Old and New Dreams

As festival season proceeds regardless of the changeable weather, leading us damply but surely towards the autumn touring and album release schedule, when new releases drop as swiftly as autumn leaves, the protean artform known as jazz continues to attract media attention, holding out the possibility that some of the online verbiage will  translate into bigger crowds, higher sales and even, eventually, taxable income for the diligent practitioners. Festivals like We Out Here in Cambridgeshire and Brainfeeder and Love Supreme in Sussex are providing platforms for new UK artists to connect with new audiences, while labels like Ubuntu and Whirlwind keep up a breathless release schedule of new material. At the same time, the persistence and profitability of reissue culture keeps the Amazon deliverymen busy; labels like Avid can take advantage of  EU copyright legislation to issue cheap ‘Five Classic Album’ sets by Golden Age giants as the rights to the masters lapse, while Jazz Images exploit the same rich seam, mixing and matching material to sometimes uncertain advantage. Hot on the heels of the  rediscovery of Coltrane’s missing Impulse sessions, the release of which as ‘Both Directions At Once’ actually propelled Mr C into the UK album charts for the first time (delicious irony), we are promised another ‘lost’ album, comprising recordings made by the classic quartet in the run-up to the Love Supreme sessions for a Canadian documentary soundtrack, now to be made available under the title ‘Blue World’; meanwhile, and more controversially, some of Miles’ uncompleted early sessions for Warner have been revived, decades after both creator and label abandoned them, to be issued by Rhino records as ‘Rubberband’. Meanwhile the growing appreciation of 1960s UK jazz talent  received a major boost as the spotlight shone on one of the scene’s prime movers: thanks in no small part to the tireless championing of the indefatigably multi-tasking tenor supremo Simon Spillet, Tubby Hayes’ legacy was enriched by the release of his own lost album (featuring our own local drum legend Spike Wells) plus a beautifully presented and  fabulously expensive 11 LP box set of his entire output for Fontana. How exciting to hear that Mr Spillet has been invited to appear at the Los Angeles Jazz Institute Festival over four days this autumn, fronting an American big band playing the music of Tubby Hayes - an accolade richly deserved by both. 

The mining of jazz’s legacy continues to bring new treasures to the surface, to the benefit of aficionados, entrepreneurs and, one hopes, the artists themselves; but are the voices of new artists at risk of being drowned out by the continuing chorus of wonderful music echoing ever louder from the music’s past? ‘Kind Of Blue’ is reported to still be selling 5000 copies a week, while sales figures of 500 in a week are above average for a new jazz release, and rare indeed for a new UK jazz release. The growth of streaming continues to change the way that music is consumed, and this column has already discussed the way that jazz artists have often been ill-served by the change as the revenue from streaming is often inadequate to compensate for the fall in those hitherto all-important CD sales at gigs. Yet the news is not all bad, as a couple of examples illustrate. In their capacity as a label, multi-tasking new-jazz svengalis Jazz Re:freshed were able to capitalise on the media attention around Nubya Garcia, and their own understanding of the fan demographic for the scene she’s been chosen to figurehead, and by presenting her debut album on vinyl they’ve managed to sell out two pressings; now the reissue on CD has sold out as well. Meanwhile young traditionalist Gabriel Latchin has scored over two and a half million Spotify streams of his recording of  Polka Dots And Moonbeams via the ‘Coffee Table Jazz’  playlist. Is it unfair to suggest that jazz artists are more than usually susceptible to adopting an attitude of cynical fatalism towards the business, when a willingness to investigate new models of monetisation might serve them better? 

With this in mind, let’s turn the focus onto the way that UK jazz is making its way though the hazardous waters between the Scylla of media incomprehension and the Charybdis of audience apathy. This column started, believe it or not, in 2013, and ever since then we’ve been privileged to documented the genuine flourishing of a scene of young players, largely but by no means exclusively London based, who have worked to carve out a distinctive take on the jazz tradition, and whose freshness, energy and personal charisma has been rewarded with a great deal of media attention and a dedicated and youthful fanbase. The scene has been supported by media and industry alike (our New Generation Jazz program, with the generous support of the Arts Council, has played its own small part), and this has, alas, not been uniformly appreciated. As in Newtonian physics, so in the music biz; every action sets up an inevitable reaction, and there have been muted but persistent voices from within the community claiming that the spotlight that has shone so brightly on some artists has cast others, more musically deserving but less charismatic or sellable, into the shadows. Of course, the music biz is never just about music, and culture is about more than the execution of art. For jazz to appeal beyond its loyal core following of mature connoisseurs into a broader, younger, more diverse demographic, it needs to be populated with characters that reflect that demographic. As a result, some players may be foregrounded before their  talents are fully developed, but let us remember that jazz is a long game and that posterity will be the judge. Much of the initial excitement around what we’ll call the New London scene was generated before there was much in the way of recorded material or audience figures beyond the artist’s own manor - how is the scene delivering on its promise? 

Promoters and live agents certainly have much to celebrate. To pick a few examples, Shabaka Hutching’s Sons Of Kemet, Joe Armon Jones and New Cross collective Steam Down have been tearing it up on the UK festival circuit, crossing over into the greenfield boutique market to take their place alongside the spectrum of contemporary UK styles from dance to indie rock; Ezra Collective move from West Holts stage at Glastonbury to headline at Camden’s legendary Roundhouse; Nubya is touring Europe, and a select group of these players can now reliably sell out mid-size club venues across Europe. On the recording front, Cassie Kinoshi’s Seed Ensemble have made the Mercury shortlist with their debut; Ashley Henry’s upcoming Sony release features guest slots from Keyon Harrold and Makaya McCraven.

The signs certainly seem propitious - but readers with long memories will be aware that this is by no means the first promised UK jazz revival. How representative are this small group of players of the UK scene as a whole, how can we place them within the UK jazz tradition past and present? Please accept our invitation to return for next month’s column, where we’ll attempt a coherent examination of those questions.

Bees Mouth - September 2019

September 30

So here you are, some kinda non-gendered big-time Charlie Cheesecake, cutting big deals, reaching for the top, living your best life, every day FTW, a gracious Like for your fans, a curt Get Rekt M8 for your enemies, a swift Unfollow for the hollow husks of those who no longer have anything to offer… it’s a winner takes all world, and the politics of envy are just for the losers, and a Significant Response is all you need … Listen, JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH doesn’t care for your overweening pride nor your shallow pomp, but when the sudden shadows fall across your endangered hardwood decking, when your Beemer falters inexplicably at the lights at a crossroads on the wrong side of town, when your well-groomed reflection in the mirror seems blurry and indistinct, the reception leaches out of your iPhone 11 and leaves it just an inert slab of blood-soaked Coltan, the chill fingers of mortality pluck your skin into gooseflesh that no Spa facility will ever soothe, the aircon in the Executive Lounge suddenly whispers a memento mori into your stupid ear…. when your senses awaken to the planet’s shift away from the sun, the wind rising over the bitter surf, the furtive scraping behind the walls in the small hours, the rot in the apple and the rust on the beam, then you can always come on down and join us as we smash out another celebration of cool grooves hot licks and good vibes thanks to the tireless ministrations of man like Luke “The General” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “The Ourobouros” Thomas (drms) plus me doing whatevs on bass, and Fortuna’s latest assortment of whatever guests may come in out of the turbulent night to join us… let Bozza huff and puff his duplicitous humbuggery to his desperate disciples, let the Mother of Parliaments collapse in hot flushes, let all kinds of idiocy run unchecked through the chartered streets, we’ll be there doing our thing, come and join us, hang up your hang ups and get on the good foot, let symmetry and geometry be our watchwords, nothing less will do.

September 23rd

Here we go again… the greasy equinoctial streets resound to the cries of freshers hungry for knowledge and 2-for-1 shots of the most diabolical tequila known to humanity, eager to discard their inhibitions, their virginity and their dignity on the threshold of Casablancas, while Labour hosts its annual trade fair of optimism and disintegration in the grotty environs of the Centre, mixing their tremulous cadences with shingle’s grating roar.. JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is here to offer succour to the weary, comfort to the bewildered, hope to the terminally discouraged, and welcome relief to those unhappy wretches employed as politicians or teachers, compelled to strut and fret for their allotted slots until breaktime comes, perhaps this time for ever… we’ll be riding high on a magic carpet of good vibes skilfully woven together just for you by man like Luke “On The Corner” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Live/Evil” Thomas (drms) out of pure 100% uncut blues-to-bop-to-swing-to-whatever, aided in some manner by me on bass, plus non-factional interventions from whatever surprise guests may blow in on the un-nervingly warm night air, shaking their golden horns ’n stomping their brazen hooves, along with the pleading-eyed activists, placard-carrying schoolkids saving the future by playing hooky, Mercury nominees toting their severed heads, bad boys with their tasty burgers, and whoever else shakes off the shackles of the quotidian to come and join us… as our barely elected leaders slough off their skins to reveal themselves as the sinister bungling trolls we all knew they were, as the planet leans in towards the season, Len Mcluskey peels himself another grape and Porky Cameron slouches weeping through the streets of Chipping Norton clad in Savil Row sackcloth, we’ll be having ourselves a time …. don’t stay grounded like a package holiday pensioner, repatriate yourself back to the good times, good times, good times, we’ll be here and so should you.

September 16

Well, here we all are still, despite everything - as you edge ever closer to the event horizon sketched out by that nice Dr Cox with his laser pointer, ready to hurtle over towards the personalised singularity that’s waiting for each one of us, like the Door to The Law guarded by your own private security solutions operative, what will go through your about-to-be-spaghettified mind? “Should have gone to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH”, before your timespace matrix warps beyond the comprehension of your distantly remembered physics lessons, before the glimpse of the radiance glowing inextinguishably from the Door shuts off as the doorman gently closes it, before your bad self goes supernova and rejoins the subatomic boogie? If that’s the case, then rejoice, cos it’s Monday and it’s something you can actually fix, right out here in meatspace where things still happen… just slurp down a nourishing beaker of Huel, put on your facial-ID-shunning facewear and this season’s creps and hit the pavements, where the hushed expectant stillness of summer’s end lies behind the city’s grotty soundscape, cos we’ll be here, kicking out the jams with man like Luke “Cyborg” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “I’ll be Back” Thomas (drms), spinning another musical web to dazzle and delight with the customary mix of bop-to-blues-to-swing-to-whatever to make you forget and make you remember … forget The Incredible Sulk’s gibbering bluster as the Queen licks her eyeballs with a foot-long tongue, the dreariest of nazis gets out of jail disguised as a hipster, Labour still tries to pick up the bag of marbles they dropped all over the floor in 2015, the Lib Dems go too far as usual like the try-hards they are, the spiders get busy in Westminster and everyone bends their energies to throwing shade as the temperature rises and all manner of indignities are heaped upon every aspect our human realm, but remember the warm wind blowing in from the surf, the voice of the nightingale hidden in the dusky glade, the voices calling from across the park, from the end of the path, from home.. it ain’t over til it’s over, and it’s not over, so what are you waiting for?

September 9

What an absolute shower,eh? Parliament packs its toothbrush and Bozza crouches gasping against the toilet door as the cold sweat trickles down his soggy collar, Bolsonaro lights another Players No 6 with a fistful of $100 notes, Dominic Cummings cracks his knuckles and chitters like a cartoon goblin, the Trumpkin puffs and blows like a grampus in a bath of melting ice cubes and scribbles marker pen over his own face… screw those guys, right? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is here once again as the earth’s axis shifts, the mackerel swarm in the greasy sea, the Ace cafe bikers’ rotund leather-clad figures recede into the petrol smelling distance, the swifts crowd the lines on their way back to distant climes, and we have the consolations of symmetry and geometry on offer thanks to the talents of special guest Al “Crazy Eyes Killa” Scott on the keyboards and regular maverick gunslinger Loz “True Grit” Thomas (drms), both of em primed and ready to run all traces of negativity out of town with their sureshooting hot licks and cool grooves, and to totally drown out the frantic hooting and gibbering of our elected and unelected leaders with their brave torrent of blues-to-bop-to-groove-to-whatever, aided in some fashion by me on bass, and whatever guests we may discover poised in the velvet twilight with their golden horns gleaming and their teeth shining like garnets … don’t be sad for Johnny Bercow, he’s all right, don’t sit at home trying to believe in Strictly, or panic buying on Amazon with your Bitcoin, don’t let em grind you down, we’ll be out here doing our thing so come join us, make like Tay Tay and shake it out, that’ll show em.

