The aliens have come! Run for the hills! I came out into the garden two days ago and this had turned up-
This is a Parasol mushroom and its Latin name is Macro Lepiota Procera, meaning, I assume, great big scary mushroom. What was so scary about it was that it appeared overnight. How does a mushroom spore re-organise that much soil into that much mushroom in that small amount of time? It has to be from other worlds, or use the space-time continuum in a different way. Acting out of panic, the tanks were called in-
Googling revealed that the Parasol Mushroom is in fact edible, so what we actually had here was a self-generating rapid deployment land-pizza. It’s too late now though, as the slug population of The Gables, clearly less concerned than I am about alien abduction, tucked right in and had an all night rave until there was none left. Slugs clearly know all kinds of things which we don’t. And we think we’re the master race.
Amusing comment of the week was from a very nice chap who came with his family to the Ripon festival where we were up doing a Benny Goodman Quartet concert in the church there. In the interest of variety, drummer Pite had had the bright idea of starting the second half with a couple of numbers from the Gene Krupa trio repertoire, which entailed your jaded scribe switching from the clarinet to the tenor sax. Being heavily routined, the Krupa trio stuff requires that it is either learnt by heart or played from music. As it turns out that Mother was right after all, I now have to wear specs to read as well, and so I delivered the two numbers welded to a music stand wearing a rather nice pair of £2.99 retro tortoiseshell readers from Tiger. At the end of the show, as usual, we were trying to keep order in the frothing, thronging masses around the merchandise stand when the chap and his family came up for the standard post gig chat. Often, this contains such gems as “Do you do this for a living”, “What’s that instrument actually called”, and my particular favourite, as it seems to imply that there is enough work about for a group of chaps to be able to hone down a show and earn a living just from doing one thing, instead of the actual truth which is having to throw everything together on thirty-five minutes’ rehearsal, often with people you’ve never met, “How long have you been playing together?”
However, Ripon Man came on from a different tack. “Which do you prefer playing, the clarinet or the tenor sax?” I replied that it’s changed for me over my life, and often due to which hooter I get phoned up to operate, but by and large, at the moment, I like the clarinet. “Thought as much,” he said, “We all noticed that when you went to play the tenor you had to read music.”
A magnificent example of bolting stuff together completely on the fly came along on Wednesday just gone. Drummer Pite, this time with his producer’s sheepskin coat and fat cigar had arranged a small team of us to go and make some promotional video footage for some upcoming shows. Thanks to the bloody internet (and I am fully aware of the irony in ranting about the bloody internet on the bloody internet) every man and his dog now needs to examine video footage of anything you want to sell. Gone are the days of sending off a cassette demo saying things like “I know it’s a jazz trio on the recording but they really are good at drum’n’bass, and the selection of polkas you asked for shouldn’t be a problem either”. I used to be able to close a sale by explaining that because the request for 1920’s jazz, a Little Richard medley, Beethoven’s 5th when the bride’s mum walks in, the theme from Dad’s Army, and then two one hour sets of floor-filling pops but no Abba or Neil Diamond was rather on the bespoke side, no demo exists so it will just have to be taken on trust. Not so these days, where the next bit of the conversation along from that lot- which was an actual request from a real client-went “Great! Glad you can do it than- just email the video across and we can get everything moving”. Between them Bloody YouTube and Sodding Facebook seem to have eradicated any trace of imagination. Orwell never saw this lot coming when he wrote 1984. He thought that a totalitarian government would have to survey all our movements whilst grinding the vocabulary down to such an extent that people couldn’t think straight. I wonder what he’d have made of the actuality whereby we’ve sidelined the government and done all that ourselves.
However, we at the Gables cannot afford to be reactionary dinosaurs hoping that the giant meteor strike of modern mass-media will somehow not apply to us, and thus there we were at a well known Jazz Supper establishment in the exciting environment of the docklands bodging together a series of video images to give the impression that we are a well-oiled research and thoroughly rehearsed music machine, all packaged as a live concert to sneak it under the noses of the unsuspecting punters. In the course of the night, we had to impersonate the Louis Armstrong allstars, Anita O’Day, The Adderly Brothers and I can’t really remember what else. Had there been room, Drummer Pite would probably had us do the Red Arrows. All this was done more or less with a quick chat through in the bandroom. During the evening, I found myself sight-singing harmony vocals direct to camera/ As someone who has never sung at all in public, and most infrequently in private, this all came as something of a suprise.
The curse of St. Kev reared its ugly head again last night. This is the jinx which seems to strike my trousers when I am onstage conducting the band for Kevin Fitzsimmons’ Sinatra tribute show. Last year we had the incident of The Trousers That Time Forgot, where for one reason and another I could only get to change three minutes before going onstage and then finding that the trousers I’d put in the bag were from a younger, better, thinner era and now wouldn’t even meet around the middle, leading to severe onstage constriction of the Gentleman’s Area. The whole grisly tale is written up here, under “Bag And Trouser Blog”. This time, thanks to the new Vegan regime, I am in a better, thinner, older era and I suspect that the same trousers were involved. This time around, they fitted, but as I bent over behind the bar prop in the “One For My Baby” scene to pick up my fez, there was a tell tale brrrrrpppprrrpppp sound, loud enough to carry across the stage and stop the trombone section from talking to each other. Contrary to my original battle damage assessment, the arse of the trousers had come through intact, but on closer examination I discovered that all the stitching on the right upper thigh had come undone, revealing a small expanse of whimsical M&S pink stripy boxer short. For a start, discreetly examining trousers for rips onstage in front of a full audience requires a Houdini-like measure of bodily contortion, which was never my long suit, and then the walking style necessary to try and conceal the rip led me to adopt a series of movements which, on hindsight, must have made me take on the persona of Larry Grayson having just been shot in the side with a poisoned arrow. Bad.
Duke Ellington’s back in my life in quite a major way at the moment. Having wisely saved a fair amount of pennies over the last couple of years, I have unwisely decided to spend the bulk of them on making an album of Ellington music next month at the formidable Angel studios. Part of the reason for this is that just now we have a fantasy brass team in the UK who can handle the more extreme moments in Ellington’s scores, and another part of it is I really need to get it out of my system. Timing is also all-important here- by November, the committees for most of next summer’s jazz festivals will be convening, and I will need to have some media in their laptops if I want to stand a chance of getting Ellington in its raw form on the circuit. It’s a shame that just ringing up saying that I can organise some of the best players in the world to come and play the best music ever written is no longer enough, but I’ve already banged on about that. It’s worth remembering, even as far back as the 1970’s, when Brian Peerless was trying to flog the Count Basie Orchestra (The real one, with Count Basie actually in it,) to the Frankfurt Jazz Festival, that the woman on the phone asked for a demo tape.
Mind you, little bits of The Old Way still survive, like poignant images of post-apocalyptic blossoms swaying in the breeze over the barren nuked landscape. I had a call the other day fron none other than the Brighton Clarion herself, Claire Martin OBE, asking if we could put on a short burst of Ellington at the South Coast jazz festival on January 25. We can! We’re going to! Buy your ticket now- SouthcoastJazzFestival.com
As an adjunct to all this fervid media stockpiling, the album will also be available in return for a small amount of money for personal use around the home. Details will follow, but the staff here at The Gables will be tirelessly working around the clock to get it into the shops around the nation in time to make it the perfect xmas stocking filler. I’ll keep you posted. By the bloody internet, in fact. If you do fancy one, drop me a line at the site here and I’ll save you a special personalised copy, or something.