Monday, December 31, 2007

Xmas Mix4 - Gu4/John Coltrane/Fel Kuti/Rory Block/Jackson C. Frank/Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys/Count Basie&Frank Sinatra/Gu4

Happy new year! And seasonal mix 4 emerges... Slightly less abrasive than the others – not so much a conscious decision as the fact that technical screwups required a change of laptops and once I started recording I realised that half the stuff I wanted to include was elsewhere. But what the hell – I got the frame in – which consists of two songs, beginning and ending, by a local group GU4 (ho ho). The recording is lo-fi – a guerilla one I made at their pre-Xmas gig over at St Marmion's. Spur of the moment and no time to figure out anything – just straight in from where I was sat in the audience – hence bangs, coughs, scratches and a weird balance. But the ethos of a brilliant night comes through, I think... 'Crossing the bar,' the setting of Tennyson's late poem (by who? Not sure...) is awesomely beautiful I think. And Miggy Cambell has written an anthem to end on, which I think is called 'Say no goodbyes'... Certainly a writer to watch... Love this group – reinforces my flagging faith in English folk music. In between you get, well, the usual collation – Coltrane, Kuti ( a long track during which there is a drop-out/unintentional fade – someone came in and interrupted me – can't be bothered to fix it – hey, the silence is conceptual), some white blues, some Bob Wills and his western swing, showing off the musicianship endemic to that band – and the sheer good humour, some Basie with Francis Albert, some Jackson... Maybe one last one tomorrow – more raucous...

So far – a quiet night. But I have managed to avoid the Jools Holland show for once – Jesus, what an irritating man... Cheeky chappies I can well do without...

Xmas Mix 4 (Click on the Flash Player above the Hype Machine content on the right margin).

1.Gu4 – Crossing the Bar
2.John Coltrane – Afro-Blue
3.Fela Kuti – He miss road
4.Rory Block – Rambling on my mind
5.Jackson C. Frank – Milk and Honey
6.Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys – 3 Guitar Special
7.Count Basie and Frank Sinatra – The best is yet to come
8.Gu4 – Say no goodbyes

Update... download here...

Chico Hamilton... New York Art Quartet... Evan Parker... Albert Ayler... Mississippi Fred McDowell

There were so many good and great gigs this year that I have not had time to sit around and count them all up to wrap them into a retrospective. Shucks... Maybe tomorrow... But here are four tracks to consider before I roll out the last seasonal mix.

Chico Hamilton – undersung somewhat overall and probably because of spending time out on the West Coast rather than in the belly of the New York beast where the main publicity action was to be found in jazz. (Although he was commercially very successful for a period in the fifties/early sixties). This is one of his 'chamber jazz' setups playing 'Theme for a starlet.' Introduced by see-sawing strings (Hamilton pioneered the use of cello in jazz) and Eric Dolphy's piping flute. Dennis Budomir's guitar joins them as they hit a slow steady tempo. Short, moody, more about texture than improvisation. A broadening of the palette.

A few years on and a pioneer band from 1964, The New York Art Quartet. The title track of their album, 'Mohawk.' Free jazz had arrived... Although Tchicai was and is a thoughtful player, not given to the scrawk and scream of other saxophonists. Jerky, pulling each other about in a collective performance that is, however, finely balanced overall. Rudd is marvellous, tailgate nouveau, playing off the alto, Workman deft and solid as needed, Graves underneath giving surely-pitched polyrhythmic ballast. A band that listens to each other. A compressed track, four and half minutes but much to consider. Underplayed and perhaps more interesting because of that...

Down the line a ways and Evan Parker, doyen of the European avant garde. A fairly short performance, not one of his marathons. Parker is one of the most consistently brilliant players around – this is 'Banda (O.D.J.B.),' taken from his 1991 album 'Process and reality.' Is there a joke in there, somewhere? Those initials spell 'Original Dixieland Jazz (Jass) Band to me... Or maybe an obscure homage? I wonder what Evan would make of 'Livery Stable Blues'? Anyway... exploring studio multi-tracking for the first time, (I think) he creates a dense space where his soprano weaves across itself, sounding at times like a riffing horn section and/or a tape loop as a line goes in a higher spiral over its cloned selves. A simultaneous evocation of jazz and Steve Reich style systems musics – all improvised freely...

And turning back (maybe): Albert Ayler, from his album 1967 album 'Love Cry,' the title track. One of the last sessions that the recently deceased Donald Ayler played on with his brother, if I remember correctly. (If not the last). A simple declamatory fanfare opens, a yodelling voice briefly echoes it (to return towards the end) then the horns have at it, fairly sedately – Albert is in the usual tenor register, Donald playing simple but strong figures – there is a very good blogpost about him here... Scuttling bass opens it up underneath as Graves rolls his drums out in waves. A distillation of the Ayler methods, quieter than the firestorms he was capable of. Evoking earlier jazz idioms of collective improvisation, simple folk forms, the trumpet especially giving a marching band feel almost, with a vocal quality coming from the blues (and gospel, as Godoggo pointed out a while back in one of his comments, although the saxophone vibrato is not quite as broad-banded here as it usually was). I love Albert...

Mississippi Fred McDowell in 1965... crisp stinging bottleneck, a rolling rhythm and Mississippi Fred's high plaintive voice combine in a crystalline, pure reading of 'Going down to the river.' Country blues brought back from obscurity for a new audience by one of the masters... timeless.

In the Videodrome...

Chico at Newport...

Mississippi Fred McDowell...

Charles Mingus takes the 'A' Train...

Evan and Ned...

Chico Hamilton (d) Eric Dolphy (fl) Dennis Budimir (g) Nathan Gershman (c) Wyatt Ruther or Ralph Pena (b)
Theme for a starlet


New York Art Quartet
John Tchicai (as) Roswell Rudd (tb) Reggie Workman (b) Milford Graves (d)


Evan Parker (ss)
Banda (O.D.J.B.)


Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler (ts) Donald Ayler (t) Alan Silva (b) Milford Graves (d)
Love Cry


Mississippi Fred McDowell
Going down to the river


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Mix update...

The xmas mix 3 has now been added to the mp3 player on the sidebar... Just realised it is New Year's Eve tomorrow... The time of year for bloggers to start posting best-of worst-of lists... Hmmm... maybe... maybe not...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mix 3/Cecil Taylor/ Plexus/ Horace Tapscott/Martin Carthy/Cyril Tawney/Sinatra/Mal Waldron/Charles Mingus/Harlan T. Bobo/Pet Shop Boys/Tubby Hayes

Early in the morning of Sunday... a strange Christmas – quiet and much confinement to barracks due to chest infection in a combo with the usual physical crap that lays me down frequently. But you use these periods – reading and listening – and plotting. And maybe drinking too much – but that's the traditional hazard of the season's turn – somewhat enthusiastically embraced, maybe, to counteract the stuttering of the body's clumsy passing through this time continuum. We still aim towards the light, to transcend that downdrag...

I hope everyone has had the Christmas they wanted – here's another mix...

1.Cecil Taylor – an encore...
2.Plexus – extract from 23 September – suite 4
3.Horace Tapscott – A Dress for Renee
4.Martin Carthy – Scarborough Fair
5.Cyril Tawney – Sally free and easy
6.Frank Sinatra – Last night when I was young
7.Mal Waldron – You don't know what love is
8.Charles Mingus – Solo Dancer (First track from 'Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.').
9.Harlan T. Bobo – Bottle and Hotel
10.Pet Shop Boys – King's Cross
11.Tubby Hayes Orchestra – The Killers of W.1

I was watching John Huston's last movie, 'The Dead,' earlier... which I haven't seen for a long time.
It raised a lot of memories... 'Lass of Loughrim' especially – I'd forgotten where I first heard that song... bittersweet stuff...

But we move on... 2008 looms...


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Xmas mix info...

Hope everyone is enjoying their day... just an update to say that the two Xmas mixes can be heard by clicking on the appropriate links in the flash player on the side - just above the Hype machine links...

Xmas Mix 2... Prince Far I... Burning Star Core... Sidney Bechet... Miles Davis... Arcana... Howling Wolf... Fugazi... Jackson C. Frank... and more

And now it's Christmas Day... Another mix...

