2 Shades of Grey

Songs from the soundtrack of your life


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Musicians we lost in 2015 – part 2

The sound of New Orleans, Allen Toussaint died in November 2015 aged 77.

His songs were recorded by the Stones, The Pointer Sisters, Boz Scaggs, Glen Campbell and Robert Plant and he played on recordings for Paul McCartney & Wings, Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton. He allegedly once said “I’m glad the Stones recorded my song – I knew it would roll all the way to the bank“.

His songs like “Ride your pony” and “Working in a coal mine“, recorded by Lee Dorsey, were loved by soul fans and were staples for cover bands (like ours) in the 60s.

The New Orleans sound was distinctive and recognisable anywhere. “It’s everything. It’s who we are, the food we eat, the history, Mardi Gras, the second-line brass bands who strut that stuff, the syncopation, the humour, and the slightly slower pace than the rest of America, the war we mosey along rather than running the race” Toussaint once said. “We’ve held on to our old world charm longer than others”

He grew up in this cultural melting pot amid veteran jazz and R&B musicians. He learned to play the piano at the age of seven inspired by Professor Longhair, a legendary boogie-woogie (more strictly rumba-boogie) pianist and blues singer who also inspired Dr John, Fats Domino and Huey “Piano” Smith”.

He said he tried to play anything he heard – blues, gospel, R&B, even classical. “Music babysat me through my childhood“. He started playing with a band called the Flamingos featuring guitarist Snooks Eaglin in the 1950s progressing to playing piano on Fats Domino sessions.

He later became A & R man at Minit Records where he managed the recording sessions and shaped the sound in a more soulful direction. He also began working with Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, who is one of my favourites with “Time is on my side” a classic (covered by the Stones).

That part of his career was interrupted by the draft in 1963. He resumed his career working with the aforementioned Lee Dorsey and his band which became Toussaint’s house band. In the 70s he worked with a lot of rock singers, as already mentioned above, but also Elkie Brooks, Paul Simon and Little Feat.

His last UK chart entry was “Here come the girls” a song he’d written 40 years earlier and which you may remember from a Boots (high street chemist) advert in 2007.

He was recognised in his later life with a life-size statue of him erected in New Orleans, his city of birth, and a National Medal of the Arts awarded to him by President Obama, both in 2013.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed his house and recording studio, he temporarily relocated to New York and took to the road. And that’s where he died, in Spain during a tour of Europe.

Here’s a YouTube video of him performing “Southern Nights” , a song he wrote and which topped the charts for Glen Campbell. It also earned him the title of Southern Knight.

 

 


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Miles Davis voted “greatest jazz artist of all time”…………….but they are wrong!

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Miles Davis, the trumpeter whose lyrical playing and ever-changing style made him a touchstone of 20th Century music, has been voted the greatest jazz artist of all time.
The musician beat the likes of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone – all of whom made the top 10.

Votes were cast by listeners of BBC Radio and Jazz FM, and revealed on pop-up radio station BBC Music Jazz.Jazz FM presenter Helen Mayhew called Davis “the epitome of cool”. “Miles was at the forefront of key developments in the sound of jazz through each decade of his long career. “He’s also responsible for recording the biggest-selling and most universally loved jazz album of them all, the 1959 album Kind of Blue.”

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The full top 10 – derived from a shortlist of 50 – was:

1 Miles Davis
2 Louis Armstrong
3 Duke Ellington
4 John Coltrane
5 Ella Fitzgerald
6 Charlie Parker

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Marsden Jazz Festival 2015

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

I normally spend a good part of two days wandering around the festival, taking in free concerts and watching the hundreds of people who descend on this small West Yorkshire village once a year for the “International Jazz Festival”

Shock, horror as again the rain kept away and people mingled in the streets, viewing the variety of stalls selling all kinds of goods and including a very good record stall with an exceptional collection of vinyl LPs featuring the great and the good of the jazz world.

The cafes were filling up, as many a visitor tucked into a “full English” to counter the excesses of the previous evenings “concert going” )and drinking).

Unfortunately, this year I was away on the Saturday and therefore missed the big parade, and only managed a couple of hours on Sunday morning but still managed to catch a very enthusiastic Heckmondwike Grammar School Soul Band…

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Personality and musical preferences

head_gear_500_wht_2011Scientists from the University of Cambridge have investigated how our personalities relate to our musical preferences. In particular whether or not we have an empathising brain or a systematising one.

People with empathising brains like to understand thoughts and emotions and were found to be more likely to prefer soft rock and R&B. “They wanted music with emotional depth that was thoughtful and poetic”. Mariah Carey and Bon Jovi were quoted as examples.

I don’t know who they thought was the R&B representative but they probably mean the modern definition of urban music not the gritty real thing like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, or Jimmy Reed.

