Fringe Music

Rob Adams

Nick Harper

The Jazz Bar


A Case of You: The Music of Joni Mitchell

theSpace @ Symposium Hall


Karmana: Songs of the Roma



TRAPPING in one hour the riches and sheer energy that Nick Harper brings to the terms guitarist, singer and songwriter must be the epitome of pouring a gallon into a pint pot. Within four songs here he had moved from amorous philosopher, with a talent for guitar improvisations that sound like a creative reservoir has been breached, to a Bach chorister with an improbable vocal range, to being genially approving of one politician (Ivo Morales) and caustically dismissive of most of the others.

Breathe, which possibly owes as much to Jeff Buckley as it does J.S. Bach, isn’t just a tour de force of vocal lines that make absolutely no concessions to the need to take in oxygen while soaring through the octaves. It has a guitar arrangement that’s a feat of harmonics and detuned, retuned and otherwise manipulated strings in itself. And it’s all presented as if it’s no big deal.

Elsewhere he’s more swashbuckling, achieving rock band momentum and answering a request for Purple Rain (his online response to Prince’s passing) with lung-bursting commitment and fret-melting passion. It’s an exhilarating, emotional roller-coaster of a show that incorporates lost teenage love, family recollections, the exuberantly finger-picked arpeggios of Blue Sky Thinking and if not a first, then a rarity – no broken strings to replace while he keeps singing. If live music contains vitamins, and your reviewer is convinced it does, then you’ll get all you need from the man they call Harpic.

Run ends August 27.

DEBORAH Brennan discovered Joni Mitchell through Got Til It’s Gone, on which Janet Jackson sampled the famous line from Big Yellow Taxi. She didn’t much care for Jackson but losing her father showed her the wisdom of Joni’s philosophy and she became a fan. She won’t be the first person to have found consolation in Mitchell’s music and A Case of You details her relationship to the songs from Mitchell’s first decade, from Chelsea Morning to Court and Spark.

She has a pleasant voice and makes a decent stab at them without copying Joni’s singing style. While not quite mastering the more intricate marriages of melody and lyric and sounding a little exposed alone at the keyboard, with backing vocals, guitar and percussion accompaniment the Australian presents a warm tribute to one of music’s most important figures of the past fifty years. Run ends August 27.

CLASSICAL guitarist Simon Thacker has established a track record of finding the right people to help him bring his explorations of musical cultures from around the world to fruition. His latest project, Karmana reimagines the songs and music of the Roma tradition and he’s made a real discovery in inviting the Polish singer and violinist Masha Natanson to join him and cellist Justyna Jablonska in its presentation.

Natanson learned Roma songs round the campfire and her singing conveys the sense of a direct connection with generations of tradition bearing. In a repertoire that can live up to introductions such as “this one contains a lot of notes” she’s a brilliantly unaffected presence. There’s a feeling of tension between her unfettered, elastic expression and Thacker’s at times rather staccato approach but Made in Scotland should be lauded for making it possible for her to perform here.

Run ends August 20.