1.Prince Far I – Heavy manners
2.Burning Star Core – This moon will be your grave
3.Sidney Bechet – Blues in thirds
4.Miles Davis – Jeru
5.Arcana – Derek Bailey/Bill Laswell/Tony Williams – Tears of astral rain
6.Howling Wolf – How many more years
7.Fugazi – Repeater
8.Jackson C. Frank -Yonder come the blues
9.Booker Ervin – Den Tex
10.The Impressions – The girl I find
11.J.S.Bach (K. Richter) – Dem wir das Heilig mitz wit Freuden lasse


Monday, December 24, 2007

Xmas mix - Whitedog... Charles Ives... Bill Evans... Cecil Taylor... Peter Brotzmann...Guy Clark... Judee Sill... Second Zion 4... Roland Kirk

Christmas greetings to everyone... this is the first of two mixes I have done for the festive season, tracklisting below...

1.Whitedog – Budapest 4 a.m.
2.Charles Ives First Symphony – Adagio molto (sustenuto)
3.Bill Evans/Lee Konitz/Warner Marsh – Night and Day
4.Cecil Taylor – 11-52 (From 3 Phasis)
5.Peter Brotzmann Chicago Tentet – Aziz
6.Guy Clark – Let him roll
7.Judee Sill – The lamb ran away with the crown
8.Second Zion Four – Praise him shining angels
9.Roland Kirk – We free kings

An odd mixture, perhaps... stuff I like... the Kirk is a bit of a seasonal favourite – but it's always worth a runout. Who knows – for the same reasons, I may even whack the MJQ's version of 'God rest ye merry gentlemen' up tomorrow as part of the Christmas day mix...
Beware - this is a relatively large file if uploading, over 70mb... Number two tomorrow, alcohol/fun permitting...

The Wordsand musicXmasMix1


Thursday, December 20, 2007

William Parker... John Coltrane... Frank Wright... Howling Wolf

'The Damned Don't Cry' was a 1950 film noir vehicle for Joan Crawford – with that title, what else? When John Coltrane recorded the 'Africa/Brass' sessions, he included the song of the same name (ok, ok, eponymous). Introduced by drums and then bass spelling out a swaying 12/8 to underpin the ensemble entrance, led by Booker Little, before Coltrane joins them on soprano. The band produce a sonorous mix with echoes of Gil Evans and a hint of hardboiled movie soundtrack, this tune is the most conventional of the sessions – was the arrangement by Cal Massey, rather than Eric Dolphy? – not originally released on the album. The track does appear a bit disjointed in comparison to the rest of material, despite the crack crew on hand, which is maybe why it was left on the shelf initially. It finally settles into a steady four as Coltrane lets fly – skittering fast tenor offering that unique mix of toughness and yearning, pierced with sporadic ensemble interjections. Tyner takes a couple of steady choruses then Coltrane returns on soprano – running all over the distant looming hills of the brass-heavy backup, before the bass signals a return to 12/8 and they all slow down for the theme and out.

Stepping jauntily in with the theme 'Hawaii' from the album 2005 'Sound Unity,' the William Parker quartet. Hamid Drake prominent, firing off sharp fusillades, as the front line of Rob Brown and Lewis Barnes emerge from the theme in a criss-crossing dance, locked in step below by the huge presence of the leader. Collective improvisation to bring a smile to the face and generate some welcome heat on a freezing cold and foggy morning in God's Little Acre – a calypso feel in places to the theme for further warmth – Trinidad goes west? Brown drops out to let Barnes step up, jumped along by Drake who is unremitting throughout. Brown cuts in for a brief fandango before taking his own solo steps. Drake hits a section of off-beats at one point which give an almost trad swing over the four of the bass. Spins off into a dizzying flurried maelstrom when Barnes returns. They drop out to let the leader take over, backed by rolling swing and needle-sharp rimshots from the drummer. The horns tiptoe back in on an almost old-school riff, briefly, Parker doing a bit more then signalling the theme for a front line brief return. Brown is one of my current favourite players, but Barnes acquits himself with authority. Parker sublime and strong, as ever – Drake supple, imperious and on fire throughout.

Frank Wright from 1965. His r and b roots up front here – bleary, smearing sax, that compensates for technical lack (early on his career) with youthful energy:

'Wright had not been playing tenor long when he was asked to make Coltrane’s Ascension date (he had sat in with Trane on several occasions previously), but reportedly he declined it fearing his skills weren’t at the level required by the music. Nevertheless, Wright did make his first session as a leader a few months later, in a trio with bassist Henry Grimes and drummer Tom Price for then-fledgling ESP-Disk...’ (From here...)

...from which this track, 'The Earth,' is taken. Opens on solo tenor, then bass and drums join in, Wright jumps into higher registers and continues to balance squall and squeal with deep throaty honks and blats. Henry Grimes takes a solo, backed by the drummer which shows that they have a bit more idea of what is going down – but Wright has an honest, rough-hewn appeal at this point in his career. A lot of albums/sessions from the beginning of the avant-garde (in the fifties onwards) have a certain air of uncertainty which demonstrates, perhaps, the freshness of the ideas, the sheer novelty of what was occurring, that drop into the unknown. Wright was to develop and further hone his technique and influences (Albert Ayler, in the main) but I like the coltish honesty of this album

The mighty Wolf – delineating the blues: 'Now listen, peoples...' - taking a sly dig at white appropriations, before firmly demonstrating he knows what he is talking about... 'Back Door Man.' Archetypal one chord stomping riff – pure Delta blues – as Chester B unfolds the Willie Dixon song – not his original recording but the one from the 'Dogshit' album he was 'persuaded' to make in 1969 -which I rather like, perversely...

In the Videodrome...

Some Braxton...

Rob Brown
with Parker and Grimes...

Howling Wolf tells you all about the blues...

Hubert Sumlin at Buddy Guy's...

Trane in Belgium...

William Parker
William Parker (b) Rob Brown (as) Lewis Barnes (t) Hamid Drake (d)


John Coltrane
Freddie Hubbard, Booker Little (tp) Jim Buffington, Donald Carrado, Bob Northern, Robert Swisshelm, Julius Watkins (frh) Charles Greenlee, Julian Priester (euph) Bill Barber (tu) John Coltrane (ss, ts) Eric Dolphy (as, bcl, fl, arr, cond) Pat Patrick (bars) Garvin Bushell (reeds) McCoy Tyner (p, arr) Reggie Workman (b) Elvin Jones (d) Cal Massey (arr) Romulus Franceschini (cond)
The Damned Don't Cry


Frank Wright
Frank Wright (ts) Henry Grimes (b) Tom Price (d)
The Earth


Howling Wolf
Back door man


Saturday, December 15, 2007

John Surman... Keith Tippett... Gary Smith/John Stevens... Bert Jansch... Yusef Lateef... Ian Matthews... Scrapper Blackwell

So – back in God's Little Acre, preparing for Christmas... presenting some oddities...

I found this John Surman track on a Wire magazine sampler (no 13 – I have them all somewhere - which could be interesting, if I ever have the patience to dig them out). This is 'Way back when part 4,' recorded in 1969. Surman has a lighter style on soprano than the heavyweight model of the time – John Coltrane - less spiky than Steve Lacy, say. Lyrical and folksy over the busy, thrusting drums, electric bass and fairly muted electric keyboard comping. A session that reflects the disparate influences of the time lightly, when Miles was pushing hard in his rock/jazz integrations, a reminder, perhaps, that in the U.K. our intermingling of jazz with rock (and folk) possessed a distinctive flavour... see below... Surman, of course, is more famous for his innovative baritone playing and later investigations of electronics in his composing/improvising. The tapes for this album apparently had been lost until recently, recorded as a loose jam and put to one side, strangely enough... now released on Cuneiform, lord bless 'em, where you can find a basketful of the similar...

Another musician who is probably better known these days for his positioning on the free side of jazz improvisation but who was happy to swing between the genres in the late 60s/early 70s during the hazy existence of that temporary autonomous zone where much seemed possible – and inevitable: (at the time - hmmm) - and embrace the 'spirit of the age' is the English pianist, Keith Tippett. Here he is with a trio, playing a track called 'Glimpse' from his 1972 album 'Blueprint.' Tippett is a unique pianist, integrating post-Cageian under-the-lid tinkerings with a dynamic thundering keyboard style that builds up slowburning storms of overtones. I've seen him a few times down the years and he is one of my favourite indigenous musicians, a powerful player. Starts of with high treble over silvery rustling percussion to build strongly as he brings in that thundering bass – Babbington glisses in to join the fun. Ebbs and flows nicely between subdued filigree and near silence to stomping acoustic fisticuffs...

John Stevens was one of the founders of free improvisation in the U.K. (Little Theatre Club blah blah, via that curious post-WWII mix of Air Force band and Art College). This is a duet with Gary Smith from late on in the drummer's career (1993) (he died at the age of 54), taken from the album '7 Improvisations.' Don't know which number this one is, actually – I have it on a disc from the good Mr Teledu (the same source for the Tippett track above – as is the next selection,come to think of it. So much for even a pretense at coherence this day). Long-held grungy dark chords as Stevens goes busy. Spartan echoey guitar, the metal/rock timbres combining with the drummers free jazz free flow to create two spatial movements that intersect sporadically to lock it all together. A long way from his more terse/spare improv strategies - see SME - this is Stevens in mercurial fashion. Smith replies with sputtering lines and strummed chords that float across the rhythms...

This post becomes more and more elliptical, in time-honoured fashion. Just the way I have the tracks prepared (loosely - very loosely) for delivery – here is Tippett again, plinking away on a soft folk-rock number, which has a winsome charm (I suppose). Ian Matthews (of Matthews Southern Comfort fame - did anyone else hate 'Woodstock?' Sorry Joni...) heads the track up – and the late Sandy Denny, one of my favourite singers, plays harmonium and supplies some back up vocals. 'Never Ending,' from 1971. Richard Thompson (His Dourness) on acoustic guitar. Matthews has one of those light fey voices which on a good day can seem charming enough (compared to Thompson, who is a brilliant songwriter but always sings as if he has a potato up his nose), oddly backed by Sandy who could sing him into the ground on a bad day, here just content to do the friendship/session game. A curio... Fluff, really...


I could always hear the snap of Scrapper Blackwell somewhere in the back of Bert Jansch's playing, that distinctive rip of the strings that drove his playing along in such a powerful way. (Hell on the nails, as I can testify). This is another piece where a lot of the sixties influences that flowed so strongly through the U.K. to link the folk, jazz, rock and blues scenes arrive at an interesting convergence. Bert, backed by Danny Thompson on bass – one of the essential pivots of the scene(Pentangle/John Martyn etc), bringing his jazz chops to bear on disparate genres. 'Bittern,' from 1978. The tumbling 9/8 rhythm probably links back to Charlie Mingus's more gospel outings that were such a massive influence at that time. Plus folk slip jigs? This is also shot through with wah wah electric lead (from Martin Jenkins on amplified mandocello? - I know he played on the album, and I saw him with Bert round this time when I was back home in the U.K. for a visit). Meanders a bit but old Danny holds it together – and takes a neat solo, demonstrating his jazz credentials- which Bert never really had. But what a guitar player within his own self-created space... fire and soul move across genres...

Looking for a rogue cd that has slipped the pack somehow, I stumbled on this – Yusef Lateef, 'Revelation,' from his album 'The Centaur and the Phoenix.' Tenor states the theme, a twelve bar in D minor, joined by the tight-clenched ensemble as back drop in the second chorus. They drop out as the bass picks up a fast walk in four and Lateef solos over some punchy drumming (Lex Humphreys - snappy throughout). Succession of choruses from Clark Terry (I think), a robust Tate Houston, cool, somewhat detached and floaty Curtis Fuller, so so chorus from Zawinul before Lateef returns over clipped horns - into a brief fade out... The rest of the album is more interesting, but, hey, I'm perverse and this is a strange day... More soon...

So: mention of influence (fancied or otherwise) gives us: Scrapper Blackwell playing 'Down South Blues,' recorded in 1931. He teamed up famously with Leroy Carr. But cut a lot of tracks on his own. Maybe that distinctive treble string movement was developed to cut through in tandem with the piano playing of Carr in unamplified environments but he integrates it neatly into his solo style. An influence on Robert Johnson as well, perhaps? Or is it just the register of the voice? Fascinating interview with him here...

Hail the Scrapper anyway... reading this all back made me realise that I've been drowning in too much Olson recently on a re-encounter with his biography as well as the continuing encounters with the rest of his awkwardly brilliant oeuvre - but sad selfish fool in many crossed ways he certainly was... maybe my prose style is haunted by this, on a strange day with much movement close to me and mine, benign, malign, we shall see...

'The chain of resurrection is memory. I am a vain man...'

Yup... Warner to Maximus...

In the Videodrome...

Archaeologist of morning...

so: Creeley...

A brief snippet of Yusef out on the road recently... playing the blues...

Keith Tippett in Le Mans, 1998

Keith and Julie and Paul... improvise...

... reel back- 'Indian Rope Man.'

... jump cut to Evan Parker and Ned Rothenberg (saw them in July - one of the gigs of the year)

... run by our good friends Black Carrot...

... Rambling Jack Elliott anyone?

Sly Stone redux recently... (one for Etnobofin)

John Surman
John Surman (ss) John Taylor (p) Brian Odgers (b-g) John Marshall (d)
Way back when part 4


Keith Tippett
Keith Tippett (p) Roy Babbington(b) Frank Perry (perc)


Gary Smith/John Stevens
Gary Smith (el-g) John Stevens (d, )


Ian Matthews
Ian Matthews (v) Richard Thompson (g) Keith Tippett (p) Sandy Denny (harm)
Never Ending


Bert Jansch
Bert Jansch (guitar/piano), Martin Jenkins (mandocello/violin/flute), Danny Thompson (b)


Yusef Lateef
Richard Williams (tp) Clark Terry (flh, tp) Curtis Fuller (tb) Josea Taylor (basn) Yusef Lateef (ts, fl, argol, ob) Tate Houston (bars) Joe Zawinul (p) Ben Tucker (b) Lex Humphries (d)


Scrapper Blackwell (g, v)
Down South Blues


Monday, December 10, 2007

John Coltrane... Lennie Tristano... Miles Davis... Sly and the Family Stone...

In Aberystwyth these last couple of days for the funeral of an old friend so little time or inclination to post but... we move on...

Restricted to what I have on the laptop hard drive until I get home so here's John Coltrane from the Prestige days... What you might call a simplish riff twelve bar, 'Chronic Blues,' taken from his first album as leader ('Coltrane'), recorded in 1957. Odd line up of baritone, trumpet and tenor. Sahib Shihab solos first, a nice measure of fluid garrulity, spinning nicely through with some elastic double timing.. Coltrane next, who always takes it up a notch or two, stretching out asymmetrically across the bar lines – an encapsulation of the achieved linear freedoms of bop and hints of greater freedoms to come. Johnny Splawn takes a bright solo, one of those names who surfaced and disappeared as quickly. Mal Waldron picks out his usual spare line, working small fragments outwards. Ensemble take it out, buttressed by some deep baritone.

Lennie Tristano from 1957 – a live set. Art Taylor's drums drive things along – a tougher rhythmic backdrop than Tristano was supposed to like but I suspect that was something of a canard. Lee Konitz here on alto, one of the very few who came up through those years (and still around) who did not stand in Charlie Parker's shadow. This is '317 East 32nd,' which was the address of Tristano's studio, I think. One of those long, complex lines the pianist wrote over standard chord sequences. Cerebral, yes – but Bird could be cerebral. This swings...a loose feel coming from the live circumstances, perhaps, and the drummer, who takes a couple of fours at the end – some sharp hitting... some stomping chords from Lennie – music with a lot more muscle than it is given credit for.

