Sunday, 12 July 2009

To have and to have not and a Jazz weekend

I begin Jazz and Fireworks not with the visit to the Sage at Gateshead for a re-creation of the music of the early years of Louis Armstrong but a brief visit to Tynemouth for the Chicago Stompers from Italy who impressed me greatly last year and were appearing again in the 12 to 2 set on the Jazz stage adjacent to the Gibraltar Rock.

I had a difficult night in that the sleep was not restful and I woke feeling shattered and not doing anything at all, physical or mental activity. The morning was bright and going outside it was warm, too good to stay in, although I felt under some pressure to write, get the kitchen ready for the arrival of the washing although I had forgotten the previous occasion of non delivery on a Sunday morning and prepare for my trip to Nottingham next week. I was not at my best when setting off in the warm sunshine down the hill at a diagonal in the direction of the market place and the ferry. I had decided to travel only with the over the shoulder bag chair with a telescopic umbrella tucked inside as from recent experience the weather could change suddenly.

The Ferry service had promised a shuttle with two boats in use because of the festival and the closure of the Tyne Tunnel for the weekend and on arrival both ferries were across at North Shields with one just leaving and the other just arriving. The reason for this was soon apparent as we set off because we had to stop to one side to allow a gigantic transporter of motorcars, called a motor liner, to pass up the river lead and tailed by two pilot boats. This is a very chunky vessel as it has width as well as length and height. It was an awesome sight.

Arriving at the bus stop opposite the entrance to Ferry landing we had to wait nearly twenty minutes before the special free bus service arrived, having just missed one of the two regular buses and which had not waited for the arrival of the delayed ferry. In fact I learnt from one of the drivers of the two busses travelling to North Shields in one direction and Newcastle in the other that the free bus was waiting a round the corner for the two regular and fee paying customer buses to depart. By this time a second ferry had arrived although by the time passengers went on the two regular services there were fewer people waiting than I expected and we were all able to get on the free bus with ease. This takes passenger to one end of the Tynemouth High street which was full of families and couples taking advantage of the fine weather and free entertainment. There was a good crowd about with the various restaurants, bars and quick food outlets packed or with queues forming outside. Opposite the bus stop is a former church now described as “The Land of Green Ginger” and with a sub title “please enter all is not what is seems,” as a means of attraction interest in a centre which now specialises in stalls selling goods associated with health and healing and where the inside cafe also had an outside stall which was doing good business.

I had difficulty in making my way past one attraction where a contortionist Emma Kerger Bendy Em a former national Gymnast from Sydney Australia and drawn a crowd which spread across the road and pavements. The fine weather had also brought a good crowd to the grass area before the Jazz stage where the Chicago Stompers were already performing. I was able to find a space on the far side against railing to avoid my seat obscuring the view of anyone sitting on the grass. There were people standing two deep alongside the railings and around tithe benches on the main roadside.

I had seen the Stompers perform last year. They describe themselves as the Youngest Hot Jazz Orchestra in Italy. I would suggest that goes for England and most of Europe and the at least even if the musicians and singer appeared to be in their twenties with several in their early twenties. The group is based in Milano and this year performed at the Keswick Jazz festival as well as the Whitley Bay. The band are excellent musicians but also concentrate on presentation led by the vocalist Elena Pagnauzzi who introduces each song. She has a delightful personality and looks gorgeous, and has a good command of English. She only sang one number in Italian out of respect for a national musician who has recently died.

The musicians are Tiziano Codoro Cornet, Paolo Colombo Clarinet, Soprano Sax and vocals; Veronica Santagostino Baldi Tenor sax Clarinet Ukulele and Vocals; Gorigio Gallina Violin and Trombone; Mauro Porro Piano Reeds Salto C melody tenor soprano sax clarinet Cornet and also contributes vocal, Arrangements and transcriptions; Dario Lavizzari Banjo, Resophonic Guitar, Ukulele, Washboard, Piano and Vocals; Paulo Vanzulli Tuba, Drums, Vocals. Alexandro Rossi drums Percussion and Celesta. I mention the range of instruments to emphasise the versatility of the group. Added to this is their enthusiasm and the obvious enjoyment they have at playing. This was communicated to the very mixed audience. Standing the other side of railings was group of two couples one of whom was so impressed that he talked of getting information to hire the group for a beer festivals with which he is associated, I suspect he did not realise that they able to come to Britain and perform because of substantial subsidy from the Arts Council and other sponsors of the Jazz Festivals.

They performed many of their numbers on the latest 18 tune disk: It’s Tight Like That Oh Lady be Good, West End Blues, Don’t be Like That, Black Bottom. This is the second release with the first 12 numbers and from which they played, at least while I was there, having missed the opening numbers, On the Sunny Side of the Street, I’ll be a friend with pleasure, That’s my weakness now, and Borneo. Although each tune was named and introduced I failed to bring a notebook and pen with me.

