Hat and Beard

This year would have been Thelonious Monk’s 100th birthday, and the plethora of tributes from critics, musicians and fans alike have been ample evidence of his continuing importance on the contemporary scene. It’s interesting to compare his current stature with that of his contemporary, Dizzy Gillespie, also born in 1917. It could be fairly said that Gillespie’s career was more successfully managed than Monk’s, and his reputation more consolidated, during his own lifetime – both started out being labelled as bebop rebels, yet Gillespie managed to move into the mainstream while simultaneously gaining the lion’s share of the accolades as bebop’s founding father, while Monk, despite his Time magazine cover and long-standing contract with Columbia, struggled financially throughout his career. Yet this year’s EFG London Jazz Festival accorded Gillespie a single concert in tribute, while Monk’s celebrations spread over two whole days, cumulating in a re-creation of his legendary 1959 Town Hall concert with a specially-convened big band of foremost UK players led by Strata-East kingpin Charles Tolliver. Jazz musicians return again and again to Monk’s repertoire; he holds the distinction of being the second most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington, but while the Duke’s composing credits run into the high hundreds, Monk’s entire output consists of around 70 tunes. Once seen as an eccentric outlier, as known for his fancy headgear and bizarre behaviour both on and offstage as his artistic output, he has moved closer and closer to the centre of jazz’s core identity as the years have passed, as each succeeding generation of musicians finds themselves drawn to try and interpret the musical conundrums he set up. 

    Monk’s life and legend alone are enough to fascinate; as more details emerge of the man behind the myth, so do the contemporary resonances in his story. As a black man in America, he suffered from police harassment and racial discrimination, as still sadly evident in today’s USA; his eccentric behaviour is now interpreted as a consequence of mis-diagnosed and mis-treated mental illness, possibly bi-polar disorder, reflecting our own contemporary willingness to acknowledge the often unseen prevalence of such issues. His biographer Robin Kelley mentions possible prescriptions for Thorazine (an amphetamine) and Librium (a depressive), and his son T.S. Monk has also confirmed his father’s struggles with mental health. In contrast to the very masculine world of 20th century jazz, Monk’s life story was dominated by women, from the Harlem neighbour who taught him stride piano to the un-named evangelist whose tent show provided his first experience of touring, to his early mentoring by Mary Lou Williams, to his wife and lifetime companion Nellie, and the Baroness Pannonica who gave him shelter in his final years when he withdrew into silence and isolation. He was a musical rebel who never altered his vision to suit contemporary tastes, a proud black man who refused to knuckle under, a self-contained mysterious presence who gave few interviews; yet also a hardworking, jobbing musician and family man, who sustained his marriage, shared hands-on childcare duties, and put his children through private school; a loyal friend who sheltered the vulnerable Bud Powell from drugs charges by taking the rap himself; and a sly, humorous joker who wasn’t averse to acting up for the cameras when it suited him. 

    Monk’s piano style is as hedged around with legend, conflicting opinion and contradiction as his personal life. Early critics thought he sounded heavy-handed, clumsy and wrong, and criticised his supposedly limited ability. At the EFG Centenary concert in Cadogan Hall, longtime Monk aficionado Jonathan Gee’s interpretations of classics like ‘Blue Monk’ and ‘Rhythm-a-ning’ were spiced with the smooth, fluidity of touch, and the lush extended chord voicings that have become the standard language of jazz piano, deriving from Debussy and Ravel by way of the timeless mastery of Bill Evans. Monk’s own playing, full of awkward pauses, unexpected intervallic jumps and stark root-position chords delivered at sledgehammer intensity, is far harder to assimilate; you can here echoes of it in the playing of Stan Tracey, but tellingly his nearest stylistic twin is Ellington, whose own unorthodox voice on his instrument is often overshadowed by his importance as a composer. To ears accustomed to the immaculately poised performances of the post-Evans school, Monk’s hesitant, crashing solo recordings sometimes invoke comparisons with the deliberate ham-fistedness of Les Dawson, and many contemporary critics – in particular the acidic anti-modernist Philip Larkin – assumed that he simply couldn’t play properly. Yet this was a man who at thirteen was apparently banned from the legendary Harlem Apollo talent contests because he always won, who was equally able as a teenager to perform works by Rachmaninoff, and mastered the demanding stride style of James P Johnson and Teddy Wilson early in his career. Biographer Kelley refers to rehearsal tapes in the possession of Nellie and Baroness Nica, which document how Monk methodically and laboriously practiced his ideas, deliberately developing his stiff-fingered, hammer attack, stripping out more and more notes from his voicings to arrive at his unique creations of ordered space and dissonance. Even the basic details are contested – Leonard Feather claimed that Monk’s technique was due to his unusually large span, Kelley speaks unequivocally of his ‘small hands’ . 

    If Monk’s piano technique remains as difficult to quantify and unapproachable as the man himself, the continuing fascination of his compositions endures and deepens as their deceptive simplicity continues to reveal layers of depth and relevance. You can hear intimations of the next 60 years of jazz in everything he wrote, from the modal explorations hinted at in the bridge of Monk’s Dream to the challenges of complex form in Criss Cross and the rhythmic displacement in Straight No Chaser and the deliberate challenge in his embrace of angularity, straining at the boundaries of conventional harmony. Even at his careers’ height, Monk always seemed like an outsider – as time goes by the centrality of his legacy becomes ever more apparent. 

    I must admit to a certain prejudice in favour here, as the first jazz record I ever bought was by Monk. It was the Columbia issue Monk from 1964, with Charlie Rouse, Larry Gales on bass and the sadly recently deceased Ben Riley on drums,  and had been misfiled in the reggae section of the Notting Hill Record and Tape Exchange. The black and white cover photo featured Monk smoking a suspiciously hand-rolled cigarette and fitted in neatly between the Peter Tosh and Burning Spear records. The music inside was a revelation; in the overcast monochrome musical climate of the post-punk early 80s, it was like a refreshing shaft of light breaking through the clouds. Here was a joyful embrace of melody allied to a tough, assertive musicality; a confident, self-contained hipness worlds away from the shouty orthodoxy of the time; a sense of virtuosity borne lightly, committed yet nonchalant at the same time; and above all, a glorious flexible rhythmic dexterity. At the time, my acme of musical sophistication was the rambling mono-chordal prolixity of Frank Zappa, or the elephantine, self-important galumphings of King Crimson’s ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ – Monk’s music seemed at once lighter in spirit but deeper in meaning. His 60s Columbia output isn’t generally reckoned to be his best, but it’s deserving of re-evaluation, not least because the recording quality makes them an easier listen than some of the harsh-sounding  Blue Note and Riverside issues, and Rouse has been consistently under-rated – after all, it’s hard not to suffer by comparison when you’re in a chair previously occupied by both Coltrane and Rollins. Monk’s music seems to me to contain the very essence of what makes jazz so special, and his continuing relevance is tied in with the enduring appeal of the music.

Bees Mouth - December 2017

4th December

Calling all you woke gender-diverse humanoids hacking your way thru the kek-infested forests of 4chan, all you porn-addled Brexiteers gripping white-knuckled onto the loosened steering wheel, all you virtue signallers, lulz addicts, fitness disciples being shouted at in chilly parks, proselytizing vegans, Alpha-course saintly homophobes, compulsive FB signifyers waiting hungrily for the next pile-on, fashionistas, baristas empty vessels and whited sepulchres.. JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH can give you the space you need to just, y'know, get a little distance from yourselves ... come along and let us tear a big blissful open space in your crowded buzzkill of a schedule, and let your poor trapped spirit escape through it and be borne aloft on trembling wings upon the effervescent updraughts rising in giddy spirals around those twin lithic titans of groove Luke “Mezozoic’” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Holocene Invader’ Thomas (drms) as they lay some truly righteous life-affirming sounds upon you all… I’ll be there doing my thing on bass, dandy highwayman Jack Rowan will be in command of his troupe of aetherial beings, ready to minister unto you with libations of the finest liquors known to man, all manner of folk will be passing by, from students making ready to release their brains from the burden of knowledge to haggard Family Guys just trying to do the right thing by their little creatures blinded by the headlights of approaching Xmas, from steely-eyed Momentum apparatchiks to simpering Moggistas, from Mail reading royalists to stern republicans both wrestling with simultaneously feeling overjoyed and appalled by the Markle factor, to wide-eyed ingenues embarking upon their first tentative steps into the world of showbiz via their teenage screamcore combo, to regular working stiffs trying to make their way thru the century as their bodies turn to house-dust… It’s all to play for, come and join us, join us …

Bees Mouth - November 2017

27th November

Giant fireballs have been spotted in the sky, heralding today’s announcement of an upcoming orgy of royal oageantry, with the promise of potential royal scandals and decades of royal conspiracy theories to follow up, while the kids get al excited, the nation steels itself against the inevitable coming tide of work-related seasonal parties followed by seasonal hangovers and a rich cloying stench of mulled wine permeates the crowded streets Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH come to your rescue, as you hunker down in your digital foxhole, your poor infiltrated brain unable to distinguish Merkel from Marklle, Bitcoin from bubble, or right from wrong; let the music take control, hang up your hang ups and let it all blow as the musical doctors Luke “Lazarus’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Big Daddy’ Thomas (drms) write you a personal prescription of premium strength jazz-to-swing-to-whatever, aided by me on bass, plus the regular team of ascended beings manifesting themselves behind the well-stocked bar to lay some good liquor on you in exchange for lucre, the spinning head of destiny weaving it’s magic spell and the gallant figure of Jack Rowan at the helm, piloting our ship of good vibes through the sorrowful night laden with the groans of the wicked, the imprecations of the disappointed and the blandishments of the sellers of empty vessels and the inchoate howling of hordes of feral Brexiteers as the reality sinks in and the money drains away…… leave it all behind you, go to Abi’s fundraiser at the Paris House then come over and join us as we set sail for the good side …

20th November

Only 5 more weeks of Amazon Prime delivery dates before Xmas, so don’t just hunker down in your damp overpriced dwelling like some kinda stubborn Bobby ‘Laughing Boy’ Mugabe, while Mr Putin’s busy little bots crawl all over your webspace trying to subvert your carefully wrought FB persona for their devious ends - time to pull on your snood and your Ed Sheeran hoodie, wipe the weekend’s glitter from around your sunken eyes and get down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ll be keeping it lit and saying goodbye to peak times with the mandem Luke ‘Big City’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘The Lozzfather” Thomas (drms) as they spin a magical web of shimmering sonic architecture to dazzle and delight the senses, aided by me on bass, while the bronzed guardians of the well-stocked Bee’s bar wait imperturbably under the command of their leader, dandy highwayman Jack Rowan, and the myriad hordes of interplanetary drifters swing by on their way to the end of the night for a refreshing snifter… let the high and mighty cower as the stinking spectres of their egregious misdeeds come tap tap tapping at their reputational windows, let mournful liberals delete Louis CK from their Youtube favourites, let the masters of Brexit foam at their slack-lipped mouths as they cry ‘mutiny’ and prepare to unleash the dogs of, you know, whatever it is that’s supposed to happen next, we’ll be here doing our thing, so come along and make it your thing too…

13th November

So how are you going to stave off the atavistic fear terror as the Dark Half encroaches, drawing you into it’s chilly embrace? Stay home, play FIFA, indulge in a little light sexting, calculate how rich you’d be if you’d bought Bitcoin, watch Strictly, pretend you actually watched Stranger Things, weep quietly into the curtains, put the John Lewis ad on repeat, panic binge on acai and blue-green algae? You’re cracking up, mate - hurry down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where those fearless cosmic cowboys Luke “Odelay” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Vybz Cartel” Thomas will be waiting to restore your sanity and rejuvenate your mojo with a great big life-affirming statement of good grooves, hot blowing and cool swing, like there’s nothing really wrong at all… I’ll be there on bass, the kindly denizens of the Bees Team will be on hand to dispense healing draughts of quality liquor, the regular cast of otherworldy spectres and fearless explorers of the golden void will be dropping by to hang, the air will be warm and laden with promise… out there the chilly gloom may resound to the dreary discords we’ve wrought, the flatulent eructations of Bojo, the muffled sobs of poor Mrs May who still can’t go yet cos they need her as a human shield, a whole pack of fell beasts, their hour come at last, slouching towards Brexit to be born, the weary groaning of whole IT teams removing all trace of Kevin Spacey from all movies past and future (too late), the uneasy braying and bellowing of alpha males across all sectors wondering if they’ll be next, the distant hooting and gibbering of the Trumpkin from far far away across the sea… come and join us, don’t be afraid, come catch some good feels with us, it’s gonna work out, you’ll see…

6th November

As the upright citizens of Lewes furtively wash the boot polish from behind their ears and scrape the burnt cork out from under their fingernails, as the nation’s doggies start to recover from their PTSD and the kids come down from a week-long festival of dressing up as horror movie characters followed by a jolly evening of burning people in effigy, how will you deal with the downer as evocative autumn slides inevitably into boring old winter? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH top up your spiritual vitamin D faster than an Essex tanning studio - just bask in the invigorating rays pouring forth from the interplanetary talents of Luke ‘Sunspot” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Thermonuclear Reaction’ Thomas (drms) as they generate another solar storm of swinging jazz-and-related-musics, aided by me on bass, while the highly evolved denizens of the shadowy spaces behind the well-stocked bar wait, vibrating imperceptibly, to lay some good beverage upon you all …. stop trying to offshore your pitiful earnings to Bermuda in the hope that you’ll enjoy a right Royal tax break, give up trying to work out how to mine Bitcoin in Minecraft, don’t sit at home waiting with bated breath for Mr Trump’s ‘What I Did on My Asian Holiday’ podcast, or trying to see how a multiple shooting can be Not About Guns, or sit on your sagging bean-bag lost in jaded speculation as to who will be next to feel the icy grip of a Sexual Impropriety Scandal around their grey, terrified neck…. grab your axe down off the shelf and come and join us, let’s get into the groove and keep the gathering dark at bay….

