The ‘Mela’ is an annual, free 2-day festival held in Peel Park, Bradford. It’s predominantly geared towards asian culture, but is multi-layered in terms of community and public sector participation and features some great world and acoustic music.
Purely by chance I came across 3 performers, each inspiring in a different way. Darren Dutson-Bromley was playing jazz standards solo on electro-acoustic guitar. Not an easy gig, playing quiet, subtle music on a windy day to a diffuse audience, but Darren successfully conveyed his love of the material. His style reminiscent of Barney Kessel, Darren’s approach was simple but effective, merely stating the melodies, chords, basslines and improvising over well-known tunes by Gershwin, Ellington, Carmichael etc in a seemingly effortless but tender way. Particularly memorable was a heartfelt rendition of ‘Polka Dots and Moonbeans’.
An altogether different guitar style was used by Adrian Byron Burns, who exemplified a later period in American music. There was a jazz influence here, but it was cloaked in funk, blues, rock and a driving rhythmic sensibility. Songs by Bob Dylan, Little Feat and Jimi Hendrix were played about as well as they can be by one guy. The singing was inventive, seemingly as spontaneous as his instrumental flights of fancy. Adrian’s success is unsurprising when you consider the way he blends earthiness, virtuosity and humour, qualities to captivate many types of audience.
Yet another contrast was provided by blind sitar player Baluji Shrivistav and his two accompanists. Baluji exercised supreme control over his instrument, starting each raga with an improvisation on the relevant scale. Then the tabla player on his right started up and we were into the main body of the piece. An aura of relaxation combined with technical mastery filled the tent. Baluji referred to this half-hour slot as a ‘recital’, and like a lot of formal concerts, the listener could get out of it what they were willing to put in. Some dipped into it and wandered off again. some yawned, others seemingly became joyful and becalmed.