Tuesday, November 28, 2006


I am offline at the moment as my laptop is being repaired and, as is always the way, this is taking slightly longer than planned. So this comes from the local cyber cafe... As I am unable to post any music for another day or so, here is a reminder of some of the extant links... reminder... these are all over 20 mb files and are on Savefile - the majority of mp3s are only up for a week. These long files will be deleted over the coming weeks - so grab them while you can...

Hopefully back ASAP...

Charles Mingus: Cumbia and Jazz Fusion
Roland Kirk: Saxophone Concerto
Cecil Taylor: Serdab
Charlie Parker: What is this thing called love?
Borbetomagus: Side A
Ornette Coleman: Comme Il Faut
Peter Brotzmann: Responsible (First Take)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

St Cecilia's Day tomorrow... Gene Ammons/ Sonny Stitt... Jimmy Smith... Gillespie/Getz/Stitt... Mingus... Coltrane... and more Mingus... today...

Back to the music... last week was an intestinal nightmare which left me totally bolloxed... but I made it to the Club Sporadic gig on Saturday, which, on a freezing cold night, lifted my spirits. Guest band Ego Unit played an intriguing set and we came together and did what we do. Waiting to get the playback to hear whether it was actually as good as it felt at the time...

As my cd drive is buggered and I can't get it fixed until Friday I'm limited to what I can upload for a few days and can't convert any tracks into MP3 either for the same reason – so whatever comes up will be stuff on my hard drive or MP3 player... apparently, tomorrow is St Cecilia's Day, the patron saint of music... for reasons that I have missed/avoided/whatever, it has been declared that today, the 21st, is 'No Music Day'... so, perverse to the end, here's a stack of jazz and assorted musics... we all celebrate in our own ways and this is mine. Happy listening... (This is one of Bill Drummond's gags, anyway...)

So: let's do 'The Shuffle Twist.' Some greasy back beat blues from Gene Ammons, Brother Jack Mc Duff and Sonny Stitt. Does exactly what you think it will do – but does it so well. Ammons has a bearhug of a tone on tenor... Stitt, always unfairly underrated... Brother Jack testifies...

More Hammond, upping the tempo – the redoubtable Jimmy Smith heading up a session of hard blowers on the old Bird classic 'Au Privave.' Smith bubbles up into the first solo, a couple of his trademark funky riffs in there, but, in the main, more linear work, invoking the shade of the composer. A couple of shattering rolls from Blakey, just to spur him on... Lee Morgan, fleet of line. Lou Donaldson, wanders a bit but heart in the right place. Tina Brooks good on tenor... Kenny Burrell always steady and bluesy...

'Dark Eyes' from a session recorded by three early giants of modern jazz, Gillespie, Getz and Stitt (again). The album title flags it up – 'For Musicians Only.' Defiantly elitist... Where bop started, shutting out those who could not negotiate the changes, tempos and rhythms. 1956 was the year after Charlie Parker died and this marks a high watermark, maybe, a summation of all that had gone before. Classy, high octane blowing... Stan Getz off first, belying his 'cool' image – fiery stuff. Followed by Stitt, equally firing strongly - but Diz pips them all, I think. Easy to forget sometimes how good he really was... rapid-fire lines and the odd vocalised smear from the back end of the trumpet timbral history just to remind you where it all came from. A brief solo from John Lewis to remind us that he was there as well before Diz takes it out over the two weaving saxes.

'Ysabel's Table Dance.' The 'Spanish Tinge' with a vengeance... Mingus's 'spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings from emotions recollected,'(from here... scroll down...) no doubt, (but probably not in tranquility) stemming from a trip south of the border, this track supposedly evoking a striptease. Starting with Frankie Dunlop's maraccas, according to the discography, female yips and handclaps from Ysabel Morel and a flamenco-like progression, etched out by bowed bass, the track slowly builds into a wild ride. For a smallish band, they make a lot of noise... Moving in sections like much of Mingus's music – one of his solutions to composing in longer forms - doing the postmodern thang before John Zorn? - Shafi Hadi goes to a straighter jazz interlude in relief to the preceding chaos. Things calm down... An ensemble passage leading back into flamenco and the wildness returns before the bass walks it down steady. Tension and release, tension and release. This was recorded in 1957 but shelved for several years. One wonders at the way history may have been changed if it had come out earlier, pre-figuring much of what was to come... Consider: the preceding Diz/Getz/Stitt track was recorded a year earlier – yet this is conceptually a long way from High Bebop... Arriba...