Autumn Leaves

In the showbiz calendar, Autumn is often the month of relaunch, as weary musicians wrap up their summer touring, the last function gigs herald the end of a season spent under canvas in dozens of catered marquees, and those mysterious and all-powerful denizens who preside over booking schedules and press campaigns return, refreshed from the sybaritic pleasures of their summer holidays. As the nights draw in it’s good to look ahead and see that the pace of jazz activity in Brighton and further afield continues to maintain itself.

A couple of events deserve a mention due to their sheer popularity, even though they’re currently in abeyance. Herbie Flower’s Jazz Breakfast series at The Dome may not be on the radar of the dedicated fans but it consistently attracts the biggest crowds of any event dedicated
to jazz-and-related-musics apart from the ever-increasing groove behemoth that is Love Supreme. Let’s hope that Herbie’s health will permit this to continue. Equally, Pete Morris’ lunchtime sessions at All Saints in Hove have been quietly building in popularity, and the final session of the season, featuring an all-star cast of top local players fronted by Julian Nicholas and Imogen Ryall, attracted a record audience of 160. We hopefully await news of both these events, and, looking a little further afield, it’s heartening to see the response to Nigel Price’s call to arms to save the Swanage Jazz Festival, which many Brighton musicians have performed at over the years. Let’s hope his herculean efforts, and the plentiful support he’s summoned from the wider community are rewarded by the festival’s future being assured for years to come.

Closer to home, New Generation Jazz continues its winter programme, following the superb Charlie Stacey’s knockout gig with a succession of ever younger and more ridiculously talented tyros - stay tuned for announcements for 2018.

The South Coast Jazz Festival triumphantly returns for the third year under the dual stewardship of Claire Martin and the aforementioned Mr Nicholas, whose increasing visibility both locally and nationally is richly deserved. They’ve got 8 days of concerts, workshops, film and special events coming your way - defiantly resisting any unfortunate associations that railway metaphors may evoke amongst regular sufferers on Southern Rail, they’ve billed it as ‘a whistle-stop tour around the world of jazz’ and it’s due to call in at the Ropetackle in Shoreham from the 20th of January. The launch party featuring Oli Rockberger was a storming success as well.

For those prepared to brave the endless vagaries of Brighton mainline, November also brings
the EFG London Jazz Festival, and alongside such guaranteed box office favourites as Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny and Robert Glasper you’ll be able to catch a host of young UK acts in some of the smaller venues across town. From our vantage point at the Bandstand Stage at
this year’s Love Supreme we caught glimpses of what seems to be a real grassroots movement of new young British talent starting to find it’s own voice in the clamorous throng of jazz-and-related-music. Artists like Alex Hitchcock, Maisha, Poppy Ajudha, Ezra Collective, Yussef Dayes, Triforce, James Beckwith, Zenel Trio and Nerija are working to meld together an intriguing blend of jazz language and contemporary urban sounds that has the potential for real breakout appeal, with the ubiquitous Shabaka Hutchings leading the pack in terms of visibility. It was good to
see Zara McFarlane fronting a band of faces from the scene on BBC 2’s Later this week, many
of whom have appeared at New Generation events over 2017 - let’s hope that they continue to include Brighton in their itineraries. The Verdict is now fully open, under new management and regularly presenting jazz four nights a week - the full spectrum, from Safe House’s uncompromising dedication to free improv to the return of Dennis Simpson’s enduringly popular Small’s Jazz programme of all-acoustic mainstream swing. What other venue, anywhere in the country, offers such a range?

With a host of well-supported casual pub sessions on offer as well, the continuation of Neal Richardson’s Splash Point series at the Marina, and the jam sessions thriving across town, there’s never been more jazz on offer in Brighton. So use it, don’t lose it! 

Bees Mouth - October 2017

30th October

Farage… Assange… Trump…. Bannon…. take a look at their bulbous eyes, their wierd spongy foldy necks, their weaselly shifty little eyes.. sense their oily presence, their wheezy, shallow breathing, their gross little grunts of excitement as they lurk behind your fb feed, their damp fingers pawing at your browser, dripfeeding their retarded agenda into your poor overstimulated cerebellum… cut that sh*t right out of your life and get down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where you can rinse it all right out of your hair and bathe your bad self in the endless torrent of clear healing musical good vibes gushing forth from the tireless cornucopias of groove known in this lifetime as Luke ‘Lux Aeterna’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Lozquake’ Thomas (drms) as they unleash their flow yet again, aided by me on bass… the undimmed splendour of the Bee’s team, under the direction of dandy guitar-slinger jack Rowan, will be waiting behind the well-stocked bar to pour you libations of the good stuff, the mewling waifs and strays from the end of the night will gather to warm themselves at our constant flame…. as the nation celebrates the feast of Samhain in their own age-appropriate way, with the children preparing for an hectic evening of haribo-fuelled importuning, the nation’s young adults recovering from a premature weekend of sexually charged cosplay, and everyone over 50 reminding each other that it was never such a big deal in their day, come and take a break from it all, recharge your mojo, get on the good foot, liberate your mind, move move move every mountain, come and join us yet again, my friends, yet again, before the year withers upon the vine, but not for ever, not for ever……

23rd October

As the town reels from the twin assaults of uncharismatically monikered Storm Brian and the annual influx of students anxious to turn their massive loans into pure empowering knowledge via the transmutational power of lager, how will you be spending your Monday night? Glued to twitter in the hope of more salacious Hollywood revelations to decry on Facebook, or vice versa? Stuck into some light trolling? Chasing those Snapchat streaks? Get down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH and letting all the trash corrupting your poor bewildered 21st century consciousness wash away, as you bathe your mind in the torrents of healing musical magic pouring forth from the enlightened beings manifesting on this plane as Luke ‘TurboBoost” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘The Terminator’ Thomas (drms), aided by me on bass, as we lay down a wholesome smorgasbord of bop-to-swing-to-latin with plenty of good nutritious groove… forget the oncoming seasonal gloom and the impending Haribo-fullled hedonistic car-crash of Halloween, cos here in the warm scented darkness we’ve got great music, special guests, the oracular spinning head, the highly evolved beings of the Bee’s team waiting, poised effortlessly in the velvet shadows behind the well-stocked bar, all ready to make with the absolving powers of alcohol at your timid request, and the usual cast of hucksters, barkers, shills, roustabouts, dweebs, feebs, fakers, shakers, tipsters, hipsters, and heroes drifting in out of the clammy darkness… as Spain prepares to slowly tear itself into little scrappy pieces under the eager gaze nationalist blowhards everywhere, as the Halloween Trumpkin continues to singlehandedly perfect the new art of Tourette’s diplomacy, as May continues to insist that nothing has changed, nothing has changed, nothing has changed, as strife and idiocy rampage unchecked through the muddy autumnal fields, catching their unshod feet on the slimy stubble of the rotting harvest, it’s time to get to where the good vibes are, let’s light the fires.

16th October

As the sun turns a hellfire puce and darkness engulfs the earth, leaving the cowering populace to decide whether it’s the End Of Days or just a very costly promo for Blade Runner 2049, do your thoughts turn to all those things you meant to do but didn’t get around to? When the Big One goes up, will you rue the witty put-downs you never tweeted, the statuses you didn’t share, the WhatsApp groups you didn’t pointedly leave? Have you actually been to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH yet? cos if not, we’re back once again with the renegade masters Luke ‘Apocalypto’ Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest Dan ‘The Law’ Breslaw (drms) as they defy the coming storm to weave their intoxicating webs of musical enchantment, aided by me on bass, and the aetherial beings who manifest on this temporal plane as the Bee’s Team wait, poised and ready behind the well-stocked bar, to dispense libations of the finest liquors known to man…. if you’ve finally realised that most of your online friends are bots, if you’ve just been sent an invite to a Miramax slumber party, if you swapped all your bitcoin for pound coins, if you’re wondering just exactly what terrible thing is going to happen next, time to give yourself a break, fight off your addiction to online outrage, tear your weary gaze from the glowing screen that does nothing but reflect your deepest fears and worst impulses back into your terrified eyeballs, and come and join us here in meatspace where there’s music, life and laughter and positive vibrations from actual life-forms in real-time 4-dimensional space .. try it, you’ll love it.

9th October

Your life needs shaking up a bit, doesn’t it? Why not host your own referendum? Those things are the best way to guarantee an almighty tear-up that’ll keep everyone you know at each other’s throats for years to come.. or you could try starting a groovy Tory party youth movement.. or invite Harvey Weinstein round to meet your mum .. or come along to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH and get things turned around back to the light side along with your ever-rocking team of Luke “Lightspeed Champion” Rattenbury and special guest Dan ‘The Law’ Breslaw on drums as they build magical castles of hot sweet groove into the air, aided by me on bass, as the young heroes of the Bee’s team under the command of dandy highwayman Jack Rowan wait, poised in the scented dusk behind the well-stocked bar, as the darkling streets echo with the whoops and yells of the newly arrived student population as they extinguish their thirst for knowledge with deep draughts from the well of lager-fuelled self-importance, as each window frames a shadowy figure hunched over a glowing screen, as the shadowy creatures of the night shamble forth upon their mysterious errands, as attack ships catch fire off the shoulder of Orion and C-beams glitter in the dark neat the Tannhauser gate… grab that sackful of pound coins you were saving for your retirement fund, get yer axe down from off the shelf and come and join us, join us.

2nd October

As Spain proudly re-engages with its rich tradition of brutal state suppression, as the Tories prepare to demonstrate their well honed skills at screwing everyone over upon themselves, as yet more evidence emerges of the freedom-enhancing efficacy of US gun laws, as a tidal wave of howling idiocy threatens to carry the world on a careening terror ride, like an unlicensed Uber driver high on his own price surge, JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEES MOUTH will be operating according to our usual beliefs of tolerance, equality, diversity and pure hot swinging grooves delivered by those maestros of good vibrations Luke ‘Killer Joe’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Lozquake’ Thomas (drms), aided by me on bass, while the cherubim and seraphim of the Bee’s Team wait, poised, their gilded wings folded behind their sculpted backs, their radiant eyes shining just inside the spectrum of visible light, their incarnate beings vibrating at a higher frequency as they prepare you a libation from their selection of the finest liquors known to man.. the atmosphere will be alive with purest osmium as the last colours of the summer drain imperceptibly from the smoke-scented air, the creatures of the air prepare for the long journey southward again, Fortuna’s wheel takes another turn and the earth shifts upon it’s axis … in the dreary reaches of the compromised corridors of power Boris may be preparing some fresh concoction of sinister buffoonery, Davis may be drunk and asleep, Hammond may be demonstrating his utter panic by threatening to sack everyone before they sack him as May huddles, weeping, in the stationary cupboard, while all the time the Corbynistas’ chanting echoes through the walls like the neighbours in ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ and the Brexit train rumbles ever closer on it’s rusty crooked wheels, but we’ll keep on swinging til we can swing no more, so grab yer axe off the shelf and come and join us … out here in the perimeter there are no stars, out here we are stoned, immaculate.

It's my party and I'll play dominant subs if I want to

Party conference season is upon us once again, and the barriers have not yet been removed from outside the Brighton Centre, where they’ve been on duty all week protecting the Labour Party as they set out their stall before the public. Local musicians who’ve been on duty entertaining the public in their regular spots around the town centre will have benefitted as their audiences were swelled by the party delegates, easily recognisable by their red lanyards and air of new-found, unaccustomed confidence over a barely suppressed excitement, like previously unpopular teenagers who suddenly find themselves with the most Prom invites in their class and are starting to comprehend the magnitude of their potential rewards. Jazz musicians in the UK have long been drawn towards the political Left, and evidence that this affiliation continues could be found at The Walrus on Ship Street, where two nights of music were staged as a benefit for the Brighton and Hove Labour Party, organised by the tireless Terry Seabrook, Julian Nicholas and Jon Newey, and headlined by two of Sussex’s brightest musical stars, Claire Martin OBE and Liane Carroll. Both nights were well attended and supported by many of the local musical community – they also introduced many to the potential of The Walrus’ spacious and well equipped downstairs bar, ideal for staging further events. 

