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Born This Day
Louis Armstrong and Steve Andrews.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Voyage of Discovery - Djangologie at St.Cuthbert’s Hall Crook – November 9.


Mick Shoulder( bass), Emma Fisk (violin), Giles Strong (guitar) and James Birkett (guitar).
(Review by Jerry).
 St. Cuthbert’s had provided the warmest possible reception (big audience, bigger applause, real ale on tap, MASSIVE pizza and booming CD sales alongside the half-time raffle) so Mick Shoulder’s two-fingered gesture would have been unpardonably rude had he not merely been demonstrating Django’s dodgy digits! Indeed Mick himself acknowledged this “lovely venue” when signing off at the end of a hugely successful gig. An organiser talked about their hopes of reviving a tradition of jazz in Crook by having events in this hall on a monthly basis. All I can say, and I feel certain it would be echoed by all those present last night, is: “Bring it on….!”

I knew all about the dodgy digits having done extensive pre-gig research (Wikipedia!) where I also discovered that he was Belgian (a famous one!) and that Django means “I awoke” in Romany. The opening numbers transported us to 30’s/40’s Paris: we “awoke” to Coquette and Belleville and the boards echoed to tapping feet from the off. Is that just pizza baking or can I smell onion soup? Optimism must have been in short-supply during the occupation but the dreamy, plangent 1941 hit, Nuages, (featuring Emma Fisk and Giles Strong) had a soaring violin finale which took us right up where the silver-linings are! Later, Artillerie Lourde conjured different impressions of the period inspired as it was by the guns of the Liberation forces encircling Paris. James Birkett was inspired to a barrage of a solo here which cranked up the audience from tapping and clapping to whooping and whistling, at which altitude they remained all evening!
Songe d’Automne (another French title but from a very English writer, Archibald Joyce, “The English Waltz King”) was aptly seasonal as was the second-set waltz, Feuille d’Automne (another French title but from a very English writer, Mick Shoulder!). The latter featured much appreciated pizzicato violin from Emma: the former, with its Titanic associations, also went down well! Then it was to Germany for Winterstein’s delightful, whimsical, pronounceable but untranslatable, Hunn O Pani Naschella.. I managed to discover that Pani is “water”, but drew a blank on the other words! Any theories out there?
More of Mick’s originals kept us voyaging (less distantly!) to Sunderland (via Prokofiev) and Morrison’s at Bishop Auckland! The opening of Django’s Stomp had me thinking I was in my seat at the Stadium of Light – till I looked round and saw people smiling! Beautiful Till 3 tugged at the heart-strings with underlying notes of unrequited love – a theme echoed later by Olivieri’s J’attendrai, during which Mick’s solo got deserved applause. Mostly, though, we were not “waiting” but swinging (Minor Swing) and stomping (Stomping at Decca) – all at a cracking pace. James Birkett’s flying left fingers here had me wondering again how Reinhart ever managed with only two good’uns?
Troublant Bolero featured a fine solo from Giles Strong, getting time off from his impressive feat of concentration as the strumming powerhouse of the band, and prompted more lexicographical musing from Mick. “Troublant” = disturbing, unsettling OR, in certain contexts, “stirring passion”. My money is on the last! More journeying and breakneck stuff followed with Lady Be Good and Sheik of Araby during which Emma’s playing became so animated that I feared for Mick beside her! I swear the tip of her bow kept passing within millimetres of the top of his head: if he’d had a wig, she’d have “fisked” it off him! The penultimate number, Dark Eyes, trumped even those: starting tremulously then building and building to a frenzy from which it managed to get even faster again! Exhausting to watch, let alone to play so Mick, wisely, entertained us Dans Mon Endroit Tranquille, by way of an encore. This original, coupled with the earlier Hitchcockian  Sinister Drag, re-emphasised how well both composer and band can handle moodier, quieter stuff as well as the joyous swing. The audience loved it all and left the band in no doubt that a swift return voyage would be expected, not merely hoped for. Tremendous!
Oh, and by the way, you urban jazz-folks, Crook isn’t that much of an exploration: a number 21 bus does it - you don’t have to be Marco Polo!! See you next time?
Jerry.

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