Jazz isn’t dead and it doesn’t smell funny either!

Some idle moments surfing YouTube proved to be not so idle when I came across this wonderful performance from Oscar Peterson and Clark Terry…

The unbridled joy of this playing provoked a deep response… All this talk about the death of jazz, oh dear.

It’s time for a reality check and an appointment with our hearts rather than the opinion formers. Can we seriously witness these artists creating such joy and then yield to a musical nihilism? I must chose my words carefully, but can’t suppress the thought that the so-called death of jazz is just a version of “it will never be the same”. Sure, on one level it won’t, Oscar, Bird, Louis, Miles, ‘Trane et al have passed, but might we be confusing the natural passing of time and evolution of an art-form with another perspective – that the essential characteristics of the music are archetypal and therefore timeless? As archetypal qualities (or indeed Platonic Absolutes), joy, swing, groove, pathos and so on can be accessed by every generation of artists, so long as we don’t overly distract ourselves with pity, or dare I say it – vanity.

This is a tad candid, but is there not something wrong when we can’t be inspired by a fully realised expression of joy, whatever the genre, location or date? For the record, in 1959 Panassie and Gautier’s Dictionary of Jazz, 1959 stated that bebop had been “wrongly described as jazz” (page 36). Lets quit our embarrassment and renew our love with this music.

These clips are good too…

Not the Olympics – Week 2 update

Due to the effects of the Olympics upon local businesses, the “Not the Olympics” season at Oliver’s has been partially suspended.

REMAINING GIGS at OLIVER’S

Aug 6th Martin Speake and Simon Purcell “Amsterdam After Dark” - CANCELLED DUE TO OLYMPICS EFFECT ON LOCAL BUSINESS

Aug 7th “Fine Chaps” – Geoff Simkins, Malcolm Earle-Smith, Simon Purcell et al - CANCELLED DUE TO OLYMPICS EFFECT ON LOCAL BUSINESS

Aug 8th Tom Farmer Band GOES AHEAD

Aug 9th Anita Wardell with Julian Siegel and the Simon Purcell Trio - CANCELLED DUE TO OLYMPICS EFFECT ON LOCAL BUSINESS

Aug 10th Martin Speake Band with Liam Noble, Chris Hyson and Corrie Dick GOES AHEAD

Aug 11th Special “Jazz at the Philharmonic” Party with Geoff Simkins and special guests… GOES AHEAD

Join the bankers, start fiddling – with Joe Townsend @ Oliver’s tonight

Tonight’s featured artist is Joe Townsend.

My very good friend and and colleague at Trinity-Laban, Joe Townsend is probably the most versatile musician I know. A jazz violinist, composer, collaborator and “world Musician” in the proper sense (i.e. a genuine expert as opposed to the dabbler), Joe in at as home in Bluegrass as Bebop,  Hot Club or Balkan. Tonight’s ensemble will be typically collaborative and features the revered percussionist Dawson Miller. Not to be missed.

Tomorrow night : The Music of Lennie Tristano – Pete Hurt, Martin Speake, Callum Gourlay and Jon Scott

For full listing of the entire season, click here…

Women took the Bastille – now get into Greenwich and to Oliver’s

Tonight’s featured artist is Mark Lockheart.

The shopkeepers, restauranteurs and jazz lovers of Greenwich defy LOCOG and assert their right to “group improvised music played on sequential harmony in time” (GIMPOSHIT).

 

Mark Lockheart is not only a very old friend and co-consiprator in a number of musical settings dating back to 1979, but clearly one of the most distinctive and creative musicians on the current British music scene. As a saxophonist and composer, his work often defies categorisation and crosses the boundaries of the jazz, new music and folk worlds. “Lockheart is a consummate saxophonist and a original and versatile composer” The Rough Guide to Jazz. Do please check Mark’s website, click here…

I would like to write more about Mark, (hence the reference to his website)but tonight’s gig has been somewhat overshadowed by the plight of businesses in Greenwich. As you are aware from the news, business is bad all over London. On our scene there were just 6 punters at the 606 last Sunday and Ronnie’s sent out an email last night entitled “The West End is a ghost town”. More specifically, Greenwich has been on the national news due to the plight of shop keepers, restauranteurs and the market traders who are really suffering, see below:

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-19067764
www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/london-2012/9445421/London-2012-Traders-near-Olympic-venue-bemoan-lack-of-business.html
www.greenwichtime.com/news/article/Ghost-town-London-businesses-bemoan-Olympic-slump-3753960.php

So much for the Olympics creating an economic boom for Britain. I really enjoyed what I saw of the opening ceremony but while I am a sports fan and massively behind any active participatory initiatives, we always knew that regular folk were never going to benefit financially from the Olympics. Catering workers and hotel staff across London continue to work for the minimum wage, there is no realistic improvement in job prospects for the inhabitants of East London and now the leisure industry is crippled by the restrictions imposed by corporate interests or incompetent short-sightedness of the planners. I have a friend who works for the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority). In May he informed me that a “host borough” had yet to complete its traffic plans. Can you believe it? Judging by the lack of forethought regarding the impact upon local businesses, nothing should surprise us.

But… on a positive note… Tonight Oliver’s will present more great music. Be different, please be different, defy the norm, turn off the telly, make a choice on behalf of lasting value, face the challenge and get your butt to Oliver’s!

Tomorrow night : Joe Townsend

For full listing of the entire season, click here…

Chick Corea and Gary Burton turn to Greenwich for Fashion, Jazz… and Nadatar

Tonight’s featured band is Simon Purcell’s “Nadatar”.

Tonight’s band “Nadatar” is a reformation of a group from some time ago (a quartet with the alto saxophonist Mike Williams, bassist Ricardo Dos Santos and drummers Dave Wickins or Tom Gordon as well as the reclusive but brilliant trumpeter Paul Edmond). Now regrouped with Julian Siegel (saxophones), plus Tom Farmer and Shane Forbes from “Empirical”, the music is swinging modern jazz, very much inspired by Branford Marsalis et al.

People expend a lot of energy asserting opinions as to validity of various styles/genres of jazz. The reference points in tonight’s music will be obvious and clear to any jazz lover (bebop, the modal thing, the blues, complex and simple forms), but while fads come and go, it is ok to revisit and re-form good ideas. Nobody ever told Cannonball Adderley or B.B. King not to play the blues!

Tomorrow night: Mark Lockheart with the Simon Purcell trio

For full listing of the entire season, click here…

Miles is hangin’ at Oliver’s with Tom Farmer, Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes

Tonight’s featured artists are Tom Farmer, Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes.

MOBO Jazz Awards winners Tom Farmer, Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes form part of the new wave of outstanding improvisational voices emerging in London at present. Already established in Britain and abroad, the really great thing about these guys is not only their artistry and the power and voice of their band “Empirical” (with vibraphonist Lewis Wright) but the fact that they also appreciate and celebrate the origins of jazz. Whatever music they play, it is always informed by the tradition and vocal and rhythmic qualities of the music. We’re not sure just how much tonight’s music will be derived from the Empirical pad, but it will offer an important glimpse of where the music is going to be going in the hands of these three masterful improvisors.

Tomorrow night Simon Purcell’s “Nadatar” with Julian Siegel, Tom Farmer and Shane Forbes

For full listing of the entire season, click here…

Oliver’s is Ab Fab – Patsy says get down there, it’s Anita Wardell!

Tonight’s featured artist is Anita Wardell.

Anita Wardell is one of the world’s leading, improvising jazz vocalists. Although journalists will rightly promote her authority as a scat singer, the sheer virtuosity of her bebop informed lines is only part of her artistry. As Norma Winstone pointed out, Neet’s singing communicates not only bravura but tenderness and vulnerability, and an exceptional ability to engage the listener in ballads. So tonight, expect not only fizz, fun and pazzazz but also beauty, and to be touched.

Tomorrow night Tom Farmer, Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes.

For full listing of the entire season, click here…

Monk says – “Go To Oliver’s – it’s Malcolm Earle-Smith!”

Listen to Monk, do the right thing  and check out the scene at Oliver’s in Greenwich.

