Day three of the inaugural Sidetracks And Detours Bluegrass Music in text Festival 2022 THE SOUNDS OF BLUEGRASS HISTORY + plus + important jazz UK news
THE SOUNDS OF BLUEGRASS HISTORY
Norman Warwick reads the recommendation of Paste on-line magazine writer Geoffrey Himes
Live For Live Music & Bluegrass Today
Many of the generation who dug the foundations of Bluegrass music, and thereby planted its historical roots, are gone now, and although I had of course I realised that, I was nevertheless somewhat surprised to learn that Del McCoury (left), at the age of eighty three, is now perhaps the closest to those pioneers. and is maybe the current linking bridge.
It is perhaps also because I recall Del once recording with Steve Earle and that I even caught a gig on a UK tour that they took together. It wason May 21, 1999, Steve Earle accompanied by The Del McCoury Band performed at the Butterworth Hall, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, England, in a UK tour to promote their recently released collaboration, The Mountain (E-Squared / Artemis 1064-2). There is no excuse for the vaguery of memory, though, when there are invariably articles to fin on line that remind us of what we might have almost forgotten.
So, I tapped a few keys to ensure I could offer corroboration of the above fact and found Richard Thompson, writing on the site Bluegrass Today, had fond memories of the very gig.
He confirmed that the personnel involved were Steve Earle (guitar) (right), Del McCoury (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Robbie McCoury (banjo), Jason Carter (fiddle) and Mike Bub (bass).
The set list for the concert was as follows …
Texas Eagle / Yours Forever Blue / My Old Friend the Blues / The Graveyard Shift / Outlaw’s Honeymoon / Dixieland / Connemara Breakdown / Harlan Man / The Mountain / I Still Carry You Around / More Than I Can Do * / Now She’s Gone * / Goodbye * / Taneytown * / Halo ‘Round the Moon * / Another Town * / South Nashville Blues * / I Ain’t Ever Satisfied * / Mystery Train Part II / Leroy’s Dustbowl Blues / Hometown Blues / Long, Lonesome Highway Blues / I’m Looking Through You / Ben McCulloch / Tom Ames’ Prayer / Carrie Brown / Copperhead Road
Johnny Come Lately / Hillbilly Highway / Down the Road
The asterisks represents the songs performed solo by Steve Earle.
Award-winning bass player with the Del McCoury Band at the time, Mike Bub (left), reflects ….
´I don’t remember a thing about that specific show, unfortunately. I probably have a recording of it in my tapes somewhere. We basically did the same show every night. We were based at the Sheraton Hotel in Kensington, and would go up to a different town by bus and play a show every day and return to the hotel each night. At the same time, the Mavericks were playing a week long run of sold out shows at the Royal Albert Hall, and all of their band and crew were staying at the same hotel. We would gather in the pub every night and have a few drinks. We did the Jools Holland Show with them.
That tour was really fantastic for a young musician, like myself, who had pretty much never toured at that level before. We had a double decker tour bus and a full-time traveling caterer making dinner for us every night. Unfortunately, it was during this time that Del decided to end his touring partnership with Steve… probably more like the managers deciding. It pretty much came to an end when we returned to the states.
It was back to the bluegrass circuit for us but eventually, the impact of touring with Steve finally caught up with us and it helped take Del and band to a whole new audience and level of venues and events. In spite of upper level managerial conflicts, I loved touring with Steve. He worked very hard to get his bluegrass chops up to speed, and he wrote some fantastic songs for the album.
Conversely, we had never been around or involved with an activist before. Someone who used the stage to espouse a political ideology and that was something we had to adjust to. But, it was just that bit of tension and message that made the whole thing more eventful. It really was a collision of two very different worlds, but the outcome was beneficial to both camps´.
While The Del McCoury Band did collaborate with him for a track, I Still Carry You Around, on an earlier Steve Earle CD, El Corazón, a full album and tour was a somewhat incongruous combination, and many reviewers spoke of the differences, as did Tim Perry writing for Country Music International magazine.
At the same time, it has been said that the link-up was beneficial to both parties. The Mountain was generally well received being registered as a top-20 hit on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart.
As far as the show in England’s West Midlands is concerned, a Steve Earle fan left as a big Del McCoury Band enthusiast !.
McCoury himself was not overwhelmed in any way, having of course played with many musical peers including many from the bluegrass genre.
However, ´I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs,´ Del McCoury says of his early shows with Bill Monroe. This was back in 1963, when McCoury was a 24-year-old kid, tall and skinny with hair that was still dark-brown. He’d recently been hired as lead singer and guitarist for Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, and was thrown into the fray without so much as a rehearsal.eh
´I was young and I wondered if I could keep up with him, but it proved to be no problem. He could play that ‘Rawhide’ as fast as he wanted to, and I could keep up with him. I could sing great with him; we could have switched parts. That gave me confidence that I could work at this level. I knew not everyone would like my kind of music, but I knew a lot of them would´.
McCoury’s not nervous anymore. He stayed with Monroe for only a year, but that experience launched one of the most important careers in bluegrass history. Fans are forever bowing before the Mount Rushmore of this music—Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers—and justly so. But that emphasis on the Founding Fathers can blind one to the giants in our own time, legends that we can still go out and see in person. Del McCoury, now 83, is such a grandmaster.
With the pandemic diminishing (though far from vanished), the Del McCoury Band went back on the road with a new album, Almost Proud (right) . Appearances in March at Florida’s Spring Bluegrass Festival and in April at Texas’s Old Settler’s Music Festival will warm the quintet up for their own extravaganza, Delfest, Memorial Day weekend in Cumberland, Maryland.
McCoury exemplifies the same qualities as Monroe: a hard, driving rhythm, a savvy mix of Celtic fiddle tunes and ballads and West African blues, and an unlikely marriage between instrumental innovations and old-fashioned storytelling. That storytelling doesn’t flinch in the face of hard times. Death, poverty, divorce and alcoholism are acknowledged in the words and overcome in the onrush of the instruments. The new album boasts a bunch of songs about men drinking to get over lost love.
´Tough times make good songs´, McCoury says; ´it’s always been that way. For some reason, people who are having tough time are consoled by hearing someone else singing about it. I’ve had people come up to me, men especially, and talk about a song about a guy who’s on the bottle because his wife has left him. They say they play that song over and over again, and there’ll be tears in their eyes. People have problems, and they want to hear those problems in a song because music soothes them´.
But McCoury has allowed Monroe’s music to keep evolving. The younger man insisted on adding new songs to the repertoire and new ideas to the arrangements. He devoted one album to the singing and songwriting of Steve Earle (1999’s The Mountain) and another to collaborations with New Orleans’ Preservation Hall Jazz Band (left) on (2011’s American Legacies). He turned some of Woody Guthrie’s unfinished lyrics into an album of new songs (2016’s Del and Woody), and joined Merle Haggard and others to lament the plight of working folks (2008’s Moneyland).
He won the most prestigious prize in modern bluegrass, the International Bluegrass Music Association Award’s for Entertainer of the Year, a record-setting nine times between 1994 and 2004. Perhaps his biggest achievement, though, has been demonstrating the possibility and the value of keeping a bluegrass band together over many years, even decades.
His current quintet has been stable for 30 years, with the only change being Alan Bartram replacing Mike Bub on bass 17 years ago. McCoury’s mandolin-playing son Ronnie joined in 1981, his banjo-playing son Rob in 1987 and fiddler Jason Carter in 1992, the year the band moved to Nashville.
´The last 30 years have been pretty solid´, says Ronnie, co-producer with Del on Almost Proud. ´All of us enjoy playing music with my dad. No one’s ever griped or asked for more pay. He has a way keeping everyone engaged. It’s easy to get bored playing the same songs every night, like a lot of bands do, but my dad keeps it interesting by mixing it up every night´.
Such continuity is a rarity in bluegrass, where the usual model is for an older musician to use young-and-cheap players until the latter get restless and leave for other opportunities, maybe to form their own bands, only to be replaced by a new set of youngsters. Monroe himself had some 500 musicians in his group over the course of his long career. Many of them, like McCoury himself, became famed bandleaders themselves.
But McCoury keeps his band-mates around by making enough money to pay them well and by encouraging them to pursue their own side projects. The now-10-years-old Traveling McCourys—featuring the McCoury sons, Bartram, Carter and guitarist Cody Kilby—are an acoustic string band, but their volume is louder and their solos longer than in Del’s group. They’ve recorded an album with Keller Williams, toured with the Sacred Steel combo the Lee Boys and created a bluegrass tribute to the Grateful Dead.
