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Bebop Spoken There

Danny Gatton: "I was tired of playing in beer joints. I wanted to do something tangible like building cars. But once you do music it gets into your blood. You can get away from it for awhile but sooner or later it comes back to you." - (Down Beat April 1991).

Tal Farlow: "There were times when I would stop [playing guitar] and do sign painting." - (Downbeat December 5, 1963)

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Today Wednesday August 23

Afternoon
Vieux Carre Jazzmen - Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 3OS. 1pm. Free.
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Evening.
New Orleans Jazz at the Village Hall - Springwell Village Community Venue, Fell Rd., Gateshead NE9 7RP. 8:15pm. £3.
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Take it to the Bridge - The Globe, 11 Railway St., Newcastle NE4 7AD. £1. 8pm.
Billy's Acoustic Blues - Billy Bootleggers, 28 Nelson St., Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9pm. Free (weekly).
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To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Alan Barnes is sworn to secrecy…

(Interview by Russell)
Next week’s inaugural Ushaw Durham Jazz Festival (26-28 August) presents top quality jazz over the three days of the bank holiday weekend. Zoë Gilby, the Early Bird Band, a star-studded big band and Dave Kerr’s New Century Ragtime Orchestra are just some of the attractions on offer. Ahead of the festival, Alan Barnes (Saturday evening with Bruce Adams and the Paul Edis Trio) talks to Bebop Spoken Here about fellow musicians, jazz   education and claims to know the answer to the question: What is jazz?

At school did you begin your life as a musician in a county youth jazz orchestra set-up?
Not at all- I was at Altrincham Grammar School which had a minimal music department. No orchestras or ensembles at all. I’m glad to say it’s all different there now - they even have a big band which I’ve played with. I had private clarinet lessons with an inspirational teacher, Anne Walker.

As a student you attended Leeds College of Music. Today the institution has a very high reputation. In your day, why did you choose Leeds? Who pointed you in that direction?
Leeds was the only Jazz course in the country then. It was the best thing I ever did, dropping my other plans and going there. The staff were all very experienced musicians and there were so many opportunities to play in a huge range of bands and to learn arranging. I’m still in touch with many of them.
Tony Faulkner arranged an Ellingtonian octet album for me a few years ago. Dave Cooper was my biggest influence there- a larger than life character who, unfortunately, died young. He very much molded my approach to playing especially seeing the humorous side of things.

One of your earliest gigs was with Tommy Chase. Tommy was a dynamic performer. A ‘live’ gig was quite an experience for the audience. What was it like for you, as a young musician, playing in that band?
Well, talking of larger than life characters-Tommy was definitely one of those. It was a bit overwhelming being with someone that driven and convinced. I learnt a lot and he steered my listening and got me trying to play phrases that were sing-able. It was pretty much all or nothing at all. It did get me noticed in the more modern end of things and it coincided with a jazz dance revival in the early 80’s that had young people queuing around the corner to get into the WAG club. It’s probably the loudest jazz group I ever played with and Tommy was very interested in reaching an audience - something I’ve tried to continue to do in a different way.

You have gone on to work with a ‘who’s who’ of the British jazz scene. Two much-loved names – Humphrey Lyttleton and Stan Tracey – were regular collaborators. Did you love these gigs at the time? Were they more than ‘another gig’ in the diary?
I think collaborators is the wrong word-I joined Humph’s band for five years and played in Stan’s big band. Never just a date in the diary. I was lucky enough to do a couple of small band dates with Stan. One with Pete King at the Bull’s Head is particularly memorable for me. The big band also played the Ellington Sacred music as part of Durham Cathedral’s 900-year celebrations which was an unbelievable experience. Being in Humph’s band was a lot of fun, being with characters like Stan Greig and John Barnes. We always played good venues and did some great travelling to the Far East and Hong Kong.

You have been more than a match for visiting American musicians including Ruby Braff, Scott Hamilton, Freddie Hubbard and Ken Peplowski. Did you consider the possibility of leaving for New York to see if you could cut it there?
I have to say I never think of it as “being a match”- all the above players are beyond comparison, really. No I never had the confidence as a young man to try New York. After having children, its out of the question. Also, I’ve always been busy over here in a wide range of work and like the idea of making my own scene. I have had some lovely playing experiences in the States- 10 weeks with Warren Vache’s 11piece on tour, at the New York Blue Note with Charlie Watt’s Tentet and at the Topeka festival, but I never had the conviction that moving there was the right thing to do.  

Thinking of Ruby Braff…the man came with something of a reputation! How did you get along?
Ok, and not ok, depending on his mood. I only played with him a few times. I really love the way he plays – it’s all Louis and Billie Holiday, really. The last time I played with him he said, ”I don’t know who you are and if I don’t like you’re playing you’re going home after one tune”. I said, “Suits me if I get paid.’ And it was fine. I got lucky on the tunes because Ruby knew a lot of stuff and it just happened that I knew the ones he called that night. One time, he came down the Pizza Express, Dean Street, on his night off, and we had a long drink together. I asked what his best gig had been and he said the week he played with Lester Young.

You have a number of enduring musical associations; pianist Dave Newton and trumpeter Bruce Adams to name but two. At Ushaw Durham Jazz Festival you will be working with Bruce. A fabulous musician – a ‘powerhouse’ when the mood takes him – with a sense of humour, is it as much fun for you as it is for the audience?

Well, probably more! I’ve played with Dave for nearly 40 years and Bruce has been my official damager for over 25 years. I often say that we had all hoped to do better. I think having people you like and are at ease with helps when you play jazz - but we get through anyway!

At Ushaw you will renew a successful working relationship with the festival director, Paul Edis. You appear to genuinely enjoy working with Paul’s trio. Does this make putting the miles on the clock less of a chore?
Of course. There are very fine players all over the country and Paul is a brilliant pianist, writer and organizer - all important skills. I love fitting in with different players and Paul leads a tremendous swinging trio.

Talking of clocking up the miles…you would appear to be as busy as you want to be. The Ushaw date is in between a three-day ‘jazz school’ at the Shoe Factory in Northants and a Val Wiseman show at Buxton Opera House. How many miles do you put on the clock in any one year?
About 40,000 plus before planes and trains.

In addition to your gig at Ushaw, you will be co-presenting a talk with Alyn Shipton with the simple title What is Jazz? Do you know what it is or will you forever be searching for an answer?
We do know, but Alyn has sworn me to secrecy.

One thing is for certain, your gig with Bruce Adams and the Paul Edis Trio at the Ushaw Jazz Festival is eagerly awaited by many. Thanks Alan, we’ll see you on August 27th.
Thanks very much-looking forward to it very much.

Tickets for the Ushaw Durham Jazz Festival – including Alan Barnes and Alyn Shipton discussing the question What is jazz? – are available from: www.ushaw.org or 0191 334 5119.
Russell.

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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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