Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Moving house

My tosh is upping sticks to my new website,

I hope you'll subscribe, RSS, etc as I chivvy myself into a new regime of prolific blogging in the New Year.

This isn't goodbye. It's greatbye.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Ooh, very posh

I'm looking forward to seeing Tim Key and Tom Basden in Joseph K at the Gate theatre tomorrow night.

I'm not sure why their Neanderthal characters (from their sitcom Cowards) tickle me so much. I think because they go right to the heart of the British way of communicating. Maybe there are other cultures that insist on putting even the most heartfelt utterances in quotation marks by means of little silly voices and pseudo-catchphrases. I know I do it all the time and yet it has the potential to be intensely annoying. For instance. My life at the moment is spent going back and forth between London and Paris, and I occasionally pop up to my alma mater Oxford too. But whenever I'm discussing my movements with friends you can bet we will never actually refer to any of those cities by name. They will be Londres, The Smoke, Gay Paree, Oxenford, The Ox. Maybe it goes back to Old English variation - the reluctance ever to say anything the same way twice. It's a strange kind of mania for being oblique that can't help being very obvious.


It may seem as though I now only write on this blog to apologise for my lack of blogging. But, dearest readers, if you don’t think it beneath your dignity, perhaps you can follow some of the links below to other pieces I’ve written.

The last month has been heavy on vocalese, for me. I’m obsessed with the stuff at the best of times but lately I have been on an extra heavy dosage. If the word “vocalese” means nothing to you: it is a subgenre of vocal jazz that involves adding lyrics to recorded instrumental solos. The master of the art is Jon Hendricks, who recently came to play some gigs in London, and thanks to a combination of schmoozing and good fortune I was able to meet him and chat to him for the best part of two hours. He is 89 and fond of conspiracy theories, so the conversation didn’t exactly stay on topic, but it was a real thrill for me and I got some great material, some of which can be found here and some of it will be published in Jazzwise magazine in their March issue. I also reviewed one of his Ronnie Scott’s gigs for MusicOMH.

What Hendricks is to the English language, Mimi Perrin was to French. The lyrics she wrote for the Double Six are unparalleled in their wit and ingenuity, albeit almost impossible to follow if your French is as plodding as mine. I would have loved to meet her (and nearly did: the director of my French vocal group knew her well). However, she passed away on the same night I met Jon Hendricks.

The jazz world also just lost James Moody, who besides being a great bebop saxophonist was the inadvertent begetter of vocalese. I wrote a piece about his contribution to the form for Florian Städtler's Vocal Blog.

I’ve been writing plenty for the above-mentioned MusicOMH, including an interview with the guitarist Gary Lucas (Jeff Buckley and Captain Beefheart collaborator, horror movie soundtracker, lovely guy), and an end-of-year look at one of my favourite albums of 2010, Janelle Monáe’s The Archandroid. It is pipped to my personal album-of-the-year spot, though, by Joanna Newsom’s triple album Have One On Me. I’ve already gushed about Joanna on these pages.

The Hendricks and Lucas interviews were apropos of their visits to London for the London Jazz Festival. I reviewed one or two other Festival gigs, and I also did some research for the Jazz On 3 team. Listen out for their broadcast of a gig by Darcy James Argue's Secret Society.

2010 being almost dispensed with, I am making a firm New Year’s resolution to blog at least once a week starting in 2011. That may happen here at Tosh Pit, or it may happen at my not-quite-ready new website. Either way, brace yourselves.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

"Paris is maybe the town I hate the most on earth"

I've been doing some writing for the excellent site musicOMH recently, and the biggest deal so far has been an interview with Yann Tiersen, whom you probably know as the composer of Amélie. For my first interview with anyone halfway famous I thought it went rather well, and Tiersen was in fabulously contrary mode, talking about how he hates Paris, how little he identifies with the image of it presented by Amélie. I did have a stomach-churning moment when I looked down halfway through the interview to see my digital recorder hadn't been working, but happily the conversation was memorable enough that I was able to run to a café and jot down most of what he'd said.

Tiersen's Amélie music, most of which had already been recorded for his own albums, genuinely merits that overused word 'iconic', and has become shorthand for Paris and old-fashioned romance (I was watching some crappy YouTube clip of Nigel Slater yesterday - without the internet I swear I could have cured cancer by now - and they were using some of the music to evoke a sense of nostalgia for childhood. Tiersen's music has that wonderful and rare ability of being reminiscent even the first time you hear it.) His new album is rather different, though: grandeur has replaced kook. It's called Dust Lane and well worth a listen.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Brit Jazz at Ronnie Scott's

Every night this week you will find me propping up the bar at Ronnie Scott's, not just because I have a drink/jazz problem but also because I'm writing about their Brit Jazz Fest. Reviews will go up here and here - oh, and here if you're on Facebook. If you're coming down at any point, say hi.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Une couple d'articles...

...on a theme of French jazz.

The Jazz à Saint-Germain-Des-Prés festival happened in Paris back in May and my review is in this month's Jazzwise magazine (August 2010, the one with Phronesis on the cover), on page 59.

And my review of the Barbican's 'Django Drom' is on the LondonJazz blog.

But enough of the French. The Brit Jazz festival is at Ronnie Scott's from this Saturday and for the second half I'll be working as a writer in residence, with my reviews appearing on the club's site and the Jazzwise site. The line-up is outstanding.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Minnie Rip(p)erton, major typo

You know an artist is criminally overlooked when her own label can't even spell her name. I've just realised that I've mentally been adding a superfluous P to 'Minnie Riperton' on account of this glaring typo on my copy of her incredible 1970 album Come To My Garden. Give it a listen. Both Riperton and her producer Charles Stepney, pioneer of the 'chamber soul' sound, died too young (Riperton at 32, Stepney at 45) but they certainly left wonderful, strange, enriching music behind.