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Bebop Spoken There

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12,000 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 1140 of them this year alone and, so far, 87 this month (Oct. 27).

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

OCTOBER

THURSDAY 29

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

Abbie Finn Trio - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm. Free (donations). Limited capacity (upstairs). It’s Abbie’s birthday!

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

FRIDAY 30

Neil William & Ben Holland - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm-10:00pm. Free (donations). Limited capacity. Jazz standards from the 1920s & 30s.

SATURDAY 31

Alice Grace & Pawel Jedrzejewski - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm-10:00pm. £10.00. Online booking (to book a table). Limited capacity. Alice & Pav join a multi-bill of entertainers (magician etc) to celebrate Prohibition Bar’s fifth anniversary. SOLD OUT!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Steve Andrews remembers one of those special nights


Just read your piece re Simon Spillett and the comment therein from Bill Shaw, which I 
absolutely agree with. I enclose a little piece I wrote a few years ago after a particularly happy night at the little Roundhouse Theatre in Staveley, near Windermere. At just short of 60 I was the baby of the band - Tim Belford was 90 and blind by then - but everything seemed to fall into place that night, so when I got home, still buzzing, I poured a refreshing glass of Scottish fluid and sat down and wrote this to try and capture the feeling on paper before it dissipated. 

I can't say it was the best night I ever had, but it was certainly one of them, and I'm glad I made a record (although, sadly, not a recording!) to remember it by. Steve Andrews.

NIRVANA, 8th March, 2013

Friday night, just before 8pm. I've just scribbled a programme and we're standing in the corridor chatting like old friends, which we are, while the organiser is making his introductions in the little theatre. We're so relaxed we don't notice that he has finished and he has to come and get us. Nice friendly applause from a capacity audience of 60 or so as we walk out - this is a small venue, circular, and with perfect acoustics: no mics here!

No nerves as I pick up the tenor, but as always, a sense of the importance of this first number to settle the band and the audience down, and more importantly, for me to assess how I'm going to perform this evening. Count Basie's Doggin' Around, Bb, tempo spot on but drummer pushing it, so I sit heavily on the back of the beat at the beginning of my solo to pull him back, and he relaxes into it. Applause. I'm relaxed now, and announce the tune as Doggin' Around by Basie from the 1930's, when Dogging had an entirely different meaning from today. Pause for small laugh, then follow with: "and if any of you know what it means today, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves!" Surprising big laugh, considering the average age of the crowd is about seventy - like the band!

We move into Out of Nowhere in G at a relaxed swing. Rhythm section has settled down now and is swinging nicely so I can concentrate on me. This tune works beautifully in this key (A on tenor) and my fingers know their way around the chords without any conscious effort on my part. I'm listening to the tone - this tenor and I have been together now for 17 years and we know each other's foibles, but it still surprises me with the depth and quality of sound it can achieve on the right occasion. How much is me and how much the horn, I truly don't know. I have played twice this week and not been very pleased with my sound, but tonight it's just right: big, dark, and round, with just a touch of huskiness around the edges. Think mid-1930's Coleman Hawkins with perhaps a touch of Ben Webster's 1940-ish ballad sound on something like Chelsea Bridge. Tonight the horn speaks from a whisper to a roar without effort on my part - it's almost as though I'm not there.

I'm concentrating now on creating melody; not the composer's melody, but a melodic improvisation in the footsteps of Armstrong, Beiderbecke, Hawkins and the other great masters of this craft. Turning a phrase round, following with another phrase which complements the first, thinking just ahead of myself, marrying tonal quality, phrasing and variations of volume and pitch. And then it happens. I realise that I have stepped out of myself, detached myself from the audience, the band, the occasion, and time has all of a sudden slowed right down. I'm listening to myself, analysing and adjusting and polishing as I go along. There's no urgency, the me that is outside of me is in total control of the situation; I'm even watching myself and the movements that I make while playing, the way I hold the horn: straight out in front at first then lean to the left a little, bend the neck forward and swing the bow of the saxophone over my right hip against the wallet in my trouser pocket. Ordinary time has stopped now, and I have all the time in the world to concentrate on perfecting this solo. Then it's finished. A smattering of applause, and Tim begins his piano chorus, hewing close to the melody, respecting the composer, simple and beautiful, while I return to earth. Last chorus. I restate the melody, my still heightened consciousness noticing that I'm phrasing it exactly as I did on the first chorus; it just seems right, I can't improve on it.

