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Not having taken a Tea Break in July, we take three in this issue - it's a wonder we get any work done!
Scroll down to read our Tea Breaks with Christine Tobin, Owen Dawson and Lara Eidi or click here for our page of Tea Breaks. Do you know the significance of the Utah Teapot image we use for this item?
Rob Luft Wins The Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize
Guitarist and composer Rob Luft has been named as the winner of this year’s Kenny Wheeler Jazz Prize. The prize is awarded each year to a young artist who demonstrates excellence in both performance and composition, selected from all graduating jazz musicians at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music in London. The prize includes release of Rob's proposed recording on the Edition record label. Rob, the sixth recipient of the prize will release his album in 2017. The judging panel – Edition Records boss Dave Stapleton, the Academy’s Head of Jazz Nick Smart, together with Evan Parker, saxophonist and lifelong collaborator of the late Kenny Wheeler – met in June to decide the winner.
Having joined NYJO at the age of 15, Rob Luft went on to study on the jazz programme at the Royal Academy of Music. Subsequently, he co-founded the tango quintet The Deco Ensemble, with whom he has released one album, ‘Encuentro’ (2015), featuring the music of Argentinian composers such as Astor Piazzolla. Rob is a member of Byron Wallen’s “Four Corners”, Martin Speake’s “Mafarowi” and Enzo Zirilli’s “Zirobop”.
Rob received the Second Prize in The 2016 Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition. He also is the recipient of the 2015 Peter Whittingham Award as part of two collective ensembles – Patchwork Jazz Orchestra and jazz-rock quartet Big Bad Wolf (see Owen Dawson's Tea Break below). He appears on Liane Carroll’s latest release on Linn Records (Seaside – 2015), Brazilian singer Luna Cohen’s new album on the Catalonian independent Temps Record label (November Sky – 2016), and the debut album from Enzo Zirilli on Milanese label UR Records (Zirobop – 2015).
Click here for a video of Rob playing Fats Waller's Ain't Misbehavin' to a passing audience as part of Sky Arts Guitar Star series.
Documentary films seem to be doing better than bio-pics these days. Searching For Sugarman and the Chet Baker Let's Get Lost documentaries seem to win hands down over biopics like the Miles Davis film Miles Ahead or the Beach Boys Love And Mercy, and yet the biopics are the ones that reach the multiplexes.
Lily Keber's 2013 film Bayou Maharajah is only likely to be shown at arthouse cinemas and you will have to look out for it to catch it.
The documentary takes a look at the life of James Carroll Booker, the Louisiana pianist who mixed gospel, jazz boogie-woogie, classical and blues into a style of his own. Reviewing the film in the Sunday Times, Kate Muir awards it 4 stars and reminds us that Booker's single Gonzo (heroin) inspired Hunter S Thompson's drug-fuelled 'gonzo' journlism. She says: 'Booker's fingers move so fast they blur on screen as he improvises endless ripples of grace notes, and the archive footage of New Orleans and his concerts is wonderfully weird: his prediliction for dressing as a (very camp) cop at the piano, and wearing a piratical eye patch added to his mysterious charm.'
Click here for the trailer.
Dr John said Booker was 'the best black, gay, one-eyed genius that New Orleans has ever produced.' (There can't be that many others?). Hugh Laurie also describes the 'joy, wit, intelligence and sheer bloody mayhem' of Booker's music. James Booker died in 1983 from 'addiction and mental problems that stemmed from being hit by an ambulance as a child'. He was just 43.
Writing in The Observer, Wendy Ide says: 'This documentary about the damaged, unpredictable brilliance of Booker captures something of his skills as a performer but struggles to fully convey the bottled lightning of his mercurial personality. The man who referred to himself as the Black Liberace shrouded himself in myths, the better to protect the vulnerable individual underneath the afro wig stuffed with cannabis and the star-adorned eyepatch. Bayou Maharajah is worth watching for the performance footage alone.'
Bayou Maharajah came to cinemas in July. Click here for a short video of people talking about James Booker. Further screenings in August are booked for:
Monday 25 July - Crouch End Picturehouse, London
Chet Baker - Born To Be Blue
And so we come to the next biopic, also out in cinemas now. At the time of 'going to print' with this issue of What's New, the film had not reached my local cinemas and so I have to rely on others' reports. Inevitably it will be judged against Bruce Weber's acclaimed 1988 Let's Get Lost documentary about Chet Baker (click here for the trailer for that film).
Writing in the Sunday Times, Edward Porter says: 'Like Miles Ahead, the recent film about Miles Davis, this biopic of another jazz trumpeter, Chet Baker, blends fact and fiction. The idea seems to be that jazz's fluid creativity justifies a similar approach to biography, but where does this actually get us? Robert Budreau's film, set in the 1960s, shows Baker (a reedy-voiced Ethan Hawke) trying to kick heroin with the help of a loving girlfriend (Carmen Ejogo). Ultimately, he has to choose between her and his addiction, so she's a vital figure in the story, yet she is also a made-up character. If the movie had gone all out with its artistic licence, like the Dylan fantasia I'm Not There, that might have been something, but what's on offer - pleasant though it is in its period Americana - is no more lively or useful than a typically stodgy biopic.'
The plot decription, such as it is, says: 'Set largely in 1966, Baker is hired to play himself in a movie about his earlier years when he first tried heroin. He romances actress Jane Azuka (a fictional character, a composite of several of Baker's women in real life, portrayed here by Carmen Ejogo) but on their first date, Baker is attacked by thugs and his front teeth smashed. As Baker recovers from his injury, his embouchure is ruined and he is unable to play trumpet any better than a novice. Meanwhile, he must answer to a probation officer, and ensure he is employed, while sticking to his regime of methadone treatment.' The jazz score to the film was created by composer and pianist David Braid. The audio for trumpet performances in the film was done by Kevin Turcotte. Hawke took trumpet lessons from Ben Promane, and requested video of Turcotte recording, in order to mime the playing during the shoot.
Click here to watch the trailer.
If you look online there are various critiques of the film, some applauding Ethan Hawke's performance. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an audience rating of 85%, while Andrew Barker in a subtle review in Variety says that the film is "about a character who happens to share a name and a significant number of biographical similarities with Chet Baker, taking the legendary West Coast jazz musician's life as though it were merely a chord chart from which to launch an improvised set of new melodies".
The general consensus is a film that gets up to 3 stars. I guess it depends on how far you judge it as a movie and how far as a representation of the music and musician. As I have said before, I wonder how far these biopics influence an image of jazz in the mind of the general public and / or how far they encourage people to explore the music further. I also wonder whether it would be judged differently if it were not a biopic but a fictitious drama.
BBC Proms 2016
As we reported last month, it looks as though jazz will have an increased presence in this year's Promenade Concerts in July and August.
Iain Ballamy and Liane Carroll will be taking part in a celebration of Shakespeare's anniversary when they perform Duke Ellington's Such Sweet Thunder with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland on 5th August, and Jamie Cullum will be presenting an evening of late-night jazz with the Roundhouse Choir and Heritage Orchestra on 11th August.
Jacob Collier and vocalist/bassist Richard Bona will be celebrating Quincy Jones with Jules Buckley's Metropole Orkest on 22nd August, and the Sao Paulo Jazz Symphony will be playing Brazilian music from street sounds to avant garde on 24th August. Kamasi Washington will be playing on 30th August when his band is joined by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and conductor Jules Buckley.
Click here for more information.
The Write Stuff
Have you got the write stuff? Founded and organised by Jazzwise magazine and Serious (producers of the EFG London Jazz Festival), this new writer's initiative is taking place for its 14th year in November. The series of workshops and mentoring sessions takes place at London's Southbank during the EFG London Jazz Festival (11th - 20th November). The Write Stuff gives new jazz and improv writers a valuable free opportunity to work with professional journalists to improve their writing skills and develop an understanding of music criticism and the workings of the jazz and mainstream music press and blogosphere, as well as getting to see a bunch of concerts!
The Write Stuff will include sessions on feature writing and live reviews by Jazzwise writer and BBC broadcaster Kevin Le Gendre; an insight into the history and development of the UK jazz and music press with Jazzwise editor in chief Jon Newey, and a workshop on how to run a jazz website, blogging and social media with Jazzwise editor Mike Flynn, alongside input from other writers and jazz industry figures.
