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Bebop Spoken There

Dewey Redman: "When Trane came to Bop City in San Francisco and told me he liked the way I played, I stayed high off that forever." - (Downbeat June 1980.)

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Nick Brignola: “I got to talk to John Coltrane before he was John Coltrane!” – (Jazz Journal April 1991)

Archives.

Today Monday January 16

Afternoon.
Jazz in the Afternoon - Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 3OS. 1pm. Free.
Evening.
???????
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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

George Benson @ Sage, Gateshead - June 21.

(Review by Steve T/photos courtesy of George Mackellar)
Prelude
Benson was one of the giants of Jazz-Funk, alongside Donald Byrd, Grover Washington Jnr, the Crusaders and others. Herbie Hancock, with juggling skills to match his keyboard playing, maintained a career in each, and Freddie Hubbard kept changing his mind, but George just kept getting more and more commercial, from Jazz to Jazz-Funk to smooth Jazz to disco to MOR.   
With hindsight, much Jazz-Funk was just Jazz artists playing funk or smooth Jazz before the term existed, with Benson among the latter. It’s therefore,  something of a soft target for serious Jazz buffs but, if you look hard enough you will find some gems, and most of the current innovators trying to move Jazz into new areas are targeting hip-hop, bastard son of funk, with Kamasi Washington, and his association with rapper Kendrick Lamarr, a possible champion.
I was never bothered by Benson, though I loved Breezin’ and The World is a Ghetto (by Womack and War respectively), but my brother was a big fan, travelling to Edinburgh to see him in ‘77 or ‘78, so when I came across his Live at Carnegie Hall I was blown away by the guitar playing; this man was fantastic, brilliant, amazing, spectacular.
I was not surprised when this sold out in record time. For any regular at Garden Farm, Julie’s or Walke’rs in the eighties and nineties, you never went long without hearing something by Uncle George, as local DJ Phil Mitchell named him. I saw him at the City Hall in the early nineties when I was far more serious, cynical and snobby, and the gig was OK with all the hits, but improved dramatically for encores Breezin’ and On Broadway.
The Jazz fraternity must therefore always approach a George Benson gig with some trepidation and tolerance, though I admit to a little excitement too.
Concert
Rapturous applause when the man entered the stage and, from the end of Level 2 Row 8 when he picked up his guitar (signature Ibanez GB 10 in natural, guitar nerds) and straight into Love x Love. Some people thought his voice wasn’t very good and, in a sense, they’re right, but I thought the added grain and crackle gave a soulfulness hitherto absent, which was always part of the problem for me. 
Straight into Breezin’ and we couldn’t believe our luck; a couple of tunes half remembered from headier times followed by a stark reminder of prior reservations with Nothing’s Gonna Change my Love for You and a first comfort break for my neighbour.
The place erupts for Kisses in the Moonlight, further reminding us we were a minority, groups of girls dancing and singing at their seats and in the aisles. More of the same with Turn Your Love Around and everybody’s at it. Francis’ disco dancing is hilarious and I tell him Early Bird drum ace Mathew MacKellar is watching so he stops. I’m his dad so it’s my job.
Lady Love Me One More Time, In Your Eyes and it’s getting boring, the man playing air guitar for his bandmate’s solo adding insult to injury.
We beckoned him to remember the thing gathering dust on the stand behind and he responded big-time. ‘Tune’ yelled my neighbour as he went into Mambo Inn , encouraging the audience, Jazz style, to applaud the other guitarist’s solo, as he does his first scat of the evening, accompanying his own guitar, the leg next to mine going in double time.
This was followed by Danny Boy, a staple in recent years, and into Affirmation, a forgotten (by these ears) gem from the Breezin’ album, perhaps the highlight of the night and Francis clearly in awe.
However, more disappointment followed as he unstrapped once more for Never Give up on a Good Thing and Shiver, more insult piled on the already considerable injury as he scats alongside the other guitarist.
The guitar was back on for Give me the Night, a record I hated on release but, as with most of his uptempo pop hits, over time I’ve come to accept, appreciate, like? I suddenly realised I’d completely lost track of time and at some point it would end, and I knew I didn’t want it to, when it did.
An encore wasn’t in doubt but my neighbour was out a semi-quaver into Greatest Love of All. Sage one had been a veritable disco for the best part of the last ninety minutes but I don’t remember the last time I saw so many happy people, which was quite uplifting.
On Broadway inevitably and the seat next to mine was re-occupied in time for ‘they’re dead wrong, I know they are, cos I can play this here guitar’. Of that there can be no doubt.
‘But I won’t quit ’til I’m a star’. No doubts there either then.   
Coda
They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but such is the determination and naivety of youth, I figured it was worth a go.
Opening salvo to the MD; the young kid over there occupies the guitar seat of the Sage Jazz orchestra (and good to see Bradley Johnson there too) and, insomuch as he has one favourite guitar player, it’s probably George (which is probably true). He informed me that George was resting and offered to sell me one of his own CDs.
Plan B, stand outside the back with the perennial autograph hunters and wait; it’s a warm night and nobody has to get up the next day. I think he was expecting a chat, maybe a jam, supper; he hasn’t yet grasped the void between a successful Jazz artist and a massive, worldwide pop megastar.
After his rest, which was a meet and greet and champagne (prosecco, cava) with people who had paid over £100 for the privilege, he came out, signed a few autographs, album covers, a guitar strap and Francis’ tutorial DVD sleeve before his minder removed him. Not bad I thought for an international superstar. 
Steve T.
NB: Don't have the line-up but I read elsewhere that the bass player was Stanley Banks and the drummer Khari Parker.

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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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