The place where related and unrelated snippets, facts and stories about jazz happening appear.
The jazz scene in the UK is buzzing at the moment. Clubs whose managers not so long ago were faced with the difficult decision whether to continue offering new sounds to a dwindling audience or turn themselves into a wine bar--offering small slices of live music to appease their consciences perhaps--are finding it was worth hanging in there. It seems free music has been saved--not by record companies wanting to pour in their millions but by the very nature of British audiences. British music listeners have eclectic tastes. Of course, there are clubs full to the rafters every night offering ...read more
By the time Ian Dury had his first major hit, he was 35 years old. With frightening speed he and his band became household names and Dury remained a national treasure until his death at the age of 57 in 2000.However, before the Kilburns, the Blockheads or the Music Students, before he was bewitched by the overpowering enchantment of fame, sex, drugs or rock and roll, Dury had a different life. He was an artist, a teacher and creator of images. Now, over 40 years since the creation of some of those works, his first solo exhibition is ...read more
Gina Southgate and The People BandThe VortexLondon, UKMay 11, 2013On a Saturday evening in the heart of Dalston, East London, The People Band once again graced The Vortex with its free form and improvised style of jazz. As the group played, artist Gina Southgate, with the help of a very computer-literate assistant, created live paintings which were projected on a screen behind the musicians.The collaboration created a visual and audio spectacle which proved almost too much to take in. The People Band provided music which showed free playing at its ...read more
The People BandCafé OtoLondon, UKMarch 6, 2013Café Oto, Dalston, London was the setting for a performance by legendary free form group, The People Band. Formed in the 1960s and led by drummer Terry Day and pianist/multi-instrumentalist Mel Davis, the group has played on and off right through to the present day. The lineup for this gig included Day, drums and percussion; Davis, piano and keyboards; George Khan, saxophones and flute; Mike Figgis, trumpet, bass guitar, keyboards; Paul Jolly, saxophones; Charlie Hart, double bass, guitar and violin; Adam Hart, keyboards; Tony Edwards, percussion; ...read more
Late at night while walking recently through Covent Garden, London, I was stopped in my tracks by the sweetest voice I had heard in a long while. Signaling my friend, we set off to find the source.All we could see was a crowd of dancing people but we managed to squeeze in and found the source of the singing was a diminutive figure of a girl with blonde hair, a backing track playing on a CD player and a microphone. She was grinning, hugely enjoying herself and treating the crowd to some of the most beautiful singing imaginable. ...read more
It is a funny thing but when you are young, you expect things to be short- lived and to fade almost as quickly as they become popular, like the crazes of deely boppers, leg warmers and clackers, which at the time, were must-haves. It was the same with music--the teenage idols in the '70s were The Bay City Rollers, Donny Osmond and David Cassidy, The Who and Queen. At the time, each craze enjoys a brief passion unless, like some of us, you always preferred jazz; but inevitably, life, loves and responsibilities take over and you put these things to ...read more
Jazz has influenced many other genres of music and, likewise, many other genres have influenced jazz from its very beginning. What is really exciting about the scene at the moment is just how much enrichment it is getting from the rest of the world. It works both ways, of course; jazz musicians from countries which have, until recently, had very small scenes are benefitting from warm receptions in established venues. Audiences are benefitting from having an increasingly diverse range of artists and music styles to experience. In part due to improved accessibility along with the evolution of the Internet and ...read more
Courtney PineSuffolk, UKSeptember 20, 2012Courtney Pine is not so much a musician as an experience. The event was the opening night of the Ipswich Music Festival and the venue was the grand hall of Ipswich High School-grander than most school halls granted but not the sort of venue Pine would normally be associated with. The last time I saw him in action was just over a year ago at Snape Music Festival, where he gave an unforgettable performance, interspersing free playing with well known standards, as well as music from his last album, Europa ...read more
The People BandVortex OutdoorThe VortexLondon, EnglandSeptember 22, 2012The Vortex Club in Dalston, north London, recently celebrated 25 years as a jazz venue. For a quarter of a century, first in Stoke Newington and later Dalston, The Vortex has offered jazz of all genres to the world. Major names, as well as those starting out, are given the chance to reach audiences from all over the UK and a look through past and future programs gives an idea of just how varied the club's offering is, from poetry to mainstream, improvised ...read more
There are just a few bands that can fill a jazz venue as easily as they fill one more used to contemporary pop music, and it seems right to acknowledge one of the best jazz-influenced, long-lived and popular groups from the late '70s to the present day, The Blockheads. This band filled Ronnie Scott's and The 100 Club in 2011 and will also play at the Jazz Café, London in December, as well as many other venues around Britain. 2014 sees the group celebrate more than 35 years of playing together. The Blockheads' unique sound relies much on ...read more
Scumbling is a process in art whereby the artist experiments with glaze or other medium. The reason I chose it as the name for this column was that it allows me to include many topics related to jazz. One of those is writing. Many people are put off writing about music because they either think they do not know enough, are scared of negative feedback from experts" or are worried they will be unable to contact people or that those contacts will be elusive and aloof. But there are too few people writing about jazz, or writing well, and I ...read more
Andy Sheppard is pleased to be back; not back, as in making a return to music--he has never left--but back in Suffolk and, more particularly, back in Snape. Snape was where Trio Libero--consisting of French double bassist Michel Benita, drummer Sebastian Rochford and saxophonist Sheppard--was born. The trio released its self-titled debut earlier in 2012 on the German ECM label.Four days as resident artist a few years back led to lots of time spent in a recording studio in nearby Aldeburgh, where most of the tunes and arrangements were recorded. Sheppard, of course, is an experienced player and ...read more
Italy is steeped in culture. It has been the seat of awesome and terrible power and fallen into deep poverty; it is the country which saw the expansion of arts, opera and composition. Theories of the origins of the Universe have been developed by its scholars and its architecture shows the influence of many different hands, from Moorish hints in the south to the vast modern piazzas and linear streets of the northern cities. It is a country of contrasts in the wealth of the regions, the diversity of its food and the warmth of its people. There is unrest, ...read more
Saxophonist and composer Andy Sheppard was asked, a couple of years ago, to come up with an idea for the 200th anniversary of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. In particular, Bristol City Council wanted an event to start fundraising for lights for the Clifton Suspension Bridge.Being a saxophonist, Sheppard suggested 200 saxophones somehow get together in one place and perform. He said it as a joke at first and initially, members of the council grinned and then laughed--as did Andy--but after a few minutes, the laughter stopped and they realized they had come up with a gem of an idea. ...read more
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