A couple of very "Canterbury" sounding bands from early 70s France and one from late 70s East Coast USA, an intriguing Henry Cow demo, Archie Shepp employing a synth to great effect in '71, a set of Canterbury-related pieces (Hopper, Wyatt, New York Gong) involving saxophonist Gary Windo, gems from Eno, Beefheart and Radiohead, and a couple of Annette Peacock songs. Also Caravan, Hatfield and the North, and Richard Sinclair accompanied by a church organ in Harlingen. From the current Canterbury music scene, pieces from The Thirteen Club, Vels Trio, Syd Arthur and Arlet (covering Eno!).
Captain Beefheart's Magic Band have been touring in one form or another since Simpsons creator Matt Groening urged them to reunite for an All Tomorrows Parties festival he curated in 2006. I remember hearing a John Peel session around that time and being quite bowled over by how great they sounded (and how well John "Drumbo" French handled Beefheart's vocal lines). In recent times they've been down to Drumbo and "Rockette" Morton on bass, plus a bunch of new recruits, and then for this tour, Rockette had to pull out as he's recovering from heart surgery. So it was just Drumbo and some relative youngsters — but WOW! what a band...
They played songs from across the Beefheart canon, the setlist being more-or-less this:
My Human Gets Me Blues
Low Yo Yo Stuff
Diddy Wah Diddy (Bo Diddley cover)
When It Blows Its Stacks (featuring an incredible "shredding duel" between the two guitarists)
Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles
Tropical Hot Dog Night
Nowadays a Woman's Gotta Hit a Man
Ant Man Bee
Hair Pie Bake I
Bat Chain Puller
Steal Softly Through Snow
Moonlight on Vermont
Big Eyed Beans From Venus
Drumbo didn't just do the vocals (with total commitment and flair), he also handled the Captain's saxophone and harmonica parts as well as getting involved in the drumming (otherwise the responsibility of Andrew Niven). It could all have seemed a bit weird and forced, but in the moment it seemed like the most amazing live band you're ever likely to see. The two guitarists (Max Kutne and Eric Klerks) were mind-bogglingly talented, while the newest recruit (Brian Havey) calmly held down the crazy bass parts on his keyboard.
The audience were largely ecstatic by the end (a lot of us up and dancing for "Big-Eyed Beans From Venus" encore), but not everyone was into it from a couple of things I overheard — I think they were disappointed that Von Vliet himself wasn't there, but surely they knew what (not) to expect? Anyway, I was fully booglarized, and am likely to stay that way for a while now...
Aidan from Arlet has another band called Effra, a London-based trio who I'd never heard before. Phil from Lapis Lazuli offered me a lift out to Deal for this (unfortunately we missed the first set due to communication problems) and it was an excellent event. I was expecting something more conventionally "folkie" (whatever that means), but was pleasantly surprised. They're actually quite Arlet-like, despite being their own thing. No vocals, just guitar, violin and accordion, and all three of them write tunes, so there's quite a lot of diversity in their music. There is perhaps more of a Celtic folk element than in Arlet, but done in an interesting and original way. The Lighthouse, having been open for a while now, is starting to settle into a very distinct, quirky, cosy, welcoming atmosphere. There's a crowd of music loving types in Deal who frequent the place, who really listen and are properly appreciative. The place is starting to get adorned with a lot of beautiful artefacts and clutter, plus there are usually a few members of Cocos Lovers and the Smugglers family in there at any given time, so I'm always happy to drop in there.
Here's Effra a little while ago at the Bath Folk Festival:
Water Lane Cafe, Canterbury
I happened to see a poster for a local album-listening group that meets monthly, so decided to go along. This month it was The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, which (apart from the obvious four or five well-known songs) I had somehow never heard before, despite having read descriptions of its amazingness and musical significance. A group of eight student-aged people were sitting listening to a vinyl copy of the album when I arrived (15 minutes before the start time on the poster), and there was quite a lot of giggling, whispering and off-putting muted banter between them throughout. The album got raffled off at the end after a little bit of a discussion. It didn't really speak to me, despite the obviously impressive production and harmonising (and I think missing the beginning and being distracted didn't help). Nice idea though — it's the fourth or fifth one they've done, the organiser having come across something similar in Berlin.
