They Think It’s All Over – not quite…. Geoff Simkins (and Dave Cliff) at Oliver’s tonight – plus sitting in

Last night of “Not the Olympics” at Oliver’s featuring Geoff Simkins

Geoff Simkins

Don’t let appearances deceive you. This one time drummer may have made early appearances with Harry Strutters Hot Rhythm Orchestra and the Temperance Seven and his principal stylistic influences have been the American alto player Lee Konitz and tenor player Warne Marsh. However, according to the great British free improvisor Alex Maguire, Geoff Simkins is the “most free improvisor” that he has heard (and Alex played with Tony Oxley!).

Geoff has played in all parts of the UK, in Europe and beyond, often with American musicians such as  Art FarmerBobby Shew, Al Cohn, Tal FarlowSlide Hampton, Warren Vache, Al GreyKenny Davern, Bill Berry, Al CaseyHoward AldenRuby Braff, Bill Coleman and Conte Candoli. He has recorded with UK tenor player Danny Moss and with US trumpeters Billy Butterfield and Yank Lawson. Since the 1980s he has worked regularly with UK guitarist Dave Cliff and his current quartet features Nikki Iles, Martin France and Simon Wolf.

Geoff is also a highly respected teacher at various conservatoires and summer schools but apart from the delight of hearing his insights into all forms of improvisation, it is his attention to the in the moment narrative of line that make musicians of all genres pay attention. Having played with and listened to Geoff for nearly 30 years I can say that his apporach transcends genre and challenges all co-improviors to raise their game and critically, their aesthetic.

I think that Geoff’s understated but powerful wit would have it that in fact he would prefer that appearances might indeed deceive and for once the integrity of the improvising be the principal point of connection for artist and listener. So no glitter or latex tonight, instead, regardless of genre and the the listeners’ projections, tonight’s music will be very much improvised!

There might also be a special guest appearance by Dave Cliff!

Oliver’s is here… click here for directions

Enjoy.

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Finally a big thank you to all who have braved public transport and public shame by bucking the trend and electing to opt for jazz in place of medals during the Olymics. Well done!

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

Lennie Tristano’s legacy is at Oliver’s tonight

Tonight’s featured artists are Martin Speake and Pete Hurt.

In some folks’ minds, Lennie Tristano is arguably the most under-rated and unappreciated artists and innovators in the history of jazz. Tonight, the unsung genius is celebrated by two similarly undervalued British musicians – Pete Hurt and Martin Speake.Although Martin Speake is (unusually) visible in this mini-season at Olivers, like so many British artists, he and Pete Hurt have been refining their art and craft for decades, enjoying exposure and public recognition far too infrequently. Even allowing for Martin’s recordings for ECM records (with Bob Stenson and Paul Motian) and the respect in which Pete’s writing and improvisatory authority is held, they are both absurdly neglected by the jazz community, media and press.Lennie Tristano (1919 – 1978) developed an approach to improvisation that while informed by bebop and earlier styles, is much more than a style in itself and continues to shape and inform approaches of musicians today – check out Mark Turner et al. Tonight’s music will certainly feature Lennie’s lines but also feature the improvisational voices of the musicians themselves. A rare opportunity to hear rare music, played by rare (as in special) musicians!

Tomorrow night : “Amsterdam after Dark” – music associated with George Coleman, with Martin Speake, Simon Purcell, Gene Calderazzo and Amy Baldwin

For full listing of the entire season, click here…

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…

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…

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

Yet another sad loss – Gordon Beck 1935 – 2011

Gordon Beck 16th September 1935 – 6th November 2011
It is desperately sad that so many musicians have passed away in recent times (Tony Levin, Jeff Clyne, Michael Garrick). Pioneers of the post-bop period in British jazz, a time when British musicians forged their own path, forming a sound that is disecernably  “local”, Gordon Beck was a formidable artist and pianist of international stature, appearing on numerous broadcasts and achieving a reputation beyond the UK. Despite his formidable playing and work with Phil Woods, Clark Terry, Dave Holland, John McLaughlin, Gary Burton, Lena Horne, Tubby Hayes, Kenny Wheeler, Alan Holdsworth and many others, typically, he was pretty much ignored amongst many jazz aficionados in the UK and worrying so, amongst younger musicians and sorry to say, students of the music. Click here for a more complete biography.

Gordon, I imagine along with Michael Garrick, John Taylor, Mick Pyne, Pete Leemer and Pat Smythe, was clearly influenced by Bill Evans, indeed he told me himself that they would go to Ronnie’s and try to sit behind the piano to watch Bill’s left hand, because “that was where the action was”. But while Bill Evans was an anglophile and the romanticism, melancholy and timbre of his music seems to resonate with much British jazz from the 1970s and 80s, those musicians drew on it to form a new sound that made a massive impact on own generation – ask Nikki Iles. Whatever British jazz musicians might think or say about American jazz (and I love it), they certainly cherish their “lineage”. We would do well to learn from that.

