That Old iPad September Shuffle …

Here we go again … a baker’s dozen of goodies shuffled into the air courtesy of my somewhat ancient iPad …

  1. My Creole Belle : Mississippi John Hurt
  2. Boulder to Birmingham : Emmylou Harris
  3. Girlfriend in a Coma : The Smiths
  4. Last to Leave : Arlo Guthrie
  5. People Will Say We’re in Love : Ray Charles & Betty Carter
  6. We Walk the Same Line : Everything But the Girl
  7. Ain’t Misbehavin’ : Louis Armstrong [from Satch Plays Fats]
  8. Gone at Last : Paul Simon w. Phoebe Snow
  9. Cody : John Stewart w. Buffy Ford
  10. Stars Fell on Alabama : Billie Holiday
  11. True Love Travels on a Gravel Road : Elvis Presley
  12. Somebody Been Talkin’ : Homesick James & His Dusters
  13. African Ripples : Fats Waller

And when we’re not shuffling, here’s a batch of CDs currently juggling for space on the stereo …

Midsummer iPod Shuffle

Good As I Been To You

1. Sitting on Top of the World : Bob Dylan
from Good As I Been To You

2. Train : Mose Allison
from Back Country Suite

3. Lungs : Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer
from Not Dark Yet

Not Dark Yet

4. Spike Driver Blues : Mississippi John Hurt

5. Tonight’s the Night : Neil Young

6. C Jam Blues : Duke Ellington
from Blues in Orbit

7. When You Were Young, Maggie : Tommy Ladnier’s Orchestra w. Sidney Bechet

8. Worried Life Blues : Otis Spann

9. Walkin’ : Art Pepper
from Art Pepper + Eleven

Art Pepper + Eleven

10.  Golden Ratio : Ben Watt
from Hendra

Hendra

11. We See : Thelonious Monk Trio
from Blue Monk Vol 2

12. No Easy Way Down : Dusty Springfield
from Dusty in Memphis

Dusty_Springfield,_Dusty_in_Memphis_(1969)

“You Did It! You Did It!” Two poems for Roland Kirk

 

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A fascinating piece about Roland Kirk in Richard Williams’ always interesting blog, thebluemoment.com sent my back to these two poems of mine, which I used to read in and around Nottingham with a fine little band led by tenor player/flautist Mel Thorpe, the exchanges between voice and flute giving Mel the chance to give his best humming, whistling, growling impression of Kirk at his most fiery.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?

What would you say of a man who can play
three instruments at once – saxophone,
manzello and stritch – but who can neither
tie his shoelace nor button his fly?

Who stumbles through basements,
fumbles open lacquered boxes,
a child’s set of drawers,
strews their contents across bare boards –
seeds, vestments, rabbit paws?

Whose favourite words are vertiginous,
gourd, dilate? Whose fantasy is snow?
Who can trace in the dirt the articular process
of the spine, the pulmonary action of the heart?

Would you say he was blind?
Would you say he was missing you?

 

YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT!

It was Roland Kirk, wasn’t it?
Who played all those instruments?
I saw him. St. Pancras Town Hall.
Nineteen sixty-four.

The same year, at the old Marquee,
I saw Henry ‘Red’ Allen,
face swollen like sad fruit,
sing “I’ve Got the World on a String”
in a high almost falsetto moan.

Rahassan Roland Kirk,
on stage in this cold country,
cramming his mouth with saxophones,
harmonica, reed trumpet, piccolo and clarinet,
exultant, black and blind.

“You did it! You did it!
You did it! You did it!”

Daring us to turn our backs,
stop our ears, our hearts,
deny the blood wherever it leads us:
the whoop and siren call
of flutes and whistles,
spiralling music, unconfined.

