Archive for the Jazz Category

We’ll Be Together Again

Posted in Jazz, Politics with tags , , , , , on March 29, 2017 by telescoper

So, we’ve come to it at last.

At 12.30 BST the Prime Minister’s letter invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be delivered to the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk. This will begin the process by which the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. It also begins the process of dismantling the United Kingdom itself. Scottish independence is now an inevitability as is, probably on a slightly longer timescale, the reunification of Ireland.

I am sad beyond words that this country has taken this path to self-destruction, but can only hope that we eventually see sense and change or mind at some point in the next two years, or return to the fold at some later stage.

No artist was better at conveying a sense of tragedy and loss through their music than Billie Holiday, and here’s a track by her that perfectly expresses my feelings at this bleak time:

No tears, no fears
Remember there’s always tomorrow
So what if we have to part
We’ll be together again



Tim Garland Electric Quartet

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on March 27, 2017 by telescoper

Time for  a quick report on a superb concert I attended on Friday evening, at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, by the Tim Garland Electric Quartet. I don’t get to hear anything like as much live jazz as I would like to, but did manage to get my act together in time for this one.

The band consisted of Tim Garland (tenor & soprano saxophones and bass clarinet, Jason Rebello (keyboards), Ant Law (acoustic and electric guitars) and Asaf Sirkis (drums and other percussion). Although named the ‘Electric Quartet’ it turned out to have a larger acoustic component than I expected, because Jason Rebello had clearly taken a shine to the splendid grand piano that had been provided and did much of his work on that rather than the synthesizers and other electronica he had brought with him. I think the music we heard therefore had a different flavour from similar concerts they have been doing around the country, echoing the words of Shelly Manne (about jazz musicians): “We never play anything the same way once.”

Here’s a little intro to the band I found on Youtube:

As well as being a very fine soloist and bandleader, Tim Garland is also a prolific composer and many of the pieces played at this concert were his own original compositions. My favourites of these were the hauntingly evocative Tyne Song (written in celebration of the town of my birth, which brought a tear to my eye) and The Eternal Greeting , which is from the band’s latest album One. They also played lovely versions of two familiar jazz standards, Good Morning Heartache (made famous by Billie Holiday) and the Miles Davis & Bill Evans classic Blue in Green. The programme was very varied, with middle-eastern, classical and flamenco influences, as well as the Jazz/Rock Fusion of the 80s, and the overall standard of music exceptionally high and with a wonderful sense of freshness and sponteneity. Tim Garland also introduced each number in a very engaging and laid-back way, pointing out little items of interest about the music.

I loved every minute and it served to remind me how much I love to hear live jazz. I must make more of an effort to get to concerts. And if you haven’t had the chance to hear this band, do go and hear them – they’re terrific!

At the end of the gig, as an added bonus, the members of the band appeared in the foyer to sign CDs. I had the chance to thank them for the wonderful performance and also now have a signed CD of Songs to the North Sky.

Maleem Mahmoud Ghania with Pharoah Sanders

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on March 3, 2017 by telescoper

And now for something completely different.

I heard this on Late Junction on BBC Radio 3 earlier this week and thought I’d share it here as I loved it so much for its infectious energy. It’s from an album called The Trance of Seven Colors by Moroccan-born Gnawa musician  Maleem Mahmoud Guinia in collaboration with the great American tenor saxophonist Pharaoh Sanders. You can listen to the whole album here, but the following is the track I heard a few days ago, which is called La Allah Dayim Moulenah. Enjoy!




100 Years of Jazz on Record

Posted in History, Jazz with tags , , , on February 26, 2017 by telescoper

Today marks a very significant centenary in the history of music, specifically Jazz. Much of the origins and early development of Jazz is lost in the mists of time, but there is one point on which most music historians agree. The first commercial recording session that produced a record that nowadays is recognisable as Jazz happened exactly one hundred years ago today, on 26th February 1917, in the New York studios of the Victor label.

The band was called the ‘Original Dixieland Jass Band‘. A few months later they changed the “Jass” to “Jazz” and the name stuck. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band is usually referred by Jazz buffs as the ODJB.

Led by cornettist Nick LaRocca and clarinettist Larry Shields, the ODJB was a group of white musicians from in and around New Orleans who had picked up their musical ideas from listening to musicians there, including playing for the pioneering mixed-race band led by Papa Laine, before moving to Chicago which is where they were spotted by representatives of the Victor label. The rest, as they say, is history.

It’s worth emphasizing that 1917 was also a significant year for New Orleans itself, as that was the year that the red light district Storyville was shut down (as a threat to the health of the US Navy). Since Storyville had provided many of the opportunities for black musicians to work, its closure started  a mass exodus to Chicago. That, and a desire among black musicians to leave the deeply racist South, is why most of the classic “New Orleans” Jazz records were actually made in Chicago.

Although they don’t represent the true origins of jazz, the ODJB were fine musicians who played with a great deal of pizzazz and were highly original and innovative. Audiences also found them great to dance to. The first single to be issued as a result of the historic first session was Livery Stable Blues. It was an instant hit and was followed by dozens more. As well as leading to fame and fortune for the ODJB, it paved the way for a century of Jazz on record.

How Time Passes

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , on February 15, 2017 by telescoper

I don’t seem to have had much time recently to post any lengthy pieces about music, and today is no exception, but I couldn’t resist sharing this fascinating title track from the album How Time Passes which was recorded in New York City in October 1960. It features Don Ellis on trumpet and  Jaki Byard on piano (with Ellis doubling on piano sometimes to allow Byard to play saxophones) along with Ron Carter on bass and Charlie Persip on drums. The album is a fascinating collection of modern jazz performances informed by  contemporary classical music, a blend that came to be known as Third Stream. This track is particularly unusual because of its elastic approach to tempo – it is constantly speeding up and slowing down in a way that makes you wonder how the band stays together – but it also features some beautiful work on trumpet by Don Ellis.


P.S. As well as being a superb jazz musician, Don Ellis was also a fine composer. Among other things he wrote the theme music for the film The French Connection. Not a lot of people know that.



Anachronic Anthropology

Posted in Jazz with tags , , , , on February 7, 2017 by telescoper

I’m struggling a bit with a heavy cold (or at least I hope that’s what it is) and I had a two-hour lecture earlier today so I’m going to go home and crash out. To keep my readers (Sid and Doris Bonkers) amused, I decided to repost this piece which I’ve actually posted before almost eight years ago. It’s an oddity, but quite an interesting one I think.

The Anachronic Jazz Band is, I think, now defunct but they were from Paris originally. The style they played in could probably be described as like the New York style of the late 1920s, with definite touches of Bix Beiderbecke. On the other hand, the tunes they played all came from the bebop era of modern jazz, such as this one which is the Charlie Parker classic Anthropology. 

You might think that an uncompromising bebop number like this would pose unsurmountable challenges for a traditional jazz outfit, but I think they pull it off rather well. I think though that they were probably helped by the fact that this tune, like many modern jazz compositions, is actually based on a chord progression belonging to a much more familiar tune. In this case the harmonies actually derive from George Gershwin’s standard I Got Rhythm….

Anyway, perhaps the efforts of this fine little band go some way to showing that there’s more continuity between traditional and modern jazz than one might suppose…



Boogie Woogie Boogie – Errol Garner

Posted in Jazz with tags , , on February 3, 2017 by telescoper

I have lately posted a number of classic boogie woogie and blues performances by the great Jimmy Yancey. Here’s a piece that’s related but really very different, recorded in 1944 by a musician not usually associated with boogie woogie at all, Errol Garner, who was 23 when this track was made.  The story I heard about this is that the studio bosses leant on the young and impressionable pianist to do play some things that he wasn’t keen on, including a bit of boogie woogie. Eventually Garner acceded to their request, and produced what I think is a minor masterpiece called Boogie Woogie Boogie. Note the way he doesn’t stick to the same left-hand figures throughout the track which makes this much more varied than most recordings in this genre. I particularly like the transition at about 1:35 where it all goes a bit “Batman”!  It also has a distinctively dark minor-key feel to it, which is rather atmospheric.

Have a good weekend!