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Bebop Spoken There

Raymond Chandler: “ I was walking the floor and listening to Khatchaturian working in a tractor factory. He called it a violin concerto. I called it a loose fan belt and the hell with it ". The Long Goodbye, Penguin 1959.

The Things They Say!

Hudson Music: Lance's "Bebop Spoken Here" is one of the heaviest and most influential jazz blogs in the UK.

Rupert Burley (Dynamic Agency): "BSH just goes from strength to strength".

'606' Club: "A toast to Lance Liddle of the terrific jazz blog 'Bebop Spoken Here'"

The Strictly Smokin' Big Band included Be Bop Spoken Here (sic) in their 5 Favourite Jazz Blogs.

Ann Braithwaite (Braithwaite & Katz Communications) You’re the BEST!

Holly Cooper, Mouthpiece Music: "Lance writes pull quotes like no one else!"

Simon Spillett: A lovely review from the dean of jazz bloggers, Lance Liddle...

Josh Weir: I love the writing on bebop spoken here... I think the work you are doing is amazing.

Postage

16350 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 16 years ago. 230 of them this year alone and, so far, 27 this month (April 11).

From This Moment On ...

April

Sat 13: Giles Strong Quartet @ Claypath Deli, Durham. 7:00-9:00pm. £10.00.
Sat 13: Phantom Bagman + Forgetmenots @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 7:30pm.£5.00. + bf. Upstairs.
Sat 13: Rockin’ Turner Brothers @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Free. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig. Downstairs.

Sun 14: Am Jam @ The Globe, Newcastle. 2:00pm. Free.
Sun 14: 4B @ The Ticket Office, Whitley Bay Metro Station. 3:00pm. Free.
Sun 14: Alan Law, Jude Murphy & Tim Johnston @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 7:00pm. Free. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig.
Sun 14: JazzMain @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Mon 15: Dave Newton @ Yamaha Music School, Seaforth St., Blyth NE24 1AY. 1:00 - 1:45pm. £8.00. + bf. Newton, solo piano.
Mon 15: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Mon 15: Hideout @ Cluny 2, Newcastle. 7:00pm. £7.50 + £1.33 bf. Feat. Sleep Suppressor + Flat Moon.
Mon 15: Russ Morgan Quartet @ The Black Bull, Blaydon. 8:00pm. £8.00.

Tue 16: The Horne Section’s Hit Show @ Middlesbrough Town Hall. 7:30pm.
Tue 16: Jam session @ The Black Swan, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free. House trio: Bradley Johnston, Paul Grainger, Bailey Rudd.

Wed 17: Bailey Rudd (Minor Recital) @ The Music Studios, Haymarket Lane, Newcastle University. 11:40am. Bailey Rudd (drums). Open to the public.
Wed 17: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Wed 17: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Free. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 17: The Horne Section’s Hit Show @ The Gala, Durham. 7:30pm. SOLD OUT!
Wed 17: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free.

Thu 18: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside. 1:00pm. Free.
Thu 18: NONUNONU @ Elder Beer Café, Chillingham Road, Newcastle. 7:30pm.
Thu 18: Knats @ Hoochie Coochie, Newcastle. 8:00pm (doors 7:30pm). £8.00. + bf. Support act TBC.
Thu 18: Merlin Roxby @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Free. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig. Ragtime piano.
Thu 18: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. 8:30pm. Guest band night with Just Friends: Ian Bosworth (guitar); Donna Hewitt (sax); Dave Archbold (keys); Ron Smith (bass); Mark Hawkins (drums).

Fri 19: Cia Tomasso @ The Lit & Phil, Newcastle. 1:00pm. ‘Cia Tomasso sings Billie Holiday’. SOLD OUT!
Fri 19: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 19: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 19: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ The Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 19: Lindsay Hannon: Tom Waits for No Man @ Seventeen Nineteen, Hendon, Sunderland. 7:30pm.
Fri 19: Levitation Orchestra + Nauta @ Cluny 2, Newcastle. 7:30pm (doors). £11.00.
Fri 19: Strictly Smokin’ Big Band @ The Witham, Barnard Castle. 8:00pm. ‘Ella & Ellington’.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Book review: Owen Martell - Intermission

On June 25, 1961, the Bill Evans Trio recorded the concerts that would become the albums Sunday Night at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby, two of the defining albums in jazz piano history, both held in the same high regard as Jarrett’s The Köln Concert.