 

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Stroll on … Mid-Feb Shuffle

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Keeping me company on those early morning strolls across the Heath …

  1. Jessica Williams : Theme for Lester Young (Goodbye Pork Pie Hat)
  2. Judy Collins : Hard Lovin’ Loser
  3. Ella & Louis : April in Paris
  4. Elton John : Rocket Man
  5. Billie Holiday : When a Woman Loves a Man
  6. Dusty Springfield : A Song For You
  7. Johnny Young’s South Side Blues Band : Tighten Up On It
  8. Ray Charles : When Your Lover Has Gone
  9. Joe Henry : Struck
  10. Joe Turner : You’re Driving Me Crazy
  11. Bonnie Raitt : Not Cause I Wanted To
  12. Lennie Tristano & Lee Konitz : You Go To My Head

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Music for the New Year

Music for the New Year comes in two parts. First, the CDs/Albums that have found their way most often onto the stereo ….

Jarrett

Feldman

Mulllova

 

Dreaming My Dreams (Remastered)

And second, the tracks that came up yesterday on my kitchen-bound iPod shuffle …

  • Donall Og : Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill & Dónal Lunny
  • Private Life : Grace Jones
  • Aretha : Rumer
  • Never Not You (Remember to Breathe) : Girlboy
  • Streets of Baltimore : Gram Parsons
  • Is This America? (Katrina 2005) : Charlie Haden
  • My Father : Judy Collins
  • Stalin wasn’t Stallin’ : Robert Wyatt
  • 22 : Lily Allen
  • Still Crazy After All These Years : Paul Simon
  • Pancho & Lefty : Townes Van Zandt
  • One Good Year : Slaid Cleaves
  • Luka : Suzanne Vega

Happy Listening!

The Jazz Steps Story

Jazz Steps is the name under which jazz has been promoted in Nottingham – city and county – for some 20 years, and now there’s a book, nicely produced and copiously illustrated – The Jazz Steps Story – which tells of the development of the organisation and the people behind it, as well as chronicling the many and varied gigs that have taken place under its guidance.

More than that, it also tells the story of live jazz in Nottingham from the Nottingham Rhythm Club, founded in the early 40s, and the Dancing Slipper – which featured a goodly number visiting American jazz players with top British bands throughout the 60s & 70s – to Limelight Club evenings in the Nottingham Playhouse bar, which was where I first read in a poetry & jazz session with the fine little band that were then called, rather cheekily, the MJQ, or Midlands Jazz Quartet. With just a few changes of personnel and several changes of name – from the MJQ to Second Nature to Blue Territory – that was the same group I would be happy to read with on occasion for another 20-plus years.

Jazz Steps 1

The book costs £15 and is available at Jazz Steps gigs and Notts libraries, or from the Jazz Steps web site

Here’s a little taster from my Foreword …

Anyone with even a passing acquaintance with the Charlie Resnick novels or, for that matter, the short stories, will know that the connection between Resnick, jazz and Nottingham is a strong one. Following, more or less, in my footsteps, Charlie would have had his first taste of local jazz Sunday lunchtimes in The Bell, closely followed by evenings at the Dancing Slipper in West Bridgford or at Bill Kinnell’s short-lived Gallery club in Mapperley.

Then there was the Old Vic and, on one night I particularly remember, Charlie Parker’s old sparring partner Red Rodney was up on stage with Pete King, the two of them, alto and trumpet, sailing through the fast and intricate lines of Bird’s bebop tunes as if they had been playing together half their lives.

Jazz Steps 2

November iPad Shuffle

  1. Woman’s Hour : Unbroken Sequence *
  2. Boz Scaggs : Sierra **
  3. Allen Toussaint : Freedom for the Stallion
  4. Colin Blunstone : I Don’t Believe in Miracles
  5. Rod Picott : Rust Belt Fields
  6. GirlBoy : 28 Years ***
  7. Boz Scaggs : Just Go
  8. Willie Nelson : Nothing’s Changed, Nothing’s New
  9. P P Arnold : Different Drum
  10. John Stewart : Kansas Rain
  11. Tracey Thorn : Guitar ****
  12. Slaid Cleaves : One Good Year
  13. Judy Collins : My Father

* I first became aware of Woman’s Hour [the band, not the radio programme] when I saw a video using their music as part of a display at London’s Photographers’ Gallery. They released two albums, the first of which, Conversations, contains this track; their second, and last album, Ephyra, was released earlier this year. They played their last ever gig in March at The Dome in Tufnell Park, north London, just a few hundred metres from where I live – something I only discovered after the event.