Of course, not all jazz fans are also Labour supporters, and the title ‘Jazz For Labour’ was the subject of some acerbic online repartee between supporters and those whose enthusiasm for jazz was not matched by a corresponding devotion to progressive politics. This column has already expended some energy in examining the long and complex relationship between jazz and politics; and in reconciling the two opposed yet coexisting truths that while artistic endeavour cannot be owned by any one set of political beliefs, yet art cannot exist in a vacuum and will always reflect the stresses and dialectical oppositions of the society in which it is generated. Jazz musicians in the UK tend to be liberal and progressive and sections of their audience tend towards the conservative, whether you spell it with a small or a large ‘C’ , and this tension generates it’s own kinetic energy which occasionally emerges in  bursts of colourful recriminations, especially where funding is concerned. 

Many jazz musicians will be de facto Labour supporters because of their Musician’s Union membership, as the Union is an affiliated organisation and pays a fee to the party in return for all its members receiving the right to vote in Labour ballots and, musicians being what they are, those who don’t actually embrace this eminently covetable privilege are likely to retain it through sheer inactivity. But if we are to take policy at face value, there’s no doubt that the current Labour Party pledges directly address many of the issues affecting the UK’s musical community to a far greater extent than those of any other party. Promises of a £1 billion Capital Development Fund and an Art Pupil Premium to make instrument classes available to all primary school pupils are included in the party manifesto as part of their pledge to end austerity, and one may of course question the affordability. Yet another less trumpeted, less costly but equally noteworthy proposition is a reform of licensing and development regulations to favour small venues in recognition of the essential role they play in fostering talent. 

The pledges in question draw up plans for protecting and investing in music venues, to support grassroots and professional music, and ensuring a healthy music industry across the country, and for creating a review of the business rates system to make it fairer to organisations like music venues, extending the £1,000 pub relief to help small music venues that are suffering from rates rises. The MU has welcomed these proposals; we have examined the plight of small venues in this column, and can only agree. In the interests of balance, let’s introduce a voice from another perspective, that of the exciting, dynamic world of online capitalism.The ticket sales website, WeGotTickets, has rapidly become a go-to resource for independent promoters, including our very own New Generation Jazz, due to its reach, transparency and ease of use. Their own blog’s latest update addresses the issues confronting small jazz venues, and we make no apology for quoting extensively from it, not least because of the prominent mention it gives to The Verdict:

“Despite the genre’s niche appeal, around the UK a number of excellent small clubs ensure jazz’s grassroots scene is well catered for. In London, the Vortex Jazz Club is something of a flag bearer, hosting a broad range of jazz – from standards through be-bop and hard-bop to spiritual jazz and the more avant-garde – in its intimate 100-capacity room. Other great clubs around the country include Fleece Jazz in Bristol, The Verdict in Brighton, Oxford’s Spin Jazz, Jazz at the Cavern in Farncombe, Wakefield Jazz, and Jazz at The Crypt and Spice Jazz, both in London. Festivals such as the EFG London Jazz Festival and Cambridge Jazz Festival are also keen to support up-and-coming artists, often programming events into smaller clubs alongside their larger shows.

These clubs don’t have it easy though. Speaking to us after being voted onto our INDIE50 – a list of individuals doing amazing work behind the scenes in independent music – the Vortex’s general manager Kathianne Hingwan spoke of the tough times they’re experiencing. “It’s a bit of a hand-to-mouth organisation” she explained, “and that’s because there isn’t really that much money in jazz. Ronnie Scott said that if you want to make a million in jazz, you need to start with two – it was meant to be a joke but it’s actually true”.

Although the challenges facing the grassroots scene are numerous – jazz clubs obviously suffer the same well-documented stresses and strains that are affecting all small venues – it’s imperative that these independent clubs are successful. Their importance to the whole jazz industry can’t be overstated. “The guys from Ronnie Scott’s come over here, and when we thought we might disappear about 18 months ago they were very worried”, remembers Kathianne, “They said that we couldn’t disappear because it’s very important what we do, because we give a lot of the young musicians their start”.”

It’s always a pleasure to report good news. We’ve dedicated previous editions to documenting what we see as a genuine shift towards jazz-and-related-music among mainstream, younger audiences, and WeGotTickets’ own data actually backs this up, citing the following stats

“Our sales figures at WeGotTickets give reason to be optimistic. Working mainly with small clubs and festivals, we’ve seen almost a 40% increase in jazz ticket sales over the last two years. We have over 20% more jazz events on sale in September 2017 than we did in the same month in 2015, with more than half of that growth coming this year, and all signs point to a continued increase as small clubs are able to expand from one or two nights per week to a fuller events calendar.”

As sad tidings reach us of the threat to the continuing existence of the Swanage Jazz Festival, it’s good to hear of tales of growth in the sector we all love, regardless of political affiliation. Let’s hope that the political establishment will acknowledge and support this growth as we head forward into the uncharted waters of Brexit and beyond. And let’s not forget how the seismic shifts in the way that recorded music is consumed have seriously affected the jazz community; Big Streaming, as represented by Spotify and Apple Music, does not serve jazz particularly well, as we have noted before. The recent decision by TfL to halt the Uber juggernaut and the willingness of Berlin and Barcelona to curb the spread of AirBnB until both companies can accept their burden of social responsibility, and the steps taken by the EU to restrict the monopolistic hegemony of Apple and Google all provide an example of how disruptive tech doesn’t always have to get it’s own way. Surely all but the most dogmatically libertarian can support a measure of enlightened intervention in favour of the music we all love, regardless of what colour rosette we may be moved to adopt come convention time. 

The Silver Screen

September can be a quiet month for music fans, after the summer festival season is over but before the autumn touring schedules kick in. Of course, expectations can be sustained by the promise of the EFG London Jazz Festival, coming our way in November, and there is heartening news from the wonderful South Coast Jazz Festival, set to return for a third triumphant time in January 2018. In addition, The Verdict is attempting to plug the gap single-handedly by programming more jazz than at any other time in its history, and there’s the continuing series of lunchtime concerts at All Saints church in Hove that shouldn’t be overlooked.  Fortunately there’s another treat currently available for jazz fans – the recently released documentaries of John Coltrane and Lee Morgan. Chasing Trane is currently on limited release in selected cinemas but I Called Him Morgan is available on Netflix, well worth the minimal bother of signing up for a month’s free trial, as currently on offer from the service, if you’re not already a subscriber.

  Coltrane is such a titan of modern music that it’s almost a surprise that it’s taken so long for a theatrically released documentary. Morgan’s name may be less universally recognised outside the circles of jazz aficionados, but it’s possible that the general public might actually be as familiar with his music – or at least with his seminal tune The Sidewinder. The eponymous LP was released in 1964, when Morgan was 26, with seven Blue Note albums as a leader under his belt but still developing his career, and Coltrane was 38, already established as a major musical force, but with only three years of music making ahead of him. The Sidewinder’s driving boogaloo beat and powerful, bluesy soloing turned the tune into a surprise hit, breaking all previous Blue Note sales by a factor of ten (including those for Blue Train, the 1957 Coltrane recording on which Morgan was featured), and it’s been a constant feature on soundtracks, adverts and compilations whenever anyone wants to evoke the grooving 60s. Such was the commercial success of the record that it set a template for Blue Note for the rest of the decade – small-group records with the leading track in a driving straight-8 feel, followed by a swinging mix of original blowing heads, blues or rhythm changes, and perhaps a standard to round things off. The album marked a high point in the integration of the intricacies of bop with the earthy roots of jazz in blues and gospel, and must have seemed to some to indicate a commercial salvation for jazz; but it also marked the beginning of the end. Rock and Roll was poised to take over as the music of young America and by 1965 the baton of musically hip standard bearing had passed to Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Byrds or James Brown. 

    The Sidewinder is a truly terrific record, without a single wasted note or empty gesture, full of virtuosity lightly worn, by players so utterly immersed in the culture of their music that it seemedthey could turn out this material effortlessly – Morgan later claimed that he’d conceived of the title smash as a last-minute filler to complete the session. Yet its very facility contained the germs of its own redundancy – audiences at the time were looking for something deeper, more unexpected and less formulaic, that would make grander gestures – the wave of artistic neophilia that had swept the post-war world was breaking into the mainstream. Morgan’s hip, polished, harmonically aware funk suddenly seemed to be approaching the corny.  Blue Note tried to ride both horses by signing artists like Grachan Moncur, Andrew Hill and Sam Rivers, but their most successful record also heralded a long period of decline into both the commercial and the cultural margins.

  Anyone looking for depth, unexpectedness, or grand gestures in the jazz world of 1964 would probably have turned to John Coltrane.  Two of his superlative statements, Live At Birdland and Crescent were released that year – the former in particular saw him chafing against the constrictions of harmonic tonality which he had already explored with a thoroughness unmatched by his contemporaries. So titanically, monolithically freighted with significance are Coltrane’s later recordings that they can overpower some of the other aspects of this supremely rounded musician – an important composer (Giant Steps is full of memorable tunes sometimes overshadowed by its titular etude), a gifted, velvet-toned interpreter of ballads, an impeccably swinging blues player, and someone who matched Morgan’s jukebox 45 hit with one of his own – an instrumental cover of a hit song originally performed by Julie Andrews in the guise of a singing nun. Coltrane gave Morgan a break on Blue Train but moved much faster than the younger man, and by the end was recording and playing music that some didn’t recognise as jazz at all. 

    The legacy of both men continues to be influential, but in vastly different ways. Most general music fans, when they think of jazz, imagine something like one of the cuts off The Sidewinder – the Blue Note hard-bop sound and house design style have become a sort of benchmark of authentically hip jazz, regaining the popularity that drained away in the late 60s, so that the name ‘Blue Note’ is hardly ever divorced from the word ‘iconic’ in cultural journalism. If Coltrane sought to move beyond the bop idiom he had mastered so fully, Morgan and his cohort preserved it by presenting its harmonic intricacies in a digestible form that you could even dance to, and its appeal has endured among audiences even if the artistic standard bearers have moved on. Coltrane of course would be avowed as by far the greater artist by most musicians, and his multifarious legacy continues to dominate, to the extent that aspects of that dominance are being called into question. Ben Ratliff’s book on Coltrane explores how the legacy of his late period masterpieces was interpreted as a cult of sheer volume married to spiritual sincerity among free players that overlooked the way that he himself was steeped in every aspect of the tradition, from blues to bop. Coltrane’s influence reached beyond jazz – the aforementioned Byrds were big fans –  and he could be credited with unwittingly promulgating the idea that it’s acceptable to solo for 15 minutes over a single chord – an idea seized upon by a generation of rock guitarists – and that meaningful jazz can be effectively approximated by whizzing up and down the dorian mode over a moody minor-key vamp. Pianist Ethan Iverson recently published a fascinating article comparing two 1967 performances of Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood by Bill Evans and Ellington himself (Coltrane recorded a definitive version with the composer in 1963).  In it he decried the influence of the scalar approach to jazz on the introductory level, stating “Bach and Parker built structures based on internal counterpoint, where the melodic impulse was true in every dimension, while Beethoven and Coltrane offered fast-scale passagework over varied textures. The music of Bach and Parker is essentially at one volume and one affect, while Beethoven and Coltrane are able to go from quiet to thunder and back. While it would be foolish to proclaim that Bach and Parker are greater than Beethoven and Coltrane, it is true that Beethoven and Coltrane are easier to imitate (not to mention teach), simply because acquiring the essentially untheatrical craft of Bach and Parker is harder than that of the later, more theatrical masters”.

    Would it be pushing the analogy too far to compare the music of Morgan to that of Mozart –  standing between the rigorous austerity of harmonic counterpoint exploration and the theatrical thunder of passagework and texture, to offer a version dominated by melody and a determination to make music that is rigorously ordered but also pleasing and accessible? Like Mozart, his detractors may accuse his music of being lightweight compared to the intensity of Coltrane, yet part of its lasting appeal lies precisely because it doesn’t place such heavy demands upon the listener. 

    As with all artists whose careers were cut off in their prime, the temptation remains to speculate where their muse would have led them had they lived their full span, and how they might have changed the music we hear today. Morgan combined his bebop sophistication with an earthy, blues-drenched sensibility, which lent his music an easy populist appeal, as the crossover commercial success of The Sidewinder testified. The values that made him a superlative interpreter of what used to be called ‘funk’ in the 50s – as in Horace Silver’s Opus De Funk – could probably have translated seamlessly into funk as it was understood in the back-beat heavy, rhodes-drenched 1970s, and he might have challenged Donald Byrd as contender for theR&B groove heavyweight title. Or perhaps the wilder leanings that were hinted at in the Live At The Lighthouse sets would have prevailed, and he might have explored along the boundaries of free and fusion, jazz and rock, that were touched on by frontline partner Bennie Maupin and by Maupin’s employer Herbie Hancock during his Columbia tenure, and which found its deepest and darkest expression in Miles Davis’  increasingly opaque series of recordings that started with the release of Bitches Brew two years before Morgan’s death. Where Coltrane might have gone next is far harder to guess; such was the lightning speed at which he reset the frontiers of his art that it’s hard to imagine him settling into any of the set pathways that jazz followed as the 70s progressed. Afro-haired funkateer, dashiki-clad free blower, bombastic fusion technician, staunch traditionalist – all these roles seem too small to contain him. Perhaps as the end approached he was nearing to his goal, progressing beyond all sound into the silence that surrounds every note and that waits behind every piece of music, and into which all music returns.


