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Bebop Spoken There

Howard Riley: “When I started out playing jazz back in the late 50s, early 60s, if you wanted a gig you had to learn some standards.” – (Jazz Journal April 2017)

Eric Harland: “I love swing and I’m always going to swing but I also know that you can take a hip-hop groove and improvise with that just like you would with a swing pattern.” – (Jazz Journal April 2017)

Today Friday April 28

Afternoon
Rendezvous Jazz - The Black Horse, Front St., Monkseaton, Whitley Bay NE25 8DP. 1pm. Free.
Dean Stockdale Trio - Town Hall, Market Place, Bishop Auckland DL14 7NP. 1pm. £5.
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Evening
Emma Fisk's Hot Club du Nord - St. Cuthbert's Centre, Church Hill, Crook DL15 9DN. 7:30pm.
Matt Roberts Sextet - Voodoo Café, Skinnergate, Darlington DL3 7LX. 8pm. £6. 01325 467555. Darlington Jazz Festival.
Steve Bone - Al Forno, 81 Skinnergate, Darlington DL3 7LX. 7:00pm.
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Lazy River Jazz Band - Blenkinsopp Castle Inn, Nr. Greenhead CA8 7JS. 8pm. £5. Dancers welcome! 07721 375278 for more details.
To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

But Does it Have Anything to do With Jazz? Yes @ City Hall April 29














(Report by Stephen Tulip.)
The cliché is that progressive rock was just pompous rock musicians with pretensions of classical music. The reality is more shaded with influences from rock, pop, classical, folk, English church music, World music ( before the term existed ), film and TV theme tunes and a large dollop of Jazz, particularly in the music of Soft Machine, Henry Cow, Jade Warrior and Magma but also in bands like ELP, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and Yes.
When original drummer Bill Bruford auditioned for Yes he thought they were a Jazz group and was shocked to find himself among people who liked the Beach Boys - the Beach Boys he would later plead.
When Robert Fripp reinvented King Crimson in the wake of the Mahavishnu Orchestra he poached Bill away from Yes and, since Yes were big stuff at the time and Crimson only medium sized stuff, he will have taken a hefty pay cut.
Following a stint loading up his bank account filling the drum chair so Phil Collins could take over the microphone from Peter Gabriel in Genesis, he created UK featuring Jazz rock virtuoso guitarist Allan Holdsworth. Eventually, he would earn the right to lead his own Jazz outfits and even helped Dr. Birkett out educating students in Jazz at Sage Gateshead.
When prog did borrow from classical music it tended to be more credible Modern stuff and for decades Yes entered the stage to the Finale of the Firebird Suite by Stravinsky, one of many major composers who borrowed from early Jazz in the same way people like Mozart drew on folk music.
The main reason for my visit to the City Hall on Friday was the death of bass player Chris Squire, much admired by Stanley Clarke, who was the only constant presence in the Yes lineup. At last, they have found an excuse to shed Firebird and the track Onward, one of Chris' best compositions, played at the start with his bass on its stand centre stage and pictures tracing his long time in the band on the screen. Never a great fan of the big ape, it was nevertheless a very emotional moment and I led the applause only to find that nobody joined in - we've all been there. I thought to myself I'm not having this and persevered until everybody joined in.
It's often said that the main difference between progrock and Jazz rock is that the former is essentially song based while the latter is predominantly instrumental, and, in his book 'Listening to the Future', Canadian musician and writer Bill Martin included the Mahavishnu Orchestra among his thirteen bands he refers to as the ' frontline ' of progrock. He claims musicianship as one of the defining characteristics of the genre and I often think, having accepted the Mahavishnu Orchestra and Weather Report, they must have felt like going to the job centre when they heard Return to Forever.
John McLaughlin had a massive impact on all rock guitarists, particularly purveyors of the prog variety, but when Steve Howe was asked who his major influences were at a solo performance at the Gala in Durham last year, the Yes guitarist did not mention him but did include Kenny Burrell and went on to describe Wes Montgomery as the greatest ever. Incidentally, Trevor Rabin, guitarist in the highly successful soft rock version of Yes in the eighties cites McLaughlin as his single major influence.
Now the longest serving Yes alumni, on Friday night Steve Howe was on fire, bestriding the stage like a colossus and relegating the other musicians to his backing band. Many hardcore fans won't go to see Yes because of the absence of founder member, singer Jon Anderson, but on stage, all eyes, including Jon's, have always been on Steve Howe.
His big thing when he joined Yes at the beginning of the seventies was splitting up guitar solos which, in his eyes, were open to improvisation live. However, when he tried to change them band members mischievously told him he was playing the wrong song. The bass player in the current band is super-fan Billy Sherwood who briefly played rhythm guitar a few years back which must have been the easiest gig since Hendrix' rhythm guitarist at Woodstock. Hendrix seemed to play both parts simultaneously but Steve, with his Jazz instincts, places great value on space. He is a master of playing ahead of the band and playing around with space while the other musicians catch up. Perhaps because of his new found freedom, he was playing all kinds of variations in the guitar parts and appeared to be taking multiple solos on every piece.
Another big thing is his variety of guitars and on Friday he played nine: three Gibson semi-acoustics, a Tele, a Strat, a Les Paul, two acoustics and a slide. He famously once tried to book a seat on Concorde for his beloved Gibson ES175 and is in many respects the consummate guitarist.
He also leads a Jazz Trio featuring the brilliant Hammond/ keyboard player Ross Stanley (Dennis Rollins, Jim Mullen, Nigel Price) and his son, acclaimed Jazz Drummer Dylan Howe, and if anybody can't believe he gets his Jazz chops from his dad, he had lessons from his dad'sold mate Bill Bruford.
Other outstanding musicians in Yes have included grumpy old classically trained Rick Wakeman and Jazz/ classical virtuoso Patrick Moraz, both of whom rank alongside all but the very best Jazz pianists. 
Closer to home, Steve Howe was my son's first real guitar hero. When his peers were terminally stuck on Smoke on the Water hoping to one day play Sweet Child of Mine, Francis could also play Clapton, Hendrix, Peter Green, Page and Iomi and was clamouring for more. Zappa and McLaughlin seemed potentially off-putting for a pre-teenager (though he would later obsess over both) so I introduced him to Yes on the basis that, when you strip it all down, at the heart of their music there are great songs - what I call Abba appeal - for a young kid to hang on to. He was the perfect choice; a rock guitarist with a huge palette of influences and enormous versatility; brilliant but attainable.
The first time Francis played publicly out of school was at a guitar festival in the Lakes and he played Yours is no Disgrace - which catapulted Steve Howe to international renown in 1971 - and two by his current guitar hero: Take Five and Breezin' by Benson.
As I moved to the front to watch encore Starship Trooper up close among all the crazy fans, I wondered whether the twin neck he's played it on from the early seventies up until very recently went the same way as John McLaughlins, or whether his advancing years and diminishing physique make it just too heavy for him. The track appears in embryonic form on the Bodast album; the blues rock band he was in before he joined Tomorrow, the psychedelic band he was in before he was poached away by Yes. He later played in soft rock band Asia and  guitar supergroup GTR and informed us that the first time he played City Hall was with Traffic in 67. I thought what a fantastic life his obsession with the guitar has given him.
Progrock was/is not a bunch of musicians with ideas above their station, but the freedom to try whatever they want which, according to Wayne Shorter a couple of issues of Jazz Journal back, is a modern day definition of Jazz. In the last issue, a letter claimed that a certain British Asian clarinettist is not Jazz because he plays versions of British pop music while so much Jazz is based on American pop music from the first half of the last century. I wonder whether the future Jazz listener will include experimental rock by artists including Zappa and Beefheart, Hendrix and Santana, and the best of the prog bands, and whether this would include Yes.
Stephen.

