BEWICK THE RHYMER; musicians making the most of lockdown time
BEWICK THE RHYMER
By Norman Warwick
When I sat in recently on a conversation between Steve Bewick, jazz writer, musician, and recording artist John Ellis I was fascinated to hear them talking about the development of jazz and the role played in its mutual development with the beat poets and, later, rap artists and there are of course artists like George The Poet who have steered such fusions ion new directions.
Listening to what is not yet a final mix of Jewels In The Sand, there is a hint that Steve and Olivia Moore might even have a hand on the tiller as the sound they have created, or are creating, is somewhat unique, too.
The beats are lower, less prominent, than in typical rap or spoken word music, and the contribution from Olivia is melodic and perfectly appropriate. It somehow echoes the spoken references made by Steve to a cultural melting pot, and somewhat volatile atmosphere in Tel Aviv, and yet does so by an exciting movement of music that sounds authentically geo-specific despite her usual work being with Indian music and jazz.
Olivia Moore is One of the UK’s most innovative and creative violinists, Olivia is dedicated to fusing jazz and classical Indian music and she leads her own group, Unfurl.
Olivia (right) is an encouraging tutor. She teaches privately and leads workshops in Indian Classical Music. Olivia plays at private functions
After giving her first performance at the age of four, she spent her childhood and teen years mastering classical music before going on to explore the art of improvisation. I suspect the music we hear on Jewels In The Sand is an improvised piece rather than anything yet formally scored and that may be what allows it to work so well against the spoken word.
Olivia has played twice at Glastonbury festival with flamenco guitarist Nick Wilkinson as well as collaborating with Graham Clark, Seaming To, Stuart McCallum, OdBod Collective, Matthew Bourne, Giuliano Modarelli, Glenn Sharp, Suns of Arqa and Kirsty Almeida, an artist frequently mentioned here down the Sidetracks & Detours, and with a 2020 album release of her own.
However, it was always Olivia’s dream to compose music of her own. She has been the instigator and leader of a handful of groups over the years. Firstly Strung Out with Lamb’s bass player Jon Thorne.
She also successfully played with ‘The Owl Ensemble’, featuring Simply Red’s bass player Sylvan Richardson, and John Ellis, another artist frequently mentioned on our site, playing keys and Myke Wilson (Drums). The Owl Ensemble String Quartet appeared with Beautiful South’s Paul Heaton for his show “The 8th” at the Barbican Centre (London) and Lowry (Manchester).
Olivia´s on-going ´regular´ band, Unfurl, is an innovative quintet who collaborates, drawing from their diverse influences of Jazz, Indian and Arabic rhythms.
They have appeared at Manchester, Marsden, Marlborough and Brecon Jazz Festivals as well as at venues such as the Bridgewater Hall Foyer and the Birmingham Symphony Hall Foyer.
Olivia collaborated with Jason Singh, Sharma Rahman and Shirley Smart at Manchester Jazz Festival in 2016.
Olivia has always been interested in combining with other art forms, so it should, perhaps, not be a surprise to see this collaboration with Steve Bewick. What is surprising, but speaks well of her generosity of spirit, is that an artist of her status should so willingly lend a hand to such a new artist as Steve, as he begins his own professional exploration of the fusion of two, or three, art forms.
The two have known each other in a professional capacity for some while in their respective roles of radio broadcaster and interviewer and of recording artist, live musician and interviewee.
Olivia has, however, previously undertaken work on multi media projects.
In 2006 she composed the soundtrack to a documentary film for Religious Education in schools, ‘Buddhist Pilgrimage: An Indian Spiritual Journey’ for The Clear Vision Trust.
Another particular highlight of her career was working with LaMachine, in 2008, when she was commissioned by Liverpool European Capital of Culture, to collaborate on a project subsequently described by The Observer as, ‘the biggest, most spectacular piece of street theatre ever seen in the UK’. She also completed Mask, a multi-media collaboration at The Contact Theatre, as part of Manchester Jazz Festival in 2009 with moving-image artist Mark Cameron Minard and her band Unfurl.
