REMEMBERING MONK’S BIRTHDAY …

October 10th, 1917; Rocky Mount, North Carolina, USA

MONK AT THE FIVE SPOT 

They’ve all been here to see him: Ginsburg,
Mailer; poets, painters, other musicians;
Larry Rivers and his crowd
jammed into a table at the back,
Frank O’Hara in earnest conversation,
oblivious of the fact that Monk,
dark glasses shielding his eyes,
is starting to rock back and forth
at the piano, feeling for a rhythm 
in the bottom hand, while the right 
finds angles of its own …

Blue Monk, ‘Round Midnight,
Epistrophy; Ruby, My Dear.

And all this time, head down, horn hooked
over his shoulder, John Coltrane waits,
biding his time, as Monk launches himself
into a jinking solo, which skips and leaps
and builds into an angular arpeggio
that calls to mind a man stumbling headlong 
down a flight of stairs, never quite losing his balance, 
not falling but saving himself with an upward swoop 
and 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.

I Mean You. The 5 Spot, New York City,
September, 1957

  • from ‘Aslant‘, Shoestring Press, 2019 (Revised)

Two Takes on Lester Young … 1. Lester, Resnick & the cats …

Listening to a selection of recordings by Lester Young the other day reminded me of several occasions on which he crops up in my writing – quite frequently, in fact, in the Charlie Resnick novels – if not as frequently as Thelonius Monk.

Here’s one occasion, from the second Resnick novel, Rough Treatment

Lester Young photographed by Herman Leonard

Joy Spring : current playlists

JAZZ

Joy Spring : Clifford Brown & Max Roach Quintet
I Remember Clifford : John Lewis
You Go To My Head : Lennie Tristano & Lee Konitz
Rhythm-a-Ning : Thelonious Monk
[Part of the unused soundtrack for “Les Liaisons Dangereuses“]
Blues For a Reason : Chet Baker & Warne Marsh
South Street Exit : Eric Dolphy
[From The Illinois Concert with Herbie Hancock, piano]
Diga Diga Do : Chris Barber Band
[From the Ellington-flavoured “Echoes of Harlem” – one of the late Henning Mankel’s favourite records]
Getting Sentimental Over You : Charles Mingus [solo piano]
Festival Junction : Acker Bilk w. Stan Tracey Big Band
Hackensack : The Pee Wee Russell Quartet
Groover Wailin’ : Al Fairweather & Sandy Brown’s All Stars
Going Out the Back Way : Johnny Hodges

Singers/Songs

Inside : Bill Morrissey
You All Over Me : Taylor Swift
Tried to Tell You : The Weather Station
If Not I’ll Just Die : Lambchop
Face : Tracey Thorn
Wichita : Gretchen Peters
New Orleans : John Stewart
Highway 61 Revisited : Dave Alvin
Gimme An Inch Girl : Iain Mathews
Flowers on Valentine’s Day : Liz Simcock
Down To The Station : Nicola Hitchcock
Last to Leave : Arlo Guthrie

Duke 5-Ways

Classical

Best of 2020

BOOKS

Fiction / Non-Fiction

Stand By Me : Wendell Berry
The Falconer : Dana Czapnik
Some Kids I  Taught and  What They Taught Me : Kate Clanchy
All Among the Barley : Melissa Harrison
Long Bright River : Liz Moore
Olive, Again : Elizabeth Strout

Re-reading …

Anne Enright
Kent Haruf
Thomas McGuane

Poetry

Country Music : Will Burns
When the Tree Falls : Jane Clarke
New Hunger : Ella Duffy
Yes But What Is This? What Exactly? : Ian McMillan
How I Learned to Sing : Mark Robinson
Sweet Nothings : Rory Waterman
Squid : Matthew Welton

FILMS

The Perfect Candidate : Haifaa Al-Mansour
Rocks : Sarah Gavron
The County : Grimur Hakonarson
Da 5 Bloods : Spike Lee
A  White,  White Day : Hlynur Palmason 
Portrait of a Lady on Fire : Celine Sciamma
So Long, My Son : Wang Xiaoshuai

MUSIC

Albums

From An Old Guitar : Dave Alvin
Ballads : Paula Cole
Time : Jess Gillam
Piano 2 : Pete Judge
Bach, Goldberg Variations : Pavel Kolesnikov
Monk – Palo Alto : Thelonious Monk
Winter Hill : Liz Simcock
Avenging Angel : Craig Taborn

Tracks

The Oil Rigs at Night : The Delines
All in the Past : Dave Ellis & Boo Howard
Straight Back To You : Everything But the Girl
Angry All the Time : Tim McGraw
Inside : Bill Morrissey
Wichita : Gretchen Peters
Angels & Acrobats : Rod Picott
You Tattooed Me : Tom Robinson
Old Chunk Of Coal : Billy Joe Shaver
Flowers on Valentine’s Day : Liz Simcock
Sister Mercy : John Stewart
Tryin’ To Hold the Wind Up With a Sail : Jerry Jeff Walker

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)

‘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.

 

Music of the Year, 2018

LIVE …

I’ve seen even less live music this past year than previously, something I hope to put right in 2019. But of those performances I have been fortunate enough to see, these are the most memorable.

Ethan’s Last Rent Party at Kings Place. Ethan Iverson, aided and abetted by fellow-pianists Alexander Hawkins and Adam Fairhall, exploring the links between British music in the first decades of the twentieth century and Black American music, syncopation and jazz.

DsWrXvVX4AABav-

Kairos 4tet at Rich Mix. Saxophonist Adam Waldman, leading a quartet through his own compositions, with Emilia Martensson and Alice Zawadski on vocals.