John Coltrane recorded this version of 'Summertime' in 1960 on the first album his epochal quartet made, 'My Favourite Things.' Taken faster than is usual for this tune, a perfect summation of where he was artistically at that moment – the sheets of sound wrapped so tightly that one can now see/hear why he had to explode beyond into new spaces. A perfect snapshot... the tenor playing is immense, overpowering in its grandeur... but I'm a fan. Tyner plays a superb solo, still sure of his ground at this part of the game, followed by Steve Davis – fleet and melodic - and Elvin, soloing over Davis's bass accompaniment before Coltrane returns for another quick blast. A superb track... St Cecilia will dig this...

Late Mingus, 1977: Cumbia and Jazz Fusion, part one... opening on bird-song and flutes over a sparse drum off-beat and chanting... Mingus meets the rain forest? Percussion: latin meets african – the global music thing... until a strong bass vamp appears... instrument call and response over the simple tune, switching textures and sections... finally the band come powering in, odd echoes of Diz and his Afro-Cuban thing? Throaty tenor solo...A third of the way in, the tempo slows, rhapsodic piano from Bob Neloms, swirling across the keyboard, then a waggish trombone heralds an oddly corny bass vamp – muted trumpets and trombones converse, the rhythm building relentlessly like a train, the horns slowing again half-time – another tempo shift – the drums and percussion have it and ride for a while. Orchestra returns – then Mingus sings: 'Who says momma's little baby likes shortning bread... momma's little baby likes... caviar... diamond mines...Freedom!!' You get the idea... Mingus comes up for a solo, as the band tread water - lines that range across the whole range of the bass, a late laying down of markers, sadly... return of band... then Knepper solos, his usual gruff fluency, followed by piano again, this time more single line in the pocket... ensemble, then the bass weaving in and out to a fade...

A superbly wacky track, really...

In the Videodrome...

Coltrane in 1963...

Some Mingus...

Ornette dances with your head...

Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt/Jack McDuff
(Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt (ts) Brother Jack McDuff (org) Charlie Persip (d)).
Shuffle Twist


Jimmy Smith
(Lee Morgan (tp) Lou Donaldson (as) Tina Brooks (ts) Jimmy Smith (org) Kenny Burrell (g) Art Blakey (d)).
Au Privave


Dizzy Gillespie/Sonny Stitt/Stan Getz
(Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet); Stan Getz (tenor saxophone); Sonny Stitt (alto saxophone); John Lewis (piano); Herb Ellis (guitar); Ray Brown (bass); Stan Levey (drums)).
Dark Eyes


John Coltrane
(John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner: piano; Steve Davis: bass; Elvin Jones: drums).


Charles Mingus
(Charles Mingus: bass; Clarence Shaw: trumpet; Shafi Hadi: alto saxophone; Jimmy Knepper: trombone; Bill Triglia: piano: Danny Richmond: drums; Frankie Dunlop: castanets; Ysabel Morel: vocals, handclaps).
Ysabel's Table Dance


Charles Mingus
(Jack Walrath (tp) Jimmy Knepper (tb, btb) Mauricio Smith (fl, picc, ss, as) Paul Jeffrey (ob, ts) Gene Scholtes (basn) Gary Anderson (cbcl, bcl) Ricky Ford (ts) Bob Neloms (p) Charles Mingus (b, South American rhythm inst., vo, arr) Dannie Richmond (d) Candido, Daniel Gonzales, Ray Mantilla, Alfredo Ramirez (cga) Bradley Cunningham, Ricky Ford, Jack Walrath (South American rhythm inst.)
Cumbia and Jazz Fusion


Monday, November 20, 2006

The Mike Westbrook Village Band at the Queen Elisabeth Hall, Friday, 10 November... a review...

This first night free gig in the Front Room at the Queen Elisabeth Hall on the first night of the 2006 London Jazz Festival had brought out the crowd... when I got there in what I had falsely assumed was plenty of time to grab a beer and a good seat, I realised that plan A was out the window... all the best seats had gone. So I acquired a drink and found a reasonable vantage point to lean on, at a diagonal on the sight-line from the stage. Luckily I am long-sighted... I could see the band OK and hear most of the music fine – apart from some conflicting sounds from the coffee machine forward left of me – an interesting degree of aleatoric noise which started to became irritating eventually. Mercifully the coffee drinkers were keeping their consumption down tonight. Hooray for alcohol... Also, when Kate Westbrook took vocals, I couldn't make out the words too well... but... on y va...

