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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.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Jam Session @ the Black Swan - February 5

(Review by Lance).
Once upon a time, you booked a taxi and the driver said: "Where to mate/guv/buddy?" Taxi drivers were noted for their local knowledge. Today it's: "Postcode?" Even if you were on Grainger St. and wanted the Bigg Market they'd still ask you for the postcode. It's the same at jam sessions. Back in the day, someone would suggest Sweet Georgia Brown in G and away you would go as opposed to the digital world we now live in where such a request would involve iPods, Real Books, copious lead sheets and much discussion. However, in the long run, the end usually justifies the means and last night was no exception.

The usual low key start with a few tasteful trio numbers before the first guest took centre stage. Josie Bennington blew flute on The Chicken and Trane's Moments Notice. Luke - the evening's sole guitarist - was up next. Still finding his way, he showed much promise before the big hitters took over.

John Rowland and Elliott Todd worked out on Sandu, I Can't Give You Anything But Love and Four. Faye MacCalman waxed lyrical on Monk's Dream before being joined by yet another tenor player, Ian White, and Faye's Archipelago colleague John Pope on bass for Impressions.

Debra Milne sang and scatted Perdido followed by Quiet Nights by which time James Robson, his head almost touching the ceiling, had taken over on bass. Three bass players in one night!
Jordan, this week on tenor, and Showtime Gray decided, after Rockin' in Rhythm, to Take the A Train. Poppy fluted and vocalised on How Insensitive before les tout ensemble took us out on a high.

And it doesn't get much higher! This was quite something - 4 tenors, 3 basses alternating, flugel, flute, trombone, piano, bass and drums - a bebop version of the Floral Dance in the form of Straight No Chaser!
Special mention to Stu and Abbie who worked their socks off with no other pianists or drummers to give them a spell. We weren't complaining, they'd cast their own spell on us.
Stu Collingwood (keys); Paul Grainger (bass); Abbie Finn (drums) + Josie Bennington (flute); Luke (guitar); John Rowland, Ian White, Faye MacCalman, Jordan Alfonso (tenor saxes); Elliott Todd (flugelhorn); David Gray (trombone); James Robson, John Pope  (bass); Poppy (flute/vocals); Debra Milne (vocal).


Steve T said...

I don't keep it a secret I'm not much of a fan of the jam session - too hitty missy - but Faye doing Impressions - WOW.

Russell said...

Steve, you say jam sessions are 'too hitty missy' - that's the nature, if not the essence, of the beast. Just think, but for the jam session, in recent times some of us wouldn't have heard, in no particular order, the likes of Matt MacKellar, Joel Brown, Nishla Smith, Ben Lawrence, Dan Garel, Jordan Alfonso, Abbie Finn (last night's house drummer!) and a half-decent guitarist called Francis Tulip. It could be that at the next jam session a new superstar will emerge - you just can't afford to miss it!

Steve T said...

I'm happy to leave it in the very capable hands of yourself and Sir Lance. I paid my dues and have no problem waiting for them to come through the system.

Lance said...

Yes, but isn't it nice to feel you've been in on the ground floor? I know you personally, Steve, can rightly say you have been there in the case of most of the names Russell mentioned but, the joy is also in seeing how the cossetted students cut it in the real world up there with older musicians who maybe didn't have an Edis or Birkett to guide them.
One recalls the Charlie Parker/Jo Jones apocryphal moment that maybe spurred Bird on to become the legend he became.
This also opens up the debate as to jazz education. Is it creating superstars or cold perfectionists? Remember when Deep Blue beat chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov? Could jazz be heading that way?
There was a time when the West Coast scene seemed to be removing the emotion from modern jazz albeit whilst retaining much lyricism. Now the contemporary scene - or Avant-garde seems to have overdone the emotion at the expense of the lyricism. However, getting back to the original point, most jam sessions are free and if you don't like it you can leave, or just hang around and be sociable, then come back next week and find there's a musical beast from the east blew in! It's a lottery with rewards Camelot could never match!
All are welcome - even jazz snobs! (not that I'm including you in that category Steve although maybe I am one myself!)

Steve T said...

I probably reserve my snobbery for Soul Music, though I was a terrible Jazz Snob in the early eighties, which cost me dearly - another story.
Francis didn't do the jam sessions as much as - say Matthew or Joel, partly but not entirely because I wasn't that keen on taking him. It wasn't so easy for us and, as someone who prefers to take a drink, had it been walkable or trainable I might have been a bit more willing.
As someone who also listens extensively to soul, reggae, blues and (some) rock (plus some classical, Asian, African, hip-hop, pop, easy listening, folk and country and western) as well, there's a lot of jazz I don't care for, so I often find I get there and all you can hear are pins dropping and gasps, and I'm the one cringing in the corner.

Lance said...