September 2

Hey! How’s it going? How was Boomtown/Cornwall/Ko Phi Le/Your Tantric retreat? Kids back in school yet? Or are you just feeling, a bit, y’know, like the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned, like tiny sad kittens in a rusty Brexit bucket? Does the return of Naked Attraction to the terrestrial networks seem the herald the End Times, are you waiting for Bozza’s skanky cabinet to announce the Rapture? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is here to steady your hand and stiffen your resolve by putting you back in touch with the eternal verities of hot licks and cool grooves, supplied by those inexhaustible fountainheads of bop-to-blues-to-swing-to-whatever known on this octave as Luke “Hidden Dragon” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Crouching Tiger” Thomas (drms) as they lay out enough of the good stuff to build a wall against despair and a redoubt against ill counsels, aided by me on bass, and joined by a smiling host of special guests ready to adorn the gilded halls of their musical creation… if the sudden cultural diversity upon Hove Lawns stretches your self-esteem, if you can’t tell your elephant traps from your pigs in pokes in the melee of metaphorical fauna encumbering our public sphere, if the world seems divided between Gemma Collins and Dom 'Laughing Boy' Cummings with no room for the squeezed middle, if autumn’s sere breath seems to lurk beneath the quickening zephyrs of summer’s end, if you suddenly feel old and alone, if it really appears as though the world, which seemed to lie before us like a land of dreams, really hath neither joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain, then get on the good foot and come and join us, join us, time’s getting on, they haven’t got us yet.

Bees Mouth - August 2019

August 26th

August beach delight!
Body red - your lager drunk
Where now? No tear-ups please.

August 19

Hey! Welcome back! Good holiday, yeah? Superchillaxed boutique Air B n’ B Sunday supplement pastel coloured Havaianas small batch artisanal G&T sun sea sand innit? But … what have you come back to? What kind of horrorshow hot mess is this? Bozza and his band of shrieking goblins spinning thru the sunny skies on a cloud made of pure evil, while the rest of our elected representatives line up to give each other wedgies? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH come riding to the rescue, as you gape openmouthed in your stupid holiday shirt while your inflatable flamingo slowly expires like your pitiful dreams, your Lei suddenly turns brown and withers like your capacity for optimism, and the sand trickles from the pockets of your tattered cut-offs with painfully obvious metaphorical intent, for while the forces of disorder run amok across the land smiting at will with no regard for symmetry or geometry, we will be marshalling the awesome powers of Luke “Birthday” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Castle Grayskull” Thomas (drms) to keep the darkness at bay for a little longer with a heady dose of top-quality unchlorinated hormone-free swing-to-blues-to-bop-to-whatever, aided by me on bass, plus surprise guests, and the peerless denizens of the wood between the worlds who manifest at this octave as the Bee’s team under the leadership of Capn’ Jack Rowan will be standing by with generous libations of the finest liquors known to humanity… come and cut a series of brilliant trade deals with your own better side, end the freedom of movement of negative vibrations into your precious domain, give optimism a good name again, rock it like Peggy Gou or Mtislav Rostropovich, be free, be yourself, be free to do what you want to do. Cleanliness and valour will be our watchwords, for nothing less will get us past the armed sentry and over the mountainous border.

Bees Mouth - July 2019

July 22nd

So much summer! Just time to pop your vassal kippers in the post (not long now, little kippers!), then off to the Love Island Experience on the beach for some windswept, pebbly encounters with a handful of insta-crazed shut-ins agog at the presence of assorted scheming muscular nincompoops called things like Eyal… Don’t mug yourself off, turn right around and Naruto run your way to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where you can truly Upgrade your Experience courtesy of those gurus of groove Luke “Too Hot” Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest, polyrhythmic marauder Tristan “Bucañero” Banks (drms) as they lift off towards the planet Saturn riding on waves of sonic delight, aided in some fashion by me on bass, and the assorted jam enthusiasts contributing in an orderly fashion, while the ageless sylphs and naiads of the Bee’s team wait in the fragrant shadows behind the well-stocked bar… don’t waste your time gawping at the Cats trailer that looks like Faceapp got crossed with the Island Of Doctor Moreau, or being sceptical about festivals, or reposting that thing about fb permissions so all the bots can laugh at your pitiful monkey-brain naivety, or however else you were listlessly planning to idle away some more of your precious allotment of minutes… Jupiter is burning overhead, the swifts are screaming in the limitless empyrean, the salty sea is swelling, the dust blows forward and the dust blows back so pump up the jam, thats where that party’s at and you find out if you do that.

July 15th

Here you are, dazed with summer, all pumped with vicariously acquired sporting success, flexing with your German whip, your minds’ eye still roaming in the sundrenched musical wonderland of Love Supreme or whatever other outdoor beano of self affirmation you’ve signed up for … but wait? Even as you head for shitty Stansted with your online check-in all done, do the chilly fingers of doubt curl around your swimwear regions? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH banish those cruel intimations of mortality and get you back on the good foot, cos we have those dons of downtime, the eternally beach body ready Luke ‘Too Hot’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “The Real Don Dadda” Thomas (drms), both pumped and primed to show that summer is a state of mind as, aided in some manner by me on bass, they weave a web of hot licks and cool grooves for you to wrap around your frontal lobes against whatever downers may be waiting behind the burnished cerulean overhead, intimated in the shrill rapid keening of the swifts, hinted at in the patterns of the green glassy waves, in the sudden chill of the breeze at dusk blowing down off the empty hills to gooseflesh your barbecue vibe… in the corridors of power the black silt of bullsh*t is mounting, the president’s busy little fingers are tweeting, Bojo is tying off ready to get high on his own supply of duplicity, Jezza stares at the vacant screen with a puzzled frown, but tonight we will be triumphant, tonight is a night when kings in golden suits ride elephants over the mountains.

July 1st

How you feeling now you’ve felt some sun on your poor soggy skin? Summer’s back like Andy Ruiz so dig out yer flip flops and get back into the flow, time to re-engage, time to move forward, not backward, upward, not forward, and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.. how better to show the machine elves who’s boss than tell Alexa, Siri and the rest of those spying creeps to get stuffed and get your bad summer self down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be celebrating the bittersweet equinoctial decline with the limitless talents of Luke “Heliocentric Worlds” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “The Outer Spaceways” Thomas (drms) as they smash out another jubilant melee of swing-to-beats-to-blues-to-bop-to-whatever, assisted in some manner by me on bass, as the peerless ascended beings of the Bee’s team wait in the velvet shadows behind the well-stocked bar …now that the flood of fb Glasto critiques has dried to a trickle and there’s no chance of you ever actually watching the rest of it on iPlayer, time to get out and up again.. elsewhere Bojo may lurk among the rotting sun loungers at the bottom of the garden, waiting to slouch towards W1 to be born, Hunt may huff and Hunt may puff, Jezza may scamper all over his climbing wall flicking his vertical eyelids, and the Eurocrats may grumble, gesticulate and throw cheese at each other like the excitable continentals they are, but here outside the perimeter we’re doing our thing, it’s going to be a fine night tonight, it’s going to be a fine day tomorrow, Jupiter is burning bright as the globe swings towards it’s equinoctial decline but all is well, come join us, join us

Bees Mouth - June 2019

June 24th

What are days for? Days are where we live. They come, they wake us, time and time over. They are to be happy in: where can we live but days? Days are also for battling hayfever, for getting those beach pix on ur socials, for filming your dodgy neighbour’s dodgy doings, for shooting down drones over the Straits Of Hormuz, for toning up your summer bod, and when all that exhausting stuff is finally over, for JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH cos everyone needs a little time to get away from the angry shouty voice in their frontal lobes telling them to get more woke or to take back control or whatever tiresome confabulation you’ve half-convinced yourself is the solution to the Prolonged Period Of Uncertainty, as the juggernaut of collective idiocy continues on it’s hectic path crushing all before it into a bloody pulp… let the musical magic carpet laid at your poor bunioned feet by Luke “The Magic Stick” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Cash Is King” Thomas (drms) sweep you away to a calm inner space where you can realise that it’s all, like, just your opinion man, that nothing matters in the now except hot licks, cool grooves and mellifluous blues-to-bop-to-whatever, that there’s still time, still time… I’ll be doing something or other on bass as per, the peerless Bee’s Team will be waiting, their eyes gleaming like amethysts in the velvet darkness behind the well-stocked bar, thunder will rumble over the deepening green hills outside of town where the equinoctial twilight seems to linger forever, up by the chartered streets beside the chartered Thames Bozza and the other one nobody likes will be doing something unspeakable behind their closed doors as May trails wailing folornly down an endless dusty corridor and Stevie Bannon picks his scabs and pours another glass of hemlock, but we’ll be doing nothing but good things, come and join us, join us, See, cause that's where the party's at, And you'd find out if you do that

June 17th

Are you growing old? Does your face in the morning seem rucked and seamed with alcoholic and sexual excesses, and does the rest of you appear to be a grayish-pink lump, covered all over in brindle hair? Is your sense of smell fading, is your fear of heights increasing, are your sexual drives as ravening and intense as ever and does your beloved partner look more and more to you like a sunken-cheeked stranger who has wandered into your bedroom by mistake? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH won’t fix any of that, pardner, but you can put aside your monkey glands and facial botulism, discard your blue-green algae and your huel, forget about your CBT and meditation, throw your evil spying fitbit into the toilet’s eager vortex, toss your healing crystals and other equally fallacious gee-gaws, and generally cast loose from the whole cloying paraphenalia that’s currently cluttering up the beautiful verdant spaces that wait, still fresh, still pregnant with dewy promise, in the furthermost reaches of your poor chartered consciousness…. let Luke “The Invisible Worm” Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest Javier “The High Roller From Fuengirola” Forero (drms) be your guides back to being you, let the music take you higher, free your mind and you assets will follow… so what if we’re being softened up for government by an unelected empty lectern supported by a carnival of popinjay grotesques, so what if the State Department are busy trying to cross the ‘Q’ off their dodgy dossier and write an “N” instead, let the Prolonger Period Of Uncertainty continue to demoralise and defeat, as long as there’s music and moonlight and me doing something or other on bass, join us in the manoir de mes rêves, let’s face the music … wax on, wax off! paint the fence, up, down, up down! 

This post in tribute to the master John Cheever May 27, 1912 – June 18, 1982. 
And in memory of STEVE ASTON

10th June

So much uncertainty, in the macro and the micro! Will your outdoor social event be blessed with sunshine or cursed with freezing boring rain? Will your neighbourhood gak dealer move to a new market as their product finally loses all cred? Is the Moon part of Mars? Will your newly rented Citybike be boxfresh, or will its saddle still bear the angrily puckered roundel imprint of a Naked Rider’s protesting, sweaty anus? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH be a beacon of consistency in a changing world, let the consolations of symmetry and geometry pour like soothing balm upon your poor hunched shoulders, all mashed up by Fortuna’s relentless wheel, let man like Luke ‘Boethius’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘ The Anatomy Of Melancholy’ Thomas (drms) create a magic neural network of hot licks and cool grooves to envelop your bruised senses, let the irresistible ascended beings of the Bee’s team pour you a refreshing libation of quality hooch from their eyrie behind the well-stocked bar, let your troubles slip away as I play something or other on bass and tonight‘s mystery guest gets ready to sculpt the air with shapes of burnished sound that express the innermost truth of their current state of existence on our spinning rock, not part of Mars now or ever..…. don’t let the sads take coercive control, don’t let the spectacle of a ‘leadership race’ in which everyone loses, especially the country, get you down, don’t let your hay fever take back control over your compromised eyes, where we’re going we won’t need roads.

