Thursday, May 31, 2007
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
As long as that's true I wholeheartedly agree with him. If comedy is there to hide technical inadequacy or to fill creative gaps, then it grates. But certainly, in being privileged to release albums by Billy Jenkins, he shows that technical genius can be combined with an ability to make us think about ourselves. However, the jazz world is too full of lovers of the music who feel that jazz's role is too serious and comedy hijacks it. I believe that, for too many years, the jazz world just couldn't get to grips with Billy. Maybe in fact it was too frightened.
Comedy can be used to great effect to get over very complex ideas. Not just Billy, but also performers such as Han Bennink, and, over here, Tom Bancroft's Kidsamonium bringing jazz to the new generation. Or even the Fast Show, which to me was one of the best advertisements that jazz had in the last decade - jazz is such a strong music form that it can surely laugh at itself too from time to time. I know several people curious to listen to the "real thing" as a result of watching the show. Here for example is their take on new British jazz.
While here's a track of Billy from Songs Of Praise. (Album out in September.)
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
So, can most doormen really sort out problems? Fortunately, it made me realise that I could just about deal with a place like the Vortex, but anywhere else would be disastrous.
It's probably because there's a shortage of bouncers and doormen. But certainly just to think that anyone is sufficiently qualified by spending 4 days and £150 is certainly rubbish.
By the way, I also have passed the BIIAB exam and am a personal licensee for the venue. So, I'm becoming really well qualified at last. (Forget degrees from Oxford University and LSE!)
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
You can read the full list by clicking here.
Yesterday I learnt that to come over with a visa is 310 euros - even if you have already been living in Europe for 15 years. This was the case for Cynthia Liao, violist with the Radio String Quartet, which played the Vortex yesterday. She's from Taipei and has lived in Vienna for 15 years. This means no problem for her travelling round those EU countries covered by the Schengen agreement. But not only did she have to pay 310 euros to come here (which is around 15 euros an hour for the time she spent here), she had to spend hours trying to fill in the online application and have an interview at the Embassy. Thanks to the help of Siggi Loch and her record label ACT, we could absorb it. But it is absolutely crazy. Until last month it was just £85.
Allied to this, I found out that basses can only be taken on planes if they weigh less than 32 kg. So, now it's more and more essential for venues to have access to local good quality instruments. But it also can affect the quality of recordings if musicians have to use instruments to which they aren't accustomed, or aren't of the quality. For about 5 years, we had a wonderful time when it was easy to fly around Europe as a musician. No longer.
Meanwhile, small operations like the Vortex or Babel just get their options more and more limited.
By the way, check out the Radio String Quartet if you have a chance. Their take on Mahavishnu Orchestra is amazing, all the more so if you think that none of them were born at the time the original music came out.
Friday, May 11, 2007
However, they get shown up by some of the strange nominations and choices. These devalue the actual awards themselves. For example, Jamie Cullum was shortlisted for a prize as top European jazz musician. As an entertainer and someone who uses a jazz trio as backing, I would have no problem. But his artistic creativity is surely at issue. (The winner was Bobo Stenson.) Similarly, the Ronnie Scott's Awards were to a great degree a travesty in terms of some of the "international" categories. Scott Hamilton as best saxophonist? Jane Monheit as best vocalist? Kyle Eastwood as best bassist? Certainly there are better than a Zoot Sims soundalike and a man with a famous film star father. The UK awards were actually much better. I think that choosing the likes of Courtney Pine, Dennis Rollins as trombonist, and Fraud as UK newcomer present very little problem. But those international choices really devalued their overall value.
Anyway, those choices also highlight the difficulties about Ronnie Scott's today. It's difficult to be too critical because the refurbishment is great and the history of the club is second to none. That is, until two years ago. They are trading on their history and the club has lost so much of its support for jazz musicians and jazz lovers. They are being trampled under foot for the sake of tourists and excessive commercial criteria.
Two entries on the Guardian blog cover this, by Richard Williams and John Fordham.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Reviewers are just privileged punters with just the chance to have their own views in the printed media. That makes them as fallible as the rest of us. For example, Phil Johnson is really just taking it out on punk jazz, and the likes of Soft Machine, rather than on Led Bib per se.
"As with most things, you can blame post-modernism. But what irks about the punk-jazz trend, apart from music college grads squawking like they're down and dirty Bowery boys, is hearing something that wasn't that great in the first place, done so much worse. Drummer/ composer Mark Holub's quintet Led Bib have an unusual two-alto front- line, add Soft Machine-prog to the normal Ornettelite, and there are even electric bass solos. But Soft Machine had Elton Dean, who was a master. Having sat cross-legged through the original without having much fun, I'm unwilling to concede that this has much reason to exist at all."
Jack Massarik on Finn Peters.
"The best jazz, we know, is supposed to be the sound of surprise. Yet even so it was a bit much last night to catch what was billed as a promotional gig for Finn Peters's new album, Su-Ling, only to find the altoist using another line-up and playing different music altogether. Gone were bassist Tom Herbert and guitarist David Okumu, replaced by tuba specialist Oren Marshall and trombonist Trevor Mires.
And without warning, his album's glossy multi-cultural sophistication was substituted by a raucous old-fashioned free-improv free-for-all. Blame the full moon. Peters, a Jekyll and Hyde saxman if ever there was one, had somehow transmuted from versatile but glib neo-bop sessionman to discordant, self-indulgent iconoclast, mangling Sixties themes by the liberated likes of pianist Mischa Mengelberg and altoist Carlos Ward.
Presented as lofty original compositions were negligible whole-tone phrases of the kind wittily used in passing by true improvising masters like Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins. Apart from Peters's broad flute tone on Ballad Boy, the only truly enjoyable moment came when Marshall produced an extraordinary series of deep burping and bubbling noises which suggested that his giant bass-tuba had suddenly turned nasty and was about to eat him alive."
P.S. The second set was fully devoted to the music from the album. So no guesses as to who didn't hang around for it. And what's so wrong with Mischa Mengelberg anyway?