8pm: all set up and ready to get going with the music, but it has to feel right, doesn't it? It was worth hanging back a bit, I felt. Dynamics are the key to a musically viable performance and I wanted to start off with a quiet, reflective piece with a bit of technology involved as bodies settled into their respective cushions, hopefully, attentively. Appreciatively, I am glad for the support; it's mutual.
My first song was 'Pink Ukuleles' and it’s all about growing up -- I’m currently working into my own stuff again whilst embarking on a fresh recording project with some new equipment, so it’s great to test out the solo arrangements, messing with the tempos and overall meter of this piece. Followed up by John Renbourn's 3-time 'Waltz', an instrumental that appears to have come to him as a derived take on the jazz-waltzes of Charlie Mingus compositions via the prism of Davy Graham’s acoustic guitar work – I focused on the bass end of things with a bit of echo to accentuate the big-band arrangements and jazz-waltz-gospel [tongue-in-cheek] feel of Mingus, the double-bass player, himself: “Better Git It In Your Soul' – “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” et al. And I do tend to throw myself into this sort of thing as a musician and hope for the best [soulfully]; entertainer: not-so-much.
Jazz-waltz is a great means toward syncopation and 'swing' with the built in triplets of compound time [see video selection with this sermon], I'm passionate about it; I love playing 3-over-4 also because you can't get it wrong and you can't get it right and you can't accurately score it and it confounds the time-signature pedants and it gives the musicologists a dog-with-a-bone to play around with – try it! Set your metronome at a medium tempo [most of us have internalized common 4/4 time] and stretch three over the four by strumming, soloing or whatever; you won’t be able to do it but, trust me, stuff will happen.
As I filled out the template, on the clipboard with the pen as provided by Ella, I was absolutely made up walking around like a fully equipped ticket inspector on the buses; I have the pass, already – I was about to shove the John & Mark duo on second when Simon stepped in to rescue them, astutely observing that it wouldn't have been the most welcoming of moves to place them quite so early on as they are new to us – fair play! He went second giving us 'Funny That Way' by the New Zealander Mark Laurent, husband of Chris Liddard’s sister, Breda and 'You Ain’t Going Nowhere' [written in 1967, first recorded in 1971, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits/Basement Tapes 1975] on which he was accompanied by Ella as a prelude to J & M who came on with an instrumental from the flip-side of 'Albatross' followed by Steve Winwood's 'Can't find my Way Home'. And then we had another duo, George & Mary sang Ian Tyson's 'Four Strong Winds' and 'The Early Morning Rain' as they introduced more vocal harmonies than previous arrangements by them, which is progressive, I think.
Then, this bloke with a new album – Chris Martin soloed 'Wreckage' the division bell ringing out the broken hearts and dreams prior to lulling us back onto our cushions with 'Routine' both songs from 'Journey Part-1' followed on by the reassured solo performance of Paula with her own two songs 'Empty Chair' and 'Tonight' before handing over her nice acoustic guitar to Terry Lees – this was a real treat for me tonight [if perhaps less so for him, initially at least]:
Noteworthy new para here: Terry confided that he hadn't really been feeling fully up for it this evening, and due to some degree of vertigo felt it best to sit down whilst playing us his version of 'Judy', another John Renbourn composition, which was apparently based on the idea of Davy Graham's totemic 'Angie' and which, as a variation, is a far better tune in my opinion. Terry seemed to interpret it as such as he was playing soulfully great, feeling the harmonic movement, getting close to it – It's funny how being a bit off-colour can make one mellow-out, in the positive sense; plenty of players have used drugs to get to this kind of high-meloncholia, soft focus, kind of mood -- like it’s the holy grail -- but neurologically it’s where the mind just doesn't have the time for Show Biz considerations and cosmetic abstractions as it surpasses muscle-memory and truly gets right into the necessary essence of things at hand, in the moment. And Terry, having found his stride by virtue of having that already warmed-up instrument in his hands, decided that he would in fact continue with another instrumental, 'Living In The Country' which seemed to be as therapeutic to him as it was inspiring to me [I suspect that Terry himself never took any substance abuse routes as a detour to get-out-of-it-to-get-into-it, but I certainly did and to be fair, it was a bit hit-or-miss] in my youth. You don’t have to be ill or be getting stoned but it makes you think, doesn’t it – where do you want to be with it?
But, of course, you don't always have to suffer for the art. I introduced Jason Loughran as 'the most diplomatic ambassador of open mics [and spaces] ever' and he brought his sunny disposition to bear, in a balanced way, on 'Song For Our Dead Heroes'; he judged it right by not dwelling on the theme beyond the obvious tribute being conveyed. That's the way I got it, subjectively, as there seemed to be a lingering vibe of thankful reverence in the room when Lisa Jackson then came up to join him in an otherwise lighthearted arrangement of Broonzy's 'That's The Story Of Love' and, yeah, that's the glory of it, isn't it ... anyway, time to crack open the old Joanna I'd say, as Ella set herself down at the house piano with 'Fly Me To The Moon' which came straight out of The Great American Songbook tonight and some Americana with more than a mere nod to Bonnie Rait as she forged onwards and upwards with the less whimsical, earthbound but orgasmic 'Love Me Like A Man', a raunchy Barrel-house type of blues rendition indeed.
Nice to see Jayne Ingles and the applause she received before even playing a note which appropriately set the tone of respect felt in the house in the face of personal adversity – another soulful performance ensued as once again 'The Sun's Setting Down On Our Town' tonight.
Clive Woodman slipped me a piece of paper that goes like this: 'Over The Lancashire Hills as written by Stuart Marston and sung by Fairport Convention … the song refers to the opera singer of the early 1950s, Kathleen Ferrier … The Green Fields Of France written by Eric Bogle … the singer is talking to a WW1 soldier Willie McBride at his graveside' – well put Clive.
Time again for the J & M duo in their guitar/mandolin combination on John's original 'How Many Times' and 'Living My Life Without You' and Simon penultimate performance of Dylan's 'Paint My Masterpiece' from 1971 before Lisa & Jason graciously came back on to conclude the evening with 'Living On Faith' and a nice, bluesy take on 'Careless Love' – that was a surprise! Kept us on our toes, that did, featuring Jason's slide playing on an () guitar – nice one! Apologies to Lisa, though as my programming might have cut her out in her solo capacity as I may have press-ganged the two of them into playing us out so harmoniously, and I appreciate it. Thanks for being so adaptable, both.
Thank you all!
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