Miles live from the 'Plugged Nickel' in Chicago, 1965, this is 'Agitation.' A feverish track as befits the title, the leader on imperious form, spurred on by the spluttering, hissing cymbals of Tony Williams, trumpet all the way for a while. Long low bends to end the solo, as Wayne Shorter eventually surfaces. Hancock more prodding here, the bass not too audible (but I'm listening on my portable speakers) Williams again rising from the backline like a storm. Shorter splats out small fragments, the cymbals fall off, he raises the theme as they flow back, batting it about in short flicks. Hancock next as Williams machine guns his snare – bass coming through now. Hancock's line gets more extended as he progresses, the theme allowed to peek through spasmodically. A slow fall off and Williams takes the floor. Parade ground snares, rimshots, long rolls that rival Art Blakey then Miles calls it back home. Turbulent brilliance...

Speaking of turbulence... Sly Stone in 1971 had encountered plenty. Hit by the political/cultural fallout of the sixties, rough times and drugs a plenty, in the wake now of the massive success he had achieved, he recorded most of the album 'There's a riot going on,' by overdubbing many the parts himself.
This is an instrumental track, 'My gorilla is my butler.' Lest we forget – Sly was in the sixties vanguard of slamming together rock, soul and funk, coming from the other direction that Miles took, perhaps. Beating Stevie Wonder to the punch here, with a darker vision overall... This is a bubbling, wah-wahing, sometimes awkward rough diamond of a track out of the zeitgeist. Good to see the man back and touring...

John Coltrane
John Coltrane (ts) Johnny Splawn (t) Sahib Shihab (bars) Mal Waldron (p ) Paul Chambers (b) Albert "Tootie" Heath (d)
Chronic blues


Lennie Tristano
Lee Konitz (as) Lennie Tristano (p) Gene Ramey (b) Art Taylor (d)
317 East 32nd Street


Miles Davis
Miles Davis (t) Wayne Shorter (ts) Herbie Hancock (p)piano Ron Carter (b) Tony Williams (d)


Sly Stone
My Gorilla is my Butler


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Review of the Akron Family+Phosphorescent at Taylor John's, Coventry, Wednesday 5th December, 2007

Back to one of our favourite venues, Taylor John's in Coventry. I missed some of Phosphorescent's set, came in on a heartfelt cover of 'To Love Somebody.' He ended on that layered voice scenario again – the twist tonight being his use of the upright piano to the side of the stage – a few chords hammered out on that to further thicken the sonic brew – before being twisted into savage distortion, the quavering purity of his multi-tracked voice wrenched off again into splintered soundscapes. Went down a storm...

And then – the Akron Family. It's always interesting to catch a group for another night (or more, if you're lucky) to measure the gradations and changes in their set. Same start again – a gentle rural roll in with the drummer, Dana Janssen, playing a keyboard suspended from his neck, giving a sudden rush of Edgar Winter memories (one for the old folks), culminating in the a cappella section supported by fingersnaps from the audience – who responded throughout the night with less reserve than the previous evening in Nottingham. Which made a crucial difference to the way the music developed. Something to feed off, there was more of an edge, more of a reaching out... But Taylor John's is a small, intimate space which gives a different vibe... Similar shape to the night before but given different twists and turns. They were joined for a while by Phosphorescent and some other guy (from the road crew?) - doing a rather wonderful version of the old blues 'I know my rider.' Then it just went into meltdown – Murray had brought some small instruments with him – rattles, bells, shakers and a small drum – and on the nod from the stage distributed them roundabout. (I seem to remember joining in with a stick with bells on, giving out some mean syncopated triplets). Party time in heaven. Surfing across the added rhythms spattering from the audience they played tough, much rockier. The kids' song about the bears got the same treatment as last night – whimsy followed by a long ambient section over repeating chords...(which made me aware of how they incorporate electronics into their expanded instrumental arsenal) before it really cranked up and out... guitarist Miles Seaton out in the audience – everyone going wild. An old r and b standard thrashed out by Seth Olinsky, getting some serious gravel in his voice – 'Turn on your lovelight.' Indeed... this band really need that audience feedback to take them to a different level, I think, and by God they turned on my lovelight. If they were great last night, tonight they transcended great... the buzz off people leaving was palpable. Taylor John's does it again...

Also: my apologies to Sara – the girl I spilt Red Stripe over when I came back from the bar at one point and tripped over a bag of stuff hidden by the vending table. Mea culpa again – she was much more graceful in her response than the drenching in lager demanded.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Akron Family+Phosphorescent... Taylor John's... Coventry... Wednesday 5th December, 2007

Whooooooo! Just back from Taylor John's - which really is one of the best venues around... review to follow when recovery has occurred... but Phosphorescent and the Akron Family gave out a gig to fucking remember tonight... here's some photos before I hit the sack...

Review of the Akron Family and Phosphorescent at the Bodega Social, Nottingham, Tuesday 4th December, 2007

Support act Phosphorescent (Matthew Houck) kicked off the evening... a high, plaintive voice (timbrally located in the Neil Young camp) and amplified acoustic guitar. He's from Brooklyn these days but I gather he originally comes the south of the U.S. which would perhaps account for the country/rural feel to his material. Interesting songs - but what takes him off onto another level is the last number where he slowly builds up multi-tracked repeat/delay vocals – and then proceeds to screw them mightily into the screeching realms of brutal sonic disturbance. From the spiritual yearning for purity and innocence to the Devil's Chorale of the electronic abyss... mighty stuff...

A suitable taster for the Akron Family. I saw them here in 2006 and it was one of the gigs of the year (and that was a good year – as this has been – for live music). Tonight they open lightly – soon dropping back to just three voices, acapella accompanied by finger clicks and encouraging the audience to join in and sustain the digital rhytm, as it were. When the instruments come back in – they proceed to go from country yiha (more high-voiced yearning) to looser jams, arriving at a song about bears (which skirted the areas of twee) – and then taking off into a long wild and free ride that seems to encompass the distance between Jimmy Rodgers or Hank Williams, say, to the howling electronic blast of Wolf Eyes. Via the Grateful Dead, perhaps... But these comparisons are just there as a rough marker – the Akron Family have their own voices – that speak and howl in many tongues. There's a big emphasis on rhythm in their music and it goes through those backbeat country waltzes to freer sections via a carnival of thumping, slambanging syncopations with bodhran added for a hint of Irish – recorder and whistle giving another layer of celtic twiddle that also echoes the fife and drum bands of yesteryear (from both Afican-American and transplanted European traditions. Instruments are swapped to add to the blur of style and sheer exuberant fun – all done in an aw-shucks manner that plays down their expertise. But there is expertise a - plenty here – these boys know what they are doing, backed by a drummer who can turn on a penny (or a dime, to suit the idiom) to hold it all together, delicate acoustic guitar traceries bend into electric guitar freakouts with some country picking in occasional contrast to match up to the high lonesome hollers. Ending on a long noise-drenched wahoo with Phosphorescent joining in on drum, they might just be the best band on the planet tonight.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Akron Family at the Bodega Social, Nottingham, Tuesday December 4th, 2007

Just got back from the Akron Family gig at the Bodega Social in Nottingham... a couple of pictures below... absolutely whacked and staggering off to bed soon. But they were brilliant! (So was support, Phosphorescent). More tomorrow...

Saturday, December 01, 2007


I found out today that a dear friend died a few days ago... A great shock... my sincere condolences to Sarah, Angus and Jo and the family. Mick was a very special person and will be sadly missed... A husband, father and friend with much sparkle in his eyes and a deep love of all forms of music. So: here's Lennie Tristano's sombre tribute to Charlie Parker - 'Requiem,' then Aretha lifting us with her sublime live version of 'Bridge over troubled waters.' Up next, Mick, the wild Chris McGregor band with their ecstatic crashup of American, European and South African jazz styles, playing 'The Bride'... this you will dig, my friend...
To go out - Coltrane... 'Love'

Lennie Tristano

Aretha Franklin
Bridge over troubled waters

Chris McGregor/Brotherhood of Breath
The Bride

John Coltrane

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Don Ellis... Duke Ellington... Sonny Rollins

I can't seem to settle into any blogging rhythm at the moment... back from London last Monday after the wonderful Rollins concert weekend (and pissed off that I missed Sunburned Hand of the Man on Sunday because I hadn't checked the listings), then back again to London yesterday, returning late... Still, things are quietening down for a few days (until next week's double dose of the Akron Family, tuesday and wednesday - woot woot!) so... where were we?

