Total Pageviews

Bebop Spoken There

Art Blakey: "You [Bobby Watson] don't want to play too long, because you don't know they're clapping because they're glad you finished!" - (JazzTimes, Nov. 2019)..

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!"


15848 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 15 years ago. 855 of them this year alone and, so far, 53 this month (Sept. 18).

From This Moment On ...


Mon 25: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Mon 25: Michael Young Trio @ The Engine Room, Sunderland. 7:00pm.

Tue 26: Paul Skerritt @ The Rabbit Hole, Hallgarth St., Durham DH1 3AT. 7:00pm. Paul Skerritt's (solo) weekly residency.

Wed 27: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Wed 27: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 27: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.

Thu 28: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside. 1:00pm. Free.
Thu 28: Alice Grace Quartet @ King's Hall, Newcastle University. 1:15pm. Free.
Thu 28: Gateshead Jazz Appreciation Society @ Gateshead Central Library, Gateshead. 2:30pm. All welcome.
Thu 28: Faye MacCalman + Snape/Sankey @ Cobalt Studios, Newcastle. 7:00pm.
Thu 28: Zoe Rahman @ Jesmond United Reformed Church, Jesmond, Newcastle. 7:30pm. A Newcastle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music event.
Thu 28: '58 Jazz Collective @ Hops & Cheese, Hartlepool. 7:30pm.
Thu 28: Speakeasy @ Queen's Hall, Hexham. 7:30pm. £15.00. A Southpaw Dance Company presentation. Dance, audio-visuals, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, swing dancers etc.
Thu 28: Mick Cantwell Band @ Harbour View, Sunderland. 8:00pm. Free. Ace blues band.
Thu 28: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman's Club, Middlesbrough. 9:00pm.

Fri 29: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Fri 29: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 29: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms, Monkseaton. 1:00pm.

Sat 30: John Pope Quintet + Late Girl + Shapeshifters @ Bobik's, Jesmond, Newcastle.
Sat 30: Papa G's Troves @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig.


Sun 01: Smokin' Spitfires @ The Cluny, Newcastle. 12:45pm.
Sun 01: Dulcie May Moreno sings Portrait of Sheila @ Central Bar, Gateshead. 2:00pm. £10.00. Moreno sings Sheila Jordan with Giles Strong, Mick Shoulder & John Bradford.
Sun 01: Middlesbrough Jazz & Blues Orchestra @ Saltburn Community Hall. 2:00pm.
Sun 01: The Easy Rollers @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 7:00pm. £13.70., £11.55.
Sun 01: Brand/Roberts/Champion/Sanders @ Blank Studios, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A Newcastle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music event.
Sun 01: Papa G's Troves @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Mon 02: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Mon 02: FILM: Wattstax; 50th Anniversary @ Forum Cinema, Hexham. 8:00pm.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Keith Jarrett: The Art of Improvisation - BBC 4, Nov. 12

Back in the 'old days', before there were a pointless number of TV channels with + signs after them (meaning they cost you a load of extra dough) or with names of blokes you might meet in the pub, e.g. 'Dave', showing programmes with titles like 'The Neighbours from Hell' (I haven't seen one called 'Jazz Audiences from Hell' but no doubt someone is working on it), there was a simple numbering system for a more than adequate number of stations. There was BBC 1 to 4, ITV 1 to 3 and Channel 4 (it was rumoured there was a Channel 5 but, like the Yeti, I never met anyone who had ever seen it). So, on Friday nights you could sit in front of the TV, pour yourself a glass of Blue Nun and be confident that when you turned on BBC 4 there would be a fabulous music programme on Miles Davis or John Coltrane or Dizzy Gillespie or Bird with lots of original footage and very few 'talking heads'. I can also remember some great folk documentaries such as Folk Britannia and Folk Hibernia and showings of early Old Grey Whistle Test programmes with 'whispering' Bob Harris.

Sadly this golden age of great music programmes did not last that long and I stopped turning over when the musical fare was re-runs of Top of the Pops from the 1980s (a lost musical decade as far as I am concerned) and ABBA and Led Zeppelin documentaries. The Blue Nun remained unopened.

So it must have been just listlessness that meant I switched over to BBC 4 on a Friday about a month ago and was immediately intrigued to see Keith Jarrett's backside and hear those bell-like piano sounds that emerge out of the 'Koln Concert'. I had missed the beginning but what a documentary this was - even better than the old days.

