Voltarol - related music

Friday, 30 May 2008

We apologise for the break in transmission...

I suppose I must have known when I started writing this thing that I was due to go away on holiday almost immediately, but somehow I managed to push that fact to the back of my mind. I was so caught up in this blogging business that I didn't really think much about the imminent hiatus - at least, no further than "I can't keep my audience waiting for a fortnight...Audience? What audience?" What I didn't realise was how much I would miss it! It's a powerful drug is this. I've only been using for a little while but realise that I'm completely hooked. As soon as I powered up the computer this morning I felt a sudden rush. "All will be well and all will be well and all manner of things will be well." I don't think Julian of Norwich was actually talking about blogging but you get the picture...

Anyway, Mrs Voltarol and I have been away in foreign parts with our friends R and P, enjoying sea, sunshine, food and wine and hair-raising motoring experiences. Rest easy - this will not turn into 'What We Did on Our Holidays'. It does, however, give me fuel for a couple of rants -

I shall never ever EVER travel with that lot again. I don't care how cheap it is - I will not be flim-flammed (priority boarding pass sir?), I will not be continually marketed at (BUY THIS ENERGY DRINK! BUY THIS CHEAP PHONE CARD! BUY THIS LOTTERY TICKET!) but most of all I will not be subjected to the total torture of a mindless, endless, beat box-boosted, cacophonically compressed, soullessly synthesised, totally banal rendition of "Chopsticks" - BOOTZ! BOOTZ! BOOTZ! BOOTZ! BOOTZ! BOOTZ! BOOTZ! BOOTZ! DIDDLE UM DINGDING, DIDDLE UM DINGDING, DIDDLE UMDING UMDING UM DINGDING...on and on for ever and ever, rotting your mind and eating your soul...AAAAAAAAAAAARRRGH!!!!!!

Actually, as rants go, this one pales into insignificance when measured against the previous one. In fact - cancel 'Sat Navs' and replace it with a repeat of 'Ryan Air'. All 'Sat Nav's' requires is a slight 'tut' by comparison with the aforementioned unspeakable racket. Musician's Hell isn't a choice of banjo or accordion after all (see Accordion Crimes), it's eternity on a Ryan Air flight that hasn't yet left the ground. DIDDLE UM DINGDING "No! Nurse -quick! The screens..."

Well, that's got me up and running again. I feel better for that. Normal Service will be resumed on Monday.

STOP PRESS! I've just discovered that Maria Rita (see "Keeping it in the family") is appearing in London at The Barbican on Saturday June 28th. I've booked my tickets. If you want to book yours then follow this link. http://www.barbican.org.uk/music/event-detail.asp?ID=7626. See you there!

Friday, 16 May 2008

Keeping it in the family

It's interesting how musicality often runs in families. In my case it seemed to come from nowhere - I can't find any evidence of it amongst my forbears - but my children and grandchildren certainly have it and I have to say that there are few pleasures in life greater than making music with members of your family. I have written and recorded with both my daughter and my grandson and have found the experience immensely satisfying.

It was around 1963 that I encountered my first musical family. I had discovered folk music generally and Topic Records in particular (the hows and whys of that will be the subject of yet another posting...) and was in the habit of dipping into their catalogue almost at random and ordering an EP (see Slide by slide for a definition) whenever I could afford it). On this occasion I selected a disc entitled 'Wild Mountain Thyme' by The McPeake Family. I was immediately captivated by the sound of the uilleann pipes - an instrument that I had never come across before - and by the the closeness (I can think of no other word to describe it) of the voices when the family sang together. Three generations of the family played on that disc, which was recorded in their native Belfast by the legendary Bill Leader, who was to play quite a part in my own life within a few years.