Mike Westbrook: One of the great composer/bandleaders, he has worked with a bewildering diversity of lineups and projects down the years. On an intersecting synchronicity, the book I had been reading on the train was Iain Sinclair's new work on John Clare, 'Edge of the Orison.' Which caused me to remember the Westbrook album 'The Cortege' and my two favourite tracks - the stunning version of Clare's 'Toper's Rant.' And the New Orleans march on the same set – 'Free as a bird.' Between those two poles – of the poet of rural England and the roots of early jazz – taking in the European influences of art song and cabaret, doubling back into the English music hall and the complex soundworlds of contemporary jazz... there you will maybe find this concert situated. Which sounds portentous – but the performance certainly was not, done with a firm but light touch. The Village Band essayed two suites – 'All that jazz' which was a celebration of jazz composition and song from Joplin to Monk, via Jelly Roll Morton, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Tadd Dameron and Bessie Smith and 'The Waxeywork Show' – an original work from the Westbrooks melding Kate's lyrics to Mike's setting, making a comparison between a Victorian fairground and the present day internet. These were split up, situating the 'Waxeywork' in the middle of the set, book-ended by the homage to jazz...

The Village Band lineup is: tenor horn, euphonium, trumpet, trombone, alto and tenor saxophones. They started with (I think) Morton's 'Dead Man Blues.' A warm deep sound – the euphonium and tenor horn giving a generous sonority and depth. No rhythm section – which allows a certain freedom to float these pieces on – albeit within certain necessary idiomatic constraints of tempo and rhythmic nuance. This makes it easier for the older pieces to work effectively – it avoids the polar risks of being too clumpy or too polyrhythmic. A clever selection – 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' leading into Charles Mingus's 'Jelly Roll Soul,' that affectionate homage to the (arguably) first great jazz composer – a doubling back which signifies the movement here in acoustic space to clear a temporary ground where these pieces can exist, the old against the new. I actually preferred this version - never having liked the Mingus original, too clumsy I always felt, despite the genuine feeling. It can be awkward to play in older idioms – if you have a wide palette of instrumental techniques available as most modern musicians obviously do, how far can you bend the older form before it breaks and the precarious balance is detroyed? The Mingus recording always comes across to me as hokum because it seems to my heretic ear that no one is exactly sure of what to play... The soloists in these pieces managed to negotiate their way through by playing well within themselves – and avoiding pastiche. (No slap-tonguing saxes...) Also, a more general point: certain jazz timbres will cut across the stylistic divides, so the more vocalised trumpet and trombone effects, for example, can work at a point where the avant-garde/contemporary concern with sound links with some older jazz techniques.

The audience was responding well and with much obvious affection... at various points I was waiting for someone to start jiving, given the age of many in the crowd... traditional jazz is embedded deep in the UK popular cultural heritage. Memories of older purist wars poked amusingly through as I had the impish yet nostalgic thought that it would be hilarious if someone suddenly unfurled a banner with 'Go home dirty bebopper' (scroll down for hilarious story) emblazoned on it when one of the saxes took a solo...

The new work being premiered was 'The Waxeywork Show.' Embedded in the middle so that the second section of 'All that jazz' took the gig out. An interesting progression – rather than a straight line, a steady circling outwards and back which seems to be the spatial metaphor that describes this performance best – into the more modern and astringent textures of 'Waxeyworks,' the knowing theatricality and ventriloquism of Kate Westbrook being featured now... the Art/Cabaret Song up front... music sharpening, becoming harmonically denser, rhythmically more complex, the soloing freer, unleashed from the constraints of more traditional jazz. Dissonance more explicit now... and seesawing rhythms to match the visions of the Victorian fairground? Missing most of the lyrics, as already mentioned, I just responded to the sound, which included a beautiful long, written section – although I caught this line: 'Welcome to the show that never ends, that leads you on and on...' This comparison between the 19th century fairground and the contemporary internet sounds intriguing. And also operates as reinforcing the linkage with of past and present, which seems to be the theme of the night... I also caught a reference to that late Victorian A-Lister Jack the Ripper... Always something contemporary about Jack, the spurious romanticising of the serial killer... Kate Westbrook uses her wide-ranging vocal technique to conjure up different characters, at one point evoking the meta-babble of the Net in channelling conversational American voices against the splendidly sonorous backdrop of her husband's orchestration. I hope to hear this work again so I can get a clearer grasp of its wider message...

Maybe the economics of the business dictate small ensembles – I love to hear the really BIG band sounds of Westbrook – but this can also facilitate much cunning and invention. An old jazz pastime – writing for a band to make it seem bigger than its parts... so, into the last third...

... 'All that jazz' redux... more looping through jazz time – going from Tadd Dameron's 'If you could see me now' sung in more conventional jazz style now by Kate to her roaring version of an old Bessie Smith blues via Monk – a superb version of 'Monk's Mood' which could almost have been written for this lineup (with a faint echo perhaps of 'Abide with me' scored for horns only on 'Monk's Music' – that would have been an interesting hymnal segue), Duke Ellington, of course, going out on the stately gait of Scott Joplin. Where much of the music came from originally...