Godoggo mentioned in a recent comment that he liked this track -'Hey Jude,' by the Don Ellis big band, live from the Fillmore in 1970. Ellis had been using electronics for a couple of years with this group, alongside a heavy emphasis on unusual time signatures. This starts out in a different soundscape to the usual one jazz inhabited – nearer the heavy processed sonics of psychedelic rock – not sure if the trumpet is the source, probably was, by the sound of the breathy bits, but the sound is bent and shaped away from conventional acoustic tibres. Leading into the theme, played by distorted guitar and a deliberately corny pit band sound (echoes of 'Sergeant Pepper?) before the orchestra fully take it up in a brass-laden back beat. They all drop out for Ellis to solo with his echoplex setting up chasing, conflicting and complementing lines. Going into a jaunty march that disappears in the reverberations. A seriously weird rendition of the Beatles tune – which I have always hated, so, for me, this is a great taking apart (or deconstruction, if you must) of the bugger. Finally going into that runout with le tout ensemble on jazz time at last as Ellis splutters over them. Mucho rapturous applause... if the Fillmore audience had their collective hands on good drugs that night this must have seemed probably more amazing than it was. Fascinating stuff, all the same. Contrast and compare with Miles when he started running the electronic voodoo down.

A change of pace... Duke Ellington in a small band setting: Swing veteran Harry 'Sweets' Edison and Johnny Hodges, Ellington's long-time band member, man the front-line. This is 'Beale Street Blues, the old Handy number, a hybrid of ballad and blues, twelve bars, eight, then twelve, recorded in 1959. Duke leads in, Hodges takes the first strain, Edison the next, tightly muted, then Hodges and Hodges call and reply across the the third section. Hodges solos with a strong bluesy edge despite the smoothness of his instantly recognisable alto, steel concealed in velvet. Duke next, in parsimonious mood, spare and spartan. Spann comes up with his guitar - some Montgomeryesque octaves in the last chorus. Edison rides and bends a riff and goes into nice paraphrase of the theme in the second chorus, ending on spaced out trumpet smears before he becomes more expansive. A sequence of fours with Hodges to end. The whole moving along like a fine-tuned limousine, subtle and swinging. What we used to call mainstream, back when...

And more Sonny Rollins, as a memento of last week. so here's the man from 1956, with a band under his name which is, in effect, the Clifford Brown/Max Roach quintet he was playing with round that time – with Brownie dropping out on this short track 'Count your blessings instead of sheep.' A steady tempo and straight in, the theme being elaborated on in the first chorus, then Powell takes a swirly solo, what seems a slight hesitation and prod from Roach then Rollins back to play just one superb chorus and out. Sublime.

Elmo Hope, from 1959, playing with bass and drums, 'Like someone in love.' Sonny Rollins, his old sidekick, had some nice things to say about him on BBC Radio 3 last week. (Follow the links for 'Jazz Library' here). A sombre reading as Hope explores the standard carefully, mixing space and time by his use of silence, becoming more linear as he expands his lines further. Jimmy Bond takes a thoughtful solo, letting his single notes ring. All sewn together by the underrated Frank Butler...

Don Ellis
Don Ellis (t,d) Stuart Blumberg, Jack Coan, John Rosenberg, Glenn Stuart (t) John Klemmer, John Clark, Sam Faizone, Fred Seldon, Lonnie Shetter (s, ww) Ernie Carlson, Glen Ferris (tr) Don Switzer (b-tr) Tom Garvin (p) Doug Bixby (b, tuba) Don Quigley (tuba) Jay Graydon (g) Dennis Parker (b)Ralph Humphrey (d) Ronnie Dunn (d, perc) Lee Pastora (conga)
Hey Jude


Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington (p) Harry 'Sweets' Edison (t) Johnny Hodges (as) Les Spann Al Hall, Sam Jones (b) Jo Jones (d)
Beale Street Blues


Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins (ts) Richie Powell (p) George Morrow (b) Max Roach (d)
Count your blessings instead of sheep


Elmo Hope
Elmo Hope (p) Jimmy Bond (b) Frank Butler (d)
Like someone in love


Monday, November 26, 2007

Sonny Rollins at the Barbican, London, Saturday 24th November, 2007

The compere : 'Two Words: Sonny Rollins.' On came a frail, stooped man, seemingly bent under the weight of his tenor saxophone. But as soon as he started playing... you forgot the years and the weight and drag of straight time. Over the next two sets, Mr Rollins was to defy gravity and more than fulfil the expectations of the packed, sold-out house at the Barbican. He opened on a somewhat fragmented 'In a Sentimental Mood,' moving round the stage to cue his band as he did throughout with a jab or two of notes – the same scenario throughout where solos were prodded by a small interchange with the chosen musician until the leader would drop out and leave them to play. An odd lineup, but it worked – electric bass, electric guitar, drums and percussionist and trombone – all of whom took some solo space and acquitted themselves well, but looked to their main task - which was to provide the setting for their leader. Cranshaw took only one solo, a fleet scamper round his bass early on, Bobby Broom, albeit his sound seemed a bit muffled, a couple of hurtling, note tumbling efforts, linear and asymmetrically interesting with a bluesier edge creeping in during the calypso in the second set. On the first tune of the night, the percussionist Kimeti Dimizulu scattered chimes and shakers with a filigree shimmer that seemed at first to be out of place – but as the number slowly settled down and over the two sets, you saw how integral he was to Rollins' conception and he took a couple of neat solos. Jerome Jennings held it all together, brush work and stick as necessary, taking his own space in the spotlight late on in the second set, after a couple of briefer efforts where he traded with the leader, moving between quiet patter and louder hurtling rhythms over a classic bophihat ticking on two and four. Clifton Thornton gave solid support in the front line, themes and obbligatos, but also took a couple of rip-snorting solos that showed some fire and finesse. The material – standards, one from Duke (Sentimental), a couple of calypsos where the drum/percussion unit came into its own, a wry but heartfelt 'White Cliffs of Dover,' fragments of which Rollins wove into the last song – another rocking, rolling calypso.

And Sonny Rollins? His voice displayed his 77 years in his announcements, showing a fragile grace – but his tenor playing drew on wider and deeper powers. He was magnificent, still searching for new ways to twist a melody through a harmonic filter – and beyond. Defying the years, it was if he was channeling the whole freight of the traditions he came from – especially on the calypsos, with their cyclic, stripped down harmonies that seemed to offer him more space to blow like a demon, rough bluesy honks where he rode a single note like an r and b tenor shouter of old interlaced with long, breath-defying passages that veered suddenly into dense chromatic flurries that echoed the moves of free jazz. Playing from his position within the music, he veered across and beyond those established spaces, the occasional reed squeak adding to the intensity of the long searches through each song. No disrespect to his cohorts, but his playing was of another order. You were watching one of the great jazz musicians in action, offering no safety net but a performance dedicated to the difficult and demanding art of improvisation that he has followed so rigorously for so long. As he said at one point, 'Let's see if we can find something fresh in this,' referring to a song that he first recorded way back. He did...