Bees Mouth - September 2017

25th September

Stuck in the lift with Tom Watson, thrashed at ping pong by Jezza, heartbroken for Thornberry’s cats, biting the tongue on Brexit til it bleeds - it’s no joke for the delegates as they swarm the seafront, all suited up, trying to blend in with the local piercings n’ tats Corbynistas or dad-dancing on the level with the regular human flotsam .. good job that JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is ready and waiting to welcome the lost, the weary, the hopeful and the unfulfilled with a massive enveloping blast of musical healing thanks to those tireless activists for the good groove Luke ‘Red Wedge’ Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest Dan ‘Swiss’ Breslaw (drms) as they set about creating a paradigm of constructive unity and positive vibrations… the non-partisan Bee’s Team will be there to welcome you under the command of the ever-dapper dandy highwayman Jack Rowan, the spinning head will be turning faster than a disconsolate Blairite can change their tune, the vibe will be immense, so don’t sit out in the rain getting all mean and grouchy, like a passle of big-city slickers suddenly deprived of their innovative ride-hailing system, don’t waste another second chasing those snapchat streaks, don’t worry about Nibiru and it’s possible effects on the secondary school catchment areas, don’t get your gender-neutral knickers in a twist about TfL, ensure the survival of the gig economy by ripping off your VR headset, switching off your fitbit and coming to an actual gig…

18th September

Is life pulling the ol switcheroo on you? Creeping up on you like BoJo the backstabber, then retreating in sweaty red-faced farrago of blustering flapdoodle and irrelevant Latin aphorisms? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH be an oasis of reals in a desert of bogus buffoonery, thronged as it is with the dreary mob of signifying loudmouths , from irretrievably entitled oldies to tiresomely woke millennials, all intent on ramming their tendentious opinions down your slack jawed gaping maw ... We'll have none of that here, just cool, enriching draughts of musical goodness drawn from deep in the well by the untiring hand of Luke 'TimeLord' RAttenbury (gtr) and the epoch making Double Thomas rhythm team of Loz 'Timebomb' Thomas (drms) and special guest Ascended Master Nigel Thomas (bs) ... The ethereal beings of the Bees Team will be on hand, dandy highwayman Jack Rowan will sit in on guitar* , the nameless creatures of the night will lope, shamble and scurry past outside the steamy windows, the returning students will celebrate the latest round of fudging and hedging over their newly acquired debt by trying to drink the lot in one go - it'll be a carnivalesque feast for the senses, so don't be a lollygagging non-gender specific Johnny come lately, don't be afraid to catch feels, get yourself down and have yourself a time...

11th september

TUC conference time is when Brighton comes alive! The streets are ablaze with the forces of beardy socialistic rectitude, the bars, the cabarets, the very pavements hum with the thrill of collective bargaining and evasive discussions of all things Brexitty, they’ve even laid on an authentic 1970s style bomb scare to make the older delegates feel relevant.. JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH will be rising to the occasion as ever, ready to slake the delegate’s thirst for righteousness by offering up deep healing draughts from the well of good grooves and hot solos, with our regular team of Luke “Aquarius” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Eye Of The Tiger” Thomas (drms) setting their shoulders to the wheel and creating a tiny musical extreme weather event of their own, aided by me on bass, plus dandy highwayman Jack Rowan and his team of sylphs and naiads waiting poised effortlessly in the scented darkness behind the well-stocked bar, ready to welcome the giddy, bedazzled crowd with libations of the finest liquors known to man, as they throng about the doorway, their faces flushed with deep emotions, the name ‘Frances O’Grady’ ever at their eager lips, their hair all mussed and their Union badges awry, their eyes ablaze with urgent passions stirred by the fiery eloquence of their smiling masters, mixing it up with the regular crew of hucksters, fakers, dweebs, gamblers, panhandlers and disconsolate conspiracy theorists…. maybe you’re mourning the season’s slow passing, maybe you’re all upset about Irma, maybe you just remembered something and you wish you hadn’t, maybe you’re mad as hell and you’re just not going to take this anymore, it’s ok, come down and join us, join us, try to set the night on fire.

4th September 

The spectre of nuclear annihilation totally bumming you out? Autumns sere breath suddenly harsh against your sunburned cheek? Even Taylor's, like , MEGA comeback failing to fill the cultural void? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH commence your countdown to ecstasy - even if you can't buy a thrill, the sheer torrential force of musical good vibes flowing forth from showbiz kids Luke 'Deacon Blues' Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz 'Dr Wu' Thomas (drms) will have you feeling like you're Kid Charlemagne, at least until Black Friday comes - I'll be assisting on bass from deep within the caves of Altamira, the fabulous Bee's team will be plying their glamour profession from behind the well-stocked bar, so put on your green earrings and your bad sneakers, polish your gold teeth, throw back the little ones, and come and sign in, stranger, as we whip up some chain lightning - join Peg, Josie, the rest of the Babylon sisters, the bhoddisatvas, the Haitian divorcees, the razor boys, the Charlie freaks and the fez wearers, gauchos and third world men, kids from your old school and kings of the world, as we all go back, jack, and do it again ... Media vita in morte sumus, so don't hang around, drop it like it's hot, join us, join us.

De Profundis

Love Supreme Festival reached its fifth birthday this year. An additional Jazz In The Round stage, curated by Jez Nelson, a strong representation from a new generation of British artists, the continuing contribution from the local Brighton scene to the Bandstand and Arena stages, and the enduring smoother-than-silk vitality of the immaculately mustachioedGeorge Benson, all gave reason to celebrate. More than this, from the organiser’s point of view, was the fact that the event finally managed to sell out to capacity for the first time. The green field festival exists in an extremely insecure financial situation; the massive fixed costs involved in creating a medium sized township in an empty field for the weekend, to say nothing of the necessary licences and insurance and the artist fees – headline acts generate up to 80% of sales and consequently can attempt to hoover up 80% of the available budget – mean that anything less than a 100% sell-out will typically leave the backers out of pocket. So attaining the magic sell-out crowd is a real landmark in the festival’s survival – let’s hope that this gives them the confidence to continue to grow, and maybe even sort out the sound quality in the Big Top by next year.

    Love Supreme, as many have noted, is a commercial festival – it is backed by investors but it’s primary revenue source is the ticket money collected at the box office. Punters are lured in by the recognisable promise of the big name headliners, but once inside the gates are likely to find themselves exposed to all kinds of sounds that you won’t hear on commercial radio. Jazz, as we’ve noted before, is a broader church than ever in the early years of the 21st century, and it would be a real challenge to represent all its different incarnations equally – the Love Supreme bookers tend to favour those acts that make the sort of muscular, extrovert statements that translate well on a big outdoor stage or a crowded tent, or are associated with the latest developments to have caught the attention of the audience or the attendant media (which drives which being one of the perennial questions of the art versus commerce debate) or are young and photogenic enough to generate a certain amount of free coverage, or all three.  Twas ever thus – it’s the realities of creating art in a commercial arena, and while no-one should underestimate the amazing levels of skill and commitment on display from all acts at the festival, there’s no doubt that other equally talented acts won’t get booked because they don’t fit the criteria, which are at least in part set by the implacable forces of commercial necessity. 

    Cue the entry to this discussion of the noble forces of public arts funding, intended to address this specific imbalance and provide a haven for those deserving artistic vessels which might otherwise founder upon the stormy waters of the music biz. Arts Council England provide a sterling service supporting the grassroots of jazz in the UK. Our own New Generation Jazz project relies uponACE support to bring its roster of young artists to play sell-out shows; the South Coast Jazz Festival uses it to provide the necessary financial stability for its successful, ever-growing annual feast of talent; many jazz artists would find touring impossible without its support, a fact confirmed to me by one of our most prolifically gigging and best-loved musicians – the combination of the ever-rising cost of hotel rooms and thereduction in CD sales at gigs makes unsupported touring harder than ever. Despite ACE having recently rejected a bid by the Small Venues Trust, the demise of Jazz Services as a dedicated portfolio organisation to support jazz artists, and the massive 85% of available funding that allegedly goes into opera and classical, there’s no doubt that the jazz landscape in the UK would be a far emptier place without their essential financial support. How would this landscape look if jazz were to exist in a purely capitalist environment where the viability of any artistic project would be wholly dependant on its commercial potential?

    Artistic funding is an arm of the state, distributing revenues collected by government for the purposes of collective good as determined by the state’s elected or appointed functionaries. The more rabid form of free-marketeersand their Brexiteer colleagues have long argued that state intervention constitutes a distortion of the natural workings of society – proponents of the system, looking with a shudder of Nordic rectitude at those societies where market forces are allowed to run unchecked to the invariable benefit of the few at the expense of the many, support it for exactly that reason. The benefits of state support for the arts are a cornerstone of liberal opinion. 

    Jazz, however, as we have noted before, has historically been a commercial music form that arose in the hotbed of free market capitalism that was 20th century America. Its transition to a publicly supported art form has been relatively recent, and the change in status has effected changes in the nature of the art itself. In the light of this, let’s examine a statement by man of the moment Shabaka Hutchings, whose reed work featured in no less than three different acts over the Love Supreme weekend. “One of the traits in this generation of musicians that you might associate with the word jazz is that they see what they do as connected to the audience. And weirdly, you might see that as connected to the demise of the arts funding culture. ….that culture is very different than it was 15 years ago, before the Tories got their claws into it. At least as I see it, for a musician to survive you have to be intimately connected to the people that you’re playing for. You are actually linked on a survival level. It was a lot easier before, and I feel like that distorted things, because it meant that you could exist without considering who you’re playing for. All you’re connected to is the funding, and the ideology that says that art can be like that…. maybe that’s the thing that connects all of the music that similar artists of our generation play – we are trying to play music for the people who we are a part of. We’re not trying to to make music based on hierarchy, created in an institution, or in our abstract theory books” 

    The concept of being obliged to play music that is intimately connected with one’s audience will, of course, be very familiar to those players who augment their livings by playing in bars, clubs and social functions. Like the be-boppers of the 1940s, who made there livings playing in dance bands, many players turn to jazz as the space where they can play for themselves and each other and escape for a while from the pressures of commercial reality. If music simply follows the money, the results are entirely predictable, and paradoxically can ultimately become a complete turn-off for audiences. Jazz musicians have to balance the needs of attracting and retaining an audience, making a living, and creating valid artistic statements – the resulting tensions are part of the gig. Funding can create and sustain audiences but can it also drive a wedge between the artists and the public? There are many sides to this ongoing debate – I’ve heard from aPortuguese promoter that UK artists are under-represented in Europe because the availability of funding in the UK makes it unnecessary for them to reach out and build audiences abroad. For the moment, the availability of public funding plays an essential part in supporting the UK scene, but a profitable partnership with the commercial realm is equally important, and may become more so as the complications of Brexit continue on their unforeseeable pathway. 

What's In A Name?

We’ve been quietly but firmly insisting in this column that there’s something stirring in the world of jazz-and-related-musics, both here in the UK and further afield. While sales of recordings continue to plummet across all sectors, the rise of delivery via streaming services continues to increase; in fact, thanks to the massive uptake in streaming subscriptions, the global music sector is seeing growth for the first time in many years. Inthe UK, the rights collection society PRS has reported its highest ever annual pay-out of 527.6m GBP – this figure is not adjusted for inflation, but still represents an 11% growth over 2015, which means that it’s the first time in 20 years that the seemingly inexorable decline in music revenues has been reversed. Given the option of streaming over piracy, most consumers seem to prefer streaming – this is in itself good news, but how much jazz musicians are benefitting from these developments is hard to assess. The sector is changing so fast that it’s difficult to gather the stats and analyse them in time to make a pronouncement without being almost instantly wrong-footed, but let’s take a look at the US market, where the most widely trumpeted figures, from Nielsen’s January 2015 report, suggest that jazz sales now only account for 1.4% of the total market, and, even worse, for only 0.3% of the streaming market. It seems that even if the good times may be tentatively returning,  jazz has been banished from the party and made to sit forlornly in the corridor with its equally unpopular classmates, folk and classical, while the cool kids pop, rock and R&B take over the common room once and for all. But the picture is such a confusing one, with vinyl sales still showing growth decades after the format was supposed to have died forever; independent record stores thriving while major high street chains close, and the malignant spectre of YouTube hovering in the background with it’s limitless free streams, teeth-grindingly annoying advertising and utterly opaque royalty structure, that it can support any number of conflicting opinions on the actual state of the music biz today, let alone prognoses for its future. 

