Virtuosity takes many forms in music and never was this more evident than in the recital given by leading Jazz pianist, composer, band leader, educator, broadcaster and author Julian Joseph in our beautiful Chapel on the evening of Friday 14th October. Welcoming an artist of Julian’s stature to Cranleigh always creates a sense of anticipation and excitement yet the warmth of music making and engagement between audience and performer made for a special evening.
The audience were immediately captivated by our guest in his introduction to the concert in which he announced there was no set programme, instead he would ‘let the atmosphere guide’ the musical choices and ‘feel it, let the ideas flow’. The first of two, intoxicating, forty minute halves began with bright, lively virtuosic showings of spontaneous creativity and flair in music by Julian himself (Rise Up Gentle from six pieces inspired by Liszt’s Constellations in memory of his late mother that were interspersed throughout the programme) and Duke Ellington.
The harmonic inventiveness and apparent freedom of the melodic structures were something to behold but, for this reviewer at least, the highlights of the concert were the two pieces that closed the first half: the ballad HTB (from Julian’s suite of six compositions) and his take on Cole Porter’s Just One of Those Things. The playing in these pieces elicited some of the most serene, wide ranging and starkly beautiful sounds from our Chapel’s Steinway that I have ever heard and, to these ears at least, displayed the full range of Julian’s virtuosity and his power to communicate on such a direct level through music.
After a refreshing interval Julian continued with two more of his inspirational compositions (Motherhood and Heartbeat) alongside a hugely entertaining take on the classic Tiger Rag. Mr Kevin Weaver (Head of Academic Music and Strings) summed up the mood excellently in his closing words thanking Julian at the end of the concert by pointing out that the performance had reminded students and audience alike how important in a post COVID world the spontaneity of live music really is. An excellent evening that will live long in the memory.