Another family that Bill recorded was The Waterson Family from Hull. Their first offerings were on an album called 'New Voices', which came out - again on the Topic label - in 1965, and to which they contributed five tracks. These had a fantastic impact on the world of folk music and that same year saw the release of 'Frost and Fire' which was, to my mind, probably the first 'concept' album. I was bowled over by their harmony sound. Once again it was that closeness of
the voices that seems to come when the participants are closely related (in this case, two sisters, a brother and a cousin). Norma Waterson subsequently married another great talent from the folk music scene, Martin Carthy. Their daughter, Liza Carthy, is an outstanding musician and a formidable force amongst those offspring I referred to in my digression about Folk Clubs in the Mutt and Jeff posting.

I heard my first Brazilian music around about the same time as I first heard the Watersons. It was, inevitably, Astrud Gilberto singing 'The Girl from Ipanema' accompanied by Stan Getz. As my interest in the music developed I soon realised that her then husband, João Gilberto, was by far the greater talent. João subsequently married Heloísa Maria Buarque de Hollanda (sister of another great Brazilian singer/songwriter - Chico Buarque), who performed under the name of Miúcha. They produced a daughter, Bebel Gilberto, who had world-wide success with her first album 'Tanto Tempo'.

Another great Brazilian singer was Elis Regina. Although not so widely known outside Brazil as Astrud Gilberto she was a far greater talent. Inside Brazil she was probably the most famous singer of all time. Her career was a relatively short one (she died of a drug overdose at the age of 37) but she married twice and produced three children, all of whom pursued careers in music. Her second marriage was to her long time collaborator and frequent accompanist, Cesar Camargo Mariano, who was, and remains, a brilliant musician in his own right. In fact, it took me a while to 'get into' Elis' music as my first experience of it was a rather poor compilation that I bought when on a canoe trip down the Dordogne about sixteen years ago (and thereby hangs another tale), but I was introduced to pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano by my good friend Alberto (whose blog - boogie woody -is well worth a visit) and was knocked out by his playing. That second marriage produced the singer Maria Rita, who has made a huge impact with her music. Her first album won a Latin Grammy and her third album has been nominated for the BBC World Music awards.

There are undoubtedly many more musical families out there - The McGarrigles, The Copper Family,The Carter Family, The Everly Brothers, Doc and Merle Watson, Bucky and John Pizarelli, The Dankworth dynasty, Stan and Clark Tracey, James Taylor and his siblings and offspring, to name but a few - but those I have mentioned are the ones that have had the most impact on me personally. As to my own family - well, my grandson, The Everyday Junglist, is beginning to carve out a career in music as a guitarist and producer and my granddaughter is already frighteningly musical at the age of eight. I might not have found musical fame and fortune but I wouldn't be at all surprised if either one of them did. I look forward to being a burden to them...

Background and Youtube clips:-
McPeakes - http://www.iol.ie/~ronolan/mcpeakes.html
Watersons - http://www.slipcue.com/music/international/celtic/artists/watersons.html
Liza Carthy - http://www.eliza-carthy.com/eliza/index.cfm
João Gilberto - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo%C3%A3o_Gilberto
Miúcha - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mi%C3%BAcha
Bebel Gilberto - http://www.bebelgilberto.com/
Elis Regina - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elis_Regina
Chico Buarque - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chico_Buarque
Cesar Camargo Mariano - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cesar_Camargo_Mariano
Maria Rita - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Rita

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Wonderful round, black, shiny things

I think that the first piece of music that ever grabbed my attention was 'The Teddy Bear's Picnic' when I was about six years old. I'm told that I would get very excited when it was played on the radio and very tearful when it stopped. Children's Hour was the next influence - I enjoyed the programmes but was particularly taken with some of the music used for the serials. To this day I still have a fondness for English Light Music, a genre which featured heavily on BBC radio in the late forties and early fifties. I can also remember asking my parents if I could have piano lessons and being given a very firm 'No'. To be fair, we didn't actually own a piano.

