Before NEC Residency, Django Bates Writes Own Biography


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In Anticipation of His New England Conservatory Residency, December 7 - 8, Django Bates Has Supplied His Own Biography.

Django was born in a house near New Beckenham Station. A ropy, semitone flat D'Almaine Piano was the most fascinating toy in the house. He found the clatter of railway workers working throughout the night comforting, but had recurring nightmares about a Hippopotamus head slowly moving from one side of the ceiling to the other, and of having fluttering moths stuck between his toes.

When he was three and a half, Django and sister Paddy were taken by their parents, Frances and Ralf, on a tour of Europe. They traveled in a motorbike and side-car. The door kept flying open as they trundled through France, Austria, Italy, Romania and Yugoslavia. They lived on stolen maize blackened over fires, and Ice creams given to Django in exchange for having blond hair. At one point Romanian Gypsies gave the Bates family a wooden mug full of warm frothy milk which they had just pulled from a cow.

At eleven years old Django got himself several paper-rounds. At 6:00 a.m, an old radiogram would wake everyone in the house except Django: he would be shaken awake by whoever cracked first. After paper-rounds he'd cycle to Sedgehill Comprehensive School and receive a fully comprehensive education. Some of it he remembers still: James the First had a very big tongue and was the wisest fool in Christendom, the hanging gardens of Babylon looked amazing, ... er, that's it.

After school Django would go back to the houses he'd delivered papers to and say “I'm collecting unwanted paper for World Conservation." Thus was amassed a huge pile of paper which he would weigh on bathroom scales. When one ton was reached, it would be collected by a recycling company from Greenwich, and Django would receive sixteen pounds. The aim was to buy a tape recorder with “Sound on Sound" capabilities. He eventually reached one hundred and sixty six pounds and bought one, but never managed to operate it.

Django wet the bed until he was 15, and to this day he finds it hard to act his age. Various alarm bells, zinc-plated sheets and odd bed angles were tried as cures, to no avail. It has been suggested that these attempted cures have given his music an odd tilt and an obsession with alarming surprises.

Many friends and vagrants passed through the family home: lots were artists or musicians who gave Django music lessons. A few were unknown to the Bates family, and it was a mystery what they were doing in the house at all. Django's mother encouraged him to attend weird old folks' houses for lessons on trumpet, piano, violin and guitar whilst his father played eccentric music from all genres at him from babyhood onwards.

On leaving school in 1977, Django attended Morley College FTYM for two years. Django was very shy at this time and did not take his coat off in public for two years: “I was pretty hot most of the time," he remembers.

In 1979 he left the Royal College of Music after two weeks as the pianos had signs on them saying “Not to be used for the playing of Jazz music." Luckily he already had some teaching work at a school for reluctant Catholics (reluctant to learn music, that is), and a Friday night residency at the Waterside Theatre in Rotherhithe. It was not a theatre; it was a disused wharf overlooking the Thames. In this romantic building Jonny Edgecombe ran a jazz club at which Django and friends would provide the support act for John Stevens, Harry Beckett, John Taylor, Stan Tracey, Dudu Pukwana and many more great improvisers. “It was an education in how to make one's music personal, and how to present it to drunk Dockland dwellers without being lynched," recalls Django. As a result of this regular gig Django was invited to play and tour with Dudu Pukwana's Zila for several years. Things started happening...

In 1985 Loose Tubes played at Ronnie Scott's club and lots of people liked it. As a result, Django became very busy: too busy, in fact, to write a long fulsome biography. Sorry 'bout that.

The Django Bates masterclass and concert are free and open to the public. The schedule follows:

December 7, 2005
Django Bates masterclass
St. Botolph Hall, 1 p.m.
241 St. Botolph St. (corner Gainsborough St. and St. Botolph)
This masterclass will focus on work with piano and baritone horn.

December 8, 2005
NEC Jazz Orchestra plays works of Django Bates
NEC's Jordan Hall at 8 p.m.

For more information, call the NEC Concert Line at (617) 585-1122 or visit NEC on the web at www.newenglandconservatory.edu/concerts

Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 750 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world. Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide. Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions. On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors. Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes--thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 100-year old, beautifully restored concert hall. These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes. Every year, NEC's opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of “From the Top," a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by more than two hundred stations throughout the United States.

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