Tuesday, 3 July 2018

A Quiet Night In


It’s still hot here in the UK, Wimbledon started and the World Cup is in the knockout stages; either one or all three of these factors meant that the crowd at the Milford Arms was a fraction of its normal size. This of course was fine with me because I don’t like crowds but for the people who run the jazz club it was a bit discouraging, especially since it’s only been in the current venue for two months and I think they are worried about getting the boot if the numbers drop.

As I said it’s still hot, which I hate but it’s a shame Neil would have loved this weather. For the past three summers he’s complained about it not being hot and sunny – even though it was, just only for a few days which I’d prefer. But we’re going into our third week of 80°+ heat which is a bit extreme for a place with very little air conditioning.

Today is four months since Neil died. I still can’t believe it, but that’s why I’m writing this today and not him. Although I miss him every day some days little things happen that remind of things I’ve totally forgotten about. Like last week while Derek Nash was playing he licked the tip of his index finger and gestured an exclamation point. I don’t really know what that means but Neil used to do that when he’d done something he was proud of and wanted credit for. Last night it was me taking notes for the blog on the raffle tickets. When Neil was well and writing the blog he always kept about four recycled envelopes  in his pocket for taking notes. They could be used for anything but at the jazz he usually used them to take notes like, the songs that were played or little events that happened like someone spilling their drink on the jazz club villain and him storming off as a result … Result!

A lot of nights at the jazz club would be either a night that he enjoyed or one that I enjoyed. Last night though I think would have been the rare occasion where I liked one half and he liked the other. Last night was a night of two halves. The first half was dominated by the smooth and spicy sounds of Theo Travis. I love the sax and have since I was a teenager, and Theo plays my kind of sax. I think he could make it on the smooth jazz circuit if he were looking for some extra income.

The first half included some of my favorites like Recorda Me and In a Sentimental Mood - a song that almost anyone would know even if they didn’t know jazz, it’s been in movie soundtracks and is a classic. For me it’s a song that would come to mind when you think of the sax .

The second half was more upbeat and featured more of the screeching trumpet and flugelhorn of Steve Waterman. I love a screechy trumpet while Neil loved a mute, he’d get excited whenever one was used. And like he always said, “If we were the same it would be boring”. I like smooth things  whereas he thought smooth music was "inoffensive" which for Neil was not a compliment. Neil liked things to “grab you by the lapel and shake you”, so I think he would have really enjoyed the second half after probably sleeping through the first.

It’s the first week of July so of course Tim Wells was playing the bass. The “Baltimore bass man” as he’s known always seems to be at the jazz club around the 4th of July. The first year I wished him a happy 4th, he kind of rolled his eyes at me. It was okay, I was never really been a fan anyway. And because he was there the band played Old Blues which I said to Martin must be his favorite song because whenever he comes (which is at least once a month) they play it.

One of Martin’s favorites was on keys, John Horler. No original music last night which is a shame. They usually play one of his pieces when he comes. And of course Trevor Tomkins was on drums, and in another lovely shirt from Ghana. I told him, maybe it’s the shirt! Last week he was on fire and this week he was still smoldering. The band played Joy Spring again (Derek Nash, et al played it last week) but I liked this week's version better.

I thought I’d end this week’s write up with a story about Theo Travis. The first time I remember seeing him I told Neil he looked like Rev. Richard Coles who was in a Pop band in the 80’s called the Communards. Neil agreed with my observation. The next time Theo Travis came to our club I asked Martin “Have you heard of the Communards?” He made a perplexed face and said “Yes”. I said “This guy looks like the keyboard player, I can’t remember his name but he’s a vicar now.” Martin’s face looked even more confused after that. When I asked him if he’d heard of the Communards he thought I meant the Paris Commune not the 80’s Pop band. But after a few minutes he agreed that Theo Travis does resemble the Rev. Richard Coles.

What do you think?

Image result for rev richard coles
Rev Richard Coles
Image result for theo travis
Theo Travis
One of Neil's write ups on Theo Travis
One of Neil's write ups on the Communards (Paris Commune not the 80's Pop band) 
Robyn G. M. Harris
(a One Day at a Time Production)

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Hot Like Fire

Another evening at the Milford Arms, I’d missed last week after a very emotional evening the week before. Neil and I both like Stan Salzman (the saxophonist who was on last week), we even saw him out one day. But as much as I do like Stan we both love Derek Nash and planned to go see his funk band. So I skipped last week to be ready for last night.
The night had a few substitutions; Val Mannix who I always like to support has been ill and I’m hoping for a speedy recovery, Andrew Clyndert was in his place. John Etheridge (who I’m not a huge fan of, but he does do a mean version of Coming Home Baby) was called away at the last minute so in his place was Neil’s arch nemesis Jim Mullin.
The funny thing about Neil’s relationship with Jim Mullin is that he admired him as a guitarist. He used to say that he is very talented, but he plays as if he got bored so he now sneaks in “Quotes” which drove Neil crazy. And the highlight of any evening with Neil at a Jim Mullin gig was counting the quotes. Unfortunately the main players in the game of “Count the Quotes”, Neil and Sue weren’t there last night so I was a bit lost.
Last night he was rather reserved. After at least two quotes including a “Can-Can” in the first song Derek Nash gave Mullin a “Yellow Card”, the result being that as far as Martin and myself could tell he didn’t “quote” anymore until the last piece. But more on that later.
Derek Nash was fantastic as always, full of energy and usual with his inventory of Saxes of many sizes; from the mighty baritone to the tiny curved soprano. Derek Nash is not just a saxophonist, he also brings along a collection of percussion instruments. Unfortunately the very popular orange didn’t make an appearance last night. But he was still in good form; he stopped my heart with the baritone sax and tickled my soul with the soprano.
I told Martin when we were leaving I was never overly impressed with Andrew Clyndert before, but last night he stood out as well. It was as if the heat brought out the best in all of the musicians. I have to say now I think Andrew Clyndert may be my #2 favorite bass player behind the amazing Dave Green.
And I think I’m changing, or maybe it’s the new positioning of the Milford Arms. At the Red Lion the band were on a tiny stage and seemed untouchable. But at the Milford arms they are almost in our laps, especially since Martin and I like to sit on the bench on the side. The Pianist sets up right next to us. When Ted Beaumont arrived he asked where he sets up and I told him right here next to me. It gives you a new respect for the keys, you can see their fingers working overtime. I noticed it the other week with John Horler but last night Ted Beaumont was amazing especially on the blues piece.
Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far and by night time the temperature hadn’t dropped by much. It was still stifling in the Milford Arms with even Trevor Tomkins saying “You think it’s hot out there, you should be back here!” I guess that’s why he was on fire. Trevor is always great but last night he played as if the drums were on fire and he was putting the fire out with the sticks. I had to go shake his hand when the night was over to tell him how amazing he was. He was full of energy. Every solo blew your mind; it wasn’t just his turn, he stole the show with every solo.
The quintet tried to cool us off with a piece by Martin’s hero Clifford Brown call Joy Spring, unfortunately it didn’t work for me. But then they played a Blues piece called “Sweet’s Blues” which featured the baritone sax and “the top of Ted’s range” as Derek Nash said. Sweet’s Blues broke me out in a sweat – I still don’t like the Blues Tony! But bluesy jazz is alright.
But the piece de resistance was All the Things You are which seemed to span several centuries in one piece. Clyndert played the bass with a bow and together with Beaumont’s piano style gave the piece a Baroque feel. Nash and Tomkins would bring it back to the 20th century. Overall the piece was incredible but it was a bit spoiled by Mullin sneaking in Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely.
Neil’s write ups of Derek Nash: