10 Seconds: Tara Minton
10 Seconds returns after a lengthy lie-in, and we're opening with outstanding London-based Harpist, Tara Minton. Part of me hoped and prayed for Harpo's solo in Horse Feathers (if not now then when?!) to make the cut here. One scroll-through later... & no dice... yet I'm still beaming. Read on to discover why - George Nelson
1. Duke Ellington Orchestra & Mahalia Jackson - Come Sunday (2'08" - 2'18")
From Black, Brown & Beige Suite (1957)
"Mahalia! Queen of queens! Just the most astonishing vocalist and story teller. I am forever in awe of her range for power and subtlety. She really sings the lyrics – nothing is for show or style. Every sound she produces supports the lyrics and the story. Just listen to the range in the 10 seconds “He’ll give peace and comfort...” Stunning. I am inspired by the space in Duke Ellington’s arrangement. Mahalia sings this piece a cappella, with minimal support from the piano. Ellington gives her so much time to tell the story and has total faith in her pitch and pace. He knew how to treat vocalists."
2. Claude Debussy, performed by Alain Planès - Estampes 1: Pagodes (4'46" - 4'56")
From Debussy: Estampes, Pour le piano, Piano Works
"I love this whole suite, but the opening piece is perhaps my favourite?
Debussy wrote three pieces as ‘stamps’ or postcards from around the world. Pagodes’ is inspired by the gamelan of Indonesia, a language and culture I have a deep personal connection with. He plays with rhythmic patterns of different lengths looping around each other, creating beautiful moments of tension and release (which you can really hear in the 10 seconds I’ve chosen.). His exploration of theme and the overall shape of this composition is stunning - a slow turning wheel circling wheels within wheels. I love how the melody is passed between the hands and the accompaniment moves around the octaves too. Surprising whole tone moments create a harmonic lift out of the pentatonic sound world of the piece – to me it feels like Debussy is trying to understand and explore a new culture by holding it up next to his own impressionist harmonic template and marrying the two. It’s beautiful."
3. Herbie Hancock & Tina Turner - Edith & the Kingpin (4'40" - 4'50")
From Herbie Hancock - River: The Joni Letters (2007)
“Joni: my number 1, always. Perhaps it is strange to include a cover of one of her tunes rather than an original, but Herbie Hancock and Tina Turner capture something of the depth and grit of this song that has intrigued me since the album was first released in 2007. Joni’s social commentary is brutal and nuanced, and Tina Turner's delivery captures something of the seediness of the power dynamics at play in the song that Joni’s crystal-clear voice doesn’t. The band is seriously heavy: Herbie Hancock, Lionel Loueke, Dave Holland, Wayne Shorter and Vinnie Collaiuta. Tina’s note at the end is all desire, all lust, all desperation and the band carry it away on the funkiest groove. I am obsessed with this track."
4. Billy Childs feat Lisa Fischer - Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro (2'14" - 2'24")
From Billy Childs - Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro (2014)
"Another tribute to a great female songwriter by another great male jazz pianist – Billy Childs, this time sung by Lisa Fischer, who is, in my opinion, the greatest living vocalist today. I’ve seen Lisa in concert twice, and both times was reduced to a puddle of tears. Her vocal performance on this piece is insane, again with the utmost respect and dedication to the lyrics. The way Childs’ incorporates strings and harp in his arrangements for jazz ensemble is masterful. I wish more jazz arrangers took the time to understand the harp the way he does. The whole album is through-composed and flows from one track to the next – it’s truly a masterpiece. It’s impossible to choose 10 seconds from this piece, but I love this free section and the way it forms and then pops like a bubble."
5. Stevie Wonder feat Dorothy Ashby - If It's Magic (0'00" - 0'10")
From Stevie Wonder - Songs in the Key of Life (1976)
"It couldn’t not include this track on this list. Dorothy Ashby is my queen of jazz harp. The first 10 seconds are everything – non harpists will have no idea about the pedal changes that are needed to play those first 2 bars. It’s hectic and Dorothy makes it sound easy.
This song showcases the harp in popular music in a way that is not simply glitter and star dust. The extensions and voicings Dorothy has chosen are steeped in jazz language – this is a musician who didn’t just play glissandi and call it “spiritual jazz”. She took the time to get inside the harmony of jazz and found a way to play it on the harp in the most beautiful, authentic way. Stevie Wonder is a master: His voice, his lyrics, the space he gives Dorothy in this piece – I am inspired by it all."
6. Kenny Wheeler - Part 8: Closing (11'31" - 11'41")
From Kenny Wheeler - Music For Large & Small Ensembles
"I don’t care if this choice is cliché. I will love this suite until the day I die. When the opening choral comes back at the end after Kenny’s free flugel solo with all the warmth of the brass and Norma’s voice - it is like sinking into a hot bath. Kenny’s Lydian noodling over the top fills me with joy every time I hear it."
7. Phil Merriman - Proverb (3'45" - 3'55")
From Phil Merriman - Emergence (2014)
"Phil is one of the most talented musicians I have ever met/have the pleasure of working with and collaborating with. This is his piece, Proverb, a truly stunning composition which I revisit often and
discover more layers and details every time. The groove set down by the tabla is such an unusual and perfect choice. Nadim Teimoori’s sax solo is next level – he reaches a state of flow that is mind blowing and beautiful in equal measure. I’ve chosen my favourite 10 seconds from his solo."
8. Leo Richardson - E.F.G. (4'55" - 5'05")
From Leo Richardson - Move (2019)
"I recently saw Leo playing with Tony Kofi at The Spice of Life. I bought his CD and have been playing it on repeat for the past month. I love the unusual melody of E.F.G - it reminds me a wee bit of Strayhorn’s ‘Chelsea Bridge.’ There is a hint of Cannonball in Leo’s playing, which I love. His tone is present and warm and holds your attention completely. I love the way he quotes ‘Kind of Blue’ in this solo – it's beautifully loose and nonchalant and so deeply musical."
9. Joshua Redman - On the Sunny Side of the Street (3'40" - 3'50")
From Joshua Redman - Joshua Redman (1993)
"This is my all-time favourite version of ‘Sunny Side..” . Joshua plays with such humour. He's hilarious and masterful, and the interplay between him and Christian McBride is so much fun! There are so many great duo performances in the jazz canon, but for me, this one sets the bar against which all other duo recordings are measured. The 10 seconds I have chosen is in the middle of a chorus of trading where Joshua and Christian seem to be egging each other on. The whole track is a masterclass in “playing”. "