Ah, the Penguin Cafe (orchestra)


I don’t know if moving is the best word to describe the two and a half hours I spent with my wife in The Usher Hall; because I never cried.

But I’ll tell you what; it was emotional.

First up, The Portico Quartet; a jazz/modern classical “combo” who totally blew me away but were right on the cusp of Stuart Maconie’s Freakzone playlist (the sort of stuff that ordinarily Jeana would shriek across the house at me “turn that fucking shite off”).

She put up with them.

I adored them.

However, we were there for the Penguins, as we had been, 20 years ago, before we’d ever borne a child into this world. And I reckon it is the only “band” that Jeana has ever seen twice, albeit 20 years apart.

Before I comment on them I have to congratulate the sound engineers for both bands and probably the The Usher Hall itself – in forty years of listening to live music I have never been so aware of how good the acoustics were in a performance.

Now, The PC(O).

Simon Jeffes died in 1998. And we all thought the PCO had been snatched away with him; no posthumous recordings (although plenty of compilations).

And so it has been until his remarkable son, Arthur, decided to take up the reigns and form an entirely new ensemble with the name stripped down to the, perhaps more fashionable, Penguin Cafe.

Tonight they both reinterpreted his beloved father’s music with a Joi de vivre that even Simon could not muster and created new music, in the vein of the original PCO, that was jaw dropping.   In, particular the encore, a solo piano piece that Arthur performed at his father’s memorial service, Harry Piers, and Landau would have been career highs in Simon’s day.

All the favourites were there.

Particularly pleasing were Music for a Found Harmonium, Perpetuum Mobile and Telephone and Rubber Band, but what was most incredible was the quality of musicianship, the ownership they had taken over the material and the added zip that they injected to Jeffes original music.

It truly was on the verge of a religious experience.

After playing for over an hour and a half Jeana said to me ” I never stopped smiling from start to finish.”

I concur absolutely.

3 thoughts on “Ah, the Penguin Cafe (orchestra)

  1. I saw them last Friday (3 June 2011) at the Rose Theatre in Kingston upon Thames, and fully agree with your post. It was simply fabulous. Arthur Jeffes’ (and his colleagues’) playing was top-notch: the lightning-fast strumming of two cuatros (or was it a cuatro and a ukulele?) in one number was just one of many outstanding moments during the concert. And, yes, Arthur’s composition Harry Piers is simply beautiful, and he played it so very well.

    I hope his Penguin Cafe ‘reboot’ goes from strength to strength. Thankfully, Simon Jeffes has left them with a wide repertoire — almost every piece he wrote is remarkable — so they should be able to tour and delight for years to come, plus shoe-in some new material. I’m already looking forward to their next tour.

    Like

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