Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Claire Martin at the Basement Brighton 9th December

The final kineojazz gig of the year was, along with the first Joe Lee gig, my favourite. A very good turn out and very relaxed atmosphere. The kineojazz team (Steve, Ela & myself) sort of know what we're doing now so fewer last minute panics. Lovely first set from Alice Hawkes and her band and it got a deservedly warm response. Claire's sets were given an additional lift by the presence of Gareth Williams on piano and expansive, swinging drumming from Ian Thomas. As ever, Laurence Cottle and Jim Mullen were on fine form. One highlight was a Claire accompanied solely by Jim Mullen with Close Enough For Love. Jim then left the proceedings and hopped onto a train back to London . . .

Nothing yet planned for 2011, but kineojazz will be taking stock over the hols and considering some surprises in the new year.

Claire Martin
Alice Hawkes, Martijn van Galen, Tim Slade

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Congratulations Joe Lee Wilson!

Joe Lee performing at The Basement this year
On November 14 sometime Brighton resident and living legend Joe Lee Wilson was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame. Joe Lee hails from Bristow Oklahoma before he moved to Los Angeles to study singing with, among other, Mario Lanza. He then made his reputation touring the West Coast before becoming a leading light in the New York loft scene in the Seventies.

Organisers tracked down his whereabouts through the kineojazz website and Joe Lee was there to receive the award in person, along with legendary composer Lalo Schiffrin. Inductees included:

  • Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award: Lalo Schifrin
  • Living Legend Award: Sam Rivers
  • Jazz & Blues Inductee: Joe Lee Wilson
  • Jazz Inductee: Artt Frank (Bebop drummer)

It's good to see Joe Lee getting some well-deserved recognition. Congratulations Joe Lee!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

kineojazz Christmas event - next Thursday, 9th December

Just a week until the next kineojazz event - a Christmas special (how appropriate in all this snow) and our last one this year. Claire went down a storm when she was with us back in June. Once again she has the fantastic guitarist Jim Mullen and virtuoso bass player Laurence Cottle. This time she is also joined by Ian Thomas on drums and Gareth WIlliams on piano. Claire's website has christened The Basement "Brighton's hippest music space".

Supporting Claire will be a set from local pianist Alice Hawkes and her quintet, including ace trumpeter Martijn van Galen.

Full details on the kineojazz website: http://www.kineojazz.com/ This includes photos and videos from all the previous gigs.

Tickets online from: http://uk.brownpapertickets.com/event/138771
Or, from theDome booking office, New Road, Brighton, 01273 709709

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Nigel Price Organ Trio, The Brunswick, Brighton

Nigel Price
Surrey-based guitarist Nigel Price was on fine form on Sunday night on this last date of his national tour. The guitarist was in classic organ trio format, ably supported by Matt Home on drums and Pete Whittaker on Hammond C3 organ (+ rotating Leslie).  With a set largely inspired by the classic bop guitar of Wes Montgomery, Nigel demonstrated fiery virtuosity, sensitivity and and strong musical intelligence.

The tone of his archtop guitar (made by Lewes luthier Charlie Crabtree) is very like Wes, though he picks rather than playing with his thumb. With thick strings and a very low action, be plays with real grace and dexterity, caressing the strings and strumming harp-like harmonics. He can also get from A to B with a speed and energy that makes you listen with wonder.

The tunes he chose included Wes' funky bossa Road Song and Four On Six, Freddie Hubbard's Up Jumped Spring, Blossom Dearie's Sweet Georgie Fame (also covered by the late Emily Remler), Ellington's Prelude to a Kiss, Stanley Turrentine's arrangement of Love for Sale and an original funky tune in the style of Dr Lonnie Smith called Wavy Gravy.

Pete Whittaker on Hammond C3
Matt Home is a no frills drummer but with a really solid sense of time and great swing. I particularly enjoyed Pete Whittaker's hammond playing - really cool, nicely place phrasing and nothing too fussy. A contrast to Nigel in the right way.

One person described it as being like Ronnie's forty years ago. Close your eyes, listen hard and you would find it difficult to spot many traces of any jazz that had emerged in the last forty years. How is it different? Like Jim Mullen, Nigel peppers his playing with the blues-rockisms of Sixties guitarists like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. This may be a British thing a as guitarists like Peter Bernstein, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Jesse van Ruller seem to have purged their playing of these sort of clichés. That said, that blues feel is something that hooks in the ears of the non-jazz audience and, as such, I think it serves its purpose well. The other minor niggle I had was the frequent use of diminished chords as passing chords - "cheap glue" as Geoff Simkins is always reminding his students, quoting Peter Ind.

Nigel has a nice line in patter, paying tribute to the guitarists of past and present (Wes, Kenny Burrell and the Irish guitarist Louis Stewart), explaining the derivation of tunes and how he had changed them (e.g. moving from a 4 feel to a 6 feel) and generally drawing the audience into the music. I was really to discover where the name of Wes' arrange of the chords of Summertime came from -  Four on Six is not some reference to the time of the tune but simply a reference to four finger on six strings. Of course!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Film Review: Chico & Rita, Duke of York's Picturehouse

Great jazz films are all too infrequent. Animated films about jazz non-existent. Chico & Rita is a full-length animation set against a background of Havana and New York in the Forties and Fifties set to a soundtrack of Be-Bebop and Afro-Cuban rhythms. If you like be-bop, you'll love Chico & Rita.

Chico is the best pianist in Forties Havana, playground of the American rich. He plays the local clubs and gets a break when he sits in with Woody Herman's Four Brothers at The Tropicana to sight read Igor Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto. He meets the beautiful Rita, a nightclub singer. The couple spend a passionate night together before being disturbed by Chico's lover. The women fight and then both walk out on Chico. This is the start of a fifty year on-off romance. Rita finds fame in New York shows and Hollywood movies. Chico becomes a leading pianist playing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Ben Webster.

Fiction and reality merge. Chico and his agent are in a Harlem club with Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo (who wrote Dizzy's hit Manteca) when he is gunned down by a drug dealer he has accused of selling him oregano instead of weed. This is based on fact. They walk into a club to hear Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk playing. Rita goes to the Village Vanguard to listen to Chico playing with Ben Webster. Chico is busted when drugs are found on him after a raid on a club and he is deported to Cuba where the revolution is in full flow.

The film was directed by Oscar winner Fernando Trueba (Belle Époque) and leading Catalan designer Javier Mariscal. Mariscal created the "look" of Barcelona in the Eighties and Nineties - his illustrations making it looking like Havana on The Mediterrean. His images dominated the Barcelona Olympics (remember Cobi the dog mascot and those cartoon city maps?). The movements of the characters are life-like (based on live action) and there is a sensuality about the dancing and sex scenes that is really unusual for animation. There is plenty of action - car chases in huge Buicks and Cadillacs, police raids, fight scenes - and wonderful cityscapes of Havana, New York and Paris. Though an animation, it is definitely aimed at adults.