At the end of the night, a long and passionate ovation finally drew him back briefly to wave a two-handed salute in acknowledgment before disappearing. The man had blown his heart and soul out for us – his wave was enough of an encore...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Don Ellis... Clifford Brown/Max Roach... Harold Land... Sonny Rollins

"Despair to Hope" from Don Ellis's 1961 album 'New Ideas' features improvisation based on 'an emotional framework, rather than a musical one.' Ellis provided a detailed explanation of his approach in the album's liner notes:

"The inspiration for 'Despair to Hope' came while listening to a John Cage concert. The concert tended to make one more aware of the music in the sounds surrounding us in our daily living, but I had the feeling that jazz musicians, given the conception, could do much more with the indeterminacy principle involved.
One of the pieces, 'Cartridge Music,' was performed by Mr. Cage and David Tudor. They had cards to which they referred, presumably for directions. This to me, is 'controlled' indeterminacy, which is an extension of something which has been taking place in music for a long time. It seemed valid to take Cage's idea one step further and not predetermine anything except the performers and their instruments. The idea of having planned cards with predetermined choices seemed too rigid. If the performers had more freedom they would be able to interact with the audience even more – giving a heightened dimension. Classical musicians, I reasoned, are not trained for this type of extemporizing today, but jazz musicians are. Why not see what could be done? A great deal in jazz has always been left up to chance, but a framework of some sort was always in use (whether written, or stylized by custom).
Al Francis and I tried improvising a duet with just free associations. This was not satisfying to me. I needed to hear more of an overall direction than aimless rambling. The idea of using an emotional framework, rather than a musical one occurred to me. We tried it once keeping in mind the thought of progressing from despair to hope. It 'happened.' I did not try it again before the record date for fear of establishing any set musical routine. When we came into the studio, this was the first thing recorded. Other than the emotional framework and the instruments and means at our disposal nothing was planned. We did one take." (From here... ).

Cor blimey... But this is a fascinating track. Starting in 'Despair,'one assumes, slow muted trumpet over odd rattles and chimes from the vibes, Ellis bending his notes quizzically. A drifting, weary feel, with the odd sudden eruption from Francis – then a long trumpet glissando that turns into a whinny and then something that sounds like a swanee whistle(?). Marking the transition (somewhat annoyingly - an echo of the clarinet upward sweep in Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' - which I have never liked)to 'Hope,' one supposes. Francis is the more interesting player for me and I find it difficult to assess this piece – but at the time it must have sounded downright weird at the time of recording and release. Nearly fifty years on, strangely enough, it would sit easily with a lot of European improv – far from the groove and snap which was retained in however a disguised fashion in the fire musics of the sixties, this is more concerned with sound texture and space. Ellis is another of the 'forgotten,' whose career spanned the fifties to seventies and the upheavals therein. Probably better known for his later big band experiments, which interestingly predate Miles' immersion in electronics and his twist on rock (Ellis was using an echoplexed trumpet in 1967, for example), which used many different time signatures – out-Brubeckian Brubeck... Which I must dig out sometime... Something of the Stan Kenton about him in his dogged, dogmatic approach – but whichever way it falls, he was a superb trumpet player.

A truly great trumpeter, cut down in his prime – was Clifford Brown. Heard here with the band he co-led with the mighty Max Roach, playing a fast version of Duke's 'Take the A Train.' Solos lead off with Harold Land, then Brownie, who always seemed to have so much time at his disposal even at fast tempos. Richie Powell fleet and boppy, then a few exchanges with the drummer – Max letting it rip in stunning controlled bursts. Going out on a programmatic train hoot and simulated engine slowdown. Corny, perhaps – but a sparkling track overall.

Harold Land went on to record 'The Fox' under his own name in 1959. Here is 'Mirror Mind Rose,' which was composed by the pianist on the date, Elmo Hope. Dupree Bolton leads off on this ballad, followed by Land as the slow swaying beat is marked out by the bass and the horns commence to entwine. Land off first to solo, eloquent and probing, to stop suddenly and let Bolton take over for a brief outing before Hope explores his theme, a clenched solo with occasional sudden hard chorded eruptions. Bolton and Land return to spell out the winding melody... Mysterioso...

Freedom means different things to different people at different times. When Sonny Rollins recorded 'Freedom Suite,' in 1958, his original angry comments, directed at racialism in the U.S., were dropped from the sleevenotes and replaced by a more oblique essay by Orrin Keepnews that emphasized artistic rather than political/social freedom. The music was/is ground-breaking, expanding the tradition from within and sending out ripples which are still visible. Rollins explores several themes at length, binding the whole by his melodic virtuosity as Pettiford and Roach dance and weave round him in glorious interaction, switching from four four to waltz time and back. The bass takes a couple of fleetly linear solos and Max is a revelation throughout. In the slow sections, Rollins' horn has a keening, yearning edge to it that hits you right where it should do... When the tempo is up, his sure-footed and rolling command of his instrument bursts through in all its glory. This session took the game further on, out of bop and hard bop to hint at the wider vistas to come...

“America is deeply rooted in Negro culture: its colloquialisms; its humor; its music. How ironic that the Negro, who more than any other people can claim America's culture as his own, is being persecuted and repressed; that the Negro, who has exemplified the humanities in his very existence, is being rewarded with inhumanity." (From Rollins' original notes, quoted here... an interesting article by Marshall Bowden about the original recording and the recent take on it by David S. Ware).

This last selection is a taster for Saturday night: I'm off to London for the weekend, mainly to see Sonny at the Barbican - the first time I have ever heard him play live. Part of a somewhat lacklustre London Jazz Festival... A recent interview here gives a flavour of what is to come... and what drives him still...

In the Videodrome..

Newk and Don...

Don Ellis big band play 'New Horizons'...

Bouncing with Bud Powell - 'Anthropology'...

... and 'Round Midnight.'

Don Ellis
Don Ellis (t) Al Francis (vib)
Despair to Hope


Clifford Brown/Max Roach
Clifford Brown (t) Harold Land (ts) Richie Powell (p) George Morrow (b) Max Roach (d)
Take the 'A' Train


Harold Land
Harold Land (ts) Dupree Bolton (t) Elmo Hope (p) Herbie Lewis (b) Frank Butler (d)
Mirror Mind Rose


Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins (ts) Oscar Pettiford (b) Max Roach (d)
Freedom Suite


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Art Tatum... Von Sclippenbach Trio... Junior Walker...

Back again in God's Little Acre and hitting the ground - not exactly running, more of an elegant stagger...

Making Whoopee – as we all like to do... Here, played by a trio of Art Tatum, Benny Carter and Louis Bellson. Tatum ripples in for the first A section then Carter takes the repeat 8 bars theme in a chomped-off manner, stretching the melody out more in the bridge and last 8. Tatum solos first, swinging solidly and staying near the theme, suddenly disrupting with a rapid waterfall of notes. Two-fisted old school in places – overall, damn near timeless stuff that transcends generation and style. Carter, one of the great alto players, lest we forget, comes up for his solo. Pithy elegance but with bite, the occasional double time smoothly showing his mastery. Tatum swirls round him like a velvet mist at times as Bellson keeps it moving fairly unobtrusively.

Evan Parker, Alexander Von Schlippenbach and Paul Lovens – the Old Firm, together now for many years. From 'Elf Bagatellen,' this track is 'Resurrection of Yarak.' I would argue for a generous and inclusive continuum that sees Benny Carter and Evan Parker connected, even though the sound worlds of this group and the Tatum trio possess a fair distance of separation. This is pretty abstract stuff – a pointillistic beginning, dabs and dots. Yet the scamper of Parker's lines when he gets going, the occasional bent sonority, display his jazz lineage, however obscured. Schlippenbach solos and demonstrates the same heritage – and the interplay between all of the musicians in this improvised setting binds it all together into that wider linkage. Well, I think so... 'jazz,' shmazz,' at this level, who really cares? The excitement generated as they really take off around seven minutes in obscures trivial debates about genre... Coming to land finally on rumbling deep piano...

Honking r and b tenor is another strand of the collectivity – Junior Walker and the All-Stars here, in a track with an English slant – 'Tally Ho.' Indeed... Weirdly suitable for a late autumn and wet early afternoon back in Blighty... grits and greens meet the stirrup cup over a whacking twelve bar blues...

Art Tatum
Art Tatum (p) Benny Carter as) Louis Bellson (d)
Making Whoopee


Alexander Von Schlippenbach

Alexander Von Schlippenbach (p) Evan Parker (ts) Paul Lovens (d)
Resurrection of Yarak


Jr Walker (ts) plus the All-Stars
Tally Ho


Friday, November 16, 2007

Imminent Return...

Coming back from Budapest tonight... my apologies as I have been off the radar for nearly two weeks but decided I needed a break/rest - and have been busy editing a book I'm trying to sell... normal service etc will be resumed over the weekend... Budapest a great place, by the way...

Monday, November 05, 2007


I am off to Budapest later today, back a week on friday so posting may be erratic... but I will try to get some music up as soon as I have discovered the wifi spots...