3rd June

You draw a lot of water in this town, but where’s YOUR invitation to the palace? Where’s your effigy as a giant inflatable baby, where are your jeering crowds, why hasn’t Boris done a reverse ferret about your mental capabilities, how come Sadiq isn’t throwing shade on you? Don’t feel down, just get yourself along to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH and be welcomed like the international statesman and grand pu-bah that you really are, as the guard of honour Luke “Dr Strangelove” Rattenbury (gtr), terrifying piratical marauder on the high seas of rhythm Tristan “T-Bone” Banks (drms), and me contributing something or other on bass, will all be ready and waiting to whisk you up to the highest heights in our own Airforce One of hot licks and cool grooves, while outside on the teeming pavements the thousands of imaginary Hells Angels, attendant hustlers, movers, shakers, smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers, pickpocket peddlers, even panhandlers, all pass by on their own journeys to the end of the night, and out over the darkling sea the stars gaze down impassively upon your little lives, while the susurrus of the shingle’s returning roar carries on its endless litany….. don’t be a stone cold loser, be excellent to each other - party on, dudes

Bees Mouth - May 2019

27th May

As you hunker in your escape pod, surrounded by your panic-bought stocks of glistening quorn, slurping your evening Huel and glued to the telescreen as the cavalcade of sinister whimsy passes before your horrified staring eyeballs, with even the satisfaction of an election which everyone felt that they won except for the only two parties who can actually do anything about the result turning to ashes in your mouth (mingling undetectably with the Huel) …JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is here in the nick of time as the prospect of the Prolonged Period of Uncertainty turning gradually into your best life takes hold, to prise your white knuckles away from the panic button and get you back on the good foot, all mellowed out and back to what you like to think of as your “real self” despite the best efforts of Idealist philsophers like Kant and Hegel, cos who cares about those superannuated germanic losers when we’ve got Luke “Transcendental Idealism” Rattenbury (gtr) and fearless pirate marauder Tristan “T-Bone” Banks (drms) here ready to lay out their magic carpet of good vibes hot swing & good grooves, while the peerless Bee’s team wait, poised delicately in the velvet shadows behind the well-stocked bar, I contribute something or other on bass and the more eccentric members of the general public mill about in the gentle dusk outside beyond the steamy windows… there’s still plenty of good stuff happening, let’s put it front and centre just for tonight, tomorrow will be time for milkshakes anew…

20th May

Are you ready for the bold new era? Where salted caramel milkshakes are the medium of political discourse, where no-one cares about Danaerys cos she and her dragons don’t exist any more, where a single Magic Grandpa really CAN represent Leavers and Remainers at the same time even though it’s hitherto been impossible due to the basic laws of physics that govern the entire manifested universe.. let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH be your portal into the new era, as the machine elves grab you by the hand and lead you into a magical futuristic wonderland of good grooves hot licks & international rhythmic vibrations that will be spontaneously generated by the indefatigable Luke ‘Time Machine” Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest pirate Tristan ’T-Bone” Banks (drms), with additional input from me on the bass, plus whatever special time-travelling guests may swing by via the nearest wormhole to do their thing.. as May types ‘red rum’ for the 20 millionth time into the WAB, as Boris adjusts his killer clown makeup and exploding red nose, as the prolonged period of uncertainty grinds on its inevitable way, the giant moon in the park ascends back into the soggy heavens in a cloud of cheeba smoke to be with grumpy cat forever, horrible prehistoric dinosaurs stalk the fetid swamps of Alabama to show us all that time really is cyclical, and the citizens of Watford drink to forget, why don’t you throw caution to the winds, forget about Tuesday morning and come and join us? The future is here

13th May

As the hordes of angular-coiffured Scandinavians pack up their Nord keyboards after another great Escape, as the streets, now so suddenly emptied of skinny jeans and inky neck tattoos, are refilled with the Fringe’s Festival’s twanging of ukeleles and the harsh cries and grunts of overstimulated theatre grads passing themselves off as children’s entertainers, where will you turn to to keep the magic alive as the sun sinks into the glinting glassy sea? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH, innit obvs, where we’ve got the juice to cut you loose courtesy of the tireless ministrations of man like Luke “Tekken” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “The Last Dragon” Thomas (drms), doing their blues-to-bop-to-latin-to-whatever thing, aided by me on bass in some fashion - the Bee’s team will be there in all their matchless glory, waiting behind the well-stocked bar, and who knows what special guests may breeze in out of the velvet darkness, their hooves or burnished claws clattering over the threshold, their eyes burning red in the spinning head’s flickering glow, their plumes brushing the ceiling, the chill of the night air rising from their brazen scales? Who cares if even Doris has gone a-rollin along out of this mortal sphere, if politics is such a shit-show that they’ve taken Jeremey Kyle off air cos it’s no competition, with froggy Nigel and his team of yahoos flicking V signs in everyone’s faces as their busy little mates gab away to each other like the stunted gnomes they are, Tezza and Jezza pretending to stitch a deal together out of meat scraps and discarded condoms before presenting it to the nation like it’s actually a real thing, and nobody having a clue what’s happening next except that it’ll probably be bad? We’re here and we’re going to have a time, come and join us, join us.

6th May

Freezing cold bank holiday, after inconclusively depressing council elections, in the midst of constitutional crisis, is pure VIBE! Real like a Decaff Grande in Game Of Thrones, high like Caster’s testosterone count, lit like a Coachella insta post, as life enhancing as a seagull nicking your chips on your way to see an all-ukelele production of Hair at the Spiegeltent.. if you can’t take any more VIBE, then JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH will be there for you, a benchmark of quality in an uncertain world due to the tireless musical ministrations of Luke “Hawkeye” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Ant-man” Thomas (drms) as they lay out a magic carpet of hot licks cool swing and good grooves for you to climb aboard and soar up up up above the tiresome quotidian cares and the shabby tagged pigeon encrusted rooftops to where you can refresh your soul, you dig… I’ll be there doing something or other on bass, the fearless warriors of the Bee’s Team will be laying out the friendly welcome and quality hooch under the command of their dauntless leader, dandy highwayman Jack Rowan, the creatures of the night will shuffle past on the stained pavements outside and in the darkness at the street’s end the chill greasy sea will heave restlessly beside the tragically tenanted shelters, but inside all will be well… Are malfunctioning Maybots, tearstained Corbyn apologists and drearily resurgent Lib Dems getting your goat? Do your days seem like one interminable Endgame, with only the promise of fresh milkshakes for Tommeh to lighten the darkness? Come and join us, get on the good foot, that’ll show em…jubilant monarchists and ostentatiously indifferent republicans all welcome.

Bees Mouth - April 2019

April 22nd

Hola! isn’t everything just ticketty-boo? the weather’s peachy, the Mueller report is impeachy, or is it, or who cares? Let horror engulf the faraway shores, here it’s Easter bank holiday and the sun is shining, traffic is tailing back, on the beach a million tribal tattoos stand out proudly against their owners’ angry hot red skin, the roller disco is zooming its’ selfconsciously zany way along the seafront, all is well.. JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is ready, even if it seems as though you've drained the last drops of happinesses lager from your plastic aggro-proof beaker, to make your circle of bliss complete before the oppressive clouds of normalcy come swarming over the horizon to harsh your vibe too soon, too soon…. if the unfamiliar levels of sunkissed joy are freaking you out and making you mutter darkly about climate change n’ stuff, if you’re feeling like it’s still on but you’re not sure how or where or why, you can rely on Luke “My Captain, O My Captain” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “The Real Don Dadda” Thomas (drms) to get you back on the good foot with a rushing torrent of musical good vibes for you to immerse your raggedy self in, aided in some manner by me on bass, while the attendant machine elves of the peerless Bee’s Team wait, shimmering faintly, in the fragrant darkness behind the well-stocked bar, and the flotsam and jetsam of the weekend’s turbulence bob about on the psychic currents outside on the stinking pavement… don’t stay glued to Game of Freakin’ Thrones like an XR protestor glued to Jezza’s railings, don’t be a doubting Thomas, be an eager beaver, come and join us before it’s too late.

April 15th

Are you warm, are you real? Are you just trying to live your best life, beset on all sides by the shitposting of the unrighteous and the quibbling of the pointlessly aggressive regressive and the tediously, incorrigibly woke? Are you in need of the consolations of symmetry and geometry in your life, is Fortuna’s wheel spinning like a comedy beanie worn by Crazy Guggenheim, are you as burdened with Weltschmerz as Frank Butcher on a wet weekend? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH help you iron out the wrinkles in your aura and realign your chakras like some GM-free ducks in a row, courtesy of the network of good vibes spun like a web of silver by those gangstas of hot licks and good grooves Luke “Ghostface Killa” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Inspecta Deck” Thomas (drms), aided in the customary fashion by me on bass, while the perfectly chiselled and well-drilled Bee’s crew under the leadership of their fearless captain Jack Rowan wait to offer you libations of the good stuff….. as the Maybot crawls across Snowdonia with the grace of the Mars Rover in search of another fine mess, Notre Dame bursts into flames like a Gothic Gilet Jaune, Bozza tries to kid us all with another haircut, and Blackpink prepare to reveal themselves as our true masters, it’s time to let them all go hang, get on the good foot and get down to join us, it’ll be very. 

April 8th

Hey kids! What’s that commotion? Is it Ren and Stimpy entering another round of thrilling cross-party negotiations? Is it Jon Snow sliding to the kitchen floor after pulling a whitey at the Ofcom house party? Is it Bojo and Frog face dancing the far-right fandango on a magic no-deal mushroom before an audience of enchanted Brexit bunnyrabbits? Is it Jezza losing his shit to Hava Nagila? Is it hell, Jones, it’s JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH riding out of the West on its golden palomino, ready to give succour to the weak and hope to the afflicted thanks to the incorruptible rigour of those outlaws of good groove and hot licks, Luke “Ten Toes” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Lengman” Thomas (drms), plus me in the role of Sancho Panza on bass, and the superhumanly svelte and accomplished creatures enlisted into the Bee’s Team by their doughty captain, Jack ‘Sparrow’ Rowan, ready to make with the libations of top grade hooch to ease any angst you’re feeling as the Prolonged Period Of Uncertainty lurches into the next inevitable stage of its eternal endgame, kinda edgy and boring at once like binge watching the whole Saw franchise while getting wasted on Bailey’s with all your least favourite people from work, whatever that may be…. listen! The globe is turning, Fortuna’s wheel spins, symmetry and geometry elude us still but the hedgerows are sticky with rising sap, the voice of the chiff chaff is heard once again echoing in the distant woods beyond the edge of town, feather footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole, it ain’t over til it’s over.

April 1st

Springtime for Bojo and Greasy Reesy-Moggy, winter for Tezza and Jezza? Springtime for Bercow, dolefully intoning ‘Mr Peter Bone’ thru an endless Escher-mirror of indicative votes, springtime for little Tommy R as his jolly Nazis go into their dance, springtime for little baa-lambs and the giant orange Trumpkin revving up for 2020, springtime for Mr Zuckerberg and his giant pile of pies, what’s happening in the springtime? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH, that’s what’s happening bra, where those doughty champions of cool grooves and hot licks known in this corner of the time-space continuum as Luke “Iron Fist” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “The Velvet Glove” Thomas (drms) will be weaving a magic carpet of musical vibrations for you to climb aboard and soar high high high into the crisp cool glow of the pellucid cerulean, far above the faint hooting and gibbering of our thwarted elected representatives, the roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd, the well-mannered marching of the marchers and the polite signing of the signers, the busy click and switch of the bots and crawlers gathering up your tired soggy data, working stiffs trying to kick back with a brewski, influencers influencing as griefers go griefing and trollers keep trolling, the whole sorry-ass cavalcade of April fools marching on beyond satire and into history, while beyond the tatty edge of town and the grimy compromised verges the yellow broom lies aflame upon the heath and the hawthorn decks out the resurgent hedgerows, as the voice of the chiff-chaff returns to the echoing woodlands and feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole… don’t let it bring you down, come and join us, cos you ride on time, ride on time ride ride ride ride on time.

Bees Mouth - March 2019

25th March

Hey! How’s life on the cliff edge? Too edgy for the edgiest edgelord,the edgiest, so edgy! Even the millions who assembled in important London for the biggest middle-class flex ever can’t stop the edginess - even Uri can’t stop it with his bendy spoons - even Boris can’t stop it with his edgy spaffing - even Nigel the toadman in his giant Barbour coat and his 200 marching elderlies can’t stop it - but don’t lose your muffins, get along to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be defying current trends and laying down some vibes of ordered sanity thanks to the indefatigable talents of man like Luke ‘2Pac’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘The Real Don Dadda’ Thomas (drms) as they deliver on the real Will Of The People by laying out some hot licks and cool grooves, aided by me on bass, plus the unflappable ascended beings of the Bee’s team emanating calmness, peace vibrations and spiritual unity from behind the well-stocked bar… as history skips the tragedy bit and goes straight for the farce, as all around are losing their heads and blaming it on the illuminati, as Mr Corbyn does the hokey-cokey all alone in his corner, as the Maybot rues that billion quid bung to the world’s costliest proddies, as the Trumpkin prepares a gigantic sickening wazoo for all, as the sap stirs in the bough and the bud breaks upon the branch, as a roseate glow suffuses the western sky over the glassy sea, time to drive dull care away and get your bad self down to where the good stuff is, don’t delay

18th March

What’s up holmes? All wore out from submitting the same attempt at ur sick chirpse for the third time? Hoping to prorogue but no-one’s playing? Attempt at meaningful vote only seems to point up the emptiness of your meaningless existence? Wanted to draw Wolves but Life handed you Man City? Don’t stumble glumly through the chilly drizzle like some Farage-led cavalcade of soggy truculence, gird your loins and stride boldly forth to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH and let those masters of the magic music portal, whose material emanations vibrating on on this octave are known as Luke ‘Visions Of The Emerald Beyond’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Between Nothingness And Eternity” Thomas (drms), transport you to a fantastical realm of good grooves hot licks & the real swing thing, aided in some fashion by me on bass, while the peerless denizens of the scented darkness behind the well-stocked bar wait, eager to pour you a healing libation, plus whatever special guests may drop in from the chartered streets outside, sunflowers weary of time, sick roses, tygers burning bright or whoever else really, anyone who can join in with the ideals of peace, unity, communication, creativity and not killing people to satisfy your pain or your bullshit or your greedy little newsfeed…. so don't stay in hoping that 'After Life' will cheer you up cos it won't, come and join us, the world will keep turning, we’ll do a thing.

