“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

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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” 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

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…

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.