Reviews Of 'Alex Mathias Plays John Coltrane' And 'The Shore'

Reviews of ‘Alex Mathias plays John Coltrane’ andThe Shore’, BY GEORGE FLEETON On Alex Mathias’ last visit to Down Arts Centre a year ago he played alto saxophone at Linley Hamilton’s tribute to Miles Davis’ ground-breaking jazz album Kind of Blue (1959), described  here at the time as a ‘rounded, innovative, majestic and riveting performance’. Mathias has now formed his own quartet (tenor sax, piano, double bass and drums) and his Ireland Tour, featuring the music of John Coltrane, reached The Lodge, Castlewellan, on April 1st. His programme consisted of ten Coltrane standards, from a selection of albums which he worked his way through chronologically, starting with Blue Train (1957), then Giant Steps, My Favorite Things, Crescent and lastly A Love Supreme (1965), all superb examples of Trane’s writing and playing from his most prolific period. He died aged 40, in 1967, burnt out and composing for God. Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker had set his course for him at the end of the war. He was then sideman to the likes of Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk and Dizzy Gillespie, before he branched out as band leader himself in the last seven years of his short but very productive life. Coltrane’s influence on jazz has been massive and his place, alongside Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Stan Getz as one of the greatest jazz composers and tenor sax players of all time, has never been questioned in the last fifty years. Some of this legacy was faithfully reflected in Mathias’ intense performance (including a spell-binding solo bass, late on, from Dan Callaghan, and stand out piano from last minute stand in pianist, the very experienced Myles Drennan). Together with drummer Tommy Gray they gave us full renditions of classics tracks such as Moment’s Notice, Syeeda’s Song Flute, and  Naima (after Trane’s first wife). Then, after the break, Summertime (Gershwin’s aria from Porgy and Bess), Afro Blue – played on the straight soprano sax, My One and Only Love (one of only four songs Coltrane recorded with Johnny Hartman), finishing with Lonnie’s Lament and Resolution. Mathias will be back in May as sideman in Linley Hamilton’s projected tribute to legendary jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. Meanwhile his own debut album Goin’ Roamin’ is well worth seeking out. * The Shore, a short film drama, was written and directed by Terry George right outside his front door on Coney Island, across from Killough – the town equally beautifully caught in Maurice Hayes’ memoir Sweet Killough Let go your Anchor published in 1994 by Blackstaff Press. The Shore had its world premiere in the QFT on the second night of the 11th Belfast Film Festival, and was introduced by Terry George, alongside Belfast actor Ciaran Hinds. It tells the story of the return to Ireland of yet another quiet man, Mahon, who has been living for twenty-five years in self-imposed exile in San Francisco, and who brings his daughter with him on her first visit home. This proves to be an emotional dilemma, as an old love triangle is unearthed, and misunderstandings are confronted, but not without a few dollops of wry Down humour. Whereas the scenes at the welcome home party, on the Cave Hill and at the graveyard at Rossglass are cliches, the material dealing with the mussel-picking and its aftermath, shot on the shore between tides off Coney Island, looking west towards Killough, is excellent, familiar and simply part of who and what we are round here. When George sets his short human drama into that background it works perfectly. Thirty minutes is ideal for telling this story so well: ‘these are people you loved; you have to make your peace with them’, Jim Mahon’s daughter tells him. And Terry George tells us that he plans to make two more such short stories – making up a triptych of pieces to show the rest of the world how well we are moving on here from over thirty years of troubled history. George Fleeton teaches cinema and opera studies in higher education.]]>