Friday, April 28, 2006

Super Friday - 12 tracks of glory...

Jerry Lee Lewis... Ray Charles... The Swans... Angels of Light... Bardo Pond... Velvet Underground... Lee Ranaldo...Akron Family and Angels of Light...Dion and the Belmonts...Steve Earle... Pussy Galore... more Ray...

Here we are. Super friday. 12 tracks. Not as much noise as originally threatened – the list changed during its compilation. No jazz as such today – although the spirit and much of the improvisational ethic can be found in a lot of the music on display here. I realised just now as I checked the track list that there is a neat theme running through most of – that of my old hobby horse, the American Sublime – which I take as SPACE, to rip off Olson (again). In the twentieth century, composers and musicians in the U.S., at the highest level of creativity, have, I would submit, been involved in spatial exploration. An artistic process that mirrors the size of the country and is also concerned with forging an American identity in art – from Duke Ellington to Charles Ives, Ornette Coleman to ... Michael Gira. But to start with – a couple of tracks that burst out in the fifties, widening the musical field – the Killer's 'Great balls of fire,' which was the first record I ever bought (although I had been listening to rock and roll previously via my cousin's collection). I can remember seeing Jerry Lee on some early Brit television show – I think it was 'Henry Hall's Guest Night' but wouldn't swear to it . He was like nothing I had ever seen – a demonic raging presence that crashed into the sleepy, dull post war fifties. Screw Elvis – I was always a Jerry Lee man. White Dada Nihilismus... backed by boogie woogie piano slammed into gospel...

And he leads neatly into the next track – if Jerry Lee was always involved via his baptist roots in a violent conflict between his God and the Devil's music... Brother Ray symbolises the (often uneasy and unstable) melding of the two traditions in black music – Gospel and Blues – to produce the testifying raw wahoo that became known as – SOUL...

Ray Charles came some years later than Jerry Lee – but he was just as electric a presence in my life. I got to see him live a couple of times with his big band, Margie Hendryx and the Raelettes, the whole bag of chips. Up in the top five best live concerts I have ever seen... Charles was a rugged individualist who battled disability and later addiction (although it never seemed to debilitate his performances) to become a big wheel in the business – and black at that. He was one of the first to acquire control of his own music through shrewd deals and also massively expanded the horizons of 'pop' music – not just with his bringing together of the sacred and profane – against a lot of resistance from his own people who were uneasy with gospel hollering being used to frame the carnalities of rhythm and blues – but in his later cross-genre experiments with country music – and beyond.

I would hazard that what gives a lot of this music its edge – from rock and roll across to soul and beyond – is the religious dimension of America – not easily understood in Europe.

'What'd I say' is just one of those songs that if you do not move to – you are probably clinically dead. That insistent riff on the electric piano, the blues structure, the gospel call and response – almost a potted history of black music. When I came back from New York last year, I saw the movie 'Ray' on the plane – and the section that deals with the genesis of this song as an improvised performance that wows the club audience it was delivered to is great. I don't know how accurate it was – but who cares? The film also points up the religious conflicts surrounding the birth of Soul. (Not a new conflict in black culture, admittedly). Rock and roll and soul music created a new space in popular culture - one we are still dealing with... 'What'd I say' was also the record that crashed Charles out of the r and b charts into the mainstream top ten...

I came across the Swans in the eighties when I was buying a lot of American hardcore (music – Cynthia...) - bands such as Husker Du (umlauts anyone?) were an especial favourite. But the Swans were different – playing crushingly slow songs obsessed with various transgressional activities – the perfect mirror in some ways for the plague years in New York when HIV burst like a fragmentation bomb on the city. Sex and death – thanatos and eros writ large. And the operative word here - large. This was BIG music, grinding against your ears. Physical stuff... This is taken from their last recording, the live set 'Swans are Dead.' A stop/start riff as Gira's deep baritone declaims, the song builds and builds – a prime example of the power of the band. The swirling section that evokes (in my mind) the blowing of a dark, ominous wind is especially atmospheric. But this is a wind blowing through a cityscape, not some remote prairie. Concrete canyons. Whistles screechingly sound near the end and suddenly die off into a single drum beat that smacks out a final ominous tattoo. Something is happening but you don't know what it is, do you Mr Jones?

Gira disbanded the Swans because he felt he had taken that particular conception of his music as far as it would go. He played solo gigs with just an acoustic guitar and formed 'The Angels of Light' – an interesting phrase, given the darkness of the preceding years. Maybe he felt that (most of) the demons in his life had been exorcised. The album that the next song is taken from (one of my favourite in recent years) is lighter in texture – though often not in existential turmoil. The instrumentation is more varied, giving a more acoustic sound – mandolins, banjos, and anything to hand up to and including lap steel and children's choir(!). This is the first track: 'Palisades.' Majestic in its sweep, it takes you out of the relentless dark heart of New York as envisaged by the Swans into – an equally dark place by the sea. Gira's dynamic sense is still operating well – this song is another one that – just builds and builds, from the lightly-textured opening to the full-blown bust-out ending.

The title of the Bardo Pond album gives the game away – 'Amanita.' So does the band's name – a resonation of the lysergic sixties. They build up long guitar-driven improvisations that attempt to emulate and mirror expanded states of mind. 'RM' starts with a fragment of flute, followed by strummed guitar, and goes – onwards and outwards. Turn on, tune in...

To the fountainhead of modern white rock... the Velvet Underground. This is 'Foggy Notion' from the 68/69 period – a two guitar driven attack over rock solid (no pun intended) bass and drums. This could not be any other band – something about the sound they had, coupled to Lou Reed's voice (on this track), a sound that changed a lot, from the earlier electric viola overdrive of John Cale, through the crazed organ on 'White Light/White Heat' to the more guitarry later stuff, but was always intrinsically Velvets. Probably the rhythm, that insistent 8/8... This track moves, but lightly. Love this band. I got my calomine lotion, baby, do it again...

I jump around in this selection – thematically, The Akron Family should come after the Angels of Light as Gira invited them to come and play and record with his band. I wrote about their gig the other week here... just to reiterate, I think they are a great live act, with improvisations that flow and take in many streams of American music from folk, country, to blues and jazz and whatever... Here you can experience them with the Angels of Light, 'Future myth,' a track that fades in over distant voices and prominent drums – guitars chiming added as the space expands. The vocals come in – soppy lyric about counting shadows in the sun. And SPACE is what this music demands – it needs it as so much musical history seems to need to be incorporated. This is why a lot of bands now are playing such long sets – to get it all in...

To jump back onto the New York track... here is Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth, doing 'Scripture of the Golden Eternity,' from a live performance. Art rock/improv/ramblings and side reference to Jack Kerouac's text in the title (which I have a copy of somewhere in the hovel, buried under piles of books)... Renaldo going on about Superman or something over a long track, almost Swans-ish in places with a particular repeated glitchy loop. Sonic Youth are the carriers of the flame from the VU, taking their musics further and outwards everywhere, spawning a mass of side projects by individual band members. Thurston Moore and recently Kim Gordon were the more prominent but Ranaldo is worth a listen. This is interesting stuff, just solo guitar, loops and effects and spoken voice, recorded at the Knitting Factory in the late eighties.

From the downtown art rockers to more innocent days – 'I wonder why' by Dion and the Belmonts. Teen romance delivered superbly. Dun dun du du du du ba ah ah ah – all together now.

Older angst – Steve Earle singing the white country blues. The neat finger-picking rings out on what sounds like National Steel guitar with an occasional dollop of slide. The archetypal good old boy night out with jail as the inevitable finale, Stagolee appropriated maybe – or a shared low-life archetype. Guns and booze and women. A bit like the Artists' Quarter on a good night... The Devil lives on Lewis Street, I swear...

Pussy Galore present more fucked up punk noise with a song that could have the best punk title of all – 'Fuck you, man.' Gabba gabba hey. A glorious noise. 35 seconds of compressed clenched fist fury. Jon Spencer, of course, went on to form the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – and Neil Heggerty, who also passed through the band, headed up Royal Trux with Jennifer Herrema to play junky rock harmolodics for the cognoscenti. Maybe I'll put some of their stuff up soon...

To end – Ray Charles, testifying on 'You are my sunshine.' Replete with ironies – 'You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.' Sung by a blind man. It is also one of two state songs of Louisiana, written by the former governor Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell in about 1940. For Georgia-born Charles, who escaped the poverty and racism of the South, I wonder how much amusement there was in recording this title. And making a large wad of dollars. He omits the verse about

White fields of cotton
-- green fields clover,
the best fishing
and long tall corn;

giving a dark, brooding bluesy take on the stripped-down shitkicker lyrics. Maybe there was no irony – Charles heard the soul in country music and crossed over to appropriate it for his own with his smash hit album 'New Directions in Country and Western.' This track is taken from volume two and gives a snapshot of his stage show that I remember so well - the jazzy big band, that kicks out for a brassy chorus between the vocals, the sublime Raelettes – and the raw-voiced answering voice of Margie Hendrix. When I first bought this record I literally wore it out...

The downloads are split into two zip files...

Part one

Part Two

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Where or when...

This is an old blogging game... but after the post re different versions of 'Stardust' – I was fiddling around last night, feeling mellow(...), and should have been doing other things... but feeling a trifle mentally overloaded... so in the cause of relaxation... thought about the various different versions of one of my favourite standards... 'Where or when.' A piece I used to play as a vehicle for improvisation... written by Rodgers and Hart for the musical 'Babes in Arms' in 1936/7, it's a strange dream-like lyric... two people who have had some kind of affair meet but the protagonist (he or she depending on who is singing) can't remember – 'where or when.' Very much an American song, then, in a society with such mobility – especially during the Depression years. The Peggy Lee hit version came out around Christmas 1941 when vast numbers of people were on the move again as America had entered the war after Pearl Harbou – the song hits home at this time as a resonance of chance wartime meetings. A strange biographical note – Lorenz Hart was a descendant of the German poet Heinrich Heine.