On the two albums the trio is a fully wedded, integrated unit, not a leader plus sidemen. All three musicians play in and around each other, fully entwined in each other’s performance.  Eleven days later bassist Scott LaFaro was killed in a car crash.

The recordings and the death of LaFaro, happening so closely together are the launchpad for Owen Martell’s novel about Evans’ lost weekend, the period during which he dropped out of sight and grieved for his friend. Evans is described as ‘shocked and numbed’ at the death and is reported to have ‘wandered round New York City wearing some of Scott’s clothes’.

The novel is told through the eyes of Evans’ brother, Harry, and his mother, Mary, and father, Harry Sr, and, at the end, Evans himself. For most of the novel Evans is a passive, melancholy presence at the centre whilst others are the characters taking care of him. It is only in the last few pages, when we hear his own voice, that he starts to rise up from his despair.  

We first see Evans as, on hearing the news of the crash, Harry seeks him out. Harry describes him at this point as gaunt, “like something cadaverous, eaten” in clothes two sizes too big for him. "He was an odd looking brother", Harry thought. Eventually the wanderings bring them to the Village Vanguard; Max Roach is playing, "Poor souls," Harry thought, "these jazzmen called to improvise on tunes they could play but couldn’t hum".

Harry remembers their childhood, both the music and the running around, riding bikes, falling out of trees, images a world away from the hollowed out Bill Evans on the cover of the Village Vanguard album. Of course, by 1961, Evans had been a heroin addict for several years.

Harry takes him home but Bill is there in body "but elsewhere in spirit". Even Debby, (Yes, that Debby), Harry’s young daughter senses that something isn’t right with Uncle Bill. She starts to draw him out but by now Evans has overstayed his welcome and Harry is annoyed at his brother’s sneaking out to score.

Bill is sent to his parents in Florida and falls back into the dependency of childhood in his mother’s presence. Communication is still an issue but Harry Sr. ignores the obstacle and simply pulls Bill into his life of golf, the bar and talks about ‘man’ things, ‘sport and TV, politics and weather’. Bill says nothing but Harry decides that ‘He will talk for two and in that way help Bill out’.

One day the postman brings a letter from the record company about the new album and that night his parents lie in bed and hear Bill playing piano again. Soon after, on his journey back to New York, he finds he has ‘half a tune in his head which he can’t quite bring to his lips’, but ‘he can only take it so far … it is the expression of a defective mechanism, mind and body and soul, bound together in hapless unbeknowing’. 

This isn’t a simple story arc from despair to recovery, though, there is a glimmer of something when Bill and Paul Motian, the drummer in the Trio, meet with Chuck Israels and the next chapter in Evans’ musical life can begin.

Owen Martell gives us three sketches of Evans during this period but he still remains an enigma. The simplicity of the writing, the absence of speech marks, indeed, the brevity of the novel (162 pages) itself serve to emphasise this. This is a novel not a biography (go to the excellent Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings by Peter Pettinger for that). Conversations and characters’ thoughts are the imagined flesh on the historical bones and the mood reflects the Trio’s music as much as the events.

Martell is a bit of an enigma himself. Intermission was his third novel and his first in English. He grew up in Pontneddfechan in South Wales and his only connection to the story seems to be that Harry Sr. was descended from Welsh immigrants to the US. At one point he bemoans the fact that the Irish uprising of 1916 wasn’t exported over to Wales.

One for Evans devotees? Then yes, I would count myself among that number, indeed Bill Evans was the first jazz artist that I got into. I bought A Kind of Blue because he was on it.

Dave Sayer

Owen Martell - Intermission (Heinemann 2013. ISBN: 9780099558828)

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