11th March

Where’s your moral compass? How can you have an opinion when ‘Finding Neverland’ turns out to be too long to actually watch all the way through, when R Kelly’s automotive expertise no longer stands up to analysis, when International Women’s day doesn’t even spark a decent ‘not all men’ pile-on on your feed cos everyone’s too demoralised to moralise… OPT OUT of all the bullshit and OPT IN to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be throwing care to the bitter winds and stoking the inner mounting flames with high-octane musical juice courtesy of Luke “The Last Dragon” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “The Last Jedi” Thomas (drms) plus me aiding and assisting to the best of my ability on bass, while the interdimensional agents of the Bee’s Team wait, poised in the fragrant shadows behind the well-stocked bar, the bad boys hand out their tasty burgers, Cruella de Ville lays out some more bullsh*t around the neighbourhood bars, the nameless creatures of the night pass by upon their fathomless errands, and out across the land the citizens mug each other off or stockpile listlessly as the promises of Mr Corbyn’s jammy allotment and Ms May’s field of blighted wheat seem to shift and shimmer in a haze of spectral unreality, the cold winds blow across the close cropped turf far out beyond the edge of town, in the dank spaces under the blackened hedgerow the sap begins to stir and feather footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole… don’t let it bug you out, come and join us, we’ll have a time. 

4th March

Here you are, making tracks through this vale of tears, beset upon all sides by the unrighteous, rendered by busy little crawlers scraping your most intimate datasets on behalf of their boringly rapacious masters, trying to spark joy off your soggy surroundings… screw that negativity, get yerself to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be on it like Phil Silvers thanks to the majestic incantations of man like Luke “Ten Toes” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “The Real Don Dadda” Thomas (drms) as they lay out pure musical intoxication into our lil’ jazzy hotbox here, while the all-knowing, all seeing Bee’s team wait, under the command of dandy highwayman Jack Rowan, to administer libations of top grade hooch to ease you gently through to the end of the night, as the denizens of the darkness get into their stride and the winds of change blow in from across the darkling ocean as the waves tear at the ragged shingle, with only 25 days til the giant Momo challenge of Brexmas comes spreading it’s shitty wings across the grubby over-tagged streets of your town… we’ll be here doing our thing here in the warm twilight building musical castles to keep out the bad vibes til they call time on it all, so get along, get along, Twisted Firestarters especially welcome.

Bees Mouth - February 2019

26th February

Summer is finally here so it’s time to take a good long slurp of nourishing Huel, get to the park for some Jogacise, reset all the privacy settings on your networked devices to ‘Scrape My Data Baby!!, and re-pitch your Ryan Adams and R Kelly collection to 432Hz to keep the vibrational level sweet… or just don’t, and get yourself along to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where you can just lay back and relax safe in the knowledge that Luke “Isosceles” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Equilateral” Thomas (drms) will be building a genuinely strong and stable musical refuge for you all out of hot sweet swinging music, aided to some degree by me on bass, to store up strength against the oncoming tide of tedious life-sapping drivel that is threatening to engulf us all, as the final shitstorm approaches and our elected representatives bravely start blaming each other for everything, like a bunch of slightly drunk middle aged divorcees trapped in a broken-down Leyland Princess on the side of the A34 returning from a disappointing pub lunch, trapped in a sweaty hell smelling of vinyl seats, scotch eggs and their own farts… leave them to it, don't be tempted to dash off some hastily configured meaningful contributions to pour petrol on the heaps of smouldering social pile-ons about Jezza and Tezza and imaginary transgender antisemites (those crazy guys!) that are stinking up the meedjasphere, grab your translucent shimmering wings, fix them to your tired shoulders and come spiralling up with us into the limitless cerulean where music is free and so will you be too, don’t miss out, it’ll be very

19th February

Feeling browned off? Yoga classes and DryVeganuary just reproachfully fading memories? Valentine’s didn’t deliver? Get back on-trend by starting a splinter group from your book club, or negotiating some wonderful free-trade deals with your nearest Londis, or looking in the mirror to see if there’s a funny tinge, or denying all responsibility for everything, or by doing none of those things and sashaying down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be building a shelter from the howling storm of idiocy that’s swirling ever closer and fending off the bad vibes with an impenetrable shield of hot swinging music thanks to the strength and integrity of men like Luke ‘King Of Kings’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘The Fresh Prince Of Forest Row’ Thomas (drms) as they lay out the good grooves and hot licks, aided by me on bass as per, plus whatever incognito genuises blow in out of the psychic storm to join us, and the inimitable Bee’s team standing by to fulfil your requests for the finest hooch known to humanity.. Come and join us, it won’t be long now, not long now, the world is turning on its axes, one man struggle while another relaxes, out across the distant fields the sap may quicken in the rimy hedgerows but the change is still to come…

11th February

Only 47 more panic buying days left till we can all board our fleet of imaginary ferries and sail merrily away upon the silvery seas of Brexmas for ever and ever, into a future consisting entirely of roseate dawns and gift-wrapped promises made by Bozza out of gummi bears and oxycontin.. in the meantime don’t let you needy little feeds neg you out, throw them in the virtual sea and get your badass corporeal self along to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be weaving a web of protective musical mojos against the coming iterations of unspeakable awfulness advancing towards us like a phalanx of slavering Chopes, all senility and entitlement, but powerless against the limitless vibe of man like international beach operative Luke ‘Toubab’ Rattenbury (gtr) and covert operative Loz ‘Deep Forest’ Thomas (drms), plus me doing whatevs on the bass, and whomsoever has chosen to manifest themselves tonight on this vibrational level as the Bee’s Team, ready to make with the liberal measures of top quality hooch… there’ll be a whole bunch of good stuff going down, so don’t just stand aghast at the matchless irl sh*tposting of lollygaggging bad faith on daily display from our elected representatives and their so-called ‘leaders’ as they bob around helplessly on the oily seas of parliamentary subterfuge… where are the feasts we were promised? Where is the wine, the new wine, where is the old wine? dying on the vine… don’t gwt mad, get on down, pump up the jams, pump it up a little more… get the party going on the dance floor, seek us that's where the party's at… and you'll find out if you're too bad… 

4th February

Isn’t February just the ginchiest? U know, snow, cold, dark, football, fare hikes, Russell Brand, the undermining of the basic tenets of liberal welfare democracy at the hands of surveillance capitalists, Maroon 5, Brexit Brexit Brexit trundling through the wintry dark like a giant rail replacement bus full of screaming self-interested nitwits being sick in each other’s handbags… thank MC 900 Ft Jesus for JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH as it comes swaggering back into the saloon ready to right some wrongs in your immediate vibrational ambit thanks to the superhuman skills of special guest star Oli “Crime & Punishment” Howe tickling up the weighted ivory-alikes for your edification, and Loz “The Possessed” Thomas thumping the hell out of the traps while riding the tightrope between technical virtuosity and pure animal spirits, plus me as usual doing whatevs on bass and the ascended masters of the highest octave known round these parts as the Bee’s Team waiting in shimmering interdimensional splendour behind the well-stocked bar.. what beings, fey or fell, will enter through the swinging portal tonight? Step forward, hesitant, confident, full of rude anxious vitality, to shake their ruffled metallic plumage or tawny mane of rain-peaked fur, strike the threshold with their brazen clattering claws or sidle in softly on tattered pads or splintered hoofs, their eyes hooded, aflame, dulled with nameless care or alive with fierce intelligence, ready to lift their voices above the lurid warm fug and and smash out a peerless chorus of “Airegin” or something like that… soon enough things are gonna move, the sap rises as feather footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole, but tonight it’s gonna be fine, let’s get on it and get into it.

Bees Mouth - January 2019

28th January

As the freezing winds of Brexmas swoop down across the glassy sea and into your personal space, like Mr Putin’s icy fingers down the back of your neck, as your emotions are all still a-quiver from trying mix the feels of a weekend combining Burns Night and Holocaust Memorial Day, as you contemplate necking a load of tide pods and yeeting into traffic just to show em all, JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH comes riding in just in the nick of time to get you back on the good foot and into it, man, so quit trying to gaslight yourself back into happiness or at least some kinda resignation to Fortuna’s wheel and get some symmetry and geometry back into your life by digging on special guest Paul ‘Fist Of Fury’ Richards (gtr), keeping you safe from harm as he’s equally at home swinging the changes on his pearl inlaid fretboard as he is disabling an assailant with a single body blow, plus Loz ‘The Last Dragon’ Thomas on the drums of thunder, plus me as per on the ol doghouse keeping Argos out of the chill as he waits for master to get back from his trip, while the shimmering sylphs and dryads of the Bee’s team wait poised in the scented shadows behind the well-stocked bar to make with the quality liquors and whatever guests spin by to shake it loose with us limber up to do their thing, and so can you, so can you, say it loud whatever it may be, don’t go voiceless into the black night, derevaun seraun, derevaun seraun. 

21st January

Here you are, deep into the chilly heart of cuffing season, the super blood wolf moon overhead like a Roger Dean prog dream, harbinger of some tide of earthbound f*ckery that’s waiting to overwhelm us all as our elected representatives bray and bellow like the venal lacklustre lollygaggers we all suspected they might be … regular transmissions of mediated nicompoopery won’t divert us sufficiently from the incoming mediocrapocalypse, but luckily JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH  is back with a big uncut slice of the reals thanks to the warp-speed talent of special guest Mr Al “Crazy Legs” Scott on the virtual piano and Mr Loz “Osmium” Thomas (drms) to take you away from all this boring madness on a magic carpet ride of hot sweet swinging music, aided in some manner by me on bass, with a host of potential participants all ready to chip in with their esteemed contributions, rockabilly rebel Sean ‘Flicknife’ Stapleton presiding sharp as a blue steel blade behind the well-stocked bar, the Bad Boys laying out the tasty burgers, badmashes pulling up to the kerb outside, ice crackling on the windows of your draughty overpriced accommodation, Phil the Greek burning it up like Birdbox in his new German whip, stars wheeling overhead, while far away in the cold distance up on the black frozen hillsides lurking like Grokes at the edge of town, deep under the frozen loam, something is stirring, the sap is ready to move in the blasted hedgerows… get ready, as some shitty little AI program gets ready to convert your living pulse into predictive data and flog it to some other numpty, this is the rhythm of the night, this is the rhythm of my life

14th January

When parliamentary process is just too lit and u just wanna chill, when dogs-in-sunglasses memes are simply no longer enough to express your admiration for correct adherence to legislative precedent, when your enthusiasm for reading other people’s furious explanations of what ‘democracy’ means on fb just dies….. let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH take the tension out of your Brexit extension and get the spark back into your tired lil eyes, cos all you have to do is come down, kick back and chill out to the heavy heavy monster sound as our resident experts Luke ‘Freedom Of Movement’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘The Eternal Backstop’ Thomas (drms) lay out another feast of musical good vibrations to bring the people together, aided as ever by me on bass plus the promise of special guests galore… as Jezza and Tezza both try to pull off the ultimate sick chirpse on each other while everyone else yells themselves into a state of hyper-osmatically exacerbated inertia, as the wokest post-millenials yell at each other in Hisbe, as Trumpkin picks his nose and stares at the snow outside his lonely window, we’ll be laying out a bunch of smoking hot jazz-to-blues-to-bop-to-latin-to-beats-to-whatever for the people to enjoy just for kicks, so just block all your dreary collapsitarian mates, pull on yer coat n shoes and get down, don’t be all sad like poor Andy, get happy like you’re laughing at salad, come and join us, join us, get in. 

7th January

New Year came in with a smash and already your poor little head is spinning into a vortex of discombobulation, kids are back at school, you’re back at work or something, China is on the dark side of the moon, what’s to do? … slough off your ideologically ambiguous Yellow Jacket and slouch on down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be setting things up for whatever 2019 can throw our way with a shedload of internationally unconstrained blues-to-bop-to-latin-to-groove-to-whatever thanks to the boundary-defying majesty of Luke ‘Unity’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Equity’ Thomas (drms) and they lay out a fresh platter of jazz-related musical goodness for you to load up your extra-size buffet plate with, aided in some manner by me on bass, while the interdimensional entities of the Bee’s Team stand by, waiting in the alluring scented depths of the shadows behind the well-stocked bar to make your guilt-ridden compromised attempt at Dry January as painlessly empowering as possible; as Tezza is ‘seeking further assurances’ and Jezza is ‘biding his time’, as online brexitty yelling reaches fever pitch, as we all prepare to set sail on a fleet of imaginary takeaway ferries, as Greggs continue subvert the patriarchal hegemony via the medium of pastry snacks, who knows what the hell will happen next? Let’s face the music and dance, or something. 