    Anecdotal evidence from those musicians toiling tirelessly away at the coalface of the UK scene suggests that the loss of physical sales to streaming has often not been compensated by additional revenue from that source. One of our most ubiquitous and popular gigging jazz musicians has told me that his latest album – a widely reviewed, flawlessly swinging take on the hard bop tradition –  sold around 500 copies, supported by a tour that packed in as many dates as it’s possible to book in the UK. That’s a turnover of 5000 GBP – a respectable addition to gig fees rather than a bonanza, but still far more than could be achieved through 500, 5000 or even 50,000 streams of the same album – in the kind of hand-to-mouth cottage industry of the self-released jazz album, every physical sale counts, so every sale lost to streaming is a blow to the sustainability of the model. Streaming payment models are weighted against niche artists, because the ‘slice-of-the-pie’ distribution method means that the majority of your subscription fees end up going to the big players, irrespective of whether you are listening exclusively to Dizzy Gillespie rather than Dizzee Rascal. 

    Of course, it’s horribly dreary talking about music in terms of sales projections, delivery methods and market shares, and many, especially those not actually trying to make a livelihood from it, may feel that to focus on these drably prosaic matters is to miss the point completely. Move away from sales talk and back into the world of spontaneous creativity and live performance, where jazz has always thrived, and a different and far more encouraging picture emerges. This year, the renowned industry beanfeast now known as SXSW Festival hosted its first ever UK jazz showcase, as the triple alliance of promoters Jazz Re:Freshed, arts support unit British Underground and online magazine Jazz Standard brought an eclectic mix of UK artists to Austin, Texas to capitalise on the unmistakeable stirrings of interest in the UK scene (London duo Yussef Kamaal were refused visas at the last minute – now why might that have been?). Those of you who’ve been keeping an ear open to the sounds emanating from the New Generation Jazz nights at The Verdict will recognise many of the names being talked about – Moses Boyd, Femi Koleoso’s Ezra Collective, Nubya Garcia, Nerija,  Camilla George and Cassie Kinoshi are all past or future bookings whose names have been loosely linked together into something approaching that most treasured of journalistic creations – a Movement. Jazz Re:Freshed, who have also hosted Brighton power trios Vels Trio and Howes3, have been doing sterling work in supporting a fresher young sound through their regular London shows, and this hard work is starting to attract attention internationally, as lauded American radio network National Public Radio recently broadcast a documentary about the new wave of British jazz musicians who played in Texas this year. 

    Some, however, may still approach this news with some circumspection. One thing that unites all the musicians mentioned above is their ambivalence about accepting ‘jazz’ as a defining label. All of them come from a jazz background but incorporate a great deal of genre fluidity, claiming inspiration from the rich melting pot of contemporary UK urban music as much as the international jazz tradition. In theory, this is the sound of young musicians incorporating the musical influences of their own age group in order to move the tradition forward and reclaim its relevance to the millennial generation. In practice this means a great deal of heavy ostinato groove stuff with spacey modal soloing – the focus is more on exploring the rhythmical energy borrowed from urban styles than on harmonic or melodic adventures. The difficult task of re-engaging the wider, younger audience with jazz has long been discussed and bemoaned – there’s definite signs of an emerging resolution, but the music itself is undergoing changes towards a different interpretation that has its own UK identity, and that some may feel excludes whole chunks of the current scene, which may be no less worthy but have less appeal beyond the traditional constituencies. Anyone interested in this work in progress, and fortunate enough to have obtained tickets for this years Love Supreme Festival, which in a sign of the changes discussed here has sold out for the first time in its 5 year history, can check out what’s happening by seeking out any of the several bands on the bill to feature prolific multi-reedsman Shabaka Hutchings. He’s also a man whose interviews have revealed a number of very interesting perspectives on the shape of jazz to come – but they and the full attention they merit, will have to wait for the extra space waiting in our next issue.


Bees Mouth - August

28th August

Suns out - guns out - You'd like to be chillaxing on the beach. But it's just sooooo time consuming, singlehandedly challenging structural injustice when you're fully woke... Quit your humblebragging, lay off the virtue signalling, get off your high horse and get down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH cos everyone needs a little time to get over themselves, be they Vegan Antifa or swivel-eyed ReesMoggistas... As the last chiming echoes of summer resound from the lambent vault, as the sunlight sparkles and saints cast down their shining crowns upon the glassy sea, as even the barbecue scent of scorched meat and paraffin seems tinged with nostalgia for the seasons passing, as Jezza and Kier go hard, then soft, then hard, then soft again, as David Davis and his cabal of rubicund nincompoops grunt and burp their tattoo of truculent mediocrity across the channel, we'll have Luke 'Heliocentric' Rattenbury (gtr) plus special guest Dan 'The Law' Breslaw (drms) pouring out a joyous torrent of hot swinging music, plus me on bass, the silken naiads of the Bee's team ready with the quality liqours, and whatever shattered human flotsam remains after pursuing the phantom of pleasure through the guilty maze of dissipation in the customary bank holiday orgy... Not long now, not long, so grab your axe down off the shelf and come join us, whoever you are, join us.

21st August

Sure, you’re all fully woke neophiliacs, plugged in and networked to the max, liking and sharing yourself to a brighter future, crowdsharing your way into the eternal sunshine of the spotless mind…. but wait up! What if it’s all been a terrible mistake and all your digital hoo-ha is just a cover for the fact that we’re all trapped in an endless cycle of stupidity while our twitchy monkey brains are dazzled by the dancing pixels? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH provide you with an anchor in these troubled times, cos the online is poisonous with gaseous emanations from vloggers, bloggers, jihadists, alt-right, alt-left and control-alt-delete muttonheads, from repeated outbreaks of intemperate statue smashing and tiki-torch waving, from government by itchy Twitter-finger, from international nuclear dick swinging exercises, from arid Brexit prognoses that even the protagonists are losing interest in, from ill-informed debates on every contemporary hot potato from multicoloured privilege to transwhateverism as everyone stakes a claim to be smarting under the oppression of everyone else …. we’ve got Luke ‘The Eternal Triangle” Rattenbury (gtr) fresh from the muddy fields of festival-land, we’ve got special guest, the highly evolved Alpine sticksman extraordinare Alex Eberhardt on the traps, I’ll be providing bass as best I can, the transplendent beings of the Bee’s team under the benevolent leadership of dandy highwayman Jack Rowan will be waiting to lay some quality liquors out to ease your minds, the music will be hot and sweet and swinging like the clappers… everything is guaranteed to be 100% real in the here and now cos we don’t let our minds write a cheque that our physical emanations can’t cash… let dogs delight to bark and bite, let Mr Bannon slink away to nurse his wierd blotchy face in private, let the US be plunged into apocalyptic darkness, let Sir Bruce soft-shoe his way up the great conveyor belt to eternity, what you need is a dose of the real live vibrations of human connectivity and we’ve got a ton of it to give away for free, so tear yourselves away from your tethered devices and come and join us, join us…

14th August

Did they promise you could all be winners, all the time? Well, you can’t, not even if you’re Sir Moseph Farah or U. ‘Crazy Legs’ Bolt - sh*t just isn’t set up that way - but you can still get yourself down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH and get yourself another slice of hot swinging jazz-to-bop-to-latin-to-whatever served up hot and spicy and just the way you like it by the undimming efforts of Luke “Fire” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Fury” Thomas (drms) to spread some peace love and understanding by just doing their thing and keeping the channels of creativity open, aided by me on bass as best I can… as the Orange Ogre shows himself to be every bit as repulsively homicidally catastrophically moronically Nazi-enablingly destructive as we all knew he would, don’t be dismayed - as Brexit unfolds like the most boring slo-mo disaster movie ever shot, with each utterly predictable crisis arriving in agonisingly slow lo-res, don’t be downhearted - don’t just sit glued to your screen watching the pixels slowly congeal into yet another cluster of idiocy, like a porn download via dial-up, don’t even think about the fresh round of prevarication hesitation and deviation that awaits us when both Tory and Labour return from their ideologically opposed holidays and plunge right back into the inevitable clammy whirlpool of infighting, don't keep on staring at that circles thing in the hope that they will finally appear….. do you wake with a start at night, gasping for breath as you surface from a dreary nightmare of annihilation? Does the sunshine fail to warm the chill in your heart, do the voices of the kids in the park seem to echo like a foretaste of perdition, do the shrill, tiny cries of the swifts high overhead in the scented dusk seem like the farewell admonitions of departing seraphim as they prepare to leave you, never to return? You need to lighten up, jack, re-connect with the source, there’s still a cornucopia of good vibes around, the game is still afoot, come and join us and we'll share them out amongst ourselves once again, once again. 

7th August

Lost a bit of bounce? Everything feeling a bit Usain Bolt? Even the prospect of a fiery online Brexit debate not getting a rise any more? Is the post-Pride comedown taking the gilt off your facial glitter? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH has the remedy for your malady, so stick your pink hotpants into the wash and set to thermonuclear, pack your assless chaps back into the closet for another year, and set your controls for where Luke 'Tolerance' Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz 'Diversity' Thomas (drms) will be beating back the shitty weather and creating a microclimate of radiant n sultry swing-to-bop-to-groove-to-whatever, aided by me on bass, while the effervescent Bee's team assiduously spread good vibes and quality liquors to get the tarnish off your varnish .... Hush your negging, quit dogging around, grab yer axe down off the shelf and come and join us it's still all to play for, the fakers gonna fake and the haters gonna hate but we're just gonna shake shake shake it out..


Bees Mouth - July 2017

24th July

Whether you’re a harassed paterfamilias contemplating taking the fam plus your valueless stock of sterling on annual Euro-hols, or a super-woke millennial preparing a fresh assault on identity politics and grammatical usage, or an ageing hipster seeking to refresh your youth at Boomtown’s endless wellspring of chemically stimulated whimsy, or just a regular schmoe wondering bleakly what unpredictable event will happen next, you’ll need a break .. JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is back once again, coming to the rescue with it’s one-stop-shop of spiritual moral and mental refreshment thanks to the indefatigable musical endeavours of international man of mystery and endless generator of good vibrations Luke ‘String Theory’ Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest on the inspired polyrhythms Milo ‘Doctor’ Fell (drms), plus me on bass, as the ethereal beings of the Bee’s team wait, lustrous eyes shining as they hover vibrating imperceptibly amidst the scented shadows behind the well-stocked bar ready to offer healing libations to the jaded and succour to the disappointed, as the sturdy vendors of Middle Eastern cuisine ply their trade on either side, as the spectral shambling creatures of the night shuffle past in the echoing streets, loud with the trundling wheely-cases of a thousand departing hen-nights and the demented screaming of the gulls and other familiar locals, as Fortuna’s wheel keeps turning bearing us all along on it’s inexorable rotation … who’s going up, who’s going down? Don’t just sit there passively, waiting for Stranger Things while having your data harvested, it’s just too dystopian, baby, so pack it all in, give yerself a break, come on down and join us, join us, time to set the night on fire. 

10th July

There you are, tied to your device, trying to think of some nice policies for poor Mrs May, keeping up with Jaden Smith’s endless friend requests (so needy!), wading through the endless effluent tide of fake news items while re-editing your LinkedIn profile for the 10,000th time and keeping up with the weekend’s crop of buff Insta beach shots … exhausting, innit, when all you wanna do is get OUTSIDE in the summer heat.… fortunately JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is on hand ready and waiting to top up your spiritual tan with the healing rays pouring forth like endless torrents of cosmic radiation from an enormous metaphorical sun whose physical manifestation on this plane has taken the twin form of Luke ‘Helios” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘The Mighty Ra” Thomas (drms), aided in some mysterious way by me on bass, while the ministering seraphim of the Bee’s team wait, poised impeccably in the mysterious scented dusk behind the well-stocked bar under the command of their dashing leader, the dandy highwayman Jack Rowan, and the many-hued, pied and dappled, lithe or ragged denizens of the hushed, darkling streets come blundering in like dazzled moths drawn to the pure unwavering musical flame … let the orange Trumpkin spew forth his empty tirades of ill-informed senile rage, like a really boring Lear at the centre of an airless media storm, let Labour hover nervously on the brink of an disastrous orgy of recriminatory deselection, let Murdoch croak and rattle his leathery wings from his mountain eyrie, let Facebook dogs delight to bark and bite as the nation’s gilded youth fritter away their lives watching Love Island on their phones in a thousand smelly bus shelters, stuff the lot of them, grab your axe down off the shelf and come and join us, good times, good times.