Westgate Hall, Canterbury
I don't think I've been to a gig in the Westgate Hall (a community-owned space) for over twenty years, possibly 3 Mustaphas 3 in the early 90s. This was The Thirteen Club, the relatively new jazz fusion quintet that's emerged out of the CCCU music programme. They'd set the space up with candles and low lighting, got the volume level about right (although the mix wasn't great, the bass getting lost — acoustically, it's not an easy room to work with). I was impressed by them when they played the Clash of Moons Club a few weeks back, and by their debut EP So Yeah. This took that to the next level. Ben's keyboard playing is especially interesting, and the final piece, featuring a guest trumpet and second saxophone suggests more good stuff is on the way. I'd only spotted the poster for this that afternoon, so put word out to various people around town, managed to get half of the Boot Lagoon (who were unfamiliar with the band) there, who were equally impressed.
The couple of days before, I'd seen Ben, Elisha and Jason from The Thirteen Club playing as part of the Canterbury Scratch Orchestra at St. Gregory's Music Centre (in the old church across the road from the main CCCU campus). This is something Free Range organiser Sam Bailey runs, inspired by Cornelius Cardew's original Scratch Orchestra. It was a tenpiece, with a couple of other familiar faces: Richie Ryan on drums (one of two drummers), composer Matthew Brown on viola. Elisha was on bass rather than sax and Jason on guitar rather than bass. They played an ambitious set: Miles Davis' "Bitches Brew" and "Nefertiti" run together, a Cornelius Cardew improvisational piece based on a story with various instruments as characters, and Robert Wyatt's "Sea Song" with guest vocals from Jack Hues. Really good energy, and a free gig. I should get to more of these.`
The third installment of the monthly psychedelic/progressive live music night. As Professor Appleblossom, I DJ'd before and between the bands, attempting to bridge the musical spaces between them, and then threw on some danceable stuff (Afrobeat, Ethiojazz, etc.) to close out the night.
First up were Splink, featuring Leonie Evans' dad Matt on lead guitar. He used to be part of the Whir-Y-Gig crew, doing rave-style decor for events in the early 90s, and brought Leonie up listening to Gong, Hillage, Ozric Tentacles and The Orb. He was so self-deprecating about his own music when I spoke to him a while ago that I was genuinely surprised at how good his band were. As well as his own mercurial guitar playing, there's some beautiful violin in involved. The bass player's appearance, glasses, mustache, hat and the angle at which he held his bass were very reminiscent of Hugh Hopper — would have been the perfect in a Soft Machine tribute band (no fuzz bass heard that night though!)
Lapis Lazuli played next, COMC organiser Adam behind the drums as usual. They were launching the vinyl re-release of their Alien album that night, and played the whole thing (somewhat reorganised, with some other bits spliced in, I think) as one continuous piece. They sounded exceptionally tight and yet were clearly having a lot of fun with it. A new album (three pieces — "Reich", "Phighyphe" and "School") is just about to be recorded.
Evil Usses headlined. This is Dan (drums), Leon (bass) and Lorenzo (tenor sax, Casio keyboard) from Rae, plus their old friend Conrad Singh on guitar (our friend Dave commented that Conrad brought a Sly and the Family Stone vibe to the proceedings). They'd played a "quiet" set for a few of us at a secret location the night before; this was them in full, abrasive freak-out mode. Resonances of Lark's Tongue-era Crimson, Deerhoof and Beefheart. And quite a bit of humour in the mix, too, like Lorenzo looking characteristically baffled as he struggled with the presets on the Casio.
Professor Appleblossom became Professor Alienblossom for the final post-EU set:
The Free Range series of Thursday night avant garde music, poetry and film nights no longer has a permanent home, now that Mrs. Jones' Kitchen has sold up (soon to become an ice cream parlour). For the rest of the year, it's going to be moving about between "pop-up venues" around the city. The last two were excellent:
5th November 2015
Kat Peddy's front room, St. Dunstans
A short solo piano set from Sam Bailey on Kat's battered old piano on which he'd never previously played, but from which he produced the usual range of extraordinary sounds from using his now-familiar toolkit of non-conventional implements:
We then got a truly dynamic set from Hello Skinny, the ever-evolving project based around Tom Skinner (wonderfully fluid drums), this time with Tom Herbert (double bass) plus Free Range semi-regular Robert Stillman (tenor sax). Both Tom's have played in Byron Wallen's band (who blew the roof off Mrs. Jones' to end the spring 2015 Free Range series). Sam returned to the piano for their last piece, to great effect.
