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.
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