3rd July

As Love Supreme fades slowly out, leaving only sunburn, the glowing memory of gurning drummers smashing out wonky beats, every possible permutation of the altered scale hanging in the summer air, and the soft susurrus of a thousand jazz musicians bitching about the sound mix for Herbie Hancock, it’s time to re-engage with the mundanity of the quotidian, the humdrum of the banal, the inevitability of tuesday.. or there’s JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where you can re-engage with those jazzy summery thrills or, if you went to see the Biebertron in Hyde Park instead cos thats more your thing, marvel at the chiselled profiles of Luke ‘Sorry’ Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest Angus ‘What Do You Mean?’ Bishop (drms) as they cook up another nutritious gumbo of fat beats, cool swing, and fleet fingered licks aplenty for your delectation, aided by me on bass, and of course the multi-dimensional beings of the Bee’s team under the command of dandy highwayman Jack Rowan standing by to make with the good liquor.. don't sit around marvelling at the intractability of Tory intransigence til Hell or public sector pay freeze over for good…. don’t get down, don't worry about getting even, get up, get on up get on the scene.…. neither time nor tide are going to hang around so grab your axe off the shelf and come and join us… 

Bees Mouth - June 2017

26th June

Maybe you hoped for rain at Glasto to dampen your pals’ humblebragging FB posts… maybe you expected a billion pound birthday present from the magic money tree and meany May gave it to the DUP instead - no fair! - maybe you somehow convinced yourself that summer was 100% here when really it was just a thumbnail preview and the real thing may be lost in the Cosmic Ordering post room… don’t get down in the mouth, get up and get on down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we’ve still got an unshakeably strong mandate to deliver a far-reaching program of blues-to-bop-to-latin-to-swing-to-whatever thanks to the endless creativity and tireless enthusiasm of Luke ‘Luke’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘Loz’ Thomas (drms), gamely assisted by me on bass, while multi-dimensional entities that manifest themselves on this plane as the Bee’s team wait, vibrating soundlessly, amidst the scented dusk behind the well-stocked bar, ready to pour you libations that will refresh and invigorate your jaded senses quicker than a government housing officer can pass the buck…. far away across the multiverse Mr Corbyn prepares for a follow-up greatest-hits tour of Carling Academies, Ms May runs panting in ever-decreasing circles through an endless wheatfield pursued by the vengeful ghost of the Reverend Ian Paisley, Craig David finally discovers some well-deserved down time in his packed weekly schedule, Ed Sheeran returns home to change his sheets and tune his guitar, clandestine Russian hackers accidentally break into LinkedIn and drown under an endless torrent of unsolicited emails, The Trump does something so dismally predictably awful that you can't even be bothered to find out what it is, dogs delight to bark and bite, Fortuna's wheel keeps on turning and we keep on keeping on…. don’t be shy, come and join us, now's the time. 

19th June

The sun’s out! Not a moment to lose - abandon whatever attempts you were making to convert the latest horrific tragedy into internet commentary gold, pull a sickie if you’re one of the dwindling band of worker bees still gifted with old-school contractual protections, or just abscond from whatever exploitative gig-economy bullcrap disguised as self employment you’re engaged in, and get yourselves down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH … We’ll be expecting you fresh from the beach, your pink-and-white flesh still bearing the imprint of the greasy pebbles, your hair fragrant with the evocative scent of disposable barbecues, your eyes dazzled with the shimmering rays as they bounce off a million pairs of knock-off Raybans before being absorbed into the inky blackness of a million sweet tribal tattoos, waiting to dazzle and delight your sun-scorched senses with the killer sounds of Luke ‘Scorchio” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “Hotter Than The Sun” Thomas (drms) plus me supplying low end as per, while the Bee’s team led by dandy highwayman Jack Rowan wait, vibrating gently in the scented dusk behind the well-stocked bar, ready to slake your thirst with a selection of exotic liquors, the languid zephyrs of midsummer play about your fevered temples and the last showing of the light in the western sky glows like the unearthly radiance shining from your own personal doorway to The Law… as everything seems more and more improbable, as the prolonged period of uncertainty keeps on delivering like a horrible Amazon Prime of despair, give your poor bewildered self a break and come and join us, now’s the time, there is no other.

June 12th

A total upheaval, as candidates bared all, let their particulars be examined by the nation, and braved the hostile climate, making a clean breast and astonishing spectators with their unexpected surges - yet again the Naked Bike Ride has shown us a triumph of optimism over the forces of gravity and confounded the naysayers - if you’re safely fully clothed* and need a break from wondering just what the heck is going to happen next, JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is here once again, defying the way the mainstream media has totally ignored our successes, with the return of the dream coalition team of Luke ‘The Surge” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘The Urge’ Thomas (drms), plus me making up the numbers on bass, and the ethereal ascended beings of the Bee’s Team under the leadership of dandy highwayman Jack Rowan ready to offer soothing libations to help you all just chill the flip down, you know… as the prolonged period of uncertainty stretches ever further into the cloud-dappled future, as poor Ms May and her new chums sweatily attempt to cobble together a convincing vision of a strong, stable realm riven with sectarianism but forever free of homosexual dinosaurs, as the nation’s responsible parents remind the newly enfranchised youth that it’s not the winning, it’s the taking part that matters, as Mr Corbyn stands before his modest bathroom mirror and practices adjusting his tie with a smile of quiet command, as an appalled nation tries to reconcile feelings of victory with the sudden return of Mr Gove to our ever more neglected TV screens and front pages, it’s time to put down your tethered devices, abandon your tribal prejudices, hang up your hang ups and come and get down with some righteous hard swinging jazz n’ bop n’ blues n’ groove … see, it’s all ok, come join us, join us…..  

*Bee’s Mouth is not licensed for full public nudity.

June 5th

Confused? Fearful? Maybe changing your profile pic to a national flag, or writing solemn, pontificating posts about how it's All Our Fault or People Are Dying Abroad Too, longer seem like adequate responses? Maybe the tension is too much? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH pour soothing balm upon your poor jangled nerves, as we keep calm and Carry On Swinging, as though infused with the twin spirits of Kenny Burrell and Kenneth Williams, thanks to the impassioned, ineffably hip stylinga of Luke 'Lightsabre' Rattenbury (gtr) and the cataclysmic grooving precision of special guest Tristan 'T Bone' Banks (drms) plus me on the ol' Dog-house, while dandy highwayman Jack Rowan and the ethereal, ever-obliging Bee's team stand by, on hand to offer soothing libations... Tear your horrified gaze away from Mrs May as she flaps and squawks like a dusty vulture on her way to running the worst election campaign ever created by a sinister Australian, stop wondering anxiously if Mr Corbyn can keep remembering how to do his tie up properly, keep your head steady and your powder dry against whatever trials may loom ahead through the gloomy mists of the prolonged period of uncertainty, and for now respond to It all by grabbing yer axe down off the shelf and coming to join us, let's celebrate. 

Bees Mouth - May 2017

May 15th

OMG! Still 24 more sleeps to go til everyone finally gets to vote, then collapse in a fevered heap, their busy little brains worn out with the effort of sustaining their opinions, their Facebook pages laden down with big squishy heaps of suppurating ill-tempered sniping masquerading as political engagement, their ears ringing with the words ‘strong and stable’ or ‘policies and principles’ echoing in shrill doomy voices… give yerself a break, get down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where we have a warm welcome awaiting you no matter what your convictions, as long as they’re not criminal, thanks to the superhuman all-party skills of Luke ‘Mr Dynamite’ Rattenbury’ (gtr) and Loz ‘The Big Noise from The Big Smoke’ Thomas (drms) plus me on the ol’ dog house, the ever-radiant Bee’s team, and the usual cast of characters swept in out of the night’s turbulent mystery to give their personalities some exercise as we lay down a magic carpet of swing-to-funk-to-bop to take you away from all the bad vibes and into a world of entrancing possibilities … like you’re a footballer on an open-top bus parading through the town, in that magic moment after the promotion but before all the scandals start, with the wind in your funkily coiffeured hair, the sun on your artfully stubbled face, cheers of adoration ringing in your shell-like ears…. leave your ransom-ware riddled devices behind, stop shouting at the pollsters or trying to undermine the integrity of the poor old BBC, wipe your mind forever clean of the image of politicians eating fast food in an effort to appear normal, leave off feeling guiltily, bizarrely nostalgic for Phil 'Prince' Mountbatten's unique contributions to public life, come and join us, let the music take you higher, higher, higher.

May 8th

Are you surrounded by a swarm of overheated online election hoo-ha, ubiquitous and unavoidable as the massed ranks of ukelele players, slam poets and fire jugglers now advancing upon us under cover of the Fringe Festival? Haunted by the image of Ms Le Pen doing her weird Nazi-disco dance, rolling her eyes at you and sticking her tongue out between her fingers like a terrifying lunatic at a provincial midweek 90s revival night who won’t take no for an answer? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH will be your sanctuary, your refuge and your psychic regenerator, as we’ve got the old skool original G team of Luke ‘Mr Magic’ Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz ‘A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rule From The Centre Of The Ultraworld’ Thomas (drms) plus me on bass, laying down some old standards, blues, bebop and grooves while the radiant celestial beings known in this earthly dimension as the Bee’s Team wait in the scented shadows behind the well-stocked bar, ready to hand over refreshing libations of the finest liquors known to man… don’t spend the evening cowering in front of your FB feed, flinching before the shrill chatter of ‘strong and stable’ assaulting your consciousness like a flock of angry nanobot cockatoos, or watching Mr Corbyn looking cross and puzzled, or realising that you’ve forgotten all about what Trump and his busy little orange hands may have been up to in the meantime..Spring is in the air, the voice of the cuckoo is heard once again across the land, let the storm of intransigent political emnity rage away in it’s own little online teacup for the rest of the evening and get on the good foot , grab your axe down off the shelf and celebrate good times, come on…

Satisfaction, finally

Jazz FM Award Ceremony Review -Jazzwise Magazine - May 2017

A combination of the diligent pursuit of journalistic integrity on behalf of you, dear reader, and the organiser’s generous assessment of my actual capabilities to deliver as such, resulted in my being fortunate enough to attend this year’s JazzFM Awards. The setting was the Shoreditch Town Hall, its high-Victorian architecture evoking a suitable spirit of municipally serious-minded yet aspirational collective endeavour. Would that my humble keyboard were able fully to describe the dazzling splendour of the assembled company, the rapier-like cut and thrust of the repartee, the sumptuousness of the canapés, and the dignity and forbearance of the ushers and waitresses, but these details will have to wait for the attentions of one upon whom Calliope has more generously bestowed her gifts. I can confirm that among the musical highlights were Laura Mvula’s performance of The Man I Love in tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, accompanied by pianist Oli Rockberger, Georgie Fame’s unexpected, affectingly artless cockney-flavoured rendition of ‘Everything Happens to Me’ backed by an all-star house band featuring Guy Barker, and a storming performance from New York man of the moment Donny McCaslin. Among the eclectic array of presenters adding lustre to proceedings were fearless guardian of the democratic process Gina Miller, scat supremo Cleveland Watkiss,  eternally boyish radio star Gilles Peterson and famously irascible veteran Van Morrison, whose valiant but ultimately unsuccessful struggle with a recalcitrant microphone stand commanded the respect and admiration of all who witnessed it. It was a real pleasure to see Ashley Henry and Nubya Garcia among the nominees for Breakthrough Act of the Year, both of whom were featured at New Generation Jazz events at Brighton’s Verdict Club in 2016.  However it would be fair to say that even these eminences were overshadowed by the nominees who garnered the majority of the subsequent press coverage, and sparked much heated debate in the process – Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones. 

    Between them the old-timers notched up three awards. Charlie Watts was up first, receiving a Gold Award ‘in recognition of his lifelong contribution to jazz and blues’. Watts’ enthusiasm for jazz, especially the bop big-band styles of his youth, is well known; he cut a very modest, self-effacing figure onstage, particularly in contrast with his presenter, the indefatigable free-jazz crusader Evan Parker, who was as ebullient as Watts was reticent. Introduced by host Jez Nelson as ‘the most important man in the room’, Parker started his speech by declaring impishly ‘I bet 98% of you have never even heard of me’ – Watts responded by muttering ‘I should be giving this award to you’ before both men paid tribute to bassist Dave Green, one of the stalwarts of jazz in the UK for as long as the Stones have been on the radio. That two figures from such radically different areas of the music biz should share a stage and find common ground in esteem for a style that both admire but neither regularly perform was a heartening display of ecumenicalism. Equally, when Mick and Ronnie took to the stage to accept the award for Best Blues Album for their recent release of back-to-their-roots R&B the choice seemed uncontroversial. It was the same record’s award for overall Album Of The Year that set social media chattering. How could the Stones possibly qualify?

    Something of the sort seems to have occurred to Jagger, who noted in his acceptance speech that in their early days the Stones were regularly thrown out of jazz clubs for playing R&B. Back in the early 60s, jazz was still hip and the R&B pop stylings of his band were rather looked down upon by the cognoscenti. ‘It’s come full circle’ he declared, visibly pleased to receive the award; how are we to interpret that remark?

    To many jazz fans and performers of their era, the Stones were at the forefront of the musical revolution that swept their scene away, closing the clubs, bankrupting the record labels and putting the artists out of work.  Interviews from the period seethe with resentment at the way that rock and roll took over as the dominant popular music of the day, and at it’s perceived coarsening effect on the nation’s musical culture. Jazz in its early days had attracted exactly the same opprobrium and had been described in exactly the same terms – ‘primitive’ music appealing to the lower instincts – but this was forgotten as the effects of the bop innovators took over and jazz moved out of the dancehalls and into the hipster clubs. The Stones had helped kill jazz – were they now to be honoured, already garlanded with awards and material success beyond measure, with a trophy that surely belonged to a jazz artist? Which raised the long-standing and ever-unresolved question – who would qualify as a jazz artist nowadays anyway? 

