Wednesday, January 30th

Much fabulousness in the news that Robbie Williams is blasting neighbour Jimmy Page with the music of Black Sabbath over a basement-swimming-pool-building-issue. This week, BBC4 returns the Friday Night Jukebox (February 1st at 9pm) to our screens, and, as the BBC’s website says, “Phill Jupitus and Clare Grogan want your stories, dedications and memories about a stack of classic BBC Music performances, around the theme of friendship. Check out the clips page, email jukebox@bbc.co.uk and request a song.” Hopefully sweet music can inspire a rapprochement in Holland Park…

{ONE} PROPS TO CARDI B
… For her take on the US Government shutdown: “I know a lot of y’all don’t care cos y’all don’t work for the government, or y’all don’t even have a job, but this shit is really f*cking serious… Our country is in a hell hole right now, all for a f*cking wall. I feel like we need to take some action. I don’t know what type of action, ’cos this is not what I do, but I’m scared. And I feel bad for these b*tches that got to go to f*cking work to not get motherf*cking paid.” Talking of previous government shutdowns, like Obama’s 2013 standoff in the name of universal healthcare, she said they had been for logical and important reasons: “Yeah b*tch!” For health care, so your grandma could check her blood pressure.”

In GQ last year, she revealed that she’s into “political science”, American civics history, and can even name every single American president in order of term. “I love government. I’m obsessed with presidents. I’m obsessed to know how the system works.” Her favourite pres is Franklin D. Roosevelt – “He helped us get over the Depression, all while he was in a wheelchair. Like, this man was suffering from polio at the time of his presidency, and yet all he was worried about was trying to make America great – make America great again for real.”

{TWO} CLASSIC ALBUM SUNDAYS: ARETHA!
Listening to I Never Loved a Man and Lady Soul at CAS’s get together at Brilliant Corners, I was struck most by songs that I would have probably regarded as filler back in the Seventies. Maybe because their edges weren’t blunted by familiarity, it was great to listen to the mighty grooves of “Save Me”, “Niki Hoeky”, “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Come Back Baby”. Of course, really clear and present sound from a £10,000 system helps to up the thrill factor – it was a great way to be reacquainted with the killer combo of Tommy Cogbill and Roger Hawkins on bass and drums. The sheer heft and thump was something to behold, and Cogbill’s syncopation on top of Hawkins’ verve energises these performances. And in the time before the playbacks started, Coleen Murphy played an extraordinary Nina Simone live version of “Young, Gifted and Black” – I was glad to hear someone else say “I’ve never heard that!”, so it wasn’t just me…

And in The Guardian, this street art tribute to Aretha, made by Jim Bachor.
“Inspired to make mosaics after a trip to Italy in the late 90s, Bachor has become the pothole guy, decorating holes in streets with colourful designs ranging from chickens to Aretha Franklin’s face,” wrote Naomi Larsson.

{THREE} DAVY/RONNIE
From a London Jazz Collector piece on British saxophonist, Ronnie Ross. “Apart from leaving behind good music, he also left some good anecdotes, including this story, from a September 2003 Rolling Stone magazine interview with David Bowie, in actuality David Jones, on his formative years in London’s leafy suburb of Bromley [or maybe it’s in Kent; there are many arguments over this fact – ed]

Rolling Stone: Your first instrument was the saxophone. Why the sax?
David Bowie: My brother was a huge jazz fan. He played me way-out stuff like Eric Dolphy and Coltrane. I wanted a baritone, but I got an alto sax.
RS: Did you take lessons?
DB: Ronnie Ross – who was featured in Downbeat as one of the great baritone players – lived locally, so I looked in the telephone book, and I rung him up. I said, “Hi, my name is David Jones, and I’m twelve years old, and I want to play the saxophone. Can you give me lessons?” He sounded like Keith [Richards], and he said no. But I begged until he said, “If you can get yourself over here Saturday morning, I’ll have a look at you.” He was so cool. Much later on, when I was producing Lou Reed, we decided we needed a sax solo on the end of “Walk on the Wild Side.” So I got the agent to book Ronnie Ross. He pulled out a wonderful solo in one take. Afterwards, I said, “Thanks, Ron. Should I come over to your house on Saturday morning?” He said, “I don’t fucking believe it! You are Ziggy Stardust?”

