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.
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!
“Not the Olympics” @ Oliver’s Day 3 Martin Speake Trio with Dave Green and Gene Calderazzo.
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.
For full listing of the entire season, click here…Tomorrow night Malcolm Earle-Smith Sings…
“Not the Olympics” Special Season at Oliver’s… now up and running
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
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.