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Bebop Spoken There

Charles McPherson: “Jazz is best heard in intimate places”. (DownBeat, July, 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.


16590 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 16 years ago. 483 of them this year alone and, so far, 29 this month (July 14).

From This Moment On ...


Fri 19: Luis Verde with the Dean Stockdale Trio @ The Lit & Phil, Newcastle. 1:00pm. 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: Luis Verde with the Dean Stockdale Trio @ Traveller’s Rest, Darlington. 8:00pm. Opus 4 Jazz Club.
Fri 19: Zoë Gilby Trio @ Seventeen Nineteen, Hendon, Sunderland. 7:30pm.

Sat 20: Snake Davis & Helen Watson Duo @ Chopwell Community Centre NE17 7HZ. 7:30pm. £17.50.

Sun 21: Paul Skerritt @ Hibou Blanc, Newcastle. 2:00pm.
Sun 21: Salty Dog @ The Globe, Newcastle. 3:00pm.
Sun 21: 4B @ The Ticket Office, Whitley Bay. 3:00pm. Free. Sun 21: The Big Easy @ The White Room, Stanley. 5:00pm.
Sun 21: Ben Crosland Quartet @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Mon 22: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.

Tue 23: Nomade Swing Trio @ Newcastle House Hotel, Rothbury. 7:30pm. £10.00. Tickets from Tully’s of Rothbury or at the door (cash only). A Coquetdale Jazz event.

Wed 24: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Wed 24: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Free. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 24: The Ronnie Scott’s Story @ The Fire Station, Sunderland. 7:30pm.
Wed 24: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free.
Wed 24: Milne-Glendinning Band @ Cafédral, Owengate, Durham. 9:00pm. £9.00. & £6.00. A Durham Fringe Festival event.

Thu 25: Merlin Roxby @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Free. Ragtime piano. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig.
Thu 25: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. 8:30pm. Guests: Garry Hadfield (keys); Noel Dennis (tpt); Richie Emmerson (tenor sax); Adrian Beadnell (bass).
Thu 25: Milne-Glendinning Band @ Cafédral, Owengate, Durham. 9:00pm. £9.00. & £6.00. A Durham Fringe Festival event.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Probably the Best Christmas Album Ever

I am often asked “Dave, what Christmas albums should I buy?” and this is my answer:
Firstly, there are a few staples that should be in every collection. The most obvious is A Christmas Gift To You by everyone’s favourite homicidal record producer, Phil Spector. Next, a bit of brass band never goes amiss and my favourite is A Festive Celebration for Brass Band by The Royal Doulton Band. 

You should probably also have a collection of Christmas pop hits. They are all much of a muchness. Try and avoid the ones that have the new Ed and Elton song on as that will curdle your brandy butter at a crucial point on Christmas Day. These collections are usually best bought from charity shops - each puts out a dozen or so for sale in early December. They will still be there with only eight days to go. Finally, before we get to the proper stuff, all the mums and hairdressers like a bit of bubble so Christmas by Michael Bublé should always be in the house in case of emergencies.

Turning now to the serious stuff. There are a lot of good compilations of Christmas related jazz out there. The two I tend to dig out are Yule Struttin’: A Blue Note Christmas on Blue Note and A Jazzy Christmas on, would you believe it Marks & Spencer, who implore us to ‘Have a Cool Yule With This Festive Jazz Selection’. Cool Struttin’ includes both classic Blue Note artists (Chet Baker, Dexter Gordon) and some of the newer generation (Dianne Reeves, Joey Calderazzo, John Scofield) all doing the usual Christmas fayre but with the implicit element of swing. The M&S is mainly older artists (Ella, Dinah, Miles, Billie, Bill Evans) and is definitely worth the £3 I paid for it in the Cancer Research Shop.

