Voltarol - related music

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Jazz, delicious hot, disgusting cold

When Mole (see The twang's not the thang) turned up at Dave's house with a bunch of his brother's LPs, I little thought that I would still be listening to some of that music 50 or more years later.

Dave's family lived in the flat over his uncle's greengrocery, which was next-door-but-one to my dad's hardware store. On a Saturday night my parents would go out for a drink (Gin and tonic in my dad's case and Schweppes Bitter Lemon in my mum's). My younger brother (G the D) and I would be left watching TV, with strict instructions to go to bed as soon as 'Gunsmoke' or 'Wyatt Earp' or 'Paladin' had finished. My older brother, Alcohol, was doing his National Service at this time. Dave's parents would follow a similar pattern (although I can't tell you what they drank), leaving him in the care of his grandmother, who lived with them.

Needless to say, G the D and I would stay up far beyond the agreed hour and would only turn the TV off and dash upstairs to feign sleep when we heard the family Morris Traveller Estate pulling up outside. ( We were finally caught when my parents came home unexpectedly early and went into the living room to see the slowly diminishing white dot in the centre of the TV screen, which in those early days of cathode ray tube technology lingered for a good 40 seconds or so after the set had been switched off.)

By the time I was thirteen or fourteen, I was allowed to go next door to Dave's house on a Saturday night (I can't account for G the D's whereabouts on these occasions and unfortunately neither can he) and there Dave and I would get together with Muff and Mole to play records, under the nominal supervision of Dave's gran, who was a fairly enthusiastic consumer of Carlsberg Pilsner and kept a crate of the brew under the stairs. Dave would generally dip into the crate and 'acquire' a couple of bottles, whilst Muff, Mole and I would pool our somewhat meagre resources and buy a bottle of cider from the local off-licence. The combined influences of Carlsberg and Television meant that gran tended to leave us very much to our own devices, emerging from her den only occasionally, to scream abuse at Dave (which he returned in kind) and to glower at us. Looking back on it I realise that she was probably a fairly unpleasant person and that Dave had inherited many of her characteristics.

Despite these random interruptions we would gather round the Radiogram and play whatever treasures we had brought to the gathering that week. At least, Mole, Muff and I would: Dave didn't actually own any records but he had the premises and the record playing equipment so that was all right. My Jai and Kai records ( see Slide by slide) had alerted us to modern jazz, so when Mole revealed that his elder brother had a lot of jazz records we encouraged him to raid the collection. This he duly did, turning up one night with LPs by Gerry Mulligan, Tal Farlow, The Modern Jazz Quartet and Dave Brubeck. Dave and Mole were not that thrilled with these records but Muff and I were both extremely taken with the new sounds. It was not long before these Saturday nights at Dave's ground to a halt. We continued to see Dave occasionally and Mole ( with his Claude Butler racing bike with centre-pull brakes and 10 speed Derailleur gears) less frequently, but music was getting to be a very important thing for Muff and me and in pursuit of it we had made friends with Paul, whose - to us - sophisticated middle class home contained a reel to reel tape recorder and a mass of recorded music (see Wonderful round, black, shiny things).

Meanwhile we were beginning to buy more records. Muff, pursuing his particular penchant for old things, purchased EPs of Ma Rainey and Victoria Spivey, and we were much taken with the accompaniments as well as with the singers. (It occurs to me that both these women could well have been included in my last posting - Little Jazz Birds and other related species) This led us to King Oliver and Lonnie Johnson, to Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson - in fact to New Orleans and Chicago Jazz - 'Traditional Jazz' or 'Trad' as it was soon to be called. Looking back on those times now I realise that we actually came to Modern jazz before we discovered the traditional variety but, unusually for then, found it all equally exciting and stimulating.

Paul's family tape collection introduced us to Josh White, Pete Seeger and The Kingston Trio. Those archives also contained recordings of Leadbelly and Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and we were beginning to see how the lines between American folk music, blues and jazz were nowhere near as sharply drawn as most people thought. Within a short time we were also beginning to explore the folk music of these islands and seeing connections with the American folk tradition, but that's a strand for another posting. Mean while, that weird phenomenon, the British Trad boom, was about to manifest itself and I was beginning to acquire some political awareness. I had also acquired a guitar and despite my father's best efforts had even managed to learn a few chords ( see The twang's not the thang). My musical life was about to step up a gear.

Here are the relevant clips for this posting: until such times as I learn to introduce the YouTube stuff directly on to the page I think I'll stick with this format for the time being...

Gerry Mulligan - Walking Shoes

Tal Farlow - Fascinating Rhythm

Modern Jazz Quartet - Softly as in a Morning Sunrise

Dave Brubeck Quartet - These Foolish Things

Ma Rainey - Booze and Blues

Victoria Spivey - Handyman (?)

King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band - Sobbin' Blues

Lonnie Johnson - Got the Blues for Murder Only

Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five - West End Blues