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Bebop Spoken There

Art Blakey: "I don't wear a hearing aid on the bandstand. I play by vibrations - it worked for Beethoven" – (Down Beat December 1988).

Ralph Hutchinson: "I thought I'd gone as far musically back home [Newcastle/UK] and I wanted to get ahead of the boys. I wanted to hear Parker and Gillespie and Kenton." – (Down Beat, November 18, 1949).


Burton Agnes Jazz & Blues Festival Competition

Win a Family Weekend Pass to the UK's most idyllic Jazz festival. (July 1 - 3, 2016.)
1) In which county is Burton Agnes Hall situated?
2) Which artist appearing at the Festival was described by Christine Tobin as having ‘a wild musical spirit’?
3) Who will close this year’s Burton Agnes Jazz and Blues Festival?
Email your answers to
Competion is still open so enter to win a prize worth £283 and have a great weekend!
Programme Details.

Today Wednesday May 25

Vieux Carre Jazzmen - Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 3OS. 1pm. Free.
Take it to the Bridge (jazz workshop/jam) - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. 8pm. £1.
Dave Rae’s Levee Ramblers - Springwell Village Hall, Fell Rd., Gateshead NE9 7RP. 0191 4162630. 9pm. £2.
TBA - Cherry Tree, 9 Osborne Rd., Jesmond. 7pm. Tel 0191 2399924 to check.
Live jazz - Al Forno, 81 Skinnergate, Darlington. DL3 7LX. 01325 466585. 7:00-9:00pm.
To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Schmazz Factor - The Cluny.

Best Overall Band: CARPUS TRIO (Pete Currie, pno; Nick Grimes, gtr; Victor Solana, dms.)
Best Individual Performance: Christian Alderson, perc. (Long Lonesome Go).
Best Individual Composition: Final tune by Harley Johnson Trio written by Ivan Scutt.
(Click above for photo.)
I'm frequently at loggerheads with cricket umpires, football referees and X Factor judges so it is no surprise that I disagreed with this decision. However, that is 3 judges against one listener so c'est la vie.
The question posed here was what is and what isn't jazz. Certainly Carpus Trio, the winning band, were more rock orientated than jazzified, Long Lonesome Go were pure and simply an improvising trio with only Harley Johnson's Trio having any semblance to being a jazz group.
Carpus had the most explosive start of any band in any genré I've ever heard and possibly this shell-shocked the judges into another millenium. That Carpus were tightly efficient can't be denied. However, they offered little variety to these ears. In fairness to them, they were ideal Cluny material.
Long Lonesome Go played one number that lasted for all of their 30 minute set and I breathed a sigh of relief when it was all over. Having said that, their drummer probably did deserve the Best Individual Performance award.
Finally, the Harley Johnson Trio - Harley on piano, Ivan Scutt, bass and Sid Wright, drums.
On paper the favourites and, if it had been a Corner House gig, surely runaway winners.
They played brilliantly and originally without even a trace of the Monkishness so associated with Harley.
Where they may have lost points was the strange decision to feature two bass and drum duets in the middle of a thirty minute set. With no disrespect to the two musicians, who are both excellent, this did cause things to flag slightly and there was a sense of lost momentum. In an hour long set they may have got away with it but not in such a short stint.
The final number, by bassist Scutt, the title of which I'm afraid to say I've forgotten, was a belter that I felt might just have swayed the judges but didn't quite. At least it won the best composition prize.
Nevertheless, an interesting attempt that hopefully will be repeated next year.


  1. Thanks for coming along on the night. Carpus Trio was defintely more associated with the Cluny - where that puts Harley Johnson then who knows - Chillingham perhaps? Maybe I would actually get more gigs doing that sort of 'minimalist' material but I'd rather just keep doing what I love to do instead of betraying the 'tradition' of jazz!

  2. I thought the Long Lonesome Go were far the most innovative act; refusing to comform to the usual jazz cliches. They as least seemed to have a sense of humour about the occasion.
    The review and the previous comment confirm my worst suspicions about the insularity and cliqueishness of the North East Jazz Scene. Jazz is not something that can be constrained to being perceived as either appropriate to the Cluny or the Chillingham or both or neither: it transcends such parochialism.Jazz and "tradition" should be anathema.
    I expect we'll be hearing a lot more from the LLG: I concede that they need to be a lot tighter but they showed a wealth of ideas, originality, and a refusal to be derivative and to be intimidated by some fusty notion of what jazz "should" be.

  3. To me, the beauty of jazz is that it can be all things to all men (and women). Far from being insular and cliquish I think jazz appreciation in whatever form is wider than it has ever been.
    That I don't like everything I hear doesn't make me different to anyone else. The person who says he likes everything doesn't usually like anything.
    Nevertheless, nothing written within these pages is written in stone and I'll happily beg to differ whilst acknowledging everyone has a right to their own opinion. That it's not my opinion doesn't make it wrong or right just different.
    Long my jazz prosper on those differences.

  4. The 'jazz/not jazz' argument that's as old as jazz itself! I guess you're always going to get it with an art form that is as strongly rooted in the opposite poles of 'tradition' and 'innovation', and is innovation one of the main traditions within jazz - you can go on forever.
    For our part...
    We knew we were going to be the least 'jazz' on the nights bill by most people's idea of 'jazz'. We were certainly the least consciously 'jazz' of the three acts. To my ears both Carpus and Harley trios were clearly stating where there respective jazz flags were planted (indeed my main criticism of both would be that they didn't stray very far from those flags, but hey). The Long Lonesome Go flag is sometimes near a Stan Tracy trio, sometimes nearer Bitches Brew, sometimes Evan Parker. Quite a lot of the time it's somewhere a way from any of those. So some nights we'll be less 'jazz' than others. I would ask however how much free improvisation, extended technique/soloing and syncopation are a part of 'jazz'.

    The point is for anyone to like us or dislike us, or anyone, because of the noises we create is one thing. To like/dislike (or worse dismiss) anyone for the same can sound like someone saying 'that's not fair, they're not playing by the rules' and suggests a smallness of mind and narrowness of view, two things which, I think we're all agreed, have no place in jazz.

    Pawel - thanks for the kind words, I hope we can live up to them. The cheque is in the post.

    Harley - Keep doing what you love but remember the tradition of jazz is a history of betrayals, I wouldn't worry, she's a forgiving mistress. And if you think that the 'minimalist' guys are getting all the gigs... not in my experience they're not.


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Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: I look forward to hearing from you.

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