“We couldn’t just be the Del-less McCoury Band´, Ronnie points out. ´My dad was into Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs, and so was I. But I’m also interested in David Grisman and Sam Bush. This group allows me to play like that, which is so much fun. And it gives us all a chance to sing more leads.
And my dad’s very supportive of that. He may be a master at traditional bluegrass, but he’s able to step outside that and enjoy things he doesn’t play himself. When we were growing up, we’d be playing the Allman Brothers, and he’d say, ‘That’s good music.’ He’d always say, ‘There’s only two kinds of music: good music and bad music´.
All these factors contribute to the unusual stability of the Del McCoury Band, and that explains the group’s equally unusual rapport and cohesiveness. They’ve even developed an entertaining stage choreography that has them all in dark suits gathered around a single microphone with Del’s silver hair a head above everyone else. Different individuals lean forward or lean back as the instrumentalists switch from accompaniment to virtuoso solos and back again. The way the band’s five singers weave harmonies, with all five players using the same rhythmic language, is unmatched in bluegrass history.
´Some musicians play a little behind the beat´, Del explains. ´They may do it by choice or they may not know they’re doing it, but I can’t sing with those musicians. I just can’t. For me to sing, I’ve got to have four other guys who play right smash on top of the beat. It doesn’t matter if the song is slow or fast, as long as they’re right on top of it. As soon as it starts to drag, I can’t live with it´.
´For what we do´, adds Ronnie, ´the music centers on the rhythm of the guitar. My dad’ll point to Lester Flatt, Jimmy Martin and Tony Rice as examples of guitarists whose rhythm led their bands. There’s a lot of dynamics that go with that. When Dad stops singing, the guitar comes back in even stronger. It’s an on-top-of-the-beat rhythm. That’s how we play and that’s what he taught us´.
´Years ago´, Del continues, ´I had to train musicians to play in time, but now I’ve got a band that knows what to do without me saying anything. I can play with a musician for just three or four bars, and I can tell if they’ve got that same drive, that same feel. If the listeners can feel that beat, if they can feel it deep down inside, you’ll get their interest. In that sense, there’s not m´..”
It helps that unlike many musicians, the members of the Del McCoury Band didn’t learn their instruments by holing up in their bedrooms for months at a time. From an early age, they were playing as part of a professional ensemble, and that made all the difference.
´It’s bad for a kid to learn by themselves´, Del argues. ´I’ve had musicians who learned at home, but their timing wasn’t right; they’d drag or rush a bit. But if musicians get in a band at an early age, they’re right on time, because it’s like having a metronome right on top of you. Ronnie and Rob learned a lot by example. What I had to work with them on was melodies. They might be missing a note here or there, and I’d show them. I was busy; I had a day job in those days, but I’d guide them the best I could, and they learned fast´.
After his year with Monroe, Del moved to California to join the Golden State Boys, who had a regular TV gig. But his wife Jean was homesick, and the newlyweds moved back to York County, Pennsylvania. Del worked in his father-in-law’s sawmill and then for a logging company, leading Del McCoury & The Dixie Pals at weekend gigs in south-central Pennsylvania and nearby Baltimore City.
´I come from a working family´, he says. ´We grew up on a farm, and I can appreciate what people go through. The war was over in ’45 when I was six, and my dad bought a farm in ’46. We had nine cows we milked by hand. We raised barley, rye and corn. I got a job driving a dump truck. I know what hard work is´.
In the increasingly conservative world of contemporary bluegrass, Del is unafraid of championing the rights of working folks. This was most obvious in his albums of songs from Earle and Guthrie, and his thematic album Moneyland, but even his new album has a couple of songs with that theme.
On the bouncy, uptempo Working Man’s Wage, he sings of a millworker who used to “pull forty hours for a hundred-dollar bill. I’ve watched him struggle and I’ve watched him age, raising a family on a working man’s wage.” On the storytelling song, Sid, featuring a droning fiddle and prickly banjo, Del sings of the real-life figure Sid Hatfield, a police chief who protected the coal miners in Matewan, West Virginia, from the private detectives hired by the mine owners.
The Del McCoury Band played the Grand Ole Opry on March 9, 2020, and a day later the world ground to a halt under the threat of a new virus. With all his gigs cancelled and nothing else to do, Del pulled out the box of CDs that bands and songwriters had handed him over the years. He’d always been too busy to listen to them, but now he did just that. From the hundreds of discs, he picked out 26 songs and tried to learn them in keys that felt comfortable. He put down his versions on audio cassettes and when he was happy with the results, he turned them over to the band.