The programme was from 2006 and called Keith Jarrett: The art of improvisation and that's what it focused on. It was not in chronological order, but when did he do anything in chronological order? There were no 'talking heads', only talking musicians who were playing the stuff and lots of interview time with a surprisingly relaxed Keith Jarrett.

Talking about the process of improvisation he described it as going "from zero to zero" and that each time he had to "intentionally undo" what he had done before. For him it was a process of "learning what I wasn't doing" and that he realised that "my left hand knew things I didn't know" so "(I) gave it the right to just play".  Asked by the interviewer after one particularly intense description of the pain of the improvisation process if he was "very hard on himself?" Jarrett almost jokingly replied "Don't I sound like I am?"

Written down all this starts to sound like a contribution to Private Eye's Pseuds Corner; listen to him play and it makes perfect sense.

It was fascinating to hear Manfred Eicher, the founder of ECM records who recorded Jarrett over many years, recall how they were very concerned before recording the Koln Concert that the proper piano hadn't arrived and the one that was available 'sounded tinny'.  But didn't the recording only become the best selling solo jazz album of all time. It was also reassuring to hear that Eicher reckoned he had recorded about 100 solo performances in total and only very few appeared on record.

But the great joy of the programme was that it made up mostly of live footage of all different periods of Jarrett's performing career. There was an extended piece of Jarrett playing a Mozart piano concerto with Chick Corea using a split screen showing both players at the same time.  The only voice was at the end where an older Chick Corea was watching the recording and as it finished he just said 'How nice'. Yes it was, Chick, it really was. A somewhat different performance to the last time I heard them play together at the Isle of Wight in 1970 with Miles Davis.

Then came some  film from the 1970s of the trio with Charlie Harden and Paul Motian (with Jarrett playing some soprano sax) followed by some numbers where Dewey Redman joined the trio. All beautiful stuff with close camera work focused on the musicians.

Back in time to the 1960s Europe when Jarrett played in Scandinavia and Jan Christiansen (Jan Garbarek's drummer) described going to see him play with Paul Motian every night for a week in Oslo in 1968. The terrific black and wide footage of some non-descript room with people sitting on the floor shows a totally recognisable piano-player playing with the same intensity, concentration and movements we know from later years.

This morphs into extended footage of Jarrett playing with Garbarek, Christiansen and the bassist Palle Danielsson with great versions of the The Wind-Up and My Song. A real feast of live music recordings.

The last section of the documentary deals with the illness Keith Jarrett contracted in 1996, which stopped him playing the piano for two years and he talked movingly of his battle with it. He described the fight as the effort to turn the 'disease into song' and when he could play properly again how he realised the 'miracle of playing'. Hearing this made me think it made sense why in his later concerts he protested so strongly against people coughing, taking photographs and using mobile phones.

Just after the credits rolled (and Ian Carr's name came up as programme consultant) there was one final snippet of interview where Jarrett said "And now I'm going to have to not just sound Irish, I'm going to have to go practise".

As an Irishman who has had a saxophone in its case under the bed unopened for 25 years I laughed at that. JC


Sven-Axel Månsson said...

What a enjoyable review, so well written. Also for a Swede who has had his drum kit stuffed away in the basement for more than four decades.

Chris Kilsby said...

I'll second that - thanks JC. I knew of this 2004 programme, but had never seen it until this showing on BBC4 ( AS JC says, as well as documenting the multiple phases of his music, it sheds light on his complex and sometimes difficult character and, frankly, genius.

The interviews with fellow bandmates are all fascinating, but the memories related by his (late) Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, and Swedish bass player Palle Danielsson stand out. The obvious reverence and love they still held 25 years later for the man and the music of that remarkable European Quartet with Garbarek (Personal Mountains, My Song) were tangible and enough to bring tears to my eyes, especially in view of Jarrett's stroke and enforced end of his playing career.

Nigel Pownceby said...

For an extended version of the story behind the piano used for the Koln Concert, check out the Introduction to Tim Harford's fine book "Messy". A fascinating read and an interesting exploration of aspects of improvisation, to boot..
Nigel Pownceby

Hugh said...

Try also both of these on BBC Sounds:

Witness History - Keith Jarrett in Cologne (

For One Night Only - Keith Jarrett: The Cologne Concert (

Blog Archive