Last thoughts – a great gig. An ensemble evening, but all the solists acquitted themselves well and within the spirit of their material. This was warm music, warmly received by the crowd. 'All that Jazz' referenced the wide spectrum from ragtime to Monk - but intelligently – this wasn't some trad/mainstream 'Tribute to ...' warhorse... the new work was firmly in the long-established Westbrook tradition of going out beyond jazz to bring in elements of variety/music hall and European art/cabaret song spiced with political astringencies – featuring Kate Westbrook's lyrics and her unique voice, not always loved by all, an acquired taste, perhaps (which I acquired a long time back) that has a range encompassing early classic blues to the concert hall and beyond via the jazz vocal mainstream. Just good fun for the opening night? Much more, I think... The Village Band conceit is subtle – using a rural English metaphor and the brass band sound to give American jazz a local setting without compromising the performance via misplaced pastiche and placing old favourites into a new orientation. Both strange and familiar at the same time and a process that is possibly more experimental than it seems on the surface... playing games with time to displace the linear in favour of the loop and the circle? I had another attack of whimsy later on, when an image of some West Coutry summer fete came into mind complete with bandstand and Westbrooks riffing away as the Morris dancers got it on and some retainer coming to the bandstand for a request: 'Squire presents his compliments, Mr W, and asks if you know any Ornette Coleman?' 'No problem, Mr Hudson – “Lonely Woman” in B flat, lads, easy on the harmolodics, Squire's good lady is a bit delicate... one two three...'

But it's getting late... Enough...

The lineup of the Village Band:
Mike Brewer - trumpet
Kate Westbrook - tenor horn/vocals
Sam Smith - trombone
Mike Westbrook - euphonium
Stan Willis - alto saxophone
Gary Bayley - tenor saxophone

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Still in recovery... another holding pattern... Teddy Charles, Art Farmer/Jim Hall... Roland Kirk...

Slowly surfacing from illness... what a week... Hoping to get the promised reviews on track today or tomorrow at the latest...here's another few holding tracks... the usual disparate bunch...

First up: the Teddy Charles Quartet, from 1956 (the album says this and the larger band sessions that comprise it were recorded in 1957 but the Charles discography gives the earlier year). 'Just one of those things.' Bouncing, joyous and swinging, more straight ahead playing than the vibist is probably known for ( as a lost legend of the fifties experimental underground), yet splendidly oblique in the opening choruses, almost avoiding the theme. Although Charles made his bones early on in the mainstream, starting out with Chubby Jackson's band in the 40s (and within six months was playing with Max Roach)... Overton worked with Monk, arranging material famously for the Monk at Town Hall concert – here, he comps solidly in the background, nothing fancy. Mingus takes a flowing, fast solo and Shaughnessy holds the back line.

Art Farmer and Jim Hall recorded the classic 'Whisper Not' in 1978 . (Whose composer, Benny Golson, the trumpeter/flugelhornist had worked with so famously in the Jazztet). A longish track with plenty of space for the two men to stretch out – similar takes on improvisation... Farmer had worked in a variety of situations in the fifties from straight ahead blowing to experimental work – especially with the aforementioned Teddy Charles - always a fluent, intelligent player with a warmhearted style spiked with advanced harmonic knowledge – a good description maybe of Hall as well. Mainieri solos and points out the disparate timbres that had evolved between 1956 Charles and this session either by better instrumental amplification or recording technniques or a combination of both– the vibes seem warmer, less detached, more resonant.

Opening with a train whistle, that archetypal American aural signifier of movement, (in the African-American tradition, signifying an even more complex mixture of hope and loss, perhaps, with the great twentieth century movements/evacuations from the South), then brass whoops, strings and voice: kicking into rhythm as the Kirk tenor comes irrepressibly (a word coined for Roland) out of the traps – a tumultuous workout for 21 minutes of almost non-stop blowing – crashing cymbals like dustbin lids, orchestral interjections that he rides off and through... onwards, onwards – a mash-up of styles/genres that makes Third-Stream look and sound remarkably tame in comparison... a train steaming through breaks off the first section... slowing down in serpentine lines accompanied by sparse piano then a ridiculous oompah, Kletzmer-ish section – although Kirk breaks free soon enough of the four-square rhythm to fly over it every which way... wonder if John Zorn ever heard this? Third section: more conventional jazz as the band come back in – wild blowing – he's still going strong – a ripping trumpet heralds a free section where everything swirls like a dust cloud... everything but the kitchen sink thrown into the muddy mix – then his whistle signals a partial halt – train chugging back to finally steam to a finish... a wild ride...

