Last September, when I was still writing food reviews for my other site the-eat-is-on.com, I visited Kada’s, a Middle Eastern Restaurant next to the Corn Exchange. The music playing sounded like an Italian cabaret singer so I asked the chap who served me what it was. He said that it was a popular Iranian artist which surprised me more than somewhat. The feeling was repeated at this concert only the opposite way round.
Justin Adams; a talented guitarist, producer and composer and Mauro Durante; singer, violinist and percussionist, regaled us with a selection of tunes and songs from the latter’s home country of Italy, which had more than a hint of the North African about them. The publicity for the pair states that the form of Italian folk music they perform is called Taranta ‘which transcends the blues’.
After three or four songs I found that the presentation was very similar, only the tempo of the pieces changed. Even when they branched out into American Country Music with Little Moses, a Carter Family song from 1929, the Taranta vibe was introduced at the end to give the impression that everything had to go through the same sausage machine, or should that be salami machine.
I found Mr Adams to be less than generous with the stage, in that when his companion was trying to tell us the story behind the second item on the programme, a traditional Italian folk song, he totally drowned him out by tuning his electric guitar the whole time with the volume on 11. Sr Durante was much more polite in keeping respectfully quiet whilst Mr Adams related the process he had followed in writing the next song, which was the aural version of his holiday snaps. After the interval Mauro Durante was asked by Justin Adams to tell us the story of how the two met, which he did, again to the accompaniment of the latter tuning his guitar, although admittedly much more quietly.
Although the first half only lasted about twenty-five minutes, if that, I was getting a bit bored of the same arrangement, especially as it introduced a very maudlin air to the music, no matter how lively the pieces began. Think Leonard Cohen and Morrissey singing about how their dogs had just died. This is nothing against Taranta, I had the same reaction when I heard the Portuguese folk idiom, Fado.
The second half followed a similar – short – pattern but finished with the highlight of the night, a Delta Blues piece which morphed, not into a depressing vibe, but into rock and roll. It was superb and left me thinking that, had a couple more of this type of number been scattered between the traditional Italian pieces, it would have been a great night.
It was obvious that the duet were going to reappear for an encore but, for once, I thought I would take my leave without finding out what that consisted of, and let the best song of the night be my companion home.
Perhaps, had I had a plate of meze from Kara’s in front of me, I would have enjoyed the experience much more. Or even one from MorMor who are at Kino Restaurant at the moment.
To find out what is in store at Howard Assembly Room please go to https://www.operanorth.co.uk/event-tag/har/
Normally I would point you in the direction of the artist’s website here for more tour dates but they don’t appear to have one.
Feature image from Howard Assembly Room, photographs by Stan Graham