12th November 2015
Water Lane Cafe
This featured The Miserichords, who are Mavernie Cunningham and Will Glanfeld of local legends The Happy Accidents, and Kiwi terpsichorean double bassist David Leahy. Mav reads and sings her poetry (the first I'd heard of it, and it's very good stuff), Will plays free-jazz bass clarinet and David does his usual boundaryless bass thing (minus the dancing). The cafe door was open, it being a mild night, and a duck on the adjacent River Stour got vocally involved in the end of one piece, much to the audience's amusement.
This was followed by some excellent "found" and "Tipex" poetry from Glaswegian poet Nick-e Melville (the later involving the selective deletion of words and letters from official documents and letters). There was a second poet, Jennifer Cooke, but I unfortunately had to leave early, but there is a recording, here:
All Saints Church, East Chiltington, Sussex
31st October 2015
Somehow I'd not managed to see either of my friends Andy Letcher and Jim Penny's bands until recently. I caught Wod at the barndance in Dorset a few weeks ago, and this was my first encounter with Telling the Bees. And I picked a good one! Despite recently appearing on the cover of Folk Roots magazine and getting rave reviews for their third album Steer By the Stars, they'd just played a gig in Sheffield to half a dozen people and very little atmosphere. This was the complete opposite, in a church in a village full of eccentric characters, everyone coming out to see them and properly listen.
From Plumpton station, I had a magical walk along bridle paths in mist and moonlight, under silhouetted twisty trees, up a hill to the church of All Saints (I'd somehow expected a village hall gig, so this was a lovely surprise) with a 1300-year-old yew tree just outside (predating the church by centuries). Beautiful acoustics, and a stained glass window with Jesus appearing to be high-fiving the viewer (with some cherubim busting hiphop-type moves in nearby inset circles).
They played two sets, all songs written by Andy, plus a couple of instrumentals on which he played his English bagpipes (to start the second set). Highlights were the Oxford May Song (a kind of anti-seasonal song, celebrating something exactly six months away), "Otmoor Forever" and the lovely drifing title track of the new album which they encored with. Colin's basslines were always fascinating yet unobtrusively served the songs (he mostly played electric, but the double bass got used on at least one number). The interplay of Jane's violin and Jim's concertina was sublime, and quite Spiro-like at times.
This had been organised by villagers Jo and Mikey, that being Jo from Jim's third band, Red Dog Green Dog, who I travelled with to Dorset for that dance in September. They'd mentioned putting on gigs in the village, which implanted the idea for me to make the journey. We ended up back at their house, playing tunes around the kitchen table, welcoming in the Celtic New Year. I mostly just listened to the twisty-turny and harmonically unpredictable Breton tunes which are too complicated to pick up on first hearing, but every now and again there was something played that I was able to join in on with my saz, as I appear to be doing, lower left:
I also ended up introducing Andy [double PhD and author of Shroom: A Cultural History of Magic Mushrooms (Faber&Faber, 2006)] to the Google DeepDream algorithm, which I'd only recently been shown and he was oblivious to. Here's a before-and-after of the East Chiltington Yew...
...and of the man himself (quite appropriately with a couple of birds growing out of his hat, a few spare eyes, and a weird beetle thing crawling on his chin — click for a closeup):
The day before, Jo had given a talk to 1500 people at The Dome in Brighton as part of a TEDx event, on her work with music therapy and dementia (she administers a charity called Rhythmix). Apparently that went extremely well, so she was deeply relieved, and invigorated by the experience. That should appear on the main TED website once they've had a chance to carry out the usual vetting, and then I'll embed it here.