´For us´, Ronnie says, ´the worst thing about the pandemic was that my dad in his golden years couldn’t do what he loves most: go out and perform. So to get him in the studio was a triumph. I co-produced with my dad, and a lot of that is just me getting the songs for him to listen to and doing the instrumental arrangements. But I never tell him what songs to record; he always makes that decision. And he decides if a song should be a solo vocal, a duet vocal or a lead with backing. If he says, ‘This would be a good duet all the way through,’ I say, ‘I guess I better learn it right quick´.
On songs such as Kris Kristofferson’s Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, J.D. Hutchison’s My Little Darlin and Del’s own Running Wild, the vocal harmonies between father and son are so tight and sympathetic that they remind one of such legendary brother-duet acts as the Blue Sky Boys, the Monroe Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, the Louvin Brothers and the Everly Brothers. On Mike O’Reilly’s Honky Tonk Nights, the vocals are more of a traditional duet, with Del and Vince Gill trading verses and joining voices on the chorus.
Two tracks on Almost Proud feature honky-tonk piano by Josh Shilling that brings out the classic-country side of Del’s music. A question about those songs prompts a surprising story from Del about the time he opened a handful of shows for Jerry Lee Lewis in 1968-69. The Dixie Pals were warming up at a high school in Hereford, Maryland, when Lewis came into the classroom turned into a dressing room, sat down without a word and listened to the rehearsal.
When the promoter came in to tell Del it was time to get onstage, Lewis said, “Keep playing; I’ll pay you whatever you’re working for. Stay and sing for me´´ . Del demurred and said he really had to fulfill his obligation. That same night someone mentioned to Lewis that with his swept-back brown hair, Del looked a lot like Waylon Jennings at that time. ´I don’t give a damn what he looks like´, Lewis snapped. ´That boy can sing´.
“When I graduated from high school in ’56´´, Del remembers, “Elvis and Jerry Lee were it. But I had already heard Earl Scruggs and that three-finger roll, so I was already committed and stamped for life. After I got older, it dawned me what a great musician and singer Jerry Lee Lewis was. He could have been one of the best bluegrass musicians there ever was. He could sing anything, and he could play guitar, too´ .
Lewis never forgot Del, and when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame mounted a concert tribute to Lewis in 2007, he asked for Del to be part of it. When he took the stage, Del saw Lewis sitting right before him in the front row and couldn’t help but admit that he had added another verse to What Made Milwaukee Famous when he recorded Lewis’ hit. The Killer didn’t mind. During the grand-finale encore, he leaned over to Del and whispered, ´I liked your set.´
“When I started out, I was a bluegrass nut´, Del says, “but late in life, I saw that music is all related somehow. Bill Monroe used to go down to New Orleans and listen to those horns in the jazz bands. Bluegrass was born in Bill’s head, but he drew from all kinds of people. He told me once, ‘I was influenced by a lot of musicians, and people don’t even know it.’´
You could say the same about Del McCoury.
´The genre is experiencing a resurgence in today’s music scene´, is the kind of phrase I regularly see written about Bluegrass´. To someone who has been listening to the genre for decades, it is very gratifying to see bands like Greensky Bluegrass and Railroad Earth (shown right at Mountain Stage) continuing the time-honoured tradition of bluegrass music. Not to mention the role that the genre plays in the work of Phish, String Cheese, and more. From a small island like Lanzarote it can be difficult to remain abreast of all this energy, and were it not for on line sites , as the title of one of them suggests, Live For Live Music, the primary source for this piece, it might not even be possible at all.
Radio stations, recording companies and live performance cannot quite circulate as quickly as on line posts that travel around the world faster than the sound of picking and playing. My son in South Korea sends me posts he thinks I may have missed, and I share those posts with readers of Sidetracks And Detours around the world via South Korea, Canada, USA, Spain, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand and the UK in this not for profit blog intended to not only promote the arts but to direct our readers to commercial and enthusiast sites that carry deeper information.
Bluegrass is one of the most beloved American musical art forms, taking root as settlers began to spread into the Carolinas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. The pioneers wrote simple songs about daily life, but what started as mountain country music developed into an intricate art. With complex melodies played on mostly-acoustic instruments, the music is intoxicating. Check out these ten essential songs that typify the history of this essentially American genre.
