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Bebop Spoken There

Sting: "It was great. They [the River City Jazzmen] all wore blue suits. The band had been together for about twenty years, which was the same age as the suits." - (Melody Maker Sept. 22, 1979).


Daily: July 6 - October 27

Precarity John Akomfrah’s film (2017, 46 mins) about Buddy Bolden - Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead Quays, South Shore Road, Gateshead NE8 3BA. Tel: 0191 478 1810. Screenings at intervals during the day. Part of Akomfrah's exhibition Ballasts of Memory. Exhibition (daily) July 6 - October 27. 10:00am-6:00pm. Free.

Today Monday October 21



Precarity John Akomfrah’s film (2017, 46 mins) about Buddy Bolden (see centre column).

Jazz in the Afternoon - Cullercoats Crescent Club, 1 Hudleston, Cullercoats NE30 4QS. Tel: 0191 253 0242. 1:00pm. Free admission.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool - Tyneside Cinema, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle NE1 6QG. Tel: 0191 227 5500. 3:00pm/5:30pm. Screening of Stanley Nelson's documentary film (2019, cert. 15, 1hr 55mins).



To the best of our knowledge, details of the above events are correct but may be subject to alteration.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Road to Spaghetti Junction.

(An interview with Cormac Loane – Deputy Head 0f Birmingham Music Service)
Lance Liddle : I first met you when you joined the Newcastle Big Band in the early seventies playing second alto. Although you were very young, your playing had absorbed much of Charlie Parker and other bebop players. How did this come about? Did you have a musical family background?
Cormack Loane: My two older brothers were both musicians so it was natural that I started having piano lessons at the age of nine. It was not until I went to secondary school, however, that my passion for music was really ignited –  our music teacher, Maurice Rodham, came into the classroom one day and played Stranger on the Shore for us  on the clarinet, and it was at that moment that I knew I was going to  become a jazz musician. So I started clarinet lessons at school with Maurice and, a couple of years later, my parents bought me my first alto saxophone. I soon started playing with a jazz rock band along with some schoolmates – we had a brass section made up of Pete Volpe on trumpet, Mick Walsh on trombone and myself – and we modelled ourselves on the American band Chicago. We soon started performing regularly at dances at the St Charles’ Youth Club in Gosforth. One Sunday lunchtime, Mick was walking past the Gosforth Hotel, round the corner from  the Youth Club, when he heard a big band warming up. He went inside and introduced himself to the bandleader, Andy Hudson, who told Mick to come back the following week with his trombone, and to bring  his two mates with him - Pete and me. So that is how I came to join the Newcastle Big Band, the most important formative musical experience of my life. It was here that I learnt so much about the skills of being a jazz musician, especially from sitting next to the legendary saxophonist Nigel Stanger. And through the Newcastle Big Band I met other great musicians – Ronnie McLean, Bobby Carr, Gordon Sumner (aka Sting), and many others  - who soon introduced me to other bands, so that I was lucky enough to become a busy, gigging musician around Newcastle,  whilst still at school!
LL: After gigging around the Newcastle scene for a while you joined NYJO. That must have been an invaluable experience – how long were you there?
CL: In 1974 I moved to London to study for a degree in music at Goldsmiths’ College. Nigel Stanger put me in touch with Bill Ashton, Director of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, with whom he had been at Oxford. Bill invited  me along to a NYJO rehearsal and a few weeks later I played  my first gig with the band, at the Hopbine in Wembley. I then became a regular member of the band for two years and was privileged to take part in NYJO’s Bicentennial Tour of the United States in 1976, and to appear on two albums: Eleven Plus and  Return Trip.
LL: Were there any other names to remember from that particular edition of the band?
CL: There were amazing musicians in that band, many of whom became well-known later on, including  trumpet players Guy Barker and Dick Pearce and guitarist Laurence Juber who left NYJO to join Paul McCartney’s Wings! But my inspiration as a saxophonist was Phil Todd, who played  with unbelievable musicianship, inventiveness and fluency – whether it was on alto, tenor, baritone, clarinet or even piccolo! He was, of course, to become one of the country’s leading session musicians. I also got to know saxophonist Chris Hunter in NYJO – he used to deputise for me in the band and eventually took my place when I left. In the 1980’s Chris re-located to New York and his phenomenally successful career has included touring with the Gil Evans band.
LL: What did you do after NYJO?
CL: When I finished University in 1978, I knew I was going to go into music teaching, but I wanted to spend some time as a professional performing musician first. So I did what many musicians did at that time: I placed an advert in the music magazine Melody Maker. A few days later, Fred Olsen Lines, the cruise line company, phoned  me up. They had been let down at the last minute by a saxophone player and they asked me to go straight to Millwall Dock in London to join the Black Watch cruise liner for a winter season playing with a quartet, cruising to and from the Canary Islands. As well as being a life of luxury this was an invaluable experience as a musician, playing dance music and backing a huge range of different cabaret artists. I then took a summer season at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool – a very exciting place to work as a musician at that time - before starting my career in education in 1980.
LL: Team Woodwind I remember as a popular series of tutors – How did that come about? 
CL: In 1984 I moved  from London to the Midlands in order to take up a post as Head of Woodwind  teaching with the Birmingham Music Service. In my new job I got to know Richard Duckett, an inspirational and innovative brass teacher who was in the course of writing a series of brass tutor books called Team Brass which was published by IMP in the late 1980’s and became a best seller. In fact the books sold so well that  the publisher then asked Richard if he would write a complementary series of books for woodwind instruments.  That’s when Richard got in touch with me and asked if I would help him write this new series of books. So we spent two years writing books for all the woodwind instruments – flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and saxophone. They were published in 1990 and you are right  - they became popular, I think because they were carefully geared  towards the way young people were learning  to play musical instruments in schools at that time.
LL: Do you occasionally come back to Newcastle? I think the last time I saw you was at Sting's Newcastle Big Band Reunion The Baltic Art Gallery.
CL: Yes, the Newcastle Big Band Reunion in 2006 was a wonderful occasion. It was fantastic to make music again with all those old friends, including Sting and Pete Volpe  who, for the last 30 years, has worked as a professional trumpet player in Paris. I continue to return to the North-East as often as I can, to visit my brother who lives in Boldon and my elderly dad who lives in Newcastle. It still feels like coming home!
LL: Tell me about the Birmingham Music Service and your position.
CL: The Birmingham  Music Service is the organisation that provides musical instrument teaching throughout all the schools in Birmingham. We are a team of 280 teachers,  teaching  the full range of instruments, covering every possible musical style, and  running a huge range of musical ensembles for young people – orchestras, choirs, brass bands, jazz groups, rock bands, steel bands, etc. I am privileged to work as Deputy Head of the organisation and my main responsibility is the professional development of the staff, an area which I am passionately interested in. The job is extremely rewarding because they are such a fantastic group of creative people to work with and because, as a result of our work, we see young people, all over Birmingham, developing as musicians.
LL: Do you still find time to play Jazz?
CL: Yes, it’s really important for me to find time to play jazz, because that was the starting point of my life as a musician and, in order to motivate young musicians, I need to keep my hand in as a performing musician myself. I played for over twenty years with the Swing Kings, a mainstream/modern band, alongside two legendary Midlands musicians: trumpet player Tony Pipkin and trombonist Ron Hills. And now I play with Kinda Dukish, a big band run by Mike Fletcher which exclusively performs original transcriptions of Duke Ellington repertoire. Each time I play with Kinda Dukish it reminds me of the occasion when, as a young teenager, I heard the Duke Ellington band live at Newcastle City Hall as part of Duke’s 70th Birthday Tour in 1969!
LL: I remember that concert well – when I came out it was snowing – just like today! Thank you Cormac I’m sure a lot of folks in Newcastle, Birmingham, London – and of course Colin, “Our man in Hong Kong”, – will be interested in your story.
CL: Funnily enough I remember chatting to you about that Duke Ellington concert round that time, on one of my visits to Windows - there were 2 shows on the same evening - I went to the first one but I was very jealous because you told me that you went to both! I've still got Russell Procope's autograph that I collected that evening!
LL: Ah what memories! Thanks again Cormac.
(This post was shared with the Birmingham based blog - Peter Bacon's The Jazz Breakfast.)

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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: I look forward to hearing from you.

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