THREE EXTRA This interesting conversation between Phil G and John A from the New York Times on Adams conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in the premiere of Glass’s Symphony No. 12, [Lodger], based on Bowie, Eno and Visconti’s album. “The great thing about American music is the total bleed-through of, if you want to call it that, high or low, popular versus art. I think both Philip and I share this. We have very loose filters in terms of classification.”

{FOUR} ACOUSTASONIC?
I’m not convinced that this will have a huge audience, and it may be, as one comment on YouTube put it, “the answer to a question no one asked”, but it is pretty cool…

Moses Sumney, Acoustasonic

{FIVE} GO MARTY!
If you love the Rolling Thunder Tour (as I do), yet find Ronaldo and Clara turgid (as I do), then this is excellent news: “Netflix has confirmed the existence of a new Martin Scorsese-directed Bob Dylan documentary, due to launch on the streaming service later in 2019. Scorsese previously directed 2005’s No Direction Home: Bob Dylan, concerning Dylan’s rise to fame in the early to mid-’60s. According to publicity material, Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese captures the troubled spirit of America in 1975 and the joyous music that Dylan performed during the fall of that year. Part documentary, part concert film, part fever dream, Rolling Thunder is a one of a kind experience, from master filmmaker Martin Scorsese.”

{OH!} BEFORE I GO…
This beautiful piece of writing on Sonny Rollins by Liam Noble, which ends with: “I am saying this because he is still alive. I want him to know. There are too many obituaries.”

Tuesday, June 12th

ONE LORD ABOVE, DEVIL BELOW
Hillsong Church pops up on Sunday at the Dominion Theatre. Shame that Bat out of Hell is the musical in residence…

5-church

TWO DID YOU KNOW THAT THERE’S A RAMONES MUSEUM IN BERLIN?
“Flo Hayler is a Ramones fan. In 1990, he goes to his first concert, and becomes a devotee of the punk rock band, this gig marking the beginning of a lifelong passion. Starting with posters, he hoards T-Shirts and all possible memorabilia. To the annoyance of his girlfriend, his collection grows proportionally to fill his small Berlin flat. And indeed, Hayler collects so much Ramones memorabilia that he now has enough to fill a museum. In 2005, he opened the first Ramones Museum in Berlin, and the world. Head to Kreuzberg to admire 500+ items from the Ramones’ history. A café with snacks, coffee and, of course, beer completes the punk picture. Explore exhibition spaces decorated like packed living rooms. Photos, information and history pour out of display cases and cover the walls.” Oh, and the museum offers life-time tickets to loyal guests.

THREE PIANIST AND COMPOSER LIAM NOBLE…
…has a blog, Brother Face (brilliantly subtitled, Jazz musician gets tangled in words) which is always thought-provoking and enlightening. This is from his most recent post, on Ava DuVernay’s 2008 film, This Is The Life, a documentary which “chronicles the alternative hip hop movement that flourished in 1990s Los Angeles and its legendary center, the Good Life Cafe” according to Wikipedia.

“The thing I love most about the cinema is coming out afterwards, the feeling of moving from that enclosed space to the open world, the dislocation that confirms that something has changed. I haven’t spoken for five hours, but in my brain there’s a head-spinning avalanche all the way home, I’m trying to remember everything that I saw and heard, it came in such a rush, all the names of the MCs and crews, where was the club, was it LA, (I’ll check when I get home), I’ll buy all the records, and I’ll look for the lyrics so I can start again and piece it all together slowly at my own remedial pace. I’m lost. I feel like a beginner, like an idiot somehow and, as a musician, that’s the feeling I’m always looking for. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

And from the previous post, on songs from West Side Story, “Chord sequences stand up like a table, and if you want to build one with three legs you’d better know where to put them.” If Liam was American, he’d be published by The New Yorker.

FOUR A DIFFERENT LIAM AT THE PIANO AT THE LADY MILDMAY, NEWINGTON GREEN

5-pianostandNow that’s what you want to see on your pianist’s iPad. Especially when it follows Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free”.