We were not a particularly musical household and indeed it was not until the late fifties that the family actually acquired a record player. By this time my father was running a shop and one or two of his customers worked at the E.M.I. record pressing plant in nearby Hayes. The old man was very straight and hadn't bought a gramophone record since - as he would have put it - "the night old Leather Arse died", so it did not seem particularly strange to him to be offered a random bundle of sleeveless LPs for a modest sum. This - as it turns out - fortuitous selection of discs materialised one night in the front room, along with an enticing-looking, rectangular box that had a hinged lid and was finished in a sort of pink and cream, diagonally candy-striped vinyl fabric. This was our new Bush record player. It was a mono, single-play model without auto changer and had three knobs located inside. These were an on/off/volume control, a tone control and a three position speed selector which gave you a choice of 78rpm, 45rpm or 33⅓rpm.

I think that the first record played was probably the original soundtrack recording of Roger's and Hammerstein's 'Oklahoma'. The other records included 'At the Drop of a Hat' by Michael Flanders and Donald Swan, the soundtrack recordings of 'Carousel', 'The Wizard of Oz', 'The Pajama Game' and 'Damn Yankees', a Jackie Gleason instrumental album and Frank Sinatra's 'Where are You?'. This collection was to leave me with a life-long affection for 'Oklahoma', a love of good comic songs, a great respect for Frank Sinatra's musicianship and a deep loathing of wallpaper music and Judy Garland (not necessarily in that order). But the most evocative thing to sink into my subconscious was the smell of hot vinyl. The record player's amplifier was powered by valves and as they heated up, so did the vinyl covering. I would recognise that odour anywhere. I associate it with my earliest moments of musical joy.

Soon I would start buying my own records, as well as enjoying my older brother's burgeoning classical collection. There would be second hand shop expeditions with my friend Barry, in pursuit of anything old and weird in the way of "sennyeights". There would be the discovery - in the company of Barry, Dave and 'Mole' - of modern jazz, courtesy of Mole's big brother's record collection. There would be the treasure trove of Pete Seeger, The Kingston Trio, Tom Lehrer and Victor Borge on my friend Paul's father's reel to reel tape recorder, but nothing fills me with quite so much nostalgic affection as that first experience with a pack of knocked-off LPs.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Slide by slide

In the same way that accordions and banjos seem to exercise great fascination for the non-musical would-be-musician, there are other instruments, such as the violin and the trombone that fortunately seem mostly to repel those types. True, these instruments can, under certain circumstances, produce truly vile noises, but generally speaking, the necessity for a good musical ear, combined with the amount of commitment required to actually play these things in tune, generally weeds out most of the aforementioned non-musicals. In the case of the trombone, I had never felt particularly strongly about it one way or another, but in recent years it has slowly dawned upon me that it is one of my favourite instruments. In fact I would go so far as to say that if was starting my musical career all over again it could well be as a trombonist...

The first trombonists to capture my imagination were the Jay and Kai Trombone Octet who I first heard on a radio programme called 'Two Way Family Favourites' around about 1957. Before jazz was banned from the programme there were a couple of Jay and Kai tracks that were frequently played. One was 'The Surrey with the Fringe on Top" and the other was "The Peanut Vendor". I saved the necessary pennies and bought an EP (extended play 45 r.p.m. disc for those to young to remember them) which featured those tracks along with, I think, "A Night in Tunisia" and "Jeanne". In those days an album was often released as three EP's as well as in LP (33⅓ r.p.m. Long Playing Record) format.and I subsequently bought another EP of the band, but it wasn't until quite recently that I was able to buy the whole album when it was released in CD format. The principal players were J.J.Johnson and Kai Winding and the sound that that group made was, to my ears, absolutely thrilling. The CD may still be available at the time of writing and is called 'Jai and Kai + 6'(Columbia 480990 2).

The next player to capture my imagination was Bob Brookmeyer. He was featured on a Stan Getz EP that I purchased soon after the Jay and Kai disc (I'll undoubtedly come back to Stan Getz in a later posting) and impressed me as much as Mr Getz. I was unaware at that time of the existence of the valve trombone and was therefore doubly impressed by his dexterity, but it was the memorability of the lines that he created that particularly struck me. Soon I had discovered his collaborations with Gerry Mulligan which, even then, I preferred to those of trumpeter Chet Baker. Years later (around 1981) I got to see Brookmeyer perform as half of a duo with guitarist Jim Hall (another hero that I'll be returning to!) at the Bracknell Jazz Festival - and what a memorable gig that was.

