Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all... will get back to some serious blogging... soon... (and the guy who wanted the Clusone Trio - will reup asap)...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas...

A merry christmas to all... I've been celebrating with family and friends so no music yet... later, perhaps...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Stop press - Pack Horse Redux...

As hinted at below, the phoenix has risen from the ashes of the now defunct Folk at the Pack. Cath Mackie has ridden in on another train (appalling folk music joke) and started the Loughborough Folk Club at the same venue. Starting on January 9, 2009 and afterwards every second friday of the month. More details as they appear - apparently she will be taking over the Folk at the Pack website after it finally expires, due to the generosity of Mr Marmion. Incidentally, the free cd that was handed out at the last gig will be available for a brief period as a download from this site and I might put a link up here as well. But Christmas approaches...

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: Pete Morton's Magic Christmas Tree at the Pack Horse, Friday, December 19th 2008... Farewells...

It is in the nature of the game Рthe wear and tear of organising music venues down the years eventually induces fatigue. Frank Marmion has lasted longer than most, running the Pack Horse Folk club with support from Dave Morton and his wife Joan. As a weekly venture, a brave even foolhardy exercise. From my own experience, a couple of years is about the burn out point Рrunning our Club Sporadic every couple of months was enough stress! Frank's involvement with the club stretches back a good many years, since he arrived in God's Little Acre, up to the point when he took on the mantle of chief organiser when it would have folded otherwise. A sage move Рcommittees seem to work best with established clubs that go for a monthly policy Рtime to plan and discuss things without the weekly urgency. One person on their own can be much more efficient in their delivery of class music than a m̩lange of people who often have little wider vision beyond their own narrow purist/ideological patch Рlet alone the financial nous to get 'bums on seats.' Without which the venture at some predictable point folds anyway. But the time came for Frank to move on Рretirement looming, new adventures beckoning, uncertainty over the future of the pub which made future booking policy too much of a gamble Рeffectively he was not going to be able to run the place in the manner of his choice for much longer.

The Pack was always a quirky, eccentric, scruffy place, scene of much great music down the years – and one of the musicians who has played there since he launched his own career back in the eighties has been Pete Morton, a performer who to my knowledge has always pulled a full house, not just because of the local connection but the plain fact that he is a superb artist. So: fitting that Frank chose to go out in a blaze of glory with Pete's special Magic Christmas Tree roadshow. Accompanied by Chris Parkinson on accordion, the surprise of the night was the other cohort – depping for Roger Wilson, a young – an extremely young – fiddle player called Tom Moore. (Certainly not from the bummer's shore: old Dylan reference/joke). Pete never fails to move me with the breadth of his humanity, passion and sheer sense of fun, always questing, never settling for playing safe. A lesson that many on the folk scene – and beyond – should heed. 'Make it new,' as Ezra said. 'Play what you don't know,' as Miles Davis said. Tonight: we had songs in Chaucerian English – 'Rock around the Clock' and 'Knocking on Heaven's Door' – which make you laugh out loud at the sheer zany chutzpah on display. Later, perhaps, when you consider the other songs in French and Platte Deutsch, you realise how much this man loves language – further evidenced by his moving tribute to the English poet John Clare, 'The Shepherd's Song.' (A song that kills me every time I hear it, as a lover of Clare's poetry.) Which works as a rough paradigm for part of what Pete is about. He somehow manages to pull off the trick of collapsing distance, which brings the past into a temporary contemporary focus. Writing in the 'tradition,' he extends it, rather than allowing himself to be subsumed by it, as so many other writers do. First world war, anybody? This song, about the peasant poet Clare, off to London to be briefly embraced by fashion, later to be dropped and end up in the madhouse, is a provincial's wry comment not just on a historical tragedy but more contemporary manners as well in an over-saturated media age. He also celebrates the humanity of the marginal – the clientele of a city centre pub in 'The Battle of Trafalgar,' family life – 'My Best Friend,' dedicated to his parents, the random encounters of 'Post Office Queue.' Via detours into such areas as Marc Bolan/T Rex, for the glam rockers (!) and some spontaneous Irish dancing and jiving in the audience by Cath M and her children, to close: after a soaring version of 'To be a farmer's boy,' buttressed by some mighty singers in the audience – what else? - 'Another Train,' tonight transformed by the backing of violin and accordion. An anthem of hope which means so much to so many – and if I am being corny here, so be it, hipsters, flipsters and finger-popping daddies...

The other two musicians: young Tom Moore displayed a ridiculous sense of cool for one so young, showing poise and no little elegance in his violin playing both on his solo pieces and as part of the ensemble. Chris Parkinson's mature skills on accordion widened the musical ground further, expanding Pete's performance in a fascinating way, providing underpinning and commentary that gave depth and a different array of colours from the usual guitar accompaniment.

A rambunctious, fun night, then, celebrating the end of this chapter in the Pack story. Glory be to Mr Marmion, especially in his choice of the Pete Morton Christmas extravaganza – a fitting way to go out to a packed house. There has been a club here on and off for over thirty years. But – there's another train, there always is... the stop press news is that it will continue in another form, on the second friday of every month. Some feverish work going on behind the scenes by Cath Mackie to make it happen. But for this incarnation – goodbye.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Davy Graham R.I.P.

Sad news. Davy Graham, one of the pre-eminent genre-crossing guitarists coming off the folk scene (and beyond) in the Sixties, has died after a brief battle with lung cancer. Maybe the pre-eminent guitarist of that generation, alongside Bert Jansch, John Renbourne and Dave Evans... The Les Cousins generation is slowly being whittled away...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Busy doing nothing (for a change)... Engine records...

Hoping to post some music at some point – but I've spent this week just coming down from recent exertions – including a great night at Mr Marmion's joint last friday with Gu4 doing their Xmas(or not – you had to be there to dig the bah humbug routines from half the band) gig – mucho fine harmony singing which hits me hard – a sucker for any vocal music of this calibre. Plus the reunion of Plexus – my cohorts in extremely free improvisation – at a rehearsal room in Leicester where we were intending to try out some quiet stuff. Until we realised that the band in the room next door were going to bleed loud young wannabe rock all over us. So: crank up the amplifiers and fire away. An exhilarating afternoon – hopefully, despite our far-flung geographies we can get out on the road next year. Added to other exertions – this week has been a much needed rest before my patriarchal/dynastic duties are required for Xmas...

But I intend to at least get a big Xmas mix up... tonight just listening to some cd's that have just arrived from the U.S. The first of which has just finished: the 'New Orleans Suite' by the Andrew Lamb Trio – wild and wonderfully heartwarming stuff, in tribute to the city devasted by Hurricane Katrina. Engine is a small label run by Steven Walcott, on the proverbial shoestring but the quality of music is superb. As a soon-to-be co-owner of a small label (January launch hopefully) I empathise with the problems you encounter – although our stuff is totally different, it shares some of the same improvisational ethic and musical commitment and I would love to have a stab at putting out some jazz – later maybe...

Diagonally... My policy on mp3s is quite simple – I put up a batch as and when I feel like it and write – what I feel about them. Fun for me, hopefully some small measure of fun for the folks out there. If you want album downloads – there are plenty of sites that cater for you. Myself – too much hassle and contemporary small labels I would avoid anyway, usually going for older stuff that hopefully does not financially affect musicians in any way by only giving a small snapshot and encouraging the people to buy the original. (Wherever possible). So: go out and buy some of Engine's output, why don't you? Absurdly cheap – and you are supporting the best cause of all. Creativity. In a mad world.

If time permits after Xmas – perhaps more detailed reviews of these cds may follow...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mark Murphy... Anthony Braxton... Last Exit... Pee Wee Russell...

The recent house move has uncovered many a box of buried stuff – I just discovered this Mark Murphy album 'Midnight Mood,' from which I have selected the last track 'I get along without you very well.' Credit to whomever I downloaded this from as it is not one of my acquisitions. A curio – it was recorded in Europe in 1967, featuring a group underpinned by Kenny Clarke, alongside the co-leader of his big band,the French pianist Francy Boland. With just the trio backing him, Murphy starts over a sparse reiterated piano pedal tone that eventually moves to sketch the harmony. Bass and drums join the piano eventually – now elaborating more. Bittersweet musings from a great jazz singer.

Weirdly enough, I had a dream last night that I was playing a gig as a singer with Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. Francis Albert and myself were out front, chatting to the Count and for some surreal reason I had a big bag of apples in the pocket of my tuxedo which I proceeded to hand out to everyone. Ummm... any interesting interpretations?

I was going to post this some time ago but noticed in time that Destination Out had put it up the same week so didn't want to clash. Then it went into the box and has only just surfaced on the latest rotation... This is 'Track Three' from Anthony Braxton's 1976 album, 'Creative Orchestra Music.'. Starting off as a jaunty march(I kid you not – in Graham Lock's book about Braxton, he is quoted as saying how much he loved and respected John Philip Souza). But nothing is ever as it seems with AB – his music can twist and turn on a penny. Plus the multi-layering which is a great American musical tradition – as if the acoustic spaces are matching the physical scale of the country – a democracy of layers that you see in Charles Ives and onwards - and in Sousa according to Braxton. In my erratic canonical delineation that leads through Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys up to Ornette Coleman. And backwards – to Walt Whitman, piling long line on on top of long line as he tries to cram the whole experience of his country into long scrambles of words:

'Seasons pursuing each other, the plougher ploughs, the mower mows, and the winter-grain falls in the ground;
Off on the lakes the pike-fisher watches and waits by the hole in the frozen surface;
The stumps stand thick round the clearing, the squatter strikes deep with his axe;
Flatboatmen make fast, towards dusk, near the cottonwood or pekan-trees;
Coon-seekers go through the regions of the Red river, or through those drain’d
by the Tennessee, or through those of the Arkansaw;
Torches shine in the dark that hangs on the Chattahoochee or Altamahaw;
Patriarchs sit at supper with sons and grandsons and great-grandsons around them;
In walls of adobie, in canvas tents, rest hunters and trappers after their day’s sport;
The city sleeps, and the country sleeps;
The living sleep for their time, the dead sleep for their time;
The old husband sleeps by his wife, and the young husband sleeps by his wife;
And these one and all tend inward to me, and I tend outward to them;
And such as it is to be of these, more or less, I am. ' (Walt Whitman: 'Leaves of Grass,' lines 309-320).

And onwards...

'Skippy' is one of those mad, skittery fast Monk tunes from his early days. Braxton again, exploring the tradition with a quartet on this track, taken from the 1987 album, 'Six Monk's Compositions.' Taken at a fair lick, Braxton flies over the manic remorseless march of chords. Piano takes a solo, hewing close to theme and structure – a difficult composition to step far out of. Neidlinger holds it all together – Bill Osborne's drums are back in the mix, making themselves known occasionally with a supple rip or two. Sounds like great fun was had – but everyone probably breathed a collective sigh of relief at the end... Monk's muse can often seem like an enormous, enigmatic wall of fortified glass that repels those who hurl themselves blindly at it. These guys find enough windows to enter...

Last Exit were a powerhouse band – electronic free jazz with a punk edge. Or something... The disparate gathering of musicians were Peter Brotzmann, Sonny Sharrock, Bill Laswell and Ronald Shannon Jackson and they played some wild stuff. Here is 'Panzer Bebop,' fittingly marshalled in by martial drums then Jackson spelling out some melodic figures before Sharrock throws jagged shards of electric guitar across the line and Brotzmann comes storming in. The backbeat surfaces, ridden by the guitar as the tenor howls and squeals in the wind. Storm subsiding over a repeated bass drum da dum. Into a swaying boogie... This is what jazz-rock should have been...

Jaunty bouncing piano leads in on 'Lulu's back in town,' followed by Buck Clayton who leads the theme in on muted trumpet, then the leader, Pee Wee Russell, and his more oblique clarinet, each taking 8 bars in turn. Clayton is straight out of Louis, of course, but a man who developed his own style in the various situations he played in – from a stint in Shanghai (!) in the thirties before he joined the mighty Basie Band. And onwards to a career as arranger, composer and bandleader, apart from his trumpet duties. Russell, clarinet player extraordinaire embedded for all those years on Condon's dixieland sessions, here showing his stuff with a tight mainstream band. Pee Wee takes the first solo, some warm and fuzzy low down contrasted with the higher register querularity. Clayton follows, mellow burnished trumpet. Piano next, some eloquent restatements and embellishments. Riding out old school with some drum breaks interspersed. Joyful stuff.

Mark Murphy
Mark Murphy (v) Francy Boland (p) Jimmy Woode (b) Kenny Clarke (d)
I get along without you very well


Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton (as, cl) Seldon Powell (as) Bruce Johnstone (bs) Ronald Bridgewater (ts) Roscoe Mitchell (bass-s) Kenny Wheeler, Cecil Bridgewater, Leo Smith, Jon Faddis (t) George Lewis, Garrett List (tr) Earl McIntyre, Jack Jeffers (b-tr) Jonathan (tuba) Muhal Richard Abrams (p) Dave Holland, (b) Warren Smith (d) Karl Berger (glock) Barry Atschul (sn-d) Frederick Rzewski (b-d) Phillip Wilson ( marching cymbals) Leo Smith (cond)
Piece Three


Anthony Braxton
Anthony Braxton (as) Mal Waldron (p) Buell Neidlinger (b) Bill Osborne (d)


Last Exit
Peter Brotzmann (ts) Sonny Sharrock (el-g) Bill Laswell (b) Ronald Shannon Jackson (d)
Panzer Bebop


Pee Wee Russell
Buck Clayton (tp) Pee Wee Russell (cl) Tommy Flanagan (p) Wendell Marshall (b)
Osie Johnson (d)
Lulu's Back in Town


Monday, December 01, 2008

Absence makes the heart grow fonder (?)

Somewhat light on the mp3 blogging front recently... this will change over the next week, hopefully - I have been tied up on other projects... Soon come...