Monthly Archives: September 2014

Dylan Howe live at King’s Place. 29 September 2014

Regular visitors may recall that I’ve been taking a look at a new recording each month. In late July my attention turned to Dylan Howe’s interesting reinvestigations of David Bowie’s late 1970’s Berlin instrumental tracks. You can read about Subterranean: New Designs On Bowies Berlin here. To summarise, I enjoyed the album massively.

I was delighted to discover that Howe intended to play this set live in its entirety on a UK tour. Even better, Andy Sheppard would be be taking care of saxophone duties.

The London gig was in King’s Cross at the newish King’s Place concert halls. A stylish setting amidst London’s latest district of architectural rejuvination and, somehow an apt place to hear Howe’s respectful jazz take on David Bowie and Eno’s compositions.

The band seemed very comfortable together and presented us with a faithful live reproduction of the recorded set. This was ideal and probably what most audiences would hope to hear at this stage, as there will be time enough for these arrangements to offer soloing space, if that is what Dylan Howe would eventually like to do with them. What we’ve currently got is a solid and, at times, very beautiful rendition of the recording and something that Howe deserves to be very proud of. However, there is still ample space for the live versions to develop to fully realise and release Howe’s aspiration of ‘John Coltrane meets David Bowie, recorded in outer space’.

Old School synthesiser passages are at the heart of many of these pieces and they were deftly delivered by Steve Lodder. Dave Whitford’s double bass added its deep natural-sounding gravitas, while Ross Stanley’s piano playing was as polished as the resident Steinway grand demanded. Dylan Howe’s drumming was subtle and fascinating to watch and hear. Andy Sheppard’s soprano on the the third number (All Saints, unless I’m mistaken) was my personal highlight amidst a very strong performance.

Bowie has, himself, given Dylan Howe’s album the thumbs up and it’s great to see the set and the tour gathering very positive reviews. As somebody who initially struggled with the instrumental side of Low, I never thought I would be still listening to and enjoying these pieces over 25 years later.

Congratulations to all involved with this interesting and imaginative musical resetting of these jewels. This performance deserves and will receive a rating of 9/10 on the downwithit.info live music index. As for me, to steal from and alter a Bowie title (cos, after all, Bowie is a self-declared magpie) I’ll continue to Watch This Man. Thanks Dylan.

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One Year Old: downwithit.info

This website is now one year old.

The first posting on downwithit.info was published on 19 September 2014.

In the last year the site has been visited 4097 times by visitors from 67 countries. 1867 visits have been from UK web addresses, followed by 1070 hits from US visitors. 99 visits have been made from Brazil, while there has only been 1 visit from each of New Zealand, South Africa and Pakistan and nobody has looked in from Jamaica or Iceland yet!

39 albums have been reviewed and these have included 6 newly released sets by artists who are currently active.

15 live gigs have been reported on (with a couple of Pharoah Sanders US gigs that I couldn’t get to also being mentioned).

The most rewarding strands involved finding out more about Freddie Roach and starting to write about current live and recorded music. I’ve particularly enjoyed gigs at East Side Jazz Club, where I’ve seen some superb musicianship from world-class performers and it has been great that Steve Williamson has made a very welcome re-appearance on live stages.

Bringing things right up to date, last week the first meeting of Macc Record Club took place and you can read about this excellent fresh initiative here.

Over the next year I intend to continue as before and I hope you all continue to visit.

Comments are very welcome and the one surprise is that there have been very few- so dont’t be shy. I’m sure some of what I write about provokes a reaction- so please feel free to react.

Onward to the autumn and winter of 2014.

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Roll Call: Hank Mobley

Hank Mobley Roll Call

Looking back over the postings here at downwithit.info, I’ve yet to take a look at a Hank Mobley set, although he is well represented in my collection.

I won’t hear a word against Mobley, though many have uttered them and Roll Call from 1961, was his 15th release as a leader (and his 11th on Blue Note). He is in in great company here with 23 year old Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and the crack rhythm section of Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers and Art Blakey.

The title track is also the opener and Blakey gets things underway with a drum roll before the band deliver Roll Call as a competent hard bopper. Freddie Hubbard shows that he has his own trumpet voice and plenty of ideas in his solo. My Groove Your Move is slightly slower, a mid-paced vehicle for a delightful Hank Mobley solo, followed by subtle piano and bass contributions from Kelly and Mr PC.

Take Your Pick is a pacey 60’s New York swinger on which nobody puts a foot wrong.

A Baptist Beat is my favourite on this set. Harking back to gospel and the blues, it’s a fine composition, which you can listen to and enjoy on YouTube.

To play, touch or click on the arrow.

The RVG Edition CD has the bonus of an alternative take.

The More I See You is the only composition on Roll Call not written by Hank Mobley. Originally written by the prolific Harry Warren it gets played straight in a cocktail bar style here. Manhattans (using your best Tennessee whiskey) all round please! A bit of a filler.

The Breakdown, another enjoyable hard bop blow along, with some mighty, muscular trading of fours between Art Blakey and the rest of the band closes the set.

Sitting in his catalogue between the might of 1960’s Soul Station and 1961’s Workout, Roll Call won’t disappoint, especially if, like me, you enjoy the soul-jazz flavour of A Baptist Beat.

London Jazz Collector has looked at Roll Call, and, as ever, has an interesting comment on this set here.

The band etc:- Hank Mobley (tenor sax); Freddie Hubbard (trumpet); Wynton Kelly (piano); Paul Chambers (bass); Art Blakey (drums).  Produced: Alfred Lion. Recorded 13 November 1960. Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.  Sleeve Notes: Robert Levin. Cover design: Reid Miles. Cover photos: Francis Wolff.  Originally issued as Blue Note BLP 4058

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Macc Record Club. 10 September 2014

One of the great delights of building a music collection is when the opportunity arises to play selections for other people and it can be even better if they introduce you to some of their favourites too.

Book groups have flourished up and down the country, offering interested people the chance to get together to explore new titles and discuss the merits, or otherwise, of what’s on offer.

Recorded music hasn’t received much of this sort of attention. Although, apparently there’s a Duke Ellington Society in London who get together to listen to the great man’s records and occasionally play other jazz titles.

In the spring I glanced at a HiFi magazine which told of a record club in deepest Derbyshire, where people got together to play vinyl recordings and talk about them. What a great idea and such a pity it wasn’t on my doorstep. I mentally filed it away in the ‘Good idea…But…’ section of my mind.

Luckily, somebody else also decided that what they had read about was a great idea. But, in their case, they were prepared to do something about it. In my home town of Macclesfield there was (in September 2014- as of January 2016 it now operates online only or by appointment) independent business where you can chose from great retro furniture and accessories. Simon, the proprietor, has a background in hi-fi, DJing and ultra high-end audio installation. So it was only a small leap for him to start to sell records and then to add simple retro record players to his stock.

Over time, local music lovers passed through the store, DMJ Vintage, enjoying entertaining conversation and, in my case, purchasing a Matmos Jelly Light. Simon had read the same article and decided to host a record night in the comfortable upstairs room of Mash Guru, an excellent and stylish local bar.

I was delighted to be able to attend the inaugural meeting last week.

Macc Record Club was advertised by word of mouth and text of Twitter. Like the Booker Prize, a few records were short listed and a main title was selected by public ballot, to be played in its entirety at 8pm sharp. Prospective attendees were encouraged to bring at least one track of their choice, of about 5 minutes in length, to play to everybody else.

Although it would have been relatively easy to put together a very high-end hi-fi, Simon, wisely in my view, decided to use a relatively simple and extremely affordable system based around Rega’s entry level turntable, arm and cartridge.

7.30pm arrived and five people had assembled. As I’d come quite a long way I was invited to play a tune. So it came to pass that the first record played at The Macclesfield Record Club was Blue Mitchell’s version of Hi-Heel Sneakers from his Down With It set. You may perhaps wonder why I chose that? Or perhaps not!

After that, we had Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited before all ears tuned to the album of the night, which was The Stone Roses first album. Drinks flowed, the conversation was rich and Scandinavian House, Steppenwolf, Now That’s What I Call Music Vol 35, Dr Dre, a track from a compilation of computer games backing tracks and Kenny Burrell’s Montono Blues (which you can listen to here) merged seamlessly. One by one we played our tracks and the first-night attendees swelled to about a dozen.

A memorable night was had. Unfortunately, time came for the closing tracks. Wigan Casino had the amazing three before 8 but Macc Record Club had its own show stopper: a selection from an ancient compilation of bands from Milton Keynes.

To that point an entire genre of music hadn’t featured- Country- but Simon put that right with the ballad of a father who baked a banana birthday cake for his lil (sic) son.

The narrative ran something like this: The said son thought that his dad had forgotten his birthday and ran out of the house, slipping on a banana skin (from the cake) into the path of a juggernaut, which ploughed into the house killing his mother too. What an amazing confection the cod cowboys of MK had conjured, presumably while tending their stone cows (next to Stone Roses?). Now that’s what I call country.

The format worked wonderfully and Simon and his co-producer, Peter did a brilliant job in turning a good idea to tangible reality. Macc Record Club deserves to flourish and I’ll be back from time to time. I had a dead good night and made sure the jazz flag flew proudly amidst the cornucopia of tunes. There was ‘No Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones’ in 2014 Macclesfield and sadly no Clash either, but The Modern Lovers and Patti Smith did make an appearance.

If you like the idea of what you just read about, why not start your own record club at a venue of your choice? The only requirement was set out by the sage of Hampstead, George Michael: a willingness to LISTEN WITHOUT PREDJUDICE. Men and women of the world, it’s time to get out of our sheds and dens and share those big tunes.

You can read about the continuing adventures of Macc Record Club here.

DMJ Vintage can currently as of July 2016 be found here.

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Of Polar Bears and Penguins: 2014 Mercury Prize Albums Of The Year

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Polar Bear’s In Each And Every One which we took a look at here back in May is one of three jazz albums named amongst the 12 ‘Albums Of The Year’ and nominated for the 2014 Mercury Prize.

Creatures from the glacial regions have certainly not been frozen out in 2014, as a second jazz set on the shortlist is V2.0 by GoGo Penguin. I don’t know much about them yet but the following comment invites a listen and I will report back here at downwithit.info.

Their second album v2.0 “pushes the acoustic piano trio format further into the future” (Jazzwise Magazine).

Sounds interesting, but I shudder on imagining what the London Jazz Collector posse may think of a piano trio supplemented by electronica.

Nick Mulvey’s Next Mind completes a strong jazz representation (although this album is more of of a singer/songwriter outing).

The overall Mercury Prize Winner will be announced on 30 October 2014.

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Steve Williamson live at Pizza Express Jazz Club, Soho. 1st September 2014

The summer of 2014 has hosted the welcome re-emergence of top British saxophonist, Steve Williamson. Back in late-June he featured in the re-creation of A Love Supreme (which you can read about here) and then guested on Black Top One (here). Although both of these performances gave a glimpse of his talents I was eagerly awaiting an opportunity to hear him play his own material as a leader. When I read about the September gig at The Dean Street Jazz Club I contacted them immediately, to be at the head of the queue. I enjoyed his playing over 20 years ago and it would be fascinating to find out how he had developed in the intervening years.

This was his first gig as leader of his own band, playing his own set for well over ten years. Backed by Michael Mondesir on bass, Robert Mitchell, piano, with Seb Rochford providing the drums (and last encountered here on percussion duty with Polar Bear), he was in superb company and he told us of his delight to be sharing the stage with them.

The first set opened with the unusual time signature of the lengthy Soon Come, which allayed any concerns that he may have lost his edge on tenor saxophone. Cracked Earth was next and I pondered the difference between performers who play their own material, rather than drawing on standards. I concluded that it depends on the quality of the material and Steve Williamson’s has tensile strength throughout.

Waltz For Grace, so old a favourite that my copy is on a C90 cassette, followed. SW switched to soprano sax and his anthem featured London-based Sardinian vocalist Filomena Campus, who has a most incredible jazz voice. Some people just sing while a very few others make use of an incredible instrument that they are gifted with. Campus is part of this small second group and I hope it won’t be long before I see her deliver her own set, as I’m sure that would be a treat.

Mandy’s Mood which sounds like a nod to Freedom Jazz Dance to me, took us to the interval.

Wakening opened the second half and was followed by Gary Bartz’s Celestial Blues, Journey To The Truth and Water Like Water.

Williamson’s confidence and assurance increased with every tune and this band, who were solid and unwavering in their support, will be a joy to watch if they come your way. I’ll certainly be hoping to see more of them as the days draw in towards winter.

As I’m confident that there is a great deal more to come, I will rate this gig as a 7/10 performance and bid the man himself a huge ‘Welcome back! You’ve been missed’.

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