Plenty of great jazz too. As well as the classic be-bop recordings of the era (Blue Monk, Manteca) Chico sits in a bar playing Bud Powell's beautiful Celia (the theme of the film is a tune Chico writes called Rita). Ben Webster playing in The Vanguard is actually Jimmy Heath and Nat "King" Cole is sung by his brother, Fredy. The music was written by Cuban bandleader, pianist and composer Bebo Valdés, who lived through the period and, like Chico, spent time in the States and Europe.

Obviously this was not a film created for jazz fans. It has the production values of a box office hit and pretty much any adult could enjoy the love story, the music, the action and the scenery. It may also change people's perception of Cuban music as it places Cuba at the cutting edge of modern jazz in the Forties.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Stan Getz "Dum! Dum!" featuring Renè Thomas, Eddy Louiss, Bernard Lubat

Thanks to Niall for sharing this wonderful clip featuring Renè Thomas performing with Stan Getz. This band made one of Stan Getz's best live recordings - Dynasty - and was clearly a very tight outfit when they made this TV appearance. Renè's solo starts at about 5:06. It's only very short but it moved me. I hope some more clips like this turn up.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

London Jazz festival: Brad Mehldau & Martial Solal

Two contrasting gigs this week - Brad premiering Highway Rider with the Britten Symphonia at The Barbican and Martial Solal solo at The Wigmore Hall.

I'be been enjoying the Highway Rider record a great deal recently. It describes a metaphorical journey from, and eventually back to, home. Each piece along the way opens up and explores a world of sound and emotion - strong melodies, interesting tones, great interaction. It's an intimate chamber piece with the small orchestra used to add texture or describe a dimension of the music that wouldn't be apparent through a regular jazz group.

On stage it took on a different character. Broadly the same music but in a huge concert hall. Some great playing and interaction from Brad on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeff Ballard & Matt Chamberlain on percussion, and Joshua Redman on saxes. But the Britten Sinfonia stood out as being under utilised, spending much of the performance waiting patiently for the next orchestral contribution. I really liked the textures from the orchestra when it did contribute, particularly the bassoon, and along with some fairly standard American film score writing, there was some really interesting stuff, particularly one piece of rising & swirling atonality that must have had our poor traveller very confused and disoriented.

Highway Rider an ambitious piece of music and one that is typical of Brad Mehldau. He loves making jazz modern and relevant (with his covers of Radionhead, Nirvana, Nick Drake etc.)  and he also likes to dive into the romantic tradition (the Highway Rider concept is similar to Schubert's Winterreise).  His music is often personal and intimate but then he brings it to a large stage with an orchestra. Perhaps on some levels he was less successful but I would happily sit through the set several times over in order to appreciate the richness of what I was hearing. Themes are still popping into my head and I will continue to enjoy the recording for some time yet.

Frenchman Martial Solal was occupying the solo piano spot of the stage of The Wigmore Hall where I had seen Brad in early summer. Very sprightly and virtuosic for his 82 years, Martial treated us to a set of, largely standards such as There's a Small Hotel, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, Cherokee, Have You Met Miss Jones, Body & Soul and Tea for Two ("One that I wrote on the train over from Paris this morning," he quipped). This was no ordinary set of standards. Much of the music was very free time-wise and, after playing a fragment of melody, he would dive into the cracks between the chords, do some exploring, and then continue where he left off. He clearly loves ideas and has a great sense of humour. Introducing All The Things You Are ("Here is a tune you all know - how many of you know the words?") he then played that first very familiar note of the melody, held it for 15 seconds before playing the second note, holding it for 10 seconds, going off on an excursion a and then coming back for the third note. When he has enough of improvising he would play the head and suddenly break off, often before the end, standing up from the piano as if to say "Baah, I've had enough of this!".

Once I has stopped playing spot the tune I was very happy to let myself be overwhelmed by the music of the piano in that beautiful hall, much as you might be overwhelmed by a landscape, a film, pleasant aromas and powerful emotions.

Portrait of Martial Solal in The Daily Telegraph

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Ed Cherry Trio "Mogadishu"

Great Guitar/Organ Trio playing from guitarist Ed Cherry. The balance of tones from drums organ and guitar is just right. Everyone is grooving along, doing their own thing yet keeping their ears wide open. Everyone gets a chance to stretch out without any one instrument being too dominant.

I've only got a couple of tracks recorded by Ed so it's time I did some more investigating.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Ahmad Jamal - Spartacus Love Theme

A beautiful interpretation of the tune. Not too sentimental (it's a pretty sentimental tune), but one that captures an occasional mood. I also like the Bill Evans, Terry Callier and Frank Harrison versions but this one is new to me.

Gigs: Full Circle (Brighton) and Seamus Blake (London)

Another busy week in which I managed to catch a couple of gigs. Last Sunday was Joss Peach and Full Circle at The Brunswick in Brighton. The trio featured Joss on piano, bassist Terry Pack and Dave Trigwell on drums. Overall, the music has a relaxed feel, hooking into modern pop by reinterpreting the likes of Sting, Massive Attack and a haunting version of Tainted Love featuring vocalist Rachel Munro ("A song about a failed relationship. Maybe you've had one, or maybe you're sitting next to one now!"). There was plenty of space in the music and Dave Trigwell played sensitively with (to him) some unfamiliar arrangements. I liked the overall sense of space in the music - space to think, reflect, enjoy. Perfect for a Sunday evening. Interestingly, the largely groove-based set did not lend itself to any startlingly solos. The one standard they performed was Clifford Brown's Sandu. Joss played with a lovely, light Wynton Kelly feel and his solo deserved the applause it received. Overall, Full Circle has a distinct identity and, evidenced by the good turn out, quite a few fans. The climax was fitting - everyone in the room got to play percussion - it's great to be treated as a part of the music, rather than just a passive listener.

My first visit to the 606 club in London. A nice space to listen to jazz - the sound is good, you're physically  close the musicians. Leading NYC tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake was playing a guest spot with musicians he had only met that day. American band leader Michael Janisch, who I last saw performing with George Garzione, is a muscular bassist - fantastic chops, Mingus-like sound and beautiful note choices. Ernesto Simpson is a fine Cuban drummer who inhabits the beat, playing both sensitively and with intensity but never playing loudly. Seamus played with conviction and focus. A big tone, thoughtful choice of notes and and that ability to communicate directly to the audience through the horn.  That left Phil Robson on guitar and Alex Garnett on tenor. Alex provided most of the arrangement- broadly bebop in influence - but his playing suffered next to Seamus. He can play fast (as in lot of notes) but he didn't seem to have a lot to say. Phil Robson can also play lots of notes but I didn't get a strong sense of Phil as a person through his music. The Cuban-American trio definitely made the evening for me. I'd like to hear Phil Robson again, playing his own music perhaps. I would have loved to have heard Seamus play some of his own compositions (I've been listening to his Live in Italy record, which has some great tunes on). A minor niggle - I felt lucky to have caught him at all.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Patronage in jazz?

A number of recent experiences and encounters have highlighted to me the sad fact that gigs for the jobbing jazz musician are currently in short supply. As one recently said to me, the regular pub and function gigs are few and far between, although the specialist jazz gigs, though few, are better than ever. My one regular jazz gig is now under threat because the pub has changed hands and the entertainment budget slashed. What's the motivation for a promoter to put on a jazz gig. A love of the music? Yes. A desire to make money? Most definitely not.

Perhaps we need to start thinking differently about how we support jazz through these hard times. Public arts spending is being comprehensively reviewed, but there are other ways of supporting the arts. . . old fashioned private patronage. In the 18th and 19th Centuries European aristocrats patronised composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. More recently, and closer to home, Geoff Simkins mentioned to me some BBC World Service staff up in Hampstead who used to club together and get jazz musicians to perform in their homes. Perhaps we need to see more private patrons of jazz.

I came across this video of of David Newton & Bobby Wellins playing "Out of Nowhere" in a private house concert earlier this year on the LondonJazz blog. If I could afford to live in a house with those beautiful windows, I would be tempted to fund my own jazz season. Some beautiful playing from both and perhaps some inspiration for an aspiring jazz patron. Any takers?


Friday, 8 October 2010

Ken Peplowski, The Caxton Arms, 7th October

Last night's gig with US reeds player Ken Peplowski was "a swingin' affair", as Frank would say. Joined by top local players Steve Thompson (bass), Piers Clark (guitar) and Mark Edwards (piano) in an all-acoustic setting, Ken wowed the packed basement of the The Caxton Arms with a stream of swing classics. On his clarinet, the style was very much Benny Goodman. Beautifully executed heads and solos on tunes such as Moonglow, Avalon and Charlie Christian's A Smooth One. His tenor playing is very smooth and melodic, like Lester Young. I particularly liked his rendition of Ike Quebec's Jim Dawgs (based on I Got Rhythm changes) and Body and Soul.

Of the other musicians, Mark Edwards showed what a versatile player he is. Although I have heard him playing hard bop, modern jazz and gospel, he was equally at home playing in the pre-bop style of the Thirties and Forties. As an inventive soloist, he stood shoulder to shoulder with Ken throughout. Steve Thompson's bass was brushing the ceiling but this did not effect his bass playing in any way. He swung hard and played some lovely solos. Piers Clark has honed a rhythm guitar style that makes him sound as though he has been catapulted forward from the Thirties in a time machine. He played impeccable four to the bar throughout and, with no drummer, added a nice brushes and hi-hat feel to the sound. Ken was careful to give Piers a few solo choruses here and there and he filled them with some nice chord melodies.

It was great hearing a completely acoustic band. The ears get used to it in no time at all and the sound was rich, full and subtle. Ken sounded most beautiful on his solo version of Duke Ellington's Single Petal of a Rose.

Ken demonstrated a ready wit and shared plenty of banter and anecdotes with the audience. This crowd-pleasing style of swing is clearly his core repertoire, though there's an interesting profile here saying that he is equally at home playing Ornette Coleman and The Beatles.

The evening was a successful start to a season of jazz events with name musicians and a local rhythm section, the next being trumpeter Enrico Tomasso on October 21. The venue is called Smalls, like the Greenwich Village jazz club, but some thought needs to go into making sure it can fit the eighty odd audience comfortably. Standing through two sets can be tiring and getting to the bar was challenging!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

First review of kineojazz gig with Liane Carroll and Luke Rattenbury

Great 5* review of last week's gig in the Brighton Evening Argus.

"The Basement is a great jazz venue"


"Liane Carroll certainly filled that space. Irrepressibly larger than life and with a wicked sense of humour, her personality came over with a voice that was consistently powerful and agile and held the whole audience – ranging from a 75th birthday to a surprisingly large following of guys in their 20s – spellbound."
 "[Of the LR Trio] There was musical playing from all three, including some notably lyrical bass solos."

Once again it was a pleasure to work with Steve and Ela in organising the event. Each one gets a little easier and we always learn plenty along the way . . .



Looking forward to the Latin Night with Ela's Remember April bossa nova band and Terry Seabrook's Cubana Bop on 17th November.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Two great videos of guitarist René Thomas

With the The International Jazz Quintet on Belgian TV in 1962: Bobby Jaspar, tenor sax, flute; Amadeo Tommasi, piano; René Thomas, guitar; Benoît Quersin, double bass; Daniel Humair, drums. This is the band that toured and recorded with Chet Baker.

Great soloing from René - heavy strings, a thick pick and some wonderful sweep picking.



Friday, 24 September 2010

Live at the Snowdrop, Lewes, 20th September

It was an enjoyable gig at the Snowdrop on Monday where I was playing in the classic organ trio format with Terry Seabrook (organ) and Dominic O'Meehgan (drums). Terry comp'ed in the classic organ style of the likes of Brother Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff with his soloing style being more reminiscent of the modern jazz stylings of Larry Young (as witnessed on the fantastic Unity album). Dominic combined the fire and energy of Art Blakey with the polyrhythmic dexterity of Tony Williams.

I recorded the gig on a little Edirol digital recorder. The tracks below are just a representative selection from the set.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Moanin' - Rhoda Scott 1972

Thinking of tomorrow's organ trio gig with Terry Seabrook reminded me of this great clip of Rhoda Scott. That's a great groove for just two people!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Kit Downes Trio, Brighton Jazz Club, 10th September


Being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize as this year's token jazzers doesn't seem to to have done much to Kit Downes' confidence. The pianist seemed genuinely surprised and humbled by the warm reception he got at the Brighton Jazz Club on Friday. One imagines that in the extremely unlikely event that he had won the top prize, the Trio would have been ill suited to playing the main stage at Glastonbury because the music is intimate and, as such, more suited to the small jazz club.

The band have a classic piano jazz trio set-up, Kit to the left and drummer James Maddren to the the right with bassist Calum Gourley acting as a kind of fulcrum between the sparring partners. Kit is not a flashy player. There's a fragility and thoughtfulness to his playing and, rather than creating strong solo lines, he uses the piano to create textures. Drummer James Maddren, who last impressed me at BJC with alto saxophonist Geoff Simkins, plays with great freedom and a wonderful sense of dynamics. He can go from quiet and controlled to loud and surprising very quickly, but always tastefully. I love the look on his face as he plays - transported to some place inside the music. Interestingly bassist Calum Gourley played strong melodic lines on his solos, by way of contrast to Kit.

The set was made up almost entirely of Kit's compositions. The tunes that stood out were Skip James -  a piece that conjured up an eerie Texan landscape, like Ry Cooder's score to Wim Wenders' Paris Texas - and Jump Mitzy Jump as it reminded me of our kittens when they have that five minute frenetic burst of activity. The compositions are strong enough to make me want to get to know the records. In terms of comparisons, a bit of EST and a bit of Brad Mehldau, though less intense. One thing that intrigued me about the tunes was where the composing ended and the improvising started. I thought the same thing with Phronesis earlier in the year. You can't see the joins but you want to be reassured that the bulk is improvised.

