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Phil's Jazz Pleasures 6

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Phil's Jazz Pleasures February 2021

Joy at this Tough Time

Well, deep into another lockdown! Wondering just when is too early to start drinking! Perhaps, it will be a plague of locusts next? “Oh - just when will my injection come” (sung to the tune of O Sole Mio)? When, oh when, can we go out somewhere half decent and enjoy ourselves again?

Our thoughts surely must be with the many, many people suffering either unable to isolate properly due to fear of no income or those painfully missing loved ones. Clearly this terrible mess has been very much tougher on some than others!

Hopefully without sounding too clichéd, music can be a terrific tonic in harsh times - reminding us of better ones. In this spirit I decided to turn my thoughts to some of the truly great musicians and bands I have seen “live” over the years. Perhaps, you can enjoy my memories whilst recalling your own unforgettable times enjoying great music. Just listening to “live” music with friends, family and complete strangers is often when I am happiest.

nucleus2v2I went to Kent University in Canterbury where Soft Machine came from. I adored their music but I have chosen the great Scottish trumpeter - Ian Carr - as my first memory. I saw them perform their Nucleus album at a club in London; almost out-Soft Machining Soft Machine! The track I have selected is a tribute the jazz dancer and band leader Ken “Snakehips” Johnson. I have been fortunate enough to see Herbie Hancock on numerous occasions – lucky me! I saw him perform his ground-breaking New Standard album live – and I have chosen his version of Prince’s Thieves in Temple; an amalgam of two brilliant talents.

nina-simone-v2I was blown away by seeing Nina Simone play live; just an exceptional woman. I have chosen my favourite track of hers, a highly evocative cry of lost love – Plain Gold Ring - both for her extraordinary voice and superbly executed piano work. Shortly after this one of my best friends bought me a ticket to go and see Tom Waits in London. I can state without any doubt it was the greatest “live” performance I am ever likely to witness. I could choose anything by Mr Waits. I have selected a song he wrote and recorded but Bruce Springsten made famous – Jersey Girl - from Waits’ exceptional Heart Attack and Vine album.

sonny-rollinsI was privileged enough to see Sonny Rollins play in Sheffield. He was 4 hours late but many stayed into the early hours to see him. Well worth it! I have chosen St Thomas as much for Max Roach’s wonderful percussion as Rollins’ exceptional sax! A little later at the same venue I witnessed Gil Scott Heron at the height of his powers – a great wordsmith and superb musician. Again I have chosen my favourite track of his – Gun. Starts like as if it going to be a light Latin dance tune but is actually a bitingly, serious critique of America’s gun culture. Listening to it now, I am back in the 80s dancing away to it.

josef-zawinulWeather Report’s multi talented keyboard player – Joe Zawinul – went solo after they split. A man steeped in World music as well as jazz and my choice Cafe Andalusia reflects this. I saw him in Manchester surrounded by what appeared to be about 20 keyboards – but he used them all to great effect. Another joy of a concert.

At the Brecon Festival I saw a teenage Roy Hargrove – his quartet all identically suited and booted - absolutely blowing the audience away. I have chosen a track from the album he made after visiting Cuba - Oh My Seh Yeh. A few years later I saw brilliant Charles Lloyd at the same festival. I have chosen The Water is Wide as it is difficult to imagine a sax being played with greater feeling.

amy-winehouse-v2Amy Winehouse! I saw her before she ever recorded – and twice afterwards. I feel very privileged to have done so; such a crazy waste of unique, precious talent. I have chosen a track from her first album – Frank – mostly written when 17/18 years old! Could have chosen all of them! She was such a great performer.

Finally, at the North Sea Jazz Festival I have seen many great live performances but one stands out – McCoy Tyner – just playing solo. I will leave you with his quite delightful When Sonny Gets Blue.

I hope you like my selection – hope it prompts your own memories of great “live” concerts. May they soon return!

This Month’s Playlist

Ian Carr/Nucleus Snakehips Dream on Solar Plexus

Herbie Hancock Thieves in the Temple on The New Standard

Nina Simone Plain Gold Ring on Mood Indigo – the Complete Bethlehem Singles

Tom Waits Jersey Girl on Heartattack and Vine

Gil Scott Heron Gun on Reflections

Joe Zawinul Cafe Andalusia on Joe Zanwinul

Sonny Rollins St Thomas on Saxophone Colossus

Roy Hargrove Oh My Seh Yeh on Habana

Charles Lloyd The Water is Wide on The Water is Wide

Amy Winehouse Moody’s Mood for Love/Teo Licks from Frank

McCoy Tyner When Sonny Gets Blue on Today and Tomorrow


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