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Bebop Spoken There

Charlotte Keeffe: "I don't know what I'm going to play any more than you [the audience] do." - (Jazz North East/Jazz Co-op gig June 13, 2021)

Archive quotes.

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.

Postage

13,359 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 13 years ago. 777 of them this year alone and, so far, 51 this month (June 13).

From This Moment On

JUNE

Wed 16: Washboard Resonators @ Punchbowl Hotel, Jesmond, Newcastle (8:00pm). SOLD OUT!

Thu 17: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, North Tyneside (1:00pm).

Thu 17: Maine Street Jazzmen @ Sunniside Social Club, Gateshead (8:30pm).

Fri 18: Jazz Jamaica @ Sage Gateshead (8:00pm).

Sat 19: Jude Murphy @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle (8:00pm).

Sun 20 Knats @ The Globe, Newcastle (8:00pm). Advance booking essential: www.jazz.coop.

Mon 21: Jazz in the Afternoon @ Cullercoats Crescent Club (1:00pm). CANCELLED TFN.

Wed 23: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club (1:00pm). CANCELLED TFN.

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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