It can be tough presenting entirely original, unfamiliar compositions to an audience. It was therefore something of a relief mid-way through the second set when they went into a beautiful, understated version of the standard Skylark. The melody of that tune is so strong, they didn't have to do much with it. It was like listening to the blooming of a flower, time-lapse style.

It was of no surprise to learn that the three shared a house as students. They played without music, seemed very supportive of each other and the music had the good humour of mates playing together. They didn't seem at all surprised that they weren't the victors last week. I think it would take quite a lot to distract them from their current path.

Here's a video of Kit Downes talking about and playing Jump Minzy Jump.

Friday, 3 September 2010

New Kurt Rosenwinkel record out next week!

I'm very excited by the prospect of a new Kurt Rosenwinkel record which showcases his compositions in an orchestral setting. Kurt is a brilliant guitarist but what I like most of all is the  depth and originality of his tunes. The influences are almost untraceable - european classical and folk, science fiction, hip-hop, pop, world music and jazz. They just seem to be the product of a massive musical imagination, intelligence, intuition and a big heart. Admittedly, his style may not be as easily accessible as, say Brad Mehldau, but I've found it rewards repeated listening.

The album was recorded with the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos (OJM), a Portuguese big band, and is released on the independent WOM label. You can catch some pre-release excerpts here. From what I've heard so far, it sounds great and is probably one of Kurt's most accessible recordings.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Brunswick Jazz Jam Session, Hove, Tuesday evenings

Paul Richards has made a real success of The Brunswick Jazz Jam on Tuesday evenings. It was packed this Tuesday with a good mix of musicians and general listeners. Paul is great at encouraging people to take part and he has managed to established a very relaxed atmosphere where people are not scared of joining in. The high level of interest in the session and the high standard of talent on show bodes well for the future of live jazz in Brighton.
Jamming at The Brunswick by Monika Henter
Paul himself is a fine guitarist. He plays a nylon-strung Godin guitar and uses a classical right hand technique which gives him a very pianistic approach - chords, arpeggios and single note lines - and a beautiful tone. He is certainly one of the best jazz players I have heard live in this vein (Pat Metheny does it brilliantly and I saw Charlie Byrd many years ago, but he was past him prime).

I got to play with some great musicians - Paul, Charlotte Glasson (sax and flute), Eddie Myer (bass), Wayne McConnell (piano) and a young drummer called Peter Adam Hill. The photo is from the Brunswick Jazz Jam facebook group (which is worth joining for details) and was taken by Monika Henter.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Herman Leonard: March 6, 1923 – August 14, 2010

Lester Young by Herman Leonard

Herman Leonard died last week. Photographers like Francis Wolff, William Caxton and Hermann Leonard pretty much created the image of jazz in the 'Fifties and 'Sixties on the East and West Coast of the US. These photos took on a new life when jazz was being re-discovered in the 'Eighties when they also became synonymous with a particular type of  advertising (remember "yuppies"?).

The photo above is from a nice little movie short he made that I saw on Channel 4 years ago and have on a fading video somewhere. That's Lester Young beneath the pork pie hat.

Here's an obituary in Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2264119/.
And a BBC audio slideshow: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-11000692

Friday, 20 August 2010

kineojazz - Autumn/Winter 2010 Programme!

Preston Park velodrome in the snow
The kineojazz team (Ela Southgate, Steve Rayson and I) has just finished putting together a programme for the autumn. Like the Joe Lee Wilson and Claire Martin gigs we will be once again using Brighton's best (IMHO) jazz venue - The Basement.

In choosing artists to put on we have aimed to combine the local angle, those who have a national reputation, strong jazz pedigree and an ability to appeal to a broad audience. Here is the full list of gigs:


Thursday 30th September: Season Kick Off!
LIANE CARROLL TRIO with support from Luke Rattenbury Trio
Pianist/Singer Liane is from Hastings, has won many top awards and is known for her passionate live performances. Guitarist Luke Rattenbury is a regular on the Brighton and promises an exciting jazz/latin set with top class comrades Tristan Banks (drums) and Andre Fry (bass).


Wednesday 17th November: Latin Jazz! 
CUBANA BOP with support from Remember April 
Terry Seabrook has refreshed his Cubana Bop line up but it's good to see tenor saxophonist Ian Price is still in the band. Ela's Remember April will augment their distinctive bossa nova stylings with some three-part harmonisations from Ela, Rachel Dey and Sara Oschlag.


Thursday 9TH December: Christmas Special!
CLAIRE MARTIN with support from Alice Hawkes Quartet
Claire is back with her band featuring fantastic guitarist Jim Mullen. Alice Hawkes plays some tasteful piano with a band that features Py (tenor and soprano sax), Tim Slade (double bass) and Graham Allen (drums). Expect some modern jazz standards and orginal compositions.

If you haven't been before the kineojazz nights are definitely "an event" (rather than just another gig) and makes for a great night out.

You can find full details on the kineojazz website: http://www.kineojazz.com/.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Blues in the Closet: Treatment of the Blues

Two versions of Oscar's Pettiford's Blues in the Closet. Jim Hall is not really know for his blues playing. On this version he never moves that far away from the tune but takes a few tips from his ex boss, Sonny Rollins, and deconstructs it in various interesting ways. It's Jim at his best - spontaneous, thoughtful and witty. Attila Zoller, not exactly a conventional player himself, also plays with a lot of freedom, spinning some really interesting, swinging, bluesy lines lines. I'm impressed that both players can play so freely in front of TV cameras, but then they have a wonderful rhythm section to support them - Red Mitchell on bass and a very familiar-looking drummer (Daniel Humair I think). If only there was a jazz version of Later with Jools Holland . . .



I like the Bud version of the tune too. It's played quite slowly but is beautifully ornamented and quite Monk-ish in places.

Friday, 23 July 2010

A Portrait of Grant Green . . .

Grant Green by Francis Wolff

Looking cool, nonchalant, laid back, sharp, confident, assertive, on it . . .

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Pepper Adams: BOSSANOUVEAU

Pepper Adams (1930-1986) aka "The Knife". What a wonderful player!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Jazz Fiction - some personal favourites

Haruki Murakami - South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992)
Jazz hardly features in this novel, but the protagonist runs a successful jazz club (as Japanese writer Murakami did himself) and it features Ellington & Strayhorn's Star Crossed Lovers, which represent the doomed love affair explored in the
book. Hajime is an only child in post-war Japan who develops a close relationship with Shimamoto, another only child, through spending afternoon's after school listening to her father's record collection. They drift apart but he reappears years later, when Hajime is a husband, parent and successful jazz club owner. The love they have is strange, irrational and intense and comes very close to jeopardising his marriage. After a strange kind of consummation, she disappears forever, leaving him bereft, until he slowly works his way back to his wife, who has been standing patiently by, and a new life. The book has a melancholy feel to it, a sort of 2:00 am jazz club ballad feel. When a friend introduced this book to the book club I belong to, the men liked it, the women didn't. It captures a very masculine sentimentality - Shimamoto never seems real, she's not rounded in any way. That said, it somehow captures some aspect of the male mid-life crisis very poetically, even musically.