Tonight’s featured artist is Malcolm Earle-Smith.
A multi-faceted artist, Malcolm is at home in pretty much any improvising environment. Although highly respected as a fine trombonist and expert in classic jazz and swing, he is an incredibly broad musician, a great bopper and brilliant (or reluctant, or so he says) modernist, his open musical approach casting him is projects with musicians as diverse as Jack Parnell, Kenny Baker, Henry Lowther, Martin Speake, Martha Reeves and Bryan Ferry.

At a time when so much jazz is preoccupied with the darker emotions and introspection, it is as well to note that it is often more challenging to evoke joy than melancholy. Tonight’s music will be full of joy! I also have a feeling that he may well sing tonight…

Enjoy.

For full listing of the entire season, click here…
Tomorrow night Anita Wardell with the Simon Purcell Trio

The Genius of Don Byas

Don Byas and Slam Stewart – “I Got Rhythm” in 1945, one of my all time favourites.

The great British saxophonist Stan Robinson played a cassette recording of Don Byas and Slam Stewart playing ‘I Got Rhythm” and “Indiana” (in Ab and G) on the way to a gig at the Bull’s Head 20 years ago and I couldn’t believe it. Besides being so spirited and joyful (the guys are clearly having fun), it is incredibly hip, sophisticated, bloody clever, funny and way ahead of its time.

The next day I rushed to Dobell’s where, despite some quizzical comments about me being a moderninst and Don Byas probably not being my thing, one of the staff scuttled excitedly round the shop to find this treasured recording. I remember lending a recording to a very young Tim Garland who transcribed it in a day (clever bugger) and then played it with a modern set up. It sounded very “contemporary”.

Either Stan Robinson (go and hear Stan – he’s a jazz encyclopaedia) or Peter King told me a story that Bird once disappeared suddenly, while playing in Paris. The band were worried, thinking that he may have fallen foul of dodgy gear and even began to look for him in back alleys. Three days later he appeared, beaming and full of the joys of life. Still concerned they asked him where he’d been. Bird happily explained that he had taken a walk and by chance arrived at a railway station where he saw that there were trains from Paris to Copenhagen. On the spur of the moment he took the train! “Why?” they asked. “To have a saxophone lesson with Don Byas” was Bird’s reply! Beautiful.

Stan’s gig at the Bull will have been great but this recording has stayed with me ever since. I have used it in classes as an exemplar not only of a joyful expression of absolute linear authority but also the innovation and daring that was occurring during the cusp between swing and bop. The response from students and colleagues and friends is always one of astonishment (as with Lennie’s “Line Up”). I continue to think that it is beautiful and I have 2 copies of the LP!

(Ethan Iverson has kindly posted his transcription at  http://dothemath.typepad.com/)

Sun Ra says – “Go To Oliver’s – it’s Martin Speake!”

“Not the Olympics” @ Oliver’s Day 3 Martin Speake Trio with Dave Green and Gene Calderazzo.

Sun Ra says “go to Oliver’s”

Do as Sun Ra advises and drag yourself away from the television and check out the scene at Oliver’s in Greenwich.

Tonight’s featured artist is Martin Speake.
Martin is the first person to acknowledge and celebrate his wide range of influences from Bird and Paul Motian to Indian Music (note his collaborations with Indian musicians Dharambir Singh and Sarvar Sabri) but tonight as always, Martin’s music will be both lyrical and highly improvised. It will also be a wonderful opportunity to hear the great bass player Dave Green who has literally played with everybody from including all the great British artists – Michael Garrick, Don Rendell, Stan Tracey, Ian Carr, Phil Seaman, through to Harry Edison, Sonny Rollins and Roland Kirk.

Enjoy.

For full listing of the entire season, click here… Tomorrow night Malcolm Earle-Smith Sings…

“Not the Olympics” @ Oliver’s – Second Night of Sixteen!

