Jess Gillam and Zeynep Ozsuca
Perth Concert Hall
Had he not died four centuries ago, composer John Dowland would have surely been astonished to see the company he has been keeping this week at Perth Concert Hall.
Having featured in the first of this week’s Live and Unlocked recitals, bringing performers together with an audience for the first time in over a year, when his songs bracketed a diverse recital by contralto Jess Dandy, he popped up again on Thursday in the programme of saxophonist Jess Gillam.
One of his best-known tunes, Flow my tears, was her sole delve into the distant past alongside 20th century masters Francis Poulenc, Kurt Weill and Astor Piazzolla and the very-much-with-us Meredith Monk and Graham Fitkin.
The Poulenc oboe sonata, which he dedicated to Prokofiev, is very well-suited to the more robust dynamics of the soprano saxophone, the instrument Gillam played throughout. It is very colourful music for both the soloist and pianist, languid lines in the company of much spikier material, as was true of the whole set.
The short Monk solo, Early Morning Light, was close kin to Dowland’s song, preceding the precisely-titled Dappled Light, commissioned by Gillam and Ozcusa from Luke Howard. The sound you have in your head, suggested by those two words, is exactly what the piano plays.
Fitkin’s Gate gave Ozcusa a terrific rumbling jazzy underscore to a very demanding sax line, with long eloquent phrases. Gillam’s breath control on this was quite superb. It is a real virtuoso showpiece and her relaxed delivery of it was exemplary.
Composed in Paris, after his first successes with Brecht and before his American career, Kurt Weill’s Je ne t’aime pas is 1934’s statement of the same sentiment as 10cc’s I’m Not In Love, and again spoke across 400 years to the Dowland, which preceded it.
Paralleling the Poulenc was Piazzolla’s Histoire du Tango, a sonata in all but name, its four movements tracing the music the Argentinian re-invented from the start of the 20th century to the time of its composition (1985) in generational chunks. With a big ballad tune (Café 1930) at its heart, there was plenty for Ozcusa to get her teeth into as well as Gillam, and as much Bartok as bossa-nova for aficionados to enjoy.