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Bebop Spoken There

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Vieux Carre Hot 4 - Spanish City, Spanish City Plaza, Whitley Bay NE26 1BG. Tel: 0191 691 7090. 12 noon. Free.

THURSDAY 24

Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

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Monday, October 08, 2018

Newcastle Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music @ The Black Swan Bar & Venue: Something Smashing - an Evening of Improvised Music and Dance. Oct. 4

Graeme Wilson (reeds); Mike Parr-Burman (guitar); Ana Almeida (voice, shoes); Christian Alderson (drums, percussion); Russell Wimbush (double bass); Alma Lindenhovius, Holly Irving, Tess Letham, Emma Snellgrove, Skye Reynolds, Adam Russell (dancers).  
(Review by Steve T/photos to follow)   
Dance is not really my thing (as anybody who has seen me will attest) but I'm always interested in anything cultural, particularly in seeing how people respond. 
A rough headcount at the start revealed almost thirty willing souls, but I think it may have grown during the course of three separate performances. Our preference was to split it up with a bite in the middle, so we only got the first and last; often a good idea I've found at things you're not entirely sure about. Once over I would stringently sit through long, boring drum solos and solo piano pieces before realising a short sojourn to the bar could make the whole evening far more enjoyable.

With an accordion player sat on the stage, an unmanned drum kit just off it and reeds maestro Graeme Wilson in the audience, we weren't sure what to expect. A lady with a mic and shoes, on stage ad-libbing, some heavy breathing. Another, barefoot, walking around the stage, spinning around, walking backwards. Another, more animated, also barefoot with a fourth off stage, as the first left. Then a fifth, all barefoot.   
The cast were in among the seats interacting with the audience; one like a zombie in a modern day zombie film; another like Truly Scrumptious on a music box that's wound by a key, sometimes like the expressionless, graceless cast of Humans and some that could have been inspired by the drunken, stoned antics in Ab Fab.
Turned out the first lady, the one with shoes, was a really good singer, including some pretty impressive conical style Indian singing Graeme may have got from Zakir Hussain, who he saw in the summer. Some French singing, with sea-faring accordion. 

Some humour, others in the audience were getting more than me, and others taking it a little more seriously than I felt it warranted; but what do I know?!
For the first part we were sat at the front but by part two we found ourselves at the back with a more panoramic view of the entire performance including audience interaction - very important in modern theatre.
By now we had a drummer/percussionist; a guitarist, though not doing anything so straightforward as strumming or picking the strings; and Graeme - Roland Kirk-like - walking around with a pair of horns at his mouth, before settling on bass clarinet.

Most significantly, there was now at least one male dancer as well, which slightly altered any underlying sexual connotations in what was generally mildly erotic, though sexual tension was only hinted at and remained fluid throughout the two performances we caught. At one point, during a tenor/violin duet, bodies were writhing and contorting between the two flirting instruments.
The finale inevitably had all musicians and dancers in action centre stage, Graeme (now on tenor I believe) suitably honking away interminably. Earlier he'd claim that all the music and dance was entirely improvised, reopening the eternal discussion in jazz about whether it's pure improvisation when players inevitably draw from their stock of traits, riffs, motifs and catchphrases, and it must be the same for dancers.
All in all, we had a really nice evening; a nice change, even if we wouldn't choose to do it regularly.  
Steve T.

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