Jon Lord And Rick Wakeman – Sunflower Jam (2011)

FrontCover1The Sunflower Jam 2011 will be remembered for one of Jon Lord’s most rewarding appearances of 2011 – musically daring and performed with sharp excellence.

On an evening already rife with musical talent, Jon Lord shared the stage with Rick Wakeman for the pair’s brand new composition It’s Not As Big As It Was (allegedly about the music biz although it was preceeded by jokes about old age and prostate problems). This was without a doubt The Sunflower Jam’s musical crown jewel benefitting the good cause of helping children suffering from cancer. Donations are still welcome.

This is Rasmus Heide’s report:

ConcertPosterJon Lord appears onstage after almost an hour of excellent music from the likes of Danny Bowes (Thunder), Gary Brooker, Joe Bonamassa and Newton Faulkner. These gentlemen (and woman) have entertained the crowd with blues and rock classics that fare very well, particularly Gary Brooker’s rendition of A Whiter Shade of Pale and Joe Bonamassa’s Thrill is Gone. However, Jon will proceed to seize the show and push up the excitement level several  notches.

“One of the greatest keyboardists in rock’n’roll, Mr. Jon Lord!” Joe Bonamassa introduces the maestro and kicks off a slowly evolving Ballad of John Henry. Bonamassa’s bluesrock signature tune is the perfect choice for the two masters to pool their forces. Building its riff to a roar before dipping to the verse – and then lifting itself up to the menacing chorus, Jon’s swirling Hammond backdrop has touhes of the quietly contemplative work he did for the band Ride some years ago.

LordBonamassaJon Lord + Joe Bonamassa

Standing at the edge of the stage – having pushed the organ chair to a side – Jon is in great shape and form; focused and well prepared for what will turn into an absolute musical feast celebrating almost every aspect of his musical prowess – and in the stately old Royal Albert Hall where his work first came to prominence in 1969 – and again in 1999.

Live01AJon Lord + Joe Bonamassa

Bonamassa’s John Henry is taken down to a shimmer and Bonamassa steps up to the theremin to make it squeal eerily to the fascinated crowd – until Jon Lord gently takes over. His solo is stormy and intense, developing to a massive Hammond crescendo full of his trademark wails and runs. Bonamassa moves closer and teases Jon into a guitar-organ chase the likes of which we’ve not heard for nearly 20 years… Majestic and spine-shivering.

Thanking Bonamassa, Jon introduces the next piece as Bourree from his Sarabande album. The contrast is tangible. With the evening’s musical director Paul Wickens on synthesizer, Jon handles piano and then Hammond for the solo. Anna Phoebe adds a particularly mean solo violin to the piece, expanding again the range of musical flavours of an already boundary pushing evening.

JonLord+RickWakeman01Jon Lord + Rick Wakeman

“I’ve got a big ask of you. Not a big ass – although it used to be bigger – but a big ask. Into every show a quiet song must fall,” explains Jon Lord before presenting ”the rather wonderful” Steve Balsamo to sing Jon’s most popular solo piece. Balsamo delivers a particularly tender and confident Pictured Within – in his element, gazing out at the crowd, inspiring pin drop silence. Lacking the sweeping string section of its standard orchestral arrangement, in its place Anna Phoebe displays immaculate delicatesse on her fiddle. The piece is a gorgeous contrast to the previous rackets and again, Jon Lord’s musicality proves its extraordinary range.

RickWakeman01Lord-Wakeman’s world premiere:
Warm hugs are exchanged as Jon introduces Rick Wakeman as “a new old friend. I’ve known this guy since God’s dog was a puppy, but never quite got to know him. The rather unique Rick Wakeman.”

Rick disspells any pretentiousness by cracking a joke about his own sexual debut behind the Royal Albert Hall (“It wasn’t very good. It never is when you’re on your own!”). His first piece is Beatles‘ Eleanor Rigby played by himself Prokofiev-style on bombastic, staccato synth layered with effects.

Then he invites Jon Lord back onstage. “Last Wednesday Jon and I met down at the old folk’s home…,” quips Wakeman as an introduction to the evening’s musical world premiere. Unable to decide which of their own pieces to do together, they decided instead to write a new piece together. The couple share the microphone for this introduction and a bit of smart repartee. All good fun.

Then the musical fun. A stomping, blistering, bombastic band work-out stacked high with soaring keyboards including solos for Hammond organ (Jon) and Mini Moog (Rick). It’s Not As Big As It Was is everything prog anyone could have wished for – and a wee bit more.  Wakeman’s bank of keyboards on the right side of the stage, Jon’s Hammond near the edge on the left, the cameras zoom in to show the finger work on the big screen above the stage.

Live04Murray Gould does a short guitar solo, but apart from this, Micky Moody (rhythm guitar), Jerry Brown (drums) and Nick Fyffe (bass) put down a firm foundation for the two protagonists to excel over. And excel they do for around 7 minutes or so. Jon hand signals the band into the various sections, seemingly without need as everyone nails the piece effortlessly.

Afterwards,  Wakeman says how excellent it is to work with Jon and promises more to come. Next up is a rendition of David Bowie’s  Life on Mars with Newton Faulkner on vocals, Jon Lord on Hammond and Wakeman on piano – and the house band. This epic song rounds off the evening’s first 2 hours of music. (taken from the Jon Lord website)

Recorded live at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 07/08/2011
A very good audience recording

Joe Bonamassa (guitar)
Newton Faulkner (vocals)
Jon Lord (keyboards)
Anna Phoebe (violin)
The Sunflower Band:
Jerry Brown (drums)
Nick Fyffe (bass)
Murray Gould (guitar)
Micky Moody (guitar)
Paul Wickens (keyboards)

01. Who Killed John Henry (Bonamassa) (Joe Bonamassa, Jon Lord, Sunflower Band) 9.41
02 Bouree (Lord) (Jon Lord, Anna Phoebe, Sunflower Band) 6.25
03 Pictured Within (Lord) (Jon Lord, Steve Balsamo, Anna Phoebe, Paul Wickens) 7.25
04 Eleanor Rigby (Lennon/McCartney) (Rick Wakeman) 7.11
05 It’s Not As Big As It Was (Lord/Wakeman) (Jon Lord, Rick Wakeman, Sunflower Band) 9.02
06 Life On Mars (Bowie) (Jon Lord, Rick Wakeman, Newton Faulkner, Anna Phoebe, Sunflower Band) 6.34