Turnage: Blood on the Floor

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Arthaus Musik
ALBUM TITLE: Blood on the Floor
WORKS: Blood on the Floor
PERFORMER: John Schofield (electric guitar), Peter Erskine(drums), Marting Robertson (saxophone, bass clarinet); Ensemble Modern
Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Blood on the Floor takes its title from a desolate Francis Bacon painting. What gave it a more personal edge was the drugs-related death of Turnage’s brother. But you don’t need to know any of this to catch the mood of urban violence, loneliness and despair, or to be moved by the way lyricism emerges through the brittle thickets of jazz-inflected modernism and almost – but not quite – triumphs over it. In the DVD’s introductory feature, Turnage describes himself memorably as a ‘neurotic humanist’. That certainly matches the tone of the music, increasingly well caught by this impressive live performance.


So what does the visual element add? On the whole it’s a relatively straight film of a concert, but it confirms that it takes a while for the performers to break through the ‘accuracy barrier’. At first even jazz guitarist John Scofield looks as though he’s too intent on getting complex rhythms and angular melodies right to let go and make real music. But a thaw begins to set in round about the fourth movement, ‘Sweet and Decay’, after which you can see Scofield, drummer Erskine and saxophonist Robertson beginning to move along to the music. By the finale, ‘Dispelling the Fears’, everyone seems to have let go, melodies sing and the sound is good even in old-fashioned TV mono.


Just one slight niggle: if the paintings that inspired the music are anywhere on the disc, I couldn’t find them. Stephen Johnson