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Bebop Spoken There

Ambrose Akinmusire: “ I am certainly always aware of what the masses are doing. And when I see too many people going one way, I'm going another way - even when I don't know what's over that way". DownBeat, March, 2024.

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

16246 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 16 years ago. 128 of them this year alone and, so far, 72 this month (Feb. 29).

From This Moment On ...

March

Mon 04: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.

Tue 05: Jam session @ The Black Swan, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free. House trio: Joe Steels, Paul Grainger, Michael Mather.

Wed 06: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Wed 06: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Free. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 06: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free.

Thu 07: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside. 1:00pm. Free.
Thu 07: Ray Stubbs R & B All Stars @ The Schooner, South Shore Road, Gateshead. 8:00pm.
Thu 07: Merlin Roxby @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig. Ragtime piano.
Thu 07: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. Guests: Mark Toomey (alto sax); Donna Hewitt (tenor sax); Garry Hadfield (keys); Ron Smith (bass); Mark Hawkins (drums). 8:30pm.

Fri 08: Noel Dennis Quartet @ The Old Library, Auckland Castle. 1:00pm. £8.00. Noel Dennis (trumpet, flugelhorn); Rick Laughlin (keyboards); Mick Shoulder (double bass); Tim Johnston (drums).
Fri 08: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 08: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms. 1:00pm. Free. CANCELLED! Back on March 15.
Fri 08: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ The Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.

Sat 09: Alex Fawcett Band + Lindsay Hannon Blues Trio @ Sedgefield Parish Hall. 7:00pm. £15.00. A Sedgefield Rock & Blues Club event. Tickets: www.sedgefieldblues.com.
Sat 09: Shunyata Improvisation Group @ Cullercoats Watch House. 8:00pm. Donations. A Watch House renovation fundraising concert.
Sat 09: Ray Stubb’s R&B All Stars @ The Peacock, Sunderland. 6:00pm. Free. Gig in the downstairs bar.

Sun 10: Am Jam @ The Globe, Newcastle. 2:30pm. Free.
Sun 10: 4B @ The Ticket Office, Whitley Bay Metro Station. 3:00pm. Free.
Sun 10: Salty Dog @ The Lounge, Blyth. 4:00pm. Free.
Sun 10: Vintage Explosion @ Wylam Brewery, Newcastle.
Sun 10: Fraser Fifield: Secret Path Trio @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.
Sun 10: Jazz Jam @ Fabio's, Saddler St., Durham. 8:00pm. Free. A Durham University Jazz Society event. All welcome.

Mon 11: Matthew Forster Quartet @ Yamaha Music School, Seaforth St., Blyth NE24 1AY. 1:00 - 1:45pm. £8.00. + bf.
Mon 11: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.

Tue 12: Lewis Watson Quartet @ Newcastle House Hotel, Rothbury. 7:30pm.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Album review: Matthew Stevens - Pittsburgh

(Press release)

He may not have known it before, but Toronto-born, New York-based guitarist Matthew Stevens, prized for his forceful, distinctive electric sound on Esperanza Spalding’s groundbreaking “Emily’s D+Evolution”, “Exposure” and the GRAMMY-winning 1’2 Little Spell’s, was an ideal candidate to make an album fully devoted to solo acoustic guitar: the intimate, unadorned, straightforwardly titled Pittsburgh.

Stevens’ previous two outings, Woodwork (2015) and Preverbal (2017), made use of steel-string acoustic as a vibrant textural contrast, notably on “Brothers” and “Our Reunion” (featuring Spalding as guest and co-composer). Still, a solo acoustic album seemed to Stevens like a ‘maybe someday’ prospect, if that. Then came the convergence of two major events — the COVID-19 pandemic and a fractured elbow.

By September 2020, Stevens was hunkering down in his wife’s family’s hometown of Pittsburgh, still busy with adjunct teaching (virtually) at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute while navigating his way through the crisis. He had with him a vintage Martin 00-17, a small-body mahogany guitar that he bought not long after recording Exposure with Spalding (the studio had a different one in its possession and Stevens used it fairly extensively on that album). Practicing daily on the Martin, he began generating a series of short song “starts” — ideas and sketches he thought might lead somewhere. With the help of his friend, go-to drummer and producer Eric Doob, he made preliminary versions of some of the Pittsburgh material for The Jazz Gallery’s virtual “Lockdown Sessions” video series, and the vision started to take on a more concrete form.

Then one rainy Pittsburgh day, Stevens’ bike slid out from under him and he broke his right elbow. Rather than getting derailed musically, he became immersed in a creative process that led straight to Pittsburgh: a document of those short song ‘starts’ from the notebook, now hatched as completed compositions. “Playing this music became a big part of my rehab,” Stevens recalls. “My aunt is a physical therapist, so I was doing sessions with her online. She said that what we do as guitar players is so specific, it uses muscle groups we’re not even aware of. She told me I needed to start playing as soon as I could, so those things don’t seize up and you don’t lose strength. She said, ‘I know you can’t lift a shopping bag, but if you feel like you can play at all you should play.’ I really could have been flailing, but the solo project offered me a different path: I had material to work on and I could just lose myself in it because it required so much repetition, such close attention to things that are slow and deliberate. It spared me from a lot of mental anguish.”

As the album took shape, it became clear to Stevens that he was headed in
the direction of a wholly unaccompanied recital, with no overdubs or sound layering of any kind. Just him and this special Martin, two Neumann U89 mics and enough peace of mind across two separate sessions to make Pittsburgh the triumph that it is. “I’ve always felt that playing acoustic is a great way to develop a touch and a connection to an instrument,” Stevens comments. “There’s no apparatus that helps you be expressive, play dynamically, or create ambience on an acoustic guitar. So when you develop that, it’s something you can carry with you into playing electric.”

Compositionally, there are discernible families of songs on Pittsburgh: the rapidly flowing, intricately arpeggiated pattern pieces such as “Purpose of a Machine,” “Can Am” (named in honour of Stevens’ recently acquired American citizenship) and “Cocoon” (a thorough reworking of a piece first heard on Preverbal); the tranquil, hymn-like songs “Foreign Ghosts,” “Ending Is Beginning” and “Miserere”; and the grittier, more timbrally “outside” inventions such as “Ambler” and “Northern Touch.” Throughout, we hear a rich resonance and immediacy in Stevens’ touch, a flavour all his own, even as he draws inspiration from John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Marc Ribot and other jazz guitar greats who’ve made acoustic exploration a significant part of their legacy.

Release date October 8, Whirlwind Recordings WR4779. YouTube link.

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