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Review: Jack Hudson at the Pack Horse, Loughborough, Friday 2nd November...

A lot of anticipation and building excitement for this one – Jack Hudson doing a full gig at the Pack Horse. I had only seen him once before – a brief spot to a sparse audience, but he was brilliant and moving, one of the performances of last (or any) year and gave of himself as if to a large concert crowd – I figured that this was the way he always played. Hopefully... you can lay too much freight onto someone. An anarchic start to the night frayed a few nerves – the door to the venue upstairs was locked (a new landlord has just taken over and things are still settling down). But the key was located in time as people started arriving – so a somewhat rushed beginning. But it settled down pretty quickly. All in the ongoing spirit of the club, anyway...

Jack Hudson is a tall, rangy man with a slightly ironic/lugubrious face. An old hipster... with a deep, resonant voice, dark honey poured over grit and gravel, that conveys a stoic, burned down romanticism, shot through with a good leaven of wry humour. Songs of moving, the transitory friendships of the road, relationships licit and otherwise, the stuff of the heart, that hit you right where they are aimed at. Supported on fine-sprung clawhammer picking that balances the vocals without over-fussy distraction. This is a man who is renowned for his interpretations, the manner in which he gets inside a song, his own or well-selected covers. You could call it 'Americana,' for a fast tag that conveys something of the emotional areas he inhabits, strung off the blues, country and the country side of rock and laid onto an acoustic 'folk' framework – but that is only a necessary shorthand to describe loosely a unique performer. I use the terms occasionally of 'channelling' and 'blackface,' the first being a movement into material from outside culturally that nevertheless finds the true core and delivers it with soul and honesty, the second being a copy that rings hollow, broadened out from its original sense of imitating African-American music. Think white blues or English country in general for the second – and then the (admittedly few) exceptions in those genre who know how to 'channel' the material. Or all tribute bands... with no exceptions. Being English, then, and singing American and American-influenced material is a dangerous route to travel. Most don't pull it off. Jack Hudson does. In spades. Tonight over two sets he will rove through a variety of songs that have one solid link – the emotional truth they convey. From his own fine compositions – such as 'Driftwood and Nails,' about an illicit affair, the Hemingway-esque 'Elvis is alive and well' and the sad waltz 'She likes to go walking' – to some great covers, a man and his guitar and voice delivered one of those special nights. You really wouldn't need more...

The second half bounced of some classic Little Feat songs – 'Willin',' 'Roll 'em Easy,' 'Dixie Chicken' via a righteous version of Guy Clark's 'L.A. Freeway and a duet with one of his friends (Una) on Susannah Clark's 'Come from the heart' (via Mark Twain), less emphasis on his own material now, to end on the Mentor Williams classic 'Drift Away.' There was the occasional fluffed line and odd mistake but Jack is a charmer – they were smilingly shrugged off and oddly made his performance more endearing. A minor quibble, anyway, thrown in for some semblance of objectivity... as far as this audience was concerned, myself included, he could have finished the night by walking on water. He said later that he wasn't as road-sharp as he would like to have been – due to the absurdity of not getting many gigs. Cue outrage... Some people seem to demand cheap pigeon-holing – Jack does not fit easily into purist straight-jackets – as no musician of any worth does. At the end of the night he said: 'If you are able, don't take shit from anyone.' The qualifying phrase shows an intrinsic human understanding - some things are just not that easy. But should be striven for... Jack is a man who has travelled some difficult roads, I would hazard. What he brings back from his journeys, the hard-won truths encased in the pure gold of his songs, I would urge people to seek out. There are not many around like this...

A brief note on the Pack Horse – the new landlord seems to mean business, the room has been cleaned up (shock, horror etc) and hopefully things look bright for the future after some uncertain times recently. The usual hosannas to Mr Marmion, curator extraordinaire. I know how much this gig meant to him. And me...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Jack Hudson tonight at the Pack Horse, Loughborough... Friday, 2nd November, 2007

A quick shout for tonight - anyone within reachable distance of God's Little Acre should get down to Frank Marmion's club at the Pack Horse where the mighty Jack Hudson is playing a rare gig. If you know Jack's music - you'll be there - and if you don't - you should be anyway. Trust me, he is a stone original... I saw him a while back doing a short spot and he blew me away...

Here's a link to his record label - no personal info but a couple of albums which are worth grabbing - ignore the twee name which sounds like an organic breakfast cereal - 'Woven Wheat Whispers.' Dear God...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stan Getz/Bob Brookmeyer... Sonny Rollins... Jimmy Lyons... George Adams/Don Pullen

Coming in for a fast hit today...

Introduced by Stan the Man, this is 'Polka Dots and Moonbeams' from the classic 1954 album 'Live at the Shrine.' An easy swing through this ballad, Getz solos first, elegant and smooth. Brookmeyer next, a more bluff tone via the valve trombone, backed by obbligato from the sax - then they start to spin lines off each other, moving through an unaccompanied coda up to the end. Short, pithy and rather beautiful.

Another ballad, another 1954 track, this is Sonny Rollins' take on 'More than you know.' Late night, bleary sax, you could imagine Sinatra sat somewhere nursing a whiskey, replete in raincoat and that iconic hat. Thelonious Monk comps succinctly, feeding a gnarled arpeggio here and there as Rollins starts to dig in. The pianist takes the next solo, thoughtful and probing, his unexpected intervallic leaps and flinty chordal voicings giving some edge. Low to mid-register mainly, keeping the sombre mood. Rollins returns to take it out... A classic...

Rollins again - another ballad, same year, different rhythm section. 'Silk N'Satin.' As befits the title, a smooth and sensual reading. But big and powerful tone, muscular all the same... Elmo Hope eases in, delivers some rippling fluid lines (compare to Monk in the previous track). Rollins again, with an odd muffled afterthought of a trumpet obbligato which sounds as if it's in another room, from Kenny Dorham.

Moving on a few years... the late Jimmy Lyons, from a live trio session with Sunny Murray and John Lindberg. Consider the space that had become available by now for the three musicians - this is the curtly titled 'Riffs #5.' Alto swirls in with melodic fragments, followed closely by the bass, speedy playing across the registers as Murray's cymbals ebb and flow. On one line of progress, a light year away from 1954 - yet there was always a touch of Lyon's original master, Charlie Parker, residing in his playing, with some oddly boppish touches and the sheer brave-hearted dash of it all. Getting pretty frenetic with high-register squawks, but you always know he has complete control over his instrument. A master himself, fascinating to hear in this piano-less setting, away from his long-time bandleader Cecil Taylor. Murray takes a brief stomping coda then out to applause.

To end on: another live belter. George Adams and Don Pullen from 'Live at the Village Vanguard Vol 1.' 'Intentions.' And their intentions here are evident from the start - coming fast out of the traps, building up to a full-scale fire storm. Adams first record was with Roy Haynes, but he arguably made his bones with the Mingus band. Plus a few stints with Gil Evans... Hooking up with Don Pullen (who also played with Mingus)to form a great quartet in the 80's, the connection with the bassist/composer is maintained by the presence of Danny Richmond on drums, on fine unfettered form throughout. Cameron Brown in the bass chair, fluid and driving. Adams, an extremely underrated player, skids up and down his saxophone, deep honk to high squeal, entwining himself in tight melodic knots to suddenly bound free, chased by the bass, drums and thumping piano. Pullen solos, treble single notes stretched across jabbing left hand, then those swirling clusters, his trademark, jumping across the styles and the years to bend them all into his individual over-arching paradigm. Cameron Brown now, mobile melodic grace. Adams returns to lead off the exchange of eights that ratchets up the energy even further.

In the Videodrome...

Adams and Pullen quartet...

Adams and Pullen (with Lewis Nash replacing Danny R)...

George Adams does the Blues March... positively stunning...