This was to be the last ever Free Range event at Mrs. Jones'. As well as being the effective launch of the new Free Range Records label (with the release of their first title, Jack Hues & The Quartet's A Thesis on the Ballad), this featured the live debut of Nelson Parade, the new solo project of Callum Magill, the keyboard player from local prog rock quartet The Boot Lagoon. He played a pair of epic compositions (recently recorded and soon to be released on Free Range Records), "Sunrise"/"Moonrise", which I can't even begin to describe. I knew he was a good pianist, but the emotional depth of the composition was quite astonishing. Although I've never really "got" them, the experience of hearing these pieces reminded me of how other people talk about Keith Jarrett's Köln concert recording. There were definitely Canterbury pastoral-prog elements, a lot of classical and jazz influences, a lot of Callum playing in his characteristically aggressive percussive style (at one point he seemed to be making this grand piano sound like a Moog, just by the way he was hitting the keys!), and at one point towards the end of "Moonrise" the music had a kind of "nervous breakdown", collapsing in on itself in the most astonishing way. I was seriously impressed, look forward to seeing where he takes this
I had to miss the The Quartet performance, as Tom Holden and I had planned the first in a series of microgigs (sort of under the name "Binnewith News", or maybe "Binnewith Gnus" or "Binnewith Nous" or ...), this one being in his front room for an audience of six. The idea is to play gigs small enough that everyone present can get to know each other. We were a bit under-rehearsed, and I wasn't that happy with a lot of my playing, but here's a partial recording:
Since then, I'm happy to report, Aidan from Arlet has joined us on accordion. Only three reheasals so far, but it's like the music has gone from black-and-white to colour. He's already written up some of our pieces as sheet music — quite strange to see tunes I've made up rendered as what looks like "proper", and rather complicated-looking musical notation (I read music proficiently for about seven years as a French horn player in the '80s, but that ability has completely gone now).
An unexpected evening of musical wonders at The Lighthouse, with Daisuke Tanabe on tour from Japan. He played a long, continuous set with laptop and some kind of sampler-type gadget. The sounds were refreshingly hard to describe, but it was by far the most convincing live electronic performance I've seen (it would have been even better if his laptop screen had been projected on the wall behind him so we could've seen exactly what he was doing). There were a few dancehall and hiphop samples thrown in, but mostly abstract electronica. He had a lovely energy and his set was really well received by the music-loving Deal crowd (even a few imaginative types dancing at the back to the disjointed beats). I get the feeling every set he plays is completely different, but here's some idea (sorry about the Red Bull advert!):
* * *
I was back at the Lighthouse for another gig a few days later (the afternoon "Sunday Service") with the excellent Glasshouse from Canterbury, featuring the amazing soul vocals of Ginger Bennett in the second set (I had to run for a train far too soon, but got to hear her sing "Spanish Harlem"). The first set included some Cuban stuff, ska and a bit of Canterbury-ish fusion, as well as this Ethio-jazz tune "Safari Strut", which turns out to be by the (German) Whitefield Brothers:
The tenor sax player is Peter Cook who I've seen around Canterbury playing with Luke Smith and others, the trumpet player's Spanish, the bass player's a new young Polish recruit and the drummer is the son of Martin, the bandleader, guitarist and keyboardist.
Phil and Neil from Lapis Lazuli came over for a jam one evening last week. My attempts to play saz with Phil in the past have been frustrated by the volume disparity between it and his tenor sax (I had to bash away at my strings and he had to play in a painfully restrained, breathy way). This time Neil came too, with a busking amp with a couple of inputs, acoustic guitar and fretless bass. This worked much better. As usual we spent half the time chatting between jams, but still managed to play quite a bit. There were a couple of chunks worthy of preservation:
A recent reworking of Hugh Hopper's "Facelift" featuring his saxophonist brother Brian with young Canterbury friends, Soft Machine playing on French TV in '72, Robert Wyatt singing on British TV in '83, Hillage and friends getting cosmic in '77, an acoustic Egg cover, another Soft Machine cover from California's The Monks of Doom, spiritual jazz classics from Sun Ra and Herbie Hancock, some gorgeous 21st century Fripp & Eno, Archie Shepp connections past and present, and new music from the Canterbury area in the form of Adam Oko, The Thirteen Club and Arlet.
Bramleys jazz jam, Free Range, Sam Bailey turns 40
After an interesting discussion of aesthetics with the recently revived UKC Psychedelics Society, a significant contingent wandered down the hill to Bramleys for the fortnightly jazz jam. Nothing too inspiring this time, but Phil from Lapis Lazuli turned up and a nice jam ensued with co-organiser Jules on bass (he seems to play everything), an American drummer and someone with a serious afro on guitar. Nice to see it so busy down there even if listening to the music is secondary to the chattery socialising that goes on.
Mrs. Jones Kitchen
The Free Range series of weekly avant garde music, poetry and film events is looking for a new venue. Mrs. Jones is selling up and her lovely Kitchen (perfect for FR) is to become an ice cream parlour. But organiser Sam Bailey doesn't seem too worried, has various leads for a new place (the next eighteen Thursdays have been scheduled, and if it comes to it, we're going to gather in various people's front rooms apparently!). On a more positive note, Sam got the Arts Council funding he'd applied for, so Free Range will definitely continue.
