St. Giles Church in the north of
“Shall we go straight in?” were the words Ben Holder used to open his performance with ‘Lady Be Good’. But the gig was not going to have the nature of a religious speech. Ben Holder was not preaching but baring his soul, and so giving the audience an overwhelming sense of his energy and fervor.
Stewart Carter Smith and Jez Cook both accompanied Holder, each possessing a singular look of deep concentration and a hidden pleasant smile, playing their Maccaferri guitars steadily, sharing with us their devotion to jazz. Paul Jefferies on bass was as excellent as always, showing great mastery and experience. The church’s ancient throat gave forth a jazzy wail tonight.
Holder’s violin is not the small, light and delicate instrument that we might think of when we visualize it in a classical setting. When he plays it, it becomes an extension of his very energetic and unstoppable body, as if Holder were leading it into a dance of fire with the expedite movements of his arms and irrepressible stamping of his legs.
Holder introduced each piece with jokes, witty comments and anecdotes. We enjoyed a fantastic and very international set with music of Brazilian, French, Spanish, Jewish and even Ukrainian origin and we were also lucky enough to hear Holder’s singing voice resounding in fine fettle.
In the second half he transported us to a gypsy jazz festival in
It was a show that my seven-year-old daughter simply won’t forget. She loved the music, the expressions on the faces of the performers and the audience, Holder’s desire to get closer to his audience and especially the great energy of his music.
If there was something to be learnt from this experience it was that music must be done with freedom and extraordinary passion. This kind of thing has not always been permitted in orthodox religious settings, but tonight it certainly was. Did it have the character of a religious experience? That depends on how you define religion. To me it did.