The National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland plays Donald Fagen’s Nightfly: Review (At the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival)


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First of all, apologies for the truly awful photo above.

One of my all time favourite albums is Donald Fagen’s post Steely Dan 1981 debut solo album, The Nightfly.  Indeed so much do I love it that I have made the Nightfly my alter ego for my music quiz hosting and the short time I DJed on Jubilee FM.

It is a record of complete perfection with its jazz infused tones and theme and was, for many, Steely Dan fans a step up even from their giddy heights.

Well,  Malcolm Edmonstone has taken the album and arranged it for the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland and performs a ‘big band’ rendition from start to finish (with five brilliant vocalists) and conducted by Andrew Bain in Edinburgh’s brand new Rose Theatre on Rose Street (in itself worthy of celebration because its a new small to mid-sized space that offers much potential).

The album astoundingly transforms itself into a jazz ensemble piece and guest guitarist, the venerable Malcolm Macfarlane, is mindbogglingly brilliant as lead guitarist and shares two of his own excellent filmic numbers prior to the Nightfly set.)  One number has interesting nods towards a Sufjan Stevens sound, although I spoke to him after and he didn’t know Sufjan.  (Malcolm, go listen.)

But the stars of the piece are obviously the orchestra (it is their gig after all).  All young, all impressively talented and all bringing a classic album to life (that was recorded before any of them were born) with consumate ease.

The West coast Californian languor of Fagen’s late night radio station vibe is frankly cool as fuck and this makes the most of it.

Only 8 songs, but every one of them cool, chilled, jazzy, soulful and simply brilliant.

Sadly the Rose Theatre have a little work yet to do on their sound mixing but it wasn’t enough to damage a brilliant, classic, unique performance of truly great worth.

Kamasi Washington: Truth. Even if you don’t like jazz you will love this.


I can hardly believe that only 300,000 have viewed this at the time of writing.

It’s a piece called Truth by Kamasi Washington and please find 14 minutes in your life to watch this on fullscreen at full volume.

For those of you who don’t know, Kamasi Washington is an American Jazz Saxophonist and has worked extensively with Kendrick Lamar (on to Pimp a Butterfly. the best album of 2015) and many others.

It’s the final movement in a five movement piece conceived for the Whitney Museum in New York’s 2017 Biennial called Harmony of Difference and the film was directed by A G Rojas , a Barcelona based film director who’s also made videos for the likes of Jack White.

The centrepiece of the film fits the slow movement, within the movement as a whole, and features the longest, slowest zoom and pan you will ever see.  Orson Welles would be proud of it.

I first heard this on the amazing Giles Peterson show on BBC 6 Music (it’s a treasure trove of beautiful, jazz, jazz influenced and electronica that makes a Saturday afternoon a very fine thing – or listen to his show in download form on the BBC iPlayer).

Incidentally for the sharp eared among you the central six note theme (that’s introduced on the guitar) is virtually identical to Gorgeous George by Edwin Collins.  Not that I am criticising this, but it was nagging away at me as to what I knew it from.

Baby Driver: Movie Review.


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The poster says that Baby Driver is the coolest movie of the summer.  I don’t know that that aspiration is king size but in my view it fails to achieve even those unlofty heights.

It is QUITE cool but it’s reliance on music as a key plot device requires the music to be cool as…

It isn’t.

The anchor song, Queen’s Brighton Rock, isn’t even Queen’s coolest song.  Not by a long way.

The title credits, where our hero (Baby) walks the streets of Atlanta to the sound of Harlem Shuffle is clever as the lyrics pop up as street graffiti, shop names and so on but it’s trying soooo hard.

The car chases are invariably high quality but I felt some of the casting was a bit gash.  Love interest, Lily James, doesn’t cut the mustard and Baby (Ansel Elgort) created no real empathy.

But the biggest crime is the OST.

Come on guys you could have done better than that.

Apart from Hocus Pocus by Focus and Egyptian Reggae by Jonathan Richman it was just kind of meh!  It ain’t no Tarantino soundtrack.

Now THAT’s cool.

Jamie Foxx is largely unintelligible. But John Hamm and Kevin Spacey put in good, professional efforts.

This movie aspires to coolness, but it left me a little cold.

 

The adventures of a Jeremy Corbyn T shirt.


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When I purchased my JC (yes he walks on water) T shirt earlier this year little did I know that it would become a hit at Primavera.  (The Catalonian music festival than I was at from Thursday 1st to Sunday 4th June.)