Bees Mouth - December 2018

17th December

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven; a time to lay in on your seasonal purple drank, wrap up the kids’ carefully re-gendered gifts, pretend that sending cards in the physical meatspace mail is still a thing, hone your ‘casual works drink’ mastery skills, gather yourself before the coming storm, and yet still time as well to get your bad self along to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where sh*t will be real and the sound is fresh as ever was thank to the endless ingenuity of Luke ‘We Free Kings’ Rattenbury (gtr), Loz ‘Equisapiens’ Thomas (drms) and special guest Maestro Nigel Thomas keeping it sweet and lowdown on the bass … the air will be laden with the acrid stench of mulled wine, the streets filled with harassed late-night shoppers trying to express their hope that love will overpower mortality via the medium of consumer spending, regular working stiffs and panhandlers alike will be expecting their seasonal bonuses, bells will be ringing, lovely Stacey will be dancing, dancing, dancing, the Trumpkin will be waiting for the stroke of midnight or Mueller, all under the lowering sky as the horsemen of impending Brexitapocalypse gird their fetid loins and our scurrying political class cower in their gilded, endlessly flipping residences muttering their feeble imprecations of votes on votes of votes to try and ward them off, keep them away, drown out the steady thud and flutter of dry, dusty wings circling overhead… don’t let it harsh your vibe, don’t let em grind you down, get up and get down, we still out here…

10th December

How much more of this Strong and Stable stuff can we take? Is Maybot the Delaybot trying to stall while she finds her CV? Is Jezza secretly spraying on the Lynx before bursting forth to pitch his woo to the punch drunk electorate? When will we see the promised TV dance-off setting May’s Brexit Stanky Leg against Corby’s Socialist Hokey-Cokey? If it’s all messing with your equilibrium, cast off all care and come to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be respecting the real will of the people with our own backstop arrangement of good grooves, hot licks and hard swing thanks to the unfettered self-determination of Luke ‘Silent Majority’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Youthquake’ Thomas (drms) as they sail confidently into the glorious future, assisted in some manner by me on bass and unapologetic centrism, while the fearless buccaneers of the Bee’s Team stand in proudly independent readiness behind the bar, well-stocked with the finest international hooch from our valued trading partners, and the multi-dimensional beings of the night shuffle past upon their nameless errands deep within the wind-blasted crannies of the convoluted, compromised, ageing city clinging on between the chilly shingle and the dark silent masses of the downs lurking in the gloom like gigantic Grokes at the edges of your mind…. we’ll still be here as long as there’s music to play and someone to play it to, til Megatron returns to claim us all as his own, so don’t sit at home on your pile of hysterically stockpiled vegan corned beef substitute, fortify yourself with a big swig of fermented Huel and come and sit in, we still out here… 

3rd December

As poor faithful Curiosity Rover sends us more pix of a bleak, monochromatic wasteland, devoid of intelligent life, like we’ve never heard of Spoons and its jolly Brexitty bossman sir Tim, as the informed debate essential to a functioning democracy descends into an endless round of petulant shitposting, do you feel that your options are slowly withering on the branch to lie flaccid upon life’s tracks like the wrong kind of leaves? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH act upon you like a tonic, free equally of Big Pharma and homeopathic hooey, ready to reinvigorate your frontal lobes with a mega dose of pure hot sweet swinging jazz-and-related-music thanks to the tireless ministrations of Luke “Frozone” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Mr Incredible” Thomas (drms) as they do their thing with both gusto and panache, like those enterprising shoppers at Christian Dior, aided in some manner by me on bass, while the fearless buccaneers of the Bee’s team stand by to reward the righteous with libations of the finest A grade hooch, the Bad Boys line up the patties, the regular stiffs mingle with the mythical denizens of the dusk in the chilly mist outside and the pale-eyed creatures of the night shuffle past to their appointments with who knows what, their shadows striding behind them and rising to meet them from the cold sticky pavements under the sodium glow… maybe you’ve decided against that Air B&B break in Gay Paree, maybe Black Friday didn’t give you anything you really wanted, maybe you’re ready to table a motion of No Confidence in yourself - don’t do it - come and join us instead, it’ll be very. 

Bees Mouth - November 2018

26th November

Now that cushy research post in Doha doesn’t seem quite as appealing, your cruise holiday in the Sea of Azov has been called off, Masterchef is nearly over, nothing to look forward to but the endless hell of yelling Brexitty bullsh*t, followed by Xmas, followed by more Brexit, but now with horrible hench Noel hollering at Holly Willoughby like a malignant but ripped meat dwarf.. let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH swoop down upon you from over the glassy frozen sea, out of the chilly light and autumn’s sere breath from the misty horizon , and bear you up up up upon wings of pure imagination, good grooves, cool swing and hot licks thanks to the imperturbable majesty of Luke “All Killer” Rattenbury (gtr) and the unflappable sang-froid of special guest Angus “No Filler” Bishop (drms), and they lay down some dank stanky sh*t for you to enjoy, aided to some degree by me on bass, and possible special guests of all shapes and sizes, while the fearless buccaneers of the Bee’s Team wait, poised and ready in the scented dusk behind the well-stocked bar, the bag-o-fish guy hovers in the turbid street outside the steamy windows, the badmashes mix with the Bad Boys over a tasty burger … somewhere far away across the darkness at the edge of town, politicos are plotting, Ms May is dutifully writing thank-you letters to herself in a dark dusty cupboard, Jeff Goldblum enrages a generation of Trinity grads by tinkling the ol’ ivories with a knowing leer, Megatron and Optimus battle for command of the shadow zone, but we’ll be safe in here, good things will be happening, so join us, join us…

19th November

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time for sticking your fingers in your ears and your head under the pillow, and screaming ‘lalalalala’ til it all goes away - and if that doesn’t work, a time for JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be cutting right through through the swathes of misinformational bullshit, celebrity jungle witch hunts, imaginary backstops to backstops, manipulative virtual orang-utans, dank unwholesome memes and needless spiritual shitposting that have been clogging up your poor bruised frontal lobes, and inviting you to join Luke ‘Strong’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Stable’ Thomas (drms) as they set off on a magic carpet ride of good grooves and hot licks, aided by our special guest, the effortlessly debonair George ‘Family man’ Trebar, on bass, while the fearless buccaneers of the Bee’s Team under the command of their intrepid leader Jack Rowan stand by to proffer good vibes and libations of top quality hooch, and out across the wide wide world all kinds of things go down that you won’t need to worry about for a while - that nice Mr Corbyn tends his polls and offers jam tomorrow, Melania carefully rakes up all the brushwood as Donald looks on, Boris checks his Gumtree ads, The Spice Girls prepare their leadership bid, International Men have a day all to themselves to attend to their metrosexual manscaping , the tectonic plates grind away deep below the earth, Mars keeps the lights on, the last leaves are torn screaming from the stunned trees, Orion lifts above the horizon and winks, and somewhere deep within the chilly urban labyrinth a man fills a bag with stolen fish and sets out into the night… come and join us, you’ll be glad you did, you will. 

12th November

Hey! How’ve u been? Forging ahead dynamically like a Sovereign Individual into our exciting Ayn Rand fantasy of a future? Or bumping sadly about like Trump’s abandoned umbrella on the steps of your own grounded Air Force One? Don’t get all neggy n shit - the future’s as bright as a newly minted Brexit 50p, or if not, at least there’s JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH rolling your way down the tracks once again, so park your imaginary weed-stinking Tesla at the curb and jump on board, cos we’re on the scheduled service to good grooves, hot licks and pure joyous musical energy thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Luke ‘The Conductor” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “ A Pound Off The Topline” Thomas (drms) as they see you safe on your journey, aided in some manner by me on bass, while the Ansel Adams of the Optics Jack Rowan and his team of fearless buccaneers preside over the well-stocked bar and outside on the pavements the heavy stained slabs lie mute beneath the restless cavalcade of human traffic, mammals and MAMILS, some glowing in their youth, some strutting in their pride, some bent double, like old beggars under sacks, knock-kneed and coughing like hags, some just trying to get through to the end of the night, while overhead the satellites are spinning, the galaxies are waiting, Mars still hangs burning in the void as the axis tilt yet again, Fortuna’s wheel sends us careening on the way to who knows where? Vassalage, chaos, the Critic’s Round of Masterchef, its all to play for, so grab yer axe and come join us, what’s to lose?

Bees Mouth - October 2018

October 15th

Feeling a bit edgy? 25 degree heat seemed kinda Mediterranean in June, now it just seems sinister? Oktoberfest on the Level just feels like a tactless Brexitty provocation? Beset by a nagging formless dread? Stop playing psychological whack-a-mole with your deepest, most shameful inner terrors and come and join us at JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where spirits can rejoice and music can be the healing force of your ever expanding laminar universe thanks to the tireless energies of Luke ‘Slowhand’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘A Pound On The Topline’ Thomas (drms) as they power on into the night with the good bait, aided by me on bass and whatnot, and all manner of hucksters jivers, smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers, pickpocket peddlers, even panhandlers, plus the fearless buccaneers of the Bee’s Team ready to repel boarders and reward the faithful …. if you’re feeling like some terrible catastrophe is being cooked up by a bunch of scheming no-marks, if it seems likely that the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; if you reckon that the best lack all conviction, while the worst have the mostest Insta likes - if you didn’t manage to book a holiday in Thailand over the approaching endless half-term - if you tried ASMR and it just made you feel creeped out - if you’re a jubilant royalist or an ostentatiously indifferent republican, set aside your differences, hang up your hang ups and come and join us, join us, the season is on the wane, Fortuna’s wheel begins to spin again

October 1st

As M. Aznavourian and Geoffrey fly hand in hand up above the streets and houses, rainbow climbing high, saying bye-bye to this vale of tears, to the smoky tendrils of autumn creeping around us, to those vital Brexit negotiations, now safe in the shabby velour hands of Zippy, George and Bungle, to Mrs May choking back her tears and assuring us we’ll soon be hitting 80 in our German whips, to Trump and his trumping and Ye and his yeyeyeye, JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH will be continuing to operate at full strength thanks to the eternal flames manifesting on this material plane as Luke “Killer Dilla” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Driller Killer” Thomas (drms) as they serve up another smorgsasbord of musical delights to refresh your jaded frontal lobes and realign your vibe, aided in some manner by me on bass, while the fearless buccaneers of the Bee’s Team under the command of their fleet-fingered captain Jack Rowan stand by to repel boarders, bringdowns and buzzkills with their magic healing liquors, the bad boys and badmashes line the glittering kerb outside, stray freshers staggger in circles,and down on the beach where the sea meets the moon-blanched land the planets burn in the sky over the shingle’s grating roar…. don’t sit glued to your stupid phone waiting for the next usage update, that sorta defeats the point, yeah? don’t wait for the hapless collection of backstabbers feebs, schlemils, and sappy poindexters that have somehow ended up in charge of our collective destiny to get their shit together… get down to where it’s on, you can do the milly rock, you can do the stanky leg, you can just do your thing, it’s beautiful baby. 

Masters of our Domain

Autumn brings many harvests in its wake; not least the publication of numerous surveys and reports, the pages of which drift across the digital realm like the falling leaves. With the Brexit deadline drawing ever nearer and inconsistency remaining the only consistent factor in approach from both government and opposition, the uncertainties that the whole nation faces in March 2019 are already having an impact. A survey of 1,600 musicians by the Incorporated Society of Musicians, published this August, finds more than 40% report a negative impact on their careers, mostly arising from uncertainties around visa issues for future bookings; the July 26th report from House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee also warns of the consequences of visa restrictions on the UK’s cultural sector as a whole, and urges clarity on the continuation of free movement after Brexit – clarity which is sadly unlikely to be forthcoming at any time soon. Touring abroad is a vital component of many professional musician’s incomes; music in general, and jazz music in particular, is a cultural form that can appeal across national boundaries, and jazz occupies what is known as a global niche – audiences may be small, but they can be found, sharing their common culture, across the world. Access to these transnational markets has long been a valuable resource for jazz musicians, ever since Sidney Bechet took up residence in Paris and opened the door for so many other US players when the home scene went through barren periods – let us hope that our UK talent continues to have access to the educated, engaged and passionate European audiences on our doorstep. 

