Words and music
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
4d ago
From Dorothy Baker’s Young Man with a Horn to Josef Skvorecky’s The Bass Saxophone and beyond, many novelists have made use of jazz in their stories. Jazz musicians, in turn, sometimes take inspiration from novels and plays, as with Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder and John Dankworth’s What the Dickens. Here are two new examples, coming from different angles and at different trajectories. Jonathan Coe hoped for a career in music before becoming a celebrated novelist, playing keyboards in various bands before What a Carve-Up! established his career as a writer in 1994. The Rotters’ Club, a ..read more
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Songs for his father
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
1w ago
The drummer Sebastian Rochford is one of the ten children of the poet Gerard Rochford, who died in 2019, aged 87. In memory of his father, Seb sat down at his grandfather’s piano in his childhood home in Aberdeen and composed seven short piano pieces, adding an eighth written by his father, and then recorded them with his friend Kit Downes playing the piano and Seb himself occasionally adding a discreet commentary from the drum kit. The resulting album, titled A Short Diary, is the son’s remembrance of his father, a gathering of thoughts and feelings. Unsurprisingly, the result can feel like ..read more
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For Jason Yarde
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
1M ago
Xhosa Cole and Caroline Kraabel arrive at Café Oto In the middle of the afternoon, an outsized multicoloured scarf walked through the door into the Vortex, playing an alto saxophone. It turned out, after he had unwrapped himself, to be Xhosa Cole, who carried on playing as he made his way to the stage. There he fitted seamlessly into a free improvisation being devised by the trumpeter Chris Batchelor, the tenorist Julian Siegel, the cellist Shirley Smart and the pianist Liam Noble as part of a three-venue benefit for the saxophonist Jason Yarde. Yarde, who is one of Britain’s very greatest jaz ..read more
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What a little bookshop can do
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
2M ago
There was an event called Quiet Revolutions at the Barbican Library last week, celebrating radical bookshops old and new, from Housmans of King’s Cross, Newham Books in East London, New Beacon Books of Finsbury Park and Gay’s the Word of Marchmont Street to Five Leaves of Nottingham. I wasn’t there, but it reminded me of the importance of such places, and in particular the pivotal role played in my own life by two such places, the ancestors of Five Leaves. The Trent Book Shop was opened in 1964 by Stuart Mills and Martin Parnell, two young men who’d abandoned careers as schoolteachers. It was ..read more
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William Blake in Piccadilly
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
2M ago
Although any performance of the Westbrook Blake — as Mike Westbrook’s settings of William Blake’s words have been known for more than 40 years — is a powerful event, the emotional impact of last night’s concert by Mike and Kate Westbrook and their musicians at St James’s Church, Piccadilly was intensified by the knowledge that this Christopher Wren church, consecrated in 1684, was the place where the English poet, painter and visionary was baptised in 1757, soon after his birth in Soho. Titled Visions and Voices: Echoes of William Blake, the evening began with Kate Westbrook delivering “Londo ..read more
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Michael Gibbs / Vortex
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
2M ago
Tom Challenger soloing with the Trinity Laban Jazz Orchestra at the Vortex Small space, big band. Can’t beat it. Five trumpets, four trombones, four reeds, five rhythm, making the air move within the confines of a proper jazz club. Even the smallest concert hall wouldn’t be the same. And sitting just behind me at the Vortex last night was Mike Gibbs, smiling and cheering as the Trinity Laban Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Josephine Davies, performed a selection of his compositions and arrangements in one of four sets arranged over two nights as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, in celebratio ..read more
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Binker Golding / Purcell Room
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
2M ago
There were times tonight when it felt as though Binker Golding was inventing a new kind of music. He wasn’t, of course, not really. But by combining and recombining familiar elements, and putting them through the filter of his own personality, the saxophonist and composer was doing something that jazz has always done, often to its great and lasting benefit. On the opening night of the 2022 EFG London Jazz Festival, Golding arrived at the Purcell Room with the music from his recent album, Dream Like a Dogwood Wild Boy, and the brilliant musicians with whom he made it: Billy Adamson (electric a ..read more
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Just before the world changed
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
3M ago
Sixty years ago this month, “Love Me Do” made the charts and the world changed. But what was it changing from? Not just the drab, complacent cardigans-and-Billy Cotton caricature of post-war British culture. Before the Beatles and Stones came along to provide a focus, there were plenty of signs, if you were looking, that something was about to happen. And two dozen of them are collected in A Snapshot in Time, a new compilation of sounds from 1960-63 that can be seen today as a series of premonitions. I was 15 at the time, primed for change and and looking for those signs, in particular anythi ..read more
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The spirit of 1971
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
3M ago
On an earlier re-release of the first and only album by Centipede, the 50-strong (and therefore 100-footed) band assembled by Keith Tippett, RCA’s marketing department used a quote from the Melody Maker‘s original review: “No one who wants a permanent record of where our music was at in 1971 will want to be without Septober Energy.” It was true at the time and today, listening to a remastered and reissued version of the double album made by an ensemble containing actual and former members of Soft Machine, King Crimson, the Blue Notes, the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, the Blossom Toes, Nucleus ..read more
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Remembering John Stevens
The Blue Moment » Jazz
by Richard Williams
4M ago
I’d been working at the Melody Maker only a few weeks in the autumn of 1969 when the drummer John Stevens and the saxophonist Trevor Watts arrived to see me, unannounced, at the paper’s offices in Fleet Street. They’d sensed the presence of a writer sympathetic to their music and they’d brought me a copy of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble’s new album, recorded for Giorgio Gomelsky’s Marmalade label. I already knew about them, of course, and over the years I saw John play on many occasions and in many different musical environments. His death from a heart attack in 1994, at the age of 54, depri ..read more
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