Concert Review

Joanna Macgregor & Moses Molelekwa at The Spitz, Spitalfields, London [9th June]

This session, in the agreeable nightclub ambience of Spitz (located above the wine bar of that name in Commercial Street) brought together, possibly for the first time, virtuoso & avant-gardiste Joanna MacGregor & the (to British audiences) little-known South African pianist Moses Molelekwa for what proved to be one of the most inspired collaborations I've heard in a long time.

Piano duos are, for logistical reasons as much as anything else, pretty rare in improvised music, the most celebrated example, perhaps, being the 1977 encounter between the veteran Mary Lou Williams & the avant-gardiste Cecil Taylor. Here, as in the Williams/Taylor recording, the two pianists, coming from quite different traditions, played together with extraordinary empathy. Much of what was played seemed to have been composed by Molelekwa, who is a fine & confident performer, with a style reminiscent of Abdullah Ibrahim, particularly in his use of sustained trills in the lower registers of the instrument. The interplay between the two was quite extraordinary, each listening intently to the other & wonderfully complementing the other's playing.

On one piece the two pianists would occasionally play with their right hands while damping the strings with their left, producing a sound which recalled the sound of a South African kalimba or 'thumb piano'. Another composition involved prepared piano in homage to Cage, whose 'Sonatas & Interludes for Prepared Piano' has been superbly recorded by MacGregor [Sound Circus SC 003 Perilous Night].

This was a relatively short set - precisely an hour - but one which was rivetting throughout. The two are scheduled to play together at the Grahamstown Festival in South Africa next month, & it is to be hoped that this remarkable collaboration will be recorded.

Colin Still


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