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Bebop Spoken There

Branford Marsalis: "As ignorance often forces us to do, you make a generalisation about a musician based on one specific record or one moment in time." - (Jazzwise June 2023).

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!"


15491 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 15 years ago. 512 of them this year alone and, so far, 133 this month (May 31).

From This Moment On ...

Thu 01: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside. 1:00pm. Free.
Thu 01: Thursday Night Prayer Meeting @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Donations.
Thu 01: Merlin Roxby @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Ragtime piano. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig.
Thu 01: Jake Leg Jug Band @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.
Thu 01: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman's Club, Middlesbrough. 9:00pm.

Fri 02: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Fri 02: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.
Fri 02: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms, Monkseaton. 1:00pm.
Fri 02: Joseph Carville Trio @ Saltburn Community Hall. 7:30pm.
Fri 02: Claire Martin & Her Trio @ The Witham, Barnard Castle. 7:30pm. £25.00., £20.00. Feat. Jim Mullen, Alex Garnett & Jeremy Brown.
Fri 02: Guy Davis + Michael Littlefield & Scott Taylor @ Cluny 2, Newcastle. Doors 7:30pm. Blues double bill.
Fri 02: Anders Ingram @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Blind Pig Blues Club. Country blues. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig.

Sat 03: Newcastle Record Fair @ Northumbria University, Newcastle NE8 8SB. 10:00am-3:00pm. Admission: £2.00.
Sat 03: Pedigree Jazz Band @ St Augustine's Parish Centre, Darlington. 12:30pm.
Sat 03: Play Jazz! workshop @ The Globe, Newcastle. 1:30pm. Tutor: Sue Ferris. £25.00. Enrol at:
Sat 03: Abbie Finn Trio @ The Vault, Darlington. 6:00pm. Free.
Sat 03: Rendezvous Jazz @ Red Lion, Earsdon. 8:00pm. £3.00.
Sat 03: Papa G's Troves @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A 'Jar on the Bar' gig.

Sun 04: Smokin' Spitfires @ The Cluny, Newcastle. 12:45pm.
Sun 04: Central Bar Quintet @ Central Bar, Gateshead. 2:00-4:00pm. £5.00. The Central Bar Quintet plays Sonny Rollins' Saxophone Colossus. Featuring Lewis Watson.
Sun 04: 4B @ The Exchange, North Shields. 3:00pm.
Sun 04: Struggle Buggy + Michael Littlefield @ Tyne Bar, Newcastle. 4:00pm. Free. Acoustic blues.
Sun 04: Swinging at the Cotton Club: Harry Strutters' Hot Rhythm Orchestra @ The Fire Station, Sunderland. 7:30pm.
Sun 04: Richard Jones Trio @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.
Sun 04: Jam No. 18 @ Fabio's Bar, Saddler Street, Durham. 8:00pm. Free. All welcome. A Durham University Jazz Society event.

Mon 05: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.

Tue 06: Paul Skerritt @ The Rabbit Hole, Hallgarth St., Durham DH1 3AT. 7:00pm. Paul Skerritt's (solo) weekly residency.
Tue 06: Jam session @ Black Swan, Newcastle Arts Centre. 7:30pm. House trio: Stu Collingwood (piano); Paul Grainger (double bass); Sid White (drums).

Wed 07: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm.
Wed 07: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 07: 4B @ The Exchange, North Shields. 7:00pm.
Wed 07: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm.

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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