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Bebop Spoken There

Sean Jones: "There were like three people in church who couldn't sing or play an instrument. We thought there was something wrong with them." (DownBeat July 2022)

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:"Lance writes pull quotes like no one else!"


14362 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 14 years ago. 581 of them this year alone and, so far, 81 this month (June 26).

From This Moment On ...


Mon 27: Jazz in the Afternoon @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.

Tue 28: Jam session @ Black Swan, Newcastle. 7:30pm. House trio: Dean Stockdale, Paul Grainger, Sid White.

Wed 29: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Wed 29: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 29: Four @ The Exchange, North Shields. 7:00pm. CANCELLED!
Wed 29: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.

Thu 30: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, North Tyneside. 1:00pm.
Thu 30: 58 Jazz Collective @ Hops & Cheese, Hartlepool. 7:30pm.
Thu 30: Lights Out By Nine @ Hoochie Coochie, Newcastle. 8:30pm. Free.
Thu 30: Maine Street Jazzmen @ Sunniside Social Club, Gateshead. 8:30pm.
Thu 30: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. 9:00pm.


Fri 01: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Fri 01: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 01: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms, Monkseaton. 1:00pm.
Fri 01: Swing Manouche @ The Vault, Hexham. 7:30pm (doors). £20.00.
Fri 01: 1920s Speakeasy w live jazz @ The Exchange, North Shields. 8:00pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event.
Fri 01: Struggle Buggy @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. Blind Pig Blues Club. 8:00pm.

Sat 02: Hot Fingers @ St Augustine’s Parish Centre, Darlington. 12:30pm. £10.00.
Sat 02: Play Jazz! workshop @ The Globe, Newcastle. 1:30pm. Tutor Steve Glendinning: Latin jazz. £25.00. Enrol at:
Sat 02: Talk: Storytelling & jazz as an expression of urban life @ The Exchange, North Shields. 1:45pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event.
Sat 02: The Commandments + On Parole @ The Exchange, North Shields. 2:30pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event. Rhythm & blues.
Sat 02: Geordie Jazz Man @ The Exchange, North Shields. 5:30pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event. Screening of Abi Lewis’ documentary film about Keith Crombie & the Jazz Café.
Sat 02: The Delta Prophets Trio @ The Exchange, North Shields. 6:30pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event. Rhythm & blues.
Sat 02: Swing Manouche @ Claypath Deli, Durham. 7:00pm.
Sat 02: Swung Eight & King Bees @ The Exchange, North Shields. 7:30pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event. Swing dance + ace Chicago blues band.
Sat 02: Tyne Valley Big Band @ Greenside Community Centre, Ryton. 7:30pm.
Sat 02: Patrick Cromb @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Sun 03 Vieux Carré Hot 4 @ Spanish City, Whitley Bay. 12 noon.
Sun 03: Smokin’ Spitfires @ The Cluny, Newcastle. 12:45pm.
Sun 03: Ruth Lambert & Martin Craggs. @ The Exchange, North Shields. 2:00pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event.
Sun 03: Abbie Finn Trio @ The Exchange, North Shields. 3:00pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event.
Sun 03: Wild Women of Wylam @ The Exchange, North Shields. 4:30pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event.
Sun 03: 4B @ The Exchange, North Shields. 5:30pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event.
Sun 03: Jazz Jam @ The Exchange, North Shields. 6:30pm. A Blues, Jazz & Swing Festival event.
Sun 03: Jeffrey Hewer Quartet @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.

Mon 04: Jazz in the Afternoon @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Book review: Ben Ratliff - Coltrane: The Story of a Sound (Faber, 2020 edition)

I first encountered John Coltrane when I bought an Italian cassette tape of A Love Supreme, the live version from Antibes. The manufacturing and reproduction were both appalling but much of the music still came through. For an introduction, though, it was frightening and I hardly played it again. Later I would work my way through the Miles Davis albums and then the more ‘mainstream’ works like Giant Steps and My Favourite Things and then onto the freer works by the Classic Quartet, including a better recording of the Antibes concert. 

Whilst other musicians seemed to look to widen their sound, taking it down new avenues, Coltrane just seemed to become more himself, taking little more than a homeopathic trace of the sound on earliest recordings, and turning it into what it would become, nurturing and developing it going through periods of hot-house growth, such as in 1956 with Miles Davis and 1957 with Thelonious Monk.

In the first half of this book Ratliff traces Coltrane’s musical biography, from a 1946 recording whilst he was in the Navy, faltering steps with Dizzy Gillespie’s Orchestra, numerous gigs with artists of varying quality, until he signs on as part of Miles Davis’ first great group in late 1955. As well as fulfilling several one and two week engagements by the end of 1956 the group will record the ’Round About Midnight album for Columbia and four contractual obligation albums for Prestige (Cookin’, Steamin’ Workin’, Walkin’). Ratliff suggests that Coltrane did not learn much directly from Davis but the workload forced him to get better quickly. Contrast that with his experience as part of Monk’s group where Monk is described as a coach who would show Coltrane the answers to the questions he was asking.

Coltrane, during this period, was also hoovering up philosophical and musical ideas from almost any source. This constant searching is reflected in the development of the sound. Non-Western ideas come to affect both the structure and the content of the music and the spiritual ideas will ultimately feedback in to ‘the sound’.

The book does what it says, Ratliff is interested in the story of the John Coltrane sound and how it evolved so relationships and substance abuse, significant elements in any personal biography, are reduced to mere marginalia.

The second part of the book is partly an overview of the jazz landscape immediately after Coltrane died and since, with a glance at the future and a review of critical responses to Coltrane’s music during and since his death. If that makes this part of the book sound a bit muddled, that’s because it is.

There are many critical comments that capture what I love about the music such as ‘the musical qualities in human terms – power, intensity, patience, urgency’ (Zita Carno 1959), ‘A jazz solo for Coltrane is a kind of psychological journey through his state of being at the present’ (Allaudin Mathieu), and ‘This is possibly the most powerful human sound ever recorded’ (Matthieu, again in 1966). Elsewhere Ratliff points to the influence of Coltrane on rock music, citing Santana, The Grateful Dead and the Doors.

He struggles with his attempt to assess Coltrane’s direct legacy, becoming too focused on New York in the years immediately after 1967 when the scene seemed to deflate without its leader to give it direction. Ratliff is, I think, too dismissive of all the other directions, notably Miles Davis’ electronic work, and only looks at those musicians that surrounded Coltrane in New York in the last few years and who would inspire him and be inspired by him in equal measure.

Ratliff’s final question is ‘Who will be the next Coltrane?’ and he responds with ‘It’s the wrong question for Jazz’. The answer he gives is that that person will arise from the circumstances of ‘letting musicians play, and play, and play some more.’

This book is far from a dry disquisition, Ratliff’s love for this music comes of the page. He has set himself a tight brief in his focus on ‘the sound’ and what made it and, in the first part of the book, fulfils this entirely.

As always with books about music, part of the pleasure is in what you listen to whilst reading. This time round I listened to: -

Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane: At Carnegie Hall

John Coltrane: My Favorite Things

The John Coltrane Quartet: Africa/Brass

John Coltrane; Live at the Village Vanguard: The Master Takes

And, somewhat inevitably, John Coltrane: A Love Supreme -  Dave Sayer

Ben Ratliff  - Coltrane: The Story of a Sound (Faber, 2020 edition). ISBN-10:0571359817, ISBN-13:978-0571359813

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