Musicians other that Del McCoury have, of course gifted seminal tracks that signpost the history of Bluegrass music and one such track is uncle pen by Bill Monroe.
Legendary performer Bill Monroe is often nicknamed the father of Bluegrass Music. Bluegrass came into its own in 1939, when Monroe parted ways with his brother to form Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Monroe, a Kentucky native, named his backing band by the state’s nickname, The Bluegrass State. Monroe created a distinct sound, distinguishing bluegrass from country in a way that still influences Bluegrass artists today.
Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys mixed guitar, bass, mandolin, and banjo, and the resulting sound still thrives today. Monroe himself was an expert singer, mandolin player, and song writer, penning dozens of hits including the enduring classic, “Uncle Pen.”
There seem to be a million versions of Man Of Constant Sorrow, but none more perfectly melancholy, surely than that by The Stanley Brothers.
The Stanley Brothers were the first of many to follow in the footsteps of Bill Monroe. Started in the late 40s and into the 50s, with brothers Ralph on banjo and Carter on guitar, the duo developed a unique sound with strong emotions with deceptively simple lyrics. The song Man Of Constant Sorrow (their title chosen, by the way when the by now Dr. Ralph Stanley published his autobiography written with Eddie Dean), is perhaps best known from the soundtrack of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but the song is deeply rooted in bluegrass tradition. According to Ralph Stanley, the tune was already hundreds of years old when he was a child, and both he and his father added some words to complete their interpretation of the classic. Listen:
Foggy Mountain Breakdown, done the Flatt and Scruggs way, was a pretty ubiquitous instrumental jam at half time or raffle breaks in the folk clubs of North West England, back in my day. Lester Flatt, who had been the guitarist for Bill Monroe’s band, broke away and formed the Foggy Mountain Boys with the banjoist Earl Scruggs. By the 50’s and 60’s, Flatt & Scruggs, with a rotating cast of musicians, easily became some of the most notable bluegrass musicians in America. Scruggs was one of the finest banjo pickers to have ever played, and Flatts’ smooth vocal and great guitar playing elevated the pair to greatness.
While they are noted for their TV show theme songs, like The Ballad of Jed Clampett (The Beverly Hillbillies (right) and Petticoat Junction, a more apt example of their incredible acumen is Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Listen to those two flying:
Master mandolin player Ricky Skaggs is no doubt one of the finest mandolin players to have ever graced the music scene, and is of a slighty younger generation than those pionneriung musicians of the forties and fifties. Active since the 1960’s, Skaggs’ dedication to promoting bluegrass music is unparalleled. His cover of Bill Monroe’s classic “Can’t You Hear Me Calling” exemplifies the genre: great harmonies and tight musicianship.
One of the most famous bluegrass songs ever, “Devil Went Down To Georgia,” skyrocketed the career of singer/guitarist Charlie Daniels (left) in 1979. However, Daniels had been writing, performing, and producing since the early 1950’s. Before “Devil” was even created, Daniels played bass on three Bob Dylan albums, wrote a song that was later recorded by Elvis Presley, and played fiddle with Hank Williams Jr. From that standpoint, it seems his Grammy award for “Devil” was inevitable.
As Guy Clark never stopped telling us, he had heard Doc Watson play The Columbus Stockade Blues, Countrified Bluegrass performer Doc Watson, winner of eight Grammy awards, was born in North Carolina in 1923 and came into prominence in the 50’s and 60’s. Blinded by an eye infection when he was an infant, Watson was a wonderful storyteller with a smooth tenor voice. His song, Stagger Lee is considered one of the great American folk songs.
Mandolinist Sam Bush is often considered the founder of “New Grass,” a genre that blends bluegrass traditions with progressive elements of rock and jazz music. The term “New Grass” actually comes from Bush’s former band, The New Grass Revival, which included luminaries like Bela Fleck, Ebo Walker, and many more. The band was active from 1971-1989, and has since influenced countless groups, including String Cheese, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, Cabinet, and more. Sam Bush is still active, performing worldwide, as is Bela Fleck.