Geoff Dyer - But Beautiful: A Book About Jazz (1991)
English writer Geoff Dyer takes the bare facts of some well-known jazz stories (Lester Young court-martialed by the Army because of an inability to cope with a racist Drill Sergeant, Chet Baker's teeth knocked out by an angry drug dealer in a San Francisco diner, Art Pepper sentenced to five years in prison on a Heroin possession conviction) as his themes and then creates his his own version of them. The jazz musicians are artistic giants. On Thelonious Monk; "Whatever it was inside him was very delicate, he had to keep it very still, slow himself right down so that nothing affected it." On Ben Webster; "He carried his loneliness around with him like an instrument case. It never left his side." He creates an imaginary jazz world out of music, photos and stories. The book is beautifully written - every word carefully chosen - and is made more remarkable by the fact that the writer hadn't even visited America when he wrote it.

Antonio Munoz Molina - Winter in Lisbon (1987)
Probably my favourite jazz novel. Jazz pianist Santiago Biralbo is the house pianist of the The Lady Bird jazz club in San Sebastian. He falls in love with the mysterious and beautiful Lucrecia, the wife of an American art dealer. The love is obsessional and doomed and, straight out of film noir, takes place in clubs, taxis, after dark, in a discrete cafe on the hill overlooking La Concha, the beach at San Sebastian. The plot involves gangsters, guns, heroin, booze, years of waiting, and a car journey through the night from San Sebastian to Lisbon. In Lisbon American musician Billy Swann is in a psychiatric hospital. Santiago toured Europe with him for many years as Tete Monteliou, would have toured with the visiting Amercan greats like Lionel Hampton. The descriptions of Santiago on creative flights at the piano are the best I've read. Parts of it are like South of the Border, West of the Sun (mysterious women who are more figments of the imagination than real). The book started life as a film script and a film was made with Dizzy Gillespie as Billy Swann. Dizzy also recorded the sountrack. The film never went on general release (I'd love to see it), though you can pick up the CD. Antonio Munoz Molina is one of Spain's finest writers and this is probably the one of the best-written novels with a jazz theme.
 
James Baldwin - Sonny's Blues (1957)
A black school teacher in Fifties' America tells the story of his younger brother, Sonny, a Charlie Parker-loving bebop pianist and drug addict. As a schoolboy he decides he wants be a jazz pianist and there are some great descriptions of his single-minded practising:




He'd play one record over and over again, all day long sometimes, and he'd improvise along with it on the piano. Or he'd play one section of the record, one chord, one change, one progression, then he'd do it on the piano. Then back to the record. Then back to the piano.
 
The story shows what a massive, all-consuming commitment it is to give yourself to jazz:
I had never before thought of how awful the relationship must be between the musician and his instrument. He has to fill it, this instrument, with the breath of life, his own. He has to make it do what he wants it to do. And a piano is just a piano. It's made out of so much wood and wires and little hammers and big ones, and ivory. While there's only so much you can do with it, the only way to find this out is to try; to try and make it do everything.

Though of its time, this book provides a real insight into one of the most fertile periods in jazz. It was no longer popular music, it was an art that demanded dedication and sacrifice. It get's right inside the appeal of jazz to both a musician and the audience.

Mike Outram ~ The Electric Campfire

Mike Outram is one of the UK's most interesting jazz (funk, fusion, whatever) guitarists. He also has a website packed with interesting resources - lessons, live recordings, videos, blog posts and more. His most recent posts is 19 great books about music, musicians, artists and the creative process, most (in fact, all) of which I haven't read and would like to check out. I won't re-publish the whole list here but will be be looking out for writings by Aaron Copland, Paul Morley and Leonard Bernstein. I'm also going to compile a list of my own favourite jazz-related books. Watch this space.

Friday, 9 July 2010

“Use ideas sparingly”

This isn’t a blog entry more an aide memoire. This is probably the most useful piece of advice I have taken away from Geoff Simkins Saturday workshop (thank you Geoff) and one that only hit home in the last few minutes of the last workshop of term.

I’m hoping it’s a piece of advice I can keep with me. When I play live, I often try to keep at least one piece of advice in my head, such as:


Project the sound like a trumpet

Play clearly and confidently

Hold onto that feeling

Play with conviction

Hold onto ideas, don’t let them go

Make the music dance

Make the music smile

Remember some of things I have learnt

Forget all the things I have learnt

Play with an open heart

Enjoy it

Don’t forget the audience

Don’t forget the other musicians

Play for myself

Play for the one person who is listening, and now

Use ideas sparingly!
This has to be the antidote to simply throwing in every musical idea that comes into your head when soloing. Take an idea, explore it and develop it until you can’t think of anything more to do with it and a new ideas pops into your head. I just need to remember this.

time will tell: conversations with paul bley by norman meehan (Berkeley Hills Books, 2003)

I really enjoy Paul Bley’s playing from early recordings like Footloose and Closer to his later solo work. There is openness, accessibility and originality to his playing that is his own. time will tell: conversations with paul bley gives us an insight into the world view of an uncompromising artist. His opinions on jazz and improvising are boldly stated. He describes himself as “preaching American Iconoclasm”. In this respect he is like the philosopher Nietzsche, another iconoclast (very influential in America) and, like Nietzsche he often talks in aphorisms. Just as his music is “composition in real time”, his opinions seem thought through and thoroughly “composed”.

Working professionally from the age of 14, Paul Bley sought out and played with the giants of jazz – Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman. These characters were pugnacious like Bley himself, who describes epic on-stage musical battles between Titans such as Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins (“It was like a prize fight, and I was trying not to get hit by the blows that had gone astray”). The book is peppered with fascinating, often funny, anecdotes that shed light on their approach to jazz. It also has the best elucidation of Ornette’s approach that I have ever come across and detailed analysis of some of Paul’s landmark recordings.

For this blog entry, I’ve pulled out some quotes that I believe offer valuable, even useful, insights into jazz improvisation and the jazz life by a master improviser.


On improvisation, composition and performance

I don’t think musicians can study improvisation very well, but they can certainly study composition. (p.7)
Improvisation is composition in real time. (p.8)
When improvising you don’t have an opportunity to lose your train of thought. (p.8)
When improvising is done correctly it will sound like it was composed. (p.8)
Each of my recordings is an opus number . . . dictated by the year, month, day and hour it was recorded. (p.8)
The way to learning how to make music is to find an audience. Anything you learn by yourself in a private room is useless, because when you play for another human being there is feedback . . . The purpose of playing music is communication. (p.35)

There’s an argument here for completely avoiding improvisation in your practise regime. After all, wouldn’t the time spent playing along to Jamey Aebersold & Band in a Box be better spent transcribing and writing solos and compositions and developing the technical facility required to realise compositional ideas instantly? If the purpose of music is communication, the performance is what matters and this is perhaps the only time that true improvisation should take place.


On practising

The jazz world likes mistakes because you can hear the musicians correcting. In the classical world there is a willingness to rehearse pieces until they are perfect. How do you get to Carnegie hall? Practice. But that’s not the way to get a jazz reputation. The more daring you are as a jazz musician, the more engaged the listener is. (p.9)
The whole idea of getting it right first time is a jazz aesthetic. (p.9)
There is a basic advantage in not being able to play well, in that if your music is very simple then you are less likely to play bad notes. The more notes you play the more likely you are to play a lot of bad ones. By limiting your choices you improve the result of the music . . . (p.57)
A scale is an ugly thing and it’s a very bad discipline to expose yours ears to bad music in the name of technique. (p.57)

Like me, a lot of poor musicians will be heartened by the thought that “there is a basic advantage in not being able to play well.” I like Paul’s sense of humour – he was a child prodigy and probably had much of his piano technique sorted by the age of 14. That said, isn’t it a common complaint that many college educated jazz players sound too schooled? And that schooling can be the enemy of jazz? Put the word “daring” into context – the more practised you are, the more difficult it is to reach the outer edges of your technique. Alternatively, perhaps you can only really be daring if you only ever improvise in performance and otherwise steer clear of it. If you really believe that improvisation is instant composition, you’re going to eschew all of all those clichés you have picked up and just follow the logic of your musical ideas.

As for scales, they teach you to get around the instrument comfortably but perhaps they should be abandoned in favour of exercises and studies that at least sound beautiful (e.g. Bach, Kreuzer, Tristano).


On having a musical purpose

You can’t see where you are unless you are working 5 years ahead of yourself, looking back from where you are now. (p.13)
Bird said “I’m never here, I’m always there.” (p.13)
Paul Hindemith said you have to be able to see the whole thing in a single flash before you start to play. It doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from an idea you have before you play of what you would like to get done, and there is the whole piece before you play it. (p.15)

These ideas are obscure and difficult to grasp and, at this point, we may be in the rarefied world of the bona fide genius. That said I know from other experiences in life that the logic of a series of actions is only clear in hindsight: for example, I work to a strategy and objectives and I jettison both during their execution only for them to come back into focus at the end of the process – that’s what I was doing all along! I also know that it is possible to conceive of the outcome at the moment you embark on something; from my commercial experience this means being able to envisage a clear outcome to a project of creative endeavour at its inception. Surely with experience and discipline we may know in an instant how the seed of an idea may grow, blossom and bear fruit in the course of a few choruses? If I sit down and transcribe a Dexter Gordon solo, it has a formal perfection to it that makes it appear pre-conceived. Presumably, this is the same with traditional sculpture – Michelangelo could not edit the sculpture of David, only realise it or abandon it.


On being original

The code of ethics for being a player is not necessarily acceptable at the family table. (p.22)
Whatever it takes for you to play better is important enough for you to go after by any means required. That means lie, steal and cheat. It means putting your spouse out to work, getting them to sacrifice their life for you, if what you are attempting to accomplish is of use to whole group of people – an ethnic or geographic or philosophic group. (p.22)

Yes, I can just imagine the conversations over dinner . . .


On Bill Evans and the problem of tone

I’m an antagonist of Bill Evans, unlike most pianists who are devoted fans of his playing. If I go to a pianists house and there is a Bill Evans record playing while he is making coffee, my first thought is to open the window and chuck it out, for his sake, for her sake. (p.24)
So we are talking about tone. You see, the audience only responds to tone. It does not respond to intelligence, it does not respond to ideas, and ideas are the main premise of what I like to think I am doing. But the audience [ . . .] only responds to tone and sound. There are also people who respond to the tone and sounds of Luciano Pavorotti, or Yo Yo Ma. These tones and sounds are trance-like, hypnotic, and so the audience loses track of any intellectual engagement they may have had at the start of the performance, and are completely taken into this universe of sound, which hypnotise the listener into a different place. (p.24)
Bill’s work stopped at a crucial point, and yet we consider him a master. It was because his tone was so beautiful that he captivated people. (p.26)

Among Modern jazz fans, who hasn’t been seduced by the sound of Bill Evans, and isn’t it a great thing to have about the house when you are cooking, eating, drinking or doing the washing up? It doesn’t demand that you engage with it. But isn’t part of the enjoyment of music sensual as well as intellectual? This is a tricky one. Sonny Rollins’ tone is rough hewn and unsentimental (full on, no vibrato), Bill Evans’ is delicate and beautiful (crepescular, impressionistic like Ravel, Debussy, Satie). Is this a Great Schism? Are they mutually exclusively? Can you not enjoy both the sensual and intellectual in jazz? Hmmmm . . . What do you think?

Note that for all the apparent knocking of Bill Evans, Paul holds him in the highest regard and on George Russell’s Jazz in the Space Age recording was horrified to find that Bill could play Paul Bley better than Paul Bley!


On moving and singing whilst playing

Lennie Tristano . . . said that if you are busy kicking your legs in the air and screaming while you play, you are putting your energy in places that are not exactly related to what you are trying to get done. So it is important to put all your energy into what is happening. And not just sing while you play, but make your playing “singing like”. (p.32)

Perhaps he has a point, but one lost on Bud Powell, Keith Jarrett, Glenn Gould. . .

Thanks to saxophonist Andy Pickett for introducing me to this fascinating book. If you don't have any Paul Bley recordings, please buy some. Here is one, Mr. Joy from the Turning Point record with Gary Peacock (bs) and Billy Elgart (dr), recorded in 1964:

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Terry Pack Quartet, Hare & Hounds, Worthing, 14 June

Bass player Terry Pack and his quartet got into a relaxed groove in front of a warm and appreciative Hare & Hounds audience last night. Kicking off with Sam Rivers' classic Beatrice, tenor saxophonist Rob Leake demonstrated a rich tone and ear for a melodic line. The band moved onto several of Terry's compositions and arrangement form his Terry's CDs What Happens Now (2006) and Palimpsest (2010). The compositions were underpinned by Terry's solid and elegant bass grooves overlaid with some great soloing from Rob and from pianist Joss Peach. Joss doubled on percussion and his piano playing also had a strong percussive element to it - well-placed, interesting notes, some bluesy inflexions, phrases being taken "out". A special mention should also go to youthful-looking drummer Dave Cottrell - his playing is very sparky as he listens and reacts to what is going on around him. Of the arrangements, Terry takes a well known jazz tune (Blue in Green, All Blues, Nardis, How Insensitive, Sting's Fragile) and superimposes it on a funky, latin or jazzy groove. It makes for a pleasant, relaxed, warm summer evening's listening and one the audience clearly enjoyed.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Brad Mehldau, Solo Concert, Wigmore Hall, 4 June

Seeing Brad Mehldau around the corner from the Wigmore Hall, he looked distracted, as though he'd gone out for some air and forgotten how to get back to the artists' entrance. Which jazz musician wouldn't feel distracted at the thought of a solo recital in a classical music venue?

Brad began his set with the opener from his new record, Highway Rider - John Boy ("after Johannes Brahms and John Boy Walton"). The piece set the mood for the evening - bubbling left hand patterns, strong melody in the right hand and a restless creativity at work in the improvised sections. Brad and the enormous Steinway filled the stage and, although we were at the back of the gods, we could see and hear everything. The sound that filled the hall was beautiful - rich and subtle, bringing out the full range of ideas Brad worked through in the lower middle and upper registers.

Brad's approach brings together his key musical influences: the many years of piano lessons studying the classical canon and, presumably, German romanticism in particular; the jazz standards he has dedicated much of his professional jazz career to (No Moon At All, Get Happy, How Long Has This Been Going On, My Favourite Things); and his passion for the best in modern pop and rock (Tom Waits' Martha, Jeff Buckley's Dream Brother, Nick Drake's Day Is Done).

He made the most of playing solo in that he was able to take the improvisations where he wanted to go without worrying about leaving the rhythm section behind. My Favourite Things probably went furthest out, using the simple melody to explore some dark and sombre place in the way the Mahler might. Fragments of the melody appeared in odd places, were transformed, transfigured and transmogrified. Completely caught up in what he was doing, slowly rocking back and forth, he seemed to hold nothing back.

I've heard Brad solo on his Tokyo record and have seem him live on quite a few occasions. What I liked about this performance was the heavy pounding of the left hand has been replaced by something altogether lighter and more subtle. As left hands go, it has to be one of the best in jazz. Each hand is separate character with distinct personalities, constantly at play with each other. The articulation is consistently beautiful and clear, as though he has worked hard to eliminate any possible weaknesses in his technique. That said, at no point is the playing flashy or the musical choices kitsch.

Within an hour the set was over. It was clearly not enough for the audience, or for Brad, as we were then treated to six or seven encores (we lost count) and were given almost and hour's more music. And the highlight of the encores was a version Ray Davies' Waterloo Sunset that made the hairs stand on end - summer evening, London, twilight, "Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night". Perfect.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Friday, 21 May 2010

Some reflections on the New York trip

New York is small and densely packed. All the players I saw were energetic and decisive. Just because you're playing in a small place - Smoke, Vanguard, Smalls, Arturo's, Earl's front room - doesn't mean you shouldn't play your ass off. The standard of people like Peter Bernstein and Joshua is something to aspire to and to prevent me from getting complacent. There's no shortage of things to practice and master. It would be good to go back annually to be reminded of the intensity of players in that environment and to have the opportunity to play with some of them.

It's a competitive environment. It must be hard earning a living just by teaching and playing. New York has a great history of jazz but with the ever increasing expense of living in Manhattan, more and more players must be leaving for Brooklyn, Jersey, upstate, Europe. It's no longer possible to be "livin' high on nickels and dimes" in the way Joe Lee did back in the day. Fashion, art, media. finance and tourism seem to typify New York now. Hopefully jazz will always have a home in New York, though you wonder what will happen to The Vanguard when Lorraine if no longer around. New York seems an exceptionally safe place and all the people we met were polite and helpful. It's not longer the big bad place that it was - certainly welcoming if you can afford it.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

New York Trip - Day 4

The first stop was the Flatiron buildings for photos, then a trip up the Empire State Building for panaromic views of the Island. Back at West 26th Street, a block from our hotel, is The Jazz Record Centre, an Eight Floor apartment packed with vinyls, CDs, DVDs, posters and bookers. We spent a good hour browsing before I settled on three CDs (as vinyl is not an easy option when flying) - a recording by New York guitarist Peter Leitch, a Joe Lee Wilson recording featuring Japanese guitarist Ryo Kawasaki (who also played in the Gil Evans orchestra) and the latest Brad Mehldau double CD featuring Joshua Redman.
In the afternoon we met Joshua outside the Public Library with mother & daughter artist team Bea and Adrienne who we had met at the house party on Saturday, for a subway trip to Coney Island. Coney Island is on the brink of a major redevelopment to convert it from Brooklyn's version of Hastings/Margate/Blackpool to exclusive beach side condos. We stopped at Nathan's hotdogs for a snack (clams, hotdog, fries) and then wandered the boardwalk past the ghosts of the amusement park: Shoot The Freak (which involves shooting a live midget with a paintball gun; the Cyclone, a wooden rollercoaster reputed to be the scariest ever; and the huge Wonder Wheel, big wheel with sliding cars. Like the Empire Diner (which closed at the weekend), a piece of history about to disappear.


We ended up in Brighton Beach, or Little Odessa, packed with Russian shops and restaurants and used as a location in The French Connection. We found a very good Russian Restaurant - no frills, Russian clientele - bought some vodka at the liquor store and had a delicious (& very cheap) meal of dumplings, herring, mackerel, stuffed cabbage, pureed aubergine, coffee cake and Napoleon cake.


Back at the hotel we bid farewell to our host, to the D'Angelico (which I have grown very attached to) and then headed out to Dylan Thomas' favourite watering hole, The White Horse tavern, for a nightcap. I'll certainly miss Joshua's warmth, his anecdotes & sharp wit.

Monday, 17 May 2010

New York Trip - Day 3

The day began with a jog through Greenwich Village, around Washington Square Park and then up 5th Avenue to Broadway. I stopped and looked up and was stunned by the sight of the Flatiron Building. I thought it would be impressive but I hadn't expected it to be beautiful. It is very ornate, as though the whole building has been carved and decorated. At the top are two carved figure peering over the ledge, giving it a human sense of scale. The geometry is extraordinary as you can see all the facades of the building from a single perspective.

During the morning we made our way towards the Brooklyn Bridge, taking in Little Italy, Chinatown, Tribeca and plenty of ornate, cast iron buildings. It was another beautiful warm day with a slight breeze. Brooklyn Bridge gave us some great views. But how rusty the bridge is! Unlike the Forth Road Bridge,which is in a constant state of decoration, the Brooklyn Bridge doesn't look as if it's been touched since the Forties. It gives it an elemental feel.

Early afternoon was spent exploring Brooklyn Heights taking in the architecture and the views of Manhattan. Keith found himself a new car - one of the Motor City's finest from the Fifties, a pristine Ford Thunderbird. Back on the island, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on a bench in Washington Square Park taking in the chess players, the live jazz and the residents.