“Not the Olympics” Special Season at Oliver’s… now up and running

Not the Olympics Season at Oliver’s

Saturday July 28th is Day 2 of the 2 weeks of gigs at “Not the Olympics” at Oliver’s. A second gig tonight with my own band with Julian Siegel, Chris Batchelor, Gene Calderazzo and Amy Baldwin. The mini-season, coinciding with the London Olympics (am I allowed to say that?) features some great artists in a range of interesting settings including Martin Speake, Mark Lockheart, the guys from Empirical (Tom Farmer, Nat Facey and Shaney Forbes), Pete Hurt, improvising vocalist Anita Wardell, the incredible lines of Geoff Simkins, the “fine chap” that is Malcolm Earle-Smith and an evening of world-jazz with Joe Townsend and Dawson Miller – not to be missed. For full listings please click here…

Hope to see you at one/some of the gigs – Don’t miss tomorrow (Sunday) with Martin Speake, Dave Green and Gene Calderazzo

If Music be the Food of Love…

If Music be the Food of Love, a response to Phil’s Robson’s FaceBook post.

Kate Williams is right in her comments on Phil Robson’s original post, it is definitely a political issue. It is a matter of values, and as artists we are in the “values business”. We assign so much of our energy and intention towards an ideal, a version or subtle representation of life so clearly at odds with the value system of the corporate world and the mass collective narcissistic neurosis of celebrity.

I have thought for many years that as human beings we possess a primal impulse towards creativity, artfulness and spirituality, as much our need for shelter, relationship and sexuality. Indeed, the signs of the collective creative and expressive impulse are ubiquitous, humanity’s need to create constantly revealing itself all around us.

Creativity and artfulness are natural states. When suppressed people become ill. When suppressed for long enough, communities and society becomes ill (read the research). The Spanish philosopher Jose Arguelles wrote: “When a man is deprived of the power of expression, he will express himself in a drive for power.” It is counter to our natural state and emotional health that hoards of artists are not only unknown but under-employed, while the need for more creativity in schools is obvious for all to see (not just in art and music but in the license afforded to creative teaching across the curriculum). And then there is the workplace and popular culture… The crime is that creative talent is as common as sand yet the dominant economic, social and political paradigm would have us believe that it is as scarce as gold. Actually, it is expedient in the post-capitalist world. (American theologian Matthew Fox had contributed insights on the subject during the 1980s.)

Phil’s points about Spotify are straightforward. Free or dirt-cheap listening makes music a “free-gift disposable consumable” that can be discarded in favour of another quick/free fix. Notwithstanding the argument about free access to great music, Music is now commoditised to such an extent and consumed as automatically as junk food, listening habits and purchasing behaviours vulnerable to extensive manipulation the market. I prefer to see quality music in the same way as quality food in that:
• It can take longer to prepare.
• It can require an investment in time and commitment on behalf of both performer and listener.
• It might take longer to digest!
• It can be (generally is) better for you (food for the soul). There is much research about creative activity and improved psychological well-being, reduction in mental illness, improved immune-systems etc.

I admire Phil for taking a stand on these matters and wish that the musical community had the confidence to support and actively promote the discussion. Couldn’t we take a more collective position on behalf of music? The irony is that very few musicians make a lot of money from music in any case, and the argument that free downloads promote the sale of merchandise at large scale or stadium gigs is hardly relevant for improvising musicians. Perhaps we have nothing to lose by reflecting and proposing some alternative practices – together. It won’t work otherwise.

There’s more comment here… www.facebook.com/simon.purcell.313

Special Olympic Season at Oliver’s in Greenwich

Special “Olympic Season” of gigs at Oliver’s in Greenwich, more details to follow shortly…