There were many players that impressed me along the way - George Chisholm, Don Lusher, Bill Watrous, Rob McConnell and the amazing but to me anonymous trombonist on some of the great comedy recordings by Spike Jones and his City Slickers - but I got into whole new territory when, in recent years, I started seriously getting to grips with Brazilian music. I realise that the trombone is not the first instrument that you think of in the context of Brazil, but there are some extraordinarily good players there. I am especially fond of Ze da Velha (seen hear in this You tube clip with the another of my heroes - clarinetist Paulo Moura www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCHJr8f8PLU ), Bocato ( seen here with his group http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6-oZLOMWKBs&feature=related) and Vitor Santos.

The truth is that the more good trombonists I hear, the more I like the instrument but, most importantly, the more I realise what a favour I did to the world by not taking it up...

J.J. Johnson - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53dQ77NBpQI&feature=related
Bob Brookmeyer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrEAmaMAeSM
Kai Winding - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjyoXwkUQV8
Bill Watrous - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RHzCQIvMyo&feature=related
Rob McConnell - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXtmicTzViw

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Mutt and Jeff

I've been having some problems with my hearing recently, and was finally driven to visit my GP. He duly dispatched me to the local hospital's audiology department and I ended up sporting a couple of hearing aids. During my sessions with the audiologist it had emerged that I was a musician. "Oh, that would explain it then." she said. "There's some evidence of damage to the eardrum. It's quite consistent with the effects of very loud noises. You know, Pete Townshend and all that. You get the same sort of thing from industrial noise or constant exposure to the sound of gunfire or explosions". I was quite taken aback at the time. Very little of my working life has been spent in heavy industry, I've never been to war and (and my good friend Leigh can certainly confirm this) I don't play like Pete Townshend. I continued to puzzle over this for a week or two and then it suddenly hit me. I bet it was that gig at The White Hart, Southall! Perhaps I should explain.

I was a founder member of 'The Jugular Vein', a fairly successful jug band that operated from the late sixties on into the early nineties. At the top of our fame we were a regular fixture around the British folk scene and appeared fairly regularly at the famous Troubador club, under the auspices of the late Red Sullivan and the equally late Martin Windsor. However, as you might guess from reading some of the other entries in this blog, we didn't exactly conform to a strict definition of a jug band and we definitely weren't folk musicians (other than in the sense of the famous Louis Armstrong quote -"Folk music? I ain't never heard a horse play no music...")

If I might just digress for a moment -It has to be said that the Folk Club scene of the 1960's was one of the most vibrant musical environments to be in. For the most part the organisers and audiences would consider anything as long as it was more or less acoustic - blues, jazz, poetry, comedy and experimental music all found a home in the folk clubs. Many folk musicians transmogrified into other things (Billy Connolly, Jasper Carrot, Mike Harding, Tony Capstick, John Martyn, Gerry Rafferty and Ron Geesin to name but a few) but it all came to an end when the Arran-sweatered, tankard-clutching, finger-in-ear traditional music fascists took over for a very long and sterile period. Today though, thanks mostly it seems to the offspring of some of the original traditional music enthusiasts, the scene is bursting with life again. And here is another theme that I will undoubtedly return to. Meanwhile, back to the White Hart...

The band had, under the influence of the very splendid Bonzo Dog Band, been experimenting with explosions and smoke bombs.We had purchased a selection of theatrical maroons and had been using them to some effect during our act. It was our habit, when we arrived at the venue, to hide a small maroon somewhere in the audience. Said maroon was then connected by a long, concealed cable to a foot switch, which in turn was connected to a car battery which was kept out of sight behind the band. The routine went something like this - at a convenient point in our performance (often to stall whilst someone changed a broken string) I would start to rummage around in a large bag that I kept by my side. This contained my harmonicas, kazoos, penny whistles etc that were used in the act. It also contained various bits and pieces of the 'flags of all nations, knickers, rubber chicken' variety, that I would pull out on to the floor as I continued my search. Finally, I would produce a toy plastic hand grenade, pull the pin and - with a slightly bewildered expression - lob it into the audience in the direction of the concealed maroon. Short pause. Step on foot switch. Startling bang. Much hilarity.