Of course, we also have our homegrown scene, and there exist also the boundless virtual prairies of the digital realm to be exploited. Good news from the latter realm, as in a July report, Spotify told the BBC Newsbeat service that in the past six months, the number of UK users aged 30 and under listening to their flagship Jazz UK playlist had increased by 108%, and smaller streaming platforms such as Deezer and Amazon Music reported similar increases.The growth has been attributed to “a flourishing UK scene which fuses jazz with a variety of genres”, and a Dr Peter Elsdon, a musicologist at the University of Hull, has been quoted in the report describing jazz as “a chameleon” that constantly changes colour to reflect its environment. “Because of the way streaming services work, people can find out about jazz more easily and quickly than they might have been able to in the past”, he explains, referring one assumes, both to the search n’ suggest algorithms that bring new artists to your desktop or hand-held device, and also to the availability of so much previously hard-to-find jazz music via the services themselves. One might add here that a certain generation of jazz musicians still persistently demonstrate a negative attitude towards streaming; while it is true that niche musics are not always well served by current streaming models, for reasons discussed in earlier editions of this column, realism surely compels us to acknowledge that the hope that consumers will obligingly boycott Spotify and return to buying CDs, as in days of yore, is very unlikely ever to be fulfilled. Visibility and engagement are the essential stepping stones towards audience progression – JazzFm reported its highest audience figures for the past four years, and in July an unlikely milestone was reached when John Coltrane scored his first ever UK Top 40 album chart placement, crashing in at number 21 with the belatedly rediscovered Both Directions At Once. One may slice and dice the analysis of what this really means, and find positives or negatives to suit one’s own temperament, but the unmistakeable message is that both the media landscape and the recorded music industry are changing, and that opportunities are being thrown up for those astute or engaged enough to exploit them. As popular music tends increasingly towards blandness and homogenisation, a sector of the youth market responds by developing a hunger for more challenging and sophisticated forms, and jazz can benefit by satisfying that hunger if it is prepared to array itself, attractively garnished, upon the cultural smorgasbord.

While foreign markets and online presence are important to the scene as a whole, it’s the UK market where the majority of our players will find their sustenance. A picture of the whole is provided by the recently published UK Live Music Census – the first of its kind. Let’s hear what it did, in its own words: “For 24 hours from noon on Thursday 9th March 2017, volunteers in cities across the country went out and about to live music events, from pub gigs to massed choirs to arena concerts. Live music censuses took place in our three primary snapshot cities of Glasgow, Newcastle-Gateshead and Oxford, while affiliate censuses also ran in Brighton, Leeds and Southampton on 9-10 March, and in Liverpool on 1-2 June, the affiliates led by members of UK Music’s Music Academic Partnership (MAP). Nationwide online surveys for musicians, venues, promoters and audiences were online from March until June. The intention of the census project was to help measure live music’s social, cultural and economic value, discover what challenges the sector is facing and inform policy to help live music flourish.” We should note the inclusion of Brighton as a location – a reflection of the flourishing sector in the town across all genres, jazz being no exception. The research was exhaustive and the findings comprehensive, but we can but summarise a few points here. It will come as no surprise to our esteemed and discerning readers to learn that the report concluded that live music has ‘significant economic, social and cultural value’ – the annual live music spend in Oxford alone is estimated at over 10 Million GBP, supporting over 350 full-time equivalent jobs. More is now spent on live than recorded music, with nearly half (47%) of respondents to the audience survey spending more than £20 on tickets for concerts/festivals each month while only a quarter spend the same on recorded music. On average, nearly half (49%) of the annual income of those respondents to the musician survey who identify as professional musicians comes from performing live, compared to only 3% from recording.

The survey is unique in its breadth, gathering data and stories from all those involved in music, from audiences to promoters, council licensing boards to venue owners, and even including the rarely heard voices of the musicians themselves. The survey’s analysis divided musicians into three categories – professional, semi-professional and amateur. Some results may come as a surprise, others less so – the sector is still male-dominated, with men accounting for 68% of professional and 81% of semi-pro players – men and women earned roughly the same per gig, but fascinatingly and perhaps unexpectedly, male singers tended to average more than female ones (100 GBP compared to 85), whereas for instrumentalists the positions and earnings were reversed.

Although individual earnings spread across a far wider range, it is significant that this average figure is well below the Musician’s Union suggested rate of 121.50 for casual engagements, reinforcing the commonly acknowledged heuristic conclusion that this rate is effectively a nominal one only that in practice is seldom adhered to. In addition, while 78% of professional musicians are self-employed, the survey found that 66% of those respondents to the musician survey identifying as professional musicians earn less than £15,600 direct from live music each year and 28% earn less than £5,200 direct from live performance; indeed, research by the Musicians’ Union in 2012 found that 56% of the musicians surveyed earn less than £20,000 in total per year, with music teaching being the primary means of supplementing income – accounting for typically up to 50% – and maintaining their professional status.

Analysis by genre provided further insights. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it suggests that the four most lucrative genres for respondents to the musician survey overall are: rock, pop, blues and classical, with 40% of all respondents earning money from rock, 26% from pop, 22% from blues, and 21% from classical music. However, another, rather different picture emerges when the musician’s own preferences are examined – when asked to choose which genre they identify with the most, 29% identify most with classical music, 14% with jazz, 11% identify with rock music, 8% identify as a singer/songwriter, and a measly 7% are happy to openly identify most with pop. Furthermore, 38% of respondents to the musician survey identifying as professional, currently earn money from classical music, 31% from pop, 31% from jazz, and 22% from blues For respondents to the musician survey identifying as semi-professional, however, the most lucrative genre is rock music: 48% earn money from rock music, while only 9% earn money from classical music. While jazz accounts for a small proportion of overall financial turnover from the sector as a whole, it holds its own as the genre that many musicians would rather be playing – and earning their living from – and a gratifying proportion of those musicians are successful in this ambition. 

Where are these dedicated, jazz-loving professionals performing? The survey’s findings highlight unequivocally the importance of small venues: “Over three-quarters (78%) of respondents to the online audience survey had visited small music venues (under 350 capacity) for live music in the past 12 months, and three-quarters (74%) had visited pubs and bars (for live music). Two-thirds (67%) of respondents to the musician survey had performed in small music venues in the past 12 months while nearly two-thirds (64%) had performed in pubs or bars 31%)” 

Here in Brighton we are lucky to have a scene that is supported by so many dedicated musicians, where the audience is eclectic, sophisticated and willing to engage with niche music, and where there is a plethora of grassroots venues. The Verdict deserves special recognition as a dedicated, musician-friendly venue, where musicians can stage their own concerts, playing the repertoire they want with the band of their choice; but equally, the flourishing pub and bar scene plays a part in developing new talent and sustaining existing players. Research from PRS for Music shows that live music can be a very good way of increasing publican’s sales; 24% report an increase of 25 to 50% in sales on music nights and 71% reporting an increase of 10 to 25%. This economic viability provides a different, parallel model to ticketed gigs, where there is a constant risk that the promoters/musicians may sustain a loss if they fail to sell enough tickets. As jazz audiences are small, jazz musicians can be particularly susceptible to this risk, and the readiness of landlords willing to offer a fixed fee for a free-entry gig provides a secure alternative. The danger, of course, is that a free-entry gig will deter audiences from a door charge gig – in addition, the economic realities of the licensed trade in Brighton (and across the UK) mean that the fees offered by landlords can never in practice approach the MU recommended minimum. This tension provokes lively debate within the community; we would suggest that, as with the scenario with recorded music detailed above, astute musicians will use the available resources to manage their careers to their best advantage. The casual, free-entry pub session has been a long-established feature of the jazz landscape, with a tradition traceable back to the 1950s at least; ticketed gigs will thrive on their own merits if they offer something exceptional; both have a role to play in the wider picture to progress both careers and audiences. The challenges of wage stagnation, competition and venue closure are all too familiar to anyone who works in the sector, and all are detailed in the report, but perhaps further citations are un-necessary. While you have been kind enough to spend time reading this column, gentle reader, some jazz musicians in your area have been rehearsing for a gig, setting up for a gig, playing a gig, or packing down from a gig and preparing for the next one – why not find out where they are, and set out to join them? If we don’t use it, we’re sure to lose it, so let’s Keep Music Live. 


Read the full report: here  

The Moving Finger Writes

“Anyone lucky enough to receive the Performing Rights Society’s regular magazine will no doubt have been intrigued to see an article headed ‘What’s going on in British Jazz?’, and even more intrigued by the following introductory quote from saxophonist Pete Wareham:

‘Jazz? I don’t know much about it. I haven’t been following it for ages…… I’ve been listening to a lot of Diplo and Mykki Blanco’.”

The moving finger, as Mr Fitzgerald reminded us, writes and then moves on, and its cancellation policies are even less accommodating than those of a budget airline. But let’s cast our minds back to September 2013: a month scarred by the unhappy manifestations of violence in Kenya and among the long-suffering people of Syria, which we need not dwell upon here, and by other more easily digestible events; an ancient company called ‘Microsoft’ purchased another equally obsolete entity called ‘Nokia’, Gareth Bale transferred to Real Madrid for a record fee of 85.3 million GBP, Breaking Bad swept the Emmys and Angela Merkel swept the polls to election triumph, while Ed Miliband struggled with his bacon sarnie and Mr Cameron wondered if a referendum might be the very thing to deliver him the result he wanted on Scottish independence. Set against this dramatic backdrop of world events, the Sussex Jazz Magazine was launched, and while the fortunes of all those mentioned above have dipped and swayed, SJM continues to thrive.

In a bold editorial decision, the first edition was dedicated to local bass players; and the lead quoted above was the first tentative overture of this column. It might be interesting to catch up with Mr Wareham, who has been gratifyingly busy in the intervening time with the latest incarnation of his Melt Yourself Down project, aided by local sticksman supreme Tristan Banks, and see if his enthusiasm for Diplo continues unabated. For an artist to proclaim a love of EDM from within the jazz pigeonhole was quite unusual back in 2013, when any mention of jazz in the UK still tended to draw the catchphrase from that Fast Show sketch from the general public, despite the efforts of Roller Trio, Portico Quartet and such hyperborean animals as GoGo Penguin and Polar Bear to dissolve the boundaries between the tradition and the welter of contemporary sounds newly accessible via the wonders of streaming. It’s instructive to look back on the last five years worth of issues and see how they chart the development of the music that, for want of another viable title, we still call jazz; and satisfying to see how many of the reports have been positive. 

SJM was set up to serve the local jazz community, both players and listeners, and its growth has mirrored the growth of the scene. Early editions of this column touched on the popularity of jam sessions and the healthy grassroots scene of casual pub gigs; both have continued to thrive. Later issues explored the tricky questions of financial remuneration and the economic viability of the jazz musician’s life, the debate around free-entry gigs, and the responsibility of both players and audiences to support the scene – these issues continue to evade simple resolution. However, let us pause to list some of the achievements recorded in SJM since its first issue. Love Supreme has confounded the cynics and naysayers to survive, and grow in size and stature, and the Bandstand stage continues to provide an accessible platform and a bridge into the local community. This resolutely commercial mothership touching down outside the city has been mirrored by the emergence and rapid success of a pair of home-grown events catering to different wings of the disparate muse – the South Coast Jazz Festival celebrates the evolving tradition with a clear eye on the richness of the UK’s own musical legacy, while the Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival does what it says on the label by bringing home the joyful noise of the music’s outer fringes. Three major jazz festivals establishing themselves around the city in the last five years is indication enough of a healthy scene; this year sees the establishment of the Splash Point Jazz Festival in Eastbourne and the continuation of the Rye Jazz & Blues Festival as well, while both Jazz Re:freshed and Jazz In The Round are expanding their London-based operations to bring exciting new jazz to Sussex. Our 2013 issue lamented the closure of Jazz Services; now exciting developments are afoot for a new publicly funded umbrella organisation for jazz in the South. Back in 2013, The Verdict had only just opened, and the candid will admit that its future was not universally seen to be secure; yet here it still is, as summer 2018 draws to a close, still open for business and putting on more bands than ever. It’s been a pleasure to have been involved with the New Generation Jazz programme and, thanks to the support of the Arts Council, to have brought so many wonderful young players to The Verdict to experience the unparalleled warmth and enthusiasm of the crowds, the inexhaustible ebullience of  indefatigable host Andy Lavender, and the exciting vagaries of the house PA system. 

A transparent plug for New Generation (New season just announced! Get your tickets for Fraser Smith and the Alibis now, folks!) leads us from the local to the national scene, and the unavoidable rise and rise of a new generation of young musicians emerging from South London over the last five years. Nubya Garcia, Moses Boyd, Ashley Henry and Ezra Collective were all relatively unknown when they made their New Generation debuts back in 2015 – since then their profile, and that of the scene of players emerging from Tomorrow’s Warriors collective, entering the London conservatoires and exiting again to pick up vibes via club nights Steez and Total Refreshment Centre, has risen to the level where the national press, always hungry for a new ‘movement’ to promote, have seized upon it. National broadsheet articles have led into borderline-hyperbolic features in Rolling Stone (‘Jazz’s New British Invasion’) and the New York Times (‘Shabaka Hutchings Brings London Jazz Into the Spotlight’). While Kamasi Washington has led the way, crossing over into mainstream festival audiences both in the US and here at such hipster-friendly UK events as Field Day, it’s inspiring to see UK jazz lauded as the cutting edge, rather than following in the lead of the US. Such media attention brings in its wake the inevitable questions; the UK is brimming with talent, and as the bright light shines into on one set of players it will unfortunately cast a shadow over other, equally deserving hopefuls. Nevertheless, there’s an undeniably heady rush of excitement at the sight of UK jazz artists at the centre of a media storm; a young generation for whom referencing club music and the jazz tradition together is no longer an anomaly, and who are prepared to embrace notions of mainstream success that have the potential to reach beyond the sometimes impenetrable-seeming boundaries between jazz (whatever that is) and popular music (aren’t they meant to be the same thing?). 