Here's the opener of this particular eisteddford...

The Benny Goodman version featuring Peggy Lee is a rare find... she captures just that perfect sad note of some brief lost love in wartime. Delivered with a fragile grace. It wasn't a hit at the time – the Guy Lombardo version apparently sold the copies.

Then there are obvious interpreters – Sinatra of course, who recorded it several times. This selection is taken from a gig at the Sands casino, recorded live with Count Basie. If you like Francis Albert, this is a relatively obscure but great live album – wisecracks with the audience and the band, Sinatra hip and running, with the great Basie orchestra behind him. Listen to the crisp phrasing. The piano isn't Basie on this track, by the way. Ring a ding ding, mes braves...

Some slightly less obvious versions... One of my favourite records as a kid was 'I wonder why' by Dion and the Belmonts, a New York doo-wop group who hit the big time in the rock and roll years. Dion di Mucci went solo in the sixties and has had various comebacks and setbacks since....

Judy Collins is one of those folk singers with a range that extends beyond the narrow purities of the Anglo-American sixties revival taht she sprang from. Her version contrasts in phrasing to Peggie Lee say – coming from a different musical environment – Lee and Sinatra made their bones with the big swing bands pre-and post world war two. She brings out the plaintiveness of the song in a different way.

Two instrumental versions. The first is the rather wonderful Art Tatum, jazz pianist extraordinaire... with Ben Webster, breathy whooshing ballad tenor player supreme. Contrasts in approach -Tatum all over the keyboard, the Cecil Taylor of yesteryear, Webster all about timbre and note placement. A great combo.

Errol Garner – I saw a couple of times in the sixties when I first started going to jazz concerts at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester. A little guy who used to sit on a telephone directory to reach the keyboard, always smiling. And what a fantastic, two-fisted maverick pianist, self-taught and unable to read music but capable of playing the most florid improvisations. And also very popular. This track is taken from his hit album 'Concert by the Sea' – a record that sold a lot of copies. Garner reached a wide audience in his day – by playing swinging, unpredictable but entertaining jazz, seemingly crossing the boundaries of style at will. This is the fastest version you'll hear – it rocks... joyous music, taking the tune and pretty much destroying it! Cecil Taylor again, in some weird way, reminds me of Garner crossed with Tatum and I think there was some influence – Cecil is just as much of a showman as both of them. Wonder what he'd make of 'Where or when.'

And for the last... Sinatra in the winter of his years. From his 80th birthday concert. One of those late great meditations. This seems as if he is groping for memories through fragments of images of some long gone affair, an old man remembering better days, the voice worn now - but still magical - and defiant against the crashing waves of the band... and he still manages that last high note...

It is interesting to see the different nuances that can be brought out of a set of lyrics. And the context – the wartime recordings for example would have a different resonance. 'Where or when' works in a jaunty mode – Sinatra with Basie – devil may care, yes we know each other, but – where or when and – whatever. Garner's use of it as a vehicle to stomp out some fine playing. The more poignant versions of the two female singers, and the close harmony of doowoppers, young men's voices - a rather sweet, sentimental readings really, which I threw in out of perversity and for the sake of contrast. To the bilateral approach of Webster and Tatum – speed and nuance. To finally – Sinatra again, whose stature and presence in the world as a celebrity cannot ward off the coming darkness in his eightieth year. Almost a Beckettian performance?

I can't get off... I must get off... So... adieu

Bennie Goodman and Peggie Lee



Dion and the Belmonts



Frank Sinatra and Count Basie



Judy Collins



Art Tatum and Ben Webster



Errol Garner



Frank Sinatra



Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Stardust... versions... second use of the word plangent this week...

Betty said that she liked Coltrane's version of 'Stardust' – and I suddenly got an idea for a quick blog today (working on Super Friday at the moment – noise terror to come)... to put up a few different versions of Hoagy Carmichael's song – one of the most endearing and most-recorded in the twentieth century American standard book. An awkward melody for a singer to negotiate – but some superlative performances have resulted. (As an aside for the perverse – Ringo Starr has a version... ). The first selection is the original by Carmichael -a charming, easy-going performance. He manages to sound older than his years – which is essential to the performative success of this song. Even the whistling seems to work(!) oddly enough: I can imagine someone strolling under the stars, thinking of lost love, perhaps whistling plaintively in the twilight. (Or maybe I'm just feeling overly romantic today...)

The Louis Armstrong is weird – a jaunty tempo and almost perfunctory run through the words – either side of which is the usual masterful trumpet playing. Listen to his placing of notes just so, in contrast to the rather lumpy rhythm of the accompanying band.

Then one by the young Sinatra with Tommy Dorsey, which I'll deal with further down.

Nat Cole's take on the song is held by many to be the definitive version. And Cole is sublime, using his musical skills (a brilliant jazz pianist before his singing career took over) to ride the lyrics perfectly through the melody with an urbane wistfulness.

Willie Nelson is a singer I like a lot – transcending the usual saccharine shitkicker country music with his wider musical horizons that come in part form his Texas origins (the State that produced Ornette Coleman, Lightnin Hopkins, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Guy Clark to name a few...) where boogie, jazz, blues, rock, country and Tex mex (not to mention German polka) all come together in a real not ideologically constructed multi-cultural music scene. The guitar solo and obbligato behind the vocal points this up – a combo of folk, spanish tinges and jazz furthered by the long organ notes and brief snatch of bluesy harmonica, as he delivers the lyric in his quintessential country drawl – he doesn't hide his musical origins, rather exploits them to give the song an honest twist in a different direction. Stardust regrets in a pickup truck up in the high hill country...

Pipping Nat Cole – or at least drawing up to him nose to nose – is the later Sinatra version. Almost symphonic strings usher it in. Sinatra has some deep regret in his voice – poignant and yearning, a middle aged man's remembrance of love lost – 'the music of years gone by.' Ends on a plangently sombre dark brown brass chord. Compare and contrast, as they say, with the younger Sinatra's interpretation with Dorsey – and, I think, Jo Stafford. You can hear the technique of the young crooner to full effect- and he actually sounds older than he was at the time of recording. Along with the bitter-sweet Dorsey muted trombone solo – not bad. But this song is not a young man's vehicle, working best with the darker edge that his later version provides, where he truly gets inside the song. Yet he only sings the verse – the chorus is omitted, almost as if he can't bring himself to sing it... a fascinating conceit...

Hoagy Carmichael



Louis Armstrong



Frank Sinatra and Tommy Dorsey



Nat King Cole



Willie Nelson



Frank Sinatra



Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Still here... Coltrane... and Miles... first use of the word 'plangent'...

Well -I didn't make Wales for various reasons so am spending the week trying to finalise my solo cd and get the bugger finished by saturday. Here's some Coltrane for no other reason than Bruno sent me a couple of absolutely beautiful tracks by Donna Mc Kevitt and I know he likes Trane so – thanks Bruno... I've ordered the cd!

First out of the box – 'Stardust,' a longish meditation on the Carmichael tune. It has the feel of a late night session, relaxed and bluesy. Coltrane states the theme at a very slow tempo, with little embellishment, taking just one chorus, this unusual brevity giving most of the solo space to the others. Wilbur Harden, who was an accomplished and underrated trumpeter and doubler on flugelhorn, takes a warm, plangent (in the sense of plaintive rather than loud/ringing) solo, satisfactorily exploring the harmonies, ending on a long trill. Garland is in reflective mood as well, holding back and leaving space with an economy of notes placed just so as the brushes of the drummer swish behind him. Garland has a distinctive touch and usually activates a bouncy, springing line - which he (inevitably?) falls into later in the solo, getting busier with long cascades of notes up and down the keyboard, finally to end on a block-chorded section (another of his trademarks). Paul Chambers plays an elegant arco solo, subtly swinging. Coltrane takes the out chorus, ending on a very brief unaccompanied flourish before the band come in on the last chord.

Coltrane was an incredible player of ballads – as further proved by the second selection from this session: 'Invitation.' Another slow track, but the rhythm is more displaced and busy as Chambers plays a recurring doubled time figure that he goes in and out of. Coltrane stretches out more here. He plays a long, mostly double-timed solo that is crammed with an emotional urgency– yet each note seems right. Harden slows it down – compare the different rhythmic styles – using longer notes and more space. Almost an echo of the difference between Miles and Coltrane – except Harden has his own road and travelled it intriguingly throughout his unfortunately brief career. (He suffered a debilitating illness in his thirties and effectively disappeared). A brief chorus – then Coltrane returns with more of the same – the solo balance tipped towards him this time. An abrupt ending...

The one with Miles is a live track – blimey, they kick off at a fair lick! 'Milestones,' which is just one of those tunes that makes you tap your foot and click your fingers...
Miles open horn, brassy and fast spirals, long series of notes bebop style – I always figured that he had more technique than some critics made out – certainly on those classic later sixties tracks when he led the new turks who pushed him to the limits at times – but he always seemed to come through. Coltrane starts a fraction off mike then comes up stage centre – sheets of divine tenor madness reeling out. On this modal tune, it's interesting how far he's already come in a couple of years from the sessions with Harden. More vocalised smeared notes, expanding the timbre and range of the saxophone, for a start. Listen to the drummer emulate and play back some of his rapid-fire runs. The piano's solo is driven closely by the drums, echoing cymbals and polyrhythmic displacement – long splurges of single notes with occasionally chorded passages – I think it's Wynton Kelly and Jimmy Cobb here -who played together a lot inside and outside the Davis band. A ragged re-entry by the ensemble horns returning with the B theme before a brief A theme re-statement. Much applause. Of course...