To say we had a laugh would be a rather big undertstatement.

Here goes.  For the sake of modesty, and career continuance, some of the names have been omitted.

I guess the festival started quite badly.  But the only sour nate in a symphony of sugar like proportions.  Jimmy (aged 63 – not real name) and Jock (aged mid 50’s) were jumped in the Slayer mishap.  Jock had his arse attacked with a Stanley knife in an attempt to get the wallet out of his back pocket.

Here’s the evidence of the failed ambush.

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Johnny was less fortunate.  His wallet was removed, along with its not inconsiderable financial contents and four credit cards.

There is, of course, a lesson in all this but I don’t think it is not to mosh in heavy mateal gigs in your advanvcing years.  It is to place your wallet in your front pocket and carry only as much cash as you need for the day.

Perhaps the irony of this story is that only a week before Jimmy had, in his own words, lectured his ex-wife on the importance of vigilance in Barcelona, a city notoriously tainted by the scourge of pickpocketry.

One must practice what one doth preach Johnny.

Moving on, let’s return to the sweeter side of this remarkable event.

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First off, the people.

I made so many new friends.  But it was Jeremy that was the icebreaker.  One gorgeous babe ran 100 metres with her arms outstretched and threw herself around me screaming her love for Jezza.  I was merely a vessel for the delivery of her profound political engagement with a national youth hero.

Literally 20+ times a day this happened to me.  It forced me to wear Corby for two dates not the one for which it had been slated.  And because I had a supply of my son’s Lynx it was off passable odorousness.

But, this was not The Lynx Effect in action.

Trust me. This was The Jezza Effect.

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From this, admittedly biased, sample Jezza has a chance on Thursday.  But you young people need to GET OUT AND VOTE.  It is your futures, not mine, that will benefit most from politics FOR THE MANY, NOT FOR THE FEW.  I repeated this line many times over the weekend.

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Indeed David was so moved by my support that he declared his undying love for me in the only way that means anything…

In the words of Juliet…

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? It is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.

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It made it through the weekend.

Jimmy is a great storyteller.  And not as fond of the Jezz as I am (in truth I was in a small minority in this regard among my band of 50+ Thatcherite, tweed and cravat wearers.

Jimmy’s view on Labour?

“Jezza and Diane on the back of a motorbike travelling across East Germany.  That’s where they learned all they know about economics.”

Jimmy’s elderly mum however has taste. and i unrepresentative of this Tory loving elderly demography.

“When asked to join in on a toast to Margaret Thatcher her response was

“I’d rather drink pish.” (A quality statement.)

Each day started with a dodgy breakfast followed by the Sangria Sessions, a 132 strong playlist consisting of six Scottish songs and six one hit wonders that we had each supplied in advance.

This was my contribution….

Six Favourite Scottish Songs…

Ankle Shackles  – King Creosote

The State I am in – Belle and Sebastian

Bill Well’s Trio – Presentation Piece 1

Music is Math – Boards of Canada

James Yorkston – Tortoise Regrets Hare

Kosmischer Läufer – Jenseits Des Horizonts  (yes, they are from Leith)

Six one hit wonders

Echo Beach – Martha and the Muffins

Der Mussolini – Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (DAF)

O Superman – Laurie Anderson

Rappers – Delight – Sugarhill Gang

The Girl From Ipanema – Astrid Gilberto

Duelling Banjos – Eric Weissberg and Deliverance

I was repeatedly ‘hooked’ for exceeding the 5 minute rule which I am convinced was not communicated clearly.

Now the food in Barcelona is of an epic standard on Thursday we enjoyed Michelin quality dining, Friday and saturday did not reach the heights, although the bills did.  In fact so impressed was our Saturday hostess that she gave us a free bottle of “Scottish” (Alba) brandy.

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And not, as it happens, “cheap pish firewater.” as stated by more than one of our group in a display of ingratitude.  It lasted about 20 minutes.

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I had Paella and tapas all three days.  When in Rome and all that.  (Except we weren’t in Rome.)

On site we, none of us, ate, meaning that the constant 18 hour gaps with over 23,000 steps a day resulted in extreme hunger at breakfast time – Catalonian scabby heided bairns were in short supply by the end of our trip.

Friday’s tapas.  Or ‘Tapas aff’ as we so hilariously described lunches in Barcelona.

