Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Canterbury, Bristol, Avebury

I was in Bristol recently, catching up with friends, making new ones, and witnessing some excellent live music.

A night or two before heading out (a serendiptitious lift with Claire who's temporarily moved into Laurie from Sondryfolk's room while she's out working on an art project in Ecuador), I spent a lovely evening around a fire with Dom and Miriam from Little Bulb Theatre plus Owen from Arlet. They'd just finished recording an album of Dom's songs over at The Bungalow on the New Dover Road with Neil from Lapis Lazuli, and treated me and a couple of visitors to live versions of most of them. Really quirky songs, beautiful harmony singing, some really creative violin and clarinet parts from Miriam and Owen respectively. One song sounded a bit like a dixieland band playing Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here"!

Out in Bristol my saz only got played once, a long, weird, fascinating jam with Chez (a circus type from the Performers Without Borders collective) at her house in Easton, she playing accordion. She turned out to know the members of Rae from the time she and they were all studying at Dartington College, and we ended up spending an evening with (the other) Dan, who lives with Dan, Leon and Lorenzo and plays in the reggae/rocksteady band Count Bobo with them. He mentioned that they've ended up launching an Ethiopique-style band called Tezeta. Initially they were just playing a set of Mulatu Astatke covers, but have since diversified and started writing their own material. Two drummers(!), two saxes, guitar, bass, electric piano and vibraphone. And they were playing at The Canteen in Stokes Croft the next night! An amazing set, the Ethiopian material being delivered so faithfully that you could close your eyes and think you were in a club in Addis Ababa in the mid-70s, and the original stuff sounding a bit like The Boot Lagoon with a horn section.

The next night, I got to see Dan and Lorenzo from Rae plus their friend Conrad (who'd been playing guitar with Tezeta) once again, joined by Leon from Rae on bass, as The Evil Usses, a psychedelic jazz/freakout band who were playing an uncharacteristically restrained set (but still bonkers) to a small sit-down audience downstairs at Cafe Kino. Their heavier stuff sounds like Red-era King Crimson, which apparently they're not really that familiar with. They were followed by an excellent free-improv collective led by a cornet player, The Iceman Furniss Quintet, who played one long piece. Another great night.

I headed to Avebury from there – a train to Pewsey, a walk along the canal, saz noodlings beside the "laughing spring" at Alton Priors and inside All Saints Church there, up on Knapp Hill and Adams Grave, some of my favourite places...then up over the ridge to Avebury, spent a night on Fyfield Down, saw a baby badger, a hare, a crop circle (by the Devils Den) and a patch of harebells that brought tears to my eyes. The next morning I found myself spontaneously being invited by the vicar of Avebury to play some saz as part of the service at East Kennett Church! I played some gentle tunes as people came in ("Deliquescence", "The Midsummer Cushion"), then remembered I knew a hymn – a better-than-usual hymn-tune called "Now the Green Blade Riseth". Maria, the vicar, immediately recognised it, started singing, looked it up in her hymnal and shouted out the number to the congregation so that they could join in. Then she asked me if I could play "Morning Has Broken" (easy enough that I could figure it out on the spot). I was sat up near the altar, even ended up playing while people came up for Holy Communion! Strange days...



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