It’s hardly an original thought to note 2016 has been something of a dog of a year. Brexit, May, Farage, and now Trump. Where do these people come from? There’s always the music, though, and in 2016 that current has run as strong as ever under the bullshit of daily life. After my European ‘special’ here comes another melancholic post to reflect world events. I say ‘melancholic’, but the music of Americans Jeff Parker, Makaya McCraven, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, and even put upon old bluesman James Davis, seems full of joy. And here’s a fine video of America from another age, to accompany the track from Marisa Anderson’s new lp, Into the Light.
And here’s something perhaps a little more gloomy from Brooklyn resident Billy Gomberg.
There’s another track from Gomberg’s excellent lp, Slight at That Contact, featured in the show.
Still, it’s not all laughs and party tunes. Jason Molina’s cover version of Townes Van Zandt’s ‘I’ll Be Here in the Morning’ almost never fails to make my eyes water (there’s an unbelievable 37 copies of this ‘limited’ 7″ single for sale on Discogs – don’t buy it, stick it to the Record Store Day profiteers and just listen to it here); and F.J. McMahon’s 1969 track ‘The Spirit of the Golden Juice’ (culled from the fine Numero Uno compilation of lost recordings, Cosmic American Music) was recorded in the shadow of the Vietnam War. Ah well, thanks for listening and happy Christmas.
A Wednesday lunchtime at Ronnie Scott’s.
The sun shining down on to dancefloor in the upstairs bar; a nice-looking drum kit tucked away at the back; an ice-cold beer, with some old friends, just after midday. Brilliant. It doesn’t get much better — and in conversation with Richard Williams was the critic Brian Case, ex-of the NME, Melody Maker and Time Out, and now happily retired, enjoying just listening to music or reading a book without having to strain for an adjective or a rush of adverbs.
Because of my line of work I’ve sat through a fair few literary readings or ‘in conversations’ in my time, mind wandering, trying to remember if I’d turned the oven off before I left, worrying about something ultimately irrelevant at work. But this was different: hugely engaging tales of a life in books and music, of picking Dexter Gordon up from Heathrow Airport in a battered old green van in the rain in 1971; of loving the simple speed of Johnny Griffin; of dealing with the razor-sharp wit of Ronnie (Scott) himself (and the bar’s staff during the venue’s heyday); of the ecstatic life-affirming nature of jazz, but also of ‘down’ writers like David Goodis.
The occasion was to mark the publication of On the Snap by Caught by the River books. The book itself is full of such yarns, the encounters around the pieces of journalism, rather than the journalism itself — hiding behind a breakfast counter of a Danish hotel to check out whether Tom Waits was a fake or not; celebrating the genius of Ian Dury’s rhyming slang; talking about great American writers with Norman Mailer. And on and on. It’s a slim volume, but with a huge canvas.
There are only a couple of jazz tracks in this show, but what beauties: Don Cherry live in Nantes in 1964 and, right at the end, Gerry Mulligan at the Newport Jazz festival in 1958. Serendipitously, it turns out Gerry Mulligan was one of the first jazzers caught live by a young, teenage Brian Case in Deptford.
Sleevenotes for March show: It seems every time we cycle up the path by the River Lea a new block of flats has been erected. Just the other chilly Saturday afternoon, myself and Thurston, my son, hoped to get a cup of tea in a café along by where the boat people live, near Walthamstow Marshes. Unfortunately it was closed ‘having run out of food’ and so we sat on a bench and watched the river go by. A rare bit of winter sunshine, a couple of swans and a duck, and a young woman sat on the tow-path, sketching the barges moored on the far bank. Within minutes a hipster rolled up on his racing bike and started talking loudly into a mobile phone about ‘how corporate’ the Green Man festival had become. He stood, just blocking the final rays of sun, putting the pencil sketcher into the shade and shattering a brief moment of London tranquillity . . . I guess I’m no better, contributing more noise here, but I hope at least the next hour or so of music proves edifying in some of kind of small way (we all know corporate music festivals suck), and the music of Harold Budd, in particular, is worthy of re-investigation. There’s currently a huge amount of his stuff being reissued, including a 2cd retrospective, The Wind in Lonely Fences, and a lovely double-vinyl solo piano set, Perhaps. He comes across with much dignity in this Guardian interview; I can even imagine him puttering about on a canal boat on the River Lea Navigation . . .
I’ve seen Will Oldham live a handful of times over the
years. The first was back in the mid-nineties when the Sausage Machine ran a
great club night at a pub in Mornington Crescent, and the Palace Brothers
played a kind of double-header with Bill Callagahan’s Smog. I was there for the
latter, but left eager to check out the albums of the dude in the straw hat.
There was something about his cracked voice; and the warm organ, hushed tones
and waft of Leonard Cohen on the Hope ep won me over for ever. Read more…