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Bebop Spoken There

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May 13: Vieux Carré Jazzmen at The Holystone (weather, unfortunately, not permitting). CANCELLED!

May 20: Vieux Carré Jazzmen at The Holystone (Indoors!)
May 20 Maine Street Jazzmen are back at Sunniside Social Club.
May 23: Vieux Carré Hot Four are back at The Spanish City.

June 21: Jazz in the Afternoon are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club. (Revised date).
June 23: Vieux Carré Jazzmen are back at Cullercoats Crescent Club. (Revised date).

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

The start of a love affair by Ron Ainsborough

I was asked recently: "How did you become acquainted with jazz?” This is my attempt to answer that question.

I recall Ellington did not like to use the term jazz and said there were only two kinds of music - good music and bad music.

My first memory is of when as, a schoolboy, I heard live some boogie-woogie piano. I was immediately captivated by the sound and, in particular, the left hand patterns. I will never forget that day.

My only source of music at the time was primarily listening to the BBC Light Programme but I don’t remember much jazz if any being broadcast (early 1950’s). I was quite unaware at the time that boogie-woogie was jazz of course, although I had been listening to music all my life.

When I heard rock and roll for the first time, 1955 onwards, I could immediately hear boogie-woogie in that music as well.  Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Bill Haley etc. I loved it! I recall, alongside rock ‘n’ roll, people like Mel Tormé, Sinatra and Dinah Washington were selling jazz records e.g. Tormé’s I’m Comin Home Baby which I loved not realising it was jazz.  By about 1960 I thought rock ‘n’ roll which I’d initially found exciting had become very bland.

I didn’t collect records until about 1962 but used to go to a friend’s house to listen to his older brother’s collection. The older brother was a friend of Eric Burdon I recall.

The record collection was quite eclectic including lots of blues LPs by such as Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, Joe Turner, and Muddy Waters (at Newport). He also had Shelly Manne (My Fair Lady) and Charlie Byrd (Blues for Night People). Muddy Waters at Newport, incidentally, was the first LP I ever bought followed by my first jazz LP - Oscar Peterson’s Very Tall with Milt Jackson. All a big influence on my music listening.

The first jazz concert I attended was Chris Barber at Newcastle City Hall in the early 1960’s. I was blown away by Pat Halcox playing Mood Indigo, not that the rest of the concert wasn’t also impressive (as I type this I’ve just heard of Chris Barber’s death yesterday – very sad).

By then jazz and blues were firmly on my music radar and would be for the rest of my life.

At that time I spent a lot of time in J G Windows basement buying jazz LPs. Not just mono recordings but also the new ‘stereo’ LPs. You could listen to stereo LPs in a separate room played on top of the range stereo equipment. What a luxury! Lance will probably confirm this having worked at JGW.

This gave me the opportunity to listen to the jazz greats but unfortunately I had yet to see them live.

I was so lucky to see the start of JNE concerts in 1966, attending the very first JNE concert, Earl Hines, followed by more jazz greats in concert at the long gone Connaught Hall.

I recall the Johnny Griffin concert, at half time we rushed to the Eldon Grill for a drink to find the whole band standing at the bar ahead of us, drinks in hand.

Incidentally Johnny Griffin was reportedly asked by Lucky Thompson, how he played so well when he was stoned? Griffin is said to have replied that he was stoned when he learned to play!

Other venues I frequented included The Corner House, Club A-Go-Go, University Theatre, New Orleans Jazz Club (Forth Banks era) run by a great Polish guy called Jurick I think was his name.

I was in the New Orleans club on its last night in existence when Diz Disley was actually playing and the police burst in through several doors. They checked for members and people signed in but the reason they were there was (I think) they were after the then current owner, who I suspect wasn’t unknown to them. I digress! By the way once the police left the session recommenced as if nothing had happened, but it was the last ever session in the Club.

Some gigs I have been lucky to see includes: - Zbigniew Namaslowski (twice at the New Orleans JC), Ellington, Basie, Ella, Peterson, Brubeck, Herman, Rich, Grappelli, Roland Kirk, and Sonny Rollins, I suppose I shouldn’t try to list them all because it would be very long and still exclude many favourites of mine.

Herb Ellis was appearing at the Corner House, at the break, I saw him resting on a vacated audience chair. After a while the youngish audience member returned, and to my amazement, he asked Herb for his seat back. Herb graciously gave him his seat back and walked away. Geordie hospitality at its best!!

I suspect this person did not know who Herb Ellis was nor was a jazz enthusiast.

Appearing at the Corner House one night was Eddie Lockjaw Davis. I guess his contract was to play till 10.30pm. He was in the middle of a solo and discreetly had a look at his watch. It was 10.30pm so he promptly stopped playing, no encore, and left the stage. I am told he was a very strict businessman in his dealings.

At a Roland Kirk concert (at Sunderland Empire) he was accompanied by a piano trio. About half way through the set Kirk indicated to the trio to up the tempo (I think). Kirk was not happy with the response. Visibly upset, he stopped playing, picked up a heavy gong and frame, raised it above his head and promptly threw it, bumping, across the stage, and walked off. End of Roland Kirk concert! No encore I might add. Ha!

Jazz venues outside the North East that I have been lucky enough to visit include some in London: The Barbican (Sonny Rollins!), Ronnie Scott’s and the 606 Jazz Club. Incidentally, the 606 was strongly recommended to me by Jo Harrop’s late father when I had the pleasure of meeting him in The Cherry Tree Restaurant.

Venues abroad include, Birdland NYC, Amsterdam (see poster), Barcelona (situated in a very dodgy area I might add), Geneva, Montreux Jazz Festival and Havana Cuba.

The Havana Club is called La Zorra y El Cuervo JC, translated simply - The Vixen & The Raven. It is in a basement surprisingly accessed at ground level through a UK red phone box (in Cuba????). Alan Law told me that he had been there and saw Roberto Fonseca playing, I’m envious of Alan although I saw a band called Canela who I was told tour internationally and who were fantastic. Never to be forgotten!

Wherever I am I always take the opportunity to see where live jazz is on at home, in the UK or abroad.

We are so lucky in the North East to have a great jazz scene with great venues and a lot of very talented musicians. 

I am confident that jazz in all its forms will continue to develop and that jazz is far from being dead and never will be. Certainly the lockdown livestream sessions we are currently experiencing bear this out.

Ron Ainsborough.

1 comment :

Jen said...

Thank you for sharing this with us Ron. A very interesting read - and lots of remarkable stories. It must be great for you to reminisce!

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