14 June 2013
The more acerbic amongst you will have of course already noticed the rather loose interpretation of the notion of Thursdayness in this week’s Thursday Plog. I was all set to do it yesterday afternoon when, before I even had time to realise what was going on, there was a surprise trip to Mr. Kong’s. Ostensibly this was to discuss new research on the quest to popularise jazz, more of which later. A good ten rounds with standard menu #1 and a solid night’s sleep later, here I am on Friday morning, surrounded by a small residual bubble of Thursday Afternoon. It’s a weak excuse, but it’s probably better than getting my mum to write in explaining that “Peter Has a Verruca and won’t be at Blog today”. Just by the by, I reckon that Kong has got a new seafood supplier- the razor clams last night were of absolutely Olympian standard- fibrous without being stringy, and tender without losing firmness. Completely bloody marvellous. For the stat counters, Her Indoor’s grub arrived and was eaten without any technical mishaps. It can and does occur. Douglas Adams was right when he said the worst thing about time travel was the hell it played with grammar. For example-“In three month’s time, I went and bought myself a nice new time machine. I like it, but they’re not what they’re going to be”. Similarly, earlier on this morning, when I was still in today and not, as later on, back in yesterday afternoon, I found myself in my home sheet music archive and sorting office, or shed. The reason for this is that once I finish here in the creative writing study, or kitchen, this morning on Thursday afternoon I then have to go back forward to Friday afternoon, and a real gem of a gig. This will be the end of the time-travel-syntax fun now.
I’ve banged on at length about Duke Ellington in the past, and I feel another nugget of it coming on now. Tonight, I am the richest chap in the world, because I have a gig with the Echoes Of Ellington at the fabulous acoustic paradise that is the Stables in Wavendon, just down the road from the fabulous architectural paradise that is Milton Keynes. It’s all good- we’ve sold out, and I have a really strong team of chaps on. I am hoping that it’s going to be delicious, making all that amazing noise. It is also a little bit poignant, because the Stables at Wavendon has at its heart the room which John Dankworth had built specially to display amazing noise like that to its best advantage.
The stakes, therefore are riding a little bit high, and I want to do a good job. Therefore, this morning in the home sheet music archive and sorting office, or shed, I was wading through all my Ellington music deciding which ones to pull out. I have two one-hour sets to fill, which is about twenty two tunes. Ellington wrote about five thousand, of which I have access to around four hundred of the better known ones. In the shed, these are sorted into files according roughly to vintage, or in the case of, say, the Newport Jazz Festival, according to concert programme. Here’s the rub. Every piece in there is a masterpiece. I’ve got to leave 378 of them behind. It was easy for Ellington- asked which of his pieces was his favourite, he would say “The one I’m working on today”. Elegant old flanneler. If you check through a live Ellington record, you see that this was pretty much the case. He’d use a few of his massive hits as cornerstones of the programme, and then flesh it out with all his current stuff.
Using this as the model, the cornerstones of tonight’s show will be Ellington tunes everyone expects to hear- Take The “A” Train, Solitude, Perdido, I Got It Bad. The agonising bit is deciding on the rest. It’s all brilliant. If someone gave me a 10 day festival to fill with Ellington, I could do a different programme every night with no duplication, and each one would be The Best Music You’d Ever Heard. I’ve not got twenty hours, I’ve got two. The first thing to do is to look and see who I’ve got in the band tonight, and think of which pieces will really show them off best. One of the strengths of Ellington’s music is that it is largely a layered conversation between all the solo voices in the band, rather than taking the more usual approach of having the sections in the band hunt in packs. If you’ve got great soloists, you can really let the music breathe. Luckily, tonight, I’ve got a lot of the very best. This means that I can go to some very exotic corners of the repertoire. For the anoraks, it means I can have Jay Craig play the breaks in “Jumpin Punkins”, or Ryan Quigley re-create “El Gato”.
This narrowed the choice down to around 150 must-hear numbers for tonight. I needed to get rid of another 128. I then considered the rise and fall of the gig . Ellington wrote so many beautiful ballads that if you take your eye of the ball for a second, you can lose yourself in the beauty and end up with nine slow ones in a row. Balancing fast against slow helps, but in the end you just have to get arbitrary and leave a load of gems in the shed for next time. It’s just a bit of a shame that next time’s on December the 8th, In Welwyn Garden City! Still, infinitely better than no next time at all!
Excitement is running high at the Sales And Marketing Department (or Her Indoors’ laptop) here at The Gables. The Peggy, Duke And Benny CD is now off at the factory being pressed, and sometime in the middle of next week a lorryload of cardboard cases will turn up to be safely stored in the merchandise warehouse, or shed, where they will obscure the view of the Seaplanes Of The Axis Powers diorama until they are sold. To that end, expect vulgar advertising to appear here shortly.
There’s been a bit of development on the Croydon Popular Jazz Front. Here in the jazz promulgation think-tank, or Pub, various schemes for central London venues are being examined, and negotiations with a leading venue have started. Given that most jazz gigs look like this-
We are going to attempt a weekly slot which will hopefully look a bit like this-
This will largely depend on the structure of the advertising. I am confident that the music formula will be fine, as earlier discussed, since the things jazz lacks to the ear of the casual listener are hooks, coherence and a regular beat. Research is currently being conducted amongst that most unfamiliar demograph for jazz musicians-Normal young people. Let’s see what happens.
More from the Shed (Or Home Studio) soon