This particular event featured Berlin-based pianist and electronic sound artist playing Morton Feldman's final piano piece, "Palais de Mari" (really moving), followed by some rather industrial sounding electronic improvisations. He was meant to be joined by Brighton double bassist Gus Garside, but Gus was unable to make it. I'd almost decided to go to see Acid Mothers Temple in Ramsgate that night, which no doubt would have been incredible, but I didn't feel disappointed with what I ended up experiencing.
Sam had just turned 40, so was surprised by several of the ZONE poetry collective reading eight short poems from Frank O'Hara, who was also a pianist and Rachmaninoff enthusiast who used to write a poem for Rachmaninoff's birthday each year. I enjoyed those. I ended up at Sam's birthday a few days later, chatting to a couple of his musician brothers plus local folkie Jon Woode, who I'd not seen for a couple of years. At one point late that night, inspired by a reference of mine to Eno's Oblique Strategies creative oracle cards, Sam went and got his set and dealt everyone a card. Mine was "Humanise something perfect", which I couldn't quite work out how to achieve at the time, but his was perfect: "Just keep going"!
The second Free Range event of the season. Richard Hull played two sets of short solo trumpet pieces with curious, amusing titles, alternating with Iain Sinclair reading psychogeographical poetry (much of it about Hastings — I'm guessing he now lives there). One "found poem" assembled from fragments of mobile phone conversations overheard on London overground trains was particularly memorable and well received, but best of all was the poem "Blair's Grave" from around the time of the Iraq invasion, accompanied by Sam Bailey playing intense, unhinged prepared piano:
Colyer-Fergusson Hall, University of Kent at Canterbury and Canterbury Cathedral
7th October 2015
The music department at UKC is running free lunchtime concerts in their acoustically fantastic new hall. This one featured Naomi Okuda (recorder) and Tom Foster (harpischord). The harpischord had recently been built for the department, this its maiden voyage, with the maker present in the audience. Sitting near me was Director of Music Susan Wanless, who I remember as conductor of the UKC Orchestra when I was playing French horn in it '88-'89 (happy memories of playing Handel's Messiah in Rutherford dining hall...). The concert was billed as "18th century virtuoso music" and featured works by Handel, Bach, Telemann and the more obscure (but apparently a big influence on Bach) Johann Fischer.
Later that day, I decided to go and partake of Evensong in the Cathedral quire. Somehow, I'd never managed to have done this. I can't remember what was sung, but it involved celestial voices spiraling up into the extraordinary architecture. Wonderful. But there were scriptural readings too, I'd sort of forgotten about that. The one from the New Testament was a puzzlingly detailed travelogue from The Book of Acts (Paul and friends sailing around Crete, interesting enough, but I couldn't quite see the point). The Old Testament reading was horrendous, though (from 2 Kings Chapter 9), here's part of it:
Jehu got up and went into the house. Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head and declared, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the Lord’s people Israel. You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel. The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.’” Then he opened the door and ran.
This was read without irony, or even an explanatory preamble, by a pompous cleric in anachronistic garb. What is the point of this? I really wanted to ask him afterwards, but he and his similarly-attired associates left through a separate door to the "audience". Oh well. Nice singing, though, so I'll probably return.
I woke up one morning recently wondering if the recent Robert Wyatt biography by Marcus O'Dair was out in paperback yet. I'd gone to the launch event on the South Bank earlier this year and had even been introduced to Robert, but had been waiting for the right time to read the book (having had a considerable reading stack to get through, as usual). The same day I checked my email and found that Mark Ellingham of Serpents Tail Press had contacted me out of the blue, having apparently been enjoying my Canterbury Sans Frontières podcasts, and asked if I wanted a free copy of the new paperback edition!! Naturally I did, and it arrived two days later, complete with a bookplate signed by Robert and his wife Alfie (she's his muse, manager, some-time lyricist and has done all of the artwork for all of his solo releases since Rock Bottom).
I've been enjoying reading this book so much that I'm rationing it so that it lasts longer! It's beautifully written — the author has made himself completely invisible in the text, he has clearly dedicated himself fully to serving the subject matter, and fully deserves all the praise he's received for this book. I'm filling in a lot of minor gaps in my knowledge of RW's life and work, discovering recordings I didn't know about.
