Bob Cornwell’s Shuffle

It gives me great pleasure to hand this post over to the illustrious Bob Cornwell – film buff, crime fiction expert and music aficionado – to discus the music that popped up recently via his iPod shuffle. [Just as it is with books, other people’s music libraries are often far more  diverse and interesting than one’s own.]

Ysabel’s Table Dance (Charles Mingus)
Aftermath (Kevin Eubanks)
Third Rate Romance (Amazing Rhythm Aces)
Here Comes the Honeyman (Norma Winstone with the NDR Bigband under Mike Gibbs)
This Girl’s in Love with You (Dionne Warwick)
Donna Lee (Charlie Parker)
Rustat’s Gravesong (Michael Garrick Orchestra)
I Want You (Jewels and Binoculars)
Downtown Train (Tom Waits)
O Deserto (Mariza)
Dance You Monster to My Soft Song (Maria Schneider Orchestra)
Moon Mist (Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra)

No day that starts with this passionate, mercurial music from Tijuana Moods (1957), my favourite Mingus album and one of only three (all for Mingus)) that feature the wistfully lyrical trumpet of Clarence Shaw, here in teasing fragments.

The ‘day’ job for some years for under-rated guitarist Kevin Eubanks, was with the house band on Jay Leno’s Tonight US TV show in the 1990s. This is from Turning Point, his first album (1992) for Blue Note, bristling with excellent Eubanks originals and supported, amongst others by Britain’s own Dave Holland and Mark Mondesir.

The 1970s generally get a bad rap, for its politics of course but also for its music. Not in my book, notable as the period was for great British big bands. Think Neil Ardley’s New Jazz Orchestra, Chris McGregor’s anarchic but always exhilarating Brotherhood of Breath, the Mikes Westbrook, Gibbs and Garrick, and then on into the 80s with the various Graham Collier aggregations. Here Comes the Honeyman is later Gibbs. from his wonderful 2011 album, Here’s A Song for You, featuring Norma Winstone with the NDR Bigband (Mark Mondesir guesting on drums). This includes some very individual interpretations of material from Nick Drake, Sting and Joni Mitchell as well as a few classics from Fats Waller, Duke and Billy Strayhorn. And in the closing moments of this track, can I hear a brief homage to the sinuous horns and woodwind that accompany Miles on the fragmentary (1m 18sec) version of this tune on Porgy and Bess (1958), arranged by Gil Evans.

Rustat’s Gravesong meanwhile originates from Michel Garrick in 1968, the innovative Jazz Praises suite (Garrick on the organ of St.Paul’s Cathedral for instance). This version comes from an undated but much later (early 200s?) now with a young band that included two of his sons.

No Dusty (or Lester) this time round. Instead the Apple logarithm glides mysteriously from a sublime Dionne Warwick in 1969 to an intense Charlie Parker in 1947 with an ‘all-star’ group that includes Miles Davis, Bud Powell and Max Roach, in Parker’s first ‘illicit’ session for Savoy (he was contracted to Dial at the time).

A Bob Dylan inspired jazz album? Three in fact, all from woodwind specialist Michael Moore (no relation) and his band called Jewels and Binoculars, completed by bassist Linsdey Horner and percussionist Michael Vatcher. Ths jaunty version of I Want You comes from Floater, the second album (2003), one of many jewels on this record.

Fado singer Mariza’s O Deserto (The Desert) comes from her international breakthrough album Fado Curvo, the latter obligingly translated on the CD as “inclined forward”, as she strove to incorporate new influences both poetically and musically. Here’s a nod to jazz, her glorious voice accompanied here on Portuguese guitar by Mario Pacheco, a giant of that instrument and, on trumpet Quiné (a role taken by Guy Barker on a later appearance in London’s Festival Hall).

The great big band of our day, in my opinion, is that of Maria Schneider. Here’s an altogether more extrovert version of a track from 2014 that first showed up on Evanescence (1994) her first album, Gil Evans a clear influence – and perhaps too, Paul Klee? NB If you can get down to Ronnies in early July when Schneider appears at the club as guest conductor, not to mention composer-in-residence, with the Ronnie Scott Jazz Orchestra.