I had been prepared to stay on but such was the enjoyment of the two hour performance that I new the subsequent local bands from Newcastle and Gateshead would be a disappointment. Despite the crowds this was only live music entertainment playing on the Saturday and free as Tynemouth priory grounds were closed for preparations for the evening concert by Scrip. This is a pay event and was sold out. On Sunday in addition to three more two hour performances on the Jazz stage (from Canada Switzerland and France) there would musical entertainment from the main stage with six bands or groups performing for an hour from Noon until six. Acts include a five piece soul band with international musicians, Zanf a Londoner of Scottish and Iranian Jewish Scottish, Teddy Thompson son of folk rock Richard and Linda, 90’s group Dodgy, a Newcastle band The Little Comets, and Hijak Oscar, of whom I know nothing. The cost of the visit was £1 in total for the half price ferry crossings.

On the return I took a bus to North Tyneside, to Wilkinson’s who had five of the black display albums which I bought plus one blue. Passing through the market I also bought two pounds of cherries for £2. They looked good and later I tried a couple and they are OK.

On Thursday before going to the Sage, I discovered that Chris Barber was on Tour with what he describes as a Big band, celebrating his sixty years of playing. He is 79, born in 1930. They were playing at Durham on Friday evening when I planned to travel to Leeds watch Durham play Yorkshire in the opening day of their championship game. It was looking at their itinerary that I found something wondrous amazing. There was to be a special concert in London at the former Millennium Dome in the small concert area called Indigo which would include the Acker Bilk and his Jazzmen and Kenny Ball. I was not a great fan of Kenny Ball although I have an LP. But I was there at the start of the Acker Bilk rise to fame and it was his band who played When the Saints Go Marching In for ages as the boat return from the Riverboat Shuffle to Margate one Sunday in 1958 or 1959 and which had blown the minds of Howard McGhee and Sonny Terry. The three bands in a special concert celebrating their lives. One could expect that others still alive from that era who once played with them would participate in some way. I will comment on the Long Playing records after attending the concert. When I returned from the Sage concert I attempted to book a ticket online as the event occurs on the third evening of my stay in central London. I had great difficult as the system flagged that I was already registered which I remembered was from the concert commemorating the life of Princess Diana at the new Wembley stadium attended by her sons and their friends. However I could not remember or find my password so had to change this, was given a temporary password but then this failed to work. Fortunately I found that they operated a 24 booking line and although it was after one am I spoke with an operative and got a seat on the ground floor of the hall about ten rows back which saves craning the neck and in the centre of the auditorium. Someone up there likes me despite all my shortcomings.

I had changed my mind several times during thee day whether to use public transport, or take the car all or part way to the Sage. I took the car arriving about an hour before the performance commenced, taking two rolls and half a small sweet melon for an evening meal together with a flask of coffee which I eat and drank in the car. At East I started to drink the coffee. The flask has an insert in cap which can be used to store milk or so I thought but it was empty and appeared to have drained into the flask. This had not been my intention as usually I make two separate cups with milk, put one in full and the other half, drinking then remainder . This time I poured in the black coffee before adding milk so resorted to the using the cap for the milk. The result was awful so I poured away the cup after taking a few sips.

This time I managed to pre pay the car parking charge of £3 for the evening in the correct way, remembering the problem that had arisen when last year I went to see the folk singer Judy Collins. At one point the entrance barrier stopped working and a column of cars built up with anxious mothers and their children, most daughters, made their way to the lifts down to the auditorium entrance level. There was a special concert involving young musicians which commenced at seven and was the reason why the main concert hall was not available. However I thought the use of the second hall, which is almost in the round with its red lighting and decor was an ideal venue for the recreation. Most of the audience had arrived for the three days of the Jazz Festival from all parts of the UK and further afield. One lady I overheard had flown in from the United States such is the reputation which has grown for the event. Most of the audience were in their fifties and older as were the musicians with one notable exception.

The man playing the role of young Louis Bent Persson comes from Sweden and is regarded as the best living exponent of playing in the early style of Louis for the years 1923 to 1929. Also from Sweden was the Banjo player Jacob Ullberger and from the UK trombonist Paul Munnery, the extraordinary tall drummer Nick Ward and Pianist Martin Litton together with Phil Rutherford on brass base. The star of the group was the Clarinettist Matthias Seuffert from Germany. He had taken the role of Benny Goodman last year and is a brilliant musician who plays with passion as well as skill. He was also youngest and appeared to be the leader of the group on stage.

