iPod Shuffle, February 2017

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  • Pancho and Lefty : Townes Van Zandt (from Live at the Union Chapel)
  • Satie: Ogive No. 2 : Sarah Rothenberg (from Rothko Chapel)
  • Famous Blue Raincoat : Jennifer Warnes (from Famous Blue Raincoat)
  • Sitting on Top of the World : Mississippi Shieks (from Stop & Listen Blues)
  • Cold Enough to Cross : Joe Henry (from Scar)
  • Three Guitar Special : Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (from Anthology, 1935-73)
  • No One Gets In : Bill Frisell (from Disfarmer)
  • Driving Home : Liz Simcock (from Seven Sisters Road)
  • Let Him Roll : Guy Clark (from Old No. 1)
  • My Girl : Otis Redding (from Otis Blue)
  • In a Mellotone : Duke Ellington (from Highlights of the Great 1940-42 Band)
  • I’m Pulling Through : Billie Holiday (from Billie Holiday & Lester Young, Complete Studio Recordings)

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iPod Shuffle December 2016

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  • Ko-Ko : Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra (1940)
  • Edgar Bergen : Joe Henry from Scar
  • Feeling Blue : James P. Johnson (1929)
  • So Cold in Vietnam : Johnny Shines w. Otis Spann & Big Walter Horton (1966)
  • They Say (Alternate Take) : Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra with Billie Holiday, vocal refrain (1939)
  • The First Time I Ran Away : M. Ward
  • From Hank to Hendrix : Neil Young from Neil Young Unplugged
  • Your Song : Elton John from Tumbleweed Connection
  • Summertime : Miles Davis from Porgy & Bess
  • Railroad Bill : Billy Bragg & Joe Henry from Shine a Light
  • How Could We Dare To be Wrong : Colin Blunstone
  • Crepuscule with Nelly  : Thelonious Monk from The Complete 1961 Amsterdam Concert71flw7fvjdl-_sx425_

Just Another Little Blues Song

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One of the most intriguing sequences in Tubby Hayes: Man in a Hurry, Mark Baxter and Lee Cogswell’s documentary about the British jazz musician, Edward ‘Tubby’ Hayes, concerns the time he was drafted, at the last moment, into the saxophone section of the Duke Ellington Orchestra for a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. Duke’s band were in this country on tour and their star tenor player, Paul Gonsalves  – famous for playing a 27 chorus solo during a performance of Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival – was, shall we say, indisposed. Hayes, who was at the concert minus saxophone, was somewhat hastily summoned by the Duke and invited to deputise; a phone call to the Ronnie Scott Club brought the missing saxophone to the Hall by cab and, some little way into the concert, Tubby walked on stage, unannounced, and took his place amongst the section.

Reader, I was there. Sitting alongside my friend, Jock, and, along with many others in the audience, feeling a real frisson of recognition at the Englishman’s appearance – one of the rare occasions a genuine sense of patriotism stirred within me.

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It was a moment I’ve long cherished and which I’ve written about, slightly disguised, on more than one occasion. The first was in the script of my television play, Just Another Little Blues Song, in which Adam Faith played Frank, a jazzman whose gambling habit puts paid to his career. Produced for the BBC in 1983 by Terry Coles and directed by John Bruce, with Duncan Lamont playing Frank’s tenor on the soundtrack, it featured Gwen Taylor as Frank’s former girl friend, Jane. And, borrowing from the Hayes-Ellington moment at the Festival Hall, it was to Jane that I gave a speech describing to her husband Frank’s moment of glory playing with the Count Basie Orchestra.

MATTHEW: Basie? Frank didn’t really play with him?

JANE: Sixty-seven. Basie was at the Festival Hall and Frank Foster was taken sick. Some sort of bug. They called Frankie at the last minute. He’d been doing a gig at the old Scott club.

(LIGHTS A CIGARETTE, EXHALES, BLOWING SMOKE TO THE SIDE)

We were sitting in the front row. Frankie had got us ticket through some connection. Half a dozen of us. There was this five piece sax section with an empty chair. A couple of choruses into the fourth number, who comes walking out on stage but Frankie. Hand round the bell of his horn and a grin on his face wide enough to launch a boat in.

By the time he’s got to his seat half the audience had recognised him and this great cheer went up all round us like … like I don’t know what. Frankie just clips his sax onto the sling, the feller next to him points to the music and he starts blowing as if he knew the book by heart.

Before the interval Basie called him out front for ‘Jumping at the Woodside’. Two tenors. He shut his eyes tight and blew that other poor bastard off the stage. When the shouting died down, Basie has this little grin round the corners of his mouth; he showed Frankie he was to stay where he was and called this thing Eddie Davis used to play.’Whirlybird’. Fast, fast, fast. You couldn’t hear the end of his solo for the noise. I felt so … I was so bleedin’ proud. It was like nothing I ever …

(SHE STOPS, LOOKS AT HER HUSBAND, WHO IS STARING AT HER, EXPRESSIONLESS)

Terry Coles confessed to me afterwards that, aside for the jazz – a big jazz fan, Terry – it was that speech and more or less that speech alone that made him decide to do the play. When Gwen Taylor did it to camera, Terry said, and every time he watched it on tape afterwards, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck start to rise. Well, she’s that good.

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Back on the Old iPod Shuffle, Jan. 2016

Let’s see what chance threw back at us this month …

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  • Stay : Jackson Brown from The Very Best of Jackson Brown
  • Alberta’s Child : Ian Tyson from Cowboyography
  • Let Him Roll : Guy Clark from Old No. 1
  • Defying Gravity : Emmylou Harris from Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town
  • Rockin’ in Rhythm : Duke Ellington Orchestra from The Great Paris Concert
  • You Can Call Me Al : Paul Simon from Graceland
  • Shortnin’/Henduck : Otha Turner & The Rising Star Fife & Drum Band from Everyday Hollering’ Goat
  • Lucinda Williams : Vic Chestnut from West of Rome
  • Kinda Dukish : Duke Ellington Orchestra from The Great Paris Concert
  • Because Of : Leonard Cohen from Dear Heather
  • Sad Eyes : Josh Rouse from Nashville
  • Cotton Tail : Duke Ellington Orchestra from Never No Lament (The Blanton-Webster Band)

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Le Playlist de Jazz

For its summer issue, the French jazz magazine, Le JazzoPhone, asked me to choose my ten Desert Island jazz recordings, the ones I play most and would not like to live without. Here they are (with a little cheating around No 7) …

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1.Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington

2. Art Tatum-Ben Webster : Art Tatum Masterpieces, Vol 8

3. Roland Kirk : We Free Kings

4. Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section

5. Count Basie : The Atomic Mr Basie

6. Serge Chaloff : Blue Serge

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7. Billie Holiday : The Quintessential Billie Holiday, Vols 1 – 9

8. Duke Ellington : Highlights of the Great 1940-1942 Band

9. John Lewis : Improvised Meditations & Excursions

10. Joe Temperley : Double Duke

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iPod Shuffle, September 2015

 

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  • Susie’s Blues, Serge Chaloff : Blue Serge
  • Your Song, Elton John : Tumbleweed Connection
  • Cotton Tail, Duke Ellington : Highlights of the Great 1940-1942 Band
  • Give Us a Great Big Kiss, The Shangri-Las : Leaders of the Pack
  • Meet Mister Rabbit, Bob Wallis Storeyville Jazzmen : The Pye Jazz Anthology
  • Goin’ Home, Ken Colyer : New Orleans to London
  • Perfect Day, Lou Reed : Transformer
  • She Believes In Me, John Stewart : California Bloodlines
  • I’ll See You in My Dreams, Anita O’Day : Anita
  • Ad Lib Blues, Lester Young w. the Oscar Peterson Trio : The President Plays

Aside from the fact that there’s no Monk, this is pretty much a typical mix for my iPod to throw back at me, most usually when I walking mid-morning around Hampstead Heath. The first track is by my favourite baritone sax player (Joe Temperley being a close second) and comes from an album I’ve been playing on and off for years, first in vinyl and then on CD. “Cotton Tail” (or “Cottontail” if you prefer), with Ben Webster sweeping all before him on tenor, is one of those absolutely classic Ellington tunes, along with “Harlem Air Shaft”, “Concerto for Cootie”, “Jack the Bear”, “Ko-ko” and “In a Mellotone”, that are, to my mind, amongst the very greatest big band pieces ever recorded, and have been a staple for me as a fan and as a listener since I first came across them, which would have been somewhere in the mid-50s.

The two British tracks are both oddities in a way, at least as far as my usual listening is concerned. I was never a big fan of the Ken Colyer Band; his approach was too rigid in its fixation with old-fashioned New Orleans sound for my liking (though that didn’t prevent me from enjoying the hospitality of some all-nighters at the old 51 Club by Leicester Square) but there was always something about this tune (adapted from Dvorak, would you believe?) that’s always appealed to me, not least Ken’s vocal. This is the cream of the early cream outfit, by the way, with Chris Barber on trombone, Monty Sunshine on clarinet and Lonnie Donegan on banjo.

I once had breakfast in the same B&B as the Bob Wallis Band, the occasion being the Cleethorpes Jazz Festival of 1961; I was spending the summer working on a hot dog stall in the seaside town of Mablethorpe lower down the east coast and had nipped up there for the weekend. I always considered the Wallis band as second rate compared to other bands who rose to fame on the crest of the just-pre-rock ‘n’ roll Trad Boom, scorning the few minor pop hits they enjoyed courtesy of Wallis’s throaty versions of old music hall songs such as “Knocking ‘Em in the old Kent Road” and “I’m Shy, Mary Ellen, I’m shy”. The anthology of their work from which the track selected here – “Meet Mister Rabbit” – comes, however, suggests both a higher standard of musicianship and a broader repertoire than I would have believed – both due, to a great extent, I’m sure, to the presence of one of the most under-rated of British jazz musicians, Al Gay, who played tenor, clarinet and soprano with a number of bands from the 60s on, most notably several versions of the Alex Welsh Band. As the title suggests, “Meet Mister Rabbit” is a composition by Ellington’s alto player, Johnny Hodges, his nickname being Rabbit, and the Wallis band have a creditable go at recreating an Ellington/Hodges small band sound, with Al Gay outstanding on tenor.

What does that leave? The Anita O’Day track comes from an album simply called “Anita”, the original of which was one of the first few LPs I ever bought – 1956, possibly – I still have it, torn cover and all – with arrangements by Buddy Bregman featuring four trombones, and, as here, the guitar of Barney Kessel.

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John Stewart was an American singer-songwriter who was never quite folk (before his solo career, he was a long-serving member of the Kingston Trio), never quite country, and for a brief period, when he was produced by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, almost, but never quite a Rock star. As I’ve stated elsewhere, I was introduced to Stewart’s work by the late Lawrence James, with whom I wrote, amongst other ventures, the Herne the Hunter western series. I was lucky enough to get to know Stewart a little during his many visits to this country and have always enjoyed him greatly, both as a writer and a performer. (Along with the television producer Colin Rogers – who produced the TV versions of the first two Resnick novels, back in 1992 – I had several discussions with Stwart about a  play I was writing which would feature, if not the man himself, then his music. Sadly, it came to nothing. My bad, as my younger daughter might say.)

Both the Lou Reed and the Elton John are perfect in their way. As for the Shangri-Las … Shadow Morton’s productions are like Douglas Sirk melodramas in under three minutes.

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iPod Shuffle, August 2015

  • Daydream Believer, John Stewart : Deep in the Neon
  • A Case of You, Joni Mitchell : Blue
  • Summertime, Josh Rouse : Subtitulo
  • Soho Square, Kirsty MacColl : Titanic Days
  • That’s Not Love, Keb Mo : Just Like You
  • Should Have Known Better, Sufjian Stevens : Carrie & Lowell
  • In Private, Dusty Springfield : Goin’ Back
  • Tighten Up On It, Johnny Young and His South Side Blues Band : Chicago, the Blues Today
  • Concerto for Cootie, Duke Ellington : Highlights of the Great 1940-42 Band
  • Teenage Kicks, Nouvelle Vague : Nouvelle Vague
  • Jack the Bear, Duke Ellington : Highlights of the Great 1940-42 Band
  • Play With Fire, The Rolling Stones : Hot Rocks, 1964 – 1971
  • All Time Woman, John Stewart : Cannons in the Rain
  • Ain’t No Cure For Love, Jennifer Warnes : Famous Blue Raincoat
  • Funny How Time Slips Away, Georgie Fame : 20 Beat Classics
  • All The Things You Are, Lennie Tristano w. Lee Konitz : Lennie Tristano
  • Walking To You, Everything But The Girl : Amplified Heart
  • Who Cares?, Anita O’Day : Anita
  • Angels & Acrobats, Rod Picott : Stray Dogs
  • We’ll Be Together Again, Johnny Hartman : Songs From the Heart

Clark Terry – Mortal No More

One of the best known recording sessions the trumpeter Clark Terry participated in during his long career took place on Wednesday, 24th April, 1957, the fourth of five days the Duke Ellington orchestra spent laying down the tracks for Such Sweet Thunder, the Duke’s take on various and sundry Shakespearean characters. First up that day was “Up and Down, Up and Down (I Will Lead Them Up and Down)”, in which Terry was called upon to personify the elusive Puck, leading mere mortals a merry dance through the forest, and to “speak” through his horn the famous line, “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

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Now Terry, immortal no longer, has died at the age of 94.
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It was reading of his death in the Guardian obituary that sent me foraging through my CDs yesterday, picking out both Such Sweet Thunder and In Orbit, the album Terry made in May, 1958 with Thelonious Monk at the piano, Sam Jones on bass and Philly Joe Jones on the drums.

The In Orbit sessions – May 7th & 12th – are interesting not just because Terry plays the mellower, somewhat deeper sounding fluglehorn as opposed to trumpet, but for the fact that this was one of a relatively small number of times, thus far into his career, that Monk deigned to be a sideman on somebody else’s record. Not only that, Monk plays in a more straightforward manner than usual – propelled to a large extent by Philly Joe Jones’ drumming – the only time the two recorded together, I think – his solos more exuberant and straight ahead than quirky and introspective.

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We were listening to both CDs yesterday evening, initially before and during dinner, and then, having turned on the television at the appropriate time to watch Barcelona against Manchester City, we kept the volume muted, much preferring the likes of Clark Terry’s “One Foot in the Gutter” (based on the chords of Monk’s favourite hymn, “We’ll Understand It Better, Bye and Bye”) and Duke’s “Sonnet to Hank Cinq” to the clichés of soccer commentary.

And although the synchronisation never fully worked, listening to Terry’s joyous, bubbling Puck while watching Lionel Messi was close to a marriage made in some latter-day Shakespearean Ducal heaven.