Finally, another perennial, Duke Ellington. Most of the seminal collection Never No Lament (the Blanton/Webster-Band, 1940-1942) has ended up on my iPod. This is a lesser known item, led by Ray Nance on violin, from January 1942 that you’d swear came from the pen of Billy Strayhorn. But no, it’s a gentle original from a young Mercer Ellington, that let’s you down gently after the fire of Maria Schneider. And reminds you that it’s about that time – coffee time.

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Bill Moody, 1941 – 2018

The following is an edited version of an essay by Aage Hedley Petersen, which was published in Denmark in Jazz Special, number 164,  February-April, 2019. Any errors and infelicities in the translation are mine and mine alone!

When I was putting together the article I wrote about jazz in the English writer John Harvey’s books featuring Detective Inspector Charlie Resnick as the main character, Harvey drew my attention to American writer and jazz drummer Bill Moody (27th September 1941 – 14th January 2018). It turned out that Harvey’s poem about Chet Baker was reprinted not only in Michael Connelly’s novel The Drop, but also in Bill Moody’s Looking for Chet Baker.

Moody lived on the American West Coast – principally Las Vegas – for most of his life, working as a teacher and reviewer, as well as enjoying a musical career which included playing with such notable figures as Earl Hines, Lou Rawls, Maynard Ferguson and the singer Jon Hendricks. He recorded with both Hendricks and Ferguson when they visited Czechoslovakia, where Moody stayed for three years in the late sixties. During his stay in Prague he also wrote a non-fiction book about the American jazz emigrants who “fled” to Europe in the second part of the twentieth century: Exiles : American Musicians Abroad, mostly based on interviews with musicians like Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin and others. Among the emigrants who stayed in Denmark, however, only Stan Getz gets his own chapter – not Dexter Gordon or Ben Webster; and the remarkable pianist, Duke Jordan, is not even mentioned!

Exiles

Solo Hand, the first novel in the series (1994) introduces the jazz pianist Evan Horne as the main character. Horne has injured his right hand in a traffic accident, which has necessitated a long break in his playing career. Jazz here does not particularly influence the action, but nevertheless the one appreciates the musical descriptions and anecdotes, for example: “As the flamboyant drummer Buddy Rich was being wheeled into the surgery, the doctor asked him if there was anything he was allergic to, he answered “Country Music!”

With the second novel, Death of a Tenor Man (1995) Moody found the perfect jazz mystery! The death of tenor saxophonist, Wardell Gray. In 1955 Gray was hired by Benny Carter to play with his big band at the opening of the Moulin Rouge – the first racially integrated casino in Las Vegas. The second evening he did not turn up, and the next day his body was found dumped on a field outside the city. The murder was never solved – a cold case which Horne investigates and, in doing so, stirs up a hornets’ nest, but without a definite solution to the murder being found. Another author, James Ellroy, suggests in his novel The Cold Six Thousand that Gray had a sexual relationship with a white woman who was connected with the mafia, and this led to his being beaten to death. Either way, you have the feeling that the police’s motivation to solve the murder of a “black drug-addict” was small or non existant!

Tenor

The third volume, The Sound of the Trumpet, revolves around Clifford Brown. In collectors’ circles some apparently authentic tapes of Brown’s playing emerge, and Evan Horne is consulted to vouch for their authenticity. As the story progresses, we follow Moody’s interpretation of Clifford Brown’s last days in June, 1956, when, together with the pianist Richie Powell – Bud Powell’s brother – and Richie’s wife Nancy, he was on his way to Chicago and the next gig by Max Roach-Clifford Brown quintet. As you may know, it goes awfully wrong. With Nancy at the wheel, she loses control of the car, which goes off the road and resolts in all three being killed.

Trumpet

The fourth volume, Bird Lives, is not especially about Charlie Parker, despite the title; he is only a symbol on a “real” jazz musician, in contrast to those smooth-jazz practitioners who are murdered by a serial-killer. Evan Horne is involved by the FBI to interpret those clues of jazzy nature the killer has left on the crime scene – among others a white feather and some haiku-poems, for instance: “ On Coltrane’s Soultrane / Jazz is always great Good Bait/ Tadd’s Long Gone – Delight”.

Volume five, Looking for Chet Baker (2002) is probably Moody’s most successful novel. The mystery about Chet Baker’s death after falling from a window in hotel “Prins Hendrik” in Amsterdam is an eternal source of myths and conspiracy theories – was he pushed, did he jump, or did he simly fall?

Baker

The sixth volume, Shades of Blue (2008) is a “real” jazz novel, in which the crime intrigues are peripheral, as is the case in volume seven, Fade to Blue (2011), the last novel in the series, in which Horne is involved in a movie-project to teach one of the great Hollywood stars “playing” fake-piano to a soundtrack recorded by Horne himself. The movie turns out to be a crime story inspired by Horne’s experiences in Bird Lives, which was the real reason why he was hired in the first place!

As a crime writer Moody is not exceptional – to me he is not in the same league as, for example, Michael Connelly and John Harvey. But contrary to those two, whose main characters are detectives with a certain interest in jazz, Moody was a jazz personality who wrote jazz novels with a crime motive, and such writers are very rare! I would have liked to write about my great favorite – Michael Connelly – who even a couple of years ago was the co-writer of the documentary Sound of Redemption about alto saxophonist Frank Morgan. But there is too little jazz substance in the novels, and therefore they are not relevant for the readers of this magazine. To the contrary, Moody’s novels offer a great pleasure for jazz nerds, who don’t mind compromising on other aspects of the work.

Finally, to say that the excellent and stylish cover illustrations on Death of a Tenor Man, The Sound of the Trumpet and Bird Lives are by John Howard.

 

Now’s the Time …

 

Time 2

… borrowed as a title from Charlie Parker, was the first Charlie Resnick short story I wrote – just about the first of any kind. It was first published in London Noir, a collection edited by Maxim Jakubowski for Serpents Tail in 1994; since then it’s been reprinted several times, twice in the States, once in Germany, once in France, and on two more occasions here in the UK, notably in the collection of the same name, first published by Slow Dancer Press in 1999 and then, in an extended edition, by William Heinemann in 2002 and still in print as an Arrow paperback, I believe.

This is how it begins …

“They’re all dying, Charlie.”

They had been in the kitchen, burnished tones of Clifford Brown’s trumpet, soft like smoke from down the hall. Dark rye bread sliced and ready, coffee bubbling, Resnick had tilted the omelette pan and let the whisked eggs swirl around before forking the green beans and chopped red pepper into their midst. The smell of garlic and butter permeated the room.

Ed Silver stood watching, trying to ignore the cats that nudged, variously, around his feet. Through wisps of grey hair, a fresh scab showed clearly among the lattice-work of scars. The hand which held his glass was swollen at the knuckles and it shook.

“S’pose you think I owe you one, Charlie? That it?”

Earlier that evening, Resnick had talked Silver out of swinging a butcher’s cleaver through his own bare foot. “What I thought, Charlie, start at the bottom and work your way up, eh?” Resnick had bundled him into a cab and brought him home, stuck a beer in his hand and set to making them both something to eat. He hadn’t seen Ed Silver in ten years or more, a drinking club in Carlton whose owner liked his jazz; Silver had set out his stall early, two choruses of ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ solo, breakneck tempo, bass and drums both dropping out and the pianist grinning, open-mouthed. The speed of thought; those fingers then.

Resnick divided the omelette on to two plates. “You want to bring the bread>” he said. “We’ll eat in the other room.”

The boldest of the cats, Dizzy, followed them hopefully through. The Clifford Brown Memorial album was still playing ‘Theme of No Repeat’.

“They’re all dying, Charlie.”

“Who?”

“Every bugger!”

And now it was true.

SILVER Edward Victor. Suddenly at home, on February 16, 1993. Acclaimed jazz musician of the be-bop era. Funeral service and memorial meeting, Friday, February 19 at Golders Green Crematorium at 11.45 a.m. Inquiries to Mason Funeral and Monumental Services, High Lanes, Finchley.

Time 1

 

 

Time 4

Time 3

Jumpin’ with Jazz Steps: Blue Territory Returns!

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October looks as if it’s going to be a busy month, one way or another, with most of my activities – just for a change – centred around Nottingham. Darkness, Darkness is at  Nottingham Playhouse for the first two weeks of the month, and, during the second of those weeks, the band, Blue Territory, [that’s us in action, above] and I will be repeating out previously successful mini-tour of Nottinghamshire libraries [No band bus, no Smarties in the Green Room, and positively no groupies] following the estimable Dave O’Higgins to  Worksop, Southwell and West Bridgford.

Along with some of the familiar pieces about Chet Baker, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, we’ve been working on some new material, including a small tribute to Jack Kerouac, whose poetry and jazz readings with the likes of Al Cohn and Zoot Sims in the 1950s lay at the heart of much that we do.

jazz steps

 

 

Lee Harwood Night

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Put 15 poets in a room and ask them to read for just three minutes each – every organiser’s nightmare. But that’s exactly what Michaela Ridgeway, putting on a Pighog night in honour of the late Lee Harwood, did yesterday at Brighton’s Redroaster coffee house, and, against all poetry reading odds, it worked. Starting promptly at 8.00pm (in itself some kind of first) the formal part of the evening wrapped up at 9.15, just five minutes behind schedule.

Readers had been asked for either a poem of their own, dedicated to Lee or associated with him in some way, a poem of Lee’s and, possibly, a brief anecdote. Ken Edwards, with a new piece of writing, managed, superbly and with great humour, all three in one. Some of those reading had been part of a monthly poetry group that Lee had guided for years; others – Richard Cupidi, Paul Matthews, Tom Raworth – were very much a part of Lee’s past, his poetry, and his Brighton life.

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In the absence of Robert Sheppard, editor of the comprehensive Salt Companion to Lee Harwood, I had been asked to introduce the evening, which I did, harking back, in part, to the first occasions on which I would have hear Lee read – at the ICA or the Roundhouse in the mid-70s and likely in the company of Libby Houston, Carlyle Reedy and The Liverpool Scene.

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In an interview I did with Lee for Slow Dancer magazine, he talked about one of Soho’s iconic early coffee bars, Sam Widges, where he used to hang out in the early 60s with the likes of Pete Brown, Libby Houston and Spike Hawkins, and where, for the first time, he came across the poetry of Tristan Tzara, a major influence on his writing. One of the few places that then stayed open through the night, I would sometimes fetch up there in the early hours after an all-nighter listening to Ken Colyer at Studio 51 – a style of music that, as Lee was quick to point out, he had long left behind.

I went to listen to Ken Colyer when I was fifteen or sixteen, but then I converted to Charlie Parker and after that it was all modern jazz – Monk, Parker, the Jazz Messengers, Gillespie and then British bands, especially Joe Harriott and Shake Keane, whose music really hit home. I can’t explain why. I just loved it. And I suppose for the same reason I loved the writing of Tzara and Pound and later on Borges, Patchen, Rimbaud, William Carlos Williams, Kerouac, Ginsberg and so on. It was all the same cloth really. It was the same with painting. I loved Kandinsky – a range of forms floating on the canvas and in some way bonding.

Slow Dancer 30, Summer 1993

Appropriate then, that the last time I heard Lee read was at Shoreham WordFest in the autumn of 2014, when we were both performing with John Lake’s fine little four piece jazz group. Lee hadn’t worked with them before, but a mutual understanding quickly grew between them at rehearsals and on the evening itself the blend of music and words was just about perfect. It was great to see Lee in such fine form and clearly enjoying the experience as much as he did. If there had to be a final memory of him, this, for me, was about the best it could be.

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New Reading : April & May

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  • Pacific : Tom Drury
  • The Hot Country : Robert Olen Butler
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  • Eyrie : Tim Winton
  • The Whites : Harry Brandt (Richard Price)
  • The Driftless Area : Tom Drury
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  • The Star of Isantbul : Robert Olen Butler
  • Kansas City Lightning – The Rise & Times of Charlie Parker : Stanley Crouch
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  • Words Without Music – A Memoir : Philip Glass
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