As we mentioned at the top of the article, the beats and programming for the recording of Jewels In The Sand has been addressed by Rupert Christie an award winning producer / arranger / songwriter working across albums, film and live performance. He has worked with artists ranging from U2, Greenday, Coldplay, Lou Reed, Echo & The Bunnymen and Rebecca Ferguson as well films from Mamma Mia to the Joy Division film, Control.
He produced and mixed albums for Bellowhead, (the national treasures of the folk scene) Ian McCulloch, Only Men Aloud (Classical Brit Album Of The Year), Port Isaac Fisherman’s Friends and Cliff Richard’s latest album. He recently arranged strings and brass for Lianne La Havas, Sheridan Smith and many others. He also has been writing and producing various artist singles across a variety of genres.
He has also composed the score and a number of songs for the recent released Port Isaac Fisherman’s Friends feature film.
Bewick The Rhymer, then, is working with the best as he begins to join the links between his various other artistic interests and talents, and his life-long love of jazz and broadcasting.
Our office also received his thoughts on visual arts and new formats he is learning in that field. He and his arts mentor Buli Corby were due to have jointly exhibited selections of their work this summer at The Coach House Gallery in Rochdale but, of course, the Coronavirus pandemic put paid to that. They have been promised a space in the Spring of 2021, however, if we are covid free by then.
Steve has developed his innate skills with a sketching pencil and has paintings, too, scheduled to be included the exhibition, whenever it eventually takes place.
The enforced lockdown seems generally to have afforded artists the opportunity to re-develop their interests and skill-sets and it will be interesting to see what new ´roads less travelled´ such artists might now feel confident enough to follow.
Steve recently sent me the final mix with some relevant notes, which I reproduce here below.
Three things came together in my journey with friends to Israel; a desire to record my excursion, share my love of the American Beat poets and also my love of jazz.
I arrived with friends in Tel Aviv in early February 2020. This was a regular visit for my friend and art mentor Buli Corby who is from that country. Buli is often accompanied by Peter, her husband, and a good friend to me. I was promised exceptional sights, sounds and smells. I was not disappointed. On visiting friends of Buli’s I mentioned my interest in Jazz and innocently mentioned of my interests in Jazz and inquired as to where the best place was to see some local jazz. I was recommended the (House of Pillars) Beit Haamudim.
My itinerary was a mixture of plans for us all to visit parts of Israel such as Jerusalem, as well some trips with Peter to the North of the country and a few of my own trips to the Dead Sea and Masada.
I faithfully kept a diary of my journeys each night before falling asleep, exhausted. My readings of the American beat poets gave me the idea and structure for translating my diary entries in a rhythmic form of beat poetry. It was not long before the diary was dispensed with and I would fall asleep whilst writing or straight after my poetic recordings. By the end of my visit I had created something I had not expected, a fifteen page beat poem recording my visit to the Holy Land. It was to be my personal record of that visit.
The poem is named, An Englishman in Israel, and is in eleven parts over seventeen pages. It tells the story of my flight and arrival, my excursions to the cafes, markets and a football match.
“In the markets, such colour.
Spices fruit and clothes all shouting from stalls
Sky bright with Mediterranean hue
as sea waves rise,
racing each other to shore,
driven by eastern winds
noisy as an impatient advocate.”
Here I reflect on the many colours, smells and sounds within a close proximity to one another whilst relaxing with my fellow travellers in a beach café.
Football and its supporters the world over haves much in common in this ever shrinking world. The chants, the jibes and the disappointments.
“Hapoel Tel Avi FC , here we go!
Drums beating, beating, beating while scarfs circle, on arms raised in praise of stars
fingers jabbed the air, menacingly rival supporters render in kind.
One nil to the H Haifa
We lower our heads in kind, with the Hapoel Tel Aviv
We’re $£1¥ and we know we are!”
Visits to Abu Gosh, Halfa, and the Beit HaAmudim Jazz Club.
It’s already busy.
The girl at the door whispers, “30 Sheckles each please.”
Music swings, played by a trio for standards.
Pictures of jazz musicians adorn the walls.
Menu is hot,
JAZZ is cool,
Beer is cold.
“I’m in heaven, I’m in heaven, I’m in heaven
and so much in love with you!”
A trip to Jerusalem is a must for any visitor. It is even better with your friends as guides. Tensions are high in this jewel of a city at the best of times. This day was to be no different,
“Calls to prayers, calling a different faithful
Loud conversations from visitors,
informing of the best buy at market stalls and shops
Interjections of market traders
seeking to draw upon the tourists shekels. Reality intervenes, rumours spread,
a bombing in the Muslim sector!?
In Jaffa Gate Jewish women
dance and chant,
Get used to it!
gates are closed, no one leaves, no one arrives
Panic in the streets of Jerusalem
Tensions rise arguments explode!”
I had a special day to myself to take in some of the desert cities and their martyrs’ tales, the Dead Sea. On reaching the Dead Sea I see that I am not the only visitor wanting to bathe in its glory. But alas, not this time.
“A storm, narrowly avoided as rains reduce to drizzle and the air warms nicely to 20 degrees
My hope’s to cover myself in mud,
to bathe in the beauty of the Dead Sea
were again thwarted, this time by a residual sprawl,
No bathing allowed.
But in I sneaked, up to my ankles no less, ah!
Following a few redrafts with help along the way, I felt brave enough to show it to friends. One such friend, Olivia Moore, violinist, composer and teacher suggested she compose a piece of music to reflect and complement my poem. I was quick to accept and duly commissioned her to write it. Pretty soon the poem had a violin score, beats and a first mix. I was to add a reading of the poem. I choose to present the first part of the poem, My Jewels In The Sand. This part described my flight to Tel Aviv and the excitement and anxiety following my first sighting of Israel from the air and my decent into Tel Aviv.
My memories of that visit are now set in words and music for you to appreciate. As a poem I hope you find it to be a piece of literature that evokes my concentrated imaginative awareness of my experience through language chosen and arranged for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.
A full print of, “An Englishman in Israel” can be found at;
The audio version of,“My Jewels in the Sand” in collaboration with Olivia Moore can be found at;
Now, with newly honed talents, Steve could end up designing his own cd cover artwork, should Jewels In The Sand be released by such traditional methods.
Should it all be digital, or whatever the term is, Steve has enough awareness of, and experience in, the kind of production techniques required to produce an appropriate slideshow or even video for his work.
I saw some of his new artwork in a video conference call recently and even it that medium it looked excellent and interesting. It would appear to a methodology that could well lend itself to cd cover artwork.
At six foot, six inches Steve could never become another Teenie Tempah but at that size would make a pretty commanding rap artist on stage, that is for certain,
He is, though, thought of by many of us as the quiet man of jazz, so I guess he´ll just carry on doing what he does, following his own way, and seeing what he can create as he walks the highways and byways along the art trails. For, now, though he seems to be exploring new territories and he´s walking in pretty good company.
At Sidetracks & Detours we look forward to monitoring Steve´s progress. Seeing a work through from conception to inception is never an easy or straightforward process, and not every process even produces an outcome. Steve seems much focussed on this, and rightly so, I think, as even the recording includes original and innovative music that is empathetic to the poetry it underpins. These lyrics, in their vocabulary and delivery, capture the wonderment of the tourist/explorer and it is an art form that reflects a zeitgeist of fusion, collaboration and experimentation that perhaps reflects a renewed urgency amongst artists to create the new, as covid19 forces us to keep the old (art and people alike) under lockdown.
Fortunately for Steve, as we return to normality, he will have a long back-story about a multi-disciplinary arts project and a great end product with multi-media potential. Now I come to think about it, I realise there might be a great radio series here: a sort of travelogue documentary. I must ring him and tell him. I know he´s a radio presenter with his own show but I bet he has never thought of that.
Leave a ReplyWant to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!