Archive for November 2017

Book review – The Haunting of Hill House

Google ‘scariest books of all time’.  If you do that you’ll see images, funnily enough, of what Google says are the scariest books of all time.  First in the line is The Haunting of Hill House, a 1959 novel by Shirley Jackson.  And that’s how HHH became the next book in my quest for a scary read.

Related image

Hill House has a reputation for being haunted.  Because of this, Dr.Montague has decided to take up a short residence in the house to look for evidence of haunting.  He invites three others to join him: Luke Sanderson, a representative of the family who own the house; and two others, Eleanor Vance and Theodora, who’ve experienced supernatural forces and may act as a catalysts for supernatural phenomena.  Things start going bump in the night and the evidence of haunting starts mounting which includes the House taking a particular fancy to one of the guests.

So, has my quest for a really chilling book concluded?  The answer is a simple, no.

The book was well written as well as each of the characters.  The best character, as is often the case with haunted house movies, is the house keeper, groundsman, butler, etc., and so it is with HHH, with Mr. and Mrs. Dudley taking the honours here.  The author does a great job in bringing the house to life, imbuing it with a character and history all of its own.  However, the book severely disappointed on the chills front.  The author conjured up a good atmosphere for scary moments but the latter just never arrived in the way I wanted them to.  I suspect however that that was probably the intention.  The book does have some standout moments but these take a while to get to and aren’t that intense or creepy.

Looking at the reviews on Goodreads and other places, there are clearly those who think the book still delivers after all these years.  Though there appear to be plenty, like me, who came away disappointed and wished the contents of the book was as scary as its cover!

My hunt for a really scary book continues.  I’ve just finished reading Stephen King’s The Stand so will let you know how that turned out.

Footprints gig, 25 November

My band Footprints is playing tomorrow night at MAP Studio Cafe in London’s Kentish Town.  So if you fancy hearing some classic jazz tunes in a great environment, come on down.  I’ve been told that it makes sense to get tickets in advance, so if you want to come along please contact the venue:

Tel:  020 7916 0545

And do come up and say hello!

Gig review – London Jazz Festival 2017

I thought I’d wrap up the remaining London Jazz Festival gigs I attended into one post, having already reviewed Tomasz Stanko’s magnificent band.  I try and see different types of bands during the festival and this year was no exception.

We kick off with Herbie Hancock at the Barbican (see photo above).  Hancock is a living legend.  At 77 years of age and with a recording career spanning over 50 years, you’d think Hancock might want to put his feet up. Luckily for us that’s not the case.  Surrounded by a top band including Terrace Martin (alto sax and keyboard), James Genus (bass) and Trevor Lawrence Jnr. (drums), Hancock was in exuberant form.  When he wasn’t busy pivoting between grand piano and his keyboard, Hancock clearly enjoyed moving centre stage, interacting with the audience, with or without keytar.  The gig felt very much like a show rather than a jazz gig, not least as Hancock got the audience on its feet, clapping along or singing his keytar licks back to him.  Some classics were served up too: Watermelon Man, Chameleon, and Actual Proof.  Hancock obviously put these individuals together for a reason: to achieve a more contemporary sound.  Terrace Martin was largely responsible for the latter, bringing with him sounds that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Snoop Dogg or Kendrick Lamarr records he’s produced.  While I would have preferred an acoustic set, I thoroughly enjoyed what was served up, vocoder and all!

Next up was a double bill of Now vs Now (led by Jason Lindner) and Kneebody (pictured above) at Rich Mix in London’s East End.  Now vs Now was the main attraction for me.  I saw Jason Lindner play with Donny McCaslin’s band the year before (reviewed in these pages, dear reader) and was blown away.  So when the opportunity arrived to see his own band, I jumped at it.  Now vs Now is a trio consisting of Lindner (keys), Panagiotis Andreou (bass) and Justin Tyson (drums).  I wouldn’t call what they play jazz; more contemporary electronic music, but the latter has its place at the festival (for what exactly is ‘jazz’?).  I’m not too familiar with Now vs Now and they played mostly songs from their forthcoming album that’s due in 2018.  So writing this blog a few days after the gig, I struggle to think of any of the tunes the band played.  However, throughout the time that they played I was reminded of bands like Orbital and Aphex Twin and I did think to myself that I’d check out the album once it came out.  The highlight for me was Justin Tyson’s drum solo, a drum’n’bass inspired solo, which sounded almost impossible for a human to perform.

Going into the gig I was expecting to enjoy Now vs Now more than Kneebody.  In fact, it was the other way around.  Kneebody play a combination of jazz, funk, electronic and rock music and their line up includes a cast who’ve played with the likes of John Legend, Bruno Mars, De la Soul, and Snoop Dogg.  So they’ve got good form and know how to write a catchy riff, like Uprising, a Trump-inspired tune off of the band’s out their latest album, Anti-Hero.  The set consisted of most of the tunes off Anti-Hero and I’ve been giving it a good listen since and recommend it to you.

It’s one of the regrettable things in live music that, generally speaking, the bigger the musician gets, the larger and less intimate the venue they play in.  In this respect Rich Mix is a great place to see live music, allowing the audience to get up close with the band (see the photo above).  I expect to be there this time next year for more jazz, if not before.

