Getting Scorched

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Turnage
LABELS: Digital Classics
WORKS: Getting Scorched
PERFORMER: Mark-Anthony Turnage, John Scofield
CATALOGUE NO: 1004 DC (PAL system; stereo; 16:9 picture format)

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Television arts coverage these days so often seems obsessed with manner, frequently to the exclusion of any really meaty matter. So finding a made-for-television music film like this makes one feel like shouting Hallelujah! Elegantly filmed though it is, the central issue is always Mark-Anthony Turnage and his music.

Turnage himself is a strong presence, and we hear a lot about his life and preoccupations; but everything we learn has some relevance to the music, of which there is plenty, especially the brilliant jazz-inspired Scorched. The extracts are long enough to give a strong flavour of the work in question, but short enough to leave one hungry for more.

The narrator-interviewer (director Barrie Gavin) manages to steer the argument while remaining admirably unobtrusive – apart from briefly at the end, we hardly glimpse him. The overwhelming impression left by this film is that this is an outstandingly original composer, who manages somehow to combine edgy complexity with the melodic directness of great jazz – with more than a touch of English lyricism besides.

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Turnage is not presented as a glamour industry product, a brand, an icon, or any of the emblems of that current commercial mindset that simultaneously elevates and degrades its target celebrity – or should that be commodity? He is present for the light he throws on the music, and not the other way round. Thank God. Stephen Johnson