Ella Fitzgerald´s has always been my favourite version of Every Time We Say Goodbye, but, by God, Steph Bennett, lead singer for a while with UK folk band Lendanear in the seventies and eighties, delivered a hell of a rendition and recorded it on her debut albumn Introducing Miss Stephanie Bennett. Over the past 20 years, Alison Krauss’ sweet soprano voice continues to captivate many. An exquisite fiddle player, it’s no wonder that Robert Plantapproached her with an interest to record a collaborative album. Her catalog speaks for itself; she is one of the greatest Bluegrass performers in the business today. Listen to her beautiful song, Every Time You Say Goodbye.
Grateful Dead icon Jerry Garcia very influenced by folk/bluegrass music, adding an eclectic part to the band’s mish-mosh of stylistic inputs. Only later did Garcia go back to his roots, teaming up with mandolinist David Grisman for several Bluegrass albums in the 1990s. Grisman’s roots are not typical of bluegrass artists, growing up in a Jewish household in Hackensack, NJ. Grisman and Garcia met at a Bill Monroe concert (go figure!), and the rest was history.
The bluegrass version of the classic Friend Of The Devil is a haunting and wonderful interpretation from the Grateful Dead beloved classic.
Of course, countless bands continue to uphold this pastoral tradition today. Bluegrass music is booming in the 2010’s, with bluegrass-centric festivals popping up, and bluegrass bands performing at major US festivals (like the Infamous Stringdusters at Bonnaroo). So grab that fiddle and get dancing!
If, however, you do simply live for live music there is plenty going on at the moment in the world of jazz in the UK. Our friends at Jazz In Reading would like you to know that Art Themen has recently taken possession of the tenor saxophone that belonged to famous club founder and saxophonist Ronnie Scott.
As the Henley Standard has recently reported, ´ A JAZZ saxophonist from Henley has bought an instrument which belonged to the founder of a famous jazz club in London who was one of his heroes.
Art Themen, of Wharfe Lane, paid an undisclosed sum for Ronnie Scott’s saxophone as the previous owner wanted the instrument to be well-looked after.
The 82-year-old plays it only on special occasions but these will include a performance in Henley next month.
Scott founded his jazz club in Soho in 1959 and it is still one of the world’s most popular.
After his death in 1996, the saxophone was sold at auction to Roger Baycock, the proprietor of the Allegro music shop in Oxford, who sold it to Art in November.
It is believed the instrument used to belong to Hank Mobley, a black American saxophonist who died in 1986, before Scott owned it.
Art Theman (left) , who has been playing the saxophone since he was 16, first saw the instrument at the shop more than 20 years ago. He said: “Roger Baycock had a display cabinet with Ronnie Scott’s saxophone and Tubby Hayes’s saxophone in it. These two instruments were not for sale and that was the end of that story.
“But on my birthday at the end of November I got a call from a chap with a muffled voice and it was Roger from Allegro.
“I told him I remembered him and the saxophone and he told me he had sold Tubby Hayes’s saxophone to what he thought was a good home.
“But the buyer sold it for a profit so Roger said he wanted Ronnie Scott’s saxophone to go to a good home and he was calling round saxophone players.
“I asked him how many he had called and I was the first one so I said I would have it because Ronnie Scott is one of my heroes.
“I actually played with him once in the Sixties. I hardly spoke to him but he was very much a hero of mine so I simply had to do it.
“Roger said he wasn’t there to make a profit so he sold it to me at the going rate for an instrument of that age.” Art, who lives with his partner Monnik Vleugels, said the saxophone was in perfect condition and he played it for the first time later the same day.
The retired orthopaedic surgeon said: “I had a gig that evening in Birmingham which geographically was quite convenient as the shop in Oxford was on the way.
“Roger showed me the provenance. When Ronnie Scott died it was taken over by Phillips the auctioneers who put it up for sale and Roger bid for it.
“The provenance has links to Hank Mobley, who was one of the greatest saxophone players.
“Towards the end of his life he was in a bad place and came over to England and allegedly gave this saxophone to Ronnie.
“The provenance is that it’s definitely Ronnie Scott’s with a significant link to Hank Mobley, who really lived the jazz life.
“I’ve not lived the jazz life because of my previous job at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading — I had to keep my nose clean.” Art said he had been worried the instrument might have deteriorated while in an illuminated cabinet at the shop but far from it.
“I got it out and it was perfect,” he said. “I felt elated and that’s an understatement.”
The saxophonist will be performing with the saxophone at the Kenton Theatre in New Street on Sunday, March 27 at 3pm.