John Coltrane

(John Coltrane: ten sax; Wilbur Harden:tr & flhn; Freddie Hubbard:tr; Red Garland: piano; Paul Chambers:bass; Jimmy Cobb, Arthur Taylor:drums).





Miles Davis and John Coltrane
Miles Davis: Trumpet; John Coltrane: tenor saxophone;Wynton Kelly or Bill Evans: piano; Paul Chambers: bass; Jimmy Cobb: drums).




Sunday, April 23, 2006

St George... fucked-up printers... heroin...

A couple more shots from last night... The Akrons and the Good Anna...

Tired this morning. Only a few hours sleep – but once I'm awake my damn brain slides into operation and I have to get up. A lot to do – I was originally planning on meeting my friend Frank for a toot or two this afternoon and see what grim festivities have been invented down the local to celebrate St George Day. But the novel has to be printed to get it in the post tomorrow – the printer is doing strange things but the ink smears seem to have stopped now – bugger, spoke too soon... And clothes need to be washed in preparation for my grand progress across the nation. But we go on... (or as my friend, the blessed and saintly Mervyn Stockbridge Gould would say: 'Well, you do, old boy'). Glistening cans of Budweiser in the refrigerator beckon but – get thee behind me, you bastards... too early and with my metabolism's new-found intolerance of boozo the wonder drink, today would turn to tears very quickly. The hovel appears to have A4 bloody pages everywhere – where's Alan Ginsberg when you need him to edit your oeuvre? Well, apart from the intrinsic fact that he's dead... Anyway, he might have started playing that bloody harmonium – even though it's Sunday morning, it wouldn't be vespers but omni padrhi something um and my head's a little foggy with lack of sleep and the after ring of expensive butg necessary Red Stripe – and now I've noticed that a small alteration I made yesterday to a quote before a chapter has come out on the wrong bit of the page, throwing completely the next pages format... God appears to be in a surrealist mood this morning... nice quote though, from the late Edward Dorn:

“...that eternal dissent
and the ravages of
faction are preferable
to the voluntary
servitude of blind

A great man and a great poet – not so well known as he should be and unfortunately he died of cancer a few years back. And now the print has decided to blur – the ink in the catridge which I bought on friday has given up. And so have I... cyber cafe tomorrow, I think...

I first heard James Chance when I was living in Holland and liked the collision of punk, funk and jazz. Probably a better player than he seems when you get beyond all that New York no-wave posturing cool. This is a track called 'King Heroin.' Homage to the VU, no doubt, but seedily wonderful. White punks on dope... Interesting to see the way that NY musicians worked out a lot of interesting collisions between jazz and rock/r and b/funk etc. With no doubt the examples of Ornette's Prime Time/Harmolodic whahoo – and Miles, perhaps, with 'Bitches Brew,' 'On the Corner,' etc. It certainly doesn't come out of fusion which was by and large a dreadful fucked up marriage between jazz and rock that valorised technique over feeling. Slow funky vamp over which Chance does his druggy vocal schtick and blows some interesting loft style alto. It works... One for Anthony and Betty on St George's day... a louche slice of Manhattan to go with the Joyce, Ornette and french wine.

James Chance


King Heroin


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Saturday 22 of The Akron Family + The Good Anna... The Social, Nottingham...

A preliminary report... just back from Nottingham via the Artists' Quarter... ho hum... perhaps a kebab takeaway was a gesture of bravado too far... the night will tell...
But the gig was excellent - I haven't been to The Social before - hadn't heard good reports but I have no complaints. The gig was crowded but not to the point of discomfort - i.e you could stand at the bar with a good view of the stage and get a drink easily... first rule of gig-going: secure your immediate environment... the photo above of your (well, not very) humble correspondent in the jakes shows a shiny surface - and it was clean (the night was young no doubt, on the piss-splashing stakes... unlike your correspondent... I mean age, not... well, whatever...)
First up: our favourite local band - The Good Anna. Added to with another guitarist - Chris Summelin - who played guitar and table-top guitar. They played a brilliant set, building up on one long piece as they usually do but this time with the added thickening of the extra guitarist who bowed and strummed and struck his instruments with mallets to provide a wild array of sounds that complemented Graham's centre stage guitaring. I have only seen them before in a small space and was impressed by the way that they handled themselves here - unfazed by sharing the bill with the American touring band. Patch, as ever, had a supplemented drum kit - metal bowls, and various other pieces of ironmongery added to be struck, bowed, thumped into polyrhythmic abandon... the theme tonight was even more physical than usual as they started with long bowed and scraped sonorities. They went in and out of stated rhythms as the drums led and followed the guitars, Graham at times wrenching a deep howling out of his instrument as Chris matched him to soar into a musical space beyond the individual sounding of notes - this was a blend of searing rhythms and textures and sounds that was uplifting and spontaneous and followed closely by the crowd. What do you call this? Rock? Hardly - too free. Jazz? Hardly -it doesn't come with the formal structures and sounds of most jazz. Free improvised music that partakes of both - the freedoms of the 'jazz' avant-garde and the electronic sonorities of 'rock?' Maybe they are taking the music somewhere else - after all they are frighteningly young to possess such poise and surefootedness - the future looks wide open. A true group performance - Patch is of course, as I have noted before, an amazing drummer but this time out the guitars were well up in the mix and a democracy of sound was at work.

The Akron Family came on - two guitars, bass and drums. Which sounds almost like a conventional rock format. Except they are not... they encompass a wide cultural range of musics from shitkicker country to -wow, again - free jazz (credentials being laid down by the music playing as they set up and before they started playing - some wailing free jazz trumpet over bass and drums that seemedf familiar but was too blurred to make out - could have been Ornette? Dunno, guv. But it signified a certain commitment to open forms and musical freedoms.
As their set progressed they would go from three/four part high-voiced sweet harmony singing, wild electronic freak-outs, and free interludes where as with The Good Anna, the individual notes disappeared and overall texture took over in a rising wail of sound. As Albert Ayler famously said: 'It's not about the notes anymore, it's about feeling.' Which maybe is the true context of the evening - two different bands, different cultural backgrounds but a shared commitment to playing edgy, possibly difficult at times (but I don't see it - it seems to come and be experienced so naturally) music that although sometimes adhering to almost conventional song structures (The Akron Family) rapidly folds them back into the overall textural overlay - not 'notes' but 'feeling.' This is emotional music. Powerful stuff. The Akron Family would go between old folk forms and the abandon of freestyle musics, laced with harmonica, recorder (yes - but he did use it as a slide on his guitar as well!), melodica and horror of horrors - the swanee whistle! Albeit miked to provide a weird glissando of high wailing. They started with a waltz and halfway through (approximately) went back into a stomping waltz-time, rhythm thumped one two three hard by the drummer - then dissolved the rhythm into freed-up beats. Sometimes when the rhythm was explicit it hinted at the old Bo Diddley 'shave and hair cut two bits' - tribal stomping stuff. Melody, harmony and noise - the classic trio of avant American rock as formulated by - well, who? The Velvets, sure. But the archetypes go further back to slide rattling on acoustic strings in the rough and wildness of the delta blues to be taken further by Chicago blues' amped-up sonorities as exemplified by Muddy Waters. Into rock and roll and buzzing amps and feedback. Link Wray, anyone? Screw the cultural history anyway... These boys are conscious of their antecedents - on the last number falling into slide guitar, in fact, giving a deep swamp blues moan as the bass guitarist manipulated his instrument to provide glitchy-like crackles - a perfect symbol of old and new that can stand for the music of - The Akron Family.

Ornette Coleman...Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz...Rhasaan Roland Kirk... Warne Marsh... some hot and some cool...

There may not be much posting next week as I'm off to Wales on monday to see my daughter and the boy Jake. So I'd better give some good value before I leave. The usual eclectic selection – I would have put up a couple more but have been having problems with slow uploads. But onwards...

I first heard 'Chappaqua Suite' not long after it came out - way back – apparently Conrad Rooks had commisioned Ornette to write the music for his movie 'Chappaqua' – then for whatever reason decided that it didn't fit his concept – I've never seen the film- one of those counter-culture legends which may well exist as more interesting unseen, given some of the reviews – although the redoubtable William S Burroughs has a part in it as 'Opium Jones.' I suspect that the music may well outlive the movie anyway... arranged by Eric Dolphy, it's wonderful stuff. Played by his trio, plus Pharoah Sanders on tenor and a backdrop of strings woodwinds and brass - lifted by the drums of Charles Moffett – (can't hear the bass too well, which is a great shame given that Izenson was so damn good). The basic format is for the orchestra to come in and out with brief jagged shards of sound – vertical clusters and chords in block harmony while he improvises over the top - when they fall out leaving just him and the bass and drums – like a collision/contrast almost between the swinging and the more austere European scoring. A dry run for 'Skies of America,' maybe? Some great blowing from Ornette, tempos pretty up on this track, that vertical orchestral wedge intersecting with the linear, free -flowing free-blowing, unravelling ingenuity of the leader, matched all the way by Moffett. You won't hear Sanders on this track, by the way - he only pops up briefly on the album.

