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Bebop Spoken There

Michael Dease: "Slide [Hampton] is also one of the people to expand the range of the horn, so he's popping out high Fs like they're breakfast cereals." - (JazzTimes Oct. 2019).


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 Saturday October 19



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

Dave O'Higgins Masterclass - Hurworth Grange, Hurworth Road, Hurworth, Darlington DL2 2BN. 12 noon - 2:00pm. £20.00. A Jazz Blowers' event, places limited. Details:

Tees Valley Jazzmen - Central Methodist Church, 21 Cockton Hill Rd., Bishop Auckland DL14 6EN. 2:00pm. £4.00. A memorial concert in memory of Gavin Belton.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool - Tyneside Cinema, Pilgrim Street, Newcastle NE1 6QG. Tel: 0191 227 5500. 5:45pm. Screening of Stanley Nelson's documentary film (2019, cert. 15, 1hr 55mins).




Teresa Watson Band - Billy Bootleggers, Nelson St, Newcastle NE1 5AN. 9:00pm. Free.

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

Franco’s Birthday..A Night He’ll Never Forget…Or Remember!

By Scott Black
My phone rang. “Hello Scott. This is Franco [Valussi]!” Well I already knew it was Franco because even though he speaks perfect English, he does so with an Italian accent, which is quite common from what I understand if you are born and raised in Italy. Another reason I knew it was Franco is because he is the only person in the world who has my Hong Kong phone number, so that narrowed down the options as well. Franco in a somewhat shattered voice informed me that there was no way he was going to make the job this evening. Hell, I knew that the night before! It was Franco’s birthday. He lives here on the Island of Peng Chau as well and got me set up in the apartment I’m now staying at. We meet at 8:20pm at the ferry for the 8:30 boat into Hong Kong, and within 45 minutes I’ve gone from this wonderful tropical island, to standing at the bar being served my first of the evening by Anita, who pours with a steady hand and a smile. For myself, I simply walk out the door and the ferry is three minutes away. Franco, who lives about a half a mile or so, rides his bike to the ferry and leaves it there with the other 100 bicycles or so that sit near the docks waiting for their owners to return. I wished Franco well and told him I hope he would be feeling better soon. Then I hung up and was getting ready for a refreshing shower before the nightly binge.
My phone rang ten minutes later. “Hello Scott! This is Franco!” And indeed it was. “Scott, I forgot to mention to you that the ferries are running 10 minutes earlier today because it is Buddha’s Birthday.” I felt shame at not knowing this. At the same time, I couldn’t imagine why this could cause the ferry to change the schedule by 10 minutes. But it did and I made the needed adjustment and all went well. I took the Franco-less ferry into Hong Kong. I was thinking of Buddha songs to do besides “When Buddha Smiles” which few people know anyway. I was thinking more along the lines of, “Big Buddha And Egg Man”, or perhaps even “Buddha, Can You Spare A Dime”. However there were no requests for any Buddha themed songs, so my efforts were pointless. But back to Franco’s birthday.
Everyone loves Franco because he is such a great guy and one hell of a fine clarinet player. The fluid was flowing fast, everyone was buying him drinks and he gratefully accepted each one. He doesn’t drink like this normally, but what the hell. It was his birthday. He held his own for quite a while there but by the third set, Franco was toast. There was no way in hell he was going to make it for the last set. No big deal. I went up, did a couple of features, sang a couple of two part harmony ditties with Colin (which are rapidly becoming the talk of Hong Kong) and the night was over. Playing wise that is. 
The band at Ned Kelly’s finishes up at 1:30am. The ferry back to Peng Chau is at 3:00am, and you better be there because the next one isn’t until 7:00am. So this leaves over an hour to kill, and it is usually killed at Castro’s, which is around the corner and up a flight of stairs. The owner of Ned Kelly’s also own this fine watering hole as well. So the custom is to have a nightcap or two at Castro’s before the voyage home. Having a nightcap after an evening at Ned Kelly’s is about as necessary as trying to sell the latest software to a duck. 
By now Franco was at the bouncing off the walls stage. Mind you, I had quite a few myself…quite a few. But I never seem to reach the stagger stage and I don’t slur when I speak. I may be spouting total nonsense but it is at least coherent. Getting my friend up the stairs took a bit of doing, so I climbed them a step behind in case falling clarinet players started raining down the steps. We entered the bar that had about a dozen folks in there, and Franco announced “Good Evening my friends! Today is my Birthday!” And the only thing I could think of was “Oh….shit!” Shot glasses were being loaded in front of us. Many in fact. Everyone loves Franco. Well-wishers were coming over to wish him well, as they tend to do. By now, Franco was at the stage that when he was speaking to someone, he had his arms around their shoulders and was face to face to them, telling them what a wonderful friend they were and how lucky he was to have them as a friend. He was poured a tumbler of some liquid that looked like what came out of a 1953 Buick I once bought that had sat for 30 years when I cleaned out the gas tank. Kinda smelled like that as well. He gulped, I gasped. It was getting time to get a taxi to get to the ferry. Then just before we went to leave, the owner sent over shots of Jagermeister. Yeah. We left. 
Getting Franco down the steps was much harder than getting him up the steps, so I went first to give him something to lean on. We made it to the street somehow and discovered that it was now raining fairly hard. It’s a two block walk to the taxi stand, and Franco bounced off of every store along the way. I stayed on the outside to prevent him from landing in the street so he wouldn’t have to spend the next day removing tire marks from his clothing and body. To his credit, he didn’t fall. Finally we made it to the cab and Franco opened the back door and went in on all fours, he sat upright and went to sleep. The cab driver looked worried and asked where we were going. I said one of the very few Chinese words I somewhat knew that’s pronounced kinda like “Loco Mota”. Which is what the pier is called for the Star Ferry back to Peng Chau. I think the driver thought it best to get us there as fast as possible and literally flew the city like he was being chased. 
We made it in time, soaking wet, and I entered the boat supporting a very drunk Italian clarinet player on my shoulder. I posted a few days ago a photo taken on the ferry, where they have bags to vomit in, should the need to do so comes up. I thought it would be a very wise choice to sit right there…just in case. He sat down and within a minute was sound asleep. About 15 minutes later he suddenly woke up and said to me, “Scott! Tell me something…” And the next 45 seconds or so were filled with words that could have passed for scat singing. I couldn’t understand a single one. He finished the question and added, “What do you think? Do you agree?” Hmmm. I took a chance. I came back with, “Hell yeah! Who wouldn’t?” Whew! Right answer. He broke out into a big smile, got me in another headlock hug and said, “You’re a good man!” And went back to sleep.
We arrived at Peng Chau. As I said earlier, where I am staying is a three minute walk, if that. Franco still had to get on his bicycle and go halfway across the island yet. I offered to let him stay overnight at my place, but no..he said he would be fine. I seriously doubted this because he was still trying to get seated on the bike without much luck. He could barely walk let alone ride a bike on these dark roads some of which have no lights at all. We said goodnight. I wished him a Happy Birthday again, and I watched as he left the dock area looking like a boxer who just took the hardest left hook ever thrown, yet somehow didn’t fall. I stayed there for a couple of minutes waiting to hear the sort of a crash you hear on a Spike Jones record. It didn’t happen, so I went home. However, he did have a crash halfway home. Luckily he didn’t get hurt, but his bike was smashed up quite a bit and needs repair. He blamed it on a piece of plastic that somehow got into the spokes. I went along with it, even though I have my doubts. He did ask me later what happened that night because he remembers nothing after leaving Ned Kelly’s. I tried to do it with a straight face and didn’t come close. Everybody loves Franco, and count me in with them. Such a fine musician and a great guy who has helped me get established here with the right people, and I’ll always be there to offer a shoulder to lean on if needed.
Time for a shower, got a boat to catch soon.
Scott Black


John Hallam (on F/b) said...

Well, it could be Brown Ale when he ( plus Colin and entourage) turn up in Tynemouth to play in the Mouth Of The Tyne Festival.
Last year the Council would not permit the band to be named Colin's China Boys ( homosexual connotations apparently .... Get it? No, we didn't either ) so we ended up as Colin's Cullercoast Crescent Club Crew! Looking forward to " supporting" Franco in July.

Lance said...

What a brilliant piece of writing! If Scott blows as good as he writes then Bix Lives!

Unknown said...

He does. A bloody good muso.

Ross Mason said...

We were there that night. It was a great night all round. Franco had a great time.


Yes, a hell of a night, with Franco on the last set not playing but dancing with anyone he could find and a big Italian kiss be it male of female before hand. A very happy clarinet/sax player..

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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: I look forward to hearing from you.

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