This summer, Jazz Re:freshed, the multi-faceted promotional crew at the heart of the new movement, reached out from their London base to stage their first all-day event at Brighton Dome with an array of stars of the new wave, with a stunning 1,500 tickets sold and free admission for the under 15s. The crowd were an eclectic mix of youngsters checking out their peers and older fans, some of whom would surely have remembered the last Brit-jazz boom (also fuelled in no small part by Tomorrow’s Warriors) that brought to our attention Courtney Pine, Ronny Jordan, Steve Williamson, Orphy Robinson, Gary Crosby, Denys Baptiste, Jason Yarde and so many other great players. All media hypes conform to the same cycle of boom and backlash, but true talent and commitment can ride the wave and translate into career longevity. Last month’s column brought unwelcome news of the closure of Total Refreshment Centre, and a licensing threat to the Mau Mau Bar, both crucial incubators of the scene, and a reminder of how fragile a musical renaissance can be, and how difficult the commercial climate remains. Past columns have explored the dire state of the recorded music industry for jazz and the continuing precariousness of the existence of the jazz clubs and the musicians who play in them. So let us close this five-year review, brimming as it is with optimism for both the local, the national and the international development of the music we all love, however we choose to define it, with a warning that if we don’t use it, we’re sure to lose it. Get out to a gig tonight – or if not tonight, then tomorrow. There’s sure to be something on in town – jazz is booming. 


    Many thanks to all those who have had the patience to read this column over the last five years, and the kindness to tell me that they have enjoyed it. Your encouragement, support and advice is very welcome. 

Bees Mouth - September 2018

Sept 24th

OMG!! Everyone’s gone conference crazy!! Out on the dusty fringes UKIP were really digging into their special thing, angrily floating ideas like big shit-filled balloons to burst over their own screwed up faces, while not even Vince’s erotic spasm could make his lot seem sexy, but that’s small stuff compared to terrifying Brexity monsters now crashing around in the political arena… centre yourself amid the tension by getting down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH and taking a deep healing breath, cos we’ve got a lasting mandate to deliver real liberation to everyone everywhere for ever thanks to the steady eye and fearless hand of man like Luke ‘Crypto” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Cash Is King” Thomas (drms) as they demonstrate pure freedom of movement and, like, totally harmonised regulation to deliver another summit meeting of hot swing, cool funk & all kinds of good stuff crossing and recrossing the frictionless musical borders in between, aided by me on bass, while fearless buccaneer Captain Jack Rowan and his crew batten down the hatches and prepare to ride out the Prolonged Period Of Uncertainty with their precious cargo of the finest liquors known to man, while Jezza and Big Mac dressed as dandy highwaymen try to ride multiple horses at once, everyone threatens to deselect everyone else, while the Maybot grins fixedly at you from the centre of her burning bush, while Boris sharpens his knife in his stinking basement and everyone else waits to see just what the hell is going to happen next, cos it could go any way, couldn’t it? Don’t sit at home like an unexpected item in life’s bagging area, don’t watch the Bodyguard again, join us, Libdems or mandems, lovers, losers, fighters, baby sharks or tiny dancers, this is real life and it’s happening RIGHT NOW… jack jack jack jack your body.

Sept 17th

It no joke, is it? Beavering away at the digital coalface, trying to keep on top of the torrent of incoming while sharing your outgoing in the hope that someone somewhere cares, sticking your head up above the virtual parapet so your voice gets heard above the susurrus, hurly-burly, mounting hubbub and general frou—frou, as all your bitcoin turns to shitcoin and a host of digital platforms rise and fall like the waves on a boundless boring ocean… JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is back to give you a big healing dose of IRL so cut yourself loose and put that spring back in your step, cos we’re back on the regular thanks to the tireless musical audacity of Luke ‘Homeboy’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Cash Is King” Thomas (drms) as they weave another web of good grooves and hot licks for you to get wrapped all around your poor aching frontal lobes, while the fearless buccaneers of the Bee’s Team stand by under the command of their captain Jack Rowan, ready to repel boarders and belay any un-called for argy-bargy to keep the vibe sweet, and the streets outside are alive with all kinds of bad boys, badmashes, movers, shakers, tricksters and fakers, travellers from antique lands, followers of false prophets, dawn treaders and easy riders, and Lib Dems in search of a purpose..... as the spectral calm of summer’s end drifts down from the shining cerulean, as the kids go back to school to try and learn what to do next, what to do next, as the Mercury nominations for Best Artists Previously Nominated For The Mercury Prize remind us all of the simpler days of Myspace, food hashtags and lolcats, as May and her band of backstabbers play Deal Or No Deal with all our futures, as we all seem to be waiting for the next BIG THING to drop, you should take the time out and come and join us

Sept 10th

Holidays are over, you muppets, time’s getting on, there’s no time for any wishy-washy namby-pamby flip-flopping - important steps need to be taken and they need to be taken now by the Adults In The Room, and that means YOU! Time to set your jaw, clench your fists, grit your teeth and buckle up, double down, upscale, downsize and get your sh*t together, and when you’re done, take a deep breath and get down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH cos we’ll be flying higher than Elon Musk at a shareholder’s meeting thanks to the magical talents of Luke ‘Laserquest’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Youthquake” Thomas (drms) as they send all bad vibes off for mandatory deselection, adopt all the internationally recognised definitions of Hot Swinging Grooves, and fill the air with music … I’ll be along on bass, fearless captain Jack Rowan will be at the helm with his crew of buccaneers to man the pumps and serve up libations of the finest liquors known to man, the pallid creatures of the night will shuffle past outside, the Bad Boys will be flipping tasty burgers and the local badmashes will be parking illegally just for lulz… as we all wait for Mr Johnson to put his dogwhistle to his lips and cry, you know, havoc n stuff, as Mars burns bright in the sky above, as the earth shifts again on its axis and the sap runs slower, as the last swallows dart low over the drying stubble, let’s keep the faith, people…come an join us, let’s make some noise.

Sept 3rd

As you hang, breathless, poised like a diver on the summers furthest brink, ready for the breath of autumn to bring you crashing down down down, your heart heavy with nostalgia, your skin burnt by the sun... let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH ease your passing into the next phase, cos we’re gearing up for a phenomenal autumnal shitstorm of sound bites as those busy little orange hands peck at the tweetdeck, Eurocrats get their resting bitch faces on for the next round, everyone stocks up on rotten tomatoes for Conference Season,Mr Corbyn mumbles something ineffectual into his beardie beard, Mr Putin smirks into his tea but doesn’t drink it, Netenyahoo spits into his own eye, Boris, “Tommy” and Blotchy Steve B exchange sexy winks, all manner of unholy alliances congeal across the greasy wastes of cyberspace, and the Maybot dances, dances, dances her way along the corridors of power with the grace of a spavined horse... take heart as the team of Luke ‘Boethius’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Fortuna’s Wheel’ Thomas (drms) return to spin a web of theology, geometry and musical good vibes just for you, aided by special guest maestro Nigel Thomas on bass, and all your fave local characters come out to play ..mustachioed Byronic hero Jack Rowan will be heading up the mighty Bee’s Team of fearless buccaneers, the music will be hot, sweet and vital, mars will be burning bright in the sky above, and you should come, you really should. 

Bees Mouth - August 2018

20th August

There you are, chasing down the last days of summer in your gender-neutral floral lycra outfit, keeping it real at the barbie with some Jamie’s Jerk Rice, getting wavy like William Hague, editing your insta beach selfies at the airport, laughing with salad, living the dream… but is it all enough to keep the existential terror of your inevitable extinction at bay? Not quite? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH step in to fill the howling vortex that lurks behind your resting bitch face, cos we’ll be back for reals with those classic-yet-contemporary avatars of vernal positivity Luke ‘Big Trouble In Little China” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘The Last Airbender” Thomas (drms) as they give vent to artistic expression of pure swinging good vibes to promote that healing feeling out into the ether, so you can just step right up and diver into it like it’s some kinda clear limpid lagoon fringed with coral sand.. I’ll be there on bass doing some stuff, the legendary Bee’s team will be standing by with trans-dimensional libations of quality liquor from deep within the centre of the multiverse, the Bad Boys will be flipping tasty burgers as the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast at any time of day, that psychotic east African dude will be on the corner, ministering unto his disciples with his little radio, the players will cruise past in their muscle cars and the regular working stiffs will be cutting loose and the night shift will be revving up.. don’t stay trapped in the quiet lacuna between the sheer animalistic Id-fest frenzy of Love Island and the rigidly heirarchical Super-ego domination of Bake-Off, get with the beat and come and join us, join us, the time is now.

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

While our public life remains mired in irreconcilable division and the prolonged period of uncertainty we were promised continues unabated, at least we’ve had a nice long spell of hot weather, to the delight and relief of all those involved in running or attending outdoor events.

Festival season is upon us - we can sympathise with those involved with Camp Bestival, forced to close the site after they were hit with the only wet and windy weekend for 55 days, while unpleasant stories are emerging of WOMAD artists being deterred from performing after encountering a hostile environment when applying for the necessary visas - let us sincerely hope that this is not a foretaste of a post-Brexit musical landscape where foreign music will be deemed to have been rendered un-necessary, and is actively discouraged as detracting from our own, deservedly beloved indigenous folk-singing tradition.

Closer to home, however, the sun shone on two contrasting but equally satisfactory events. Love Supreme is rapidly consolidating its uniqueposition as the UK’s only greenfieldfestival for jazz-and-related-musics; numbers have increased to the point that the organisers have announced that a cap will be placed on further expansion to preserve the intimate feel, and while there was an irregularity with the beer supply, and an unfortunately ailing Elvis Costello was perhaps not universally appreciated as a choice of Saturday headliner, the festival is eminently succeeding in its aim of bringing jazz and audiences together. It’s particularly gratifying to see new wave artists like Nubya Garcia and Ezra Collective returning year after year to play to ever bigger crowds
- Garcia filling the 4000 capacity Arena tent to the seams, after performing on the Bandstand only three years ago. Along the coast, and catering to a different but equally essential end of the jazz spectrum, the Swanage Festival rose from the ashes thanks to the herculean efforts of guitarist Nigel Price in his role as festival director and benefitted from his expanded vision to add a little more razzmatazz to proceedings.

As the market value of recorded music as a commodity has dropped precipitately, the live sector has continued to grow, as consumers both young and old are increasingly ready to spend money on experiences rather than consumer durables. It’s good to see that jazz is keeping up with this trend by providing a wider range of festivals - the major players like London, Gateshead, Cheltenham, Glasgow and Edinburgh being joined by a wave of new or revived smaller affairs. Here in Sussex the South Coast Jazz Festival continues to expand its remit, the Brighton Alternative Jazz Festival stages a triumphant return with major name headliners, and exciting new developments are afoot as both Jazz Re:Freshed and Jazz In The Round have moved out of the capital for the first time to advance the vanguardof the new London thing into the Brighton Dome and St. Mary in the Castle in Hastings with exciting one-day events. But this good news, though welcome, is not universally distributed.

Portsmouth Jazz Club ceases activities in December; a message on its webpage announces “audiences have dwindled over the past three years and trying to ‘drum up’ new people to come along, etcetera, has become a thankless task and added to the pressures of our personal commitments, has become untenable.” Behind this story we can detect a set of factors at work across the scene; a club run on wafer-thin margins, sustained by the enthusiasm of a group of passionate devotees but unable to regenerate itself to ensure progression of the next generation of audiences. Jazz prides itself on its long and rich heritage, and retains its audiences through the decades, but outside the major cities the uptake among younger generations can be slow. The annual British Jazz Awards are collecting votes at the moment - the shortlists as ever feature a rich array of talent, but the pool of players is narrow, scarcely changing from year to year. While this in no way disparages the skill and artistry of the nominees, it provides an insight into the conservatism of the grassroots club-going audiences, and this can be an inhibiting factor in development. Even in the major cities, other negative pressures are at work - this month has also seen announcements of the closure of the Total Refreshment Centre in Hackney as a live venue, and a licensing threat to the Mau Mau barin Portobello Road, reminding us of the fragility of the club scene as profits are squeezed and developers wait hungrily in the wings.

