Archive for the Music Category

Waltz of the Snowflakes

Posted in Music with tags , , , on January 17, 2017 by telescoper

A gift for fellow snowflakes everywhere….

Cotton Tail

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on January 16, 2017 by telescoper

It’s been a very busy and rather trying day so I’m in need of a bit of a pick-me-up. This will do nicely! It’s the great Duke Ellington band of 1940 playing Cotton Tail. This tune – yet another constructed on the chord changes to George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm – was written by Ben Webster and arranged by Duke Ellington for his orchestra in a characteristically imaginative and inventive way. Webster’s “heavy” tenor saxophone dominates the first half of the track, but the real star of the show (for me) is the superb brass section of the Ellington Orchestra whose tight discipline allows it to punch out a series of complicated riffs with a power and precision that would terrify most classical orchestras. And no wonder! The Ellington band of this era was jam-packed  with talent, including: Rex Stewart (cornet); Wallace Jones, Ray Nance, and Cootie Williams (trumpet); Juan Tizol,  Joe”Tricky Sam” Nanton, and Lawrence Brown (trombones). Listen particularly to the two sequences from 1.33-1.49 and 2.35-2.59, which are just brilliant! Enjoy!

P.S. The drummer is the great Sonny Greer.

How Long Blues – Jimmy Yancey

Posted in Jazz with tags , on January 13, 2017 by telescoper

Over the past weeks I’ve been posting tracks by the legendary pianist Jimmy Yancey. They seem to have proved quite popular, so here’s another one. This differs from the others (which were in the boogie-woogie style) in being a slow blues rather than an up-tempo boogie-woogie romp. It’s quite an old song, dating back to 1928, of which many versions have been made over the years, but this is an atmospheric masterpiece that shows what a superb interpreter of the blues Jimmy Yancey was. That gently rocking left hand and the beautiful articulation of the right hand seem to underline the sense of loss conveyed in the lyrics to the song, which is about a man whose lover who has left him:

Heard the whistle blowin’, couldn’t see no train
Way down in my heart, I had an achin’ pain
How long, how long, baby how long

You won’t hear many better – or more haunting – performances the blues than this. And who cares if there’s a bit of surface noise on the record?

Lobachevksy – Tom Lehrer

Posted in Music with tags , , on January 13, 2017 by telescoper

Breaking Free

Posted in Art, Music with tags , , , , , , on January 6, 2017 by telescoper

I’ve been enjoy a series of fascinating programmes about music from the Second Viennese School (chiefly Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern) on BBC Radio 3 this week gathered under the umbrella title of Breaking Free. In the period from roughly 1903 to 1925 these composers finally abandoned the traditional forms of tonality that late Romantic composers such as Gustav Mahler had struggled with in their later work. Aside from its obvious emotional intensity, one of the reasons I find music from this period absolutely absorbing because it was written in a period of highly turbulent transition; you get such a strong sense of new possibilities being opened up when you listen to some of the pioneering works. Some of them are also extremely beautiful. I often hear people say that they they think atonal music sounds ugly, but I disagree. The same people would probably agree that birdsong is beautiful, and most of that is entirely atonal..

The only problem is that I’ve now got a very long list of recordings to buy, as I don’t have any CDs or downloads of some very important pieces. I’m going to be a but poorer financially as a consequence of this educational experience, but hopefully enriched in a cultural sense.

The “breaking free” in this period wasn’t confined to music – revolutionary change was underway in other artistic fields, including painting. Last night I was listening to one of the programmes in the Breaking Free series and it inspired me to have a look in some of my art books for something appropriate to post from the time (if not the location) of the 2nd Viennese School. I decided on this, wan abstract painting by Wassily Kandinsky called Composition VII which was painted in 1913.


Peter Coles and Ken Colyer

Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , , on January 5, 2017 by telescoper

My piece just before Christmas about Clem Avery prompted me to do a bit more searching on the internet for jazz-loving family friends and acquaintances. It didn’t take me long to find this (which I got from this website):


The photograph was taken at the Lambton Arms in Chester-le-Street sometime during the 1970s. The gentleman on the left playing cornet is none other than “The Guvnor”, Ken Colyer. Next to him, on trombone, is Peter Coles. No, not me, but my uncle Peter!

Here’s another photo of him, taken from the same website. This also dates back to the 1970s but this one shows him with “Mighty” Joe Young’s band playing at The Honeysuckle in Gateshead. Joe Young is on bass.



The Land of Might-Have-Been

Posted in Film, Music with tags , , , , , on January 3, 2017 by telescoper

Over the Christmas break Composer of the Week on BBC Radio 3 featured Ivor Novello. Ivor Novello was considered old-fashioned even in his own lifetime, but I have no shame in admitting that I love his music, which I think is beautifully crafted. Ivor Novello was born David Ivor Davies, in Cardiff. In fact the house in which he was born is very close to mine:


Anyway, the Radio programme about Ivor Novello encouraged me to put on a DVD of the fine film Gosford Park, the script for which, written by Julian Fellowes, won an Oscar. In the movie, Ivor Novello is played by Jeremy Northam who sings a number of songs with his brother Christopher accompanying him at the piano, including this one. With music by Ivor Novello and lyrics by Edward Moore, it conveys that sense of longing for a better world that many of us are feeling right now.

Somewhere there’s another land
different from this world below,
far more mercifully planned
than the cruel place we know.
Innocence and peace are there–
all is good that is desired.
Faces there are always fair;
love grows never old nor tired.

We shall never find that lovely
land of might-have-been.
I can never be your king nor
you can be my queen.
Days may pass and years may pass
and seas may lie between–
We shall never find that lovely
land of might-have-been.

Sometimes on the rarest nights
comes the vision calm and clear,
gleaming with unearthly lights
on our path of doubt and fear.
Winds from that far land are blown,
whispering with secret breath–
hope that plays a tune alone,
love that conquers pain and death.

Shall we ever find that lovely
land of might-have-been?
Will I ever be your king or you
at last my queen?
Days may pass and years may pass
and seas may lie between–
Shall we ever find that lovely
land of might-have-been?