To apply, you should submit by email a 300-word review of a gig/concert that you have seen recently, together with a CV and full contact details by Monday 10th October 2016 to email@example.com with 'The Write Stuff' in the subject line. Applicants must be 18 years old or over and be available in London on the following dates: Friday 11 November (evening), Saturday 12 - Sunday 13 November and Saturday 19 - Sunday 20 November.
Howard Lawes who regularly writes album reviews for this website attended The Write Stuff a couple of years ago and says: 'As the course was being run during the EFG London Jazz Festival there were lots of opportunities to sample the best in jazz music and to write reviews which could be discussed with a professional journalist. A really interesting session was a real, live interview with the Israeli born, New York based jazz musician Oran Etkin who was about to perform in the EFG London Jazz Festival. Oran proved to be the ideal interviewee with really interesting views on composing and playing jazz, the influence of world music and music education ... Kevin LeGendre rounded the course off re-iterating the importance of writing style, communicating with the reader and always being on the lookout for interesting opportunities in all types of media where journalism skills are important. Everyone agreed that the course had been informative, thought provoking and enjoyable and expressed their gratitude to Jazzwise and Serious for providing this unique opportunity.'
.... and so to our first Tea Break ....
Lara Eidi is a singer-songwriter of Greek, Lebanese and Canadian ethnicity previously living in Greece and now based in London. She recorded her first album, an EP, Little People in 2012 followed by a further EP, Tell It Like It Is in 2014. She has played in Beirut, Lebanon (International Music Festival) and at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Her Lara Collective band became established in Greece where they made a number of videos that are now available on Youtube. If you get the chance to hear her sing live, don't miss it.
We invited Lara to take a Tea Break:
Hi Lara, tea or coffee?
Hello! Coffee, without a doubt! A good coffee with a good friend is a must in life.
Milk and sugar?
Chocolate or cinnamon!!
If you could ask two past jazz musicians or vocalists to join us for the tea break, who would you invite?
Ohhh - a massive tea break with everything be would be ideal! But I would say Nina (Simone). I'd have coffee and a jam with Nina. I could listen to her stories all day and I'm convinced Oscar Peterson would be the most delightful coffee buddy.
What would you ask them?
I'd like to think I'd listen to them play. Anything I would ask would result into music. It was their truest form of expression. But I'd ask Nina how did she muster so much courage in her music and individuality to speak out on issues which prevented her and so many others to perform in the first place?
[Click here for a video of Lara singing Nina Simone's Be My Husband. The video was recorded on a rooftop in downtown Athens with Stavros Parginos (cello) and Giotis Paraskeviades (guitar)].
Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit?
Digestive biscuit. I'm always the one with cookies and a pint of cider at a jazz gig.
How did your degree course at Guildhall go?
Oh wow! Biggest roller coaster ride of my life. But the universe smiled and I graduated very happily and successfully. Moreover I learnt more about myself as an artist then I ever thought imaginable. Gratitude.
How was your final recital?
Amazing ! So fun! I felt totally free, and the musicians were freaking awesome!
[Click here for a video of Lara's final recital at the Guildhall College of Music and Drama in June with Edwin Ireland (bass); Charlotte Keeffe (trumpet); Jamie Saffiruden (piano) and Adam Teixeria (drums)]
What have you got coming up in the future?
‘I've got rhythm ...’ - no just kidding! I've got some exciting projects coming up. I aim to really create a larger platform for crossover jazz, and am excited to finish some new compositions, ideally for an album. It's been two years since I've written, and now I've got so much inspiration it's inevitable!
Who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?
I heard the iyatra Quartet recently - it's exactly the sort of thing that should be encouraged - classical and jazz musicians coming together for a major fusion of well, music! Also, I would recommend Jacob Collier but who hasn't heard of him?
[Click here for a video introducing the iyatra Quartet's 2015 album This World Alone].
Why yes , thank you !
[Click here for a video of Lara singing at a live performance of Errol Garner's Misty at a private function in Athens]
[Click here for Lara's Facebook page]
Looking For Rare Vinyl?
Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson has teamed up with the Viennese record shop Substance to establish a new specialised facility for obtaining rare vinyl recordings.
Substance says: 'We decided to build a new specialised platform for vinyl-collectors of rare avantgarde music, free jazz, improvised music, electronic/contemporary music, ethnic music and all related with a focus on experimental music!'
Substance is located at Westbahnstrasse 16, 1070 Wien, Vienna, Austria, but the facility is, of course, available online.
Click here for more information.
Late Junction Sessions on Vinyl
The vinyl record company Gearbox has joined forces with BBC 3's Late Junction programme to release a pair of 12-inch, 45rpm discs featuring a series of studio meetings between unlikely music collaborators.
BBC Late Junction Sessions: Unpopular Music includes artists such as Seb Rochford, Finn Peters, B.J. Cole and Nils Økland.
[You are able to listen to the music at the same time as reading this article and without leaving the page if you click here. This will take you to the article on another page on our website where your computer might ask you to allow the music to play on the page. Alternatively there are links to the music on YouTube etc. in the article below].
You know the feeling of something half remembered
In 1944, Otto Preminger produced and directed the film Laura. The movie has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and the American Film Institure named it one of the 10 best mystery films of all time.
The music for the theme tune was composed by David Raksin. As a pianist, Raksin started out playing in professional dance bands when he was at high school, and his father, also a musician, taught him woodwinds. But David went on to study composition and arrangement and he was picked up by Charlie Chaplin as his assistant in composing the score for Chaplin's 1936 film, Modern Times, but his composition Laura has marked Raksin's place in musical history. Described as 'uniquely atmospheric and evocative' the tune's success almost causes us to forget that Raksin also wrote the music for other films including Forever Amber, Force Of Evil, Carrie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Bad And The Beautiful, Two Weeks In Another Town and The Redeemer as well as for hundreds of TV shows.
According to author William Zinsser in his book, Easy to Remember: The Great American Songwriters and Their Songs (click here), director Otto Preminger had chosen Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Lady as a theme for Laura, but Raksin felt it did not suit the character. So Raksin was given the weekend to come up something new. By Sunday, with nothing satisfactory on paper, he read a “Dear John” letter from his wife, and the haunting melody seemed to write itself. During Raksin's lifetime, Laura was said to be the second most-recorded song in history following Hoagy Carmichael's Stardust. Later in life, Raksin taught at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. He died in 2004, aged 92.
Click here for the trailer to the movie which ends with the main theme.
In the movie, Dana Andrews plays detective Mark McPherson who is investigating the killing of Laura (Gene Tierney), found dead on her apartment floor before the movie starts. On the apartment wall is a striking painting of the dead woman. Off screen, Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) says: "I shall never forget the weekend Laura died. A silver sun burned through the sky like a huge magnifying glass. It was the hottest Sunday in my recollection. I felt as if I were the only human being left in New York. For Laura's horrible death, I was alone. I, Waldo Lydecker, was the only one who really knew her. And I had just begun to write Laura's story when - another of those detectives came to see me. I had him wait. I could watch him through the half-open door. (The chiming of the antique clock on the half-hour attracts the detective's attention, and he walks over to it). I noted that his attention was fixed upon my clock. There was only one other in existence, and that was in Laura's apartment in the very room where she was murdered."
Step by step McPherson builds a mental picture of Laura from the suspects whom he interviews and gradually he too seems to fall under her spell. As he sits in Laura's apartment, ruminating over the case and his own obsessions, the door opens, the lights switch on, and in walks Laura Hunt, very much alive! As one reviewer says: 'To tell any more would rob the reader of the sheer enjoyment of watching this stylish film noir unfold on screen.'
The story evolves through flash backs where two suspects emerge, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) a dim-witted, slithery Southern playboy/gigolo from Kentucky and Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) a cynical, mannered and prickly society columnist. Also in the mix is Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson) an aging, well-heeled, matronly socialite who has her eyes on Shelby Carpenter. So who is Laura and what actually happened? You'll have to see the film to find out. (You can watch the whole film here).
The lyrics to the tune were not written at the same time as the film score. After the film had been released, Johnny Mercer was approached by Abe Olman of Robbins Music to write lyrics for Raksin’s theme. Mercer had seen the film, but did not remember the theme so Olman simply gave him the score and told him the title had to be 'Laura'. Mercer completed the lyrics we now know and by 1945, a year after the film's release, the song started to appear in the charts with Woody Herman's version becoming a million-seller.
