Saturday, 6 June 2020

Pre broadcast apprehensions

Briefly! I'm really quite apprehensive about getting back into the studio to get under way with The Edge of Jazz. Several things pertain;
1. The building we broadcast from is, apart from us, in total lockdown. Most of the things that we tend to take for granted will not be there. So there'll no going for a cup of coffee or a drink after the show is ended. The other occupants of the basement we inhabit will not be there. We'll be turning on the lights and the air conditioning and having to remember to turn them off again at the end of the day. We'll have to forego (for the moment) the joyous banter that you can have both during and after your show because we'll be socially distancing. Perhaps most peculiarly will be;

2. We're responsible for our own health and well-being. It's us who will have to wipe the surfaces, microphones, keyboards and mouses that we share (thought, is the multiple of mouse in this sense mouses?). We'll need to wear gloves through out the process. We'll also have to be responsible for general cleaning of the studio space, though quite how we're going to do that has still to be sorted out. It'll be interesting to see how other presenters go about adhering to the quite strict rules that have been imposed. It's been interesting to see how anxious several presenters have been about getting back to live broadcasting, and also the lengths that some are going to, to ensure that co-presenters are able to get to air though the use of skype as well as the ever reliable medium of telephone.

3. Where do I start with the backlog of material that has accumulated since March? In total I have about 100+ records, CD's and downloads that have arrived since lockdown. I pondered on the viability of simply doing a couple of new to you shows, but have abandoned that idea and what was new in April and May will have to wait its turn with the older material as I return to the normal cycle of including some classic material. What will be innovative is that at least for a while I'll be playing a lot more jazz-funk, that peculiar jazz fusion that suffered such a backlash from fans who though that their heroes were 'selling out'. I remember that artists like Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd were all accused of the ;'crime'. In lockdown I've been digging out some of the best of it, aided and abetted by a sudden slew of re- releases that complete the picture and in several cases move across several different labels to complete the picture.

4. What will make it all worthwhile is the fact that it will allow me to sit and listen to two hours of the music that has sustained me through this extraordinary period. This is the longest break I've had since in broadcasting since 1984 and my appetite for playing jazz, in all its various forms, remains undiminished. It's all the more exciting for the changes that we move towards in 2021, about which more in a future set of posts.

Friday, 8 May 2020

A May time catch-up

Most of the things that I promised myself I would do whilst self-isolating have been left undone. On the other hand some of the things that I didn't expect to do have been fulfilled in spades! At the same time the flow of new jazz has continued unabated and I've spent a lot of time listening to Cd's and vinyl old and new.  The really strange thing has been that I've also had quite lucid moments of auto suggestion - the act of hearing something and it suggesting something that I haven't listened to in an awfully long time. So I've been dusting off some old favourites some of which haven't been played in full for an awfully long time. So let's get straight to the music.

Blue Note re-issues: 

Some of the stuff that they've re-released hasn't been about for a long time, and instead of re-releasing them both on CD and vinyl they've gone for the more profitable option of vinyl. Problem is that the quality is, in my opinion, incredibly variable. Some have been lovingly remastered, some remastered from the original tapes and frankly, some of them have been resurrected when they should have been allowed to be a fond memory. It's really hard to decide in advance which falls into which category and they are, for the most part exactly as they were originally released. This is a shame, because as the CD re-issue series showed earlier in the century, there is quite a lot material that was worth hearing, but will not fit easily onto a vinyl format. So I've enjoyed some of the Bobby Hutcherson releases, but if you're tempted to buy them research what others have to say about them before you lob out the 22 odd quid. If I can help, do get in touch.  