There was no programme and writing in a small note book the numbers to remember resulted in my hands being covered in ink. I can read my writing though and can record that they played Squeeze Me, Weatherbird, West End Blues, Once in a while, Savoy Blues, Where did you stay last night, Santa Clause Blue Texas Mam Blues, King Porter Stomp, Wild Man Blues, Potato Head Blues, Alligator Crawl, Hotter than that, Ory‘s Creole Trombone.

Most of these numbers are included on a three CD set I acquired for £10 or less and which include Mabel’s Dream which I had not heard before and some of his signature favourites from his later years When it‘s sleepy time down south, Rocking Chair, Hello Dolly. Mack the Knife and When the Saints go Marching in. This was an acquisition from recent times I have three 10inch Long Play records bought between 1955 and 1957 over 50 years ago. I would have liked to have bought albums but the £5 a week income with which I received in those days had to cover everything.

On record contains information on the group The Hot seven formed in 1927 with Kid Ory his former group leader on trombone, Johnny Dodds the brilliant clarinettist, Johnny St Cyr on banjo and guitar, Li his wife nee Hardin on Piano, Baby Dodds on drums, and Pete Briggs on tuba. The album includes Willie the Weeper, Twelfth Street Rag, Alligator Blues, Chicago Breakdown and Wild Man Blues. No information is provided on the Classics album has When the Saints, West End Blues, Dipper Mouth Blues. Mahogany Hall Stomp and When its Sleepy time Down South.

Jazzin with Armstrong has some information with Strutting with some Barbecue, played at the Sage concert and refers to going about town with a Hot woman on your arm is a Hot five recording as is Tight Like this. Potato Head and Melancholy are Hot Seven recordings while Basin Street Blues is with 1929 Orchestra

It has not been jazz all the way as earlier in the week there was showing of the splendid Bogart and Bacall movie To Have and to have not. In several respects this is a reprise of his role in Casablanca. He is a worldly hirer out of his boat for fishing trips in a French colony now under the control of the Vichy government and the Nazi’s, Bacall is his serious female interest, he plays the role of some one who never talks of love, nor does Bacall, who as Slim is a pick pocket drifting from island to island, but who gets a job as a singer in the hotel bar club where they are staying and where the Pianist/ Singer is Hoagy Carmichael, a name little known to day but was an international recording star in the 1940’s. In this film Boart has a sidekick drunk played by Walter Brennan. Bogart is indifferent to politics and declines the pressure from the Hotel owner known as Frenchy, to clear the growing bill by undertaking work smuggling in people who are part of the French resistance. When he Nazis arrive and start pushing him. Slim and the sidekick around Bogart takes sides against them and assists the underground. The trio do a runner together at the end of the film leaving the resistance to dispose of the remaining Nazi’s. In 1944 the film would have raised morale on both sides of the Atlantic and it remains enjoyable over sixty years later.

And now to the Fireworks. On the Saturday evening of the Mouth of the Tyne festival there is a prolonged display usually involving large figures and constructions in South Shields as a form of contemporary artwork. There is an event by the Gypsy Green Stadium at one end of the official promenade and which slowly progress along to the car park below the Hill on which I live. The event commences at 9.30 and should end with a firework display around 11 when it dark and cold. In the first year not knowing the time table I went to Gypsy Green but had to retire because I was not dressed for the late evening cold but got to see the fireworks from the hill seeing a succession of neighbours make their way to join those who parked their cars having travelled from other parts of the Borough and beyond. Last year I just went over for the fireworks and this year I had planned to attend the whole event in the evening, after first going to the supermarket for milk, rolls and pastries for the next three days. It was cold even with the jacket and coat and it started to rain, just spots but all inclination to spend over an hour in the night air vanished, especially as I felt tired. I considered going over to overlook around 10.30 but body told me otherwise. I live about 100 yards from the edge of the hill with perhaps another 100 yards or more from where the fireworks are set off. I was shaken by the sound of the fireworks commencing around 10.45/ More than gunfire this was rocket bomb and windows at the back of the house reverberated. At Seaburn the windows had this when during the annual air display at the end of July jet planes had zoomed away over the house, but this was not just louder but the effects stronger. I bet there are complaints. While the fireworks lasted some 15 minutes there were sounds which I assume came from the constructs and figures until approach 11.30 pm. I assume the timing is scheduled to coincide when the ending of the rock concert so that those attending can watch the display as a finale before going home or coming over to South Shields for the night clubs. Just as I was writing this on Sunday night there was a brief burst of fireworks, presumable those left over from last night if part of sequence had not fired. It was earlier around 10.30 although I would be surprised if anyone remained on the seat front as the official events end early evening. Well I never.

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