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…

I was surfing the website of David Valdez and came across the tributes to and Ph.D about the American jazz educator Charlie Banacos. This man was a very significant figure and worth investigating if like me, you are unaware of his work (see CasaValdez for more information)… Just for starters some of the saying attributed to him:
“If you play with your fingers, you’re dead”
“The fingers are passive”
“The body doesn’t want to stop”
“The body doesn’t like angles”
“Row the boat”
“You feel like a diver by the side of a pool, ready to jump”
“Play with your arms, not your fingers”
“Of course it’s difficult; that’s why they call it an etude”
“Ear training—it’s Zen, not Aristotelian”
“Gain purchase”
“Don’t measure” (as you practice ear training—hear it all at once)
“Piano technique—it’s Aristotelian, not Zen”
“Each note has its own shape as it goes by, like you’re driving by the planets”
“Keep your fingers near the keys, and don’t be afraid to raise your wrist”
“Don’t change the exercises”
“It’s a coordination problem”
“Just because you don’t speak like MLK doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk”
“Think of the numbers, not hand positions”
“Circles, Squares, Triangles -separate them” i.e. one idea after the next, not on top”
“Plan your practicing, or you will be overwhelmed”
“Use all the tensions on the lines; use all the figurations for each voicing”
“It doesn’t matter what finger you use”
“Think like a drummer, using space and range”
“Close your eyes and sit in the audience watching and listening”
“Re: sight reading—it’s a craft, not an art”
“Oh, and do it in all twelve keys.” Kill!
“Divisive rhythm/additive rhythm”
“Elephant with a stick in his trunk” (using it as a guide as you walk/play).
“He’s [insert name here e.g. Mingus, Jerry B. etc.] whacked, but he can play”
“Deep into the keys” (toward the center of the earth and toward the fallboard)

Apparently, he also would stress the following…
“It’s not technique, its timing” —Oscar Peterson
“Practice without accents” —Oscar Peterson
“The body is a rock; the arms are snakes” —Claudio Arrau
“All notes are ‘up’ notes” —Martha Argerich
“Feel the Ground” —Anton Rubinstein
“It’s all about circles” —Chick Corea
“Think of elephants, giraffes and hippos as you play” —Bill Evans
“C fingerings in all keys” —Franz Liszt
“Giant Steps solo in all keys” —George Coleman
“Music is Technique”—Nadia Boulanger
“Practice for the performance” —Chick Corea
“You must be a good draftsman before you can be a great painter” —Bill Evans
“Practicing is pushing a wall—you wake up the next day the wall has moved” —Bill Evans
“Don’t force the keys” —Art Tatum (to Red Garland)
“Each time is different”—Artur Schnabel, upon practicing the same phrase 200 times
“Three hours before breakfast” —Mike Stern
“Enslavement to the notation” —Craig Taubman
“Nothing difficult about it—just hit the right keys at the right time” —J.S. Bach
“You can’t be unhappy and be learning something new at the same time” —Merlin

Olympic Legacy must not be sport.


Having approached the Olympics full of cynicism and frustration at the decimation of arts funding and actual economic reality in East London, I admit to being affected not only by some of the competitive drama and personal stories but in particular by the joy of the crowds and behaviour of all the helpers (volunteers, transport workers, police and soldiers). It appears painfully obvious that people love to rise to the challenge of being good to each-other if only provided with the opportunity, so thank you Lord Coe! The vibe in Stratford was fantastic, which strangely enough is why the Olympic Legacy must not be sport!

I propose simply that the Olympic Legacy should instead be a national commitment to a collective recognition of accomplishment and self-realisation in all fields – sport, the arts and public service etc. The Olympics not only demonstrated individual and national accomplishment in sport but also ritualised the deeper potential for human empathy and connection through mythological references (and mediocre pop music). The fact that so many people “got it” is the important issue and this collective altruistic impulse must surely be extended and harnessed throughout our society, not restricted to the base impulse art of winning and losing. Well done Jessica, but remember the nurses, doctors and violinists too.

Have a look at this, quite synchronistic that the European Arts ministers are meeting in Edinburgh this week… click here

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!

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