FIVE PINK FLOYD REISSUES, BY EVERYRECORDTELLSASTORY
“You have to feel a little sorry for Pink Floyd fans. Not too much, obviously. They are more likely than you are to have a final salary pension, a second home, a car that starts on a cold day, a membership to a gym they never visit and all the other trappings of the baby boomer generation, but it’s not as though this is lost on the record companies that sell products to them. Because those record companies are looking to suck up Floyd fan’s cash almost as relentlessly as Fixed Odds Betting Terminals target betting addicts at your local Ladbrokes…”

EXTRA! SOME RECOMMENDED LISTENING
Is That Machine On? is a look by Stuart Maconie at the “golden age of the music press interview.” An entertaining programme that ends up with John Pidgeon’s remarkable interview with Michael Jackson via his “interpreter”, sister Janet. Properly mad.
And Radio 4 still has Great Lives on Miles Davis available. Listen to Adrian (Portishead) Utley and Richard Williams attempt to convince Matthew Parris of Kind of Blue’s place in the Pantheon.

EXTRA! FOUND IN A BOX IN THE GARAGE
Osmonds Letraset!  Why?

5-osmonds

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Monday, March 27th

Have you noticed how nearly everyone interviewed on either TV or Radio nowadays prefaces the start of their answer with “So” followed by a brief but weighty pause, as if they are lecturing a slightly witless teenager? I’ve decided to get in on the act this week.

So. Here goes…

ONE OF THE BEST PIECES OF WRITING I’VE READ RECENTLY
So, Liam Noble is a jazz [I’m not even sure that kind of nomenclature is serviceable anymore] pianist who writes like a dream. Everything on his blog, Brother Face, repays reading – this is his latest, which tells of his job transcribing thirty of the Bill Evans Trio’s performances for a publisher – “Anyway, back to Bill Evans. After four months the job was done. I walked away a new man. I walked away a hollow corpse, eaten away by the parasite Bill Evans. I couldn’t play a note, because every note that came out was his, and so I tried to blank him out, and to override this I had to think of “someone else” and how they would play the same thing. So now there were three of us…” Brilliant.

SO, TWO THE MINIMALIST TURNTABLE

wheel

From What Hi-Fi: “For the space-conscious, here’s your turntable. New Kickstarter project Wheel by Miniot is a wheel that plays records. There’s no visible tonearm, no cartridge and nothing but a platter. Everything is built into the platter, including the belt drive, linear tonearm and amplifiers. It’s controlled by the stick in the middle. Turn it to start the record playing, then turn it again to adjust the volume. Tap the top to pause it, or prod the side to skip a track or go back one. It works either horizontally or vertically, so can be wall-mounted. What could be simpler?”

TRIPLE SO, THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR BOB…
There’s a fascinating interview with Bob by Bill Flanagan (whose Written in My Soul is still one of the best books on the stuff and nonsense of songwriting) on bobdylan.com, for the release of Triplicate.

Up to the sixties, these songs were everywhere – now they have almost faded away. Do they mean more to you when you hear them now? “They do mean a lot more. These songs are some of the most heart-breaking stuff ever put on record and I wanted to do them justice. Now that I have lived them, and lived through them, I understand them better. They take you out of that mainstream grind where you’re trapped between differences which might seem different but are essentially the same. Modern music and songs are so institutionalized that you don’t realize it. These songs are cold and clear-sighted, there is a direct realism in them, faith in ordinary life just like in early rock and roll.”

When you see footage of yourself performing 40 or 50 years ago, does it seem like a different person? What do you see? “I see Nat King Cole, “Nature Boy” – a very strange enchanted boy, a terribly sophisticated performer, got a cross section of music in him, already postmodern. That’s a different person than who I am now.”

FOUR OVER ON TIMELINE
So, Jim Marshall is the great photographer of Rock Music, 1964 to 1970, and this is about his posthumous show, Jim Marshall, 1967, running in San Francisco at the moment. Here’s a favourite shot from Proof, a great book of his photos, of Elizabeth Cotton and Mississippi John Hurt at the Newport Folk Festival in 1964 (did I say that he was a great Folk and Jazz photographer also?)

marshall

FIVE PLAYLIST FROM LUNCH WITH GEORGE FOSTER
As we talked of Spiritland and Gearbox Records and Brilliant Corners (mostly new to me, of course) we listened on George’s extraordinarily hi-fi system. Here’s a partial playlist:
“Trouble Man”/Rickie Lee Jones (the string bass sounded huge – it could be Richard Davis (of Astral Weeks fame, for non-jazz fans), or Mike Elizondo (of Eminem fame) or Paul Nowinski, but, whoever it is, they pin you to your seat.
“Blues in the Night”/Julie London (Big, brassy and sassy, with an amazing vocal sound and a gorgeous ending).
“Deep River”/Horace Parlan and Archie Shepp (in honour of Mr. Parlan, RIP).
“Speak Low”/Karin Krog, Warne Marsh & Red Mitchell (I had no knowledge of the extraordinary Ms Krog, but the interplay of her voice, the sax and the bass is something else – as is the Kurt Weill/Ogden Nash song – written for the musical, One Touch of Venus, a collaboration with librettist S. J. Perelman. Now that’s a rehearsal room you’da wanted to be in, in 1943, no?. As Nash wrote: “Time is so old and love so brief/Love is pure gold and time a thief…”
“Poinciana”/Keith Jarrett Trio. We ended up by watching Keith Jarrett in Japan, playing “Old Man River” solo, which goes from contemplative to gospel to baroque through Billy Taylor, Broadway and Carole King (I swear!) in exquisite fashion.

