Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

4

The Live New Departures Jazz Poetry Septet: Blues For The Hitchhiking Dead

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
It's not jazz, it's not poetry, it's jazzpoetry. At least, that's what Jerry Hooker called it in a review of the 12 March 1962 performance at Southampton University that is captured on Blues For The Hitchhiking Dead. Two of the UK's foremost poets combined with five of the country's finest jazz musicians to become The Live New Departures Jazz Poetry Septet, bringing this relatively newfangled combination of words and music if not to the masses then at least to an enthusiastic crowd of students.

Thanks to vinyl specialists Gearbox Records the evening can now be enjoyed on a lavishly-packaged, limited edition, double album complete with a 28-page book. The poets are Pete Brown and Michael Horovitz—both were involved in putting this package together. The players include pianist Stan Tracey and tenor saxophonist Bobby Wellins, two of the most influential figures in British jazz. Every one of the septet would go on to enjoy lengthy and creative careers: Brown, most famously, as lyricist for some of Cream's best-known songs.

"McTaggart's Blues," written by Wellins, gives the band a chance to show off their chops before the poets take the stage. It's a lengthy, punchy, slice of post-bop. Jeff Clyne's pulsating double bass propels the tune confidently, leaving Laurie Morgan space to get creative with some stabbing, emphatic drum phrases. Wellins, Tracey and trombonist John Mumford play with real energy and confidence. Mumford's trombone also does much to add to the dark and pessimistic atmosphere of Brown's "Night."

Dark pessimism is at the core of "Blues For The Hitchhiking Dead." It's the album's sprawling centerpiece: a 54-minute magnum opus on which Horovitz and Brown take it in turns to deliver the narrative. The poets' contrasting styles are fascinating. Brown's Everyman voice is relaxed, friendly and familiar: Horovitz' patrician tones sound oddly old-fashioned and rather school-masterly. On an early, brief, exchange the pair resemble Vladimir and Estragon—waiting not for Godot, but for a friendly driver to stop and offer them a ride. The musicians—Morgan and Tracey in particular—underpin the poets' performances with imaginative and sympathetic playing, heightening the impact of the words, sometimes controlling the tempo, sometimes following the rhythm and pace of the voices.

The Gearbox Records team have done a great job on production, using an original recording made by a friend of the group, Victor Schonfield, on a reel-to-reel tape recorder. It's not perfect—fifty years haven't been kind to the audio source and it's doubtful if Schonfield used cutting edge technology in the first place. Does it matter? If audiophile sound quality is everything, then it will—if a chance to experience jazzpoetry in all its glory is more important then it shouldn't. After all, scratchy singles and EPs played on a cheap little Dansette were the height of hip listening in '62.

Blues For The Hitchhiking Dead captures the spirit of a short-lived but still influential movement. It would be worthwhile simply as a historical document—thankfully it's also damn fine entertainment.

Track Listing: Side 1: McTaggart's Blues; Flying Home. Side 2: Night; Blues For The Hitchhiking Dead (Part 1). Side 3: Blues For The Hitchhiking Dead (Part 2). Side 4: Blues For The Hitchhiking Dead (Part 3); Afro Charlie.

Personnel: Pete Brown: spoken word; Michael Horovitz: spoken word; Bobby Wellins: tenor saxophone; John Mumford: trombone, tenor horn; Stan Tracey: piano; Jeff Clyne: double bass; Laurie Morgan: drums.

Title: Blues For The Hitchhiking Dead | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Gearbox Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Formidable CD/LP/Track Review Formidable
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Cochonnerie CD/LP/Track Review Cochonnerie
by John Sharpe
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Threes CD/LP/Track Review Threes
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Smoke CD/LP/Track Review Smoke
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Acknowledgement CD/LP/Track Review Acknowledgement
by Don Phipps
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Lessons And Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review Lessons And Fairytales
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "Hallways" CD/LP/Track Review Hallways
by Paul Rauch
Published: June 24, 2017
Read "Salão Brazil" CD/LP/Track Review Salão Brazil
by John Sharpe
Published: March 30, 2017
Read "The Beautiful Day" CD/LP/Track Review The Beautiful Day
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 6, 2016
Read "Blooming Tall Phlox" CD/LP/Track Review Blooming Tall Phlox
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2016
Read "At This Time: Duets" CD/LP/Track Review At This Time: Duets
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 6, 2017
Read "Twin" CD/LP/Track Review Twin
by Fiona Ord-Shrimpton
Published: April 6, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor