19th February 2019
I thought it was going to be a quiet night and arriving to an empty room, I figured it would be an early night too. I was welcomed by Simon the Sax and Paul the Publican and immediately felt the golden glow of our Folk and Blues and burgeoning Jazz club, warm my cockles. And then you all started to arrive and those very same cockles made me feel alive, alive oh (there’s a song in there somewhere…).
Lovely opportunity for me to sing a couple of my own ditties to start off the music. Just for a While is a song that our dear Chris Liddiard helped me out with on the chords for the chorus. He actually sang it on a couple of occasions - a beautiful Chris interpretation that made me ache with pride to hear. Thank you to our much-missed Chris. My second song was the ‘Lala Song’ about music surrounding us wherever we go.
Manus took the dreaded second spot and performed a wonderful interpretation of Bob’s ‘Don’t think twice…’ Manus’s accomplished folk guitar picking was a joy. He then showed how versatile his Fender (and his fingers) are with an improvised Jazz Blues in E. A delight.
Keith was joined by Simon for an extraordinary performance that I will always remember.
Touching, heartfelt, original, magical. A recitation of The Weary Blues by American poet Langston Hughes written in 1925, during segregation and the Harlem Renaissance. Keith sang sections of the poem too, while Simon played the sax throughout, both creating an atmospheric and mesmerising few minutes for us all. Keith then changed the tone entirely with his interpretation of Keith Jarrett’s Heartland, played on the keyboard.
Well, what a great start to the evening. It continued from there, with Simon the Sax jazzing it up on All of Me and Watermelon Man by Herbie Hancock. Simon is adding a wonderful dimension to the club with his playing. A joy to hear.
And then, to show off how versatile and eclectic the performances are at the Six Bells, John Stephens performed David Gates’ Everything I Own and Black Velvet (originally recorded by Alannah Myles in 1989), giving me and Clive a chance to join in with a few quiet harmonies. Well, how can you not with those two songs!
Simon Watt sang Kate Wolf’s Here in California and an Irish number The Mountains of Mourne, two beautiful songs, movingly and sensitively performed. Jayne then took to the stage, performing her own song Mama Used to Say followed by (as Chris Martin wasn’t here) Summertime. But what a delightfully original version she played. Whatever anyone might think of this overplayed oversung song, it is an iconic one and hearing it interpreted so originally by Jayne was just lovely.
Clive sang two of his own songs which were so enjoyable to hear: Is it Summertime So Soon and Gonna Take a Chance. And with the bonkers warm weather we are having at this time of year, ‘Skylarks in February’ rather hit home.
Kat Black and Mr White (AKA Kat and Andy), the first time with us as a duo, delighted us with their harmonies and arrangements of Simon and Garfunkel’s Kathy’s Song and Sound of Silence. We couldn’t let them go without hearing another song, so they gave us Chris Isaac’s Wicked Game. Two lovely voices together with some terrific musical interpretations. I do hope we hear more from the Black and White twosome.
Next was Ella’s turn at the piano. I’ve been badgering her to sing James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James as she is now the proud Nana of a real baby James, and she did just that. It’s always a joy to hear Ella, but tonight she only gave us one song – always leave them wanting more, said Al Jolson…
Sylvie ‘s renditions of The Valentine’s Song written by a friend of hers and Drink, Drink, Drink, from Beggar’s Banquet brought back memories of me singing my heart out in Strauss’ Pink Champagne back in my previous! But I’ll keep my warbles to myself!
Early on in the evening I hatched a plan. Now it was time to put it into action. I invited our jazz men up, Manus, Keith and Simon who gave us an impromptu Autumn Leaves. As host of my own folk club some years ago, it was always hugely satisfying to encourage collaborations that would then go on to become exciting duos and trios etc. I hope that we will hear more from this Six Bells trio. Eat yer heart out Ronnie Scott!
To finish off our evening, Jayne sang Killing the Blues and John gave us a rendition of Space Oddity so we could end on a bit of a sing song. I had recently listened to Bowie’s 1967 solo studio album: a collection of Anthony Newley inspired ‘entertainer’ songs. Two years later when he was just 22, he had written and recorded Space Oddity. Where does talent like that come from!
And we had talent by the bucket load tonight. Thank you everyone for making it a pleasure of an evening to host.
5th February 2019
What a quiet evening it was to begin with. Quiet that is, in terms of the number of musicians present. Perhaps there was something happening elsewhere, but this evening marked a departure from the usual style of several performers and included many collaborative enterprises. Rather exciting, actually.
My introduction wasn’t anything very unusual though. I sang two Joni Mitchell songs accompanied by bouzouki: ‘Carey’ from her 1971 album ‘Blue’ and ‘Urge for Going’ from ‘Second Fret Sets 1966 – 68’, but I am familiar with it from her ‘Hits’ album of 1996.
Jim followed, playing guitar (I had previously only seen him play fiddle) and singing ‘Wings’ a song which questions why people cage the things they love most, written by the late Brian Bedford. His second song was about the single greatest tragedy of the blitz in London, where 200 people died at Bethnal Green underground station as they stumbled and fell down the stairs, and not because they had been hit by a bomb. This poignant piece: ‘Rosemary’s Sister’ was written by Hugh Williams. Jim also enthusiastically recommended Keith Willson’s book of poetry and made a request for Keith to read the poem about his double-bass Fred placing an ad in the ‘Lonely Hearts’ section under the title: ‘The Double Bass Seeks Love’.
The poem duly delivered was full of Keith’s characteristic wit. Keith remained on stage to perform a slow blues with Ian, another musician who had joined us for the evening, offering his harmonica-playing skills. These two had not previously met, but, after some technical re-arranging, slipped into a slow blues, ‘The Slow One’, a love song about two people meeting at a wedding several years after splitting-up. Between them, they definitely put the blues back into the ‘Folk and Blues’ identity.
In a change of style, Manus, also coincidentally having a Joni Mitchell moment, produced a guitar-focused version of ‘Boho Dance’ from her seventh album of 1975 ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’. Joni Mitchell’s songs can be quite complex. She is a very idiosyncratic song-writer and performer, using unusual timings and tunings, but very nicely done Manus. He continued with the ‘Days of Wine and Roses’ from the 1962 film of the same name, (music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer)and Simon joined in on sax. Apparently he was not familiar with the piece, not that you would notice. Simon, who has now joined us several times, also brought some wonderful alto sax into the mix. Very chilled.
The evening moved from folk to blues to jazz then rock and roll with Clive. As a sixty years tribute to Buddy Holly who died on the 3rd of February 1959, Clive gave us a lively version of ‘Peggy Sue’. The song was written by Buddy Holly, Jerry Allison and Norman Petty, about Jerry’s girlfriend. Having watched Mama Mia at Christmas, Clive was also inspired to sing Abba’s ‘Andante, Andante’, written by Bjorn Alvaeus and Benny Andersson and released in 1980. So the evening then progressed into some vintage ‘pop’.
Chris Martin was on next, and I think it would be fair to say that his songs were not folk, or blues, or jazz, or rock and roll, or even pop, so were a different genre as yet unconfirmed. His first song ‘Bixie Bear’was complemented by some lyrical soprano sax from Simon. Bixie Bear was dancing in the moonlight, hand in hand with that wooden man. I wonder if these were friends of Panyan. Heather joined in at the piano with Simon on sax again for Chris’s 1990 song ‘Right for Me’.
Heather remained at her piano (an electric one, reliably in tune, not the house instrument) She sang a lovely, pensive song, it’s first public performance as it was only completed earlier in the day: ‘Missing You’. She followed this with an instrumental that was all up and down the keyboard, a ‘protest song’ called ‘Silent Fathers’ about men who lose access to their children.
Simon, flaunting his best Christmas jumper, a gift from his sister three years ago, sang us a ‘proper’ folk club song, ‘Caledonia Calling’ a modern Scottish ballad written in 1977 by Dougie MacLean. Then came a collaboration, with Simon on sax joining Simon on guitar and vocals for a version of the Grateful Dead’s ‘Monkey and the Engineer’. Monkey at the controls ‘left the engineer with a worried mind’. This was a song with real gravitas.
The night was still young enough for another song from everyone. I sang ‘Blackwaterside’, a real, proper folk song that I heard first by Bert Jansch. Jim had to be gone, so Keith followed with the ‘The Worst Thing’ on guitar, a song that regrets the ruining of a relationship. He changed position to play piano, and with some technical rearrangements, Manus’ last song was an instrumental version of ‘This Masquerade’ by Leon Russell, released in 1995. Simon joined them on sax and there followed some very interesting, jazzy wrestling and interweaving of threads and phrases.
Clive brought us back to folk with his version of ‘London River’ made popular by Fairport Convention, from their ‘Heritage’ album of 1998. Chris performed his ‘Xeroxed Armies’ solo: a man with nothing has nothing to lose……. . Heather, on piano, sang ‘Yesterday’ with Simon on sax adding a lovely solo. Simon on guitar ended the evening with the beautiful Mary Gautier song ‘The Rocket’ (featured in my video selection). I accompanied Simon, (rather poorly as it happens), but he brought the evening to a nicely rounded conclusion after a very musically diverse two and a half hours.
For those among us who play the piano, there is an awareness of the house piano, which, lovely as it is, is not totally in tune and a bit uneven to play, so electric pianos turn up from time to time. I love the house piano because I haven’t had an acoustic piano for years and it is so very different (challenging!), but rewarding, to play. I noticed the piano on the Norah Jones video I have posted and it looks very beaten-up, doubtless in tune however, but it probably would have been far easier to plug in an electric one. Then there’s Willie Nelson’s guitar! Now that looks like a worn-out but dearly loved instrument, if ever there was one.
The evening was uncharacteristically marked by extended periods of arranging the stage and sound equipment, but nobody seemed to mind.
Thank you all for so much musical variety and virtuosity, to Simon of the guitar, for setting the room up and Chris for managing the sound.
With new horizons and possibilities reflected in this evening, we look forward to another evening of music on the 19th.
Take care and see you next time, Ella
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