Archive for the Music Category

Eye Level

Posted in Music, Television with tags , , on August 2, 2021 by telescoper

Last week I saw an old episode of the TV Series Van der Valk (the original series, starring Barry Foster). I thought it was very good, actually. It brought back a lot of memories as I watched the series avidly first time round, right from the first programme, which was broadcast in 1972 when I was still at junior school. In those days, Amsterdam was as distant to me as Timbuktu! The theme tune, Eye Level played by the Simon Park Orchestra became a surprise hit and reached Number 1 in the charts in 1973. It’s a simple tune but very catchy. We even played it in recorder class in the school. I wonder what the Dutch word for “ear worm” is?

I also watched this edition Top of the Pops when it was first broadcast. I was – and still am – amused by the audience teeny boppers wondering whether and how to dance to this number! What I didn’t notice then was that there’s some very fine camera work in this short clip…

Pennies from Heaven – Lester Young

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on July 27, 2021 by telescoper

Well, some proper rain has arrived at last. I think the plants in my garden are pleased so I thought I’d celebrate with this lovely version of Pennies from Heaven (“Every time it rains it rains Pennies from Heaven”) by the great Lester Young recorded live in a small club, Olivia Davis’s Patio Lounge in Washington D.C., in 1956. In about 1981 bought a set of several LPs recorded over this six-night residency with a house trio led by Bill Potts on piano. People say that “Pres” was in decline at this stage of his life, but it doesn’t sound like that to me from the recrods. The band was a bit nervous when they met their esteemed guest before the first night’s performance as there was no time for a rehearsal, but they gelled immediately playing a selection of blues and standards. Lester Young didn’t need much to send him on his thoughtful way – he often paid even less attention to the tune than he does here – and he clearly enjoyed himself in this modest setting.

The Fourth of July – Charles Ives

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on July 5, 2021 by telescoper

I’m a day late posting this, but I only thought of it this morning. It’s a fine performance by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein of “The Fourth of July”, the third movement of his “Holidays Symphony” by the great Charles Ives. The video even shows the score so you can play along at home! As Ives himself famously said:

Stand up and take your dissonance like a man!

Villanelle for Our Time – Leonard Cohen

Posted in Music, Poetry on July 1, 2021 by telescoper

Today (1st July) is Canada Day so here is something by Canada’s finest, the great Leonard Cohen.

We miss you, Leonard.

This is the faith from which we start:
Men shall know commonwealth again
From bitter searching of the heart
We rise to play a greater part

 

I’m Old Fashioned – Curtis Fuller

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on May 15, 2021 by telescoper

Saddened to hear of the death last week of the great Jazz trombonist Curtis Fuller I’ve been thinking of an appropriate track to play. Fuller had a long and distinguished career alongside many great artists which makes it difficult to pick just one track as a tribute, but as so often is the case I found myself gravitating back to the late 1950s which I think is probably my favourite period in Jazz history.

Thus I settled on a track from the studio album Blue Train recorded in 1957 by a sextet led by John Coltrane and featuring Curtis Fuller (trombone) and Lee Morgan (trumpet) with Kenny Drew on piano, Paul Chambers (bass) and Philly Joe Jones on drums. It’s a superb album which is a must-have for any serious collector of this music. I thought I had already posted a track from this album on here, actually, but apparently I haven’t.

John Coltrane is now an established as one of the leading figures in the development of modern Jazz but this record is a reminder that he achieved recognition somewhat later in his life than many other soloists. At 31, he wasn’t exactly old when this album was recorded in 1957 but he was certainly no newcomer either. Obviously it took him a while to find his voice. By contrast the trumpeter Lee Morgan was, astonishingly, only 19 when this record was made; Curtis Fuller was in his mid-twenties.

Everyone plays beautifully on all the tracks on this album, and the blend of trumpet tenor sax and trombone in the ensemble gives this band a very distinctive sound, but I’ve picked a track on which Curtis Fuller really excels as a soloist. The rest of the tunes being based on the blues, this is actually the only ballad on the album, written by Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer, and called I’m Old Fashioned

R.I.P. Curtis Fuller (1932-2021)

At the Castle Gate

Posted in Covid-19, Music on May 2, 2021 by telescoper

When (if?) this Covid business ends I hope we’ll remember the things that kept us going through it. Here is one of the socially distanced concerts broadcast by RTÉ Lyric FM*. I hope that in a few years’ time people will look back on recordings of events like this and understand what a weird time it has been. People come and go, but the music continues.

I found the performance of the incidental music by Jean Sibelius for Pelléas et Mélisande  starting at about 24.40 very moving, the isolation of the orchestra and the emptiness of the hall, enhancing the extraordinarily beautiful music. I think fans of The Sky At Night will enjoy it too…

 

P.S. It was the 22nd birthday of RTE Lyric FM on May 1st 2021..

International Jazz Day – A Tribute to Humph

Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , , on April 30, 2021 by telescoper

Today is International Jazz Day which gives me an excuse to post this documentary about the late great Humphrey Lyttelton the anniversary of whose death was last weekend; he passed away on 25th April 2008.

I particularly like this programme because, as well as talking about his own career as a musician and bandleader and as brilliant chairman of the panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, it mentions his radio show The Best of Jazz which I listened to avidly every Monday night and from which I learned a huge amount about the music that I love so much. I taped many of these broadcasts actually, but have long since lost the cassettes. Although his own music was in the mainstream he always played a wide selection of Jazz tracks both ancient and modern on his programme and introduced me to many artists I would otherwise never have heard of.

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free – Nina Simone

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on April 6, 2021 by telescoper

First performed in 1963, this classic anthem of the civil rights movement in the USA the words to this song (written by Billy Taylor) seem to me to have a few relevance in this time of enforced isolation.

R.I.P. Chris Barber (1930-2021)

Posted in Biographical, Jazz with tags , , on March 3, 2021 by telescoper

I just saw the news that British trombonist and bandleader Chris Barber passed away yesterday at the age of 90. Chris Barber was one of the leading lights of the traditional jazz boom of the 1950s and 60s, during which he led a very fine band including trumpeter Pat Halcox and clarinetist Monty Sunshine among others.

I was fortunate to meet Chris Barber on a couple of occasions at Jazz festivals and he struck me as a really nice man as well as an excellent musician: very friendly and cooperative even with a young student wanting to do an interview for a college magazine. An interesting factoid about him is that he was a very fluent speaker of German and his band toured Germany frequently, even performing in East Berlin in 1965; you can see a recording of that concert here.

I was trying to think of a track to put up as tribute and decided on this one because it allows me to answer a question I asked on this blog a couple of years ago. When I was at school I used to listen to Sounds of Jazz a BBC2 Radio 2 programme presented on Sunday evenings by Peter Clayton. I always used to switch over from John Peel when Sounds of Jazz started and would always listen all the way through. It always ended with this track, a lovely version of an old blues tune called Snag It which I think was written by King Oliver.

R.I.P. Chris Barber (1930-2021).

My Funny Valentine – Miles Davis

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on February 14, 2021 by telescoper

From the album Cookin’ by the Miles Davis Quintet* of 1957 here is a classic.

*John Coltrane was in the Quintet but doesn’t play on this track: the musicians are Miles Davis (tp), Red Gardland (p), Paul Chambers (b) and Philly Joe Jones (d).