Here are a few things I didn't know about:
This short film "Solar Flares Burn For You" has an experimental, droney soundtrack composed by Wyatt, recorded at Nick Mason's house in spring '73. The last few minutes start to resemble the track of the same title which showed up on his Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard album.
Matching Mole were considering recording this George Harrison song on their first album (as well as Gil Evans' "Las Vegas Tango" which Wyatt had included a version of on End of an Ear in 1970). I'd somehow never heard it before, and I'm now obsessed with it:
In April '73, Wyatt was playing free jazz with saxophonist Gary Windo, Matching Mole's keyboard player Dave MacRae and bass virtuoso Ron Mathewson as WMWM. A recording survives, worth listening through the rather distracting digital distortion:
He's only performed on stage a handful of times since his legendary Drury Lane concert in September 1974. One of these, I learned, was at a Raincoats concert, presumably about '82. As a Rough Trade labelmate and musical kindred spirit, he'd guested on The Raincoats' Odyshape album (one of my very favourites), and many years later booked them when he was curating the Meltdown Festival on the Southbank. But at this concert they got him up to sing one song, "Born Again Cretin", one of his very few compositions in the fallow '74—'84 period. O'Dair relates that he brought the house down, despite suffering terrible stagefright. As far as I can tell, no recording exists of this, but I did find this, which was from his appearance on The Old Grey Whistle Test on BBC TV (a programme originally devised by Kevin Ayers' dad Rowan, as it happens) during which he's better remembered for performing "Shipbuilding", one of only two "hit" singles he's released. I'm guessing the BBC have taped over the footage, as it's never surfaced, but it sounds like someone helpfully recorded the audio off their TV:
Local legend Luke Smith has relaunched his "Lo-Fi Zone" after taking the summer off, now moved to Sunday nights, which is about right for this kind of low-key, mostly acoustic music. I hadn't been to one since the relaunch, and Tom Holden and I are going to be playing there soon, so I made an effort to get along last Sunday. As well as some old favourites from Luke Smith and the Feelings (Luke, his dad Dave the Drummer, and new recruit Tom Holden on bass), we got some high-brow poetry from Canadian academic Dan Keeler (apparently he's currently writing a Masters thesis on Donkey Kong), with obscure references from mythology, Lou Reed albums and computer games.
But the main act of the evening was Sam Brothers (not "The Sam Brothers" as Tom had imagined...Luke joked that Tom was disappointed that there weren't more of him, and a joker in the audience shouted out "We demand a recount!"). Sam's a captivating young singer-songwriter often seen busking in town. I first saw him play a couple of songs at the Bramleys jazz jam a while ago, shortly after he moved here — "Moondance" and "St. James Infirmary", both of which he completely made his own, leaving me and Matt Tweed wondering "Who is this? Why isn't he famous?" He played a few originals, then some gospel-blues like "Keep Your Hands the Plough (Hold On)". Due to an unfortunate beer-spillage on some sound equipment, a fuse suddenly went, leaving Luke scurrying around desperately trying to restore the sound and lights. But Sam, a busker and musical old soul, didn't miss a beat, just slid the mic stand to one side and sang/played a bit louder. All credit to him. The sudden loss of electricity added a layer of authenticity (lesser singers would have stood around awkwardly or got annoyed). He got his friend Callum (another similarly talented busker) to play harmonica and sing on "Dust My Broom", then blew everyone away with "St. James Infirmary". The audience was a mere dozen, but it was a cosy atmosphere, a sense of being among the privileged few to experience such a memorable performance.
Canterbury's prog-funk maximalist quintet Lapis Lazuli are about to release their last album Alien on vinyl. As part of this, Adam the drummer has put together this amusing alien-themed video from some live footage filmed at The Gulbenkian back in February:
They'll be launching the vinyl at a gig at Bramleys on 28th October, with Bristol's psych-jazz-freakout quartet The Evil Usses and Leonie Evans' dad's spacerock band Splink! As with the last installment of the Crash of Moons Club, I'll be selecting tunes between acts as DJ Professor Appleblossom.
My Barcelona-based friends Gadjo were over in London for a couple of gigs. I hadn't seen Fraggle (accordion, vocals, dear old friend) for a couple of years, so got there early to catch up with her before their soundcheck. It's a lovely venue with a covered garden space out the back. You forget you're in London and feel like you're a festival. And, a happy surprise, Ash (of now defunct Canterbury good-time band Famous James & the Monsters, now living in Brixton) was working at the outside coffee bar, sorted me out with a pot of Earl Grey.
