Voltarol - related music

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Music in a jugular vein 4

This is part four of the Jugular Vein story. New readers start here.

A leg end in our own lifetime

Despite the failure of the Norton York Agency to find us work, the gigs began to roll in. We were now often working three or four – and occasionally five – nights a week. The act tightened up considerably and the influence of the Bonzo Dog Band began to assert itself upon us. We began experimenting with theatrical explosives, smoke capsules, ‘Pantomime Transformation Powder’ and all manner of bizarre props.

The first item to find its way into our performances was a display half-leg, the sort of thing that was more usually found in the window of old fashioned drapers shops or hosiers, with a nylon stocking artfully displayed on it. It was a feminine leg which ended just below the knee, the foot of which was pointed as if standing on tiptoe. It was flesh-coloured, made of some light synthetic material and – most importantly – hollow. They say that one should never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy does not put it on his head. Mr Murfet would not have been Mr Murfet if, when confronted with some sort of hollow vessel, he did not immediately blow a raspberry into it to see what it sounded like.

I can’t recall exactly where the item came from in the first place but within a very short space of time it was being featured in the act. One of the more unlikely things that Mama forbad (see previous posting) was leg playing, as in ‘Mama don’t allow no leg playing in here’. At this point in the performance Max and Rich would play a chorus of stop-time rhythm, Muff would grasp the leg in the ‘saxophone’ position and play a jug type solo on it and I would reach around him from behind and perform the ‘tap-dancing mice’ effect by tapping on it with my thimbles.

At some point along the way we acquired an actual full sized artificial leg. If my memory serves me it was Ron Bartholomew who had found it in the attic of the house he had moved into. It goes without saying that his first instinct was to offer it to The Jugular Vein and our first instinct was to accept it. This too was flesh coloured (or at least’ the War Department’s version of ‘flesh coloured’, namely a rather lurid pink). It had obviously belonged to quite a tall man as it was rather long, and it featured an elaborate ‘knee’ joint and a rather complicated leather harness to strap it on with. It was stamped with a government broad arrow on the ‘thigh’, underneath which were the letters ‘W.D.’. We were unable to work out a satisfactory way of playing it but it often accompanied us on gigs and could be seen lurking at that back of the stage in a thought provoking, if distinctly tasteless fashion. It never occurred to us that such a thing might cause offence until the night that we did just that.

Alan Bridges (or ‘Honest Al, the motorist’s pal’ as he frequently billed himself: his family were in the motor trade) was standing in for Muff, whose shift pattern clashed with this particular gig. The club was in posher premises than we were used to, in that there was a back-stage room for the perfomers. This meant that we did not see the audience before going on stage. Hearing ourselves announced from the front of the performance area we bounded out into the spotlight carrying our instruments. Alan, always an ‘edgy’ performer, rushed on whirling the artificial leg around his head, saw the audience and rushed off again, only to return seconds later, red faced and sans limb. The entire front row of the audience was occupied by wheelchair users, several of which were missing all or part of one or both limbs. We never used that particular leg again.

Another of our more tasteless inventions was the ‘Letterphone’ or ‘Frenchy Horn’ as it was sometimes known. This consisted of a penny whistle powered by an inflated condom, and I was assisted in the playing of this by Nobby the roadie. After an announcement to the effect that “we would now like to feature a rare and esoteric instrument that we had unearthed during our travels”, Nobby would join us on stage and be introduced as “Dendron, our roadie” to a mixture of groans and bewilderment from the audience. I would then hold the penny whistle in the bagpipe chanter position, with my right elbow cocked. Nobby would then ceremoniously inflate a condom and pinch it into position on the mouthpiece of the whistle. As he held it there I would clamp my elbow down, squeeze gently and finger the notes of The Drover’s Dream. All of this was performed with much solemnity and musical posturing. The fact that a condom could not hold enough air to complete a chorus did not seem to matter as the end of the tune was invariably drowned out by howls of laughter from the audience. Max, Muff and Rich would add to the whole performance by standing around solemnly and mugging their appreciation for this most artistic of endeavours.

By now we were writing quite a lot of our own material. I had written a song called ‘One of Our Film Stars Is Missing’ which was about some of the actors in the moral-boosting movies of the second world war, who indulged in great heroics on screen and held officer rank but had never seen a shot fired in anger. This slowly evolved into something of a set-piece performance for us and featured Rich on guitar and wordless falsetto vocal, Muff on concertina and Max and I singing in a faux Flanagan and Allen style whilst playing ukulele and swanee whistle respectively. ( Well obviously I didn’t sing and play at the same time: a gob full of swanee tends to inhibit the old vocalising, but you get the picture).

Our new found enthusiasm for theatrical pyrotechnics came into full play here, as did a strong sense of the absurd. Muff, who by now had moved to Richmond to share a flat with his elder brother, had discovered and purchased some 2nd World War Air Raid Warden’s helmets in a bric-a-brac shop near his new home. At the start of this particular song I would announce that we now intended to try and recreate the atmosphere in a London Underground Station during the blitz. We would all then don our A.R.P. helmets and Nobby would ceremoniously ignite a smoke bomb in yet another helmet that had been placed on the floor in front of us for this precise purpose. The first two or three verses were often accompanied by the sound of coughing but little sight of the audience, who would only become visible again as the smoke cleared towards the end of the last verse. The song would conclude with the swanee whistle imitating the sound of a dying buzz-bomb, then a brief pause followed by the word ‘BANG!’ shouted in unison by the band as I simultaneously flashed a large sheet of cardboard with that word inscribed colourfully upon it ( the very one that you see at the top of this page). As the audience had generally already been subjected to one real explosion during the performance (see Mutt and Jeff) this came as a wonderful anticlimax to the proceedings, affording us much amusement and generally baffling the onlookers.

Rich was responsible for probably our finest theatrical moment. As I have already indicated (see Washboard blues), he is an extremely practical man and can turn his hand to most things. In fact, during his time with the band he had abandoned his Epiphone Texan guitar and was playing one that he had built himself. No one had had the faintest idea that he had been spending much of his spare time for the last couple of years in learning the luthier’s art, until the day that he turned up for rehearsal with a different guitar. He was soon being approached by other guitar players of our acquaintance for running repairs on their instruments. As Rich was known as a bricklayer at this time, guitar repair inquiries generally took the form of a request for re-pointing. The joke wore thin after a while. Rich eventually abandoned the brick work in favour of instrument building, and he is now one of the finest guitar builders in the country, having been full time in his chosen profession since the early seventies. But I digress.

The first records featuring Moog synthesizers had just arrived upon the scene and we were amusing ourselves on the way home from a gig one night, with the idea of a jug synthesiser. A couple of weeks later we turned up at Rich’s house for rehearsal to find a large, object in the centre of the room. It was about four feet high and about eighteen inches wide at the bottom and shrouded in an old curtain, which Rich whipped aside to reveal a two and a half times life size, papier-mâché model of Muff’s jug, painted to match the stoneware and inscribed – in identical lettering to the original – “Fryco Aerated Waters Jug Synthesizer”. A loudspeaker had been fitted into the mouth of the unit and a cable emerged from the back of it, which was plugged into a portable tape recorder. Once the laughter had died down we got down to the serious business of compiling endless recordings of belches, farts, flushing lavatories and the like, to provide the ‘synthesiser’ sounds.

The device was soon incorporated into the act. We had enjoyed the unveiling so much that we always brought the ‘synth’ on to the stage under wraps. At a certain point in the proceedings we would announce the inaugural performance of a brand new electronic device, then issue the summons for ‘Nobby, the Demon Roadie’, who would appear in the best ‘panto’ tradition - in a flash of green smoke - wearing, for reasons that escape me now, a crash helmet, and intoning the words “Yes, Oh masters?”. Nobby would then manhandle the device to the front of the stage whilst miming the shifting of an extremely heavy object, and then hurry off stage to stand by the tape recorder. On the words - “Ladies and Gentlemen! We give you the world’s first Fryco Aerated Waters Jug Synthesizer!” - I would twitch away the cover and Nobby would start the tape. The last toilet flush was the cue for us to start the next song. Well, it amused us.

Sadly, with the exception of the ‘BANG’ notice, none of the other artefacts have survived. There must be some kind of metaphor for life in the fact that substantial, complex and lovingly crafted objects just disappear without trace whilst ephemera such as a scrap of cardboard, hastily scrawled upon with marker pens, is still in my possession nearly forty years later. Or perhaps we were just a bit careless…

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Music in a jugular vein 3

This is part three of the Jugular Vein story. New readers start here.

Mama Don’t Allow

As our performances became more professional and assured I began looking further afield for work. I had by this time lost my job at the record shop (see (High) Street life)when the company that ran it decided to close that branch, and was struggling somewhat to make ends meet. Having tasted the pleasure of earning a living by music I was very reluctant to do anything else, but ‘needs must when the devil drives’. I had a wife and two small children to support and one or two gigs a week did not provide enough income for this purpose. In addition to this, the atmosphere at home was becoming increasingly strained as my marriage began to slowly unravel.

I managed to get a job in an office, working as a stock comptroller (I’m still not quite sure what that means) for the Nestlé Company, but it drove me to distraction and I only lasted about three months. At this point it became obvious that full time employment of this nature frequently caused me to turn down jobs for the band because I couldn’t get away from work early enough to make it to gigs on time. As a result I became - in quick succession – a petrol pump attendant, a council garden labourer and a food packer on an assembly line. I had resolved never to let a ‘real’ job stand in the way of musical employment.

The other band members were all in full time employment. Rich was a bricklayer, Max was an advertising executive and Muff did shift work as a store keeper at Heathrow Airport. Despite this their jobs rarely impinged on our ability to accept gigs, except when Muff was on night shifts. We solved this problem by adding another – occasional – member to the line up. This was Alan Bridges, another guy that I had met through the music shop and who, by coincidence, had also been in a rock band with Rich – the splendidly named 'Sound of the Baskervilles'. Alan was (and still is) a guitar player but could play the jug if required, and it was as a substitute jug player that we used him. He was also something of an extrovert to say the least, and added a certain amount of edginess to performances whenever we used his services.

We began to employ friends and acquaintances who owned vans, and would transport us to and from gigs for petrol money and a percentage of our earnings. Ron Bartholomew, who was part of an organisation called The Freeman Syndicate and ran the club at The White Hart, Southall, frequently drove for us on London gigs. We had arranged for him to take us to a gig in Brighton one day and were awaiting his arrival at the pick-up point. A Bedford Dormobile van pulled up at the kerbside with two people in the front, one of whom was Ron, the other being unknown to us. “I’ve got a bit of a problem with the van so I’ve brought you a new driver”. “Are we going to Brighton?” asked the driver. This was our first meeting with Nobby, the Demon Roadie, aka ‘Dendron’, who was to be our regular driver and a frequent part of the act for the next few years. We got on well with Nobby. He was a non-drinker and was happy to work for a fifth portion of our take after expenses. As the expenses included the band’s intake of alcohol - which was considerable – I thought this extraordinarily reasonable of him, especially as we were now beginning to work further afield and he often spent many hours at the wheel.

Eager to find more work I looked around for opportunities outside of the folk club world. We had had limited success in the network of traditional jazz clubs as these had dwindled rapidly once the ‘Trad Boom’ had ended. Nevertheless, we were always welcome to play in these clubs even if there was rarely a fee involved. But I was looking for paid work and to this end answered an advertisement in the ‘Musicians Wanted’ columns of the Melody Maker’. It said “NORTON YORK AGENCY REQUIRES BANDS” and gave a phone number, which I duly called to make an appointment for us to see them. A week or so later we turned up at their offices in – I think – Turnham Green, full of anticipation.

Our inquisitor was somewhat puzzled by the concept of a jug band but when we made apologetic noises and prepared to leave he hastily told us that it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. “You just need a demo. Have you got a demo? Don’t worry. We can fix you up with a demo”. Of course, with hindsight I realise that they must have made an awful lot of money by steering lots of enthusiastic wannabes and no-hopers to their demo studio, but I admit that I walked out of the Norton York office with a big smile on my face, convinced that we would be full-time musicians in no time at all. As a consequence, two weeks later the band turned up at the studio address that we had been given and peered somewhat dubiously at the entrance.

It was a rather scruffy doorway located between two shops on Turnham Green Terrace, just a few yards from the Tube station. If this was the recording studio, things did not bode well. We were shuffling around, half in and half out of the entrance and not quite believing what we were seeing, hearing - and indeed, smelling (the entrance hall was somewhat er…cat haunted), when a scruffy figure emerged from a door a few yards down the hallway and shouted “Oi! Come inside, yer warmin’ the street already!” in a voice that was pure Bethnal Green.

He ushered us into a largish room that had some acoustic tiles on some of the walls. There was a wooden cubicle the size and shape of a phone booth in one corner of the room, which had a large red light bulb mounted over the its door. Inside it we could see a reel-to-reel tape recorder and what must have been an extraordinarily primitive mixing console, consisting as it did eight knobs and four faders if my memory serves me. We were a band that always performed sitting down, so the absence of any chairs caused us something of a problem until our ‘engineer’ reluctantly went and found us some. We were ready to go.

We had decided to record two songs – ‘Doin a Stretch’ and ‘Mama Don’t Allow’. The first of these was a Blind Blake song that Richard sang and played guitar on. I played rhythm guitar and sang choruses, Muff played jug and Max played cornet and sang choruses. After a solemn lecture by the recording maestro during which we fought hard to keep a straight face -“Now don’t forget. Watch the red light, watch the red light…” (He had a habit of repeating everything he said) “…and once that goes on you don’t speak until you’ve finished recording and the light goes off. That’s your signal to begin. ‘Ave you got that? ‘Ave you got that?” The fact that he was only three feet away from us and we could see and hear him quite clearly even when he was inside his booth, did not seem to occur to him. Once he was in the ‘control room’ he continued to address us through the rather tinny intercom which was almost drowned out by the actual sound of his voice.

‘Doin’ a Stretch’ had been one of the first songs we learnt and was our regular opening number, so we performed it quite well and confidently. After a couple of choruses for levels and basic microphone shuffling we were ready to roll and soon had the first track in the can. We turned our attention to ‘Mama Don’t Allow’ – an old warhorse from the twenties which lists the number of things that ‘mama don’t allow’ and then proceeds to demonstrate them with a solo, as in ‘Mama don’t allow no washboard playing here..’ closely followed by a solo chorus on said instrument. This was our encore number and during my time with the band I think we must have played it on every single gig we ever did – I know that we were all heartily sick of it by the time I left the J.V. for the first time. On this tune Rich played mandolin, Max played guitar and kazoo, I played washboards and, with the exception of Muff, who took a multi-jug solo (‘Mama don’t allow no multi juggin’ here…’) we all sang. The maestro looked somewhat put out at the fact that there was a change of instrumentation to be dealt with and bustled around somewhat grumpily, rearranging microphones. Eventually he retired to his phone booth and switched on the red light bulb. A silent count took us into the first verse. We had got no further than ‘Mama don’t allow no jug band mu…’ when he through the door of the booth open and shouted “What’s that scratchin’? What’s that scratchin’?” in most aggrieved tones. We indicated that it was the sound of my washboards. “Well it’ll ave to stop! It’s ruining the recording…Ruining!”

We finally compromised with me rattling out the rhythm on the metal plates instead of scraping the corrugated surface of the washboard in the normal way. And that, dear reader is why if you’ve ever heard the Jugular Vein’s first and only demonstration disc, The song ‘Mama Don’t Allow’ appears to be accompanied by a small group of demented, tap dancing mice.

When we eventually took delivery of the four copies of the disc that our thirty pounds ( a bloody fortune in those days) had purchased, there was a brief period of excitement at having actually ‘made a record’, but nothing ever came of the Norton York connection and the demo discs - which were acetates – eventually became so worn as to be almost unplayable. We’ve all still kept them though…

Monday, 16 February 2009

Music in a jugular vein 2

This is part two of the Jugular Vein story. New readers start here.

Washboard blues

We began getting together and rehearsing on a regular basis, sometimes in my flat, occasionally in Muff’s family home but mostly at Rich’s parents’ house. We soon had a dozen or so numbers together and were beginning to evolve a distinctive sound of our own. It quickly became apparent to us that three guitars and a jug created a pretty monotonous effect, and it became a golden rule never to have more than two guitars playing together at any one time. This problem was partially solved by the fact that Max also played the cornet and the harmonica, Richard had taken up the mandolin, I played the harmonica and we all played the kazoo. I was by far the least able guitarist of the group and the worst singer but I did have quite a good ear as well as a strong sense of rhythm, so when a penny whistle sound was required for a song, I was your man.

One day I turned up at Rich’s house for a rehearsal to find him sitting on a chair playing his Epiphone ‘Texan’ guitar and simultaneously playing a washboard with his feet. To achieve this he had taken a pair of old moccasins and fastened a handful of beer-bottle tops – the old Crown Corks – to the sole of each one. The result was interesting but he found the necessary coordination required too much concentration and affected his ability to play anything more than fairly basic strumming on the guitar. However, we quite liked the idea of the washboard as part of our sound. ‘Why don’t you give it a go?’ said Rich, so I did (see also I’ll give it a bash).

I now know that the washboard is conventionally played across the lap but as I had never seen anyone play one before I soon evolved my own approach, which involved holding it upright between my knees and playing either side of the board. This was slightly unsatisfactory because one hand tended to ‘damp’ the efforts of the other, but the problem was soon solved with Rich’s usual practicality and ingenuity. He went out and bought more washboards and bolted a pair of them back to back. He then fitted them with red and white striped metal ‘tapping plates’ at the top, which he cut from a ‘liberated’ Wall’s Ice Cream sign, and dyed all the wood a rather fetching shade of blue just to add that final touch of pazaz. I managed to purchase a cymbal, a cymbal stand, a cowbell and a red, wooden temple block to add to my percussive armoury and, just to add gilt to the gingerbread, Richard manufactured a rexine-covered carrying case for the washboards, complete with thimble compartment. This case was to become a source of great amusement to audiences and was always proudly displayed during our performances. (The photo at the top of this posting shows the washboard plus case and what's left of the original percussion ensemble as of February 2009. When Rich makes something he makes it to last!)

I’m not absolutely certain where we made our debut performance, but I think it was at The Load of Hay folk club in Uxbridge. As I have observed elsewhere (Mutt and Jeff) at that time folk clubs were very catholic in their interpretation of the word ‘folk’, and we had no trouble in getting ‘floor spots’ (unpaid performances of two or three numbers in the interval) at a number of clubs around London. We would scan the Folk Forum column in Melody Maker and select our targets, then turn up and request a spot in the hopes of turning it into a booking. Within a very short space of time we got our first proper gig and we were soon getting a couple a week.

At first we would all make our own way to the venues by public transport, but this quickly became a problem as the bookings came in from further afield. Rich was the first amongst us to pass his test and buy a vehicle. It was an elderly ‘E’ type Morris which consumed more oil than petrol and was soon dubbed ‘The Clampettmobile’ (for those of you too young to remember see The Beverly Hillbillies). We made many a cramped and precarious journey to pubs all around London before we were earning enough to hire someone to drive us, but in the meantime we rehearsed new material and expanded the act to satisfy the increasing number of re-bookings without repeating ourselves totally each time.

At this time I didn’t consider myself to be a musician. I was just someone who loved music and could play a bit. But I knew I was more of a performer than Max or Rich and I began to work on my introductory material. Muff, despite his shyness, was an excellent foil for my routines and shared my sense of humour, as did Rich and Max, who happily entered into the swing of things. Within a year we had evolved into quite a polished unit. I had begun writing songs with Rich during our first couple of months and we now had a repertoire that include a mix of blues, jazz and original songs, performed by four multi-instrumentalists (Richard had added harmonica to his accomplishments, Max had owned up to being a closet Ukulele player (see Anarchy in the UKe) and Muff was also playing recorder and concertina), all laced together with jokes and patter. We were ready to take it up a notch.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Music in a jugular vein

I’ve frequently spoken of The Jugular Vein (see Mutt and Jeff) in these pages so I thought I’d try and set down some details about the origins and early days of the band. Inevitably the story is told from my perspective but all ‘corrections and clarifications’ (to borrow a phrase from The Guardian) from any of the former band members are more than welcome, nay, requested even. I suspect that this is going to run to quite a few postings so this then is Part One:-

So the boys got together and formed a band…
(‘The Bride Stripped Bare By ‘Bachelors’’ – V. Stanshall / N. Innes )

I first met Barry (Muff) Murfet when I was two years old. We lived within a few doors of one another in the same street and our respective mothers often stopped to chat. In fact, we had almost certainly met before this but this was the first occasion that I am actually aware of. My memory tells me that I was in my push chair and he - being one year older – was on foot. The only other detail I can remember was that I ended up crying fairly noisily (although I have no idea why) and that a rather astonished Barry tugged urgently at his mother’s hand to drag her away from this disturbance. On such odd beginnings are friendships built.

As we grew up we were constant companions and would walk for miles together from the age of about six onwards, exploring the local parks, commons and graveyards, as well as taking frequent jaunts along the banks of the Grand Union Canal – children did indeed have much more freedom then. By the time we were ten or eleven we were beginning to take more than a passing interest in music, and by the time we were in our teens this had become something of an obsession with both of us as I have recorded elsewhere in these writings (see Woke up this morning… and other postings). We began earning money, buying records and dabbling with musical instruments.

By the time I was nineteen I was married and had one child and another on the way. It wasn’t the wisest of steps into adulthood but it did mean that I was the first amongst my friends to have his own accommodation. Saturday night gatherings at my flat soon became a regular feature of life and Muff was a regular visitor. These sessions revolved, inevitably, around music and alcohol, so any new acquaintances that could play were quickly welcomed into our midst. One such acquaintance was Richard (Rich) Bartram, a customer at the record shop that I worked in that I had become friendly with (see Indian summer).

Richard was (and is) a far better guitarist than me. He could play a very convincing country blues and was also beginning to experiment with ragtime guitar. His presence enlivened the Saturday night proceedings more than some what and he, too, soon became friendly with Muff. Muff was at this time still living with his family, who had recently bought a house not far from Slough. Exploring the outbuildings of his new home, Muff had found an old two gallon stoneware jar bearing the inscription ‘Fryco Aerated Waters’. As we were familiar with the concept of the ’jug band’ it followed that the natural thing for him to do was to blow into the jar to see if it made a noise. Within a remarkably short space of time he had mastered the rudiments (if you’ll pardon the pun) of blowing what can only be described as ‘pitched raspberries’ into the vessel, to produce a very satisfying tuba-like bass sound. It was but a short while before Rich and Muff were getting together and playing guitar and jug duets.

Sometime early in 1966, Maggie - a friend of my first wife, who used to baby sit for us – met a chap called Max Emmons at a wedding that she had attended. Max had asked her out and she had agreed to a first date but with the proviso that it consisted of a visit to the zoo with my two year old daughter in tow. He – being made of stern stuff – agreed, and duly arrived at my flat at the end of that day when Maggie returned my daughter to us. We took to Max immediately and within a short space of time he had (a) had a cup of tea, (b) had his lap peed on by my one year old son, (c) disclosed that he ‘played a bit’ (guitar and cornet) and loved jazz and blues and (d) had been invited to join us the following Saturday night for a bit of a session.

The following Saturday Max duly arrived, having previously arranged to stay the night as his home was in Clapham and my flat was very much the wrong side of Shepherd’s Bush. He was carrying his guitar case and a holdall containing some clean clothing, his toiletries, a somewhat battered cornet, a harmonica harness and some harmonicas, a small home-made mute and a kazoo. I got out my guitar and some harmonicas. Soon, Richard arrived with his guitar, followed shortly by Muff who was toting a large and heavy-looking ex-army khaki kit bag which he soon opened to reveal the Fryco Aerated Waters jar.

Within a short space of time a Watney’s ‘Party Seven’ had been opened, beer had been dispensed and the music started. Muff and Rich did something and I joined in, then Max did something on his own, then Max and Rich did something together, then Muff and I joined in with Max and Rich. I can’t remember what we played but we thought it sounded pretty good and immediately started sifting through our respective repertoires for mutually acceptable material. By the end of that evening, another couple of ‘party sevens’ and a dozen or so songs we knew we were on to something. We little knew that it was the birth of a band that would, with various line-ups continue to perform right in to the early nineties or that for a few years we would tour successfully all over England and share the bill with some of the hottest names around.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

'S Wonderful...part four

For part one of this series of postings please start here.