Click here for the Woody Herman 1945 version with stills from the movie (Woody Herman himself takes the vocals).
Gene Tierney is often forgotten today, but she was a significant actor and like others in the film industry, such as Marilyn Monroe, Gene Tierney had her demons. Tierney struggled for years with episodes of manic depression. In 1943, she gave birth to a daughter, Daria, who was deaf and mentally disabled, the result of a fan breaking out of rubella quarantine and infecting the pregnant Tierney. Whilst separated from her first husband, Tierney met John F. Kennedy, a young World War II veteran, who was visiting the set of Dragonwyck in 1946. They began a romance that she ended the following year after Kennedy told her he could never marry her because of his political ambitions.
In 1953, Gene was suffering with problems of concentration. She dropped out of the film Mogambo and was replaced by Grace Kelly. While playing Anne Scott in The Left Hand of God (1955), opposite Humphey Bogart, Tierney became ill. Bogart had personal experience as he was close to a sister who suffered from mental illness, so during the production, he fed Tierney her lines and encouraged her to seek help. Tierney consulted a psychiatrist and was admitted to Harkness Pavilion in New York. After some 27 shock treatments, intended to alleviate severe depression, Tierney fled the facility, but was caught and returned. She later became an outspoken opponent of shock treatment therapy, claiming it had destroyed significant portions of her memory.
In late December 1957, Tierney, from her mother's apartment in Manhattan, stepped onto a ledge 14 stories above ground and remained there for about 20 minutes. Police were called, and afterwards Tierney's family arranged for her to be admitted to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. The following year, after treatment for depression, she was released. Afterwards, she worked as a sales girl in a local dress shop with hopes of integrating back into society, but she was recognized by a customer, resulting in sensational newspaper headlines. She made a comback in 1962 in the film Advise And Consent and went to appear in a number of films and television shows until 1980.
Click here for a 43 minute documentary about Gene Tierney.
Count Basie recorded a short version of Laura on a 1967 album Hollywood Basie's Way and the arrangement by Chico O'Farrill is typical Basie (click here - the flashing title disappears after a while). The band includes Harry Edison, Marshall Royal and Freddie Green.
In contrast, check out this Chet Baker recording of a very nice version of Laura from the album Incredible Chet Baker Plays and Sings. just as romantic and poignant as you would expect from the trumpet player (click here). On this recording he is accompanied by Bruce Thomas (piano), Jacques Pelzer (soprano sax), Gianni Basso (tenor sax) and Giancarlo Pillot (drums).
This next video by the Dexter Gordon Quartet shows the saxophonist interpreting the tune in a live performance with George Cables (piano), Rufus Reid (bass) and Eddie Gladden (drums). One commentator guesses that this came from around 1978 - 1980. Dexter had moved to Europe in the early 1960s saying that he experienced less racism and greater respect for jazz musicians there. He also stated that on his visits to the US in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he found the political and social strife disturbing. But in 1976 he returned to the United States and recorded a series of live albums that were released by Blue Note from his stands at Keystone Corner in San Francisco during 1978 and 1979. They featured Gordon, George Cables, Rufus Reid, and Eddie Gladden. His return also renewed promotion of the Dexter Gordon catalog by Columbia (Savoy) and Blue Note. Click here for them playing Laura.
Charlie Parker also featured Laura on his album with strings but my final choice for this article goes to this recording by trombonist J.J. Johnson (click here). This is primarily a fine trombone solo but the other musicians are Tommy Flanagan (piano), Wilbur Little (bass) and Albert Heath (drums).
J J Johnson
Writing about the film Laura on the Rotten Tomatoes website, Sean Axmaker says: 'I’m a big fan of film noir, those shadowy, often hardboiled crime dramas, a morally-tarnished urban world of the forties and fifties. Laura (1944) is elegance incarnate in a genre known for its hard edge, the sleekest, silkiest noir of all ... In the gritty world of film noir Laura remains the most refined and elegant example of the genre, but under the tasteful decor and high society fashions lies a world seething in jealousy, passion, blackmail, and murder.' The tag line for the film Laura said: 'The story of a love that became the most fearful thing that ever happened to a woman!'
Well, Laura is a winner. The derivation of the name is the feminized form of the word laurus, Latin for "bay laurel plant", which in the Greco-Roman era was used as a symbol of victory, honour or fame. The name represents the embodiment of victory and strength.
In 1653, the herbalist Nicholas Culpeper described Laurel as: 'A tree of the Sun, and under the celestial sign Leo, and resisteth witchcraft very potently, as also all the evils old Saturn can do to the body of man, and they are not a few.'
And you see Laura on the train that is passing through.
Photograph courtesy of Brian O'Connor, Images of Jazz
Christine Tobin is one of my favourite vocalists. Born in Dublin, she has been part of the London jazz and improvisation scene since the late 1980s and during that time she has established herself not just in the UK and Ireland but internationally. She was already singing in Ireland before she became interested in jazz through hearing Joni Mitchell’s Mingus album, and decided to move to London where she worked with Jean Toussaint, Jason Rebello, Alec Dankworth and Mark Taylor. Christine took a degree course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and after graduating she formed, toured, recorded and sang with various bands. In 2008 she won the Best Vocalist Award at the BBC Jazz Awards.
2010 saw the release of her Tapestry Unravelled album based on Carole King songs in a duo with pianist Liam Noble and two years later, her album Sailing To Byzantium, with settings of the poems of W.B. Yeats was described by Jazzwise magazine as ‘an unqualified masterpiece’. The album won Christine a British Composer Award in 2012. In 2014, she was named Jazz Vocalist of the Year at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards.
Christine Tobin and Liam Noble
[Click here for a video of Christine and Liam Noble with Carole King's So Far Away]
In 2014 Christine released A Thousand Kisses Deep, an outstanding album of Leonard Cohen songs of which the Irish Times said "Tobin invests these songs with their full meaning, and even finds the odd glimmer of hope where none was formerly apparent". That release was accompanied by a tour, not just of major venues, but to packed village halls in rural locations around the UK with her usual guitarist, Phil Robson and bassist Dave Whitford.
In December 2015, Christine moved to New York where she has been building up a strong following in the United States. In July, I caught up with her for a Tea Break:
Hi Christine, tea or coffee?
Milk and sugar?
A little milk, no sugar thanks.
If you could ask two past jazz musicians to join us for the tea break, who would you invite?
Billie Holiday and Rahsaan Roland Kirk
What would you ask them?
I’d ask Billie if she had been able to have more control over her own career or the artistic freedom to go in whichever musical direction she chose, where would she have gone artistically and what people would she have liked to collaborate with?
The question for Rahsaan would be the following: I read somewhere that Jimi Hendrix was a huge fan of his and that he himself admired Hendrix. They were planning a collaboration. I would like to know how he envisioned their music making together?
Hob Nob, Bourbon, Garibaldi or digestive biscuit?
Mmmm….a Bourbon, neat please kind feller.
Christine Tobin at Brecon Cathedral, Brecon Jazz Festival,
What gigs have you played recently?
I played at three North American Jazz Festivals recently; Rochester in New York, Edmonton and Vancouver in Canada, then back to NYC for a gig at Club Bonafide. I played with guitarist Phil Robson and the New York based Argentinian pianist Leo Genovese. It was our first time to play with Leo - he’s a musical tour de force and a really cool person too.
Are you still featuring Leonard Cohen’s songs in your gigs?
Yes, I usually do at least two and occasionally I do a full programme of his songs - A Thousand Kisses Deep - which is also the name of the album I recorded of his songs back in 2014. In fact that was the concert/programme I was awarded the 'Herald Angel' for at the Edinburgh Festival back in 2013. Cohen is the biz!!
[Click here to listen to Suzanne from A Thousand Kisses Deep].
What else have you got coming up? I can’t believe A Thousand Kisses Deep came out two years ago! Time for another album?
I have a gig at a jazz club in New York City called Kitano on July 27 with Phil Robson guitar, John Hebert double bass and Colin Stranahan drums. Then I have a trio gig on August 8 at the Bar Next Door in the Village with Phil Robson and the great double bass player, Harvie S.