Stan Getz/Bob Brookmeyer
Bob Brookmeyer (vtb) Stan Getz (ts) John Williams (p) Bill Anthony (b) Art Madigan (d)
Polka Dots and Moonbeams


Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins (ts) Thelonious Monk (p) Tommy Potter (b) Art Taylor (d)
More than you know

Sonny Rollins (ts) Kenny Dorham (t) Elmo Hope (p) Percy Heath (b) Art Blakey (d)
Silk N Satin


Jimmy Lyons/Sunny Murray
Jimmy Lyons (as) John Lindberg (b) Sunny Murray (d)
Riffs # 5


George Adams/Don Pullen
George Adams (ts) Don Pullen (p) Cameron Brown (b) Danny Richmond (d)


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pack Horse reopens Friday 26th October, 2007 for new season

Just a quick post to alert any locals that the Pack Horse venue in God's Little Acre - which has had a delayed opening for the new season due to problems/change of landlord etc - will definitely resurface this coming Friday - details here... Looks like I will be on the door - so say hello...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Review: Michael Gira, Simon Finn, Directing Hand at Tailor John's House, Sunday 21st October, 2007

Back to Taylor John's with Murray for the Michael Gira gig... The place, ridiculously under threat as a venue, tonight packed, an atmosphere of buzzing anticipation...

The openers: Directing Hand – a duo of Alex Neilsen on drums/vocals and Lavinia Blackwell vocals/ various plucked and keyed instruments. Scrubbing away at the harp to produce swirling glissandos, she launches a serpentine wordless vocal line, half folk, half more classical/operatic over spattering free jazz percussion. Switching to electronic keyboard – fizzing and buzzing with a reverbing memory of Suicide's gloriously cheapo scuzzy noise with a drone shard of Nico perhaps – more of the same vocal strategies. What makes it work – and there is a danger of going on too long - is the bending and stretching framework of the drums wrapping round the melodic movement. Ending on a stark acappella duet – some old murder ballad whose title I have forgotten – Neilsen's high voice giving a sinister, unearthly ambiance appropriate to the stark tale unfolding. Damn good – I've heard similar material down the years by more orthodox 'folk' performers that comes nowhere near the eery menace and feeling for the story they achieve here...

The second support – another pleasant surprise – Taylor John's obviously put some thought into the balance of the shows (or maybe the luck of the blessed, who knows?) - Simon Finn. (Here and here A rugged faced, long-haired survivor of the distant dream of the Sixties who moved to Canada in the seventies apparently, I had the odd feeling I had heard him back in London years ago. Given that the legacy of the Brit acoustic scene has been revisited much over recent years as the 'Freak Folk/Psych Folk' brigade pick up on antecedents like Bert Jansch, Davy Graham and co and extend the lineage in fascinating new ways (as did the previous act tonight) he proved to be a revelation. Backed by violin (Joolie Wood) and superb guitar work (Karl Blake) that acted as a backdrop of sonic washes and sympathetic amendments rather than conventional rhythm or lead, his old songs stand up well, far from being some corny tribute, and the new stuff is equally compelling. Finn plays with a hard-strumming tough sound and has a powerful, flexible voice, both used with passionate intensity. Darkish melancholy wrapped in a peculiarly English angst. Title of the night: 'The Rich Girl with no trousers.'

Gira is resplendent in a light suit, splendid hat and cool cowboy boots as he prepares for his set. When he is ready to start he has lost the jacket and titfer, showing workmanlike braces over a spotless white shirt. Sunday going-to-meeting clothes now adapted for sitting on the front porches of a soul-dark night. 'I'm as ready as I'll never be.' Playing amped up acoustic guitar, he opens on crushing discords and proceeds to deliver a set of extreme emotional power with aggressive nonchalance. Professional to the max in that American way, yet engaging the audience totally – almost brutally – his between-song patter spiked with a mordant humour that probes the Brit politeness of the audience – 'Why don't you guys have a war with Germany again to jack up the testostorone levels.' 'Can I say... cunt?' You wag Michael... The Swans are a ways back now but there are still echoes of their special brand of slowsmashing overwhelming darkness. Gira lets more light and air in these days with broader orchestrations and more acoustic backdrops - the 'Angels of Light' collaborations with the Akron Family – but this perhaps points up those movements through the dark places of the soul which are still operating in his work. And some fascinating positioning in the traditions of American music. On 'Promise of Water,' his sudden savage footstomps work as a device that echoes and channels John Lee Hooker's jukejoint rhythmic punctuations. Similarly, with his use of extended vamping figures, he reaches back to the devices of the country blues without being a pale imitation (pun intended). No blackface here – in fact, his rich dark baritone links to the country styles of Johnny Cash in a resonant and existential similarity although he's arguably a more flexible singer and swoops down into deeper cowboy angel transgressional territories than the Man in Black. Add a singular grasp of dynamics to the mix and you have an evening that takes in madness, booze and allied addictions, thwarted love and despair, decay and death - delivered with a subtlely throttled back emotion and a literate and knowing intelligence. Fun, really... And a suggestion for future encores – 'Smoke, smoke smoke that cigarette.' (You had to have been there...).

And a big shout to Taylor John's for another great gig – keep up the fight!

Back at last... three tracks... Alice Coltrane... Jerry Lee Lewis... Alexander Von Schlippenbach...

A crazy weekend culminating in a great gig at Taylor John's where Michael Gira was incandescently brilliant left me even further in the hole physically... mainly self-inflicted... just starting to pick up things again... review tomorrow plus photos...

I have no idea where I acquired this – searching for another album I found this single track by Alice Coltrane, a re-recording of the title track from her husband's somewhat famous album 'A Love Supreme.' This really shouldn't work - but it does... A swirling orchestral beginning then an invocation from her guru Swami Satchidananda edging into New Age territory (but each to their own, hey?) until the familiar theme surfaces on electronic keyboard/organ and the rhythm picks up – Alice soon plunges into more aggressive figures, a mirror of the searching, shattering brilliance of her late husband. Leroy Jenkins steps up to saw away into increasingly lengthening spirals, melodic cascades again matching the soaring lines of the original. The organ returns to damp the emotion down as more peaceful orchestral figures commence, shot through with ascending/descending keyboard and the Swami returns briefly to take it out. Shh/Peaceful...

One of my first loves (musical, musical!) - Jerry Lee Lewis. The Killer. Southern white fried country blues boogie rock and roll... A firm loping swagger through the old 12 bar 'Matchbox' from a rough and ready live show recorded at the Star Club in Hamburg in 1964, backed by the Nashville Teens. As Edwin C. Faust said in a review:

'What kind of middle-of-the-road, pussy willow, drag ass society do we live in where “Jerry Lee Lewis At The Star Club” isn’t the number one top-selling live album of all time!?' (From Stylus magazine article here... ).


Alexander Von Schlippenbach and the boys – Evan Parker and Paul Lovens – one of the longest-lasting bands in European free jazz. Recorded live in Berlin in 1975 with Peter Kowald on bass added. This is 'Black Holes,' a title which evokes science and mystery simultaneously.. Scrawl and scratch and bang by sax, bass and percussion/drums until the piano finally comes in - minimally and soon dropping out as ultra high notes take over the sonic area - like a hip penny whistle. Sparse piano returns, repeated single notes until a final fade. Laid back stuff by this band's standards, with a reverse climax almost as the busy beginning slowly falls backwards.

Andrew Hill – an alternate take of 'The Griots' from his 1964 album 'Andrew!!' John Gilmore, who plays on this album, is not present here – just a quarter with Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Chambers and Richard Davis. Hill solos first, plunging into the changes, suddenly back-spinning a long cascading line – sparkling stuff. Davis, who is superb in his underpinning throughout, takes a scampering solo after the pianist. Hill returns until Hutcherson comes in to restate the theme. Spikily brilliant.

Alice Coltrane
Alice Coltrane (org) Reggie Workman (b) Ben Riley (d) Elayne Jones (tim) Frank Lowe (saxes, perc) Swami Satchidananda (voice) Leroy Jenkins (v)
A Love Supreme


Jerry Lee Lewis (p, v) plus Nashville Teens


Alexander Von Schlippenbach
Alexander von Schlippenbach (p) Evan Parker (ss, ts) Peter Kowald (b) Paul Lovens (perc)
Black holes


Andrew Hill
Andrew Hill (p) Bobby Hutcherson (vib) Richard Davis (b) Joe Chambers (d)
The Griots (alternate take)