24th July 2018
Although originally put forward as an evening of “Jazz Standards” it was felt that as 99% of musical input here is conveyed in song-form, as sung, perhaps we should actually go-by-the-book. In this event the legendary American one.
In a point of interest, personally I am a long-term fan of Keith Jarrett's “Standards Trio” As the core of their [piano/bass/kit-drums] discography and concert footage is sourced from “The Great American Songbook” – unsung save for Jarrett's own vocal musings, in improvisation – it really is jazz standards all the way with them. So it's all a bit subjective, really – We were flexible on the guidelines but a great effort was made to pay homage, one way or another, by all who contributed – Thanks for that!
As host I opened the evening as the list of performers had filled itself out all present and correct – no alterations whatsoever; I still managed to screw it up though, by giving George and Mary a false start when it was meant to be Jane on the slide. So G & T were graciously slid back to pit-slot-3, and Jane, relatively unfazed [considering she thought she'd just got the sack] reinstated herself on lap-steel guitar at the low chair in order to accommodate her instrumental stance with “Love Is A River” and “Put The Blame On Mame”. Only then did the laid-back, brought-forward duo get to render up their versions of “Red River Valley” and “Valley Of Tears” which taken altogether sort of put a nice, neat crease in our stride[s]. Their friend, and ours, Helen struck out on her own, unaccompanied, this evening with “The Way We Were” and “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime” which was very well pitched whilst being poignantly evocative of depression era, USA – I thought that kind of attention to detail [accurate pitching with no reference points, instrumentally] was/is crucial to any respectful performance of history appropriately acknowledged and alluded to.
Then Simon Watt came on with his great American CF Martin country guitar and gave us a characteristically laconic rendition of Jerome Kern's “Lazybones” which suited him very well and is sure to be incorporated into his own repertoire I would think, along with “Try A Little Tenderness” – followed closely by CJ Martin without his great American CF Martin but totally prepared via otherwise Americana offerings: John Phillips's “Me And My Uncle” in homage to the ‘greatest American band’, The Grateful Dead and Jim Stafford's “Spiders And Snakes”. Then he went back to doing an admirable job at the sound-desk – all night [plaudits].
Heather came on with Dylan's “The Times They Are A Changin'” and you can't get more American than that – it just gets laterally post-modern after that! As did Paul Simon's “Homeward Bound” with it's allusions to 'itchycoodancing (?) ….'. But – as if by some higher connection, Sylvie then stepped up to the hand held microphone, radiantly; just back from Scotland and as if to be handing the Great Lakes baton over to Heather en route to the Isle of Skye, Sylvie recited 'The Lakeland Ramble' and another poem with a lakeside scene in its 'crepuscular' imagery as we headed onwards through the notional twilight of Rogers and Hart's “Blue Moon” as performed by Clive whom, as the great patrician here, incited some collective empathy to a recent tragedy visited upon a friend's family as he continued with 'You'll Never Walk Alone' for her, herself a performer at The Six Bells Folk 'n' Blues Club – Yes, we do have doves here from time to time.
I digress – it was a good time to welcome Ella Moonbridge up to the piano for a rubato rendition of “The Nearness Of You” which I adore; we spoke of this afterward as I'd recently come across Norah Jones's version as tacked onto the end of her own Grammy Award Winner album, “Come Away With Me” – like a gem it was there at the top of my head and the slow [almost out-of-tempo feel] of Ella's transcription brought it on home nicely. Cole Porter's “ Night And Day” was handled similarly couched on a pure white cushion.
Back to Guitar-de-ville with Bob Melrose who gave us an interesting solo arrangement of “Tainted Love” syncopated in the way of 'Soft Cell' – I put it in inverted commas in the American way because that, according to Bob, is where it came from, a pre-80s B-side [many of which were plundered if re-energized during the Thatcher era over here] it slipped into out vernacular – as did Paul Simon's “The American Tune” – Ha! And then, a highly intelligent looking performance by Jason Loughran of “Everybody's Talkin' At Me” and “Georgia ...” which I've heard him do in duet mode with Lisa Jackson as fresh, young committee members, and I've heard Lisa play it solo, as indeed I often hear myself play it solo. This, though, was Jason's solo arrangement and it was positively dove-like in its articulation – fly Jason, fly; that duo should be heard far and wide!
Once-upon-a-time – yes it's getting there, folks – Keith Wilson, in an inspired stroke of genius, wrote a great American songbook song entitled 'Too Sad To Sing The Blues' thus cannily stepping outside of the Afro-American genre whilst, in an interior way, positively owning [inhabiting] it – Howzat! In a nutshell he encapsulated some perfectly transatlantic closure to a great evening of music from our perfectly English folk, blues and jazz-standards oasis here within the backroom of this little Home Counties establishment, totally unaffected by the passing of time as we know it – in fact, I was talking to a couple of English emigres there, just over from Australia since the 70s since when they used to frequent this place, like they were somehow caught up in the 4th dimension [as I remember it, too].
And, seeing as I seem to have just turned myself inside-out I should of course acknowledge Keith's great performance versions of “My Funny Valentine” and his totally hilarious inversions of “Summertime” from The Great American Songbook, proper; here's to “Porgy & Bess” and all the great archives of the world of music.
Tuesday July 10th
Football. Tennis. - Tennis. Football. - Football and Tennis. - The Tour de France.- Theresa May's Cabinet 'Turmoil'. - Boris and Davis. - The good news of the cave rescue in Thailand. - The Centenary celebrations of The Royal Air Force. These are the things that people were occupied with this evening.
So, we were expecting reduced numbers at The Folk and Blues Club. My journey to Chiddingly, which is usually slow with traffic, was completely clear. I counted only six cars, one lorry and a bus, and they were all travelling in the opposite direction anyway. If only the roads were so empty all the time ! And so it was, that yes, we had fewer numbers, but we ended up with seven players, two backing singers, and a poet.
As this is a Folk and Blues Club, and it's summertime, I decided to take advantage of this and I started the proceedings with 'Summertime Blues' by Eddie Cochran. My second song was one of my own - 'Open Fields', which is a protest against over-development of green space. " The sun comes up over the open fields - Day by day they take away the places - Where the children used to play. The sun goes down over the crowded town."
Simon Watt agreed to be in charge of the sound desk tonight. Thanks Simon. He also agreed to come on at second place, and he told us that he and Lesley have acquired a twelve week old puppy. A mix between a Spaniel and an Alsatian. That must be a Spanalsatianiel - or maybe an Alspanielsatian. Simon gave us a song about a dubious landlady 'Mrs Canatalees', followed by the sad but lovely 'This sweet old World', by Lucinda Williams.
Lisa Jackson always brings us something nice, and tonight she sang ' All I have to do is Dream' by Boudleaux Bryant, made famous by The Everley Brothers. Lisa has a lovely ability to take a well-known song such as this, and change it into something beautifully different, in her own style. Her next song was also in her own style, being one of her own compositions,' Just for a While'. ( I hope I got that title right).
Fourth on the list came George and Mary Georgiou, with George on guitar, and Mary singing in duet with him. They gave us John Prine's 'The speed of the sound of Loneliness', best known done by Nanci Griffith, and 'That's how I got to Memphis', followed by The Mavericks' ' Back in your arms again'. George and Mary stayed in place to accompany Helen, who I earlier described as a backing singer, ( along with Mary), - but Helen sang the lead on her two songs, 'Eight days a Week' by Lennon and McCartney, and 'Dock of the Bay' by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper.
Manus McDaid has been telling us of his recent conversion to the work of James Taylor, and he has transformed some of these songs into his own masterful Jazz/Blues style. Tonight's pieces were 'Shower the People' and a very clever and complex instrumental version of Erroll Garner's 'Misty'.
Another masterful guitarist is ,of course, Terry Lees. Terry came to the floor to play the great tune 'Planxty Davis'. Terry can make one guitar sound like three playing. He once told us that someone had criticised him in the past for "playing tunes with too many notes". -- Well, -- I would say that you could never say that, and anyway, every single note is always perfect. This was followed by Woody Guthrie's 'Do Ray Mi'. - ( Nothing whatever to do with Julie Andrews) !
When Keith Willson arrived earlier, he told us that he had accidently sliced his little finger with secateurs while working in the garden. -- I say -Accidentally - Of course ! -- You wouldn't want to do that on purpose would you !
In view of this , Keith was not able to play guitar or piano tonight, so he gave us a couple of his 'Thought Provoking' poems from his anthology - 'Life, Love, and Landscape'. He read 'The Herring Run Cape Cod' , and later came back to give us 'Them and Us' followed by 'Dead and Alive'. Thanks Keith, my thoughts have been provoked!
Last on the line up was Mike , from Hove Actually. He began with one of his own songs about guitar heroes who have been and gone, lived and died, and then launched into Roger Hodgson's 'Give a Little Bit', by Supertramp.
There was still time to let those who wanted to do a third song -- to do a third song, so Simon came back on to tell us one of his 'Stories'. This was about the time when he had a contract to deliver plants to the Maidenhead Sewage Treatment Works. The main ingredient of the story was 'Stool Pigeons'. Then he gave us a fine version of 'Love is the Sweetest Thing'. -- Unlike the Sewage Works.
By this time, a few of the earlier people had to leave, so we were down to just six of us left, so we all moved in close to the front, to form an intimate and small group.
Lisa returned to play and sing 'Don't be Cruel' in a style that as she had done earlier, transformed the song into something quite different. Thanks Lisa.
Manus then Kindly finished the night for us with 'Every day I have the Blues'. And it was a nice way to end.
We could have gone on longer, but we decided to finish early, so we were done and all packed away by 11pm.
Manus himself will be hosting next time, with the Theme Night of 'The Great American Songbook'.
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