Usual caveat - the Kirk track may not pick up on Hype Machine as it's very long and on another download to the other two...

Teddy Charles Quartet
(Teddy Charles: vibes; Hall Overton: piano; Charles Mingus: bass; Ed Shaughnessy: drums).
Just one of those things


Art Farmer/Jim Hall
(Art Farmer: flugelhorn; Jim Hall: guitar; Mike Mainieri: vibes; Mike Moore: bass; Stev Gadd: drums)
Whisper Not


Rahsaan Roland Kirk
(Charles McGhee (tp) Dick Griffin (tb) Harry Smiles (ehr, ob) Rahsaan Roland Kirk (ts, cl, fl, nose fl, pipes, E flat sax) Sanford Allen, Julien Barber, Selwart Clarke, Gayle Dixon (vln) Al Brown (vla) Kermit Moore (vlc) Ron Burton (p) Henry Mattathias Pearson (b) Robert Shy (d) Sonny Brown or Ralph MacDonald (per) Dee Dee Bridgewater, Jeanne Lee (vo) ).

Saxophone concerto


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

All is flux... illness... delays... and Paul Dunmall Octet... Pinski Zoo

Everything this week is in flux... an appropriate word, given the fact that I have been laid mightily low with a virulent stomach complaint since sunday evening... so the planned review of Mike Westbrook/Marc Ribot will be delayed, unfortunately, along with a couple of other posts I had planned. Here's a holding action, two British bands led by two tenor players...

Paul Dunmall
is a longtime favourite of mine. On this track recorded in 2000, 'Part Five,' he leads his octet (plus John Adams on guitar), taking solo honours with Paul Rutherford.

Pinski Zoo
came out of Nottingham, just up the road:

'Back in the 80s, Nottingham-based group Pinski Zoo arrived like a breath of fresh air on the revitalised British jazz scene. With the energy and values of punk rock, their amalgam of funk and fusion with harmolodic-inspired free jazz was unpredictable and unprecedented...Co-founder and saxophonist Jan Kopinski not only gave (part of) his name to the band, he was also its driving force, winning plaudits for his own individual style of playing.' (Taken from here...http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=272 )

This is the title track from the 1993 album 'De-Icer.' Harmolodic, funky, crashing backbeats...

Now, sadly, back to bed...

Paul Dunmall Octet
(Paul Dunmall, Simon Picard: tenor saxophones; Paul Rutherford, Hilary Jeffries: trombones; Gethin Liddington: trumpet;Keith Tippett: piano; John Adams: guitar; Paul Rogers: bass; Tony Levin: drums).
Part Five


Pinski Zoo
(Jan Kopinski: tenor saxophone; Karl Bingham: Electric Bass; Steve Iliffe: synthesizers, samplers; Steve Harris: drums).


Saturday, November 11, 2006

London Jazz Festival... Opening night... Mike Westbrook... Marc Ribot and Spirtual Unity... Friday November 10, 2006...

Up to town for the Marc Ribot gig and the earlier Mike Westbrook show... have to say it was all good... a longer review to follow... apologies for the photos - my damn camera has not recovered from being dropped but I have more on my mobile phone when I re-install the software to download it... on second thoughts, the images have a bluesy, blurry feel... art, anyone?

The Westbrook show was in the Front Room at the QEH, packed already by the time I got there and fought through to the bar... I hadn't realised that it was the opening night of the festival but good to see such a crowd - the eistedfod off to a warm and mellow start as Westbrook's Village Band performed old jazz classics from the book (Morton, Mingus, Ellington, Joplin and a beautiful rendition of TM's 'Monk's Mood.') Plus Kate Westbrook's smoky vocals on Tadd Dameron's 'If you could see me now,' an old Bessie Smith blues snorter plus a new piece: 'The Waxeywork Show.' More on this ...

Marc Ribot and band were awesome - rough and ragged in places but playing at a sustained level of energy for nearly two hours (including the lengthy encore). Henry Grimes looked well and gave out some power bass... Ribot played serrated guitar, Chad Taylor drumming was supple and strong - and Roy Cambell on trumpet, pocket trumpet and flugelhorn was brassily sharp. More on this as well...

A great opening - hope to get back to town next friday for the Evan Parker gig and another Ribot lineup... if energy permits...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Free ticket... for Marc Ribot at the London Jazz Festival, Friday,November 10th...