My final gig of London Jazz Festival was Stefano Bollani’s band at Cadogan Hall.  I first heard of Bollani in 2015 when his album Joy in Spite of Everything was released on the ECM label.  Having enjoyed the album I thought I’d check him out.  Bollani kicked off with a solo piano piece which wouldn’t have sounded out of place in a Giuseppe Tornatore movie.  He was then joined on stage by Daniele Sepe (tenor sax), Nico Gori (clarinet) and Bernardo Guerra (drums).  Most of the evening’s music was from Bollani’s 2016 album Napoli Trip, inspired by the folk music and composers of Napoli/Naples.  I didn’t know this album but I want to become more familiar with it as what I heard throughout the evening was a perfect and charming blend of jazz, classical and folk music.  Check out the video below which gives you a sense of what you would have heard.

What I hadn’t expected was the theatricality and fun of the evening.  At one point Bollani and Gori played a duet, with Gori turning the pages of Bollani’s music, in what could only be described as a comedy sketch.  One page was seemingly the theme to Jesus Christ Superstar!  The band all started moaning at one point (feigning back pain), in what I understood to be a poke at Keith Jarrett and his moaning at the piano.  I may have been right here as at a later point in the gig, Sepe spoke to the audience about how jazz had changed over the years, from a dance hall music to often a serious music where silence is a necessity and cameras are forbidden (Keith Jarrett was referred to here, so I think I might have got it right earlier!).  In my view, there’s a place for both.

To conclude a wonderful evening, Bollani asked the audience (half of which appeared to be Italian) to name some songs which he’d then turn into a medley for his encore.  What we then got was a medley of Air on a G string, Yellow Submarine, Volare, Space Oddity and many more.  Bollani’s clearly an impressive musician; you only have to look and listen to his discography which spans jazz, classical and much more besides.  As far as I understand it he also appears to be well known throughout Italy (a rarity for a jazz musician anywhere these days) and with his musicality and warmth of personality I can see why.  If you get the opportunity to see Bollani live, I’d recommend it highly.

Gig review – Tomasz Stanko Quartet, 10 November 2017

London Jazz Festival has kicked-off for another year.  It’s an annual highlight of my calendar and this year, as ever,  I’m seeing a handful of bands throughout the ten-day festival, the first of which was Tomasz Stanko’s ‘New York’ Quartet.

Stanko himself is a polish trumpeter.  The ‘New York’ part of the equation is made up by the rest of the band: David Virelles (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass) and Gerald Cleaver (drums).  I reviewed the Quartet’s most recent album within these pages and noted that I saw Virelles play last year at London’s Kings Place and left feeling disappointed, hoping that the disappointment was a one-off ahead of this gig.

Not only was I not disappointed, I was blown away.  It was an awesome display of musicianship by each and every member of the band.  From the moment they started playing you knew that what you were hearing was of the highest calibre, possessing an indefinable, magical quality.  Stanko, wearing a Thelonious Monk t-shirt, played the role of musical director, much like I imagine Miles Davis would have; setting the tone and then stepping back and creating the space for his band to run free.  Virelles played like a man inspired, and treated the piano like the percussive instrument it is, driven on by Rogers and Cleaver, the latter of whom was scarily intense throughout the gig.  The gig had moments of serenity as well, especially when Rogers played a beautiful bowed solo, during which he was joined by Stanko, leading to some great interplay between the two.

The gig was recorded for BBC Radio 3, airing apparently on Monday, 13 November.  I’ll be catching it again as it’s not often you get to hear music like this.  I highly recommend that you catch it.

Songs from the Vault

It’s high time for another edition of SFTV and, as ever, I’m looking forward to serving up some great songs that you may or may not know.

First off, we’re going back over 30 years to 1985 and the time of Breakdance.  One of the most memorable songs from the time was Man Parrish’s Boogie Down Bronx.  How can you not like a song with lyrics like, ‘my man Man Parrish and Cool Raul, cooler than the water in a swimming pool’.

Talking of the years rolling by, one of the individuals and bands that I appreciate more and more as I’ve got older is Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music.  I remember when Slave to Love came out in 1985 (the same year as Boogie Down Bronx) and not being particularly bothered about it.  Ask me about it these days and I’ll tell you that it’s a great tune, beautifully produced and oozing sophistication.

Another great tune that oozes class but is dripping with creeping menace is Risingson from Massive Attacks’s 1998 album Mezzanine, which has one of my favourite ever album covers.  Risingson was the first single released off Mezzanine and has been overshadowed by Teardrop, the second single off the album.  Teardrop’s a really good tune but Risingson is the tune that I always head for first on the album.

In terms of production values, Van Diemen’s Land by U2 is almost the opposite of Risingson.  It appeared on U2’s 1998 album, Rattle and Hum and features the Edge on vocals and guitar.  The song tells the story of John Boyle O’Reilly, the leader of an 1848 Irish uprising after the Great Famine.  O’Reilly was banished to Australia (Van Diemen’s land was the name used by Europeans for Tasmania) for rebelling against the government.  If only U2 albums had more of this kind of tune on them.

How do you follow that?  Not easily.  The last tune, the Seed (2.0) by US band The Roots, is one I first heard in the 2004 Michael Mann movie Collateral, starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx.  It’s a cool tune.  Simple as that.

I hope you enjoyed the selection.  Let me know!