On this night we realised as we set up for the gig that we were down to our last maroon and it was a bit bigger than the ones that we had previously used, so we decided to take some precautions. Instead of placing the maroon in the audience we put it in a waste paper basket, placed a small sheet of asbestos on top of that and placed the whole lot under a table which was to one side of the stage. Now, the room used by the Freeman Syndicate club (I can't give you a web link but you can read a bit about the Freeman Syndicate in Jeff Nuttal's excellent book 'Bomb Culture' - if it's still in print,that is.) was, and may still be for all I know, long and low ceilinged. The bar had a hatch that was kept closed during performances and the stage area was in front of French Windows that were kept covered by heavy drapes when not actually in use.

So - comes that point in the act when the hand grenade is chucked. I hit the foot switch. Nothing happens. The audience (one well noted for its cynicism) lets out a loud groan of derision. Nobby the Roadie (aka Dendron) spots the fact that a wire has become disconnected from the battery terminal and makes a hasty repair.
The maroon goes off like the crack of doom. Doors open, people rush in to find out what the hell has happened. A worried landlord throws open the hatch and peers in from behind the bar. The smoke slowly clears. Desperately pretending that that was what we meant to happen, we launch into our next number but the audience can't hear us and we can't hear ourselves.

At the end of the evening, and with our ears still ringing, we inspected the waste paper basket - or what was left of it. It had been blown open like a tin flower, and shards of asbestos were embedded in the underside of the table. To the best of my knowledge, nobody was actually hurt by the explosion, but if there's anybody out there that was present on that night and remembers it then I'd love to hear from you. In fact, I'd love to hear anything! Pardon?


The other members of the band at this time were: The Rev. B. Sprules Murfet (jugs, recorders, concertina, leg), 'Fingers' Bartram (guitar, mandolin, kazoo and vocals) and Fred Kettle (guitar, cornet, ukulele, harmonica, kazoo and vocals). I played guitar, washboards, harmonica, kazoo and ukulele and also contributed some vocals. I shall be returning to the doings of this motley crew from time to time - and I really would like to hear from anyone that remembers the band, or has any photographs or recordings.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Accordion Crimes

There's an old joke about jazz musician's hell that goes something like this - An old jazzer finally turns up his toes and soon finds himself in a long queue at the entrance to hell. Up ahead of him he recognises a whole bunch of guys that he's played with at on time or another who have shuffled off the mortal coil in recent years. He taps the shoulder of the guy in front of him and says "Hey man, do we get instruments in there?" "Yeah," replies the guy. "We even get a choice - banjo or accordion".

Like many musicians I had always hated both instruments. With hindsight I realise that there is something about banjos and accordions that tends to attract the efforts of some profoundly unmusical people - far more so than with almost any other instrument. It wasn't until I first heard the music of Sivuca in the case of the accordion and Bela Fleck in the case of the banjo, that I began to revise my prejudice. I'm still not a huge fan of the banjo although I do recognise that there are some fine musicians out there for whom it is the instrument of choice, but the accordion has risen greatly in my affections.

I first heard an album by Sivuca in the early seventies, when I was managing a record shop in West London. It was a Vanguard album, long since deleted, simply called 'Sivuca'. The cover picture, as I remember it, was of a short, stocky, white haired, white bearded man playing a nylon string guitar outdoors against a backdrop of hills. I was intrigued and so put it on the turntable for a listen. I was completely blown away by it, despite the fact that it soon became apparent that Sivuca's principal instrument was not the guitar but the accordion (or, strictly speaking, its Brazilian equivalent, the Sanfona). I no longer have that album as I literally played it to death! The surface of the disc actually turned white over the years and it became unlistenable to. I had, of course, made a cassette copy of the album but that finally died about five years ago, when the tape stretched beyond playability.