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A Late Return and 7 Things, Thursday 19th January

Happy 2017 to all, if such a thing feels even vaguely on the cards. Strangeness seems to be all over the cards at the moment – here’s some recent examples…

ONE PROOF-READING ERROR OF THE WEEK
As I browsed Waterstones’ racks I saw a new Random House reissue of Tom Wolfe’s The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby. And when I read the back blurb, it introduced me to a music producer I didn’t know…

wolfe

TWO CHRISTMAS UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE
Bumptious Will Hutton’s team didn’t seem to understand the rules of the game – buzzing when they didn’t need to, and conferring when they shouldn’t – in possibly the lowest scoring match in UC history. The poor scores were compounded by the other team seemingly having no knowledge of pop culture, even though their captain, Chris Hawkings, was introduced as a 6 Music DJ. He put his head in his hands having failed to recognise Revolver, Blonde on Blonde and Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme from their track listings. I know the heat of the moment leads to blankness, but I’m sure his return to work would have been made jestingly uncomfortable after the show was broadcast.

THREE BLACK MARIAH
Mariah Carey is always present through Christmas and the New Year, isn’t she? Here, jazz pianist Liam Noble talks of his feelings about “All I Want for Christmas is You” on his blog, Brother Face, in brilliant fashion. Here, discussing her choice of notes:

“It all starts pretty conventionally; bells, chords, warbly R ’n’ B vocals. But listen to that line at 0:25 “…I just want for my own/More than you could ever know”; on the words “own” and “know” – that note, an Eb, it’s very unstable in G major. And each time, the melody just jumps back on to the tonic note, a highly illegal move in melody writing. In board game terms, it’s like going up the snakes and down the ladders. Over and over through this song, the melody lingers around this same note like scratching a flea bite that only gets worse with the itching. At 2:39, in the bridge, she lingers on that Eb in the bass on the words “and everyone is singing”, the beat surging optimistically on, the chords reflecting a deep disquiet.”

And this, on the accompanying video:
“Viewed today in all its shaky, grainy nineties-ness, it looks like… flashback footage of a murder victim from a Scandinavian thriller… I made a list of some of the images;
Spinning Santa heads
The woods, deserted
Standing alone in the woods, deserted, as the sun rises
Disembodied hand and forearm reaches for something
Holding an incongruous rabbit aloft
Unexplained digging in the snow (where is the rabbit?)
…All I Want For Xmas Is You. In a box.”

FOUR BLUE MARIAH
2016 was made better by the fact that Amanda Petrusitch appears regularly on the New Yorker’s culture blog, and her writing on Carey’s New Year’s Eve appearance in Times Square, “Mariah Carey’s rather Perfect Farewell to 2016” was vintage:
“Carey famously sings in what’s called the whistle register – the highest range of tones a human being can organically produce. It is extraordinarily unusual for a grown person ever to make sounds that piercing, although babies and small, angry children can sometimes get themselves there without much help. On the studio recording of “Emotions,” Carey arrives, miraculously, at a high G, all those octaves up the scale, during a run at the end of the word – and why wouldn’t this be literal? – “high.” Is it pleasant to the ear? It sounds, to me, like a rabid bat has just flown up and under my sweatshirt, and we are both shrieking dementedly in terror.”

