It was our good fortune at the Vortex, and mine too, to meet Sonia Slany, who died recently, initially through Paul Clarvis. A calming influence on the exuberant? Perhaps she managed to focus his talents a bit without losing the fun, which was also inside her. She also added her own flavour to things. And she clearly believed in the music of our scene here in London being heard. Hence her working with Paul on the Village Life label to release albums by the likes of Henry Lowther and Stan Sulzmann. (And what an amazing big band album that is!)
But she was sociable, selfless and strongly caring.
We were happy to have someone with her consummate skill and diversity on violin. To call her a musician’s musician would be too patronising. Clearly respected by all her colleagues, she also offered them many aspects of her approach to music – and life – that made her more than that. Open ears and enthusiasm to get good music from any genre transferred beyond the traditional boundaries that using the term “genre” creates.
All those skills meant that she could easily became a member of Orquestra Mahatma, allowing Paul Clarvis, Thad Kelly and Stuart Hall, a band where the music would cross genres, often in the same piece and often seemingly at the whim of the band. As a member of Solid Strings we were lucky that we could get to bring in her friends. Particularly memorable was their “representing” Sweden in one of our World Cup special “Jazzballs”, playing Abba hits as the Swedes advanced.
As her illness developed, we saw her less and less. So I was so happy to see her at the moving 90th birthday tribute to Kenny Wheeler by the LJO at the beginning of last year.
Of course, she mainly used her talent to enhance so many recordings and live gigs in bigger places than the Vortex. But she was part of our family. And how lucky we are that Paul and Naima continue to be so.
Here is a review by John L Walters in The Guardian of her Monochord Music album in 2000.
“Violinist Slany was a colleague of Jocelyn Pook (who wrote music for Eyes Wide Shut) in Electra Strings and it is nice to see her star rising as well. One CD is dedicated to the “for healing use only” sounds of the monochord, an instrument developed by Joachim Marz from an original idea by Pythagoras. The other CD uses overdubbed monochords as a pad for improvisations variously involving Clarvis and Salah Dawson Miller on percussion, singer Belinda Sykes and Stan Sulzmann on alto flute and saxes. According to Slany’s notes, the monochord “calms down those with too much energy and tension” and is especially good for pregnant women and children. My local petrol station is considering blasting it out across the forecourt.”
A tribute from Henry Lowther and others in Londonjazz news: https://londonjazznews.com/2021/01/26/rip-sonia-slany-1965-2021/