Monday, June 06, 2016

Bone Crunching

Trombonista, Dave Keech, leads Hitchin-based, classic jazz combo, Close to the Bone.

I've been toying with the idea of starting a new music blog for awhile. Or maybe even a full-on webzine dedicated to jazz.  But until I can generate enough energy to wrestle with another Blogger or Wordpress template, MD&E will have to suffice as a vehicle for this topic. So for now I thought I'd write a review or two on the music scene in the South East of the UK and start with Hitchin in Hertfordshire.

Hitchin is a delightful English market town lying to the north of London's orbital commuter belt. It is quietly cultured in a genteel sort of way but apart from a few enlightened pubs putting on the occasional band there there isn't that much in the way of jazz. That is until recently. Club 85, a local music venue mostly known for rock music, began to host a jazz series. Bob Mardon, the manager at C85 and a veteran of the British festival scene, made the decision to put on a regular concert event  "Jazz Up!" The first of these was on May 29 and featured a local band, Dave Keech's Close to the Bone. Dave and his merry men (and often women) are a slightly loose group of well-known local musicians of astonishing virtuosity. On this occasion they were joined by Simon Spillett, one of the UK's leading tenor saxophonists. The gig turned out to be a terrific success. Club 85 was packed by the time the band kicked off. Their repertoire comprised mostly a mix of bop and hard bop standards which were rendered with tremendous panache. The audience clearly loved the atmosphere which was aided by a gorgeous graphic light show of iconic period images that had been compiled by Dave Keech.  Simon Spillett played much appreciated, paint-blistering, solos throughout the set. Mark Ridout on guitar was superb; in solos he showed he could shred with the best of them but play solid funky support too.  Always tasteful, his style reminded me a bit of  Martin Taylor with some Chuck Loeb thrown into the mix.  At the back, a youthful Scott Chapman stroked the skins and got into the pocket while Tom Mark laid down the bottom line groove on upright bass. Dave Keech led the band like an old pro and managed to deliver some terrific trombone solos too. Don't miss these guys if you get the chance. Overall a fantastic evening and hopefully the start of a substantial jazz scene in north Hertfordshire. Oh, and here are a few shots of the band I captured with my trusty Leica. Ars longa vita brevis!

The superb Simon Spillett on tenor sax scintillates with his searing hard bop chops.
Mark Ridout shreds while Faye Dunaway, Mickey Rourke and Charles Bukowski look on.
Tom Mark defines the bottom line to a larger than life audience (can anyone name the mystery woman in the leopard skin catsuit?)
The remarkable Scott Chapman holds everything together at the back and gets in the pocket.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Still Here!

Alex Tsentides of psychedelic space-rock stalwarts, Krankshaft, moodily plucks his bass

OK, I'm still here. Contrary to popular belief I'm alive, well and kicking. However as mentioned awhile back I'm finding myself mostly publishing on Twitter these days. Primarily I'm putting up music photos and due to the character limit I can't write much in the way of a stories. Therefore I'm toying with the idea of an additional (serious) music review blog and preserving MD&E for personal stories.  I'll keep you posted so please bear with me and watch this space...

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Southern California Chronicles

I've had cause to visit Southern California again. The first time in five years or so. It really is a lovely place. That is if you can can ignore the gridlock, air pollution and the massive overcrowding that seems to have occurred since I was first a resident there in 1987. Nearly 30 years ago, bugger! I must have blinked and missed two-and-a-half decades. At least that's what it feels like. Anyway I also had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with film photography. If you are a Millennial reading this (which I doubt) you won't understand the mystique of such antiquated technology so you may want to look away now. But let me tell you that it's a marvellous medium. I recently acquired off eBay a little Rollei 35mm pocket camera. Before my trip I packed a couple of rolls of Ilford FP4 monochrome film, loaded the Rollei (something I haven't done for 15 year but it's just like riding a bike) and set off. The trip was great.  I somehow remembered to take photos without autofocus, autowind, auto-preview, auto review and everything else we take for granted, even on an iPhone camera. Below are a few snaps that I think capture the zeitgeist of SoCal. Sea, sand, surf, music, automotive culture and of course, girls. Remember the Beach Boys, California Dreamin' and all that? No? Never mind. Take a look at the snaps below and rejoice in their marvellous organic quality.  Just like vinyl recordings, film photography is a little fussy but hard to beat. Now if you'll excuse me I've got to wax my surfbord...

Surfing at Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The Pacific Ocean has a unique magical quality.
Motorcycle engineering art on historic Highway 101. The joy of motoring up the Pacific Coast  is hard to describe and not to be missed.
The "Lunacy" trio bang out some great twangy surf sounds at The Pannikin Coffee Shop.
Young woman texting in La Jolla. OK it's Liv -I'm sure she won't mind if I tell you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Remembering the Battle of Britain

The climax of the Battle of Britain was fought on this day, 75 years ago. Below are a couple of photos as a tribute to "The Few".

Four Spitfires fly in formation through moody skies. RAF Duxford, September 2014

Spitfires on the ground and waiting for the "Scramble!" order. RAF Duxford, 2014

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well that's another year passed.  I'm celebrating in fine, age-appropriate, style. I'm now horribly old but grateful that I'm still here to enjoy these days. Oh and the blog is now 11 years old and by definition in its twelfth year. Who'da thought it?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Robert Douglas Eaton (1964-2001)

Remembering Robert Eaton, former chorister at St Paul's Cathedral, London, and my cousin. RIP!

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Cardiff: A Tale of Two Cities

The author in Southern California beach mode and getting ready to wax down his surfboard.

Cardiff-by-the-What??? Sea of course! Hopefully the scene makes it obvious. At the time of the photo I wasn't in possession of a decent selfie-taking camera and I couldn't get the composition exact. Never mind. The point is that in my youth (four undergraduate years, to be precise) I was a resident of Cardiff, UK.  Or to be even more precise, Cardiff, Wales.  In my middle years I spent the best part of a decade in San Diego county quite near the delightful coastal town of Cardiff (by-the-Sea). I love both places to bits but as you can probably guess they don't have much in common. Cardiff, South Glamorgan has great music, rugby, a world class university, a fantastic castle and centuries of tradition and culture. Cardiff, Southern California has surfing, fish tacos, the Pacific Ocean and an absence on the streets of eight-pint-puddles of regurgitated Brain's Dark mixed with egg vindaloo curry. Magic stuff!   Hwyl fawr am nawr!

The Best Coffee Shop in the Universe

There is no better place than the Pannikin to sip your coffee or vanilla tea au lait but don't be too ambitious about what you want to achieve with your laptop as there is no wi-fi.

The best coffee shop in the universe? Who knows! But the Pannikin in Leucadia, San Diego county, is certainly my favorite. Nestled between historic Highway 101 and the Pacific Ocean, this charmingly rustic place has been serving the good people of North County since 1968 and me since I discovered it 1987. Indeed I fully blame the place for my addiction to vanilla tea as it was here I got hooked sometime in the late Eighties. The only thing I don't recommend is the "Keith Richards Special". I sampled this fulminating brew of chocolate syrup and Lord-only-knows-how-many-shots-of-espresso once and turned into a gibbering speed freak for the rest of the day. Anyway I'm here visiting my offspring so I guess I'll have a double macchiato and a blueberry scone to start the day. Ciao!

PS I note that the establishment is owned by one Amanda Morrow. No close relation but the appreciation of good beverages is surely deep seated in our genes.