In the age of the kindle, bibliophiles must constitute a dying breed, and yet their favourite haunts are, in some cases, easily a century or two old, and still flourishing. I have spent cherished afternoons hunting in O’Gara and Wilson in Chicago, in Hatchards in London, in College Street Boi Para in Calcutta and, most recently, Bayntun’s in Bath, one of the world’s leading antiquarian bookshops. It is in the labyrinthine basement where I have found poetic jewels in the past, and this time was no exception: first editions of Cal Lowlell’s The Dolphin and Theodore Roethke’s The Far Field, for just £5 and £10 a piece. And, because it is Bayntun’s, in excellent condition
Five decades after his early death, we don’t need a specific anniversary to appraise the legacy of John Trane, and there are any mount of recordings – live and studio – that continue to surface on an annual basis. Some good and some bad, a combination of inferior live recordings and Trane over soloing and pushing boundaries, already exhausted.
But Trane is Trane, and more so than many of his collaborators – Miles, for example – his work continues to inspire exploration and interpretation across the entire fulcrum of jazz.
If I had to recommend a recent release which balances the vision of the interpreter and the visceral and cosmic references of the original, Denys Baptiste is your only man. The Late Trane sounds fresh, as if it was recorded yesterday, and that’s because Baptise doesn’t cut corners and has a stellar band that is firing on all cylinders – Nikki Yeoh, Neil Charles and Rod Youngs.
The Late Trane has ten tracks, all bar two by Coltrane, with Neptune and Astral Trane by Baptiste, and they are at home here because Baptiste has maintained the Coltrane template, while adding his own garnishes and, thankfully, he feels the music.
What is special is that Baptiste has assemble an extraordinary band that illustrates how musicians from London’s multi-cultural music scene have undergone a similar journey to Trane, though not as cosmic, and on The Late Trane, with well know compositions like Ascent and After The Rain, we have Coltrane filtered by the global sound of London, so expect folk, reggae and funk.
American photographer Ming Smith is better known for her portraits of Nina Simone and Alvin Ailey – black cultural figures in American at a time of widespread social unrest (what has changed?) – and a snippet of her forty year career, with the subjects captured in a state between distortion and definition, can be seen at The Serpentine Gallery in London. If you make it, why not saunter after to the nearby Frank Hurley exhibition in The Royal Geographical Society.
Segueing several decades of visual art in Wexford are veteran Gillian Deeney (left), now decamped to Tinahely in the wilds of South Wicklow, and Serena Caulfield, decamped from Rosslare to the wilds of Ballyhealy. They are pictured examining three original Caulfields in Wexford Co. Council at the excellent two venue show, comprising 13 artists, curated by Catherine Bowe and Helen Gaynor.
A war artist who seems somewhat to have been sidelined by recent centenial commemorations of the Great War is William Conor, although the Ulster Museum has the single biggest collection of his work. That’s good news if you happen to be in Belfast, and peckish. Opposite the Ulster Museum is the actual studio Conor worked in for almost 15 years, and it is now a café, illuminated by the light from the lantern roof. Conor survived the Great War and indeed lived until 1968, but it is the work of another Belfast institution, Neil Shawcross, which currently adorns the walls of Conor Café.