My new album PELT will be released in late autumn. I have a UK launch gig at Soho’s Pizza Express Jazz Club, London on November 27. The songs are all original compositions. The lyrics and poems are by poet Paul Muldoon and music and arrangements by myself.
I shall look forward to that. Let me know as soon as previews are available to share. Who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?
I see American Bourbon has had an impact while you have been there! Perhaps they should start putting some into these biscuits!
Christine Tobin with Dave Whitford photo by Forbesnderson.com taken in Dundee
[Click here for a video of Christine singing Corner Of An Eye filmed on location in Margate, Kent, UK in 2011].
[Click here for Christine Tobin's website].
Here's a chance to preview a track from the new Dinosaur album due out in September on Edition Records. Trumpeter Laura Jurd says: 'This band has been my musical/spiritual home for the past 6 years and I'm very happy to be sharing this new music with everyone. This track is entitled Living, Breathing from our debut album Together, As One which is coming out in September. Stupendous playing from Elliot Galvin, Corrie Dick and Conor Chaplin! We very much hope you enjoy the new sounds.'
Clearly Laura Jurd is too modest to mention her own playing! Each one of these musicians is very talented in their own right and together they make a formidable unit.
Flying High - A Jazz Life And Beyond
In his review below, Jamie Evans was both exhilarated and saddened by the autobiography of British alto saxophonist, Peter King:
Although his book was published five years ago, I only recently got round to reading it and regret it took me so long.
First let me declare my interests. I have quite a lot in common with Peter King. We were both born at the beginning of World War II, brought up in humdrum family circumstances in the South London/Surrey region. We have both been troubled by addiction problems over the years although Peter massively more so than myself. We both made our own faltering attempts to copy the music of our jazz heroes by listening and copying in the days when jazz tuition was rare and college courses were never even contemplated.
The resemblances end, of course, with the fact that Peter went on to become a world-class jazz saxophonist and I pottered about in an enjoyable role as a run-of-the-mill, semi-professional, mainstream pianist.
Enough, and now on to the real interest - alto saxophonist and renowned aero-modeller, Peter King. His life has been one of great extremes - an immense musical talent which unfortunately led into a downward spiral of chronic narcotic addiction which he courageously recounts. A travel phobia and a disastrous early marriage to Joy, were other ordeals he suffered.
Like most sax players Peter started with a simple system clarinet after being bowled over as a teenager by the grossly distorted Hollywood biopic, The Benny Goodman Story. Well, everyone starts somewhere and Peter kicked off in a South London pub, sitting in with a dixieland outfit and playing Ice Cream in Bb, a tune he didn’t know, but he received an encouraging reception. He progressed by being shown “hieroglyphics” by the banjo player. These were, of course, chord symbols.
Peter’s Damascene revelation, like so many modern jazz musicians was hearing Charlie Parker. The experience blew his mind and from then on, listening to the top players of the day, he acquired an alto sax and progressed to actually playing with top names like Don Rendell, Jimmy Skidmore, Harry Klein, etc.
Click here to listen to Peter King soloing on Lush Life.
The real acid test came when he shared the stand with Tubby Hayes, at the time the acknowledged “guv’nor” on the British scene. Little was said by Tubby but later Peter heard that the Great Man had been favourably impressed. Another rite of passage had been negotiated and, one could say that the crowning point of his youthful apprenticeship while still a teenager, was to be invited to open a new venture, Ronnie Scott’s Club, in October 1959.
Peter, unlike some others of the jazz fraternity, was introduced to taking a “joint”, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Unfortunately that was to lead to one of the most calamitous aspects of his life.
He was becoming well known to all the top British musicians. Playing regularly at Ronnie’s and hearing the procession of US visitors, usually sax players, broadened his style and technique. A spell in John Dankworth’s big band felt to him like a final year at university where he gained lots of experience in sight-reading and section playing.
In 1961, another high spot in the King early days was hearing one of his great heroes, pianist Bud Powell, at a German jazz festival. Bud had a history of deep mental illness and frightened off many gestures of friendship with offensive and odd behaviour.
Peter specifically went to hear Bud in a Parisian club where only a handful of punters had turned up and was scared of getting a mouthful of abuse from the pianist. However all went well when he sat in and was thanked with broad smiles and a handshake. It seemed Bud was impressed by “the spotty-faced, 21-year-old from England who sounded like Bird.”
Unfortunately an enjoyable “joint” progressed to a full-blown heroin habit and much of his early life was occupied with finding dealers or doctors who would prescribe narcotics to registered addicts. The dreadful withdrawal symptoms which users experience became a fearsome event.
The drug habit persisted for many years although with such a massive talent he still produced sublime music although like many top-class players he had to supplement meagre gig money with more mundane work to pay the bills. Fortunately, his later marriage to Linda helped him through the many years of addiction and he attributes both his survival and success as a musician very much to her love and support. He was desolated by her death a few years ago.
There are some fascinating jazz anecdotes contained in the book.
One of his heroes, Ben Webster, who thought nothing of drinking three bottles of the hard stuff a day, alternating gin, whisky and vodka, was entertained at Peter’s parents’ place in Tolworth. Ben was treated to a traditional English roast dinner and was lost in gratitude.
On holiday in Majorca, Peter and Linda frequented a bar where Ron Rubin played solo piano. Another piano player, an American called Art Simmons used to come and play a bit as well. One night Linda, who had been a fair singer in the past, was persuaded to take the stand and sang a few tunes accompanied by Art who loved her voice. She nearly fainted when they told her that Art had been Billie Holiday’s accompanist.
On another occasion, a promoter with strange taste had booked Peter and former Charlie Parker trumpet man, Red Rodney, for a gig. The piano player turned out to be Art Hodes, a fine musician but more of a boogie expert. They all bit their lips like real pros and did the job playing 12-bar blues.
Looking back over a long career there so many great achievements in the King story.
In 2003 he finished many years of hard work writing an opera Zyklon, in collaboration with writer Julian Barry, based on the life of the Jewish scientist Fritz Haber who unknowingly helped invent the substance used for the mass murder of his own people by the Nazis (650 pages of fully orchestrated score). Ironically the premiere was in New York where as a young hopeful he had hoped to establish his name as a jazz musician not as an opera composer.
He has played all over the world and received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Russia, an honour not reciprocated in his own country. Peter also had the honour of playing Bird’s plastic Grafton alto in a Kansas City celebration.
Click here for Peter playing Kaper's Invitation with the Orquestra do Algarve in 2011.
My own interest in Peter King commenced one Saturday night in the Bull’s Head, Barnes, many years ago. I had heard this British alto player in various media but never live. He took the stand and launched into one of his favourite Wayne Shorter tunes, Yes Or No. With his regular drummer and pianist, Steve Keogh and Steve Melling, in full chase behind him, I could hardly believe my ears. In my long life playing and listening to top jazz performers, American, British and other, this was something very special - the searing tone, the impeccable technique and the endless flow of ideas.
I knew nothing of Peter’s addiction at that time and I am sure he had been clean for a long while but his gaunt, sad face bore the signs of a harrowing past. It was an evening of pure joy and I repeated my visit to Barnes whenever I could and I can only thank Peter King for the immense pleasure he has given me and many others over decades of listening.
Click here for a video of the Peter King Quartet at Jamboree Jazz.
Many autobiographical works often contain score-settling elements. But there is an almost total absence of these and Peter is continually surprised at the “niceness” of people he encounters - sometimes characters with reputations of being temperamental or difficult. Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to him that being such an obviously nice man himself, even the most mean-spirited human being could only reciprocate in kind?
This review only scratches the surface of an immensely interesting and enjoyable read and I would urge anyone who loves music - Bartok (Peter’s favourite “straight” composer) or Bird - to buy it.
Click here for details of Flying High.
Jamie Evans manages a website remembering the late clarinettist Alan Cooper - click here.
Do You Have A Birthday In August?
Brecon Jazz Weekend
As with Keswick Jazz Festival, Brecon Jazz Festival has been dealing with funding problems this year as their sponsor, Orchard, has pulled out and so Brecon Jazz Club is programming a weekend of events from 12th to 14th August instead with some top names booked to appear.
