Tuesday, 16 June 2009

"Reg's Good Stuff"

Tomorrow, Wednesday 17 June, I'm getting back to Internet broadcasting again, just for non-profit fun, with the encouragement of my good friends at:
The show is dedicated to music in general, plus anything else I think is "good stuff". It airs for 2 hours at:
5 PM here in the UK
Noon US Eastern time
11 AM US Central Time and
9 AM US Pacific time.

You can email me at:
Follow me on Twitter:
Or talk to me on Skype during the show via Skype name regsgoodstuff, or call in from the States on:
(217) 806 4321.
My music library is diverse, but not particularly good at mainstream instant requests. So, if you ask me to play something, it might be next week before you hear it, but I'll do my best.

I'm happy to talk live on air about anything, but I do screen people off air of course, and my decision about who gets on is both arbitrary and final.

I look forward to your company if you can make it tomorrow or on future Wednesdays.

Feedback welcome.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

LDRs suck

This is one of those personal outbursts which I may later regret having posted, but I'm in the grip of it right now.

If you Google "LDR" or "long distance relationship", you will come up with mountains of closely reasoned and perceptive stuff about the dangers and difficulties encountered by those who embark on a love-based relationship at long distance.

Does this stuff actually help? Maybe it helps some people, but, if it goes wrong, however much right on self-awareness psycho-babble you may ingest, it just fucking hurts, and that's all there is to be said about it from my point of view.

If you have an Achiles Heel in your temperament, an LDR will find it out, with none of the magic of physical closeness to cement the bonds between you.

We can't help with whom we fall in love of course, but you may just have rather more fun sticking your fingers into a light socket if you find your potential soul mate in someone you can't actually hold or experience physically.

I will feel better soon, but that's currently howit is.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

The function of live music

A few years ago, BBC Radio's "Reith Lectures" were given by the Israeli pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim.

He has devoted his life to music; both as an end in itself, and as a means of bringing people together who might otherwise be separated by ethnic and/or political conflict.

Predictably then, his position is that the "Muzak" impulse in our culture has devalued it to something which simply comes out of a hole in the wall, saving us from the terrifying prospect of silence. The word "Muzak" of course derives from the Muzak corporation, one of the first organisations to promote the use of pre-recorded background music, now so endemic in our public spaces.

In general, the more of anything we have, the less we appreciate it. When I was in school, an elderly music master could talk to me of a time when most people did not have a phonograph. The first time he heard the symphonies of Beethoven was by playing them himself from versions scored for the piano. So, when he went to his first orchestral concert, it was a very big deal. We might take a reductive position and say that everything is relative, the world is as it is, and everyone will have their own ideas about what has changed for the better or for the worse. But hang on just a moment before we allow ourselves to be swept away in the self-satisfaction of our consumate realism.

Appreciation is a basic human need. Most people don't get it, certainly not enough of it, whether they're looking after their family, collecting our garbage, or, as I witnessed recently, singing their heart out (not referring to me, I was in the audience).

I'm a performing musician, so I have to declare an interest. In my experience, because of Muzak culture, shortening attention span bequeathed to the world by bombardment with rapidly moving images, or just lack of common courtesy, the only way you can get people to shut up in the presence of live music is to get them to buy tickets and sit down in rows in a hall. From the point of view of the performer on stage in a pub or club, it often seems that the function of the music is to make, or enable, the crowd to shout louder., to enhance their feeling that they're having a great time. Now these good people have probably paid to get in, and the club is not a monastery with a vow of silence, and they're not in the presence of some musician who thinks he's the voice of God or something, warranting total attention. But, biased or not, I do think things have got a bit out of wack here. These people may have paid, but they don't own me. I can't quite resign myself to the fact that my music is merely a commodity. My emotional investment in it may matter to nobody else, but it matters to me. Sure, I have the choice not to work in this field, and play exclusively for myself at home. But the fantasy of sharing it with someone who actually gets it dies very hard, and I think audiences often miss a lot by letting music just wash over them as part of a general social experience, (see my previous post).

I think Barenboim was right to the extent that we probably gain more by appreciating other people's efforts than we lose by proving that we can tell a joke audibly over the band. People do respond to appreciation, and I think all of us, whatever we do, deserve it.

Monday, 1 June 2009

May 31 at the Jazz Cafe London

No ethical floundering today.
Last night my son and I saw/heard two exponents of singing and playing solo piano in their related, but different styles - Charlie Wood and Jon Cleary.

I would have wanted to see Jon Cleary whoever was opening for him, but Charlie Wood was a definite bonus. I know only one of his albums - "South bound", and it features him mainly on organ with a band. The striking thing about this album for me when I first heard it was the way in which he combines a completely credible and authentic urban jazz/blues style with quite cerebral lyrics - E.G. when did you last hear a song of this type allude to "A play by Sophocles"? A song which starts, very much true to it roots, with the lines:
There have been good times,
There have been bad times;
But mostly they've been in between.

Really good voice; good pitch, faultless musical articulation, very important with his highly ornamented singing style. He started and finished with songs not by him - Paul Simon and Professor Longhair respectively. The Simon song was a completely Charlie Wood take on "american Tune", a very apt opener for an American in a foreign land.
His own songs were delivered with great finesse. The only problem for the chattering classes who attend such gigs is that you actually have to listen to what the guy's saying. I mean really! Paying all that money and having to listen as well? Ridiculous!

That prompts a whole other tangent on our relationship with live music; but not right now.

The Professor Longhair song with which Charlie Wood finished was the classic Tipotena. Interestingly, Jon Cleary was to play that later in his set, and it summed up these two performers completely.

Cleary was definitely the main event from the crowd's point of view, and I thoroughly understand why. He's more stylistically definable, classic Neworleans plus funk. He's a better piano player than Charlie Wood, and a better entertainer, in that he's more direct, more in your face boogie, with a good slightly edgy voice, in contrast to Wood's polished urbane smoothness.

Cleary got the crowd rocking, and he deserved to.

I am somewhat envious of this man, in that he has played a lot in Bonnie Raitt's touring band, a gig which I would cheerfully do for nothing.

But, seriously, with Jon Cleary's rapturous reception ringing in my ears, I couldn't help feeling a little sorry that Charlie Wood just didn't have what it took to knock this Jazz Cafe crowd out, although I personally think he's more subtle and interesting. But then if the ancient Roman populous had a choice between a display of votive dancing, and Christians being thrown to ravening lions, there's not too much argument about which would draw the larger audience.