Late evening we headed off to The Village Vanguard to see Bill Frisell with his 858 Quartet featuring Eyvind Kang on viola, Jenny Scheinman and Hank Roberts on cello.  Before the set started I popped out to the "rest room" and peered into the famous office-cum-dressing room where I saw Bill bent over the guitar in his lap, silently cleaning his strings (weirdly recalling a dream I had 18 or so months ago where I went backstage at The Barbican to meet Bill in his studio/loft something like the Vanguard's office). The music was a strange mix of country & western and chamber music; Bill leading the band with a twangy Telecaster through largely (possibly completely) composed charts. There were C&W waltzes mixed with more classical-sounding influences like Steve Reich and John Adams. Jenny Scheinman did some great soloing in the last piece and very quickly it was over. It was strange & interesting hearing on consecutive nights Bernstein, Breakstone & Frisell - very contrasting players; Peter & Joshua heavily engaged in the jazz tradition of improvisation over changes but with very different, singular voices, and Bill coming from somewhere entirely elsewhere (at least on this gig).

The sound in the Vanguard was great. Like being inside the Flatiron building, it is a wedge shape with the band at the sharp end. This means that you're pretty much guaranteed a great sound wherever you are. Lorraine Gordon was in attendance and we had a brief encounter with her - "Are you staying for the next set. No? Then drink up . . .". It's that approach that has kept the place in business for so long.

It was then off to Smalls and back to Arturo's for a final drink. Both featured singers (possibly a Sunday thing). I decided to forego the jam session at Small as it didn't start until 1:30.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

New York Trip - Day 2

The day started with another hearty breakfast. This time in the West Village. We spent the morning exploring the Village and stopping bar famous landmarks: The Village Vanguard; the Cafe Wha! where Jim Hendix started his career; St Christophers' Street where the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan was shot; Jim's Electric Lady Studio; Bob's House, where we spent a relaxing hour in the Cafe Dante opposite. There were plenty of photo opportunities - I wished I had brought Joshua's guitar case as a prop.

Looking at the map I could see that Bond Street was not far from Washington Square. Bond St was the location of Joe Lee Wilson's Ladies Fort loft the 1970s. Joe Lee rented the club when he won $5000 on a horse race and decided to invest it in five years rent on a place for jazz artists to perform. Through the club Joe Lee became a well known figure on the New York jazz scene, and many jazz musicians in NYC still remember it and Joe Lee. I have seen one photo of Joe Lee standing outside it so I had some idea of what I was looking for. Much of Bond St has been redeveloped so I was ready to walk away disappointed, until I realised that the street continued West across one of the avenues. After a few minutes I found a spot that looked close. I popped inside to a design store and, after enquiring, they sent me downstairs to the studio of fashion designer Tunji Dada. We wandered inside, found Tunji and, yes, there it was - The Ladies Fort. Tunji new all about it having met Joe and Jill a few years ago when Joe Lee's documentary was being filmed. Tunji was very charming and delighted to meet us and chat about Joe Lee and the history of the place. It was great finding Joe Lee's place, poignant too. Tribeca Arts Centre currently has a serices of concerts called Lost Jazz Shrines celebrating Ali's Alley, Sam River's Studio Rivbea (also on Bond Street) and Barry Harris' Jazz Cultural Theatre. It's a shame that The Ladies Fort wasn't on the list.

The afternoon was spent on the Staten Island Ferry before hand back to relax ready for the evening. We then head up to the NY Port Authority and took a bus out to Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, home of bass player Earl Sauls. This was a great evening. I got to hear Joshua's trio in Earl's front room! The third member of the band is a brilliant drummer called Jakubu Griffin, son of free jazz trombonist Dick Griffin and until recently working in Las Vegas with the liked of Stevie Wonder, Chaka Kahn, David Cassidy and Sheena Easton (remember her?). The Trio burned their way through a number of tunes before taking the tempo down for a beautiful Soul Eyes (which I managed to catch on video) and a Barry Harris tune I have been listening to a lot recently, Lolita.

In second set I got to play a few tunes with the band - Blue Monk, Have You Met Miss Jones & Stella. It was inspiring playing with and listening to musicians of such calibre. Earl did some wonderful soloing, with lines and rhythms stretching way out. We met some real characters at the party and got a lift back to Manhattan with drummer David and his wife Peg in an ancient Buick that John had driven up from Arizona (over 3000 miles). They dropped us in Washington Heights and travelled the subway almost from one end of the Island to the other. The evening ended in a bar next to the Chelsea Hotel.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

New York Trip - Days 0-1

My first view of the famous Manhattan skyline was from the plane. In the hazy distance it sat suspended in the air like a vision of Avalon.

After a good flight, coach and shuttle to our hotel in Chelsea, we hooked up with Joshua Breakstone. Joshua introduced me to my companion for the trip, a D'Angelico New Yorker guitar - a gift to Joshua from D'Angelico that, I was told, had been coveted by the likes of Jimmy Bruno and Pat Martino. We then drove downtown to Greenwich Village, passed famous jazz clubs like The Village Vanguard and The Blue Note before arriving at our destination - a funky little Italian called Arturo's which featured a jazz trio squished around a piano. By the time we got to bed, Keith and I had been up for 24 hours  . . .

Friday morning began at the famous Empire Diner for a huge breakfast that set us up nicely for the day. We then went uptown to the Museum of Modern Art where we two fascinating and contrasting exhibitions - a retrospective by performance artist Marina Abramovich called the Artist Is Present (the artist is in fact present, along with a large number of naked men and women recreating installation pieces from her past), and an exhibition of Cartier Bresson photography. We then strolled up to The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, gaping at the skyscrapers (I kept on think of the line "canyons of steel" from the song Autumn in New York) and enjoying a stroll through a very sunny Central Park.

Highlights at The Met included the exhibition of their Picasso collection and the beautifully arranged collection of modern art - huge rooms exhibiting de Koonings, Warhols, Barnett Newmans and the like. After about three hours we ended up on the roof with a huge, intricate bamboo sculpture and wonderful views across Central Park.

We then headed all the way downtown to the curious mix of glamorous high fashion and wholesale meat market that is the Meatpacking District. From here we made our way up on to former raised railway line that has been transformed into an urban park called The Highline. This has to be one of the most laid back places in Manhattan - people reading, picnicking, chatting, strolling among beautiful flowers and grasses. This led us eventually to a pier on the Hudson where we say on a disused lightship (The Frying Pan) drinking beer, eating burgers and watching the sun set over New Jersey.
Our final stop of the day was Smoke, a small  at the upper end of Broadway where guitarist Peter Bernstein was playing with legendary Milers Davis drummer Jimmy Cobb, Richard Wyland on piano and bassist John Webber. Although I know Peter's recording well I have never seen him live. He told us it was years since he played in London but would like to get over there with the trio he has with Larry Goldings and Bill Stewart. I recognised a number of the tunes from his recent Live at Smalls release featuring the same band. The band played really well - Jimmy Cobb with his trademark "no frills" approach, Richard Wylands with a lovely laid back feel and Peter with his great, blues inflected lines. Bassist John Webber probably got the loudest applause for the night for his solos - he seemed to really play out of himself, with imaginative lines and great dynamics in his soloing.

Needless to say, I went to bed shattered.