The fifth track on side two of this compilation is - 'When I was Young', recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1956, which first appeared on the album 'Brubeck Plays Brubeck'. The group consisted at that time of Joe Dodge - drums, the splendidly named Norman Bates - bass and the great Paul Desmond on alto saxophone. Although I was to retain a fondness for Brubeck's music, it was Desmond who really grabbed my attention and I still own about eight Desmond CDs (I have one Brubeck). His playing was informed with wit, as indeed was the man himself, who once stated when asked about how he evolved his sound - " I try to sound like a dry martini". He does, too. No clips are available of this line up but I did find this performance of Blue Rondo A La Turk from around 1959 or 60

Track six was 'Budo' by the Miles Davis Quintet and was also recorded in 1956. This tune, composed by Miles Davis and Bud Powell had first appeared on the classic Birth of the Cool album released in 1950, not that I knew this at the time. This version was my first introduction to yet another group of highly significant and influential jazz musicians - Miles himself (trumpet), Red Garland (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), Philly Joe Jones (drums) and - arguably the most influential of them all - John Coltrane (tenor saxophone). I have often tried to locate a CD copy of the original album that this track came from, but without success. Recently I discovered that it was never issued at the time but that it was in fact an out-take from Miles' famous Round About Midnight album. It goes without saying that this version of 'Budo' is not available but here is the title track from that album.

And here is the original version of 'Budo' -

The penultimate track is a version of 'Angel Eyes' by the J.J.Johnson Quintet and was also recorded in 1956. I was already a fan of Johnson, having recently discovered the Jay and Kay trombone Octet (see Slide by Slide) and I also became much enamoured with the tune, which was to become a regular part of my band's reportoire some forty years later. Here again, the groups members were mostly influential figures. The least well known was tenor saxophonist Bobby Jaspar. The rest of the band consisted of Hank Jones (piano), Percy Heath (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums). There appears to be no example of this group on YouTube, let alone the actual track, but here is Johnson's 1993 quintet recorded live in Europe. It's a fine example of his ballad playing.

And because the tune had almost as much impact on me as the musicians, here's Ella Fitzgerald performing Angel Eyes in 1957.

Looking back over the previous tracks on this compilation it is easy to see the general 'arc' of development of jazz, even though the actual recording dates jump about a bit, which I guess goes to show that the music didn't just change abruptly at each stage in its progress, but that the various strands overlapped and intertwined along the way. However, Benny Green has this to say about the final track on the album - "Duke Ellington turns out to have the last word. The Spacemen happen to have been recorded in the middle 1950s, but the music is neither traditional, mainstream or modern. It is simply Ellingtonian, and for that reason adds a final touch to the collection which might otherwise have been missing". The track is 'Jones' by Duke Ellington and his Spacemen (no specific recording date given) and it will surprise you not one whit to learn that there appears to be nothing in the way of YouTube clips for this particular Ellington line up. Duke in fact only seems to have used this name for his band on one album, but the personnel are all regular Ellington alumni. I shall list them here but refer you to Ellington on the Web for more information about the great man and his musicians than you would have thought possible! Ellington (piano); John Sanders, Britt Woodman, Quentin Jackson (trombones); Clark Terry (trumpet); Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet); Paul Gonsalvez (tenor saxophone); Jimmy Woode (bass) and Sam Woodyarde (drums). I subsequently bought a number of Ellington albums, including the wonderful Such Sweet Thunder, which first came out in 1957, so in lieu of 'Jones' or 'the Spacemen' here is a clip of a live performance of the title track from the album.

So - I hope I've justified my claim for the 'This Wonderful World of Jazz' compilation as being a 'Rosetta Stone of Jazz'. It certainly was for me in that it was the stepping-off point and general route map for a journey that I am still on some forty years later. It opened my ears and it opened my mind - and to music as a whole, not just jazz. If ever they reissue this on CD I shall be the first in the queue!