Thursday, 2nd July

Still moving, so this week is mainly things that I read and found fascinating…

HUNCH V. DATA: IN THE RED CORNER, JOHN HAMMOND
Kevin drops in a great article from intelligent life, by Ian Leslie: “One February night in 1933, Hammond rapped on an anonymous door on 133rd St. One of his singer friends, Monette Moore, ran a new speakeasy, and he had come to see her perform. As it turned out, she couldn’t make it. Her replacement was a girl called Billie Holiday. Hammond hadn’t heard of her—which meant nobody had—but she took his breath away. Just 17, Holiday was tall, unconventionally beautiful, with an imperious bearing. Her artistry gave Hammond shivers. She sang just behind the beat, her voice wafting languidly over the accompaniment like smoke from a cigarette. She didn’t just sing the songs, she played them with her voice. “I was overwhelmed,” Hammond said.

Nobody had told Hammond to go and see Billie Holiday that night in Harlem. She had no fan base, no manager pressing her claims. Nobody would record her. But the moment he saw Holiday, John Hammond knew she was going to be a star. He just had a feeling about this girl. A hunch.

John Hammond understood jazz through society and vice versa, and he knew that the future of neither was written down (jazz, said the critic Whitney Balliet, is “the sound of surprise”). At the time that he came across Billie Holiday, a vocalist who did not also play an instrument or front a band was not even considered a jazz singer, but Hammond sensed that the world was ready for one. Later, Holiday became one of the first singers to perform regularly in mixed-race jazz clubs, and her popularity cut across the rigid ethnic lines of the day. In Monette Moore’s bar that night, Hammond saw the future of jazz and the future of America at the same time.”

KANYE BELIEVE IT! (© The Sun)
I wanted to write about Kanye West’s performance at Glastonbury, but read this and it caught what I felt so well that I’ll just quote a little: it’s by David Bennun and was on The Economist Magazine’s website.
“The first 45 minutes or so were an act of quite astonishing bravado. One man, apparently dressed as the world’s most fashionable plasterer, all alone in a blazing box of light and smoke, with only that infamous ego and a microphone to satisfy a crowd over 100,000 strong, and millions more watching on live television. Has any Glastonbury headliner ever flown solo and by the seat of his expensively spattered pants for so long? It took extraordinary cojones, especially when you consider that, although he is a brilliant rapper in the studio, he is not a great live MC. His voice doesn’t have the heft and authority to carry all before it like, say, Eminem’s or Chuck D’s… Kanye West is the star who’s never a bore even when he’s boring. The people who profess to hate him can’t tear their eyes away. The joke is emphatically on them, and on their apoplectic, blimpish indignation.”

THIS. IS. INSANE.

AbbeyAs I called the Albert Hall Box Office 15 minutes after the tickets went on sale and found it almost sold out, I realised that it was probably not an April Fools’ Day joke. Yes, on April 1st, 2016 there will be a re-creation, in a huge glass box containing a replica Studio Two, of every note played by The Beatles at Abbey Road – every false start, every incomplete take, every bit of jokey banter between the studio floor and the control room. Overseen by Geoff Emerick, the engineer on many of the sessions, it promises much for the tape-heads, but what it’ll sound like as a concert is beyond guessing. We’re promised that it won’t be a lookalike or tribute show, just… “each song, from the first recording of “Love Me Do” up to “The End” – played exactly as it was recorded – all instrumentation, arrangements and vocals identical to the original recordings. It will be the closest thing to actually being in the studio with John, Paul, George and Ringo.”

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

CastlesSkateboardersUndercroft, South Bank; The Lukin pub, Fitzrovia

SOMETHING I LEARNED
I’d not heard of Bob Bain, legendary session guitarist, but I’d sure enough heard his work – The Peter Gunn theme, M*A*S*H, Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable”. Marc Myers’ excellent blog, JazzWax pointed me towards this, from Fretboard Journal – Bain’s description of the Breakfast at Tiffany’s sessions, along with a lovely video of him now, playing a beautiful small-bodied Martin.

“We did three sessions. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. We were packing up and Henry Mancini asked me to stick around. He said, “Go next door to Nickodell’s, get a drink and come back.” He said, “You can pack up everything, but I want a nice, small acoustic guitar sound…” I was thinking, “What is he doing?”

So I had a nice small guitar, a Martin. I just left that guitar out and came back. The studio was empty, kind of dark. There were three guys in the booth: Henry, Blake Edwards the director, and one stagehand. And all of a sudden Audrey Hepburn walked in. Hank [Mancini] introduced me and she was very nice. He said, “We want to record Audrey without the orchestra, because she doesn’t want to sing in front of a big band.” We ran it down — just the two of us. And I said to Henry, “Turn off the mics so you don’t hear us.” She was real nice; a good singer.

“She knew the tune. And I said, “Why don’t we make a take?” I waved at Hank and he turned the mic on. We ran it through once and I said, “What do you think?” She said, “Well, I don’t know.” I said, “Why don’t we do one more and then we’ll go in and listen?” So we did one more take, just guitar and voice. We went in. Henry said, “I loved it.” Blake said, “I loved it.” And they took the second take and that was it!”

…and I really want to thank Steve Hurrell for the Wham-O Super Pro frisbee. Steve worked on a video shoot that we did back in the 80s, but before that was a semi-pro frisbee player. How excellent to have that on your CV.

Comments

  1. If I’d been Bob Bain, I’d have found an excuse for LOTS more takes with Audrey Hepburn.

  2. Hammond in his own words describes Billie as “just 17,slightly overweight,absolutely beautiful”, check the rest of the liner notes on “The Golden Years Vol 1” on CBS 1962 to see Mr Leslie has lifted most of JH’s piece

  3. Indeed, Michael. So I’ve lifted excerpts that were lifted in the first place!

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