A late shout... but I have a spare FREE ticket for tomorrow night's gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, South Bank, London - the Marc Ribot gig (with Henry Grimes)... Friday, 10th November... if anyone wants it... email me before midday tomorrow (Friday)... and the first up can collect it from me at the gig... I'll be there early as I'm going to see the Mike Westbrook set from 5.45 pm onwards... mobile number can be supplied by email for co-ordination etc...

Repeat performance... review of Kim Gordon's 'Perfect Partner' at the Barbican, 2nd October, 2005...

I have only just discovered that some more of my older reviews went missing due to snarl-ups on the Plexus site a while back... here's a repeat of my take on the Kim Gordon show at the Barbican last October, 2005 - which has just seen its American debut a couple of weeks back on October 27/28 at Montclair State University. Here's one review of that performance... which wasn't as enthusiastic as mine... offered in the cause of balance...

So... more adventures in the American Sublime... onwards...

I had a seat in the front row of the balcony which offered a panoramic view... appropriate for a performance which attempts such a wide, sweeping mix of image and music. Which is Kim Gordon's film 'Perfect Partner,' made in collaboration with video artist Tony Oursler and filmmaker Phil Morrison. Starring Michael Pitt and Jamie Bochert with a live, improvised soundtrack from a star band comprising Gordon on bass and vocals, Jim O' Rourke, Tim Barnes on percussion, Ikue Mori on laptop, DJ Olive laptop and turntables and tonight only, Thurston Moore. Some pit band... DJ Olive set it rolling with swooshing samples overlaid with muted trumpet and flute, culminating in a cutting up of a recorded voice... I missed the exact beginning when the full band arrived on stage as I had a quick run to the toilets and just squeaked back in as they started (a coupleof hours in the 'Rising Sun' down the road and an ageing bladder...)

The idea for the film takes off from Gordon's love of car ads and the idealised life depicted in them – dreams that feed symbiotically off the dreams of movement and escape that underpin what I see as 'the American Sublime...' filtered back through to this English space I belong to and as I run with it from the encapsulation in the Olson phrase: 'I take SPACE to be the defining factor for man born in America.' Or woman, Charles... (My apologies for dragging this in yet again – but it seems apposite... and everyone has their obsessions...) Kim Gordon glosses her work thus:

“I've always been fascinated by that movement to escape history, westward, towards the setting sun." (Kim Gordon quoted from here...).

'To escape history' – And stasis? By movement in dream cars into the SPACE of America... The story is briefly this: a guy who is apparently searching for his mother goes into a car showroom and a girl tries to sell him a car. They go for a test drive – and keep on going. We are back on the old Lost Highway, encountering a couple of noir-ish characters, (a fat, pimp-like figure whom the girl shoots – some back-story hinted at), another maybe being killed (the Shepard-ish cowboy, topped apparently by two men, who turns up again at the end) until they reach the coast and the ocean, where the film ends on images of rippling water abstracted into shimmering shapes on the screen. So it's a road movie of sorts which bounces lightly off Godard, among others... At the beginning, the man (Michael Pitt) is carrying a book with western imagery prominantly displayed on the cover and there are some intercut shots from old Remington-esque paintings, referencing the Old West... (the book was, I think, 'The West that was,' by John E. Eggen, a collection of old photographs from the frontier). Seems a simple enough and familiar story? I suppose so. But it's in the telling is the fascination... Utilising two screens, one behind the band, the other in front, the perspective shifts continually as the music responds in real time. At various points, band members are visually 'sampled' and appear on screen, meshing the performance deeper into the film narrative. By the end of the journey, I felt that I had witnessed a unique spectacle – a performance that rolls and wraps round itself, incorporating all the elements of moving image, figures on a stage whose music comments upon the filmic action even as it incorporates aspects of the performance in the visual sampling. Seamlessly integrating music, the occasional vocal and visuals in a sure-footed dance. And, it was, I thought, brilliant. At the end, as the images of water rippled on the screen, the band hot-footed it off stage as the audience applauded when they realised that it was over. Not for long: no one seemed sure how to respond. Well, this is England, chaps - but it seemed a slightly desultory note to end on – I suppose that the usual live gig rituals had been subverted - after all, when a movie ends, the actors – or the musicians responsible for the soundtrack, rather - don't usually step out of the screen and take a bow – unless you're watching 'Hellzappoppin' or some such... If Gordon and company had come back on, you could figure that people would start shouting for an encore or something – which would have probably screwed and skewed the mood of the previous hour and more... Maybe this was more fun – not knowing what to do...