Conversations

** Like many things in my life, large and small, I owe my early knowledge of Boz Scaggs to my friend from Goldsmiths, the late Tom Wild. Scaggs’ 1974 album, Slow Dancer, gave me the name for Slow Dancer Press, which began publishing three years later

* * * GirlBoy are (is?) a two-piece band made up of a female rapper and a male country singer – shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. First came across them on one of Tom Robinson’s programmes on BBC Radio 6.

Late Bloomers

* * * * Once half of Everything But the Girl, and the pride of Kentish Town, this is one of many excellent songs on Thorn’s 2018 album, Record. Following her first memoir, Bedsit Disco Queen, her second, Another Planet about growing up in the outer suburbs, was published earlier this year. Both good reads.

Record

‘Aslant’ in review …

ASLANT COVER10

Aslant by John Harvey (poetry) and Molly E. Boiling (photography). £10. Shoestring Press. ISBN: 978-1912524099

Review from THE HIGH WINDOW by Robin Thomas https://thehighwindowpress.com

John Harvey’s poetry is spacious, unhurried, measured, taking its time to unfurl its effect but keeping its hooks in the reader by careful control of pace and by making every word count.   Here’s a sample from ‘Christmas Day’:

soon they will shuffle on their coats and shoes
and make their way through the quiet streets
to early morning mass

It is descriptive, patient and redolent of the slowness of the aged.  It has an elegiac quality, both to do with the approaching end of the couple’s lives and the felt out-of-date-ness of church-going.  Elsewhere in this poem this mood is enacted in memories of the daughter before she flew the nest, of the mother when she was well, of the lost certainties of life, a time when prayers might mean something. This poem takes its place against other elegiac poems, poems about love, loss, belief, truth and death along with a couple of ekphrastic poems and several finding their origin in jazz.

Another fine poem is ‘Monk at the 5 Spot’.  There are two separate threads to this poem: one involving legendary jazz musicians in performance, the other some famous listeners.  Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane leap off the page in Harvey’s enactment, their closely observed behaviour culminating in a marvellous image for Monk:

… an angular arpeggio
which calls to mind a man stumbling headlong
down a flight of stairs, never quite losing his balance

Meanwhile poet Frank O’Hara is at a table with his friends, talking, laughing, drinking, apparently unstoppable.  The poem ends with the two threads brought together:

[a] final double handed chord, so sudden,
so emphatic, that the crowd, almost as one,
catches its breath and even Frank O’Hara
is stunned into silence.

The music and O’Hara stop, the poem ends.

To my mind ‘The Curve’, which makes reference to Bridget Riley’s sequence of that name, does exactly what an ekphrastic poem should do – responds rather than describes – you don’t need the painting to enjoy the poem.  In this poem Riley’s abstract sequence brings to the narrator’s mind a suburban street evoked as a canyon, an absent daughter ‘dreaming of becoming seventeen’, a train journey in which a painting is briefly returned to and brought in as metaphor:

the light oscillating
on the water’s surface
patterning across the painter’s canvas

There are memories of the beginning and continuation of love and another strong ending:

then you turn and come back to where I’m waiting
small shells like keepsakes tight
in the palm of your hand.

It’s a stream of consciousness, just the kind of thing that might go through your mind when you look at abstract art.

There are many good things in these poems:  memories as ghosts in ‘Voyage’, the slow build up of the extended metaphor in ‘Bailey’s Mistake (Again)’, the discussion of epitaphs in the eponymous poem, the way Harvey can condense meaning, for example, in ‘The US Botanical Gardens’:

… I break small leaves
into the palm of my hand;
yarrow, for internal bleeding,
foxglove for the muscles of the heart’.

