London Jazz News

Finding Home Album Launch / John Williams

606 Club, May 2019

The newest piece, maybe even the centrepiece at last Wednesday’s album launch of Georgia Mancio and Kate Williams’ new album Finding Home featured neither of them, but rather guitarist John Williams and the Guastalla String Quartet playing a new arrangement of Ravel’s Menuet from the Tombeau de Couperin. It really was about six minutes of heaven, of beauty, grace, something very special. I hope they record it.

It also served as a reminder above all what an incredibly rich seam of inspiration Kate Williams has found as a composer since the “Bill Evans and the Impressionists” project in 2014. In a sense it has come full circle and back to Ravel – or maybe he has been present in spirit all along.

It is now five years since Kate came to Kings Place and did a podcast interview with us (HERE) and  described (and also demonstrated!) the creative spark that had been ignited when she noticed appealing harmonic affinities between Ravel and Bill Evans, and how that had led to a project with orchestra. That led in turn to the “Four Plus Three” project, with the quartet of players from the orchestra who had enjoyed playing the repertoire and wanted to do more. And very good players they are; the sheer quality and strength and refinement of the string playing have clearly been significant factors in pushing this collaboration forward and giving it life.

John Williams’ expression in this photo palpably captures his joy. And it doesn’t take much imagination to think of a possible explanation for it: the guitarist’s musical path and that of his daughter have virtually never crossed professionally… that is until relatively recently. Another side to this story, and why the 606 was the right – maybe the only – place possible for the launch, is that it was club  proprietor Steve Rubie who made it happen. Kate Williams explained that story in 2017 in another interview.

This album launch was a special occasion,  the highly emotional culmination of a close two-year collaboration between Kate Williams and Georgia Mancio. The issues which the songs on the album deal with are preoccupations which both artists share. They do talk about suffering, but it is always filtered through a sense of appreciation of the beauty of the human spirit, of what the Quakers call “that of God in every man“. The two musicians share common beliefs and this collaboration is clearly something they both enjoy and will pursue. And they have some great songs to sing, that stay very pleasantly in the mind. Their Victor Jara Caminando Caminando and the Broadbent/Mancio song The Journey Home are real ear-worms and Georgia sings them with a grace, a musicality and an authenticity that are very affecting.

“I firmly believe that joy is more fertile than suffering,” wrote Maurice Ravel in 1905. That credo seems to be at the core of the story of this happy collaboration – which is surely going to have more chapters .