Olypmic Jazz @ Oliver’s in Greenwich

July 27th Simon Purcell Quintet featuring Julian Siegel, Chris Batchelor, Gene Calderazzo and Steve Watts
July 28th Simon Purcell Quintet featuring Julian Siegel, Chris Batchelor, Gene Calderazzo and Steve Watts
July 29th Martin Speake Trio featuring Dave Green and Gene Calderazzo
July 30th Malcolm Earle-Smith Quintet – Monday Night is Jazz Party Night
July 31st Anita Wardell with Simon Purcell trio
Aug 1st Tom Farmer trio with Nathaniel Facey and Shane Forbes
Aug 2nd Simon Purcell’s “Nadatar” with Julian Siegel, Tom Farmer and Shane Forbes
Aug 3rd Mark Lockheart with Simon Purcell Trio
Aug 4th Joe Townsend Band with Dawson Miller
Aug 5th The Music of Lennie Tristano – Pete Hurt, Martin Speake, Callum Gourlay, Jon Scott
Aug 6th Martin Speake and Simon Purcell “Amsterdam After Dark” - CANCELLED DUE TO OLYMPICS EFFECT ON LOCAL BUSINESS
Aug 7th “Fine Chaps” – Geoff Simkins, Malcolm Earle-Smith, Simon Purcell et al - CANCELLED DUE TO OLYMPICS EFFECT ON LOCAL BUSINESS
Aug 8th Tom Farmer Band - GOES AHEAD
Aug 9th Anita Wardell with Julian Siegel and the Simon Purcell Trio - CANCELLED DUE TO OLYMPICS EFFECT ON LOCAL BUSINESS
Aug 10th Martin Speake Band with Liam Noble, Chris Hyson and Corrie Dick GOES AHEAD
Aug 11th Special Jazz Party with special guests… GOES AHEAD

Finchley Arts Festival – with Anita Wardell and Julian Siegel

October 15th – Finchley Arts FestivalSimon Purcell Trio (Gene Calderazzo and Steve Watts) plus special guests Anita Wardell and Julian Siegel. A special event, featuring re-workings of standards and multiple combinations of music and voice. Simon used to work regularly with Anita Wardell in the 1990s… click here for the Finchley Arts Festival.

Graham Collier 1937 – 2011

Jazz education in the UK owes an enormous amount to Graham Collier (alongside Eddie Harvey and Lionel Grigson) without whom our current positions and extent of provision would been considerably harder to achieve.

As well as being an instigator of projects for young jazz musicians, Graham was an articulate and politically astute advocate for the music within the academic world, at a time when degree courses did not exist within the conservatoire sector. To initiate and establish a course at the Royal Academy was no mean feat in those days and assisted us in all institutions.

Unfortunately I didn’t know Graham well but he was always generous and supportive to me, never assuming a protective position regarding his host institution or his own position as Head of Jazz at the Royal Academy. Instead he actively encouraged vigorous debate and even criticism of his own work.

Jazz Education in the UK has lost a pioneer, advocate and supporter.

Sonny Rollins’ letter to Coleman Hawkins

Do read this, a touching letter from Sonny Rollins to Coleman Hawkins in 1962 (from the website www.jazzclef.com). The greatest players possess not only self-discipline and powers of concentration, but generally, great humility.

Jazz Summer Schools

Yes, its about to start, another “silly season”, the Jazz Summer School season. Actually, many of us feel that this is a special and immensely valuable time for aspiring musicians to immerse themselves and experience the music in a concentrated fashion. It is my understanding that great British composers of the mid-twentieth century such as Vaughan-Williams and Finzi considered the summer school to be the most important learning experience of all.

Nowadays, jazz schools are businesses, but they also offer a transformative (and frequently healing) experience. The Barry Summer School changed my own life, making me determined to pursue a career having on the first night heard Tony Oxley, Alan Skidmore, Gordon Beck and Ron Matthewson. I was later privileged to co-diorect the course.

There are many such events, just click here for details (Jazz Services Education Database)
Or check out these summer-schools with which I have a close association (in alphabetical order):

Mediterranean Jazz Summer School (small course in the south of France with top UK jazz musicians Liane Carroll, Julian Siegel, Martin Hathaway, Geoff Gascoyne, Simon Purcell et al)  - click here

JAZZ’S COOL 2011 (a big event in Rome with International figures such as Dave Liebman, John Pattatucci, Daniello Perez, Sheila Jordan and a host of top European musicians and educators including me!) - click here

Trinity Jazz Summer School (the wonderful setting in Greenwich hosts the descendent of the historic Barry Summer School, featuring many of the top UK artists Bobby Wellins, Dave Hassell, Liam Noble, Pete Churchill, Dave Wickins, Nikki Iles et al) - click here

A treasure… Bob Cornford

Do visit this website, dedicated to the late Robert (Bob) Cornford… click here. Besides being a tribute to one of Britain’s unsung artists, the site is an invaluable resource of British jazz from the late 1970s and early 1980s, music that was so influential for my own generation of musicians.

I was lucky enough to have known Bob.