Meanwhile, the Manchester-born musician has won the jazz lifetime achievement award from the Worshipful Company of
Art said: “It was so unexpected as people who have received this award, including Ronnie Scott, are all established figures.
“I’m essentially a sideman so for a sideman to get this award is really quite uplifting and exemplifies the broad church of the Worshipful Company of Musicians — they don’t just award the centre stage people.”
Art was due to receive his award two weeks ago but had to postpone the presentation due to him catching covid-19 and having to self-isolate.
Nevertheless, Art will be playing this historic instrument at a concert with his trio this Sunday afternoon 27 March and on Sunday April 9th at Henley’s Kenton Theatre?
Surely a combination not to be missed, said Jazz In Reading when supplying us with the booking details below-
The Art Themen Trio – Thane and The Villeins
Art Themen, saxophones – including that one!
Pete Whittaker, organ
George Double, drums
Tickets: Adult £23, Concessions £21 | Information and tickets here
Venue: The Kenton Theatre | 19 New Street | Henley RG9 2BS
When : Sunday 9 April at 3pm
Jazz In Reading also inform us that Rob Luft (right) is an award-winning 26-year-old jazz guitarist from London whose virtuosity has been compared to that of six-string legends John McLaughlin, Al Di Meola & Paco De Lucia. Praised by The Times for performances with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra in 2015, who said he was destined “to achieve great things in the future”, Rob was subsequently the recipient of the 2016 Kenny Wheeler Prize from The Royal Academy of Music, and also of Second Prize in The 2016 Montreux Jazz Guitar Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival.
His debut album, ‘Riser’, was released on Edition Records in 2017 to widespread critical acclaim from the European jazz media. John Fordham wrote in The Guardian that it’s a “very sophisticated debut, but given Luft’s old-soul achievements since his early teens, we should have heard it coming”.
Following the success of his first album, Rob was nominated for a string of awards – ‘Breakthrough Act’ in the 2018 Jazz FM Awards, ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’ in the 2018 Parliamentary Jazz Awards and ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’ in the 2019 Jazz FM Awards.
“Rob Luft has delivered the most fully-realized and rewarding debut album from a guitarist-composer since Julian Lage’s 2009 outing, Sounding Point…” – Downbeat (USA)
“So young and so talented!” – Jamie Cullum, BBC Radio 2 (UK)
“…an extraordinary talent!” – Julian Joseph, BBC Radio 3 (UK)
Rob will be accompanied by Max Wright on drums and Linus Fenton on bass. The trio will be playing a mix of their favourite jazz standards, original compositions and arrangements.
Performance starts at 8pm, tickets £26 via the Kenton Theatre website or on the door.
There has been yet another missive gliding into my e mail in tray even as i was typing the above paragraph, and this too was from Jazz In Reading.
Jazz at Progress
… brought to you by Jazz In Reading
Friday 8 April 2022
‘Wakey Blakey’ with the
|Fri 8 Apr | Progress Theatre, Reading (details below) | 7:30pm ||
£18.00 (£16.00 concessions) plus maximum 5% booking fee
James Davison trumpet | Rory Ingham trombone | Mark Lockheart tenor sax| Will Barry piano | Adam King bass | Felix Ambach drums
‘Wakey Blakey’ is a new band led jointly by Rory Ingham and James Davison playing the music of ‘Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ but with the lesser-known sextet line up as exemplified by the stellar 1960s front-line of Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller and Wayne Shorter plus the powerhouse of pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Reggie Workman and Mr Blakey. This project demonstrates hard bop with a frighteningly fresh feel; the music is wildly high-energy and unbelievably swinging. Featuring some of finest talent on the British Jazz scene:
Of the two joint leaders, Rory Ingham, a first-class honours graduate of the Royal Academy of Music, is also an educator and composer. While still a student he was a runner-up in the 2016 Trombonist of the Year, winner of the 2017 British Jazz Awards Rising Star, and in 2018 winner of the British Trombone Society Awards. – “effortless virtuousity…” Jazzwise, – “richly melodic…” London Jazz News.
The other joint leader, James Davison, while still at the Royal Academy of Music was winner of both the Smith-Watkins Trumpet Award (2016) and the Musicians’ Company Young Jazz Musicians Award (2018). He graduated with an MA in Jazz Performance.