“But,” you ask “Doctor Dave, which 5 best non-compilation, single artist jazz albums should I buy?” Well here they are, in reverse order: At number 5 is Jamie Cullum’s The Pianoman at Christmas (Island Records) released in 2020. This might have been higher were it not for the fact that it has been reissued this year with an extra CD which is two fingers to those of us who bought it last year. However, if you like Jamie Cullum, you’ll like this collection of new tunes which all sound like oldies with full orchestral strings on some tracks and more brass on others. All the usual themes (Santa, lights, romance, snow, presents, mistletoe) are covered so if you want something to play whilst hanging the decorations, this fits the bill.

Number 4 is A Jazzy Christmas Carol by Alan Barnes on Woodville Records released in 2015. Dickens is given the full treatment here by a Premier League octet that includes Bruce Adams, Mark Nightingale and David Newton swinging their way through A Christmas Carol with Barnes in his night shirt playing a terrified Ebenezer Scrooge on the front cover. (Elsewhere he also plays Scrooge (track two Bah Humbug) on bass clarinet.)  The music closely follows the story so screaming horns and thunderous drums reflect the terror of the appearance of Marley’s Ghost and The Ghost of Christmas Past (Portrait of Belle) is an elegant slow blues. As you might expect God Bless Us Everyone is a swinging New Orleans stomp. This is another gem from Barnes, which should be played outside of the festive season more than it is.

Incidentally, Miles Davis appears in a ‘blink-and-you’ll-miss-it' moment in one of the filmed versions of a Christmas Carol as ‘Bloke leaning on a lamppost and playing the trumpet’. I’ll leave you to work out which film it was. (Answer below).

In at 3 is Carla’s Christmas Carols with Steve Swallow and the Partyka Brass Quintet by Carla Bley on WATT records, released in 2009.Carla Bley takes apart and reassembles a number of familiar tunes (O Tannenbaum, Joy To The World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Jingle Bells etc.) and adds a couple of her own for a set that questions, at times, how much merry there should be in Christmas. In Away in A Manger, for example, the manger sounds a lot further away than it ever did before. Some of the music is just Bley and Swallow with the horns alternatively warm or intimidating. On The Christmas Song they are full of good cheer, and they ring like bells, up and down the register, on Christmas Bells. This is classic jazz, tilting the world through 20 degrees to shine new light on the familiar and traditional. It’s an album whose strength lies in the imagination of Carla Bley’s arrangements. Wonderful at anytime, magical in December.

Just missing the top spot, at number 2 is Christmas Songs by Diana Krall on Verve, released in 2005. On which Diana Krall wraps her smokey contralto round a collection of the best known Christmas songs, many of which first appeared on the Phil Spector album in 1963, and makes them her own. These are big, lush arrangements which are a perfect frame for her voice and piano playing. Absolutely lovely and the best frocks of any artist on here, including Alan Barnes’ nightshirt.

In at the top is the number 1 essential Christmas Jazz album. The winner is The Christmas Concert by the Tommy Smith Quartet on Spartacus Records released in 2002. Again, a collection of Premier League players with Smith on tenor, Gareth Williams on piano, Orlando Le Fleming bass and Sebastiaan De Krom on drums take on nine of the most familiar songs but the familiar is abandoned as the comfortable melodies become a springboard to epic improvisation. We are lulled into a sense of security with the opener, Winter Wonderland, which starts as if it were an introduction to an hour of ‘mmmm nice’ smooth jazz. But wait, because there is something much bolder lurking in the wings ready to take to the floor. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen sets the tone for the rest of the album. Smith slows down the tempo of the intro and Le Fleming rolls and tumbles his bass around the sax, then it all kicks off with loooong tenor lines and thumping Tyner-esque piano. This is marvellous jazz, if Coltrane had have done Christmas this is what it would have sounded like.

I remember playing this on a cassette Walkman, walking through the town, as it woke up, just before Christmas, to collect my car that I had left outside the party the night before. It was the perfect music on that occasion and I have loved this album ever since.

Btw Miles David was in Scrooged in 1988 with Bill Murray. Dave Sayer

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