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IT IS ADVISABLE TO CHECK IN ADVANCE WITH THE VENUE THAT THE GIG IS ON

SUNDAY 20

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.

Maine St Jazzmen - Sunniside Social Club, Sunniside Road, Sunniside NE16 5NA. Tel: 0191 488 7347. 8:00pm - 10pm. Free. Note earlier start/finish.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Noel Dennis Quartet @ Gala Theatre, Durham - Oct. 12


Noel Dennis (trumpet/flugel); Paul Edis (piano); Andy Champion (bass); Russ Morgan (drums).
(Review by Jerry/Photos courtesy of Malcolm Sinclair).

Regular readers will be unsurprised to learn that, before this gig, I thought I knew nothing about Miles Davis despite his iconic status. To avoid disappointment, I did my homework – Wikipedia and YouTube (scholarly and thorough, as always!) – and was surprised: familiar (to me) musicians were referenced, notably Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock and recognised titles emerged such as Freddie Freeloader and So What? I knew these tunes and liked them.

My unconscious familiarity with Davis is perhaps a measure of the man’s influence? I found, too, that his was a musical journey from bebop to “modal” jazz to jazz-fusion with two landmark albums, Kind of Blue and Bitches Brew, on the way. Noel Dennis drew attention to this journey in his connecting comments between numbers at the gig which featured selections from both those albums. The themed gig, the connecting commentary and, above all, the quartet’s superb playing made for a happy blend of stuff I didn’t know I knew and stuff I didn’t know I liked so much. Not bad for a rainy lunchtime in Durham!
“A simple-ish tune he liked to play a lot” introduced Solar, from 1954, and was played here on flugelhorn. During piano and bass solos, Dennis watched his fellow musicians appreciatively, a pattern which recurred throughout the gig. I noted “lots of smiles in the audience” – also a recurring pattern as those more knowledgeable than myself recognised their favourites beautifully played. A footnote on Solar (more scholarship!): despite the fact that its authorship is disputed, the opening of the tune is featured on Davis’s tombstone!

So What? from Kind of Blue (1959) made me smile with recognition – not because it is “one of the best examples of modal jazz music” (Dorian mode – not that I understand that) but because sandwiching the improvised middle where the trumpet really takes off you have a simple bass-led riff which has the feet tapping straight away. Simple is probably “deceptively simple” composition-wise, but it works for me!

Blue in Green is quieter and slower - Morgan on brushes, Dennis muted - comes over as a simple, bluesy melodic ballad. As with Solar the authorship here has been queried with Bill Evans being credited with much of the composition. Noel Dennis made specific reference to Evans and his influence making Davis’s music more accessible to lovers of classical stuff. Today’s pianist will have been gratified to have been mentioned in the same breath!

Sticking with blues, I felt immediately comfortable with All Blues which, after a catchy bass intro and some trilling piano shouted “12-bar blues” and transported me to my mis-spent youth.  It is, of course, 12-bar blues with knobs on (mostly minor 7th knobs – thank GCSE Bitesize for this detail, not that I understand it!).

I was less comfortable when I saw Bitches Brew on the set-list! My YouTube extract earlier had elicited a wifely grimace which is only normally seen when I buy a very hoppy beer at the pub. She hates the smell! I needn’t have worried because, although this brew with its trumpet wails, gargles and spikes is as hoppy as the craziest of Estonian craft-beers, it is also just as intoxicating. It arrived unannounced with a long bass intro then Morgan’s mallets followed by harp-like electric piano and finally the trumpet. By this time my wife was as hooked as was I - me and the near-capacity crowd. We remained entranced for the rest of the six or seven minute excerpt (which was all a one-hour concert format allows).

On his journey, Davis never lost touch with his jazz antecedents and, according to Dennis, loved playing and recording jazz standards. Love for Sale (recorded by Davis in 1958) aptly illustrated this and afforded a solo opportunity to Russ Morgan during which all three fellow musicians looked on appreciatively! The closing number, The Theme also illustrated this, based as it was on Gershwin’s I’ve got Rhythm. Hectic rhythm with bowed bass and another drum-blast for good measure brought loudly appreciative applause suggesting (as is often the case at this venue) that the audience would happily sit for another hour if they could.
Jerry
More photos.

1 comment :

JERRY said...

Superb photos: I want that camera!!!!
JERRY

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