The music was great, a level of improvised performance pretty much what you would expect from the stellar line up. Couldn't make out the vocals too well, but it didn't matter... the overall sound was integral to the concept. Very much a group performance. And one with the necessary SPACE inside it to expand and match the imagery and myth in the film. Improvisation in this context seems the true musical response... The Barbican did them proud, I thought, a good venue for Gordon and co's creations. Now, I want to see it again – but it's on at places a long way from where I am at present. Maybe I should go on a road trip to track it down. But we don't do that sort of thing very well here. It can be a nightmare (and not an interesting one, usually) to try to cross the UK east-west or the reverse – but you run out of SPACE pretty quickly and end up in the Irish, North Sea or the Channel. The English Sublime is a different bugger – one that is usually more cramped and crabby. Maybe up in the Lakes – but when I went looking for that variant a couple of years back, via the horrors of post-industrial Lancashire – foot and mouth had closed it off. This night, I ended up in the hotel surrounded by drunks singing along with one of the truly awesomely BAD bar bands of all time, running through a grubby selection of Oirish diddley-dee and bizarrely juxtaposed Sixties hits – 'American Pie' slams into 'I'm a Believer' into 'Mustang Sally' back to a couple of outtakes from St Paddy's night, for God's sake, which all da young folk there seemed not only to know by heart but to take to their hearts. It was either totally shite or some bizarre post-modern joke... funny either/both way – but you had to be there to appreciate it, as they say... A couple of Budweisers loosened me but I wisely in the end declined the gambit that this part of the evening offered... went to bed and dreamed of escaping into the Sublime...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Jug and Dodo... Oliver Nelson... Art Tatum/Ben Webster/Louis Bellson... Andrew Hill... Cecil Taylor...

'You're driving me crazy'... Marmarosa swings lightly in... then Ammons brusquely blats out the tune. As good an example of the way jazz works as you will find – stripping the melody to the bones before commencing an exploration and expansion of the song's innards and possibilities. The pianist takes over, an assured, articulate performance ranging over the keyboard and ending in some discreet block-chording that allows the bass through before Ammons returns to signal some exchanges with the drummer until the saxophone takes it out. Ammons, of course, the incomparable 'Jug,' son of barrelhouse/boogie player Albert Ammons and one of the best tenors out of bebop. Marmarosa: a white bebop legend who flared briefly across the forties – noted especially for his recordings with Artie Shaw and later Charlie Parker - and disappeared back to Pittsburgh after an unhappy hitch with the military in the early fifties. This session was a rare surfacing, recorded in Chicago,1962. Marmarosa was a player who bridged the gap from swing to bop successfully, yet:

'[he was]a gentle and fragile man who never really learned to cope with the pressures of jazz life, but... also given to unpredictable behaviour. According to [Charlie] Barnet, he once pushed a piano off a balcony, and explained that he wanted to hear what chord it would sound when it landed.' (From here...). Cool...

Oliver Nelson made several records with Eric Dolphy, including the stone classic 'Blues and the Abstract Truth.' This is 'Alto-itis' from 'Screaming the Blues,' an odd mixture of post- Bird and hard bop/soul jazz. Dolphy wheels and flies on the first solo, skittering lines that sound a conceptional light year from the riff backing that suddenly blasts in towards the end – like a jam-session head. Nelson, calmer, cooler, more conventional. But something appealing about his playing. That riffing blasts back in... Wyands spins a skilful chorus before the two altos head on out. Williams oddly only plays backup on this track... Booting along joyfully...

Andrew Hill, and 'Flea Flop' taken from his album 'Judgement!' A quartet with Bobby Hutcherson, the vibes giving a cerebral edge, up first, spurred on by the wonderful Davis and Elvin Jones's always probing drums. Davis takes a mobile, expressive solo, fast flurries in all registers. Hill cascades into his solo, double-timing and bouncing the rhythms round. Jones takes over, expressive and rumbling polyrhythms before the ensemble ends. This music is contained by its form and genre – but only just, Hill playing his inside/game to perfection here.

Art Tatum was a consummate soloist, of course. But he made some fascinating records with other musicians – here with Benny Carter and Louis Bellson. An easy ride into the theme by solo piano before the alto and fairly understated drums join in at the second chorus. Carter - finely-honed elegance with a smear of the blues in unexpected places, understated power – one of the great alto players. Tatum takes up the game – the usual trade-mark easy swing and virtuoso runs that disrupt and suspend it. A fairly sudden ending. Is this what they mean by 'timeless?'

To end – another mercurial pianist... yes, here's Cecil (again!)... but according to the hits these tracks are popular so...

From 'Serdab' – an almost restrained beginning, successive waves of ensemble and piano – one always separates the two, despite the grammar, it's always band AND Cecil. Raphe Malik clear and cutting, the violin adding an extra textural dimension, Lyons hanging back at first. Some almost bluesy licks from Cecil about five minutes in. Shannon Jackson makes his presence felt with some rumbling bass drum bombs although he sounds a little buried in the mix (along with Sirone). Despite the usual Taylor pyrotechnical crash and scrabble, quite a melodic track, with plenty of breathing space due to the episodic, processional nature of its unfolding...

Gene Ammons/Dodo Marmarosa
(Gene Ammons: Tenor Saxophone; Dodo Marmorosa: piano; Sam Jones: bass; Marshall Thompson: drums).
You're driving me crazy


Oliver Nelson
(Oliver Nelson, Eric Dolphy: alto saxophones; Richard Williams: trumpet; Richard Wyands: piano; George Duvivier: bass; Roy Haynes: drums).


Art Tatum
(Art Tatum: piano; Benny Carter: alto saxophone; Louis Bellson: drums)
I'm left with the blues in my heart


Andrew Hill
(Andrew Hill: piano; Bobby Hutcherson: vibes; Richard Davis: bass; Elvin Jones: drums).
Flea flop


Cecil Taylor Unit
(Jimmy Lyons: alto saxophone; Raphe Malik: trumpet; Ramsey Ameen: violin; Sirone: bass; Ronald Shannon Jackson: drums).


Monday, November 06, 2006

What I did on my holidays part x... photos from the Michel Devillier/Lutina Pensard gig on the Île De Groix..

Here are a few photos from the Devilliers/Pensard gig the other week... quality not that great as my camera was playing up and decided to die on me... Michel is rather obscured on the only shot with him that came out... apologies, mon brave... But they give a small flavour of the evening...

And three of the island, to set the wider scene... a shot from outside my friend's house, one of the coast and one of the harbour where the boat comes in, Port Tudy...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Jimmy Yancey... Miles Davis... John Coltrane in Seattle...

Back from France last night... trailing clouds of glory... maybe not... But it's a glorious, sharp, sunny morning here... A short post to celebrate return... To start: here's a track by Jimmy Yancey - 'How Long Blues.'

'Part of Yancey's distinctive style was that he played in a variety of keys but always ended every song in E flat. These endings added a strangely satisfying dissonance to every performance. ' (From here... ).

Yancey did not record till the late thirties but had been around from the beginning and was a large influence on the more famous Meade Lux Lewis and Albert Ammons. Yet his style of boogie was delicate, eschewing the pounding train-like rhythms that popularly defined the style... This track has a loping bass (which turns from four to the bar into a 'spanish tinged' syncopation that opens it up spatially, disregarding the odd fumble) and takes the old blues at a fair pace but has a wistful, crystal clarity – and his trademark jump to E flat at the end adds to the charm...

The Fifties Miles David Quintet: finely sprung tensions between the epigrammatic terseness of the leader and the bubbling, questing torrents of John Coltrane. The rhythm section a dream: Philly Joe and the young Paul Chambers providing a firm swinging undergirding and Red Garland's piano – from bouncing crisp and clear single note lines to the accurate (if sometimes overdone) block-chording. 'Surrey with the fringe on top,' then. A medium tempo nine minutes of ease and joy – Miles sounds almost happy through the tightly muted trumpet, Coltrane gruffly cheerful. This comes from another album I had as a kid and can still remember very well - pretty much every nuance etched into the budding jazz brain...

Coltrane in 1965... 'Out of this world,' from the epochal 'Live in Seattle,' burning and faring forward. Edging in on bass and piano vamp, before that cutting tone of JC establishes the mood of the journey... Pharoah Sanders pours out smearing, querulous, diagonality, Tyner is rolling, thumping, powerful. Coltrane returns on soprano, swirling, squalling against eventual sporadic counter horn that builds to buttress although the drums dominate now... Jones imperiously swatting out rhythm and counter-rhythm throughout. The end-zone almost quiescent – long tenor notes... This music demands the time it takes to unfold... twenty three minutes here so upped to Savefile where I usually put the big ones...)

In the Videodrome...

Matthew Shipp talks and plays...

Bill Evans waits for his prince...

The Art Ensemble of Chicago...

Jimmy Yancey
How Long Blues


Miles Davis Quintet
(Miles Davis: trumpet; John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Red Garland: piano; Paul Chambers: bass; 'Philly Joe' Jones: drums).
Surrey with the fringe on top


John Coltrane
(John Coltrane: tenor, soprano saxophone; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone; McCoy Tyner: piano; Donald Raphael Garrett: bass clarinet, bass; Jimmy Garrison: bass; Elvin Jones: drums).
Out of this world