People who were systematisers – the kind of people who are interested in the processes and the details –  preferred music that was more intense such as punk, rock, and heavy metal. “They also wanted cerebral depth and complexity, classical, jazz and avant-garde music.

I’m not sure how useful this distinction is given the range of musical tastes among the systematisers. I can understand the classical, jazz and avant gated but where is the complexity in punk and heavy metal?

FYI the idea of empathisers v systematisers was developed by Simon Baron-Cohen who is well known for his research into autism. He believes that people who are high on systematising tend are found at the autistic end of the spectrum.

His research is not without its critics e.g. he found that there were more women on the empathiser scale and more men on the systematiser scale. But there are more men than women who are on the autistic end of the spectrum sometimes described as having Asperger’s syndrome (i.e. attention to detail, preoccupation with a subject e.g. avid collectors). And yes, he is Ali G’s smarter cousin.

If you want to see for yourself whether you are more empathiser than systematiser go here for empathiser or systematiser questionnaire.

 


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Angry rappers should chill out say jazzer

saxaphone_player_notes_400_wht_3612In response to the research into deaths among musicians, jazz musician Herbie Hancock has urged hip-hop musicians to be more like their opposite numbers in jazz and turn away from the aggression and violence that has become a feature of the musical genre.

He said he was saddened to learn that more than half of rappers and hip-hop artists died through homicide.

Speaking ahead of today’s International Jazz Day (April 30), an initiative he co-founded with UNESCO, Hancock said “he believed that music of all types should have the power to unite people”

“I’m hoping that the jazz influence I’m seeing entering into the hip-hop realm is going to have a positive effect that can heal some of the attributes that have sparked these aggressive tendencies from the past”

Hancock is a bhuddist and doesn’t believe jazz is competitive like sport. He says he’s always been helped by other jazz musicians even when he’s made mistakes and its always been that kind of attitude.


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National Record Store Day……….ah, the smell of vinyl!

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

IMGP2779 Today, 18 April 2015 is National Record Store Day and for those of us of a certain age (and generation) it is one to celebrate and support. There are very few places that one can actually purchase a CD or vinyl record these days as virtually all record shops have gone out of business.

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Granted there is the odd HMV shop hanging around but most have disappeared, and the ones left sell virtually nothing except the top 20 pop records. Gone are the days when I could go to the big HMV store on Market Street in Manchester, go down the escalator to the basement and be surrounded by thousands of classical and jazz CDs. There was always a kind of reverential silence in the room as the latest release from Deutsche Gramophon would be playing often featuring the Berlin Philharmonic or some esoteric release on the ESP label giving…

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Acker Bilk – a great trad jazz artist and a man of his word

Mr Acker Bilk died at the beginning of November aged 85. A lot has been written about him and his music and there is decent obituary  on the BBC web-site.

Originally from Somerset, hence his nickname Acker which means mate or friend in the local dialect, he learned to play the clarinet doing his national service in Egypt and perfumed in a couple of bands before he formed the Paramount Jazz Band. He and his band, like the Beatles, honed their skills in Germany playing seven hours a day, seven days a week for six months in Dusseldorf.

He will probably be most remembered for “Stranger on the Shore” which he wrote and performed with the Leon Young Chorale. A far cry from trad jazz iIt was released in 1961, reached No 2 in the UK charts where it stayed for 55 weeks, and made him the first UK artist to top the US music charts in the 1960s. (Vera Lynn was the first one to achieve that in 1952, Stranger was followed by Telstar and then the Beatles invaded America).

Stranger On The Shore, originally named after his daughter Jenny,  was used as the theme tune of a BBC TV drama series with the same name and was taken to the Moon on a cassette by the crew of the Apollo 10 space mission in 1969. Vocal versions were also made in later years.

I saw Mr Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band perform at a Xmas party organised by Burnley & District Hospital Management Committee for its staff. These were big events in those days when public service staff weren’t well-paid but had good sports and welfare facilities (there was a crown bowling green at Burnley General Hospital as well as full-size snooker tables and table tennis equipment).

I can’t remember the exact date but I started working at the hospital in late 1961 and that was when “Stranger on the Shore” was released.  This was in the brief hey-day of a trad jazz revival and Acker and his band had obviously been booked for some months.

When he achieved chart success we wondered if he would actually turn up for the party but he did and I remember it was a great night although I wasn’t a jazz fan.

So RIP an iconic clarinetist and if you haven’t heard the tune (statistically unlikely as it’s one of the biggest all-time instrumental hits) here it is:

(FYI We had Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen the following year when he had his hit with “Midnights in Moscow” so we were lucky. (Some well-known rock groups couldn’t be bothered turning up at venues once they had a couple of hits in the mid-60s)