Applause. We look at each other smiling: we know that was good. That five or six minutes made up for all the nights when it doesn't quite work, when that indefinable something just isn't there. We're eager to get on, to recreate the moment; and we will. It's going to be a special night. Talk of the Town in F, straight in, one, two three, four.........."

Steve Andrews (tenor saxophone/clarinet); Tim Belford (piano); Roy Cansdale (string bass); Brian Teagle (drums)

5 comments :

Russell said...

A good read! Is there more in diaries from down the years?

Lewis Watson said...

Hi Steve,

those moments don't happen often, but when they do.....................

Lance said...

You're right! They don't happen very often ...
It was New Years Eve 1971 and I was working in J.G.Windows music store when Brian Fisher rang me. "What are you doing tonight? Have you got a gig?"
I went through the motions, "Tonight? What date is it? oh, New Year's Eve. I'll check my diary." I counted up to ten then said, "Looks like I've had a cancellation."
"Good, then be at the Bay Hotel in Seaburn for 8:00pm - best bib and tucker."
"Hang on," I said, "Who's on the gig?"
"I'm on bass, Billy Nicholson's on trumpet and Peter McKeith's on drums.!
"Who's on piano?"
"You're in luck - I've got Peter Jacobson on piano."
In luck! Peter Jacobson was the best jazz pianist in the northeast at the time and soon to become one of the best in the country!
I can't handle this. When someone offers you a gig mid afternoon on NYE you know they aren't working alphabetically. I was about to decline - and then he mentioned the fee. By my standards, even for a NYE it was astronomical. I said, "I'll do it."
I wish I'd recorded it although, listening back, it would probably have been a let down.
Although it was a dance, it was also a jazz gig. Even things like the Hokey Cokey and the Gay Gordons swung. We even managed to turn the latter number into Benny Golson's Blues March! It was one of those nights when everything just fell into place and I floated home on a cloud.
I met Peter Jacobson a few years later and Brian Fisher reminded him of the gig.
"Don't remember that one" he said.
Ah well ...

Russell said...

As a non-musician one of those special nights occurred on 25 November 2005. The Saville Exchange, as it then was, in North Shields presented a quartet featuring Lewis Watson (Adam Dennis, Ken Marley and Adrian Tilbrook). Lewis was on top form - to this untrained ear he was never anything other than on top form. Mid-concert Lewis introduced A Weaver of Dreams, dedicating Victor Young's tune to George Best who had died earlier that day. So, Lewis was a football fan, not least a fan of the great George Best! To this day I'm yet to hear better tenor saxophone playing.

Dave B said...

Lance, your recent mention of the late, great Peter Jacobsen reminded me of one my earliest musical encounters with him many, many years ago........
Brian Fisher had a mid-week residency for a jazz trio in the lounge of the then rather grand Five Bridges Hotel in Gateshead and it was the place to see and be seen. I had the temerity to ask Brian, as an aspiring player, if I could 'sit in' on double bass - he couldn't say "yes" quickly enough. The notorious Jackie Denton was on drums - the Art Blakey of the North-East!
"Let's play a blues to get started" said Peter and off we launched into a madcap medley of tunes including Cool Blues, Now's The Time and many others hinted at or incorporated into the mix. Already sweating pints, I suggested A Night in Tunisia in D Minor. "OK" said the maestro and we were off with Jackie ferociously trying to outplay everyone and Peter responding as only he could. At the end of the piano solo I got the nod - Denton reduced the volume to loud and I was off. Man, I was all over that bass like Scott LaFaro (as if!) as Pete fed me the chords. It's a great tune for the bass with lots of open strings. A smattering of applause.
"Let’s cool it a bit with On Green Dolphin Street" was the next call and a memorable version of that lovely song was the end of 'my night with the stars'.
The residency continued for several weeks and I had further opportunities to further my jazz education as time went by.
Dave B

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