The gigs are taking place at Brecon Guildhall Theatre, Castle Hotel, Brecon Cathedral, The Muse and Theatr Brycheiniog and some of the musicians lined up include Trish Clowes, Jamie Brownfield and Liam Byrne with a BeBop Special, the Wales-Latin Jazz Ensemble with Tina May singing The Music Of Brazil and the Geoff Eales Trio, the Teddy Smith Big Band and Dennis Rollins' Velocity.
There will also be a 'Women In Jazz' exhibition at the Guildhall featuring photos and audio recordings from Jazz heritage Wales and Swansea Jazz Archive.
Click here for more details.
Trombonist Owen Dawson originally comes from Suffolk but having graduated from the Jazz course at Royal Academy of Music this year, is now based in London. He has played for the West End Show, Sinatra: the Man and His Music and regularly plays with top UK big bands including the the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, the London City Big Band, the London Jazz Orchestra and the BBC Big Band.
Owen is also an active composer, pianist and exponent of the electric trombone and co-leads the project Big Bad Wolf. Big Bad Wolf is a London based band featuring washy guitars, ambient vocals, brassy hooks and deep grooves. It features Rob Luft on guitar, Owen Dawson on trombone, Michael De Souza on bass VI and Jay Davis on drums and percussion. Owen was awarded the 2016 Durham Distillery Composition Prize and in 2014 was winner of the British Trombone Society Don Lusher Award. He has also been the resident pianist of the Blues Kitchen Choir since its launch in August 2014.
Hi Owen, tea or coffee?
Hi Ian, coffee please.
Milk and sugar?
If you could ask two past jazz musicians to join us for the tea break, who would you invite?
Bob Brookmeyer and Jim Hall. I’ve been really into their duo playing for a while now, particularly a little bootleg of a gig in Bath that I was given by Mark Nightingale. On top of it being some of the most open and organic playing they also both sound like they’ve got a sense of humour so maybe they’d be a laugh during the tea break!
Also I’m a big fan of Brookmeyer’s writing and arranging so I’d have plenty to ask him about that. One of my favorite charts of his is his arrangement of Skylark, particularly the intro. (click here for the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra playing Bob Brookmeyer's take on Skylark).
Hob Nob, Bourbon, Custard Cream or digestive biscuit?
Have you run out of Garibaldis??
They do seem to run out quickly, I’ll see what’s in the cupboard. What gigs have you played recently?
I was extremely fortunate to be asked to be part of the big band for Hermeto Pascoal’s 80th birthday celebration at the Barbican in July which tops most other things I’ve done recently (or am likely to be doing soon)!
How are things going with Big Bad Wolf?
Great! We’ve been pretty busy writing and playing over the last few months and we’ve just released a few live videos from a gig at the Green Note back in May. I’ll leave the most exciting news for the next question though…
[Click here for a video of Big Bad Wolf playing Canary In A Coalmine].
What have you got coming up in the next few months?
…we’re going to record our first album! We won some generous funding from Help Musicians UK so we’re going to be heading to Giant Wafer Studios in Wales at the end of August. Keep your eyes peeled for updates!
I shall, let me know as soon as you have something to share or preview. Who else have you heard recently that we should listen out for?
Definitely the best gig that I’ve seen recently was the album launch of Matthew Bourne’s Moogmemory, which you must listen to … also in the same gig were Snack Family and a guitarist called Stef Ketteringham who are both incredible!
Go on then, but only if it’s a Garibaldi!
[Click here for Big Bad Wolf playing Flats In Dagenham]
Female Musicians On The London Improv Scene
Female Musicians On The London Improv Scene is an online exhibition being curated by saxophonist Julie Kjær for the Google Cultural Institute on behalf of Sound and Music. Julie says: 'It has just been launched and I'm really excited.'
This series explores the life and work of 10 female improvising musicians on the London improv scene. Each musician has been answering different questions about their music, work, career and thoughts about improvised music. Julie continues: 'When moving to London 7 years ago I knew very little about the London improv scene. I started going to different concerts and meeting musicians, and a whole new and exciting world opened up to me. The women chosen for this exhibition have all inspired me in some way, and have been very important to me and my career as an improvising musician in London. There are so many other great and important women on the improv scene in London that I could have included - if only the space and time allowed me to.'
'This has been a great opportunity to dig deeper and to learn more about these women and their music and what brought them to where they are today. I hope you will enjoy the series!'
Sound and Music will also bring the interviews as 'Spotlight' articles on the British Music Collections website. The first interview is with saxophonist Caroline Kraabel who talks about: Beginnings, Improvisation, Life and Career, The Instrument, The Work, Inspiration and other thoughts with audio and video illustrations.
Click here for the interviews.
Oddarang is a Finnish jazz Quintet who will be bringing out their fourth album, Agartha, in September on Edition Records. The title takes its name from the legendary world that is said to reside in the Earth's core. ‘Agartha’ is raw, full of life and profound; beautiful, elevating and primal.
Mass I-III from the album is available to preview on video - click here.
The band is: Olavi Louhivuori (drums, composer), Ilmari Pohjola (trombone), Osmo Ikonen (cello), Lasse Sakara (guitar) and Lasse Lindgren (bass). Oddarrang’s debut album Music Illustrated won the Finnish equivalent of the Grammies for best Jazz Album of the Year 2007. In 2013, they released, In Cinema, their third album, an album that pushed the band into new worlds. They are described as an 'Experimental Finnish band ... Oddarrang make a genre-defying sound, influenced by jazz, classical, world music and postmodern rock.'
Ian Simms writes: 'In a recent issue, cartoonist Jim Thomson asked about violinist Dick Powell. When I asked if anyone remembered the hot swing nights at the Gigi and borscht and tears, I forgot to mention the fantastic Dick Powell. He drove down from his home in Oxford several times a week to Knightsbridge, a great guy as well as a fab hot swinger. Sadly, he passed away from cancer in the early seventies.'
Dick 'Sweet' Powell was a swing violinist and double bass player who also worked as Richard Powell ARIBA, an architect specialising in model making. It is said that at one point he worked with Sandy Brown who was the acoustic engineer for Lansdowne Studios in London. Dick is also known for his violin playing on Rod Stewart's albums Every Picture Tells a Story, Gasoline Alley, Never A Dull Moment and Smiler. Apparently Rod heard him playing at Pizza Express and invited him to the Gasoline Alley sessions in 1970. You can see Dick by the right-hand goalpost in the gatefold of Rod’s 1972 album Never A Dull Moment and outside the pub with a pint in his hand in the gatefold sleeve of Rod’s 1974 album Smiler (click here).
Dick also appears on a number of other albums including some with Diz Disley. Diz and his band of semi-pros played every Thursday at Bert Niblett’s Club Django in London with Nevil Skrimshire and Denny Purssord on guitars, Dick Powell on violin and Timmy Mahn on bass. Other albums featuring Dick include Clarinet Jamboree (Part 1 Bilk and Lightfoot) and Diz Disley's Dinette.
Dick Powell died relatively young at the age of 49. He used to live in London but in the late 1970s he and his family moved to Windrush Farm, a barn conversion in Ducklington (Oxfordshire).
I am grateful to Gypsy Jazz UK for this information where there is a page with people's memories of Dick Powell (click here) andfor this photograph of Dick (Sweet) Powell with Joseph Reinhardt and Diz Disley.
Unfortunately, there seems to be very little music by Dick Powell online. That is unfortunate because if you listen to this one track we do have, we can hear what we are missing. Click here to listen to Dick Powell and Diz Disley playing Shine.
In 2011, the Daily Mail ran an article about the 'bad luck' suffered by several people associated with Rod Stewart's famous recording of Maggie May (click here). The article includes 'Rod’s violinist was Dick ‘Sweet’ Powell, a well-known figure on the London jazz scene. Legend has it that the star paid him £10 for his work on the song Reason To Believe. He died young, too, in his 50s, of a cerebral haemorrhage.' Click here to listen to Dick Powell's solo on Reason To Believe.
Click here for our page of previous 'Your Suggestions'.
Near FM and Irish Showbands - John Doyle Looks Back
John Doyle hosts a Sunday morning radio programme on Dublin’s Near FM radio station. In recent months he has been discovering traditional jazz music and including it in the programme. John tells us about it:
I select my records for Sunday morning while flipping through my CDs. I have no advance knowledge of what I’ll play on Sunday morning. My record collection is being permanently shuffled like a deck of cards. Over weeks, I see every CD in my collection.