Support band Rum Buffalo were fun, clearly huge Gadjo fans and overjoyed to be supporting them. More focussed on the swing aspect of the Gadjo "mestizo" sound than all the other stuff. Unfortunately they started later than planned and went on a bit longer than planned, so I only got to catch half an hour of Gadjo, but what a half hour! I'd forgotten how fabulous they can sound, a 12-legged everything-matic music machine (double bass player George has had Lyme's Disease, so has sadly left the band for now, but Paul's holding down the bass lines most effectively on his sousaphone). They've got the cumbia and the Balkan and the klezmer and the ska and the gypsy-jazz, and somehow melded it all in a non-convoluted way. There are now many bands trying to do something approximating this in UK hippy festival world, but Gadjo make it seem effortless, and they have charm and warmth and humour. So just when they were seriously starting to cook I had to run for the last train to Canterbury, but with a huge smile on my face.
I was visiting my friend Angela in Deal last weekend, and while there, met her old friend Germaine. Germaine was at art college in Canterbury in the '70s, in various bands (including Red Roll On, a punky women's band in which Barbara Gaskin played keyboards). Naturally, we ended up talking about the scene in Canterbury at that time, and at one point I asked if she remembered The Polite Force, a band involving Dave Sinclair (ex-Wilde Flowers, Caravan, Matching Mole) and Graham Flight (ex-Wilde Flowers), as well as a young guitarist and Canterbury Scene enthusiast called Mark Hewins who I'd interviewed for an episode of Canterbury Soundwaves, about all the various projects he'd been in, playing with Hugh Hopper, Gong, Richard Sinclair, Elton Dean, Lol Coxhill, Steve and Phil Miller et al. This rang a faint bell for Germaine who thought one of her bands may have even shared a billing with the band.
There's been a battered old euphonium in Ange's front room in all the years I've known her, and I'd never previously given it much thought — her house is full of all sorts of fascinating clutter. But suddenly, for no reason I can recall, I remembered an anecdote Mark had fired off at me (one of hundreds, during our interview session) about how he'd played euphonium with Richard Sinclair's short-lived "Sinclair and the South" band, featuring Bill Bruford, in UKC's Rutherford College dining hall, c. 1978 "and have the photos to prove it!". I was struck with an overwhelming intuition that this was Mark's euphonium. Ange admitted she couldn't remember how she'd come to possess it, but it would have been at some point in the late 70's when she was hanging around with the musician crowd in Canterbury. So she took this photo and sent it to Mark (at the time compèring the Jazz Festival in Margate, where he now lives), and he confirmed that YES, this was his euphonium! It had gone missing around that time, and he couldn't remember the circumstances either.
Mark and Angela have since been in touch, had a good long reminisce, and he should be reunited with his old horn later today, after 37 years! He even has a tuba-playing cousin who's going to clean it and re-felt the valves for him.
The autumn 2015 season of Free Range started with a bang. Well, it started with about ten of the ZONE poetry collective poets simultaneously reading, with increasing volume, while randomly wandering around the cafe (this began very suddenly with no introduction), soon joined by David Leahy of Slap(dash) doing improvised dance in and around the poets, then joining Sam Bailey (playing chaotic piano, harmonium and bells) on double bass. It ended almost as suddenly as it began.
And then Sam introduced the remarkable duo of Paul Dunmall (tenor sax) and Tony Bianco (drums). They played a 45 minute onslaught set, inspired by late-period Coltrane (when he was just playing with Rashied Ali on drums, on ultra-challenging albums like Interstellar Space). They borrowed a few heads from Coltrane (I recognised one of the themes from A Love Supreme, and "My Favorite Things" got referenced towards the end. Full-on amazingness, which appears to have been recorded, so I'll post a link eventually if that surfaces on the FR audio archive. Despite drumming furiously for the best part of an hour, Bianco hardly broke a sweat. They seemed like very pleasant, humble blokes, despite being global jazz legends. And this was a FREE event in a supposedly sleep cathedral town. Next week we get to hear Iain Sinclair reading!
I spoke to Juliet and her friend Johnny afterwards, who'd spent the afternoon writing the first song for their new "Haitian VoodooFolkJazz Blues" project, which reminded me of the wonderful Toto Bissainthe, check this out: