Some Webster Discoveries





Last night’s Manchester Jazz Society recital seemed to go down very well – thank you, Sid Toole, for your warm words of encouragement – and, as is customary, I shall post the full text as a blog for the greater good. NB I didn’t always stick to the script, and peppered my talk with ums and ahs and at one point forgot Lester Young’s name, all the sake of striking an authentic conversational tone. Plus, I didn’t get through it all. The bits in italics are things I prepared but omitted on the night because of time constraints. I shall link my selections to sound clips if any are available, but my lack of technical savvy and fear of MRPS presents me from doing the job myself. You’ll have to console yourself with a picture of the sleeve (if available). Ladies and gentlemen, ‘Some Webster Discoveries’…


‘Some Webster’s Discoveries’ doesn’t allude to Ben Webster but to Derek Webster. 

Who’s Derek Webster? 

On the 20th of August, I attended an auction at Capes and Dunn in Heaton Mersey, and came away with four boxes of jazz LPs from the collection of Derek Webster, a great jazz collector. I believe was a member of Manchester Jazz Society at one point. Does anyone remember Derek Webster?

Oh that Derek Webster. He was an inspector of taxes, Mike says. He was most active in the MJS when they met at The Millstone, but then stopped coming. Some uncertainty about his date of death. A long time ago, Mike thinks. Rob remembers going into a record shop in Burnley with him and Derek coming aways with stacks of records, while Rob only bought one. He was a great Bob Wilber expert and Rob thinks he might have collaborated on a Bob Wilber book. 

Yes, I came away with four job lots in four boxes and two miscellaneous smaller lots, one being some Blue Note reissues of Horace Parlan and related. The boxes were arranged alphabetically, so you’ll notice quite a few ‘B’s, ‘M’s, ‘R’s and ‘W’s in tonight’s selection.

Let’s begin at the beginning, or close to the beginning, with Mezz Mezzrow, from an album called appropriately, Mezzin’ Around. The personnel is Frank Newton, trumpet; Bud Freeman, tenor; Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith, piano; Al Casey, guitar; Wellman Braud, bass; George Stafford, drums, and Mezz Mezzrow on clarinet. This is ‘I’se a-Muggin’’, recorded in 1936. Computer programming was in its infancy in 1936, so this is a very prescient record. You’ll know what I mean after a listen…



Mezz Mezzrow, ‘I’se a-Muggin’’ (5:14)




No, this is extraordinary – the group collectively count, substituting ‘uh’ for seven and ‘woof’ for ten, and any number containing a seven, or any number in which seven can be divided, is ‘uh uh’. Twenty, thirty and any number that ends in a zero, is ‘woof woof’. It works. My point being that the substitution of symbols for zeros was the basis for computer programming. Bruce gets it immediately. He (later) points out the significance of the date, 1936. Alan Turing published his paper On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, in 1936, and it’s generally considered to signal the birth of modern computing. We speculate about who the mathematical genius in the line-up might be, and Bruce favours Willie the Lion Smith. 

Mezz Mezzrow was clearly Derek’s mainman when he was a kid. One early Mezzrow LP (that is, early for Derek, but not for Mezz), A La Schola Cantorum from 1956, houses some Mezzrow memorabilia, namely a homemade scrapbook detailing Mezz’s time in Paris in the early fifties, updated in 1972 with cuttings from Melody Maker and jazz magazines of Mezz obituaries. I’ll pass them around. 

Derek adored Louis Armstrong, like everyone else, but as Because I missed the box with the ‘A’s, we’ll have to skip Louis Armstrong and go straight to Sidney Bechet, Mezz’s old playmate. Here he is with The New Orleans Feetwarmers from 1932 in a tune called ‘Shag’.


Sidney Bechet, ‘Shag’ (3:03)


The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD has this to say about ‘Shag’:

Nothing more clearly establishes Bechet’s credentials as a harmonic improviser in the modern sense than his remarkable excursion on ‘Shag’, an athematic exploration from 1932 of the ‘I Got Rhythm’ chords. 

I hope you all got that.  


‘B’ is also for Buster Bailey, the great clarinetist from Memphis. Here he is playing, appropriately, ‘Memphis Blues’. The tune wasn’t always the venerable standard we know today. Bailey remembers W.C. Handy playing it for the first time in public in a schoolyard near his home. Indeed he was in W.C. Handy’s band for a while, but was only allowed to play out of town on condition that he was back in time for school the next day. All this was gleaned from Stanley Dance’s sleeve-notes on the back of the Felsted LP, All About Memphis, and it seems to me we’re reaching far back into early jazz history with Memphis Blues, although this version was of jazz was recorded in New York in the comparative late date of 1958. The line-up is – Buster Bailey, clarinet; Red Richards, piano; Gene Ramey, bass; Jimmie Crawford, drums.


Buster Bailey, ‘Memphis Blues’ (7:30)


As I say, the Webster of my title isn’t Ben Webster, but Ben Webster figures because I was fortunate enough to carry away the box with the ‘W’s. My major discovery here is that Ben Webster led a double life as an R ’n’ B  honker. The sides he cut with Jay McShann are choice examples of the genre. I think I knew that Kansas City pianist crossed over to R’n’B but this only theoretic knowledge until I heard this excellent collection, The Big Tenor: The Complete Ben Webster on EmArcy. This is ‘You Didn't Tell Me’ by Jay McShann And His Orchestra…


‘You Didn’t Tell Me’, Jay McShann And His Orchestra (3:20) 

I associate Ben Webster with big-toned, smoky balladry, and this next performance is characteristic… Some of you might be familiar with ‘My Romance’, but all I can say, to echo the title of a tune over on side one, is ‘How Long Has This Been Going On?’   

‘My Romance’ comes from a 1962 LP by Ben Webster and Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison called Wanted To Do One Together. ‘Sweets’ Edison mostly sits this one out but pitches in on trumpet on the last line. The rhythm section comprises Hank Jones (piano) , George Duvivier (bass) and Clarence Johnston (drums). 


Ben Webster and Sweets Edison: ‘My Romance’ (4:11)


Count Basie? Joe Williams? Stomping in puddles and swinging from lampposts? Surely I mean Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds? No, I mean Count Basie and Joe Williams. This comes from a 1957 session released on Verve as The Greatest!!


Count Basie, ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (2:24) 


I didn’t know about Lee Wiley... 

"You don't know Lee Wiley! She was married to Jess Stacy!" (Mike)  

...but my discovery here was not just a previously unknown sweet femme singer but a lovely song, ‘I Got Lost In His Arms’. This means a) that I haven’t seen Annie Get Your Gun, ["You're not missing much,": I think that was Mike too] or b), if I have, Doris Day doesn’t do it for me like Lee Wiley. It’s more cabaret rather than jazz, but there was lots of crossover between cabaret and jazz around the vicinity of 52nd Street. The poshest clubs of the day would be ashamed to hire one pianist when they could hire two. Stan Freeman and Cy Walter are the twin prestidigitators on Lee Wiley Sings Vincent Youmans and Irving Berlin. ‘I Got Lost In His Arms’… 


Lee Wiley, ‘I Got Lost In His Arms’ (2:55)


So I rushed to find out about Lee Wiley and learnt that she was the descendant of a Cherokee princess and an English missionary, making her a real-life Pocahontas, except this Pocahontas happened to sing with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Her recording career extended from the twenties to the seventies. That last comes from 1951, and my second Lee Wiley selection was recorded in 1971. The trombone solo is by Buddy Morrow and the trumpet obligato is by Rusty Dedrick. Dick Hyman is the pianist. You’ll recognise the song…  


Lee Wiley, ‘Moon River’ (3:30) 


To digress, I have a theory as to Why is ‘Moon River’ is so affecting. Isn’t it a description of homelessness, cast in pathetically romantic terms? The writer prefers ‘drifters’ to ‘vagrants’, and ‘off to see the world’, rather than ‘homeless. The singer self-identifies as Jim in Huckleberry Finn . Huck Finn and Jim were also outcasts, you’ll remember, thrown together by chance but locked in an insoluble bond. The word ‘Huckleberry’ is here an incantation to ward off evil, and ‘Moon River’ is the mighty Mississippi, majestic enough to make all our troubles seem small and trivial beside the force of nature. Johnny Mercer’s point would be entirely philosophical without Henry Mancini’s heartbreakingly beautiful tune. Then they gave it the most beautiful woman in the world to sing, but Aubrey Hepburn’s voice was a very frail reed. Instead of bing a liability, it adds another layer of poignancy to the song. Lee Wiley can sing, but she doesn’t let the fact spoil the enchantment of ‘Moon River’.  

Derek liked West Coast jazz.  I’ll pass around the sleeve of Shorty Rogers Meets Tarzan, a feast for the eye, and play the exemplary ‘Martians Go Home’ from The Swinging Mr Rogers by Shorty Rogers And His Giants. It’s a feature for Jimmy Giuffre’s clarinet, Shorty’s trumpet, Pete Jolly’s piano, Curtis Counce’s bass, Shelly Manne’s drums, and a half-dollar coin spun on a tom-tom.     



So far the trajectory is clear and follows the broad outline of the development of jazz – from New Orleans via Memphis and Kansas City, most of it recorded in New York. Ah but now we’ve reached the West Coast, a jazz centre to parallel the East Coast. The promised land of California represents the ultimate in modernity. The music of Shorty Rogers, Gerry Mulligan and Bud Shank, so cool and streamlined and beautiful, is the pinnacle of the jazz art and can’t be improved upon. Well, it’s an opinion. 


Shorty Rogers, ‘Martians Go Home’ (7:52) 



‘Martians Go Home’ is a cheat, because I know it already, but how nice to have the original LP on London Records. 


Have I time for one more before the interval? Ruby Braff might be at his best duetting with Ellis Larkins, but everybody is at their best duetting with Ellis Larkins, including Ella Fitzgerald. The trumpeter and pianist weave magic on Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘Skylark’...


Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins, ‘Skylark’ (4:50) 


There will be more Webster discoveries after the break, folks.

****

There’s a bit of question and answer session at the break time. 

How did I know about the auction? 

I was tipped off that Capes and Dunn were auctioneering a jazz collection by Duncan, my local neighbourhood record dealer, and to be honest, I went part expecting to find Tim Stenhouse’s record collection. I was mistaken. It’s the auctioneer’s policy not to give away the name of the collector, but a few autographed albums dedicated to Derek Webster gave the game away. 

How much did they fetch? 

Two hipsters with deep pockets were stoking a bidding frenzy for every Miles Davis original on Esquire that came up. I confined myself (mostly) to the job lots and bid successfully on my boxes with bids of between £30 and £40. They each contained some collectors’ items. 

How many LPs were in each box? 

About 70. 

Did they all sell? 

No. I believe the practice then is to have a special auction for items that didn’t sell first time around. I missed that, unfortunately.   

Who gets the money? 


Capes and Dunn, with a cut for the widow, presumably.  

****

(The second set...) 

Leonard Feather was a music writer and broadcaster, a musician himself, he wrote songs for Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald, and he could be trusted to assemble a good band. The group he organised for a record date in 1959, designed to illustrate his theory about 52nd Street being a hothouse of bop in the forties, has no name beside Leonard Feather Presents 52nd Street, and comprises Thad Jones on trumpet, Phil Woods on alto sax, George Wallington on piano, Curley Russell on bass and Art Taylor on drums. The singer here – do I mean singer? I mean the vocal interjection – is Charles Baird Parker, the five-year old son of the main begetter of bebop. Other discoveries include Interlude Records of Hollywood, California, a label with a first-class  jazz roster, based on the records tantalisingly advertised on the inner sleeve, which I shall pass around (you’ll notice it exudes a strong musty smell)….  


Leonard Feather Presents 52nd St, ‘Salt Peanuts’ (3:00)

The pianist on that date, George Wallington, Leonard Feather informs, played in Dizzy Gillespie’s first combo, and later with Charlie Parker. I remember Wallington was the subject of one of Frank Gibson’s talks, and I’ve been waiting to pick up an LP by him ever since. ‘Godchild’ puts me in mind of another neglected pianist and composer, Herbie Nichols. Teddy Kotick on bass and Nick Stabulas are the trio members.


George Wallington Trio, ‘Godchild’ (3:16) 


While on the subject of piano players who ought to be better known than they are, consider the case of John Williams, saddled with the misfortune of not being John Williams the classical guitarist or John Williams the Star Wars composer. This John Williams is a jazz pianist, born in 1929 in Vermont, and he played with Stan Getz. I first about him when my friend John Fagg went to see him at a gig  in South London. The promoter, Sue Robinson, asked if anyone could give him a lift back to his hotel in Hyde Park and John volunteered. Thus he found himself in a car with a jazz legend. He confesses he didn’t know what to say, but John did most of the talking, and was mostly complaining about the drummer on the date. He said, “the drummer was in the hole all night.” John worked out that this meant the drummer didn’t know where the beat was. Williams is such a propulsive player he probably doesn’t need a drummer at all. You’ll note his focus on thematic variation and his considerable rhythmic drive on the next track, ‘Williams Tell’. Bill Anthony on bass and Frank Isola on drums complete the trio. ‘Williams Tell’  was recorded on August 13, 1951. 


John Williams, ‘Williams Tell’ (3:11) 

What do we know about Max Bennett? I know only what I could glean from the sleeve; born in Iowa in 1928, a bass player, served with Stan Kenton. The record Max Bennett Plays, on Bethlehem, finds him in the company of Charlie Mariano on alto sax, Frank Rosolino on trombone, Claude Williamson on piano and Mel Lewis or possibly Stan Levey on drums. The line-up raises expectations and the music – this is ‘Rubberneck’ by Frank Rosolino – surpasses them. 


Max Bennett, ‘Rubberneck’ (3:23)


Another obscure record label, Tampa, and another obscure name, Oscar Moore, a guitarist. 

"Don't you know Oscar Moore? Nat King Cole!" (Mike White, again) 

Right, I was put off by esoteric symbols devices on the sleeve and the exotic material. He substitutes drums with bongos. Mike Pacheco is on bongos ("I don't know him!"), Joe Comfort is on bass, and you'll know the piano player, Carl Perkins, famous for playing with his left hand at an angle of 90 degrees to the keyboard and dying young.


Oscar Moore, ‘Samson & Delilah’ (3:14)


Paul Desmond and MJQ only made just one record together, as the title boldly asserts – The Only Recorded Performance of Paul Desmond and the Modern Jazz Quartet. It’s a live recording that took place  at New York City Town Hall on Christmas Day 1971, and the nearest it gets to a seasonal tune is an unlikely cover of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. I’ve opted for ‘Greensleeves’ here. 



Paul Desmond and MJQ, ‘Greensleeves’ (3:20) 



(Don strides up and examines the sleeve. Quite by chance, he'd been playing it on CD that morning. The best track, he says, is 'Blue Dove'). 

The next track suggests to me that John Lewis knew his Terry Riley and Steve Reich and that minimalist music is the natural outcome of his interest in integrating fugal writing and jazz form. In 1971, the MJQ were still putting the Modern in Modern Jazz Quartet.


MJQ, ‘Trav’lin’’ (4:41) 


(Danny walks up and examines the sleeve. He comments on the striking cover.) 

The next track, ‘Ragamuffin’ by Frank Rosolino, transports us back to the West Coast and has many of the same players as the earlier ‘Rubberneck’, including Frank Rosolino (trombone), Charlie Mariano (alto sax), Max Bennett (bass) and Mel Lewis on drums. Sam Noto is the trumpeter and Pete Jolly is the pianist. ‘Jolly’ is the right word. To quote the liner notes: “A sprightly thing, ragtag as its title, this serves nicely to introduce the group. The first impression that strikes you is the general agility, the neat-but-knockabout blowing, of the horns. It is quickly apparent that Rosolino has surrounded himself with the lightest-hearted of the moderns, and that a cooperative jollity is the order of the day.” 


Frank Rosolino, ‘Ragamuffin’ (5:50) 


In 1973 Jazz A Confronto 4 found Frank Rosolino in Rome playing with an Italian band. The pace is still sprightly, but the tone isn’t quite so knockabout. Indeed the intensity is the other end of the emotional scale from jolly. The pianist is Franco D’Andrea, Bruno Tommasi is on bass and Bruno Biriaco is the drummer. This track, ‘Alex’, also has saxophonist Gianni Basso. A new name to me, Basso was apparently one of the leading saxophonists on the Italian jazz scene at the time. 


Frank Rosolino, ‘Alex’ (7:34)


There’s a darkening of mood between ‘Ragamuffin’ and ‘Alex’ but the final tragedy was completely unexpected. In the autumn of 1978, suffering from depression, Frank Rosolino murdered his children and then took his own life. 

This got me thinking, how many murderers do I have in my record collection? Not suicides, mind, but known murderers? I could only think of three off the top of my head – Leadbelly (Matthew points out that Leadbelly was charged with manslaughter), and Phil Spector (ah, but did he do it? Charles asks. Anyway, it seems he's still locked up and not making records anymore).   

Mike departs and I worry if perhaps I'm running out of time. How much time have I got left. "Oh, ten minutes," Eddie replies. I amend my selection. 

Do we need some light relief? Do we need Dick Wellstood and Marty Grosz? 


The Dick Wellstood–Marty Grosz Quartet, ‘We’re in the Money’ (2:30) 

Dick Wellstood, piano; Marty Grosz, guitar; Mickey Galizio, bass; Tommy Benford, drums. It comes from the album, Take Me to the Land of Jazz, on Aviva from 1978. 

It wasn’t really a brave reawakening, it was more a trickle, starting in the seventies, of conscious throwbacks like Scott Hamilton, whose example gave permission for the coming generation to play pick and mix with their favourite jazz idioms. Suddenly, Marty Grosz no longer seemed so oddbod for playing guitar like Eddie Condon, or Ruby Braff for playing trumpet like Louis Armstrong, or Bob Wilber for playing clarinet like Sidney Bechet. Instead of being anomalous eccentrics, they were simply ahead of their time with their nostalgia. This was all welcome news to Derek, who didn’t own a single record by Ornette Coleman and not a single example of British jazz, excepting Victor Feldman, who redeemed himself by emigrating to California. There’s a school of opinion among jazz lovers that says that Miles’ adoption of the trappings of rock was a disaster to set alongside the untimely demise of Clifford Brown, and that John Coltrane fell off a cliff between leaving Atlantic and signing with Impulse. According to this same school, any verb in the present participle is commendable – Steamin’, Workin’, Relaxin’, and Cookin’ etc – and Bitches Brew is a step too far. I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I will say that I have more Bob Wilber and Red Rodney records than I know what to do with.  

I can’t really pass Bob Wilber by, because he was the object of the same kind of devotion earlier lavished on Mezz Mezzrow. Am I right in thinking Derek was planning a book on the clarinetist/saxophonist? (Robert earlier told me he collaborated with someone on a book about Bob Wilber.) Here’s evidence – Derek has set down every album on which Wilber appears as a sideman and it’s a formidable list (I shall pass it around). This feat of scholarship was entrusted to a cardboard LP divider which shows a) he was a true jazz autodidact and b) he never managed to cross to the computer age. 

For me, a little Bob Wilber goes a long way, but I was intrigued by one Wilber item, attracted by the sleeve as much as anything. The music is as mysterious and atypical. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Its opening track is a tune called ‘Ghost of the Blues’. 


Bob Wilber, ‘Ghost of the Blues’ (3:00)


Spreadin’ Joy by the Bob Wilber Quintet/Septet is devoted to Sidney Bechet’s own compositions, and Wilber has unearthed many such rarities as ‘Ghost of the Blues’. It proves, I think, that Bechet outshone his Crescent City compatriot, Louis Armstrong, for compositional skill. 

The cover I worked out is Sidney Bechet boarding a train somewhere in Paris, circa 1954, to the obliviousness of the looming figure in the foreground.

My closer is ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ by Horace Parlan. Parlan is a pianist best known for his contributions to Mingus’ Ah Um and Blues & Roots, and he formed his own aesthetic by channeling the gospel energy of ‘Better Get Hit in Your Soul’ and ‘Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting’. I commend you to ‘Us 3’ from the Blue Note album of the same name, which I haven’t got time to play. 


‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’, comes from a session Parlan made in 1978, issued as Blue Parlan on Steeplechase. It’s as bluesy and as passionate as any version I’ve heard. Mingus wrote ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ as an elegy for Lester Young, of course, but the tune makes an all-purpose valediction. I’ll dedicate it tonight to Derek Webster. 


Horace Parlan, ‘Goodbye Pork Pie Hat’ (8:05)


You need to know that Dannie Richmond is on drums and Wilbur Little is the bassist. Those were a few of my favourite Webster things. 


Ways of Hearing – Kyla Brox






Kyla Brox, Pain & Glory
www.kylabrox.com
  

Shall we take it as read that Kyla Brox is sassy, open, alternatively tough and vulnerable, possesses a towering voice and meets all the tests for greatness in the separate spheres of soul and blues, that her songs are honest and true, and the band cook, and that big words like Pain and Glory can be bandied about with impunity. Put simply, Pain and Glory is Kyla’s best album yet, and this follows too, because each album is the culmination of all her previous efforts and her life experience.  

Let’s do, and then we can move onto some interesting questions raised by the music, and ask about the relevance of soul and blues to our culture at this moment in history, and wonder if soul and blues are synonymous or even compatible terms, and ponder the difficulty of adapting the unreconstructed ‘sugar mamma’ to the ethical standards of the modern world. It’s enough to give anybody the blues! 

The first thing to say is that Kyla couldn’t really escape her destiny, as the daughter of a blues singing father and a soul singing mother. This is the subject of the autobiographical ‘Bluesman’s Child’: 

Too many hours in the back of a van 
Twelve years old already in his band
If I ever want to see him the only way 
Is to get on the stage and play, play, play 
It can be a little wild 
The life of a bluesman’s child 

This exercise in debunking, coming at some personal risk, is typical of Kyla’s honesty. It is interesting to compare that self mythologist, Victor Brox, with his daughter. Victor, like many another bluesman, is concerned with what he can do to you or for you. His potency derives from the power he exercises over others. A certain amount of role-play and fabrication is involved, but this only adds to the gaiety. He continually promises more than he can deliver, but makes up for the shortfall by hamming it up outrageously, to the mutual enjoyment of all. 

The thing is, Kyla never hams it up. Where Victor acts, Kyla is. This is not just a nicety of style: it is a fundamental difference between men and women. 

Not that Kyla is averse to a bit of role-play herself. One of the great archetypes of the blues is the sassy, infinitely accommodating sugar mamma, a heartbreaker and object of male fantasy. And though Kyla is adept at this role, the nearest she gets here is reluctantly foregoing a fling because “in the morning in the cold light of day / I remember I already have a husband and a family” (note that idiosyncratic pronunciation, ‘familay,’ to rhyme with ‘day’). This tale of virtue in peril was co-written with husband Danny Blomeley. 

To be a woman is to be divided into two. And, to simplify a bit, the objectified woman has its musical counterpart in the blues. That is, the sugar mamma appraises everything she is and does in the light of how she appears to others, and especially how she appears to men. To acquire some control over this process, a woman contains and interiorises it. This, in musical terms, is soul. The process is hard and calls for a large reserve of inner strength. In expression, it always comes tinged with sadness, and is so hard-won you find yourself asking, was it worth it? Soul, of the femme variety, is also the sound of a woman luxuriating in her strength, and is a sign of empowerment. So blues and soul are, in fact, symbiotic forms; the yin and yang of Afro-American music (Kyla proffers the Lancashire version). She continually treads this line. She struts her stuff and is thrilling, until it is time for her to reveal how she really feels, and show how vulnerable she is to pain and hope. This is where Kyla is most herself.

So ‘Sensitive Soul’, hitched to a Memphis beat, is a very, very assertive paean to sensitivity, and of such vivacity and energy that you really wouldn’t want to mess with this shrinking violet. ‘Pain & Glory’ itself is a medium paced affirmation of unconditional love and unbridled emotion. It has a stirringly good melody, the proper attribute of classic soul. ‘Manchester Milan’ like many another interior monologue, soon slips into transcendent rapture. By contrast, ‘Let You Go’ is a blistering put-down – brusque rejection being the prerogative of the blues mamma, who reappears with a jolt just when you’ve been lulled into security by the soul belle. 

And then, just when the listener has ticked off all the tracks listed on the CD sleeve, something extraordinary happens. 

‘Hallelujah’, Leonard Cohen’s greatest song, came late in his career. It is a man’s song about the mystery of women, couched in quasi-spiritual, masochistic imagery. What does it mean when a woman sings it? Well, when a woman such as Kyla Brox sings it, it means she claims all its power and passion for her own sex. We lose one mystery and find ourselves in an even greater mystery. This is a performance so passionate and wounded that exhilaration and agony become as one, the ultimate aim of soul. 
      
And Kyla throws it away as a secret track. Is this some meaning of the word ‘integrity’? 

And His Mother Called Him Timothy




There is a crisis behind the scenes shortly before the commencement of Manchester Jazz Society’s tribute to Tim Stenhouse, hosted and presented by Mike Butler (the present writer). The building work going on next door to The Unicorn has been blocking the pub’s wi-fi, which means the Spotify playlist I’ve compiled to illustrate extracts from Tim’s critical writings is useless. This happily turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Gone is all the funereal music, justified by Tim’s passion for ECM and intended to inculcate profound feelings about life and death. The balance shifts towards the members – it was anyway a members' choice – who have each brought in a piece of music on CD in memory of Tim, all of it swinging and life-affirming. And I am forced to improvise, which is never a bad thing, and in keeping with the spirit of the music. The evening opens with a personal memory... 



We developed the habit, when Tim and I both attended MJS, of walking to Piccadilly together at the end of the evening. I would give him a hand with his shopping bags – he did his weekly grocery shop in town before MJS, and so he had a lot of bags – and we would amiably chat until his bus came. It was the Irlam bus, I think. Note the haziness. Tim was a friend, but I didn’t know that much about his private life. He was happier to talk about what was going on in my life, or more likely Eva’s life, or about world events or his latest discoveries and enthusiasms. 

His life was strictly compartmentalised – the word frequently came up at his funeral. What we learned about Tim when the pieces at last began to fall together was a revelation. But by then, I cared deeply, and when I walked with him to the bus station, I was, I think, complacent. I took his sweetness for granted. Tim was too amiable. I recall, in an old jazz magazine, a journalist pressing Steve Lacy to admit that Anthony Braxton was “too European”. Lacy replied that everyone was too something, until it was too late. 

I’ll structure the tribute around extracts from Tim’s scattered emails to me and Eva and excerpts from his prolific reviews for the UK Vibe website, which I dipped into for the first time for the purposes of the present tribute. Their breadth is amazing. They range from funky fusion to spiritual jazz, and take in the sweep of jazz history and related musics from across the globe. He covered a lot of ground. 

November 19, 2018 

...As far as MJS is concerned, the forthcoming ‘Music to play at your own funeral’, does have a morbid undercurrent, but I explained to Peter at the funeral (the funeral of our dear member Frank Gibson) that I had not thought about any selection since I am not planning on departing any time soon! However, I will dedicate a tune or two to Frank, with some Hank Mobley selections. 

Note, he's thinking about Frank, not of himself, which is typical. He didn’t specify the track, so I’ve chosen ‘This I Dig Of You’, because it finds Mobley at his peak, and the title is apt… 


Hank Mobley, ‘This I Dig Of You’

Aug 7, 2017

France is undergoing major political change and I watched a fascinating BBC Parliament special last night on the French elections. I also saw a terrific, but chilling first part of a series on the secrets of Silicon Valley. The new Apple headquarters is a monstrosity and the dystopia they and others are creating is worrying to say the least and, whether we like it or not, we are all going to be on the receiving end.

On the other hand… 

Dec 6, 2017

I had some wonderful news this morning. My younger cousin and daughter of my mum's sister, Catherine, gave birth to a baby son. A lovely time of year to have a new addition to the family.

Robert Reader introduces ‘Parisian Thoroughfare’, in honour of Tim’s love of France. He fondly imagines Tim on the streets of Paris, relaxed, confident of the language and at home. This version is by Le Jazz Groupe de Paris, comprising Jean Liesse and Roger Guerin (trumpets), Nat Peck (trombone), Jean Algedon (also sax), George Grenu (tenor sax), Armand Migani (baritone sax), Fats Sadi (vibes), Pierre Michelot (bass), Christian Garros (drums), with Andre Hodeir as arranger and musical director. It was recorded June 26, 1956, in Paris, and originally issued on LP Vega 30 572. 


July 15, 2016 

Truly awful events to witness on television/online last night after a very enjoyable MJS. Nice was not only celebrating Bastille Day, but also the Nice Jazz Festival was on at the same time. 

Tim is talking about the events of the preceding evening when a 19-tonne cargo truck was driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, resulting in the deaths of 86 people and the injury of 458 others.

Alan Brown, who like myself has attended Nice Jazz Festival (maybe others too), will know that the Promenade des Anglais is just a ten to fifteen minute journey to the Roman arena situated part way up a hill where the main festival events take place and therefore it is highly likely that many people would make their way down to the ‘Prom’ as it is affectionately known, to witness celebrations. The town centre is relatively compact and leads directly onto the Prom itself.

Music has the capacity to unite and bring together seemingly disparate individuals who may on the surface have little in common and with jazz being a predominately, though by no means exclusively instrumental music form, it can and does cut across languages, nationalities religions and ethnicities. All the more pity, then, that the festival should be cancelled, but security is understandably uppermost in the authorities’ minds. Nonetheless, jazz has always had a revolutionary ethos, historically countering totalitarianism of all types, and to continue to listen to music is in itself an act of resistance to those dark forces who seek to impose their distorted vision of a religion upon us. Jazz has regularly combined with the music and peoples of other cultures to create something new in the process and long may it continue.

Liberté, fraternité, égalité.

Tim  



Alan Brown talks about Nice Jazz Festival and introduces ‘Goodbye’ by Bill Evans… 



“My selection considering the circumstance is Bill Evans’ recording with Shelly Manne and Eddie Gomez of ‘Goodbye’ from the album Empathy.” 



Andy Smith introduces ‘A Perfect Day’ by Bobby Cole. “I enjoyed the Thursday chats with Tim regarding our record collections and more to the point, the records we didn't have which were what we called ‘Holy Grails’. Difficult and expensive LPs to obtain but always worth hunting for.” It comes from a Gilles Peterson compilation CD. The original is as elusive as ever.  

Jan 19, 2017:

I have not forgotten that tomorrow is Trump’s crowning. What an awful prospect. I saw a documentary on his family and now I realise why he is such a major league asshole. His father has to be seen to be believed. He looks part werewolf, part mad and demented Nazi scientist and that flatters him. His mother has the weirdest hair-do imaginable and his own hairstyle comes right from her. His father had an utterly ruthless and ambitious streak and regularly tested the outer limits of what was strictly legal. Is this resonating with the Trump of today? I did not know he had three wives. Ivana is exactly what you might expect: a gold digger in search of a numbskull whose only goal is making tonnes of money at the expense of others.    

Well I am making my way over to the pub for the jazz. We are also going to discuss how we attract younger members. You must be the youngest member we had last year. (This was written to Eva, not me, by the way.) 

I am currently listening to some early French music performed by Jordi Savall (I love his group Hisperion XX and his wife is gorgeous too!)

Cuidate y hasta pronto…

Jordi Savall, ‘Chanson et Danse’ from La Sublime Porte


Matthew Thompson introduces ‘El Paso de Encarnacion’… “My contribution, reflecting Tim’s family connection to Ireland and interest in Caribbean and Latin American music, is a live recording by the Conor Guilfoyle Cuban Jazz Quartet at the University of Cork in 2007, featuring the Cuban pianist Vladimir Karell, Andrew Csibi on bass, Ed McGuinn congas and Conor Guilfoyle drums, of the Cuban song ‘El Paso de Encarnacion’.”



Sid Toole introduces ‘Ska-Ra-Van’ by The Skatalites. Says Sid, “Tim had a very wide definition of jazz, and I remember coming to one of his recitals, called ‘Jazz Jamaica’ expecting it to be about Gary Crosby’s band Jazz Jamaica, only to find that he was in fact to be talking about what I regarded as Jamaican Ska music! Tim sometimes seemed to cross over the lines between jazz and other styles of music in his recitals. In tribute I’d like to play something which may not quite cross the line, but hits the line between jazz and ska bang in the middle. I’ve chosen a track by the great Rastafarian composer Juan Tizol. It’s called ‘Ska-Ra-Van’ and was recorded by the Skatalites. I believe Duke Ellington also recorded a version. The track features ‘Dizzy’ Moore on trumpet, Roland Alphonso on tenor and the great Don Drummond on trombone.”

Tim went further than most in Stopping the World – And Listen to Everything in It. He was an omnivorous listener, and always open to new sounds. He didn’t recognise an arbitrary datum-line separating good jazz from bad jazz. He didn’t recognise geographical boundaries. For Tim music was an Eden that covered the planet, and the Fall had never taken place. Musically speaking, that is. Politically, it was a different matter. 



Pete Caswell, our esteemed chair, welcomes 18 MJS members and seven guests. He asks the guests to introduce themselves…

“I am Mike Booth, and I was in the same year at Eccles College as Tim. I was in Tim’s tutor group and sat next to him in A Level classes for both French and History, though his skills and knowledge subsequently far surpassed mine. We also shared a love of a wide variety of musical styles, from Reggae, ska, Latin and African music to Jazz in many forms, though again I was always astounded by the width and breadth of his knowledge in music. He would regularly turn up unannounced at our doorstep in Chorlton, clutching several plastic bags of vinyl and cds and as he didn’t have a computer, I became his unofficial copying service, so we would sit and listen to his latest acquisitions and he often gave me his recommended selections. He introduced me to Blue Note and I think a lot of South American and Latin music, as well as French chansons and a variety of African and World music. Every now and again, I would introduce him to some gap in his knowledge - from Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, to Orchestre Baobab from Africa or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. 

“Tim was an extraordinary character who managed to love the life he lived, despite many potential obstacles and was in the happy position of following his passions most of his time. His passion and enthusiasm about a wide range of topics was a great quality and we will miss him hugely.”  

Mike’s wife, Claire Donoghue, says that Tim introduced her to some lovely French music, including Henri Salvador. They also enjoyed a Celtic connection with their shared roots in Scotland and Ireland.

“I am David Walton and I am married to Helen. I met Tim at Eccles Sixth Form college where we studied A Levels. Tim had been at Winton High. Susan, Mike, Adam and I had been at Moorside High. He was therefore a friend of ours for over forty years. He came to our weddings and he was part of our yearly gatherings which often centred around Cup Finals and World Cups.   

“Tim coached both our boys (Alex and Dan) for their GCSE French oral exams, and particularly assisted Daniel for his A Level History exam. Tim didn’t need notes (he remembered what he had been taught in 1980/81). On a couple of occasions, he stayed over and, in the morning, turned Dan’s bedroom into a fully functioning examination room. Question papers were turned face down, only pens and pencils were allowed and the whole thing was timed. At the end the papers were marked and graded.

“When Adam, Mike and I were inter railing in Europe we had agreed to meet up with Tim in Germany where he was working in the kitchens of a huge hotel. We had no money and were looking forwards to being thoroughly fed and watered at the hotel, thinking that Tim could ‘pull a few strings’. In the event he just wasn’t on the same wavelength. We had a lovely chat with him, I think he managed to get some orange cordial out to us – but that was about it. That night we had lost our tent in a fierce storm. We left Tim in the splendid comfort of his hotel wonderfully oblivious to our plight.

“Whatever Tim chose to immerse himself in he became very knowledgeable about. Everyday stuff like DIY, gardening , financial planning weren’t of any interest to him. Music, politics, sport, European and World culture were what interested him. He could, for example, talk in detail about domestic and world football as well as anyone I have ever met. He supported Manchester United and he came to Old Trafford to watch them play as well as often coming to school games where he would watch Dan and Alex.

“My family and I have never know anyone quite like Tim and I doubt we will do so again. There will be people we know and meet who share some of his traits but never somebody who could become so focussed and knowledgeable about matters that he had personally selected for himself. He lived amidst a back drop of tragedy and ‘life stresses’ that would have floored most people. Tim had the capacity to focus on other matters and in that way, to live most days to his order, not to the order of others. We will all miss him.”

Susan Grant and Tim were in the same German class at Eccles Sixth form college, 1980-1982. Tim went on to study French at the UEA and Susan went on to study languages at the University of Bradford. “However my memories of Tim are more recent with trips to the Met here in Bury where Tim introduced Ross and I to a wide variety of music, which left to our own devices we would not have even considered. Some examples are Vent du Nord and the Good Lovelies, and there are no doubt others to obscure to remember. Tim was unique and he has left a distinct hole in all our lives.” 

Ross Grant recalls that he and Tim were at UEA at the same time but somehow never managed to cross paths there. 

Adam Sharman was another of the European inter-railers, and has travelled far to be here: he is Associate Professor in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at Nottingham University. 



Second half

Mike hands over to Bruce Robinson… 

Bruce: “I have chosen three varied tracks, each of which relates to something Tim wrote. The last communication I had from Tim was a Facebook message that simply stated without any explanation: ‘Errol Garner has never seemingly been more popular with a younger generation. And yet Nat Cole is almost forgotten as a pianist with the general (and younger) public.’ 

Surprisingly this was accompanied by a video clip not, as one might expect, of Nat King Cole but rather of Erroll Garner. So I’ll start with a track that demonstrates Nat’s piano chops. From 1944, George Gershwin’s song ‘Liza’


“The second track was inspired by the knowledge that Tim was preparing to give a recital on Hugh Masekela. If I was superstitious, I’d think it was spooky. I picked a track from his recording with the band Union of South Africa called ‘Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive’. Later I read Tim’s review of a boxed set of Masekela’s late 60s to early 70s albums. He wrote ‘There are a few surprising omissions from the recordings that are covered here. In particular, from 1971, why leave out the terrific ‘Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive’?’ That’s either telepathy or we just share a taste for good music.



“Finally, I drew on Tim’s musical autobiography on UK Vibe. 

‘The early 1980s was a period of intense listening and discoveries… Like many, I initially started with jazz fusion (Herbie Hancock, Fuse One), but quickly developed a passion for Brazilian jazz fusion with George Duke’s ‘A Brazilian Love Affair’ a seminal recording. This opened my ears to a whole new sphere of influence and directly led on to other discoveries from Elis Regina and Tania Maria to the more esoteric hues of Hermeto Pascoal.’ 



“Accordingly, my final track was a live version of one of Tania Marias best known tunes ‘Yatra Ta’.

“I will also pay tribute to Tim in my next two recitals, particularly the one on Michel Legrand where, had he still been with us, he would doubtless have contributed information from his vast, vast knowledge of French culture. He will be missed.”

Alas, music appreciation amounts to very little in the world’s account (continues Mike Butler). It doesn’t add to wealth creation like fracking, banking, property speculation, rent-seeking and war. If he had followed any of these pursuits, Tim might have been wealthier and perhaps even ennobled in the House of Lords. As it was, he held out for civilised values and tried to make the world a better place through creative endeavour…

Sept 12, 2018

I volunteered to do some work with a theatre production company. The playwright explained to me his dream to turn a play set in Moss Side about an individual facing moral dilemmas and we have been working on an adaptation and putting in a bid to the BFI. At uni I wrote and directed a film in French with a BBC Look East cameraman and have always wanted to write and direct again. My role on this, if it does materialise, may be more consultative (especially the music soundtrack), but it has spurred my creative juices to write a film screenplay about a journey from Ireland to Manchester, inspired in part by my grandmother, but taking artistic liberties along the way. I have for six months or so been following cinema masterclasses with a professional film critic and learning an awful lot about the history of cinema…  



Eddie Little introduces ‘Minor’s Holiday’ by Kenny Dorham 


Alan Nuttall introduces ‘Five, Four and Three’ by Lee Konitz. 

“The first time I had any real dealings with Tim was through the Jack Kinsey bequeath,” says Alan. “It was made quite clear that whatever you received, you had to collect from the people holding your selection, not them delivering to you.  After more than ten emails from Tim, all with different arrangements, none of them mentioning coming to my house.  This became a bone of contention.

“When he eventually came to my house, to collect the records, he arrived already weighed down with a rucksack and several shopping bags, and he left with three more of those large, strong, supermarket shopping bags, full of recordings.  I felt terrible.  I helped him to the bus stop, feeling dreadful, guilty.  I kept thinking I should have gone in my car and delivered the records to his home.  I’ve done it for others, why not him? 

“From that moment on Tim showed me nothing but kindness.  We exchanged records.  For all his knowledge and intensiveness there was an extreme innocence.  I remember going to his house with some CDs. He was not in, so I posted them through the letterbox.  Later he thanked me and said, “And they were posted from Italy!”  I said no, they were in an old jiffy bag with an Italian address on it!

“The music I have chosen is from a CD that Tim gave me. It is Spiritual Jazz Volume 4 - Americans In Europe.  The track is ‘Five, Four and Three’ by Lee Konitz (track 2, CD2). The line-up is Lee Konitz on alto saxophone, varitone, flute, Enrico Rava on trumpet, Franco D’Andrea on piano, Giovanni Tommaso on bass and Gegè Munari on drums. It was recorded in Italy in 1968.” 