Apart from the three other younger members of the Sextet, the band features Mark Lockheart, one of the most distinctive and creative musicians on the current British music scene. Mark came to prominence in the mid 1980s with the influential and radical big band Loose Tubes, and much later in 2003 joined the equally influential band of Seb Rochford’s Polar Bear.
We’re looking forward to a brilliant evening of swinging, high energy jazz.
Good people at Ribble Valley Jazz Festival 2022 have sadly announced that tomorrow night´s scheduled gig by Colin Steele has been cancelled. The artist has just phoned to inform them that he, and his pianist, have just tested positive for covid and so have to isolate. The venue aty The grand Clitheroe will contact all ticket holders and arrange for reverse payments. Although we are sorry to be the bearer of bad news it is reassuring to known that RVJF have a great network that allows them to inform jazz fans of these slight hiccups as quickly as possible.
And very sensibly they also took the opportunity to seek out any volunteers who might like to help out at the event, and at the same time to remind us how ecelctic and exciting this year´s event promises to be.
Festival Volunteers – Live music needs you!
This year, more than any other, we need the help of volunteers to get the Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues Festival show on the road. Over the years we have learnt that it’s the volunteers stewarding the events on the ground that ensures the festival is a great place to enjoy live music. Brand new volunteers are welcome to join the team or if you have been a volunteer in the past, please consider taking this role again.
Roles vary from stewarding and helping at festival gigs, directing the audience to the next live music options in the vicinity, taking photos, writing a short gig review, chatting to audience members for feedback and exchanging links if they want to stay in contact with the club.
So, at 4.30pm on Saturday 2nd April 2022 at the URC, Moor Lane Clitheroe, if you would like to get involved, consider yourself invited to a festival volunteer briefing when we’ll get down to the basics of role descriptions, organise cover for each of the venues and assure you with support contacts and opportunities for buddying up with friends or new faces. It would be great if you could let us know if you plan to attend the briefing , so we have enough tea in the pot. If you plan to attend the briefing meeting or if you can’t make the meeting but want to volunteer do let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, we’ve got plans for gathering the whole crew together after the festival through the year as we start to plan more live music for the Ribble Valley and Clitheroe into the future.
If you have any queries just ring Sue (07840 275 390) or Miles (07807 944 031) and we’ll try to answer your questions.
The prime source for this article was a piece written by Rick The Jamfather and Dave Melamed , for on line site, Live For Live Music. We have also gathered from Geoffrey Himes of Past-On Line and from Richard Thompson of Bluegrass Today. We are also grateful to Jazz In Reading and Ribble Valley Jazz Festival.
In our occasional re-postings Sidetracks And Detours are confident that we are not only sharing with our readers excellent articles such as those named above, written by experts but are also pointing to informed and informative sites readers will re-visit time and again. Of course, we feel sure our readers will also return to our daily not-for-profit knowing that we seek to provide core original material whilst sometimes spotlighting the best pieces from elsewhere, as we engage with genres and practitioners along all the sidetracks & detours we take.
This article was collated by Norman Warwick (right), a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.
Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve Bewick, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Four.
As a published author and poet Norman was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (for which he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.
From Monday to Friday, you will find a daily post here at Sidetracks And Detours and, should you be looking for good reading, over the weekend you can visit our massive but easy to navigate archives of over 500 articles.
The purpose of this daily not-for-profit blog is to deliver news, previews, interviews and reviews from all across the arts to die-hard fans and non- traditional audiences around the world. We are therefore always delighted to receive your own articles here at Sidetracks And Detours. So if you have a favourite artist, event, or venue that you would like to tell us more about just drop a Word document attachment to me at email@example.com with a couple of appropriate photographs in a zip folder if you wish. Beiung a not-for-profit organisation we unfortunately cannot pay you but we will always fully attribute any pieces we publish. You therefore might also. like to include a brief autobiography and photograph of yourself in your submission. We look forward to hearing from you.
Sidetracks And Detours is seeking to join the synergy of organisations that support the arts of whatever genre. We are therefore grateful to all those share information to reach as wide and diverse an audience as possible.
correspondents Michael Higgins
Gary Heywood Everett
Hot Biscuits Jazz Radio www.fc-radio.co.uk
Jazz In Reading https://www.jazzinreading.com
Ribble Valley Jazz & Blues https://rvjazzandblues.co.uk
Rob Adams Music That´s Going Places
Lanzarote Information https://lanzaroteinformation.co.uk
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