4 comments :

  1. Andrea Picton (on F/b)Thursday, May 05, 2016 9:33:00 pm

    I was there on Friday night, saw Yes at the same venue 36 years ago and am still as captivated.

    ReplyDelete
  2. That must have been 1980, the Drama tour when some audiences booed Trevor Horn. I first saw them on the notorious Topographic Oceans tour of 73, almost certainly the occasion of Rick Wakemans infamous curry.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Both sides of the progressive rock debate, and on a jazz site. Torrid times ahead for the no camp I fear.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm told by people who know more about such things than me, there's been some interest on FB so, before it disappears, I thought I'd share some Yestories, Yesalbums and Yesongs.

    Bill Bruford seemed to like ribbing Jon Anderson the most asking 'Jon what's a total mass retain?' and 'Jon why are there model cows in the studio?'
    During the long tracks live you get to go to the loo, bar, smoke, vape during any boring bits but I told Francis to look in at Chris Squire' guitar and it was a triple neck.
    A few minutes earlier Turn of the Century was turned into another 20 minute song when Steve Howe' changeover from acoustic to electric didn't turn out well and the band kept going round while he and his tech frantically sorted it out.
    For anyone who remembers what albums are:
    The Yes Album - enter Steve Howe.
    Fragile - enter Ricko Wako.
    Close to the Edge - almost everybody's favourite Yes album.
    Going for the One - considered a return to form by those who thought its two predecessors were excessive. Though hardcore proggers love them:
    Relayer - 3 tracks.
    Tales from Topographic Oceans - double album, 4 tracks.
    For the streaming generation: Yours is no Disgrace, Long Distance Runaround, And you and I, Turn of the Century.

    ReplyDelete

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About this blog - contact details.

Bebop Spoken Here -- Here, being the north-east of England -- centred in the blues heartland of Newcastle and reaching down to the Tees Delta and looking upwards to the Land of the Kilt.
Not a very original title, I know; not even an accurate one as my taste, whilst centred around the music of Bird and Diz, extends in many directions and I listen to everything from King Oliver to Chick Corea and beyond. Not forgetting the Great American Songbook the contents of which has provided the inspiration for much great jazz and quality popular singing for round about a century.
The idea of this blog is for you to share your thoughts and pass on your comments on discs, gigs, jazz - music in general. If you've been to a gig/concert or heard a CD that knocked you sideways please share your views with us. Tell us about your favourites, your memories, your dislikes.
Lance (Who wishes it to be known that he is not responsible for postings other than his own and that he's not always responsible for them.)
Contact: lanceliddle@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

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