Missouri. This is an area populated mainly by African Americans. The movie delves into the history of a once-thriving community and its socioeconomic collapse.

Sun Song is a Sun Ra music score-backed beauty. Its setting is Durham, North Carolina and it focuses on race relations.

Both films escape the narrow narratives that race- and class-driven movies seem to have sometimes. There’s less prescription and more open-endedness.

London-based, Cuban writer. Author of “Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner”, to be published by Austin Macauley. Has written for The Guardian and Prospect.

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