Archive for the Music Category


Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , , on March 26, 2020 by telescoper

I think it’s time to share a bit more music, so here’s a track from an album I have on vinyl that features a quartet led by guitarist Hank Garland with Gary Burton on vibes, Joe Benjamin on bass and the great Joe Morello on drums. It was recorded in June 1960 which means that Gary Burton was only 17 years old at the time! You’d never know that by listening to his superb playing. The tune is a bebop standard called Move which was written by drummer Denzil Best and based on rhythm changes, though to my ears the bridge sounds a bit different.

R.I.P. Kenny Rogers (1938-2020)

Posted in Beards, Music with tags , on March 23, 2020 by telescoper

I’m not a great aficionado of Country music, but I was very sad to hear at the weekend of the death of one of its icons, and possessor of an iconic beard, Kenny Rogers. Here as a tribute is one of big hits, a song with a message for those of us who like a flutter now and then..


Sax and the Single Man

Posted in Biographical, Music with tags , on March 16, 2020 by telescoper

I heard on Friday that my upstairs neighbours were going away for a few days for the St Patrick’s Day break, so I took the opportunity afforded by this solitude to take this baby out of its box and have a bit of practice.

I don’t have my usual tenor sax with me in Maynooth: it’s in safe (?) keeping elsewhere (that’s a long story). Here it is, pictured a few years ago in my house in Cardiff:


The soprano sax may be a much smaller and lighter instrument than the tenor but it is more of a handful to play in tune. I always thought this was my own incompetence but it seems to be agreed by proper musicians.

My usual practice is to warm up with scales and other exercises then play along a bit with some backing tracks made for the purpose with just a rhythm section. Playing simple riffs on the chords is a good way to settle in, then you can start to improvise properly.

I wouldn’t say my attempts to revive my long neglected musicianship have been very successful so far – not least because they were never very good in the first place – but it’s a nice diversion.

I suspect that many people will be looking for things to do to stop them getting bored over the next few weeks and months.

Struttin’ With Some Barbecue

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on March 14, 2020 by telescoper

Not long ago I shared a piece by the quartet that was led for a short time by Ruby Braff (cornet) and George Barnes (guitar). By way of a distraction I thought I’d share another track from the same album that one came from. Struttin’ with some Barbecue was written way back in the 1920s by Lil Hardin, and it became a bit of a showpiece for her husband, a gentleman by the name of Louis Armstrong. The title is not about outdoor dining arrangements, but roughly translates from the slang of the time as `Dancing with an extremely sexy partner’. Or perhaps a bit more than `Dancing’!

Anyway, this is another lovely performance and there’s a very special moment at about 3:09 where Messrs Braff and Barnes exchange leads in brilliantly telepathic style!

Maynooth’s Creation

Posted in Maynooth, Music, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on March 8, 2020 by telescoper

As it was foretold, this afternoon to the College Chapel at Maynooth, which looks like this inside:

This was in fact the first time I’ve set foot inside the Chapel. The occasion was the annual Spring Concert by Maynooth University Choral Society, accompanied by the Irish Choral Sinfonia, in a performance of Haydn’s great oratorio The Creation.

It’s worth mentioning that Haydn started preparing to write his Creation in 1796, which is just a year after St Patrick’s College in Maynooth was established (as the National Seminary of Ireland). This work was therefore was a good choice for the year in which the College celebrates the 225th year of its own creation.

Although the College Chapel is quite large it provided a very intimate setting for this great masterpiece (in that the audience was very close to the musicians and singers) and provided a very distinctive acoustic. Curiously, this was the first time I had heard this work performed in English.

The solo vocalists – Claudia Boyle (soprano), Andrew Gavin (tenor) and Simon Morgan (bass) – were all excellent, as were the choir and orchestra. All in all it was a hugely enjoyable experience, even if the wooden seats were a bit unforgiving!

After the performance there was a Buffet Supper in Pugin Hall, which I had assumed would just be sandwiches but which turned out to be a very nice meal with wine at which I got chatting to some very friendly people. Admission to the event was by invitation only, but the guest list was not restricted to folk from Maynooth University.

As the token astrophysicist present a few people asked me what was shown in the picture on the cover of the programme. Not being a proper astronomer I didn’t know but I am reliably informed that it is the Eagle Nebula (M16), though it is reversed left to right which I claim as an excuse for not recognising it…

A Plan for Sunday

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth, Music with tags , , , , on March 8, 2020 by telescoper

Later this afternoon, I shall be going here…. hear this…

I took this picture on the way there, with the Sun behind the bell tower…

..and when I’m home afterwards I will write a bit about it here.

R.I.P. McCoy Tyner (1938-2020)

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on March 7, 2020 by telescoper

I had just got home last night when I heard the sad news of the death at the age of 81 of the brilliant pianist McCoy Tyner. When I was looking through my collection of jazz recordings after hearing about this I was struck by how many of them featured McCoy Tyner, most of them in association with John Coltrane that lasted about five years. Tyner’s style was enormously influential as well as immediately recognizable, especially for the way he used his left hand to punch out chords in much the same way as a right-handed boxer uses his left jab.

Tyner had a very long career as a solo musician and it would be wrong the give the impression that his work with Trane from about 1960 to 1965 was all he did, but when choosing something to share in his memory I kept coming back to that period.

In the end I decided to post a classic piece from the John Coltrane era. This is the title track from the 1961 album My Favorite Things which, as it happens, is one of my favourite things. Coltrane plays soprano sax on this track; apparently he hadn’t played a soprano sax at all until 1960, when Miles Davis bought him one. I like its use on this particularly recording as it gives the performance a very “Eastern” sound.

You might think that a song from The Sound of Music would be unlikely material for John Coltrane to tackle, but in fact he does something extremely interesting with it: the melody is heard numerous times throughout the track, but instead of playing solos over the written chord changes, the soloists improvise over just two chords, E minor and E major, in a manner that seems influenced by Indian music. The whole thing is played in waltz time, but drummer Elvin Jones not only keeps an intense but fluidly swinging pulse going in 3/4 but also does so much around and across that central beat.