That album turned me on to two things and confirmed a third: I recognised the potential of the accordion for the first time, I became obsessed with the triangle (more of this anon) and I realised that whenever I heard Brazilian music I tended to like it (and more of this anon as well). I began to search for recordings by Sivuca, although mostly without much luck. He featured on a fine album by Dom Um Romão called 'Hotmosphere', and cropped up on the Paul Simon album "Still Crazy after All These Years" as the featured soloist on "I Do It For Your Love", but it was not until I went Brazil for the first time that I was able to seriously expand my collection of his work.

In the meantime, the next accordion revelation was Jack Emblow. By the early 80's I was running a jazz club. I had a resident trio and would book a different soloist every week. The bass chair was shared by the late John McCartney, John Rees Jones (until very recently Humphrey Lytletton's bassist) and Peter Morgan (a fine player who has disappeared off my radar, and whom I would love to catch up with again). Pete was always suggesting soloists to me and one day persuaded me to book the duo of Jack Emblow and trumpeter / flugelhornist Johny McLevey. All I knew about Emblow (or Jack Elbow as he was known in the trade) was that for years he had provided the accompaniment for The Cliff Adams Singers on BBC Radio's horrendous 'Sing Something Simple' programme. As you can imagine, I took a hell of a lot of persuading over that one. Needless to say, the gig itself was a revelation to me and I continued to book Jack on a regular basis until the club closed a few years later. He subsequently became a regular member of Martin Taylor's 'Spirit of Django' group for many years. These days I believe he is in semi-retirement but still doing the odd gig here and there, although I did find this clip of him playing with another regular at my jazz club - Harry Pitch -when I was trawling the internet. www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tt2kGY3lmSE

In recent years I have been introduced to the music of the great French / Italian accordionist Richard Galliano, Marc Berthoumieux (another French wizard) and a whole host of Brazilians, most notably Toninho Ferraguti, who I was lucky enough to meet in Brazil last year. You can find examples of all of these on Youtube:-

So - I rest my case for the accordion - and I haven't even touched on the concertina or the Melodeon as yet. Tomorrow maybe...

Sivuca links:-


(My apologies for stealing the title of Annie Proulx's excellent novel for this piece.)

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Gilberto Gil -The cultured Culture Minister

One morning a couple of weeks ago I was listening to The Today Programme on BBC Radio Four as I took my morning shower. The usual bunch of evasive politicians were busy ducking questions whilst simultaneously blowing their own trumpets and I had, as usual, stopped paying heed to them. Suddenly my attention was once again grabbed in a fine demonstration of that well known phenomenon known as 'cocktail party syndrome'. You know the one -you are in a room full of chattering people and all you are hearing is the general rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb of the crowd, when someone on the other side of the room whispers your name and you hear it immediately. Or, as in this case, someone mentions something that you are extremely interested in and the same thing happens. (Incidentally, to digress for a moment: I read somewhere that actors doing crowd scenes always use rhubarb rhubarb for working class crowds and sodawaterbottle sodawaterbottle for upper class crowds. So, given that we're talking about a cocktail party here - which is, let's face it, not the commonest form of working class entertainment - I suppose that should have read "...all you are hearing is the general sodawaterbottle sodawaterbottle sodawaterbottle of the crowd...")

The name that drew me back from my watery reverie was Gilberto Gil: currently Brazil's Minister of Culture and, since his emergence in the early sixties, one of that country's greatest singer / songwriter/ performers. He was being interviewed in his political capacity and was giving a most convincing performance. The interview was concluded with a reference to his music and they played part of a track from his most recent CD - 'Gil Luminoso' (http://www.drgrecords.com/). I had passed on tickets for his concert at The Barbican on the grounds that it was just Gil and his guitar and - much as I love his music - I really love the bands that he usually has with him. The cost of the tickets combined with the cost of travelling to London and back and the cost of overnight accommodation had made Mrs Voltarol and I decide against it. One brief scrap of song on the radio had me cursing for the rest of the week. I think that I had ordered the disc on line within two minutes of emerging from the shower. It has been played in this house at least once just about everyday since.

