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!

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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/)