One channel is out during the play, and Konitz and Rava can’t be heard at all. Alan rises from his chair, walks to the CD player and jiggles some wires in the back. The full sound is marvellously restored for perhaps the last half minute of the performance. 

“Oh dear, do you want me to play it again?” I offer. 

“No, it’s alright,” says Alan, magnanimously. 

Bruce, taking advantage of the interval, is now able to access some of my Spotify selections direct from his smart phone, so I can partially revert to my planned playlist and original script.

Cutting across language, nationality and discipline appealed to Tim. This, from his UK Vibe review of Out of the Underground 1958-1967: Jazz in Polish Cinema, a four CD set, gives a glimpse of an engrossing record recital that might have been, ‘Jazz in Polish Cinema’…



June 10, 2015
Arguably, the best known of the films, and by extension the best known music soundtrack, is the early Roman Polanski film, Knife in the Water, with its fantastic black and white print. From this, Ballad for Bernt’ by Krzysztof Komeda from 1962 is a wonderful piece of acoustic jazz that is akin in some respects to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver from a decade and a half later… 

Krzysztof Komeda, ‘Ballad for Bernt’ 

This, from Tim’s review on UK Vibe.…

Bavarian label, MPS, rightly prided itself on its superb sound quality and captured some of the key American and European jazz musicians at their peak. The label went one step further and recorded some gems of Brazilian music. Unquestionably, one of the jewels in the crown is this superlative recording that is one of the finest examples of Afro-Brazilian music with a strong jazz bent ever laid down in a studio setting. It certainly helped that it was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with the cream of Brazilian musicians. These included the great Milton Banana on drums, Copinha on flute and a significantly enhanced percussive section that featured three specialists and another two musicians doubling up. The varied set has a strong emphasis on Afro-Brazilian grooves and this contrasts with the more reflective side of the leader…

The artist is Baden Powell, the album is Tristeza on Guitar, and the track is ‘Canto de Ossanha’. 


Baden Powell, ‘Canto de Ossanha’

Stan Getz popularised the samba in the USA and UK, I blurt, introducing Lorraine Barnett introducing ‘Insensatez (How Insensitive)’ by Stan Getz and Luis Bonfa. She didn’t know Tim very well, Lorraine says, but she knew he liked Latin music. (Lorraine’s choice cuts deep: ‘insensitive’ about sums up Tim’s treatment by the world. All he really wanted was to be left alone to listen to music all day and otherwise absorb the achievements of art and culture, and perhaps improve his mind by adding to his repertoire of languages. That’s fine, but the world won’t leave you alone.) Tim, Lorraine points out, was the only person who ever took notes during recitals at MJS.  




Feb 16, 2019

Hi Mike, Down with the flu, but recovering slowly. Best wishes, Tim

Feb 18, 2019 

Hi Mike, I am on the mend now thanks. The nature of this kind of illness now varies so I started with a bad cough and sore throat, then it morphs into the flu. Just as politics starts to get more complicated here, the new Spanish PM calls a new election. Surely, the Right are not going to get back into power. Hoping to come and listen to the talks at MJS. Anything live and musical of note in Manchester forthcoming? Whatever happened to those cultural evenings at the Cervantes? It seems a couple of years since I last went in and I must find out if they still show films and have occasional music evenings. Best wishes, Tim

Feb 19, 2019 

Mike. Just in case Eva gets that job in Paris, plenty to keep you occupied. And in English and French. 

(There followed a link, in English and French, to an appreciation of the chansonier Charles Trenet. This moved me to request, on behalf of MJS, Charles Trenet singing ‘La Mer’ at Tim’s funeral. They got the later, inferior version. To make sure we don’t make the same mistake twice – we can’t be sure which version will emerge on the internet via Bruce’s mobile – we here plump for Django Reinhardt’s version of ‘La Mer’, which is fabulous in itself, and I also commend the reader to Charles Trenet’s 1945 version…) 


Django Reinhardt, ‘La Mer’ 

“In addition to what Mike said,” says Bruce, “this is the version recorded in Rome in 1949, with Stephane Grappelli on violin, and an Italian rhythm section of Carlo Pecori on bass, Aurelio De Carolis on drums and Gianni Safred on piano.” 

It is self-evident, when you stop and think, that listeners are as necessary to music as players, but we tend to undervalue listeners. Listening is antithetical to leadership, probably, which seems to mostly be about bullying and bending your fellow creatures to your will, or the will of a higher authority. Tim resisted this emphatically, and his chief means of resistance was listening. 

Oct 28, 2014

I am very partial to the French impressionist composers as well as the Italian and Spanish ones, especially the guitar music of the latter. When I was young my parents used to play me an album of Kathleen Ferrier’s songs which I enjoyed, and as recently as June I picked up a 3 CD [set] of her work which I must confess I have yet to play in full, but now you have mentioned her name (I can’t remember: something about style defining category not repertoire. I was saying Kathleen Ferrier could never be a folk singer…) I have to make a point of incorporating that into my required listening. It is amazing what music you remember from childhood. 


Trends come and go but that should not detract from the wonderful music the likes of Duke Ellington and others composed. I still firmly believe the legacy of jazz should not be forgotten while at the same time jazz has to constantly evolve.

In an ideal world, the world that Tim was quietly working towards, listeners would receive some kudos too, and Manchester Jazz Society would be recognised as a hall of heroes. So let’s take a tip from Tim and learn to value ourselves, and not do ourselves down, or waste time in pointless squabbles about what is or isn’t real jazz. Tim was a virtuoso listener, a veritable musical Library of Alexandria. His passing represents a great extinction of knowledge and passion. He was also, manifestly, one of the good guys. 



Apologies to MJS members whose choices didn’t have a chance to get aired, including our beloved life president, Harry Fisher (Johnny Hodges), and Trevor Miles (Miles Davis), and chair Peter Caswell (Bud Powell). 


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