Archive for the ‘benny goodman’ Tag

Coincidences No.s 349-355

No. 349 Rome

villa wolkonsky British Ambassador's residence rome

The Villa Wolkonsky, British Ambassador’s residence in Rome

I am on a train to Exeter to be on the panel of a documentary pitching session at Two Short Nights film festival. I am with my colleague Harold who is telling me about his choir and a recent performance at the British Ambassador’s residence in Rome.

As he mentions the residence an email notification appears on my phone, right that second. It is from a woman at the British School at Rome (interdisciplinary research centre) who I met at a cocktail party at the British Ambassador’s residence in Rome, Villa Wolkonsky, when I was in the city in October to speak at the MIA Film Festival.

No. 350 A Man of Parts

things to come hg wells on set

HG Wells on the set of ‘Things to Come’

I am finishing a novel, A Man of Parts by David Lodge, about HG Wells, which I started ages ago but never got round to completing. The date is 28th October 2018.

I notice that I started reading it on 29th October 2015.

No. 351 Rishikesh

beatles white album portraits

A see an old Channel 4 colleague of mine at the annual Christmas drinks of Sheffield-based indie, Joi Polloi – an event now known as The Circle. He wants to train in transcendental meditation and one of the places he is considering is Rishikesh in Northern India.

I have just finished a book called Revolution: The Making of the Beatles’ White Album by David Quantick. It centres on Rishikesh where much of the album was composed. It’s the only context in which I’ve ever come across the city.

No. 352 Dimmer Switches

Heavyweight podcast by Jonathan Goldstein

I am listening to an episode of the Heavyweight podcast by Jonathan Goldstein, one of my very favourite podcasts. It is one about the making of the ‘one-take’ film Russian Ark by  Alexander Sokurov. In it there is discussion of changing a dimmer switch/rheostat to a regular on-off switch.

Just before leaving the house for the jog on which I was listening to Heavyweight I had had a domestic discussion about changing a dimmer switch/rheostat to a regular on-off switch – not a regular topic of conversation in our household.

No. 353 Meeting Your Heroes

Pete Shelley, Tony Wilson, Howard Devoto - Buzzcocks

Pete Shelley, Tony Wilson, Howard Devoto (L to R)

The news of the death of Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks is on the radio news. I met him once (as well as seeing him perform, supported by Joy Division at the Lyceum, London) on the studio set of a TV comedy entertainment show called In Bed With Medinner, execed by Jeff Pope [Philomena]. He turned out to be a bit of a cock, pissed on champagne, and made me think of that old adage about not meeting your heroes. Steve Diggle, the guitarist in the band, thankfully was a much more pleasant individual and asked for his wasted mate to be excused.

The next morning on the same radio station I am listening to novelist David Mitchell talk about his collaboration with singer Kate Bush on the Before The Dawn concerts in 2014. He evokes that old adage about not meeting your heroes and explains that in his instance with Kate Bush it did not apply, she lived up to his image of her.

No. 354 Catwatching

catwatching by desmond morris book

Ziggy look-a-like

I order the book Catwatching by Desmond Morris for my cat-loving older son for Christmas.

The book arrives today – I peel off the plastic cover and the cat on the front cover is our cat Ziggy – or a clone of her.

No. 355 Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa

Benny Goodman and Gene Krupa

I am talking to Enfant Terrible No. 1 about racism in football. It brings us on to a discussion of the movie Green Book and he says he is glad the pianist Don Shirley did not play in a restaurant in the Deep South in which he was not permitted to eat alongside his white band members by dint of the colour of his skin. I mention that it was jazz clarinetist and band leader Benny Goodman who made a stand on this issue, refusing to have his band divided on the basis of skin colour.

The same day I am reading a crappy-but-enjoyable adventure novel (based on the Richard Hannay books), The Thirty-One Kings by Robert J. Harris. It mentions Benny Goodman.

Benny Goodman is who introduced me to jazz via a record I bought on my first trip to LA as a teenager, his greatest hits including Sing Sing Sing, featuring the proto-Keith Moon which was Gene Krupa on drums. Goodman is closely related to my best man’s Argentinian wife.

 

 

 

 

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Inheritance Tracks

Inherited:

Sing Sing Sing – Benny Goodman

It turned me on to Jazz, not least through Gene Krupa’s drumming. I always had a bit of a thing for the drums anyway, even tried to learn to play at Saturday morning lessons at the Fender Soundhouse in Tottenham Court Road, with my long-lost step-brother who was quite a gifted drummer from the Carl Palmer camp. Strange this inheritance came from my step-father rather than my parents. My dad did have a decent collection of jazz records ranging from George Shearing (spotlighted in On The Road which I just finished reading yesterday) via Jack Teagarden (with the bright yellow sleeve) to Stan Freeman (a Sinatra alternative) but he never really communicated the passion for them – I think Barbra Streisand and Beethoven was more where he was really at). My mum has always loved music and taken me to hear it live but we’re more in the realm of Mahler and musical theatre with her – I guess a track from Jesus Christ Superstar could have been it, one of my first LPs (nabbed from her) which I drew and coloured along to for happy hours on end (we also saw Godspell together with David Essex in his Superman shirt). Her second husband was involved in the Archer Street generation, the musicians’ labour exchange on the streets of Soho habituated by the Ronnie Scott circles. I’ve just acquired a ticket to see Van at Ronnie’s little place which is a prospect and a half. And Benny would probably have enjoyed the trip back/forwards to 70s brown if his band would have fitted on stage. I’ve seen Maynard Ferguson’s big band there with an incredible young drummer called Stockton Helbing so it’s probably feasible. The drumming is primeval on Sing Sing Sing in the vein of Soul Sacrifice at Woodstock with the young&beautiful Michael Shreeve. And the Keith Moon craziness is key to the energy too. I like the way the Chicago Polak gets in touch with the roots of all ancestors through his insistent pounding – as Gershwin did in another way through Porgy, a profound understanding transcending race. Goodman is celebrated for breaking the race barriers with his mixed band – I love that too. By some twist of fate his great-niece ended up marrying my best-man via Argentina. The world swings in mysterious ways. And Sing Sing Sing swings with a mysterious primitive energy which does it for me deep deep deep down.

Bequeathing:

Flamenco Sketches – Miles Davis

Jazz too. It was a tough battle between Miles and Trane (A Love Supreme), my two funeral tracks, the former to end, the latter to start. I love this track because it leads me consistently to a transcendant place of tranquility. It soothes my soul. I was first transported by the record (Kind of Blue) driving home from St Albans one day, I just had one of those moments when I heard it properly. I can recall other such incidents clearly too – Love Theme from Spartacus (Bill Evans) in Kilburn, Hyperballad (Bjork), Into the Fire (Bruce) in Parliament Hill. Music lifting you beyond. I leave this beautiful performance, a one-off moment of semi-improvised perfection, the culmination of the second wonderous side of Kind of Blue, to the Enfants Terribles as a key to peace on earth.

Oscar’s on the night train

Bon voyage to jazz great Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson

I only saw him once live, opening the show the first time I saw Buddy Rich, so he was instrumental in my intro to live jazz.

Apparently he came to jazz through listening to Benny Goodman – same for me, it was hearing ‘Sing Sing Sing’ and the drumming of Gene Krupa that got me hooked.

I remember seeing Martin Amis at a book reading in 1997 and him describing how he had written the whole of his eponymous novel listening to ‘Night Train’.

So all abooaaard to the Big Jam in the sky – where he can hook up again with his Montreal high school pal, trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, a regular at Ronnie’s in his latter years with fantastic young bands (including the superb Stockton Helbing on drums who I had the honour of meeting there on a boys’ night out with my step-dad and younger brother), Maynard Ferguson who took an earlier train last year.

Godspeed, Oscar…

Now on the subject of jazz things passing, I’ve just watched a charming documentary on BBC4 about the sad demise of the Hammersmith Palais. I was only in it once but according to ‘Last Man in Hammersmith Palais‘ (specifically, a music promoter called John Curd) it was one of the best nights ever. It was 1980. I went to see The Clash. It was the first outing for my middle class black bondage trousers. It was with Nick Golson (who I’ve recently reconnected with thanks to David Baddiel, Nick’s an archaeologist now apparently) and Simon Hollins (who I’ve no idea where or what he is though I did bump into his younger brother Johnny a few years back at some publisher’s do). We pogoed. We heard ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ – probably the best Clash song – right there in the Palais. At the end of the gig Paul Simonon chucked his towel into the crowd and I went home with a piece of it, presumably infused with the sweat and tears of the great man. It lived under my bed as a relic of The Greatest Era in Music History for a good while but probably got lost in a move. Or maybe it still lurks above my head right now in a box in the attic. The Clash only ever played two nights at the Palais.

Ian Dury mentions the Palais in the first verse of his wonderful ‘Reasons to be Cheerful part 3’, sandwiched between the Bolshoi Ballet and boats. This blog ultimately has its roots in that song as Simple Pleasures part 1 was a list of reasons to be cheerful.

Summer, Buddy Holly, the working folly,
Good golly Miss Molly and boats.
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet,
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats.

The Palais de Danse started as a dance and music venue in 1919 taking over from a roller skating rink. The first stuff played there was some new fangled import from the States called ‘Jass’. The last gig there was The Fall on 1st April 2007 – a day when the fools triumphed. It’s an office block now. But deep below in that West London soil lurks dance, romance, energy, punk, roots reggae, spirit, love, youth, cultural mix, sex, laughter, London pride, simple pleasures and jazz.

the clash
Oscar Peterson photo – courtesy of Tom Marcello
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