Amy Rigby at The Betsy Trotwood. A joyous and generous solo performance of Amy’s songs, with readings from her prose and poetry to match. Great evening!

IMG_2314

Shostakovich 6th Symphony – LPO / Vladimir Jurowski at the Royal Festival Hall.

Shostakovich 1st Violin Concerto. Nicola Benedetti with the LSO /Gianandrea Noseda at the Barbican.

Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8 & Beethoven String Quartet No. 7. Emerson String Quartet at Milton Court.

And, pre-recorded, but very much a living experience, the Forty Part Motet (Spem in Alium – Tallis) arranged by Janet Cardiff at the Richmond Chapel, Penzance.

RECORDED …

Just as Shostakovich tends to dominate the live music selection, so Thelonious Monk [no surprise!] dominates my selection of music on CD. Monk features a live session recorded in Copenhagen in March, 1963 and previously thought lost, and, similarly, Monk: The Lost Recordings, captures a 1967 concert in Rotterdam. Wadada Leo Smith’s Solo: Reflections & Meditations on Monk mixes his solo interpretations on trumpet of five Monk compositions with three of his own.

R-12579867-1537986829-4928.jpeg

Monk

Smith

Tracey Thorn’s Record contains a number of beautifully written and crafted songs ,exploring the life of a  woman not too far distant from, one imagines, herself. And the 14th Volume of the Bob Dylan Bootleg Series, More Blood, More Tracks, presents the original, stripped down versions of the songs from one of his best albums, Blood on the Tracks and encourages you to listen to them afresh.

RecordThe Bootleg Series Vol. 14_ More Blood, More Tracks

 

 

Not so Private Passions …

Four years ago, not so long after the final Resnick novel, Darkness, Darkness, was published, I was invited to be a guest on the BBC Radio 3 programme, Private Passions – a sort of (mainly) classical version of Desert Island Discs, only, since this was to be broadcast alongside the London Jazz Festival, there was to be a somewhat higher jazz content than is often the case.

I was delighted to be asked [understatement!] and thoroughly enjoyed the process, from making the choice of music to be featured to the interview itself, which was conducted with little or no preamble or rehearsal, the presenter, Michael Berkeley, making me feel immediately at my ease. The pair of us sat in a relatively small studio space, listening together to the pieces as they were played on air, which meant that one’s immediate response was, well, immediate.

I wanted to choose music that meant something in particular to me, while being conscious of delivering a broad ranging selection I thought people might respond to, and which might include some pieces with which listeners might be less than familiar with – Jocelyn Pook’s Tango with Corrugated Iron, for instance, or James P. Johnson’s Victory March.

Here’s the full list …

Mean to Me  [Fred E. Ahlert and Roy Turk]
Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra inc. Lester Young (tenor sax)

Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) [Mendelssohn]
Maxim Dmitrievich Shostakovich  & Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra

Victory Stride [James P. Johnson]
Marin Alsop & The Concordia Orchestra

Shipbuilding [Elvis Costello]
Elvis Costello with Chet Baker (trumpet)

Cello Concerto No. 2 [Shostakovich]
Sol Gabetta with Marc Albrecht & Munich Philharmonic Orchestra

Tango with Corrugated Iron [Jocelyn Pook]
Electra Strings & Jocelyn Pook

Rhythm-a-ning [Thelonious Monk]
Thelonious Monk Trio

And, somewhere in there, I was asked to read my poem about Chet Baker, which, of course, I was more than happy to do.

The programme is now available to listen to for 29 days …

November Music …

Before the first of my radiotherapy sessions at UCLH yesterday, the nurse asked me what kind of music I would like played from Spotify while the treatment was in progress. Oh, just some jazz, I said. What I got was James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Van Morrison. I trust they’re targeting of my prostate was more accurate.

Two playlists this month … the first, the more usual selection from the good old iPod Shuffle …

  • Tell It Like It Is : Aaron Neville
  • Honky Tonk [Pt. 2] : Bill Doggett
  • Suite #4 in E Flat Minor/Bach Six French Suites : Joanna MacGregor
  • Beale Street Blues : Alex Welsh & His Dixielanders
  • Tea For Two : Lester Young w. the Nat King Cole Trio
  • Crow Jane : Skip James
  • Variations on a Theme by Thelonious Monk #1 : Eric Dolphy
  • String Qt #22 in B Flat – Menuetto/Mozart : Talich Quartet
  • Too Far Gone : Emmylou Harris
  • Getting Ready : Patty Griffin

And here is the newly chosen for the month of November playlist labelled simply New Stuff

R-12579867-1537986829-4928.jpeg

 

  • Body & Soul : Thelonious Monk [from Monk (Live)]
  • Fallen Leaves : Neneh Cherry [from Broken Politics]
  • Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues : Danny O’Keefe
  • Ken Bayne : Aster Aweke
  • Need a Little Time : Courtney Barnett
  • Peace Piece : Igor Levit [from Igor Levit, Life]
  • Sendelela : Aster Aweke
  • Shouting in a Bucket Blues : Kevin Ayers
  • Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes : Kevin Ayers
  • 7 Seconds : Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry

I was alerted to the music of the Ethiopian singer Aster Aweke when I heard in playing in  Engocha, the Ethiopian vegan restaurant conveniently just around the corner in Tufnell Park. And I’m grateful to Tim Adkin, of Counterpoint fame, for reminding me of the pleasures to be gained from listening to Kevin Ayres – a bit of a favourite in my long-off Stevenage days.

neneh cherry_broken politics

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Writers & writing: books, movies, art & music - the bits & pieces of a (retiring) writer's life