New stuff:

Kandace Springs: The Women who raised me: I'd have to say this already a major contender for the end of year Top 10 albums. It's a wide ranging tribute to a selection of female artists who contributed to her development. I think it's stunning, not only because her voice is so right for the material but because she breathed life into the tunes with sympathetic support from a wide range of other artists (listen to track 1 with Christian McBride as an example. It also sent me back to the originals (after I had remembered who they were!) Stunning.
Jose James: No beginning no end part 2: I don't think that Blue Note had the faintest idea what to do with James after they'd signed him. This is out on a label called Rainbow Blonde and is a return to what he does best which is to interpret strong songs, and in the case of this album with a range of guests from Christian Scott to Laura Mvula and onto Erik Truffaz. A welcome return to form, and one which sent me back to "The Dreamer" which he released on Brownswood in about 2010. It's very laid back, with sparse accompaniment but with some wonderful piano playing from Nori Ochiai. It's well worth checking out.
Lakecia Benjamin: Pursuance: The Coltranes: It's a work through some Coltrane music, both John and Alice by a saxophonist who is new to me. It's beautifully created and takes the Coltrane tunes as a starting point, so it's not about copies but also adding to the heritage. There's an interesting set of contributions from Reggie Workman who played bass with both John Coltrane and Art Blakey and here adds bass to some tracks and helped out with production. A great debut.
Wolfgang Muthspiel: Angular Blues: Stripped back and beautiful. Much aided by Scott Colley on Bas and Brian Blade on drums and recorded in Japan I guess it's a style of jazz that you either like or you don't -sparse and, yes, angular, but consummately played. The sound is somehow different to the normal Manfred Eicher production, and the album sent me back to Manu Katche: Third Round: where Jacob Young adds some guitar playing. Although the style is very different it was an interesting thought transferral process that took me back to it.

Old stuff:(!) 

I'm currently going through a re- appraisal phase of some of the 'jazz funk' albums that were moving established jazz artists into new musical realms at the end of the 70's and 80's. I've started with Freddie Hubbard from his CTI/Elektra Musician and Columbia albums and will be moving on to look at late Donald Byrd material which perhaps I'll reflect on in the next set of msuings.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

These are strange times!

  I'll get around to the music in a couple of paragraphs, but as I write this I'm sat at home and able to listen to all the material that's still being sent to me. Unfortunately it's just me that's sat in splendid isolation with a record deck, CD player and an internet receiver. I decided late last week that isolation really was the best outcome for me, and I set myself a list of things to do that I'd always tried to get around to, and never have. Seven days in, and I have to admit that although I've made a start on one (the list is nine long) I'd rather listen to music than do them!
 This isolation coincided with the decision by the other Directors and me not to attempt any live broadcasting on Phonic FM until current events have resolved themselves. It's a real shame as there are things that we're aiming to do in 2020 that will further enhance the esoteric output of the station, but the public health of our presents is of paramount importance so our sustaining service is in operation, but just to note that with the material loaded on the machine you shouldn't hear the same tunes too often. Then there's the music I'm still receiving!
 It's been a strange start to 2020. Firstly, there's nearly always a lull twixt Christmas and New Year when new releases dry up, and January into February becomes a delve into a litany of old favourites and trusty classics. Not so, this year. The first new releases arrived on 6th January and have been pouring in ever since - a very gratifying situation as some of them are of a very high quality. I very much liked the Wolfgang Haffner album "Kind of Tango" which treads on some of the material that was recorded by Gary Burton on the album "Libertango" which came out in 2000, but adds some other compositions in the style of Astor Piazzolla.  There's also a new album by Byron Wallen which he's going to be touring in early May. (well maybe) It's a departure from what he normally plays - it's a quartet album - which is called "Portrait" and mixes some long tracks with some much shorter tracks examining his life and work - although it's not a retrospective! I also very much like the new Henrik Jensen followed by thirteen  album called "Affinity" Like Byron, Henrik was due to tour in support of the album, but that's all been put on hold, but I thoroughly recommend the album to listen to. Finally I really do have a penchant for Wolfgang Muthspiel and his new album "Angular Blues" is everything that I hoped it would be. He's back to a trio format, but interestingly the sound is much more forward than the usual ECM sound, perhaps because the album was recorded in Japan without the close attention of Manfred Eicher who mastered the album back in Germany. This is deeply satisfying and highly recommended.
I will try to keep you up to date with what I'm listening to whilst the current situation persist. Apart from that stay safe, and keep listening (to jazz, natch!)