These are real plants to be found in the Botanical Gardens, with a historic symbolic meaning but they stand also directly for the narrator’s own emotional situation (and perhaps for the bodily state of the loved one).

I began with a reference to Harvey’s measured style.  Occasionally the close control wavers and the poetry meanders into something prose-like, where too much is said, as in ‘Lester Young’, but this is a minor complaint.

The photos by Molly E.Boiling are abstract conceptions, many based on buildings seen from unusual angles and reflect the poet’s interest in abstract art.  They certainly contribute to what is a very attractive book-object.

 

Getting to Grips with “Aslant”

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Photo : Molly E. Boiling

I’ve written before on this blog about Aslant, the small but beautifully formed collection of my poems and Molly Boiling’s photographs published by Shoestring Press earlier in the year, but the arrival of an interesting, quite detailed review by Thomas Ovans in the online magazine London Grip gives me the opportunity to do so again.

This is how it begins …

As I begin to write this review it strikes me that one’s reading of a book can initially be influenced by what one had previously been reading. I came to this collection having just enjoyed another book that  robustly and self-confidently expressed irreverent and sceptical attitudes that I broadly agreed with. Aslant, by contrast, is a much more provisional, reflective and tender work and represented a refreshing change of tone that I hadn’t known I was more than ready for.

Aslant places John Harvey’s poems alongside evocative photographs by Molly Boiling which provide sharp-edged images of steps, shadows, girders and corners of high buildings. These pictures often suggest entrances and exits or incidental glimpses alongside the telling of a story. Hence they combine well with Harvey’s poems which usually have a strong narrative and reminiscent thread.

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Photo : Molly E. Boiling

“A sense of mortality seems to hover over much of this collection,” Ovans writes; “a recurring sense of wistful consolation after loss.”

Of the pieces in the central section which take jazz and jazz musicians as their subject – Lester Young, Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk – Ovans writes, “This is wonderfully evocative writing which, I would maintain, conveys something authentic even to a reader who is not a jazz aficionado.”

And he concludes his review thus …

… this is no ordinary book: the well-chosen images and the way they complement some consistently satisfying high-quality poems make it, in my view, well worth a tenner of anybody’s money.

You can read Thomas Ovan’s review in full here …

And if you don’t already have a copy and feel like following this advice and splashing out said tenner, Aslant can be ordered directly from contacts@centralbooks.com.    or  from any bookstore – including those worthy souls at Nottingham’s Five Leaves Bookshop – bookshop@fiveleaves.co.uk. You can even buy it on Amazon.

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Photo : Molly E. Boiling

Six Months of Good Stuff …

Here’s a list, for those who like lists, of the movies, music, books and exhibitions that have given me the most pleasure in the first half of the year; given me pleasure and, more often than not, stopped me in my tracks.

BOOKS
An American Marriage : Tayari Jones
Long Bright River : Liz Moore (proof copy – pub Jan 2020)

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FILMS
Hale County This Morning This Evening : RaMell Ross
Foxtrot : Samuel Maoz
Dirty God : Sacha Polak [mainly for the extraordinary performance by Vicky Knight]

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MUSIC
Blues & Roots Ensemble w. Alice Zawadzki : Pizza Express Jazz Club
Viktoria Mullova : unaccompanied Bach on violin : Sage, Gateshead

Two CDs by writer Willy Vlautin’s band, The Delines
Colfax (2014)
The Imperial (2019)

Delines

ART
Harold Gilman – Beyond Camden Town : Djanogly Gallery, Nottm.
Albert Irvin & Abstract Expressionism : GWA, Bristol
George Shaw – A Corner of a Foreign Field : Holbourne Gallery, Bath
Joan Mitchell : Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris

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George Shaw

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Joan Mitchell

PHOTOGRAPHY
Don McCullin : Tate Britain
Dave Heath – Dialogues with Solitude : Photographers’ Gallery
Chris Killip – The Last Ships : Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle
Luigi Ghirri – Cartes et Territoires : Jeu de Paume, Paris

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Dave Heath