My style of presentation on radio cured a voice inferiority complex I had since 1965. That year I heard an audio tape of a show I was on. I had acted in two short one-act plays, and some comedy sketches. I considered myself unsuitable for acting and in later decades as radio grew, I had considered myself unsuitable for radio. I was attending a one-year adult media course in the local college during 1999/2000 and I started the radio show by invitation for my interest in music - I would not have approached the station myself. I had an unhappy first three-years talking normally and then I discovered that humour was the solution to my voice problem. Even when I did gain confidence for radio, I was often too shy to give my name.
Near FM is the community station for north-east Dublin. It is about half-talk and half-music and the music programmes are mainly played during the evenings and weekends. It is all voluntary. The music people are enthusiastic for their music and have complete freedom; they have no instructions from management. I think like a person of the fifties and sixties and to me, Dixieland jazz is an important part of the two decades. I also think of music in terms of mid-tempo to up-tempo, I rarely play slow records. I describe my music as simple, happy, and melodic. Happy means fast.
Often on bank holidays, I’ve done one-hour features of one type of music including an hour of Dixieland jazz and for more than a year, individual American labels for the years from 1955 to 1962. I say I only like Dixieland jazz. Once, Palm Sunday 1980, I went to see Irish jazz guitarist Louis Stewart, in a theatre that is now in another use. I was only there for my liking of the guitar. I would not have gone if it were a concert of piano or brass instruments. The musicians with Louis were Jim Doherty on piano, Peter Ainscough on drums, and Dave Fleming on double-bass. I knew these musicians well from television appearances, especially from the talk/interview Late Late Show, hosted by Gay Byrne. The audience was sparse that night; a large pub would have been more suitable. I didn’t understand Louis’ music; it was a bit like hearing the same tune for the whole concert. I could only appreciate the dexterity of his finger work on the neck of his Ibanez guitar, and his plectrum dexterity.
At the interval, I went to the wine and coffee bar located below the stage. The only gap at the counter was beside Louis Stewart. As I stood beside him, I felt intimidated by his international reputation. As a simple person of music, I felt I didn’t have the right to stand in the same room as the man. I was truly intimidated by a man whose music I didn’t understand, nor could appreciate. Adding to that, the theatre didn’t serve coffee on Sunday nights!
[Click here for a video of Louis Stewart with bassist Peter Ind playing Baubles, Bangles and Beads on the Spike Milligan Q7 television show in 1977].
A few years ago on the internet, I saw some 1962 information on Acker Bilk, in the American Billboard Magazine. According to Billboard, BBC television followed the Stranger On The Shore series, with a series called Stranger In The City. Billboard stated that Acker recorded a Dixieland jazz version of Stranger On The Shore, and called it Stranger In The City for the second series. Does anyone remember Stranger In The City?
[The only information we can find about Stranger In the City is here. Ed]
I also remember seeing photographs of The Barbara Thompson Jazz Group, in the British magazine International Recording & Beat Instrumental Monthly. Barbara’s bass guitarist was a guy called Dill Katz. In the eighties too, I saw Dill playing bass guitar on the BBC2 television’s children’s programme Play Away!
I saw Dill many times in Dublin, from New Year’s Eve 1962 to late 1964. He was a member of an English guitar instrumental group called The Fendermen. They arrived in Ireland by my reckoning, October 1962. I recall reading in the dance pages of the Saturday evening papers that The Fendermen were here for a month. Around November, they were contracted as a backing group for an Irish female country music singer, Maisie McDaniel. Maisie and The Fendermen were excellent; to me their music was Country & Shadows. They complimented Maisie’s two Fontana EPs, where she was backed by The Hunters from Cheshunt in London.
In early 1963, the English bass guitarist left and was replaced by a bass guitarist from Dublin, Tony Harris. Tony had the stature and looks of Jet Harris of The Shadows. When they arrived in Ireland in 1962, Dill on rhythm guitar was playing a Hofner Colorama, the 1961 design. Gerry Kent on lead guitar played a Gibson 330. By around April 1963, both Dill and Gerry were playing Fender Stratocasters. The full Fender guitar sound of The Fendermen was fabulous. After eighteen months or more, Maisie and the group parted and the four Fendermen expanded into a seven piece Irish showband, called The Madrid. On the Irish ballroom circuit the band was unusual for having five English musicians. The English trumpet player was unusual too, for having a French horn. The Madrid Showband was short lived, five or six months I reckon. The trumpet and saxophone players left to join The Caroline Showband, a band financed by Radio Caroline. The Irish bass guitarist gave up playing. The drummer went to Germany. The Irish lead singer went back to working on the railway. Dill Katz would have gone back to England. A disheartened lead guitarist Gerry Kent remained in Ireland for a time - months to a year. A great band was decimated. In my more than five years of showbands, I regarded Gerry Kent as the finest instrumental guitarist on the Irish scene.
Irish showbands were versatile, playing many forms of music. Some bands included Dixieland jazz. The widely acknowledged best band for Dixieland was The Capitol Showband, the favourite band of musicians and the second most successful showband. The Capitol played around ten Dixieland pieces over four-hour dances. The Capitol’s style of Dixieland was based on The Dutch Swing College Band.
[Click here for a video of Butch Moore and the Capitol Showband playing New Orleans and Bourbon Street Parade in 1984 - the video shows the way jazz was picked up by rock and roll with the showband playing New Orleans and then playing traditional jazz style for Bourbon Street Parade. Ed].
Irish showbands of the late-fifties and the sixties were permanently fresh. The repertoires of bands had complete changes in three to four months. They changed at record chart speed. Irish dancers expected to hear the latest hits from the charts from showbands. There were exceptions to change but each band had some retained songs that fans wanted to keep hearing, regardless of what was in the charts. Bands were often famous for their few retained songs; each band differed on retained songs. These songs were like hits for individual bands.
In the showband era, more than 600 bands were registered with the Irish Federation of Musicians. In the sixties, Britain had its assortment of instrumental or vocal guitar groups - Ireland had its showbands. On the matter of showbands, the North of Ireland would have been excluded from Britain. Showbands were All-Ireland.
Click here for the Near FM website. Unfortunately John Doyle's programme is not broadcast online.
Two Ears Three Eyes
Peter Fraize Quartet
Brian O'connor took his camera to the Verdict Jazz Club in Brighton, East Sussex, in July to a gig by the Peter Fraize Quartet.
Brian says: 'Saxophonist Peter Fraize, from Washington DC, has just made his first tour of the UK. His gig at the Verdict was his third, and also only his third with Terry Seabrook (organ), Jack Kendon (trumpet), and Milo Fell (drums). That they sounded like a group who had been playing together for some considerable time, is a tribute to their collective talents.'
'The band played repertoire from Peter’s recordings including a more than acceptable jazz version of the sugary Mandy, plus the lovely ballad You Stepped Out Of A Dream, this was a most satisfying couple of hours.'
Raised in a musical family, Peter took up the saxophone age nine and formed his first jazz group by age sixteen. He attended the New England Conservatory, studying classical saxophone performance with Ken Radnofsky before travelling to The Netherlands to study with noted Dutch saxophonist Leo van Oostrom at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague.
Over the course of his career, Peter has been involved with a wide variety of groups, projects, and collaborations. In 1995 he joined the Emptys, a rock band which toured extensively throughout the East Coast and midwest. In 1997 he became a member of the Greg Hatza ORGANization, which in 1999 performed for three weeks at the Blue Note in Fukuoka, Japan. Since 2002 he has been a member of the Larry Brown Quintet, whose Hard Bop Cafe (2006) won the 2007 Wammie for best jazz recording. He has co-led groups with Italian trombonist Giancarlo Schiaffini, the latest recording of which is Post-Deconstruction Redux (2015). He has also been a frequent collaborator with choreographers, incorporating spoken word, film, and electronics with improvised music and dance. He was nominated for DC Metro Area Dance Awards in original sound design in 2001 and 2002. Peter has recently been performing and recording with his Hammond organ group - click here for a video of them playing The Days Of Wine And Roses.
He has served as music curator for the DC International Improv Festival. Peter is also a highly regarded music educator. He joined the music faculty at the George Washington University in 1994 and has served as the Director of Jazz Studies since 1998.
His CD Organic Matter (2009) received the 2010 Washington Area Music Association award (“Wammie”) for Best Jazz Recording. His latest album Chord Lines / In the Groove is out later this year.
Click here for Peter Fraize's website.
All pictures © Brian O'Connor, Images Of Jazz
Mike Walmsley writes in response to Maureen Connolly's message last month about Banjo George (click here):
'I have many fond memories of George, learning and understanding chord sequences playing with him at "The Tatty Bogle" along with Eggy Ley, Neville Skrimshire and Les Muscutt. Just after I qualified I was a Houseman at St George's Hyde Park Corner and George called on a Saturday morning asking if I was free? As it happened , I was. He asked me to meet him at a tube station in the West End with my guitar. I did so and he said we were going to a house nearby, the occupants of which were at the church where their daughter was getting married.'
'We arrived before they returned, but George spoke to the man in charge of catering to guarantee a supply of beer and smoked salmon and we sat in a room until returning 'party noises' were heard. George then said: "Start playing some melody" and to my surprise the parents of one of the parties came in greeting George like a long lost friend and requesting various tunes from the '30s - '40s which we played. Out came the fivers and we left several hours later considerably 'better off'. I think my share was the equivalent of 2 months NHS House Officer stipend (we got 1 pound a day then!). Apparently George used to serenade the parents before WW2, and they obviously remembered him. Many times we used to gatecrash parties with George after a night at the Tatty and were always welcomed by people who knew George. Happy days, now long gone, as someone said, our kind of music has an audience of senior citizens and their parents.'
Gloria Baldwyn adds to our Profile page on Bill Greenow (click here):
I was at Ealing Art School with Bill. He was the year above me. A talented musician but also a really good painter. His hero was Cezanne. I went to a few of Bill’s gigs in London. Ealing was a pretty amazing experience for many of us.
Among the ex- students are Freddie Mercury, Pete Townsend, Michael English, Mike Molloy (editor of The Daily Mirror) and Roger Ruskin Spear (Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band). That’s Bill at the front. Clasped hands and looking very serious!
Roy Headland writes:
I recently discovered the few recordings of Eric Silk's Southern Jazz Band packed with tightly performed tracks which must have been meat and drink to the lindy hoppers in London in the 50's and 60's. I can't find much information about Eric but it seems he wasn't commercial and a New Orleans purist in the Colyer tradition. I would like to know more about him and how he ended up. I believe he was in the insurance business and played the banjo and perhaps was destined for obscurity! It seems incredible, listening to his band, that he didn't merit his own entry in John Chilton's Who's Who of British Jazz (at least not in the 1998 edition that I have.)
[Until recently there was a track online of Eric Silk and the Southern Jazz Band playing Blues My Naughty Sweetie (Gave To Me) but this has since been taken down. The only track on Youtube is from the BBC JazzClub and the sound and recording quality is very poor. However, I did find online the photograph below of Eric Silk and his Southern Jazz Band, but the personnel are not named. If anyone can send us more information about Eric, please contact us and we'll share it - Ed].
Bob Wallis - Bellissima
John Griffeth has been searching for the composer of the tune that Bob Wallis and his Storyville Jazz Band played in the 1962 film It's Trad Dad (known in America as Ring-A-Ding-Rhythm). The film included Chris Barber's band with Ottilie Patterson, Acker Bilk's Band, Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen, Terry Lightfoot and his band and the Temperence Seven.
According to the International Movie Data Base, the tune was written by Milton Subotsky, a major British film maker of the time who with Max Rosenberg formed 'Amicus Productions' with the aim of producing low - to medium-budget horror and anthology films (they also formed 'Cinerama Releasing' in 1966), usually shot in England and Scotland. These included The House That Dripped Blood (1971), Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), Scream and Scream Again (1970), Tales from the Crypt (1972) and Oliver Stone's first feature film, Seizure (1974). Prior to becoming a film producer, Subotsky was a composer of rock'n'roll songs. After Cinerama Releasing folded and went out of business in 1975 due to the lack of British investment, Rosenberg and Subotsky went their separate ways. Rosenberg rarely continued with film making, but Subotsky kept his hand in American horror films, helping to bring a number of Stephen King's novels to the screen. He died in 1991 of heart disease.
Click here or on the picture for the Bob Wallis band video from the film.
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Edinburgh Festival Jazz Fringe
Rob Adams points us in the direction of what's on:
Scottish jazz musicians go head to head with the stand-up comedy world and its high powered PR teams in the competition to attract audiences when the annual Edinburgh Fringe opens on August 5.
The Fringe, which is the world’s biggest arts festival, is an open event, with most of the performers in upwards of three thousand shows playing for no guaranteed fees. It’s a gamble that shows no sign of losing its allure as the event reaches its sixty-ninth birthday and with such a choice of shows available, audience numbers can reach only single figures even when companies hire sometimes shamelessly pushy, professional PR officers.
With limited resources jazz musicians are forced to take a leap of faith into self-promotion and one of the bravest ventures this year sees saxophonist Paul Towndrow and trumpeter Ryan Quigley, both musicians who can normally command decent fees, staging their re-interpretations of Charlie Parker and Clifford Brown’s With Strings albums. It’s a one-off performance at Stockbridge Church on August 18, with all proceeds going to charity, and a strong contender as the classiest gig of the month.
A significant amount of August’s jazz activity takes place in two venues that host jazz throughout the calendar: the Jazz Bar in Chambers Street, a 364 days a year operation, and the Outhouse in Broughton Street Lane, home to the popular fortnightly Playtime sessions and, like the Jazz Bar, a winner of newspaper The Herald’s Angel award for supporting live music.
At the Jazz Bar, established players including pianist Brian Kellock, Cannonball Adderley celebrants Mercy Mercy Mercy and vocalist Ali Affleck will slot into a round-the-clock-and-a-bit-more programme that also sees New Focus Quartet, pianist Paul Harrison and pianist-composer David Patrick launching, respectively, a new album, a trio in homage to Brazilian master Egberto Gismonti and a jazz adaptation of Debussy – with a ten piece band. The Outhouse showcases saxophonist Brian Molley’s Clock Quartet and the Playtime Collective in a programme that also features American singers Barbara Morrison and Lillian Boutte, and Barbadian saxophonist Arturo Tappin.
Other regular venues get into the swing, including the Queen’s Hall, which hosts the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra’s Dave Brubeck tribute, and Summerhall, where guitarist Graeme Stephen premieres his latest silent film score, Metropolis with Amsterdam string quartet Zapp4 and drummer Tom Bancroft. Elsewhere, in the pop-up venues, violinist Alex Yellowlees and klezmer-influenced Moishe’s Bagel play at the Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides. Pianist and jazz educator Richard Michael explores the art of improvisation at artspace @ St Marks. Brian Kellock and saxophonist Dick Lee swing through the decades in the fabulously aroma-ed delicatessen Valvona & Crolla’s temporary theatre, and Parisian swing quartet Rose Room are among a programme of jazz, funk and folk attractions appearing in the re-modelled Merchant’s Hall.
With comedians appropriating jazz terminology such as improvising and riffing (leading in the latter case to a suggestion, possibly apt, of someone telling the same lines over and over again), it can be tough for musicians to get their message out to the public and audiences into their shows. Or, then again, perhaps this is more helpful than first seems to be the case. One what’s on website automatically shunts any kind of improvisation into the Comedy section – and if that means that jazz gigs attract the same lengthy queues as can snake round the Assembly Hall for stand-ups, the gamble will pay off.
For further details of the Edinburgh Fringe programme, log onto http://www.edfringe.com
Information has arrived about the following musicians or people connected to jazz who have passed through the 'Departure Lounge' since our last update. Click on their names to read their obituaries where we have them:
Charles Davis - American baritone and tenor saxophonist born in Mississippi who played with Clark Terry, Sun Ra, Kenny Dorham and then in the 1970s played with many of the other top musicians of the time including John Coltrane, Philly Jo Jones and Dizzy Gillespie. In recent years, Charles had returned to playing tenor saxophone with the all-star Jimmy Heath big band while still taking the occasional tour with Marshall Allen’s Sun Ra Arkestra.
Click here for the Charles Davis Quintet playing For Us.
Don Friedman - Born in San Franciso, pianist Don Friedman discovered jazz at the age of 15 when he moved to Los Angeles. He played with West Coast musicians like Shorty Rogers and Buddy Collette, moved to New York where he played with Buddy DeFranco, and then in the 1960s with the whole spectrum of jazz musicians from Clark Terry to Eric Dolphy to Bobby Hackett. He was also a prolific solo artist.
Not all jazz musicians who pass through the Departure Lounge are reported in the national press, so if you know of anyone's passing that we should mention, please contact us with a few words about them, or a local obituary if one is available.
One From Ten
Steve Day spends time with an album from our list of new and reissued recordings below.
Elliot Galvin Trio
Elliot Galvin (piano, kalimba, melodicas, accordion, cassette player, stylophone); Tom McCredie (double bass); Simon Roth (drums, percussion, glockenspiel).
I’ve always had a sneaking regard for Edition Records, they are an inventive label, releasing music which vaguely falls within the contemporary ‘jazz’ context yet at the same time always pushing at what that might actually constitute. For Edition ‘jazz’ is not a repetition of the past and their rationale for experimentation takes different forms, often quirky. Punch is no exception.
Punch is the album title and opening track. This is a Punch as in those unlovely lovable ‘Punch & Judy’ characters that reveal the male puppet as a psychopathic misogynist. The album actually opens with 44 seconds of sampled archive speech introducing Mister Punch ‘The Wife Beater’ and already the funny side of things has turned instantly dark.
Punch the performance is a smouldering piano trio taking a clipped count that has Galvin, McCredie and Roth pouring on climax after climax across fast repetition which gives away breaks to a sampled female ‘puppeteer’ – “Oh yes you did, didn’t he boys and girls”. The three way duck and dive through Elliot Galvin’s composition and acoustic beat blocks is mesmerising until it ends with the awful, tragic sampled statement, “Now that does it, you’ve knocked the baby down the stairs.” The whole thing is over in the time it would take me to walk to the nearby corner-shop. Punch is a brilliant uneasy opening. It carries weight yet is lightly drawn, it holds child’s play up as a conduit for horror, it paraphrases the ridicule riddle of abuse. Yes, all of this, and then Punch permissions piano, bass and drums to drive through an audacious theatre of music. And that’s only the first of ten tracks.
Next up is Hurdy-Gurdy, written for accordion and transposed for the trio, albeit with a squeeze-box prologue. Yes, strange but totally blistering. Elliot Galvin’s opening solo entry is finger busting and then like Punch, the trio power drive is given a run of breaks but this time they are filled by Mr Roth flipping his snare with snazzy brush rolls, in turn we get Tom McCredie’s stoic double bass setting up the accordion entry. This accordion is seriously good and gimmick free. The piano entry and statement is of maestro proportions, Galvin’s old much loved accordion is a more humbling companion, wheezing and puffing like an instrument which knows its own way home. The Hurdy-Gurdy experience is played out in four minutes and works wonders. Two down, and I feel compelled to stay with the recording.
Click here for a video of the band playing a live performance of Hurdy-Gurdy.
Tipu’s Tiger which follows is a genuine curiosity, using kalimba and glockenspiel to augment the trio’s front line instruments. The unfolding, rippling aural depiction of a wooden musical automaton from the V&A depicting a British colonial soldier being eaten by a tiger is yet another strong 'Punch'. The music, like the wooden tiger statue, appears to be an almost innocent dedication to a delightfully grotesque 18th century object commissioned by the Tipu Sultan of Mysore in Southern India. In fact neither Punch or Tipu’s Tiger, or this unique trio, are playing for laughs. Elliot Galvin’s album is a piano trio wired to a muse that is essentially extremely hard, both in character and execution.
Tipu's Tiger showing its internal keyboard.
The whole album was recorded at an old ex-Soviet era radio station called the Funkhaus in what was East Berlin. It is a building of beautiful wooden rooms with great, natural, warm acoustics. It looks one thing yet holds colder memories too. This juxtaposition of dark and light, innocent and abuse, love and hate run right through the content of the Punch session. Even musically this cross-cut between two positions is not just eluded to but boldly sought out. For example on track five, Blop, Galvin plays two self-customised melodicas, one standard the other detuned by a quartertone. The result is a kind of weird klezmer type dance which is over and gone at speed. In the going it passes from night to day. In so doing it is a brief, modest piece of music darkening the shade of shadow.
Click here for a video of Blop.
But this juxtaposition holds like twisted wire; track seven is 1666 which references the year of the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London, evoking some of the sense of catastrophe that must have been felt at the time. However the deep cut is more recent history. It is the reading of Brecht/Weill’s Mack The Knife that seals the dark deal.
The song originates from the Threepenny Opera which was originally staged in Berlin in 1928. Witty, satirical and bold in its critique of the rise of fascism, by 1931 Bertolt Brecht had written an additional final verse to underline the play’s opposition to the Nazi Party. Two years later, 1933, Hitler was in power and Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht had to leave for America. Mack The Knife has been covered by everyone, from Bobby Darin to Louis Armstrong, Sting and Nick Cave. In the 1980s the great Russian improvisers, the Ganelin Trio, still circumnavigating an Iron Curtain and a Berlin Wall, regularly played Mack as an encore in both The East and The West, sending-up both the humour and their own defiance. I now know these encores well. But here, a couple of decades on, Elliot Galvin goes completely in the opposite direction. I am in awe of this performance. The Elliot Galvin Trio strip sentiment and play-acting from the melody, offering it up instead as a slow staccato elegy, taking what ridicule there is left into a head-on crash with inherited damnation. From Tom McCredie’s heavy, heavy, heavy bowed bass at its entry point, then the crunching power piano, through to the final short drum rolls and glockenspiel, played by Roth like a clock running out of time, I have to tell you this is a performance of some magnitude. For me this is the Punchline to this album. Right now, it feels like mandatory listening.
This is where I would have stopped. This is not where Elliot Galvin chooses to end things. The initial description coming up might make the final track sound like a throwaway, it isn’t. Cosy begins with a solo piano melody augmented by the band providing a whistled unison chorus-line. A little sweet pretty tune, you could perform it for small children and not frighten them. It then strikes up. Cosy hits pay dirt, thumping out like Johnny Parker’s piano gymnastics with Humphrey Lyttelton’s band on the old 1950’s Joe Meek’s production of Bad Penny Blues. Hey, which way damnation? Not in this direction!
I was not been expecting this Punch. It gave my head a crack. It’s true, I had heard Elliot Galvin before, with the drummer Mark Sanders playing some decent improv. Perhaps I should have expected it coming. In many ways Punch is far more radical. I strongly recommend the whole session.
Click here for details and to sample.
Album Released: 29th July 2016 - Label: Edition Records
Steve Day www.stevedaywordsandmusic.co.uk
Ten Recent Releases and Re-Issues
Jazz Talks: Buckinghamshire and Norwich Areas
Dr Bob Moore has contacted us saying:'I am a member of the U3A (University of the Third Age) Jazz appreciation section. I now have given four talks to them on each of the following: Louis Armstrong, US swing bands of the 40's, Modern Jazz Quartet and Stan Kenton. I should say that I am not a profession speaker but I have reasonable knowledge of the subject. Now that I have given the talks, it is most probable that they will gather dust in a cupboard but if anyone local to me in High Wycombe is interested, I would be prepared to repeat the talk for free with possible expenses for petrol if far away.''The talks mainly simply require a good audio system plus someone to put on the CD's but the Kenton talk does included some excerpts from Youtube on the internet but these could be edited out. If I use the Internet it would require screen plus associated equipment. The talks take about 90 min and the usual format is general background on the artist or group followed by tracks from CD's.'If anyone would like to take up Bob's offer, you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Similarly, Roy Headland who gives occasional talks to Norwich Jazz and Blues Record Club is offering to give talks with music to other groups in the Norwich area. A recent talk 'A Jazz Tour of Norwich and Norfolk' to an audience of 60 had the organiser saying: "Thank you for giving us such an informative and enjoyable evening,full of musical stars.The feedback was good and we hope to see you back with part 2." Other talks Roy has given include: Condon Jam Sessions; Clarinet Kings of Swing; Tommy Ladnier -"Mandeville to New York "; and a talk to Rotary on "The Winter Solstice" (their request) on Dec 21st which I managed to link in with Artie Shaw and called "The Shawtest Day"!
Roy's email address is: email@example.com.
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