Gordon was a massive inspiration to me at the time (along with John Taylor, Stan Sulzman, Kenny Baldock and Tony Oxley) instrumental in making me want to become a jazz musician after hearing him along with Tony Oxley, Alan Skidmore and Ron Matthewson on the first night of the Barry Summer School in 1978. I was blown away and can still remember how they played.

I also recall a lesson with him on that first day of the summer school. Tony Oxley and Gordon (the directors of the Barry Summer School) maintained that they were anarchists and began the first day of the course by instructing all eighty of us that they were vehemently opposed to any kind of jazz education at all and that “we don’t want any of you asking us how to play like Bill Evans or McCoy Tyner”. Yet half an hour later Gordon was demonstrating every conceivable approach to jazz piano, playing “Pennies From Heaven” in the styles of Fats Waller, Teddy Wilson, Errol Garner, Oscar Peterson, Bud Powell, Bill Evans, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and Cecil Taylor. It was extraordinary and attracted an audience of students and tutors. Gordon was actually also a good teacher, well informed, clear, methodical, generous and funny.

For years I have been shocked and frustrated that 99% of my students are/were completely unaware of Gordon’s music. What a terrible shame. I wish that more folk knew of his incredible playing.

Check out Gordon’s legacy – my favourites are “Seven Steps to Evans“, “Experiments With Pops” and “Gyroscope“.

I regret that I didn’t hear him more often or keep in touch. I feel immense sadness and gratitude.

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Postscript: Interestingly, Martin Speake is currently recording interviews with a number of musicians from this special generation. This will form an invaluable oral history of a defining period in British Jazz. I look forward to hearing them…

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.

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.

Simon Purcell Trio with special guests Liane Carroll and Julian Siegel.

Gig coming up… Monday October 4th – Finchley Arts FestivalSimon Purcell Trio (Gene Calderazzo and Steve Watts) plus special guests Liane Carroll and Julian Siegel. special event, featuring the music of Bill Evans, re-workings of standards and multiple combinations of music and voice.

Liane Carroll

Simon Purcell Quintet at Ronnie Scott’s – June 4th and 5th

Simon Purcell at the Queen Elizabeth Hall (photo by Damian Duncan)

Simon Purcell’s Quintet will be appearing at Ronnie Scott’s Club on June 4th and 5th, opposite the great guitarist Alan Holdsworth (click here for Ronnie’s website). The band with Chris Batchelor (trpt), Julian Siegel (saxes), Gene Calderazzo (dms) and Mike Janisch (bass) will be playing some new material, so do come down.

British Jazz – Pause for Thought

All-star British line up from the late 1960s

The sad passing of Jeff Clyne, Peter King, John Dankworth and recently, Ken Baldock represents a distancing of the eras of jazz in Britain. It is worth considering the achievements of the pioneering jazz musicians in the post-war years, establishing bebop first-hand, producing several generations of formidable artists who, petty international jealousies aside, could hold their own anywhere in the world, and who ultimately bequeathed a recognisable sense of “British Jazz”.

The incredible richness of jazz talent to be heard throughout the UK today would have taken longer to establish itself if not for John Dankworth, Kenny Graham, Phil Seaman, Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott, Stan Tracey et al, followed by the developments of Joe Harriot, Chris McGregor, Michael Garrick, John Surman, Tony Coe, Gordon Beck, John Taylor, Kenny Wheeler, Bobby Wellins, Tony Oxley, Evan Parker and Derek Bailey – there are many more. Others will also point to the achievements of the Revivalists such as Ken Colyer and George Webb, while the music of Miles Davis music drew upon major contributions from Victor Feldman, Dave Holland and John McLaughlin.

You can start to find out more by investigating some of these links.
Gordon Beck and Tony Oxley (Taunton 1991) – click here.
Gordon Beck (on French television with Phil Woods in 1969) – click here.
Gordon Beck (more with Phil Woods) – click here.
Gordon Beck (even more with Phil Woods) - click here.
British Modern Jazz - from the 1940s to mid 1960s – click here.
Jazz Britannia (BBC TV) – click here.
Ronnie Scott and Victor Feldman (BBC Jazz 625 recorded in1964) – click here.
John Surman in Bergamo (Italy) in 2002 with John Taylor, John Marshall and Chris Laurence – click here.
Kenny Wheeler (BBC Documentary 1977) – click here for part 1 and part 2.
Kenny Wheeler, Stan Sulzman, Gordon Beck, Tony Oxley, Dieter Ilg –  click here.