    A look at some of the other, uncontroversial winners gives us a clue to how the latter question would be answered by Jazz FM – awards were handed to Shabaka Hutchings, Orphy Robinson, Norma Winstone and Nikki Yeoh, among nominations includingBrad Meldhau, Wayne Shorter, Julian Arguelles, Laura Jurd, Tim Garland, Soweto Kinch and Gwilym Simcock. Other nominees contesting the Stones for Album of the Year included Gregory Porter, Kurt Elling and Donny McCaslin – and alsoMadeleine Peyroux and Anderson .Paak whose status as jazz artists is perhaps more debatable. Despite the presence of many artists whose relationship to jazz is tangential at best – and the inclusion of ‘Best Soul Artist’ and ‘Best Blues Act’ among the categories – there were rather more incontestably jazz acts among the nominees than can be typically found on a Jazz FM playlist. 

    Defenders would argue that Jazz FM is a commercial radio station, and in the ancient battle between art and commerce, jazz has usually come off badly. By nominating the Stones, the awards ceremony secured far more of the valuable oxygen of publicity. The award was voted for by the listening public, and so reflects what a majority of them actually like to listen to – and perhaps some of their attention, once gained, might be diverted onto the rest of the fertile UK jazz scene as represented by the other, less famous nominees. At the end of the day, everybody has to make a living, and critical accolades and esoteric artistic ambitions often don’t pay the bills. This attitude, however, is anathema to some. There will always be those uncompromising jazz fans for whom any stylistic development later than 1959 is highly suspect, or who see the purity of the free-improv scene is the only true representation of the music – JazzFM and all it’s works will have little appeal for them. But in addition such respected and forward-thinking players as Cleveland Watkiss and Kit Downes also raised their voices on social media to portray this as simply another example of jazz being sidelined, marginalised and diluted by a musical establishment that pays lipservice to the idea of jazz music, hoping to borrow some of it’s cultural cachet, while actually ignoring anything outside the tried and tested commercial mainstream. This is not an isolated complaint – many of the larger jazz festivals have attracted criticism for their policy of booking non-jazz popular headliners – the same complaint has been made against the Jazz Cafe and even the venerable Ronnie Scott’s. As we’ve noted before in this column, it’s easier to find agreement on what jazz isn’t than on what it is. Yet the label persists, with all its baggage, and seems increasingly to be deployed for its positive connotations – who shall be its guardian and gatekeeper?

    A look at the full list of nominees shows a scene bursting with original talent, steeped in the tradition and unafraid to carry it forward. Jazz is enjoying a period of expansion in the UK at the moment and part of this will surely depend on the extent to which it can move beyond a limited set of true believers and find its position within the mainstream. A generation of musicians is emerging in the UK who draw part of their musical sustenance from the jazz tradition but who see no conflict in mixing up their music with influences discovered elsewhere. Robert Glasper’s credentials as an important jazz figure are frequently, and perhaps justifiably, called into question by the establishment, but his name is constantly invoked by young players in the process of developing their own voices, in large part because of his cross-genre appeal. In the past the devastating effect of rock music on the jazz community has resulted in a tendency to develop a bunker type of mentality, as if jazz can only exist in isolation from other musical forms, and a zero-sum type of thinking where the advance of any other music is seen as detracting from jazz’s precarious position. There are historical reasons for this, in which the Stones have unwittingly played a part, but there is something incongruous when an artist deliberately chooses a musical path that defines itself by its complexity and esoteric or venerable appeal, then complains that other, easier music is getting all the attention. If jazz is to thrive beyond the conservatories and the arts centres it will have to find its place alongside the rest of the current soundscape – it’s all music, after all. Let’s hope that at the very least the JazzFM award is placed in a prominent position on Mr Jagger’s already crowded mantlepiece. 


Bees Mouth - April 2017

April 24th

Politics! So life-affirmingly wonderful! Such a cast of characters, such drama, such excitement and catharsis! I bet you just can’t get enough of elections, referenda, polls, surveys and angry men yelling at each other on social media.. but what will you do when the last ballot is cast, the last scandal unearthed, the very last stinging FB rebuke delivered at 3am via your twitchy iPhone fingers to utterly defeat and confound your enemies? Let JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH offer you a vision of a different world, where there’s no need to assert your individuality and belief in personal freedom by smashing people over the head with your hastily assembled opinions, where you can relax the rictus of outrage that’s been glued to your lovely face since, like, forever, where you can stop trying to sort out Fillon from Macron from Hamon from Melenchon as if they’re all characters in a spectacularly boring Star Wars reboot, where you can leave off trying to imagine just exactly what the heck is going to happen to the entity formerly known as the UK and whether Ms May’s plans extend beyond Grammar schools and into the Tory wonderland of National Service, press gangs, public executions and compulsory suet pudding for the under 5s.... just kick off your heels, hang up your hang ups and get down with the sounds of special guest Oli “Intergalactic Master” Howe on the keys, plus regular hero and Alpine operative Loz “Positive Vibes” Thomas (drms), as they spin a web of hot swinging jazz n’ grooves, plus me on bass, and the peerless Bee’s team wait in the scented shadows ready to make with the quality liquors... don’t get lost in a dreary desert of fake news, get with the real deal, grab yer axe down off the shelf and come join us, join us......

April 3rd

The carnival of idiocy continues apace, as we start loading powder and shot onto the Victory and prepare to set sail for Trafalgar once again to demonstrate our commitment to a modern, forward thinking approach to Europe.. really, who’s got time for this kind of boring trash when the voice of spring is heard across the land? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is here to welcome in the season with the intergalactic vibrations streaming forth in a limitless torrent from the talented hands of Luke ‘Hakuna Matata’ Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest Tristan ‘Bongoloco’ Banks as they smash out another scintillating mix of hot swing, cool funk and tropical grooves, aided by me on bass, while the shimmering, translucent Ascended Beings who in this dimension are known as the Bee’s Team stand by to offer libations of the finest liquors known to man to delight your senses… soon, all British men of honour will be removing their shirts to reveal the full inky, pasty glory of their tattooed torsos, the first bongo drummers will be heard in the parks, soon the acrid stench of barbecue will drift across from the beach while the suburbs come alive with the sound of inexpertly wielded power tools… don’t be a worry wart, a buzzkill or a funsucker, tear your eyes away from the grisly spectacle of Michael Howard rearing suddenly up in your TV screen like a boring zombie, it’s time to grab yer axe down off the shelf and come celebrate with us before it all burns down…. 

It don't mean a thing if it ain't challenging patriarchal norms

This column has touched before on the relations between jazz and politics, and we’re about to plunge headfirst back into those bracingly icy waters by drawing attention to a controversy that flared up this month and has continued to flicker fitfully ever since. As the focus of the Left has shifted from issues of class dialectics to issues of personal identity, so has the focus of jazz’s political debate increasingly centred around issues of identity and ownership. This was brought to the forefront as a result of comments made in the course of a conversation between two pianists on a Blue Note Jazz Cruise ship. The ivory ticklers in question were Ethan Iverson, primary composer for gymnastically virtuosic trio The Bad Plus, and Robert Glasper, much lionised bandleader famed for his ambivalence towards the existing status quo of tradition and his enthusiasm for cross-over experiments into funk and fusion. The conversation was published by Iverson on his blog, and one comment in particular attracted a great deal more attention than either participant had anticipated. 

The conversation had turned, as conversations with Glasper often do, to the relationship between the jazz tradition and other currents of contemporary black music. The talk then turned to other pianists, scurrilous allegations against Cecil Taylor and Richie Beirach, and some of the minutiae of performance practice, but not before Glasper had dropped the following bombshell – readers of a sensitive disposition may want to look away now:

“I’ve seen what that does to the audience, playing that groove. I love making the audience feel that way. Getting back to women: women love that. They don’t love a whole lot of soloing. When you hit that one groove and stay there, it’s like musical clitoris. You’re there, you stay on that groove, and the women’s eyes close and they start to sway, going into a trance.”

No sooner had the interview been posted then comments started to fly. Glasper was taken to task for sanctioning misogyny, perpetuating condescending stereotypes, objectifying women and denying them the right to any meaningful place within jazz, or even within the entire sphere of artistic endeavour, due to his apparent assertion they are primitive, elemental beings unable to transcend the immediate urgings of their physical bodies. Iverson was attacked for publishing his comments unedited, thus giving Glasper’s unacceptable views a platform. He attempted to defend himself on this charge, but only dug himself into a deeper hole by suggesting that his critics were indirectly responsible for the election of Donald Trump. His wife, the author Sarah Denning, also weighed in, though her input was muddied for some by her insistence on tying the issue to her perspectives on the world of women’s featherweight boxing, with which many readers may be unfamiliar. Iverson then recanted on his recantation but the damage was done and the furore of internet outrage continued.  Glasper has not taken the high road in his response. 

The issue is a fascinating one, laden with many layers of significance. While few would agree that Glasper’s comment deserves to go unchallenged in the public sphere in itself, there was also a lively debate over the level of significance it should be accorded. Some defended Iverson’s decision to publish it – others attacked it, on the grounds that publishing was an endorsement or at very least a perpetuation. It was pointed out that his blog had run interviews with over 40 male jazz musicians, but not a single female one.  There is the continuing issue of women’s representation in the musical world generally, and the jazz world in particular – who hasn’t encountered the expectation that the woman in the poster will inevitably be ‘the singer’, and the entire package of derogatory stereotypes that comes with that assumption? The Lincoln Centre has belatedly addressed these issues by starting to hold ‘blind’ auditions for posts in its orchestras – similar procedures in the classical world have seen the representation of women in US symphony orchestrago from 5% to 50% since the 1970s, graphically illustrating how wide the gap in opportunity had been. There are also wider issues of racial stereotyping and the portrayal of women in the hip-hop and R & B cultures that Glasper admires – and, historically, in the jazz world as well. Some educators demanded that Glasper’s work should be removed from studies curricula, although if every sexist or misogynist were treated accordingly the jazz archive would be slim indeed – the autobiography of Miles Davis is a prominent, but by no means unique, repository of hideously chauvinistic attitudes, and Art Taylor’s fascinating series of interviews published as Notes And Tones contains numerous examples of revered jazz authorities voicing challenging opinions. One factor that has been underplayed is that Glasper is talking about women in very similar terms to those that were once used to describe black culture in general and jazz music in particular. The 1933 OED defined jazz thus:

“To play jazz; to dance to jazz music, a type of music originating among American Negroes, characterized bya regular or forceful rhythm, often in common time, and a ‘swinging’ quality …

… to move in a grotesque or fantastic manner; to behave wildly; to have sexual intercourse” 

If the common package of negative stereotypes in early 20th Century American and European society included ideas that black people were ‘primitive’ and in touch with ‘elemental’ human urges but unable to attain higher cultural achievements, then Glasper’s view of women seems to coincide with this at many points. 

Beyond these ramifications, we can also glimpse the continuing unease at the way jazz has moved from being popular music of the dancehall to esoteric music of the concert auditorium. If the Bad Plus’s rigourously intellectual oeuvre exemplifies the latter position, then Glasper seems perpetually caught between the two. He seems to be regarded with suspicion by someof his jazz musician peers, but among young fans there’s no question as to who has the higher profile. The infamous interview is an interesting read and has a number of valid points about matters musical that have been completely overshadowed by what seems to have been an episode of crass boys-together boasting of a sort that will be familiar to anyone who’s spent time backstage. You can read it below and decide for yourselves what the appropriate response should be; and, if you’re minded, you can see Mr. Glasper in person when he visits Sussex as part of this year’s increasingly spectacular Love Supreme line-up.


Michelle Mercer writing for NPR

Jazz at Lincoln Center Adopts Blind Auditions

Sarah Deming’s blog post

United We Stand

 Sad tidings reach us that the Jazz At The Palmiera sessions in Hove are no more, having been abruptly terminated without notice. While it’s been heartening to see the abundance of new casual gigs springing up around town over the last couple of years, both players and aficionados alike will be wearily familiar with the precarious nature of these events, dependent as they are upon the landlord’s goodwill – a commodity that is all too often contingent upon the thirst of the patrons and their willingness to spend good money quenching it. Despite the best efforts of a hedonistic minority, jazz fans are no longer the big drinkers that they used to be in the rollicking days of prohibition, speakeasies and unrestrained gangsterism, and this has an impact on the economic viability of the back-room session. We can be thankful for the happy confluences of sympathetic landlords, popular venues and committed musicians that have resulted in several long-running casual gigs in towns across the South Coast, especially Brighton. 

    Of course jazz musicians are often free-wheeling types, well used to the peripatetic nature of the biz, and resilient enough to shrug their shoulders and move on in the face of adversity. The music industry is notorious for short-termism, casual employment, sketchy arrangements regarding pay and conditions, and other evils of an unregulated marketplace where the supply of labour exceeds the demand, and anyone who survives for any length of time learns to roll with the punches and read the small print of the contract, in the event that one is actually offered. There’s an informal network operating to let players know who the sharp operators are amongst agents, landlords and promoters, and it can be easy to forget that there’s a trade union for musicians as well, dedicated to promoting their interests within the industry. 

    The origin of the Musicians’ Union is tied in with the beginnings of the jazz age, but its relationship to jazz players themselves has never been straightforward. The story begins in the latter years of the 19th century, when rapid urbanisation and the birth of popular commercial entertainment – theatres and music halls – created a new class of professional musicians. Conditions seem to have been frankly horrific – confined to cramped, dirty pits, the players were usually at the mercy of managing directors – a class whose entrepreneurial thirst was seldom inhibited by human feelings – who saw them as a necessary but expensive evil, and tried to drive down costs at every opportunity, or would cancel at a whim or whenever poor ticket sales occurred. Contracts, paid rehearsals, and backstage riders were unknown, to say nothing of Arts Council funding. Such musician’s organisations as existed, descended from the old system of guilds and town waits, were more concerned with protectionist strategies to exclude non-members undercutting their rates and restricting the ability of foreigners to work in the UK than negotiating better conditions. Then as now, the contingent nature of the work, the unclear distinction between part-time and full-time, professional and amateur, and the over-supply of labour made collective bargaining difficult. A petition of 1469 complains of “rude countryfolk and workers at various crafts who have pretended to be minstrels”  – another of 1653 tried to insist that a minimum of four musiciansbe employed for “banquets, feasts, weddings, revels or other assemblies”. Job insecurity in the London theatres of the 1760s led to musicianstaking on more work than they could actually perform, then creating a system of deputies or ‘deps’ to cover the less well remunerated engagements, both a product of and a contribution to chaotic working conditions.  A letter to the Orchestral Association Gazette of 1875 complains of managers who have “not a note of music in their heads, yet they dictate what is and is not good in music”. These give us fascinating glimpses of how little some aspects of the musician’s life has changed. 

    Come the 20th century, serious attempts were underway to regulate and protect the burgeoning growth in musical employment. It’s estimated that while the UK’s population doubled between 1870 and 1930, the number of musicians increased sevenfold. All kinds of specialisms emerged – brass players were heavily in demand at ice rinks, apparently – but the real growth areas were down to two epoch-defining innovations – the cinema, and the arrival of popular dance music in the form of American jazz. Cinemas were the largest employers of musicians by the 1920s, but hot on their heels came the new wave of massive dance halls, such as the famous Hammersmith Palais and the Empire chain run by Sir Oswald Stoll, of which the Shepherd’s Bush and the Hackney branches are among the best-known survivors. The effect on musical employment was sudden and drastic; attendances at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra concertsdropped to less than 100 in 1924, while 4,000 were at dances ‘the same night’. This created tensions which the newly-formed Musicians’ Union tried to resolve; a letter in the Musicians’ Journal of 1925 describes the incoming jazz musicians as “an entirely new breed – their demeanour crass, their comportment uncouth, their training inadequate or non-existent” . The writer was particularly incensed at the way the parvenus were suddenly making more money than ‘proper’ musicians were, so that “respectable baton musical directors are assessed at a fraction of the worth of jazz solo-saxophonists, or even jazz drummers”. So did jazz-trained players come to describe rock musicians in the 1960s, and rock musicians in turn decried DJs in much the same terms in the 1980s and 1990s.

    The union struggled with the jazz players because they were making good money, didn’t belong to the establishment, and saw no reason to join. A further blow came with the introduction of talkies into the cinema. Silent movies, of course, were not actually silent at all – they all relied on live music, from solo piano to full orchestras. Minutes of a 1929 Union meeting complain of “the American capitalists trying to install talking pictures on threat of the supply of pictures being cut off” but predicted confidently that their power would be thwarted as sound in cinema was an un-natural, passing fad which the public would soon reject. We can perceive a foretaste of the Union’s struggles with the impact of changing technology on musical employment, from backing tracks to file-sharing to streaming. 

     Though both jazz and the MU developed alongside each other, the essential nature of the jazz-player’s life has kept them at arm’s length from each other as often as not. The challenges facing musicians as workers in the capitalist system have changed in their particulars over the years, yet the nature of the problems – how to assert their right to fair terms and conditions, and how to safeguard their employment from the vagaries of the wider economy – has remained constant. How could the Union address them? Answers on a postcard, please, and don’t forget to keep coming to the gigs – that’s the surest way to aid their survival. 

All source material from:
‘Players Work Time – A History Of The British Musician’s Union’ by John Williamson and Martin Cloonan.

Bees Mouth - March 2017

March 27th

Spring is here! All is in order in the birds, bees and green shoots department: in the sorry world of man, The Tories greet the season with their traditional display of infighting and hypocrisy while Mr Corbyn responds with characteristically principled modesty by doing nothing at all, Mr Trump spouts absurdities, Mr Putin jails his enemies and the i360 celebrates the arrival of clear skies by promptly breaking down. JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH is right on message with this cavalcade of seasonal continuity thanks to the returning phenomenon of Luke 'Colonial Mentality' Rattenbury (gtr) and Tristan 'T Bone' Banks (drms) as they ride in on waves of the freshest sounds around, with me helping out on bass and the eternally young and fragrant Bee's Team on hand to dispense draughts of reviving liquors from deep in the vernal well... Don't get lost in a dreary works of Internet hoo-ha - you really don't need to check out any more middle aged men's opinions on terrorism, look at anyone's instascam frauds or buy any more stuff - spring is in the air, grab your axe down off the shelf and come and join us! 

March 20th

How will you celebrate the Vernal Equinox? Maybe with some dreary box set in front of the redundant TV - perhaps you've got some Union affiliating to catch up on, or are part of an imaginary team busily employed not spying on Big Donald. Or are you just alienated and uncertain, watching in dazed bewilderment as the whole show seems to slide gently into the boring abyss? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH is the jam you need to connect you back into the cosmic cycle, thanks to the special irreducible talents of special guests Al 'Crazy Eyes Killa' Scott on piano and Angus 'The Gent' Bishop on the traps, plus me on bass and the bright eyed woodland creatures of the Bee's team waiting with immaculately poised alertness behind the well stocked bar.. Don't let the Prolonged Period Of Uncertainty harsh your vibe, come join us, let your spirit be free, there's another force at work in the slow rising of the sap and the spawning beneath the salt expanses of the ocean, soon the blossom will return and the first djembe drummers will be heard in the parks, the cycles continue ...

March 13th

As we stumble fearfully into 2017, the choking fog of disappointment rises thicker and faster - disappointed Remainers, disappointed Corbynistas, angry disappointed Brexiters, angry disappointed Donald... Thank the cold glittering stars for JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH cos we never promise what we can't deliver, and we always deliver on the promise of the real swinging sounds from those masters of musical ceremony Luke 'Whole World Is Africa' Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz 'Deeper Roots' Thomas (drms) plus me on bass, while the wise and patient Bees team wait to serve you draughts of fine liquor... Now the warm breath of spring is in the air, through the softening loam pushes the anxious crocus, the lengthening dusk is alive with the triumph of resurgent birdsong,outside the town lights garish reach the hills and the hidden valleys return to slow fecundity... Stuff them and their endless disastrous referenda of endless disappointment, boring austerity and stale impotent online garbage, chuck your tethered device out the window and come and join us, join us, get with the deeper feeling... Scots and ex-Scots all equally welcome. 

March 6th

There's a petulant elderly golfer with an itchy Twitter finger spreading dismay and havoc across the Free World, there's the wicked witch in office with her cabinet of evil gnomes cooking up another bout of fiscal harsh, there's a ton of real unplusgood horrorshow baloney cooking up every way you look, but you know what? There's also JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH coming at you as we'll be celebrating the slow turning of the seasons as the blackbirds liquid imprecations peal through the chilly gloaming and far away across the bare hillsides the seed quickens suddenly beneath the waiting loam .. So, you know, stop getting all stressy and come and check out the pure good vibes emanating from the dream team of special guest Paul "Nodens The Hunter" Richards (gtr) and Loz "Panic Button" Thomas (drms) plus me on bass, the fabulous otherworldly Bee's Team on quality liquor dispensing duties, and the regular crowd of hornswogglers, bushwackers, dimwits, nitwits, mugs, pugs, thugs, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, horse thieves, train robbers, ass-kickers and Methodists, not to mention our usual valued customers .. See you there! 

Bees Mouth - February 2017

Feb 27th

Maybe it's raining. Maybe you don't have a car. Maybe you're feeling part of the 'left behind', you can't afford the new iPhone but you're scared of androids, you feel like Warren Beatty just opened your golden envelope? JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH is on hand to put a spring back into your step and a statuette into you sad little hands as they paw at the empty air, cos we've got the baddest non-gender specific gangster team since Bonnie and Clyde ready to lay out some choice musical bootlegs, namely Oli 'Raskolnikov' Howe on the virtual ivories and Loz 'Prince Oblonsky' Thomas on drums, aided by me on bass, while the transplendent Bee's Team wait, oscillating imperceptibly in the velvet dusk with a selection of the finest liquors ready known to humanity... Don't let the haters get you down or the fakers split you up, don't sit at home glued to the screen as Cambridge Analytica harvest your poor cowering data and send it off to the salt mines of Siberia, grab your axe down off the shelf and come and join us, it's like a rally only without all the horrible b*llshit, just the warm feeling of inclusion... 

Feb 20th

There's a massive protest kicking off in town of indignant monarchists determined to protect the modesty of our queen from the Orange Outrage.. Too bad you couldn't be there, but don't get all sheepish and defensive, cos JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE'S MOUTH is on hand to let you express your solidarity with the good sh*t and your contemptuous disregard for the bad sh*t by getting down to the sweet sounds of swinging freedom as delivered by special guest Al "There's Another Beauty" Scott (pno) and Loz "The Baddest Judge" Thomas (drms) as they show what the expression 'fine tuned machine' is actually supposed to mean, aided by me on bass, as the radiant dryads and naiads of the Bee's team wait, poised, shimmering gently in the perfumed liminal space behind the well-stocked bar.. We all know the State Visit is going to happen anyway, it's all about expressing yourself, as the light quickens then dies in the west over the oily sea, the earth shudders on its axis, Venus ascends into the deepening blue, the breath of spring fans against your chapped tear-stained cheeks, and Fortuna's wheel continues to spin through the airless void of infinite possibility, don't get mad, get with it, grab yer axe down off the shelf and come and join us. 

Feb 13th

Here you are, artlessly roaming in digital wonderland, all lost and excited in BAFTAS and Grammys and stuff, going all La-La land over that groovy Mr Loach and his super-stylish parka - I know, what a statement! - and you’ve forgotten all about Valentines Day! Either that or you were just too ground down by the relentless tide of suffocating bullshit as the Prolonged Period of Uncertainty really girds it’s unwholesome loins and gets real.. JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH is on hand to alleviate your on-line and offline woes; forget all that cornball single red rose and expensive pasta meal schtick, what non-gender-specific significant life partner could fail to be thrilled by the prospect of a pre-Valentines date spent being serenaded by those monsters of post-bop swing Luke “Laser Beam” Rattenbury (gtr) and special guest Angus Bishop (drms) as they smash together another life-affirming mashup of jazz/bop/soul/latinfunk/whatever, aided by me on bass, as the fragrant and irrepressible Bee’s team hover vibrating imperceptibly in the scented shadows behind the well-stocked bar, and the nameless denizens of the night drift in from the moonless blackness.... listen ........ step outside.... can you hear, above the tide’s retreating roar over the bitter shingle, the faint sussuration, high and icy, of the stars vibrating in their orbits in the measureless gulf of space? No? Maybe it’s your migraine coming back... come inside, it’s warm, the music will flow like wine, old friends are on the way, it’s going to be alright, join us, join us. 

Feb 6th

Ok, no messing about - this week we’re getting with the program and going with the flow, so it’s time to double down, speak up, take back control, go forward, sideways and upwards but always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom... grab a handful of the most aggressively assertive prepositions you can and smash them any old how onto some verbs and then take the whole lot down to JAZZ NIGHT AT THE BEE’S MOUTH where you can revel in the alternative facts being presented with love and humanity by the media maestros Luke “I’d Buy That For a Dollar” Rattenbury (gtr) and Loz “United States Of Mind” Thomas (drms) through the medium of good good music..I’ll be there on bass, the gently radiant beings of the Bee’s team will be waiting with smooth skins and glowing eyes in the scented darkness behind the well-stocked bar...... the internet is making idiots out of us all, so stop gazing open mouthed as the Great Orange Boil gargles and gesticulates all over your compromised newsfeed, quit writing those compromising e mails, delete your search history as far as your puny mortal powers allow you, finally tear your depressingly pointless Linkedin account into tiny bits, and come and join us in the four-dimensional sensory-surround, unrepeatable non-downloadable ineffable uncontrollable inexhaustible NOW... Don't cower miserably at home with a pretend headache like poor Ms Abbott, grab yer axe down off the shelf and come and sit in... you’ll feel good and so will we.