Mike’s Monthly Musings – December

Gigs are so important

Live music gigs are so important, whether they be for classical, pop, or jazz. They are particularly important for the latter, since it is in this context that one hears musicians both at their best and worst, especially in terms of the improvisational element central to the music. This view was reinforced recently by my attending two live gigs, one in London the other at Harborough Jazz.

Much as I dislike going to London, the prospect of some great art on view, together with a session at Ronnie Scott’s club, proved an irresistible attraction in November. There are not many jazz musicians who I would now pay large sums of money to go and hear, but the appearance of tenor sax player Joe Lovano at Ronnie’s was too good to miss. Lovano currently stands at the top of his game amongst sax players and was making an appearance at the club some 40 years after he first appeared there as a member of the sax section in Woody Herman’s orchestra. Since then he has graced the ranks of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis big band, Paull Motian’s EBB group as well as fronting his own bands of various sizes. Over 10 years ago I had hoped I would see him at an appearance at the Vannes jazz festival, an annual event held not far from our French house and which we have attended nearly every year for the last twenty-five years. Unfortunately, he cancelled the appearance at the last moment. So this occasion represented probably my last chance to catch this great musician live – and I was not disappointed, notwithstanding a somewhat intrusive drummer – but then Lovano likes to be pushed by his percussionists! He gave a great performance, covering some 10 numbers ranging from Monk to Ellington, including a beautiful rendition of a Billy Strayhorn balled.

A few days later it was time to go to the Angel Hotel for the monthly Harborough Jazz gig. Held over Sunday lunch, the club’s November gig featured drummer Clark Tracey bringing in a group to celebrate his dad’s 1980s band Hexad. Stan Tracey was one of Britain’s most innovative and interesting jazz arrangers, writers and pianists, whose playing and writing always showed the influence of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk.  Son Clark has the marvellous ability to discover young musicians who are amongst the current best rising stars, a trick he has been performing for almost 40 years in the business. This group was no exception. If the rhythm section represented an older generation, they provided an excellent platform for the front line three musicians to make their own mark…and they certainly took the opportunity to do so. 18 year old Alex Ridout on trumpet showed why she had done so well in the BBC’s Young Jazz Musician of the Year competition –‘only runner up’ did not do her justice, whilst tenor sax player Nadim Teimoori was outstanding. Last, but not least, longstanding Tracey sideman, but soon to cut free, Chris Maddock on alto sax produced some hot solos. All three demonstrated why jazz in Britain remains in safe hands…

Surrounded as I am by around 2000 cds and nearly a 1000 lps, one might be forgiven for thinking that I don’t need to hear live music – there is no chance I will play and listen to all the records again in my lifetime. Indeed, one reason why I started SLU3A’s Listening to Jazz group was the recognition that it would force me to listen to some of those old discs again. Notwithstanding how good so many of them are and how one hears something different each time they are played, for me nothing musically quite beats the anticipation and excitement of hearing a live jazz performance. Which leads me to conclude, like so many of the correspondents to Private Eye, I simply ‘must get out more!’

Mike Goldsmith