Gil is a fine example of what I was talking about in my last posting. He is nominally an MPB artist (Música Popular Brasileira) or 'pop' musician, yet his music is far from simplistic and his lyrics are frequently profound. He is as at home playing Reggae (he recorded with Bob Marley) as he is playing Forró (an accordion based musical form from North East Brazil) or Bob Dylan. He is great arranger who is constantly revamping his own back catalogue and he always has the absolute cream of the Brazilian musicians in his bands. But pare it all down to just Gil, his acoustic guitar and his own material and the result is sublime. It transcends all the categories and pigeon-holes. It's just music.


Friday, 9 May 2008

Blue two and a half.

Speaking of Leigh Heggarty (as I was yesterday), he and I formed an acoustic guitar duo some twenty - odd years ago called 'The Blue Five'. How we ended up with this name escapes me now as not only were there not five of us but we didn't play blues either. We worked around West London and Buckinghamshire and confused many a folk club audience...and there was another anomaly: Leigh is essentialy a rock musician, I come from the jazz world and what we played definitely wasn't folk music. Our reportoire consisted of a mixture of standards, pop tunes and original compositions (all right -unoriginal compositions) although there was, come to think of it, one nominal blues in the set. This was the Spencer Williams composition 'Basin Street Blues', which was first made famous by the great Louis Armstrong on a 1927 recording. It goes without saying that our version bore no resemblance to Louis'. Our approach to all that we played was to try and forget about the theoretical classifications of 'rock', 'jazz', 'pop', 'folk' etcetera, but to treat it all simply as 'music'. (Mind you, Leigh came to visit me a few years after I had moved to the West Country and one evening we decided to revive the Blue Five in the saloon bar of my local pub. Present that evening was one of my neighbours who had recently been a dinner guest at our cottage. At the end of the evening he drew me to one side and said "I'd rather have your cooking than your music". Ho Hum. Incidentally the main difference between the Saloon bar and the Public bar of my local is defined by card games. In the Public they play Cribbage and in the Saloon they play Euchre.)

One of the things that attracts me to Brazilian music is a natural tendency amongst most Brazilian musicians to ignore the 'pigeon holes' of musical category and to play across the boundaries. Although Brazil has spawned a mass of musical genres it is not at all uncommon for a musician that is noted for one particular musical form to perform equally well in others. But I think that's the subject for my next posting.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

"The time has come", the Walrus said...

Well, having set this thing up I now need to think about its contents. There is a certain feeling of "Who put you on the thing in the first place?", to quote from an old Bill Cosby routine. I have tended to the opinion that Blogs were, by and large, somewhat self-indulgent and pointless things, but then it occurred to me that although that may well be the case about this Blog, the only people who are going to follow it regularly are the ones that are interested. So I'm only wasting my own time.

I have been closely involved with music for most of my life, both as a practitioner and as an enthusiast. Along the way I've met and/or been involved with a whole raft of interesting and -occasionally - famous people. One of those was the late - and to my mind great -George Melly, whose wonderful book 'Owning Up' has been something of an inspiration for these pages. I should hasten to add that I was never particularly a fan of Melly's music : it's his abilities as a writer that impressed me. I have never read anything so funny or so true as the aforementioned volume. Having said that, the real culprit here is probably my friend and one time musical cohort, Leigh Heggarty, whose excellent Blog - Leigh's mad world of guitars - has persuaded me that this is a worthwhile thing to do. So there you are - it's his fault.

Along the way you may expect the odd musical recommendation. I'm an habitual proselytiser and this is the perfect medium for that habit. You may also expect the occasional burst of enthusiasm for a book (see above), concert reviews, food talk, wine waffling and general observations about Life, the Universe and Everything (aka '42'). Who gives a stuff about what I think? Well - nobody, probably. But if there's anybody out there that does, then you'll come back to these pages. And if you don't come back to these pages, well - no harm done.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Small beginings

Well - I've made a start. Just setting this thing up as taken all my spare time for today. I'll rest on my laurels happy in the knowledge that tomorrow I can just start writing.