Jazz education can help develop the skills and knowledge of the next generation of players, the jazz festival can showcase new talent and bolster established reputations, but the club is historically where jazz has developed and where it must find both its true voice and its connection to the audience. Let’s ensure that the sun continues to shine upon it.

Bees Mouth - July

July 30th

As Brighton braces itself before the approaching Tsunami of fabulousness about to splash onto our pebbly shores in a rainbow coloured wash with Britney riding the spume like a blinged up Nereid, the fainter hearted amongst us may be tempted to bolt for the holiday break like our noble and hardworking politicians, taking back control by doing nothing at all, but before you hit the open sore that is Stansted in your pursuit of the sun, stop off at JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where you’ll find the heatwave is still in full effect thanks to the unwavering front of high pressure created by those masters of groove Luke ‘Gulf Stream’ Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest Tristan ’T-Bone’ Banks (drms) as they get busy at the molecular level to set up a forcefield of good vibrations for you all to come and shelter in … I’ll be doing whatevs on bass, the immaculate ascended beings of the Bee’s team will be waiting, poised in the scented shadows behind the well-stocked bar, the creatures of the night will come and go, come and go on the crowded pavement outside, the velvet darkness above the crumbling rooftops will be alive with stars and possibilities, and you should really get out of that subreddit you’ve been stuck in, shitposting your way to loneliness, and come and join us as we celebrate whatever the hell is going to happen next, leave your hangups at the door and come and get down with the good groove, you know it makes sense…

July 23rd

The lambent cerulean envelops us, stretching above like a giant resounding bell sending waves of heat in a noiseless tocsin to drown the petty concerns of our time-snarled mortality, each second swollen with warmth into a motionless moment, the only movement from the screaming swifts riding the soaring updraughts… which is just as well, as our mortal affairs have never been in such a hopeless frickin mess, so it’s just as well that JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is here once again to provide a moment of clarity in a world where ‘would’ means ‘wouldn’t’, ‘Deal or No Deal’ is now a current affairs programme, no-one understands whether a ‘Tory Rebel’ is one of the idiots in a top hat or one of the other idiots trying to thwart them, and the only credible opposition to it all is too busy arguing about how rude you can be to Jews to get themselves together… luckily we have the united front of Luke ‘Chief Whip’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Black Rod’ Thomas (drms) doing their thing to create a better world by filling our little corner of it with a force field of hot swinging blues-to-bop-to-whatever, aided in some manner by me on bass, and the embodied vibrations of positivity known on this plane as the Bee’s Team standing by ready with the quality hooch to ease your troubled mind… don’t hunker down in a dingy basement, stockpiled with Huel against the coming Brexitopalypse, waiting for the invisible worm that flies in the night in the howling storm to seek out YOUR bed of crimson joy, don’t watch another youtube video as long as you live, don't forget the petrichor will return, don’t give up, don’t lose that number, just grab yer axe off the shelf and come and join us, let’s do a thing.

July 16th

As the sun beats endlessly down from the unblemished cerulean, is there a shadow starting to cloud the edges of your overstimulated consciousness? Maybe all those plastic straws you used in the 90s have precipitated the next level of climate change, maybe the Love Island bods are just bots, maybe the internet isn’t really a force for good, maybe it won’t be alright after all? Thanks god it’s Monday and JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is back to offer a safe haven in the ominous shitstorm brewing up outside, where nothing’s coming home except Brexit, as the government crumbles away into a puff of acrid dust, the inflatable Trumpkin and Mr Putin snicker and pass each other secret love notes at the back of the class, and Elon Musk reveals himself to be every bit as spiritually stunted as we all suspected, cos we’ve got Luke ‘Lightsabre’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Cosmic Vibrations” Thomas (drms) sending out a counterblast of pure musical good vibes to top up your feelgood factor and send you out ready for whatever new example of howling idiocy the week may have in store… I’ll be along doing something on bass as per, Captain Jack will be at the helm with his trusty Bee’s crew ready to slake your thirst with libations of top grade hooch, all kinds of good things will be happening, so hang up your hangups, get on the good foot and come and join us, let’s make it happen.

July 9th

Off they go hand in hand… exit from Brexit Island for Mr Davis AND Bojo in their Union Jack bikinis, (but who’s getting mugged off here?), entry for the invincible head of Mr Maguire on his enchanted inflatable unicorn of magical footballing wish fulfilment, while the giant inflatable Trumpkin prepares to treat us all to a round of maximum high-security golf .. if you can’t possibly imagine what might be about to happen next, don’t get stressy, let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH be your anchor, cos we’re back once again like the D4 damagers spreading peace, love and power to the people through the medium of hot swinging blues-to-bop-to-whatever thanks to the tireless efforts of Luke “Renegade Master’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Ill Behaviour” Thomas (drms) as they lay out a magic carpet ride powered by good musical vibrations to lift you high over the sun-scorched rooftops, baby seagulls, daredevil scaffolders, boy racers, paddle boarder show offs, those wierd leathery old men like desiccated mummies in tiny tiny cut-off shorts who only appear on the beach when there’s more than three days of consecutive sunshine, sweating unhappy goths waiting for the darkness to return, a thousand jubilant geezers sporting their deepening salmon tans, and the acrid smoke and stench of scorched flesh from the beach barbecues, as the radiant sun beats down from the peerless azure until Venus hangs low over the horizon and the languid zephyrs kick up the dust…I’ll be doing something or other on bass, the supernatural ascended beings of the Bee’s team will be laying out the quality hooch, your favourite creatures of the night will all be there, so quit lolling about in from of your overheated screen, lurking behind your digital blackface as you seek further shitposting opportunities, quit casting about for a Bojo joke that hasn’t already been made, quit your fruitless brexitty speculation and bask in the knowledge that no-one knows anything anymore, get back on the good foot and come and join us, be a shining star and keep your head to the sky….

July 2nd

England in, Germany out? Willy Hague frees the weed, sun shining on bank holidays, double Dyer whammy enriches our cultural and political lives as Dani weeps and Danny deploys his finest geezer vocab to elucidate the finer points of Brexit in ways that poor Maybot can only dream of as she slowly withers away like a witch with a chimney on her.. if you feel you’re living in a dream world where anything is possible, JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH returns to reassure you that it’s all part of the plan, so come and bask in the permanent zone of high pressure created by those masters of the musical isobars Luke ‘Heatwave’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Scorchio’ Thomas (drms) as they scoop up all the millions of notes left lying around in heaps after the weekend’s Love Supreme jazzfest and refashion them into delicious slices of cool swinging bop-to-blues-to-whatever to slake your parched cerebellum, plus maybe some souped-up bossa (dependent on final score) … I’ll be there playing something on bass and yelling like a nutcase, between the sun-baked stucco cliffs the streets will resound with the rubbery whisper of the flip-flops of a thousand excited/despondent latinos, the golden denizens of the endless ultraworld known in this dimension as the Bee’s Team will be waiting in the scented shadows behind the well-stocked bar to slake your thirst with some quality liquor - don’t bother trying to get wavy like a rebel for the last time before they make it legal, don’t be a sulky Messi, be an exultant Drogba, grab yer axe and come and join us, let’s celebrate.

Tenor Madness

This month brings us not only a welcome blast of authentically summery sunshine - just in time for Love Supreme at Glynde, folks! - but also a double hit of delicious vinyl issues by a pair of statement tenor players. While many in the jazz world work hard to promote egalitarianism in all things, there remains a heirarchy of instruments, to the extent that trumpeters tend to predominate over, say, players of the harp, oboe, tuba, or even the bass (shame!) in most people’s lists of jazz luminaries, and the tenor sax has traditionally been up the top of the list as the vehicle for many of the music’s most important statements. No-one stands taller in this tradition than John Coltrane, and the unearthing of a ‘lost’ album by his classic quartet is a thrilling event; and no-one is currently crossing boundaries and making waves like Kamasi Washington, whose latest, typically grandiosely titled ‘Heaven And Earth” hits the shops in follow up to the equally epically named ‘The Epic’ triple set.

Washington’s work comes supported by some major investment, packaged in lush triple vinyl and bedecked as before with the full orchestral array of strings, woodwinds, brass and choirs. Such is the scale of the production that Washington’s own sax playing is perhaps the least discussed aspect of his output, which is a shame as his is an intriguing contribution to the tenor legacy. His powerful, hard and clear- edged tone and killingly precisetiming indicate the influence ofhis employment with hip-hop artists like Nas, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamarr, but his harmonic language is both broad and deep, and the assimilation of hard R & B, contemporary jazz language with the sweep of 1960s style ‘cosmic jazz’ is both artistically convincing and accessible. This record features a version of ‘Hub-Tones’ which is a nod towards the post-bop tradition not seen since his early self-released records. While the production’s lush expansiveness make this perhaps an easier listen than the more radical jazz devotees might appreciate, anyone seeking to dismiss the Kamasi phenomenon as well- marketed kitsch should check his appearance on Jools Holland’s Later. The sheer intensity of the compressed performance of ‘Fists Of Fury’ blazed forth from among the usual motley selection of rock and pop acts - over a thunderous, even chaotic assault from the twin drummers, Kamasi and keyboardist Cameron Graves played furious impassioned
solos as vocalist Patrice Quinn chanted ‘Our time as victims is over; we will no longer ask for justice, instead we will take our retribution’. The combination of wild solos, overpowering rhythm and stark, uncompromising political messaging is one that hasn’t been heard at the forefront of jazz-and-related-musics for a long time.

The Coltrane release is an unexpected discovery, and poses its own further questions - how could a major label (Impulse, funded by the mighty ABC) lose an entire recording by its priority artist? Apparently Coltrane was engaging in some musical subversion of his own; according to producer Bob Thiele, he was under contract to produce two records a year, and simply wasn’t enough to contain all the music that was bursting out of him.

Like Prince many years later, he was under pressure to record less rather than more, and Thiele would book him studio time without alerting the label execs. Coltrane also used his access to recording budgets to reward his musical collaborators - records show that when bassist Art Davis’ outspoken demands led to him being ‘whitelisted’ by Thiele, Coltrane listed him as a leader/ arranger on his invoice so that the bassist would get paid double scale - and he was scrupulous in ensuring overtime payments for his band to support themwhen they were off the road. This recording survived the loss of the masters in the clearance of ABC’s archive thanks to the practiceof running off a 1/4 inch tapecopy for the artist’s own personal use - fortunately preserved by the family of Coltrane’s wife Naima. At the time, Coltrane was working two veins at once - commercial sessions at the behest of Thiele yielded collabs with Duke Ellington (‘In A Sentimental Mood’ from that album is Trane’s most streamed Spotify track by a massive margin) and Johnny Hartman (recorded the day after this session), while on the bandstand and under his own direction in the studio he was pushing against the boundaries of the music. This release is titled ‘Both Directions At Once’ and the track listing reflects this sense of a musical crossroads. There’s a couple of untitled blues, (one with a rare extended arco solo from Jimmy Garrison, bass fans), a version of the pop-jazz standard ‘Nature Boy’ and an unexpected exploration of ‘Vilia’ from the light-operetta ‘The Merry Widow’. The New York Times describes the album as “something close to the breadth of what Coltrane and his associates were delivering onstage” and pianist and scholar Lewis Porter comments “You get a lot of that musical meat, but
in a context that will be more accessible to a lot of listeners.”

Perhaps the gem of the collection is the inclusion of four versions of ‘Impressions’ one of Coltrane’s most widely played tunes. At the time it had been a centrepiece of the band’s live show for two years, but is still untitled on the tape box - later in the year a live version was released under its familiar title in the album of the same name but no other studio versions are known to exist. The composition has a complex genesis; Coltrane’s superimposition of the melody
of Morton Gould’s ‘Pavanne’, as interpreted by Ahmad Jamal, (and also claimed by others as diverse as Dr Lonnie Smith and the Rocky Boyd/Kenny Dorham band) over the chord sequence of Miles Davis’ ‘So What’. The latter could be seen as a typically mordant comment by Davis on the constrictions of the AABA 32-bar standard song format, reducing the harmonic movement to a single shift that is simultaneously the closest to and the most dissonant from the tonic, and it seems to form an important step in Coltrane’s journey away from explorations of harmony and into wider and wilder spaces.

Coltrane’s live gigs are now a distant memory, fortunately preserved on a handful of recordings; Kamasi Washington continues to tour his own show around the global festival circuit.However, anyone wanting a fix of tenor action this weekend need look no further than Glynde Place outside Lewes where the man who played with Trane and whose influences are clear to hearing Washington’s work will be performing on Saturday night - Pharoah Sanders is headlining the Big Top at Love Supreme this year. If you’re there, come over to the Bandstand Stage and the Friday Arena to check out a feast of the best artists from around our area, and say hi to the New Generation Jazz team - we’ll be delighted to see you!