Pins dropping? That's one thing about jams, as opposed to pay through the nose gigs, silence isn't obligatory and a bit of back of the room noise isn't tut-tutted - not even by the jazz police who are sometimes the biggest offenders.
I remember a jam, don't ask me where or when - it was back in the mists of time - the frontman saying to the audience: "Talk to each other - you're making us nervous"! And of course, Ronnie Scott's famous "you're not here to enjoy yourself!"
No, a jam is as much a social occasion as it is a musical one and I think the two elements feed off each other with players, listeners and carousers all contributing to the ambiance.
And, if the music is good enough, you will hear pins dropping and, if it's exceptional, maybe even knickers dropping (dream on!)
However, as a fellow p-artist I do understand your travel problems. I'm fortunate that, with my pass, the 27 bus and the Tyne and Wear Metro - when they are on time, which does occasionally happen - means that what I save on petrol I can spend on liquid refreshment!

Steve T said...

When i hear the pins dropping and the gasps, it's cos everybody else thinks something exceptional is happening, but I don't.

Steve T said...

Maybe I am still a jazz snob, or perhaps it's because I'm a soul snob.

Russell said...

Which pin-dropping gigs are you referring to, Steve?

Steve T said...

I'm trying to walk a thin line here Russell. If I remind you both that I don't really like Ella, or Billie, or Nina; I don't particularly think of SinAtra as jazz, which just about leaves Louis Armstrong, and there's an awful lot of jazz artists I like more than old Satchmo.
I'm also not big on big bands and, while it's not really a thing at jam sessions, there's sometimes a bit of a 'flavour'.

David Gray said...

That's the great thing about jam sessions, though--they're a place where players try things out and can take risks, or sometimes they can take it easy without the pressure of it being a paid gig. Punters come and get to enjoy a free gig that ranges from solid and enjoyable, to really adventurous and enthrallingly playful. Meanwhile, the interactions and ideas at jams can feed into set gigs.

One thing I've noticed about the Black Swan for these is that everything does feel more exposed--as someone who keeps arriving halfway through, it's a bit daunting just to clump down those stairs. Part of the vibe, though, and the audience really become part of it when it's a jam. One can really feel everything that happens there.

Different people will pick up on different things that happen in the groove or a solo and when you could hear a pin drop, it becomes even more exciting. No names that sound like Breathe Claret are present to admonish you for daring to cough!

Steve T said...

Between them my sons have played guitars, fiddle, trumpet, sax, piano, organ and percussion so I sometimes feel like I've spent the last decade listening to people practice.
I'd rather save my nights out for something I know or think I might like.

Steve T said...

With apologies to no 2 son (the folkey one) in particular: mandolin, bazuki and some Irish flute he's taken up with.

David Gray said...

We're not practising, though? We're still performing as if it were a gig and playing stuff we think audiences will want to hear. Judging by the usual interactions, much of it is what they want to hear. It's just that there's a rotation of people with their own ideas and abilities.

One could go to a set gig, where there's an entrance fee and more of an expectation to add to the bar take, where the band wants to try something new and it might not fly so well in much the same way.

Steve T said...

I think I've lost the thread here; people seem to be suggesting I spend time and money to watch something I don't enjoy - what, out of charity? Or because they know better than me, when I've got to afford, schedule and arrange time off for a hundred gigs up and down the land for the rest of the year.

Lance said...

No Steve, maybe it's you who have lost the thread. No one is telling you what you should or should not listen to but merely pointing out the positive aspects of jam sessions which, because of the uncertainty as to who's going to show, can be either wonderful or not so wonderful. But never boring. And, let's face it, how often have you or I or anyone forked out big bucks and been disappointed and yet been knocked out by something lower keyed? The Sound of Surprise...

Steve T said...

Lance, I said 'I think - I'VE - lost the thread', and people seem to be setting out reasons why I should go to jam sessions, when I've already set out reasons why I don't.
As far as I'm concerned, the only positive is that occasionally something good happens; the rest of the time I just find it boring. Occasionally I go to not very good gigs; but they're always relevant in some way - I saw Status Quo 46 years ago and they were crap, though many people have told me since how great they are live. A crap jam session is just that, like a crap night at the pub.
I often read your reviews of the jam sessions and understand that you're enthusiastic about them; and I can think of a number of reasons why you like them and I don't.
For one, you are a different generation and have a different centre of gravity to me. Yours is jazz, taking in big bands and singers, neither of which I care for (except our local ladies natch). Mine is soul so I have no need for jazz singers or big bands.
Were you to go to a soul night and not enjoy it, I don't think I would feel the need to point out the positives: that you don't know who's going to turn up or what records are going to be played and it's never boring. I hope I would understand it's not quite your thing.
If others want to jump in and tell us why they like or dislike jam sessions, that's great, but please don't just try to tell me I'm missing something.

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