So to the cool – the iceman Tristano cometh. Or is that just an old critical cliché? Plenty of soul here, just two guys playing from what they know. Tristano may have been blind but he wasn't black and neither was Lee Konitz. So you don't expect them to play cornbread and greens gutbucket blues really, do you? There's a different fire going on here, I think. And lest we forget – Konitz was one of the few original alto sax voices in the bebop and after period when Bird was being massively imitated by – pretty much everyone. Here they tackle the fountainhead, so to speak – (Bird, rather than Ayn Rand – come on!) Donna Lee, an archetypal bop line of Parker's. With a good rhythm section – Doug Ramey and Art Taylor (undersung in the annals – crisp and clear on this live date) – they respond accordingly. This is Tristano's logical take on the ramifications of the bop improvised line echoed by his pupil Konitz. Flowing, surprising little rhythmic twists, light but strong. And all that rubbish about his hatred of drummers is nonsense – some kind of a put – down. Tristano's music has been neglected due to the vicissitudes of jazz criticism (probably an element of crow-jim here): his impact was a lot greater than realised.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk was more than a sax player – he was a wild ball of energy who sometimes had to play three saxes at once to get the music he heard and felt out into the world. An amazing musician – and one who was regarded by some critics (damn their impudent eyes) as some kind of circus act. Well, to engage in polemical critical discourse – fuck 'em and the hegemony they rode in on... Kirk was a very underrated tenor player, let alone his expertise on flute and the hybrid saxophones Manzello and Stritch (sounds like a quirky movie title). He also confused people by his depth of historical musical knowledge and reference – from New Orleans traditional upwards. People who don't fit critical pigeonholes usually get – ignored. Not to say he was, totally, but I get the feeling he was never given his due. This track is a bright and cheerful ¾ , played on one of the bastard horns, the one that sounds like a soprano sax – it has that 'lemony' character one associates with the straight sax. Some full two handed accompaniment on the piano and thrusting drums. For all the blood and fire usually associated with Kirk – this is a lithe, spring morning track, the waltz time giving it a pastoral feel as he sticks to one horn throughout.

Back to the 'cool' school? One of Tristano's pupils – the equally neglected tenorman, Warne Marsh. Playing here with the expat pianist Ronie Ball who was also taken under the Tristano wing. Marsh plays with a lighter tone than the usual sturm und drang brigade, coming out of Lester Young but very much his own man. It has been remarked about his playing that he never resorts to signature phrases and fall-back licks but was always freshly inventive – a characteristic of Tristano and his stronger pupils, that came directly from his teachings on improvised melody? Crisp drumming and bass, Ball plays an inventive solo and Marsh dances across it all like the master he was... This is taken from the oddly named album 'Music for Prancing' – which suggests bizarre images to me of those weird folk whose sexual fetish is to impersonate horses and be driven around pulling carts. Or maybe I should get out more... I've alos just noticed that I've typo'ed Marsh's first name into my surname – well, I'm not uploading the bugger again, so my apologies to his shade, as it were...

The subtext here? That the wild men were not always what they seem, while the 'cool' guys had plenty of fire. Sometimes the best thing to do is just listen... and resist the critical hegemony...

Dont'cha just love that word?

Ornette Coleman
(Ornette Coleman: alto saxophone;David Izenson:bass; Charles Moffett: drums; Pharoah Sanders: tenor saxophone; 11 piece orchestra, arrangements by Eric Dolphy).


Chappaqua Suite part 1



Lennie Tristano
(Lennie Tristano: piano; Lee Konitz: alto saxophone;Doug Ramey: bass; Art Taylor: drums).

Donna Lee


Rahsaan Roland Kirk
(Rahsaan Roland Kirk: saxes, flute; Jaki Byard: piano; Richard Davis: bass; Elvin Jones: drums).


Black Diamonds


Warne Marsh
Warne Marsh (tenor saxophone), Ronnie Ball (piano), Red Mitchell (bass), Stan Levey (drums).


Playa del ray


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wet wednesday in the gone world...

Sat here with a bag of midget gems (the only sweet), a naughty can of budweiser – it might facilitate a much-needed nap – some Roland Kirk playing and looking at the rain out the window. I've been so busy working on music projects these last couple of days plus entertaining the daughter that I'm suffering today – worn out. But spiritually sound, don't y'know. Spiritually sound... I rarely get depressed, regarding it as a waste of energy when I don't have quite so much to draw on these days anyway. But I guess that I'm lucky, being blessed with an optimistic frame of mind, unlike some. My late wife Barbara, for one, a wild and vibrant life-force when she was up - but who suffered terribly from depression all of her life – maybe related to childhood traumas that I never discovered the full truth of. I look at my daughter and see a lot of my optimism – she has had a rough road these last years and travelled it with integrity and a sense of humour. Which, given her age, is no mean feat. Days like this I realise how futile it would have been to struggle on with the straight job – at least at the moment.
But a blessed weariness is descending – I think it might be time to fall on to the scratcher, as the Irish used to call a bed/mattress, with a book and Roland stoked up on the cd player.

See you later...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Piano... Lennie Tristano... Monk, Duke, Matthew Shipp... and Cecil Taylor...

So... Easter finished, the daughter arrived back just now in the Principality (only stuck in Newtown for an hour, which for the mickey mouse railway we have in the U.K. is not bad). And I'm day-dreaming of New York... and I go to Mordor - whoops, sorry - Wales - next week if the health will stand it for some convalescing and chilling out with my girl and my grandson. But for now - Piano players... Lennie Tristano, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Matthew Shipp, Cecil Taylor...

First off – the Lennis Tristano track, which comes from a recording session featuring the winners of Metronome magazine's annual awards in 1950. The title gives the period, when 'mouldy figges' were what boppers called the traditional jazz brigade who disliked modern jazz and saw it as an aberration. I started off with traditional jazz at a very early age but quickly crossed to modern and beyond – yet the initial grounding gave me a sense of where the music came from and I still love all the old stuff and could never understand the animosity between the two camps - although I was glad to see the back of those duffel-coats. An all-star line-up, a short track, a Tristano composition based on'Indiana.' Brief solos all round: Konitz, at that time one of the few alto players with his own voice and not under the heavy manners of Bird, airy and intelligent, Getz – a prickly, unlovable character apparently but also always his own man, Kai Winding's bluff trombone, Buddy de Franco on clarinet which was rarely featured in bop (although he recorded some tracks with Tristano which I have somewhere and will dig out) – he plays a typically elegant chorus, followed by Chaloff on baritone. Tristano submits a brief, double timing virtuosic rippling solo that echoes the odd theme – which starts in double time in a fluttering like a scatter of birds before it resolves into a steady mid tempo. Max Roach is nearly inaudible, unusually quiet – whether by recording balance or the composer's design – Tristano was famous for disliking flash drumming. A slight echo of Miles et al's 'Birth of the Cool, from the previous year? Also - note the light, higher register all the saxes utilise -even the baritone. Cool school writ large...

The Monk is from last year's wonderful archeological treasure that surfaced (alongside the lost Bird and Diz concert) – the Library of Congress recording of his quartet when Coltrane was in the group. Great sound, the themeplayed in unison by Monk and Coltrane, one of those Monk originals that seem almost simple – but aren't – and springs completely from within the jazz tradition. Coltrane sounds happy here, fast and supply scampering across the changes pointed up by Monk's proactive piano – almost a duet in places, Monk dropping bits of the theme in here and there as pointers, fading back a bit as Coltrane builds up his solo. Sturdy bass walking and sharp, aggressive drumming from Shadow Wilson. In comes Monk, space and rhythmic displacement, some quite long lines and that descending whole tone run he used, more as a rhythmic device.

To – Coltrane and Duke. This tune, an odd little riff blues played in unison by piano and tenor sax. A brief chorus from Duke, then Coltrane – always a complex – but consummate – blues player. Busy drums- Elvin Jones - bunt it along. Coltrane worrying at a theme fragment and stretching it out every which way. Couple of choruses of bass – adequate Garrison, prodded by Duke in the second. Back into Coltrane – theme then again in unison as the drums rise up.

To see where Duke could really go on piano, here's the title track from 'Money Jungle,' the album he recorded with Charles Mingus and Max Roach, that provided a few revealing insights into his playing – one can hear where Monk comes from in some places. Duke certainly takes no prisoners here - this is steamy, violent playing by all three.

Monk recorded a collection of Ellington themes for Riverside – apparently to try and broaden his appeal. Never that rated by critics, I find them fascinating... here' s his brief take on 'Mood Indigo.' And, what the hell, 'Sophisticated Lady.' More 'Monkish' on the latter, I feel, at a slow lope – but the line down from stride piano via Duke to Monk reflects back and forth up and down the timeline. Monk could slip into stride - Duke could sound abrasively and contemporarily chromatic as can be discovered on the previous track. Clarke and Pettiford are solid and subtle, staying out of the way most of the time. An interesting contrast to Shadow Wilson above – or Blakey who was the best sparring partner for old Thelonious, down the years.

Matthew Shipp recorded 'Pastoral Visions' after a lot of experimenting with hip hop and electronic textures that cross-fertilised his avant-jazz with modern urban music. Almost a straight blues that could have been found on an old Blue Note date way back when. Great booming chords spread behind Cambell's trumpet as he elegantly moves around the twelve bar sequence. The piano solo re-inforces this foray into more mainstream style – a funky two-handed exploration, reminding me of Horace Silver in places. Parker goes next, a mixture of walking, strumming chords, slapped strings, bounded by his magisterial tone – a neat performance. Gerald Cleaver's drums are to the fore all the way through: he takes a brief solo before the piano returns. This really could be old school hard bop...

Finally – to Cecil, a long track from 'Unit Structures,' the other great album he recorded for Blue Note in the sixties alongside 'Conquistador.' Slow cells of music unfolding, section by section in discrete steps, the oboe giving a strange texture -somewhere between modern classical and eastern music. Coupled to the muted trumpet and a great deal of high arco playing, a high-pitched astringency permeating much of the music. Bowed bass and occasionally ringing cymbal as the dense lines interweave. The pulse quickens, almost a walking bass (almost...) as Cecil's piano speeds on through. A whinnying muted trumpet shadowed by high arco bass – answered by rumbling piano and rushing cymbals. Middle register piano runs. Jimmy Lyons enters, changing the texture with full-toned alto, that transmuted bebop take of his, as the other horns drop out. Another section, marked in by the piano, pizzicato bass and drum work – toms and slashing cymbals – and the ever-present piano, guiding, responding, prodding. Piano takes over, conversation with the basses. Slowly dropping away over a long bowed bass note. Horns together – muted trumpet, oboe leading, alto adding. Long notes. Brief pause. Held notes, high ringing – bells or finger cymbals? Slow unwinding, high register squalls on bass. Finish. Not as wild a performance as usual – thoughtful and throttled back a couple of notches. And brilliant...

James Beaudrau makes the interesting comment here
(scroll down) that Blue Note's usual impeccable Van Gelder'ed mastering does not serve the rhythm section as well as usual because it treats it as a traditional backline rather than equal partners in the performance – this is especially true when you have two basses operating as they do here, hardly traditional 'walking,' even when they divide up into high and low, arco and pizzicato. Consequently, 'Unit Structures'and 'Conquistador' unfortunately have muddy sections in the mix. But the overall fire, intelligence and sheer élan on display overcome these quibbles - it's an old, annoying story that jazz has suffered much from under-rehearsals and scrappy recordings in comparison to classical musical. Let us be thankful this music exists. Sounds pious – but this stuff stands up against any other art music. So there...


Lenny Tristano

Kai Winding tb; Buddy DeFranco cl; Lee Konitz as; Stan Getz ts; Serge Chaloff bs; Lennie Tristano p; Billy Bauer g; Eddie Safranski b; Max Roach d; January 1950


No Figs


(Thelonious Monk:piano; John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Ahmed Abdul-Malik: bass; Shadow Wilson: drums.



Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
(John Coltrane: tenor saxophone; Duke Ellington: piano; Reggie Workman: bass; Elvin Jones: drums.

Take the Coltrane

Duke Ellington
(Ellington: piano; Charles Mingus: bass; Max Roach: drums).

Money Jungle


Thelonious Monk
(Monk: piano;Oscar Pettiford: bass; Kenny Clarke: drums).


Mood Indigo

Sophisticated Lady


Matthew Shipp




Cecil Taylor
(Cecil Taylor: piano; Jimmy Lyons: alto; Eddie Gale Stevens on trumpet, Ken McIntyre on alto sax, oboe and bass clarinet; Henry Grimes and Alan Silva: basses; Andrew Cyrille; drums).

Enter Evening


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday... quiz... memes... daughters...

Back after a pleasant day - once recovery had kicked in via the AQ and a drink with my old friend Frank. Then to meet the daughter and out for a very pleasant dinner - one thing this town has is a few decent restaurants. A modest amount of boozo the wonder drink was consumed for medicinal and social reasons. Here is a photo of the heiress to the family bar bills seen posed (against her will) with Sockman... the mysterious icon of this town (the one horse used to be tethered to him but it escaped - nah - just joshing (?))... I love Sockman...

To quiz biz... Betty politely requests that I get a move on: so here are my answers to the last post (cue bugle?)...

1. Robbing an empty office and stealing a typewriter when I was sixteen in my brief and disastrous career as a cat-burglar in Manchester. (There is something else but not sure of the law on how long after you can be charged with an offense... say no more...
2. Running a business in Loughborough for many years entitled 'Warner's Corner.' A local landmark – selling a weird and wonderful selection of haberdashery – the word gives the period. My late father – Stan the Man - was much amused by the fact that he supplied the local convent with corsets and underwear. It was that sort of place...
3. On a grave in a small country church somewhere in the West Country.
4. Dog food omelette late one night at the old house in west london – Hartswood Road. Drugs may have been involved...
5. Veronica Kennedy – the woman I should have married after my first marriage broke up...
6. The suit I wore to Peter McWilliam's second marriage to Lee in Edinburgh in the early 80's. The three Warner brothers of whom I am the oldest used to share a suit, for some obscure sartorial/logistical reason. Fresh back from Amsterdam and casually dressed, I had to use the appalling suit in a hurry – (my mother used to to take the waist in and out of the trousers due to differences in fraternal girth – my brother Greg got married in it, my brother Mark wore it to a couple of wedding and funerals and I wore it to the above wedding and at least one funeral). It had the most amazing lapels...
7. Falling in the river Soar when I was three - I stumbled off the bank at a riverside pub – The Plough in Normanton. I still have memories of falling backwards into the river – the last thing I saw before hitting the water was my father standing with a pint in his hand and a cigarette in the other, laughing with his friends, oblivious to his first-born's sudden absence. I found a photograph recently which must have been taken round about the same time and which reinforced the memory!
8. Marrying me (my second attempt)...
9. Burgling the school tuck shop.
10. See question 6... nothing could outshine the awfulness of that suit...

Meme time...

Here's a quiz sent over from Betty - whose quiz I apparently came joint first in over on The Ineluctable Modality of Being. A nice surprise on a hungover Easter Sunday morning!

Eyes down...

1. What is the most dishonest thing you've ever done?
2. Name one thing your family is famous for.
3. Where was the most unusual place you've made love?
4. What is the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?
5. With whom would you favourite fantasy be?
6. Describe your most disastrous outfit.
7. Describe your first memory of having an accident.
8. What is the cruellest thing someone has ever done to you?
9. When/where was your first ever brush with the law?
10. What is your best ever fancy dress outfit?

My answers will be posted (if and) when I regain full consciousness. After a recent visit from Virtual Stella, yesterday I was engaged in discourse with Old Dutch (Grolsch) and Big Red (Cote du Rhone). Avatars of alcohol rising up before me... Must work on my new project out of WSB - 'The last words of Dutch Grolsch.'

Friday, April 14, 2006

Repost - Psychogeography... a day up in town...Ornette Coleman at the Barbican, May 2, 2005

Due to various problems with the Plexus web site, some of the archives have been lost -including this review of Ornette Coleman at the Barbican last year. So - I've re-posted it...

It always struck me as one of the quirks of English culture that no matter what direction one travels in to get to London, one should always say (apparently, according to my advisor on these matters) 'I'm going UP to town.' So I went to London yesterday to see Ornette Coleman at the Barbican, someone whose music I've followed for many years but never seen in the flesh before. This has been a good spate of gigs over the last few months – Evan Parker redux in Derby the other week and before that the mighty Cecil Taylor last November. Three heroes in a row and three revolutionaries all getting on a bit (as are we all, well, some of us more than others...) but still firing on all cylinders (as some of us are patently not... )

So I was sitting on the train chugging an over-priced can of Stella and thinking 'Hey, I'm going down to London,' when I heard the voice in my head – my spiritual advisor the Rev Mervyn Stockbridge Gould intoning over a pint of Archers before Evensong – 'One goes up to town, dear boy, from whatever direction one travels.'
As my daughter would say: 'Whatever...'

So after I'd gone UP to town by travelling in a southerly direction – ( i.e. downwards...)and arrived in St Pancras I decided to walk to the Barbican – as ever convinced that I know London like the back of my hand. At one point on Grays Inn Road I had a slight presentiment that I was travelling in the wrong direction – but reasoned: there are no wrong directions in psychogeographical tours – so I added Situationist mystery to a pleasant afternoon – down - up – whoops almost missed it – in town. Via the Calthorpe Arms, a pub I was sure that I had been in before – Young's Brewery and very pleasant – many years ago when I actually lived in London. But probably hadn't. Then as I sat over my pint (ordinary bitter for those who care about these things – which I don't...) I realised that I'd left my ticket for the gig at home... So I had another one...

A while later I found the Barbican by wandering around a part of London I had to admit to myself I don't know too well – apart from Leather Lane market but that's another story... the Barbican itself looks like it was designed by someone hoping to supplement his or her architectural income by running an army of muggers on the side, being perfect concrete territory within which to harass the unwary, but I don't live there so it's not my problem. Eventually found the Concert hall and got a replacement ticket from a charming person who wasn't put out by undergound cult heroes redux with amnesia breathing Young's bitter fumes over them – an everyday occurrence no doubt in da big city.

So off I went again – three hours to kill – was going to go to the Christian Marclay exhibition that my cohort Murray Ward wrote about so eloquently elsewhere in these posts - but – you know how these things are... I was psychogeographically navigating Smithfield and realising that all the bars were shut as it was Bank Holiday and in that part of the city there are obviously not many punters – when I came upon a place by accident/psychic alignment whatever – down a back street, a small bar called the Rising Sun, under the shadow of St Bartholomew's church.. ( Historical note: founded as an Augustinian priory in 1123 and also famous apparently for the dubious fact that sections of the film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral,' regarding which I would rather eat my own excrement than have to watch again, were filmed in the 'vast and impressive interior'). Two people playing chess, an old couple getting quietly wasted and a very pleasant Antipodean I guess barman who was going to be my host for the rest of the afternoon. Because I was tired now, little sleep and too much to drink the day before, I needed the solace that only a place like this can bring. And it did... complete with amusement as a trio, two men and a girl came in and in that unselfconscious way that the very stupid have coupled to a complete lack of personal spatial awareness, proceeded to launch into one of those loud, amazing overheard conversations that provide you with a brief but bizarre insight into other lives, other scenarios... involving mainly a friend of theirs who was into making porno films on a farm down in Surrey somewhere... Gor blimey, guv'nor, nice to know that lovable locals still exist...

But what is this to do with Ornette Coleman? Patience... we'll get there.

For – going out to a gig, UP to town etc, is a TOTAL experience. The journey, the anticipation, the alcohol – not too much as you don't want to keep leaving the venue every ten minutes at strategic moments. But enough to enjoy the spectacle. I sauntered back from the Rising Sun and had a small Jamesons over ice in the auditorium as I sat and watched the pre-gig follies. Recognised a couple of people – not friends but faces around. Lol Coxhill for example, one of the great Brit sax players whom I used to see/hear busking round Leicester Square before he became better known – blowing wild free improvisations into the night on his soprano sax. Something about the spirit of Lol which reminds me of Ornette Coleman's freedom jazz dance. I also bumped into him on various late night channel crossings to Holland and back – accosted him a couple of times to tell him how much I liked his playing. But he wouldn't know me – just another late night lunatic wired on lack of sleep and too much cheap booze way back when. There must have been so many...

A lot of these people look as if they were cloned in Ronnie Scott's Old Place a hundred years ago or whatever and sent forth to roam the jazz venues of London. Or maybe I'm being unkind... But amusing to look at from a provincial point of view now I don't live in a city anymore. Or maybe I'm the only one here who has been psychogeographically navigating the back street bars of Old London.

Soundtrack on my mp3 player – an interesting serendipitous mix – Miles and Trane – Miles who famously said that he hated Ornette's music in the early Sixties, silly old tosser – although I don't know whether he recanted. Velvet Underground – revolutionary music from the NY rock underground that would have had ears for the contemporaneous Free Jazz underground. Then some Ornette out of the blue– Una Muy Bonita from one of his early albums. Still fresh... An omen...
But enough... to the gig...

First – the support, Andy Sheppard and drummer, Kuljit Bhamra. Using electronics, Sheppard looped his sax playing on tenor and soprano over the Indian beats, playing music which was – pleasant. That sounds damning with faint praise and maybe it is. I enjoyed what he was doing but thought: is this what you get when jazzers get fed up with playing the complexities of post-bebop whatever and discover technology? Plexus do this stuff better, for God's sake... There was a bucolic, folksy ambiance to it all, Sheppard not straying far from the scale patterns it seemed, underdrummed by the admittedly skillful and fluid playing of his cohort. But an overheard comment at the end of their set (as a thousand or so of us rushed to the bar for a quick one summed it up: 'Bit Bollywood isn't it... Sound good in an Indian restaurant...' A certain degree of racism buried in there, maybe – but it was true. I think the context worked against it. We were here to witness one of the true revolutionaries of jazz not listen to twiddly attempts to get on board the world music gravy train... The Barbican crowd seemed to like it...

Then – Ornette. This incarnation he'd reverted to an acoustic band – drummer: his son Denardo, two bass players, Greg Cohen and Tony Falanga, one playing pizzicato, the other arco. A great sound, bringing odd echoes of the western classical art music tradition into a clash with – the BLUES. Because never forget - that's what underscores all Ornette's music. They started off fast, then playing a wrenchingly beautiful second number. Often in the ones that followed there were several pulses going – Denardo laying down a fast, jazzy rhythm interacting with the two basses– strummed plucked and bowed, a buzzing, vibrant sound – and Ornette sometimes floating over it in short phrases or single notes, sometimes locking in or bouncing off it in fast flurries. For a seventy five year old man he played wonderfully – his alto had a piercing vocalised quality - like an arrow to your heart. As good as that.

And he looked frail but supercool. Wearing a snazzy whitish/yellow? suit (the lighting disguised the actual colour) and one of those pork-pie hats with the little feather in the side that if I wore it would make me look like a cheesy bookmaker at the racetrack but on him looked – a Hat Supreme.
He also played trumpet and a smattering of violin – and the old controversies about his mastery or otherwise of his secondary instruments seemed irrelevant. The trumpet was fluid, plaintive, the violin just right – I've heard him play wilder stuff on record – but tonight it just blended into the string driven sound so well. The crowd responded mightily so much so that -

Of course there had to be an encore: not surprisingly – 'Lonely Woman' one of his early masterpieces. Sometimes you wonder what all the fury was about so many years ago... so much of what he played and plays just seems so -RIGHT – and his writing has always been lyrical with melodies of great beauty and his playing is just an extension of his composition – or the other way round. Or both... Ornette has always been a supreme melodist... to hear this tune played so majestically...

So. A partisan review maybe but as I left I went away contented – everything I wanted and more, a freshness still to his music, and enough raw edges to keep it moving... Andy Sheppard – well, it's not for me to to tell you, but a few more unpredictable turns would...

The cunning plan to get to St Pancras before closing back-fired. I thought: time for a slow pint and mull over the evening in the station bar – then the wait for the last train won't be so long. But it was shut. Bank Holiday? Perversity? Who knows? This is England after all, where we accept this crap. A hastily-bought carry-out wasn't the same... but it couldn't ruin The Day I Went To See Ornette Coleman...

Super Friday - jazz Ornette Coleman... Matthew Shipp... Cecil Taylor...

Some mp3's... a slight return for the jazz... one for Anthony: Ornette and co on 'Brings Goodness,' the Matthew Shipp Trio doing 'Circular Temple #1.' Plus – Cecil Taylor and his crew playing the title track from one of my favourite albums, 'Conquistador.' I just noticed that I put up the alternate take now released on cd for 'With(exit)' from this album in the winter and called it music of blood and fire. Yep, that's about it...

The Ornette is from a 1960 session – the old firm of Cherry and Haden with my favourite drummer behind this music – Ed Blackwell (although Denardo is pretty damn good – I was impressed when I saw him with his dad in concert last year). A typically abrupt yet serpentine head – Ornette solos over the firm bass of Haden and at first strangely muted Blackwell – who gets into the action as the solo progresses with sharp interjections and a more interactive role. A happy sounding Ornette – who can sometimes sound on the edge of deep sorrow - followed by Cherry – who always sounds, well, cheery. That dancing lightness of tone which is endemic to the smaller horn – then Haden – playing pretty much four on the floor walking bass until the end of his brief solo with a couple of descending triplet figures that suspend the rhythm neatly. Then the usual brief reprise of theme.

Matthew Shipp' 'Circular Temple #1' opens with ominous, dark chords, arco bass squalling over out of time drums – rippling cymbals and tomtom rolls. Deep register stuff, split by the ring of the cymbals. Fast bass intertwining with low register piano. Arco bass surfaces briefly – then a succession of chords, like someone labouring up a steep track and the bass again as the piano comes up the register slightly- spinning faster single note lines briefly before returning to two-handed dense chording, banging away on the left hand side of the keyboard. A couple of chords to end in almost desultory fashion. A murky track keeping the registers way down – the only treble you will hear is when the bass is bowed in a couple of upward squalls, the ring of the cymbals and very rare forays into the treble on the piano. Very much a trio performance – the piano is not the lead instrument but part of a democracy of three. Powerful and moody.

Shipp – like Ornette, who many years before led the way with electric experimentation and free funk in the seventies with Prime Time – is not content to stay inside the acoustic jazz temple. The last few years he has ventured out into the crowded marketplace, especially with his collaborations and journeys into hip-hop/electro. Not sure what I make of this track, but it represents a more stripped down piano strategy across pre-planned drum beats by Chris Flam. The rolling, dark piano with its stripped-back harmonies reminds me oddly of Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim's township music. Second listening – it grows.

And then along came Cecil...

A ripple of fast piano notes then into a unison stated by the horns – Cecil Taylor, in whatever incarnation always leads from the front, his piano prodding and storming away. Jimmy Lyons opens over Cyrille's immaculate speed drumming and the felt physicality of presence rising from the two basses. Floating across the rhythms at first then starting to dig in, a man who was by now at home in the world of the master – Cecil the Conquistador imperiously sweeping all before him. Fragments of melody played with and tossed back into longer lines, echoed'urged on by that surging piano: the tempo slows as Bill Dixon enters on elegiac long tones, the piano cutting back to allow him the space – the basses come through more clearly here – helped by the contrast of arco squeals and down deep pizzicato. The piano picks it up after Dixon's thoughtful solo and leads the horns as they spell out a unison section. Then Cecil – deep rumbles of notes as Cyrille clatters happily behind him and the basses blur – rising into percussive higher register work – a hint of Monk somewhere in there – then rapid, flying cascades of notes alternated with those hacked out chords. Taylor covers the whole keyboard, scampering up and down, matched by the drummer's cross-rhythms – getting more manic – high energy playing at its most intense before leading back into a brief theme statement then back to piano as the basses step up, playing deep on the piano as the polarised basses – high arco, low pizzicato engage with more speedy piano, dark low register runs bringing the horns back in playing long notes over the pulsing background – the two basses come out on their own – a brief plucked duet until the piano signals the horns back. Brief long tones – then silence. Emotional exhaustion – it's always an intense ride with Taylor.

Like I said: blood and fire.

Ornette Coleman
(Ornette: alto sax; Don Cherry: trumpet; Charlie Haden: bass; Ed Blackwell: drums).

Brings Goodness


Matthew Shipp Trio
(Matthew Shipp: piano; William Parker: bass; Whit Dickey: drums).

Circular Temple #1


Matthew Shipp Trio
(Shipp: piano: William Parker: bass; Guillermo H. Brown: drums; Chris Flam(producer): programmed beats).

Ds Choice


Cecil Taylor
(Cecil Taylor: piano; Bill Dixon: trumpet: Jimmy Lyons: alto sax; Henry Grimes, Alan Silva: bass; Andrew Cyrille: drums).



Thursday, April 13, 2006


The internet is indeed a wonderful thing... Recently I wrote a review of some folksingers whom I went to see rather than going to The Fall gig in nearby Leicester the same night. I'd actually just started listening to The Fall again after a long hiatus – and more for the technical reason that I wanted to hear how Smith delivered his lyrics in the context of the band's music. I am unable to sing any more so was pondering if I could recite or speak words over music and, fired by this re-exposure to MES, tried it out on a couple of recordings – which didn't turn out too badly.

My future as a rapper is now secured.

In the process of re-entering MES's wild and wonderful world for tangental reasons, I fell back into his muse with a vengeance – being someone prone to enthusiams that border on the recklessly compulsive – and have been playing Fall stuff on and off for the last couple of weeks.
During this period, just at the time when I was about to re-launch my blog, some kind comments arrived, firstly from Betty, then Anthony – whose blogs I now enjoy and on which I now intermittently impose my own comments.

One of the links between us was The Fall... so it goes round. Weirdly, the absence of The Fall – in my not-going to their gig – suddenly caused a presence of them... or something equally philosophical. And new connections... and new inspirations...

One is almost tempted to say 'rhyzomic' – well, I am and I just have, so there...

Onwards from this... Betty sent me a row of musical notes to improvise over... I played them on my guitar and then started to wonder what they would sound like in a longer orchestration – so I took the notes, created a theme from them, reversed them and created a mirror theme – both very short – and underpinned it with a bass, using G as a tonal centre, then A, then Bflat and moved between these three centres as a couple of samples and some piano clusters generated from the same row of notes were added. She asked me to end on a random chord – so I did – and repeated it for luck.

Here's a preliminary mix – moody and mysterious...

A song generated by the Internet, uploaded and available for download – in a couple of hours...

A long way from The Fall -and folksingers...

The internet is indeed a wonderful thing... to take a line from Olson – 'The figure of Outwards'...

from here...

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Out on the town... early doors in God's Little Acre...

Just back from an extended foray into God's Little Acre. Up to the very top of the Artist's Quarter to my favourite bar, The Orange Tree. (Clientele doesn't consist of beer bores and is a lot younger than in my local, with a smattering of artiness - and the music is a lot better). To meet my collaborator Murray, who also lives there and works part-time as a barman in between his work with a local digital arts company and auditioning to be an underground cult hero. (Like me, of course). We managed to discuss the current issues in good order – next gig – an open stage night which we thought would attract all the local film-makers, poets, musos etc – well, fuck it, I think we'll scrape through ok – as we have both been involved in other projects recently, it is sometimes difficult to synchronise things – we were planning on re-launching our cd label and also playing more live gigs with our other collaborator David - but circumstance can swamp you. Murray has been involved with a complex new installation conceived by a friend of his, an up and coming young artist, which has taken much of his time. Moi – finishing a book, recording obsessively and sporadically being hors de combat due to knock-ons from the last illness (God, sickness is boring). Or washing my hair...

A couple of drinks later and flippancy set in – as ever. I seem to remember telling (again) my story about seeing the Velvet Underground at Acton Town Hall in the early seventies when I lived not far away with my late wife Barbara – the last incarnation of the band, sans Lou Reed and John Cale but actually very good. This was before pub-rock even and just after the death of innocence that was the Sixties (swinging etc). I'd stopped taking a lot of hard drugs by then so remember the evening fairly clearly. Also related the hilarious one about the Ryanair flight that had set off for Derry and landed – at a Brit airbase somewhere adjacent to the civil airport. The talk of Dublin when I was there – tee hee. We also came up with the idea for swan-fights as they are lethal and frightening buggers and decided to spread a spurious story about a local illegal bout being stopped by Old Bill somewhere just out of town at a swan-pit on the banks of the River Soar – because of the risk of bird-flu rather than any strong moral outrage (as the organisers, a rough but inventive group of desperadoes had already bunged the Chief Super to look the other way). It beat back the ennui for five minutes, anyway. Back downtown and dropped into HQ to deposit some flyers for our activities – feeling a bit stronger today so stopped for a small calvados before heading back to the hovel. Some photos to document the journey... including one of the few public sculptures I like - 'The Sockman' in Loughborough market square - a tribute to the dead and gone knitting/textile industry and also rather affectionate and sinister at the same time... well, Loughborough is noted for its Luddite past... and experimental music of course...

Monday, April 10, 2006

New beginnings... widen the field... Ornette, Odd Nosdam and DJ Whitedog...

Late. Having problems sleeping but now that I have effectively baled out of the straight job again (for a while) it's not so urgent to get rest at conventional times. And deciding to reposition the blog - more writing, less jazz - for a while. Nothing is set. The freedom exists so use it...

I took a foray down to the Artists' Quarter - rather boring, to be honest. A pub quiz, but I felt distanced by my own pre-occupations - trying to finish a solo cd, planning the Club Sporadic May Festival, attempting to fix some kind of summer itinerary - if well enough, I want to get back to New York as Murray will be there for Jamie Shovlin's show and we had a loose plan to synchronise and maybe get to play a couple of places. The side I was loosely attached to would have won - if I had remembered the answer in time to the question - 'What was the book Greenmantle the sequel to?' 'The Thirty Nine Steps,' John Buchan - of course - but the synapses weren't firing and no one else knew it. Not surprisingly, come to think of it - who reads Buchan these days? All good fun, no doubt - but my time here is ticking away... done enough drinking and raking in my life for five people so alcohol is less and less an interest (especially with my present and no doubt future metabolism) - apart from a couple to make me sleep now and again.


This time – a long mix of various stuff including a couple of D J Whitedog's own tracks - (my worthy constituent, as Charlie Parker called Dizzie Gillespie on some long gone bop concert) – on one of his recent productions – which sounds very echoey and distorted in places (well – most of it, to be honest - I must find out if this was intentional), but I figure that adds to the overall ambiance. Jazz, rap, country, electro, rock, pop, latin – all in there somewhere – a bit of a mess – but like all Whitedog's stuff -a glorious mess. Sounds as if it was recorded in a corner of the Turbine Hall and played back from a pirate station somewhere in Wales (do they have pirate stations? A chilling thought, come to think of it... Must ask my daughter – who seems too young to be living out the sort of karma that situates you in a village somewhere near Aberystwyth) and picked up late one windy night in April.

The Ornette is from the album 'Art of the Improvisors,' and has the late great La Faro on bass and Ed Blackwell on drums. One of my favourite drummers behind the King of Harmolodics – there's a special bang and zip in his rhythms which I don't hear in Billy Higgins. One of those totally manic themes of Ornette's, a fast walk in on the bass, Ornette soloing, smearing notes together, single note stabs, always that cry in the tone (Bill Broonzy's 'rooster crow?') and a questioning edge. Keening spirals up into the high register. The man is telling you something... Blackwell with him all the way, New Orleans second line snare and surgingly smooth cymbals. Such an easy-sounding free-wheeling freedom that must have been hard won nevertheless. Cherry spurts his pocket trumpet lines, the smaller horn giving them a light airiness that the full-blooded conventional trumpet rarely has – especially in jazz with its tradition of flagwavers from Louis downwards. He always seems less anguished than Ornette... The bass and drums drop out as the two horns spar and cross and dive, call and answer. Straight back into the theme – to a dead stop. Empathy.

The Odd Nosdam is from 'Burner' which was my favourite album last year for a long time and which I wrote about (at tedious length) previously – something I love about where he takes hip-hop to and the way he instils a strange and affecting melancholy – especially on this track.

Adventurers in the American Sublime...

And - because I don't just listen to jazz... One of whitedog's long spacey soundscapes to round it all up - abstract, looping, rumbling bass notes, found noise, strange sampled voices, different to his more rhythmic stuff (a couple of which are on his mixtrack somewhere...)


AprilMix by Whitedog

Ornette Coleman

Ornette Coleman: alto;Don Cherry: pocket trumpet;Scott La Faro: bass; Ed Blackwell.

The Alchemy of Scott La Faro


Odd Nosdam


Untitled Three


DJ Whitedog

Calling out

I and E Festival, Dublin, 31 March-1st April 2006... review

The main venue for the Irish Improvisation Festival is the Printing House, part of the Trinity campus in Dublin city centre, a long, narrow, high-ceilinged room. With the musicians playing at the side rather than at the front, the sitelines are a bit distorted – if you sat like I did right on the end of the row. I couldn't hear much of the rather muttered introduction either – some more pro-active compering would have been a bonus – but small criticisms: the sound was exceptionally good, the audience quietly attentive – and young, in the main. And the place was packed to the doors...

First up Jurgen Simpson – laptop/electronics. If, with due homage to Paul Klee, improvisation is 'taking the note for a walk,' this set offered a succinct example of the process. A compact definition of improvisation as a journey. Simpson started with a single pure tone and proceeded to mutate it and warp it outwards in a variety of timbral/granular variations – going through a broadening out that sounded like the washing/rushing of sea on a beach as the tone slowly disappeared and a denser, levelled progression of sounds took over – at one point what seemed a two bar motif with a sturdy engine-like hum in front. This double-level of sounds was maintained, a bass-like drone underpinning more granular, glitchy sounds, for example. The original tone returned, fading and swelling to end the piece. Simpson displays his composer's sense of form in this improvisation, playing off the granular and the pure sounds and essaying in the true sense. I thought he was very good and so did the audience, who followed him throughout with rapt attention and applauded enthusiastically.

Second: Mathias Forge, Birgit Ulher and Paul Vogel. Trombone, trumpet and clarinet plus laptop manipulations – a contrast to the purely electronic music that had just preceded them. This set was concerned with the movement of breath (and spit) across and through mouthpieces and the metal and wood tubes of the intruments with occasional minimal computer manipulation from Vogel. Music of chamber intensity and understatement played at very low volume. An irony - that the instruments represent the archetypal New Orleans front line, the musicians at one point almost making me laugh out loud as the trombone and trumpet pointed downwards while Paul Vogel lifted his clarinet and pointed it at the ceiling – an almost archetypal image from New Orleans/Dixieland jazz.

One was tempted to shout 'Oh, play that thing!' But no tailgate tromboning, fast arpeggiated counter-melodies or ripping trumpet calling the people home here - collectively they made the barest audible minimum of sound. I noticed that the music was so quiet in parts my scribbled notes were clearly audible as the pen scratched across the paper. An unintended jam with the trio and a further tribute to the sonic qualities of the room... Yet this music is not as abstract – or precious - as it may seem on reading my somewhat facetious comments. It is much concerned with the materiality of improvisation – the physical zones of contact between lips, breath and instrument. Almost an exploration of the origins of notes before they become contextualised in the wider stream of musical creation. On one level: very intense. On another: quite amusing as the iconic presence of the trio's brass and woodwind instruments is suppressed and subverted(as already mentioned) into different channels of intention. The use of mutes, for example, by both trumpet and trombonist, Mathias Forge at one point producing a faint popping sound with a plunger mute over the bell of his instrument – Tricky Sam Nanton this wasn't... Maybe playing with the idea of mute? Again – a brilliant and thought-provoking piece – which can only work with such extremely good acoustics, subtle miking and an audience prepared to go along with the gambit. Which they did. After all, this music, for it to succeed, demands an active partipation in listening... which was duly given...

Annette Krebs. Similar ethic involved here – bypassing the traditional sonic possibilities of the instrument and using scraping, bowing, electronic processing and the occasional plucking of the guitar (to produce small and abrupt notes that were warped into other sonic dimensions). Subverting/disregarding the visual imperatives - the guitar is such a strong icon – here it is strapped to the table and surrounded with wires, leads and other modes of sound processing and only sporadically used as a sound source – again an intense but also amusing strategy. Krebs works at varying levels of volume, using abrupt pauses and jump-cut changes of direction to create a jagged and at times harsh sound world that embraces the materiality of the origins of the sound. Fascinating and abrasively brilliant.

Keith Rowe and Mark Wastell. This last performance balanced the evening well. Louder, more gestural, bringing the evening to a climax in two ways – the temporal one and also by taking the audience on a long journey to the satisfactory end of the piece – more musically referential towards the end especially as Rowe dropped in a distinct seesawing 6/4 rhythm. Theme and statement and variations... all here but not under the figure of traditional moves. But the strategies are very much the same. They just require a shift in the mode of listening. The audience were prepared to do that, consequently enjoyed the music and gave them warm applause. Deservedly. (Interestingly, both these guys are string players originally – Rowe a guitarist, Wastell a cello player – who now use a variety of electronic apparatus to generate sound and to process their other chosen sources: short wave radio, cymbal (tam-tam?) and metal bowls bowed and struck).

Saturday Afternoon: Unitarian Church, Dublin.

David Lacey, Paul Vogel and Mark Wastell.

An impressive venue, light-filled and dominated by the rather beautiful stained glass windows, it seemed a (more?) appropriate place for this brand of improv which at times seems to embrace an austere albeit antinomian search for purity, whether coincidental or intentional – or whose strategies contain fluctuating incidences of both. (More appropriate because of the space as well – the long room at Trinity while possessing great acoustics was a bit too cramped and the sitelines were not that great accordingly). A good crowd of about fifty or more... I had no idea what the guy who introduced the afternoon was saying (again) as his voice didn't carry beyond the first couple of pew rows – this could have been remedied easily enough with a microphone. (If I hadn't printed off a program before leaving England I would have had no idea who some of the musicians were). The first cohort of improvisers: David Lacey, Paul Vogel and Mark Wastell. Their performance commenced with a barely-audible sustained tone – (signature of the festival?) the occasional slight rustling in the audience and the scratching of my pen on pad again were as easily heard – a democracy of sound. As the volume of the tone rose, it seemed to fill the air. When other elements slowly came into the mix I became further aware of the space of the church – at these low levels of sound, the constituent elements have considerable acoustic room to move through. When the volume increased, I could tangibly register the individual expansion and collective contraction as the constituent musics proceeded to fill the space, rubbing up against each other. As the piece develops, I became aware of three motival distinct levels- a deep, remote bass tone, a rushing granular sound in the middle and a high, pure sine wave overall. The bass provided an approximation of rhythmic pulse, the reverberating granularity of cymbals a thickening centre and the woody clarinet mutated by laptop manipulation becoming an actual slow moving harmony when additional clarinet notes were added in real time. They built quite a head of steam, rising in volume as reverberating cymbal(?) set up cross-rhythms, susurrations that evoked a sea washing over a beach. Stunning.

Keith Rowe and Sean Meehan.

Their performance started with an insistent but very quiet ticking – like a count-in except lasting for a couple of minutes. Low level noises and what seemed to be distant footsteps... Meehan attended to his cymbal placed on top of a snare drum with some kind of long thin stick(?) which was placed on the cymbal and stroked slowly by both hands – resembling (bizarrely) someone climbing a rope – producing very quiet sounds. I felt that this duet was disjointed and going nowhere at first – then it started to build in an oddly tangental manner. Playing at such a low volume, the sounds produced by Rowe at times could have been coming in from outside on the busy St. Stephens Green. The piece evolved into a demonstration of the way we perceive sound and interpret it back as 'music.' Outside equates with 'noise' - inside with 'music' because we observe musicians producing it – the intentionality of the act. Cue John Cage... and in a Cageian sense, it didn't matter – we were all involved in the creation of a democracy of sound.Which I suppose was one of the dominant themes of the weekend. Subversion and displacement... drums were hardly ever sounded as conventional drums, guitar as conventional guitar, brass or wood wind as ... you follow my drift...

I could only attend the first half of the Saturday night performance due to various external factors. Just before the start, Keith Rowe conjured up The Carpenters' singing 'Yesterday Once More' on his radio – a welcome bit of serendipitous fun. Starting with a quartet – Annette Krebs, David Lacey, Keith Rowe and Paul Vogel. With all the massed tables of laptops, instruments and electronics the room resembled some kind of surreal jumble sale! A tentative beginning, preliminary skirmishes and flirtations, Krebs creating a distant low rumbling thunderstorm, a slow soundscape evolving – disrupted by a sudden sharply plucked bass note on the guitar which was bent off into various electronic processed shapes. The volume rose steadily, due no doubt to the numbers involved. And which kept the balance between the extremes of silence. This is abrasive music – literally – rubbling, scratching, bows applied to surfaces and the resultant sounds changed and distorted and bounced round the mix. Short wave radio cutting in abruptly in a crackling chatter of foreign voices – letting the wider world enter the proceedings. Disturbance and sudden breaks in the overall journey, disrupting and adding texture. Towards the end they managed to wrongfoot my expectations when they paused on a long high tone – which seemed to signal the end of the set - then continued to play to another climax – short wave radio - roaring, like a wind - a clattering, as if a drawer of cutlery was being thrown downstairs – bass throb – electric crackling – sea on pebbles – distant rubbing bass sound... Wow. Superb...

The last set before the break (and my departure) was a trio: Dennis McNulty, Sean Meehan and Mark Wastell. They started quietly – as did all of the sets – as the three found their spaces in the narrative to slowly take the volume up. Low siren-like noises – distant gunfire – Mark Wastell's bowed and struck metal bowls contributed fascinating and beautiful timbres. Again - a brilliant set.

Conclusions? I go over to Dublin a lot and will certainly try to get to more of these gigs. The overall standard of creativity was excellent – nothing that dragged or drifted (even my initial misgivings about the second set at the Unitarian Church dissipated during what became a fascinating performance). The mainly young audience (and how important that is!) were attentive throughout – which meant that the musicians could wring every low volume nuance out of their material and be heard. An intense experience, indeed, low-key but not too over-serious (well, on my part anyway...). The presentation could perhaps be a more professional without compromising anyone's visions of purity– it was a little at times like being in some old school folk club without the beer and the bad jokes (which might actually have provided a bit of levity to balance the austerity) – but that is a criticism one could level at many improv gigs I've been to. Maybe the size of the audience threw the organisers? A very small quibble – the music did the talking, as the old cliché goes - from the slightest puff of breath on a trumpet mouthpiece to soaring electronics. The acoustics were superb and allowed the participants to probe effectively both of the sonic architectures of the venues. This was subtle music, quiet in the main, rigorous, but played with passion. Fire music it wasn't, in the gestural/rhetorical sense – but it gave me much food for thought about the utilisation of low volumes, silence and space in improvised performance. A final point: the way silence was used and explored, the zone between the level at which silence can be defined – as a complete zero level lack of sound, which is perhaps impossible except in those legendary anechoic chambers – or outer space – and intentional musical sound is created.

So: Congratulations to all who made it such an interesting and exciting event... I can't really single out one musician or group (although I suppose my favourites by a very short head were the first set at the church on Saturday and Annette Krebs' solo spot on Friday – just for the record...) as I enjoyed it all immensely...

There are links for many of the featured musicians here...