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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.


16573 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 16 years ago. 466 of them this year alone and, so far, 12 this month (July 7).

From This Moment On ...


Fri 12: The Vieux Carré Hot 4 @ The White Swan, Main Road, Ovingham NE42 6AG. 12:30pm. Free.
Fri 12: John Settle @ The Old Library, Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland. 1:00pm. £8.00. Settle (vibes) w. Dean Stockdale, Mick Shoulder & Tim Johnston.
Fri 12: Classic Swing @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 12: Rendezvous Jazz @ The Monkseaton Arms. 1:00pm. Free.
Fri 12: New Orleans Preservation Jazz Band @ The Oxbridge Hotel, Stockton. 1:00pm. £5.00.

Sat 13: Jazz Stage @ Mouth of the Tyne Festival. Free. Vieux Carré Jazzmen (12 noon); Trilogy of Four (1:35pm); Classic Swing (3:10pm); Archipelago (4:40pm).
Sat 13: East Coast Swing Band @ Tynemouth Metro Station. 1:00pm. Free. A Mouth of the Tyne Festival event.
Sat 13: Tyne Valley Big Band @ Prudhoe Riverside Park. 12:55-1:40pm. Free.
Sat 13: Michael Woods @ Cycle Hub, Ouseburn, Newcastle NE6 1BU. 1:30-2:30pm & 3:00-4:00pm. Country blues. An Ouseburn Festival event.
Sat 13: Vieux Carré Hot 4 @ The Beehive, Hartley Lane, Whitley Bay NE25 0SZ. 5:30pm. Free. Gig in the Secret Garden.
Sat 13: Anth Purdy @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Free. ‘Swing Jazz Guitar’. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig.

Sun 14: OUTRI + Slowlight Quartet @ The Bandstand, The Sele, Hexham. 12 noon-2:00pm. Free. OUTRI is Ian ‘Dodge’ Paterson’s new solo bass project. ‘The Bandstand Sessions’.
Sun 14: Jazz Stage @ Mouth of the Tyne Festival. Free. Rendezvous Jazz (12 noon); Delta Prophets Trio (1:35pm); Abbie Finn Trio (3:10pm); River City Band (4:40pm).
Sun 14: MSK @ Tynemouth Metro Station. 1:00pm. Free. A Mouth of the Tyne Festival event.
Sun 14: Paul Skerritt @ Hibou Blanc, Newcastle. 2:00pm.
Sun 14: Am Jam @ The Globe, Newcastle. 2:00pm. Free.
Sun 14: Jamil Sheriff’s Five Gold Rings @ Queen’s Hall, Hexham. 3:00pm.
Sun 14: 4B @ The Ticket Office, Whitley Bay. 3:00pm. Free. Sun 14: Lounge Lizards + King Bees @ The Tyne Bar, Newcastle. 3:00pm. Free. The Tyne Bar’s 30th anniversary, top class blues double bill.
Sun 14: Richard Herdman @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. Free. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig.

Mon 15: Harmony Brass @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Mon 15: Nathan Lawson Trio @ The Black Bull, Blaydon. 8:00pm. £8.00. Blaydon Jazz Club.

Tue 16: Vieux Carré Hot 4 @ Victoria & Albert Inn, Seaton Terrace, Seaton Delaval NE25 0AT. 12:30pm. £15.00 (tel: 0191 237 3697). Summer BBQ in the Beer Graden.
Tue 16: Jam session @ The Black Swan, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free. House trio: Alan Law, Paul Grainger & Abbie Finn.

Wed 17: Vieux Carré Jazzmen @ Cullercoats Crescent Club. 1:00pm. Free.
Wed 17: Darlington Big Band @ Darlington & Simpson Rolling Mills Social Club, Darlington. 7:00pm. Free. Rehearsal session (open to the public).
Wed 17: Take it to the Bridge @ The Globe, Newcastle. 7:30pm. Free.
Wed 17: John Pope & John Garner + Nisha Ramayya @ Cluny 2, Newcastle. 7:30pm (doors). £15.00. (£12.00. adv.). A Gem Arts Masala Festival event.

Thu 18 Gateshead Jazz Appreciation Society @ Brunswick Methodist Church, Newcastle NE1 7BJ. 2:30pm. £4.00.
Thu 18: Theo Croker @ The Glasshouse, Gateshead. 8:00pm.
Thu 18: Brad Linde’s Continentals @ The Globe, Newcastle. 8:00pm.
Thu 18: Eva Fox & the Jazz Guys @ Prohibition Bar, Newcastle. 8:00pm. A ‘Jar on the Bar’ gig.
Thu 18: Ray Stubbs R&B All Stars @ The Mill Tavern, Hebburn. 8:00pm. Rhythm & blues.
Thu 18: Tees Hot Club @ Dorman’s Club, Middlesbrough. 8:30pm.

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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