“…Something was wrong. From the outset, Carey was catastrophically behind the beat. Two men appeared at her elbows, presumably to help her traverse a short staircase. (This is something she likes: being accompanied down short staircases.) “Just walk me down,” she said, smiling wanly. “Well, happy new year!” Some fussing. “We can’t hear.” Carey flipped her long, shiny hair, fiddled with a gold necklace, put a hand on her hip. “All right, we didn’t have a check for this song, so we’ll just say it went to No. 1,” she announced, striding across the stage in heels. “And that’s what it is.” This routine went on for an uncomfortable amount of time: a bit of singing, a pronouncement, some striding. When it came time for the G7 note, Carey was not holding the microphone anywhere near her mouth, but there it was, nonetheless: that wild, clarion G7, blaring from the speakers…”

You can watch some clips here, if you feel the need. This side of the Atlantic we had the charmless Mr Robbie Williams, whose facial grimaces were enough to sum up 2016. His choice of the first song to sing when the strokes of midnight were just passed was the head-scratching one of “New York, New York”. Having watched the City of London attempt to out-firework all the other cities of the world, the least we could have expected was Lord Kitchener’s “London is the Place for Me”.

FIVE THIS IS JUST SO COOL…
Shelly Manne, the Jackson Five, The Grammy Awards 1974. Found at Marc Myers exhaustively fascinating JazzWax blog, where it drew this note from Flip Manne, Shelly Manne’s wife. “Happy New Year! Regarding that clip of Shelly with the Jackson 5 that you posted, I was backstage with him that night at the 1974 Grammy Awards. He was on a turntable stage that was supposed to turn around as soon as they came down the ramp but it temporarily malfunctioned. As a result, he was late turning and had to come out playing with no idea where they were in the music. Shelly had amazing timing and it always saved him.” This is the only time we’ll ever hear The Jacksons cover The Staples, War and the Detroit Spinners, and how modest is Gladys Knight’s acceptance speech? Of course, Manne was the percussionist thanked for his “drumstikly pasteurized conktribution” on Tom Waits’ Small Change.

SIX YOU KNOW, I’M JUST NOT CONVINCED…
Personally, it’s usually a good friend that makes a great wine come alive, but Fiona Beckett, argued in a Guardian wine review that, “if wine is to come alive for people, it needs more of this sort of synaesthetic approach. Music, for instance, can actually change your perception of food and drink, according to research carried out by Professor Charles Spence at Somerville College, Oxford. And, as it happens, Oddbins has been pursuing this line of thought for a while now, pairing its wines with different soundtracks. The exotically smoky Cantine San Marzano from Salento is somewhat whimsically recommended with Paul Simon’s “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”, while Samuel Delafont’s Libre Cours Rouge 2015, an exuberant blend of pinot noir and grenache, is partnered with Paul Anka’s “A Steel Guitar And A Glass Of Wine” (though, personally, I’d go for Lou Reed’s “Dirty Blvd”). [Ed’s note: try and find two more diametrically opposed songs! Guess which the line, “Give me your hungry, your tired, your poor – I’ll piss on ’em/that’s what the Statue of Bigotry says…” comes from].

Anyhow, back to Fiona: “Great Western Wine in Bath has teamed up with a company called Stylus Vinyl to pair a classic album with one of its wines. This month, they’ve matched David Bowie’s Hunky Dory with El Brindis Monsant 2014, Franck Massard’s ballsy blend of samso and garnacha. You may disagree about the appropriateness of the soundtrack, but it’s a welcome departure from seeing wine purely as a commodity, and instead start to view it as part of a broader, cultural experience.

My pairing? A cheeky Ribera Del Duero with Red Ingle and The (Un) Natural Seven, featuring the wonderful Jo Stafford – billed here as Cinderella G. Stump – taking Perry Como’s Temptation to the cleaners. My dad loved Spike Jones (along with Jonathan Winters, Bob Newhart and Stan Freeberg), so I’d always been exposed to this musical insanity. It’s not something that you need to hear often, but may be appropriate in this Inauguration Week. Hear it in the music player on the right if you dare.

SEVEN AFTER ALL THIS IDLE SCHEMING, CAN’T WE HAVE SOMETHING TO FEEL…
On the occasion of the passing of Nat Hentoff, legendary jazz writer and all round extra-ordinary fellow, Marc Myers ran an interview that he
’d done in 2009
Marc: Is there a link between jazz and justice?
Nat Hentoff: Oh sure. When Max Roach was teaching at the University of Massachusetts, I was auditing a class there. Afterward we were talking. He said, “You know, what [jazz musicians] do, each of us as individuals, is listen to one another very carefully to make this thing work. And out of that process comes a whole that has its own identity. That’s exactly what the U.S. Constitution is all about.” How right he was. Thinkers coming together to create something that has enormous purpose.

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