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Thursday was T shirt day in which we were each given an ill fitting t shirt that was meant to sum us up.

Mine reflects my occupation.

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But Tim’s is presumably more reflective of his favourite passtime.

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In the middle of the site on a prominent concrete ramp sits the Heineken VIP area.  It provided a challenge that three of us were willing to take.  How to gain access.

Gordon had, after all, been rewarded for returning a lost phone to Lost and Found with two tokens for the Back Stage area the night before, where he and Angus enjoyed free booze and a private gig by the mighty Wedding Present.

We had to trump that.

So we made our move only to be vigorously rebuffed by the Heineken PR representative.

Regrouping after the ensuing Van Morrison gig (not bad) we took a more determined approach.  Posing as a visiting delegation and claiming that we had bought S and N for Heineken we did enough to persuade Maria (a slightly more senior re) to allow us access for a photo and one drink.  “ONE DRINK ONLY”

90 minutes later and best friends with the top dog in Spain we moved on.  Liberally refreshed.  Thank you Heineken it was very kind of you.

The view from the platform of the main arena.

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The Heineken Lager Lovelies with Scotland’s own Lager Lovelies – Smudgerina and I.

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And here’s Smudgerina when she was younger.

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Read more about Smudgerina’s back story here.

Meanwhile back at the festival we had music to consume.  Here is a full breakdown of my consumption and the resulting score out of ten.

Day 1

Triangulo de Amor Bizarro (Spanish for Bizarre Love Triangle) – 8

Miguel. Pish (we lasted one song) – 3

Broken Social Scene – 8.5

We met BSS after the gig at our central drinking HQ.  I kindly shared my nuts with them whilst one of our group questioned guest singer Emily Haines of Metric (part of their 11 strong line up that included, at one point, 6 guitars) on “What’s it like to be Canadian?”  Short indeed was the shrift he received.

I mean.  Would you ask THIS girl THAT question?

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I spoke to her too.  The Jezza factor failed to kick in.

Solange – 8.5

Here’s an excerpt from her performance.  Simply the best lighting, choreography, filming ( a feature throughout of Primavera) sound quality (again constantly outstanding) and costume.

Lord of the Isles – 6 (one man noodling)

Kate Tempest – 9. Quite incredible.  She played the whole of 4:18 in a blind fury that was intoxicating and ended by by calling out “VOTE VOTE VOTE”.  That won’t be her profession of love for Amber Rudd and Co.

Survive – 8  A cheeky wee stumble upon moment.  Very good though and reminiscent of Kraftwerk.

The Damned – solid 7.  Good, but the aficionados felt they were not at their best.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  9.  I loved them.  In particular their duelling drummers.  Two full kits facing one another and running a constant 180bpm foundation.

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Day 2

Sinkane – 7.5.  Good and more African and Jazzy than I expected.

Mogwai – 8.  An unexpected secret gig in which Mogwai, GET THIS, played the WORLD PREMIERE of their new album in totality.  It comes out in September.

Arab Strap – 9.5 An absolute power House performance by a reunited Malcolm Middleton and Aidan Moffat.  His ability to chug Heineken was unmatched over the weekend.

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Swans – 5.  Just too much hard work I’m afraid.

Seaford Mods – a straight 10.  The lads had real technical difficulties to start.  Primarily no sound other than their baclinre so they didn’t even know we couldn’t herar them.  Gig was stopped, started again, aborted again before finally getting off to what transpired to be one of the best gigs I’ve ever attended.  Even better than November 2015 at La Belle Angele.  This was furious.  And TCR is a classic.

This was my main excursion into the moshpit and I emerged sodden with sweat.

Wand – 6.  Too late.  Too tired.

Day 3

Van Morrison – 7.  Nice, full on Jazz set.  But better stuff was taken over the weekend.

Teenage Fanclub – 8.  My first ever Teenies gig.  It was good.  But not a highlight of the weekend.

Arcade Fire – a straight 10.  Much to my surprise as my two previous experiences of “The Fire’ was anything but burned into my being.  But they are now.  Described rather eloquently (somehow) by one of our number thusly. “The songlist is ordinary (i disagree with that) but so much texture and energy”

Really, this was a display of A list musicianship performed with utter commitment, pumping out their ‘best of’ with verve, gusto and variety.  This is how rock music should be delivered and I hope a lot of up and coming bands were in the audience to see masters at work.

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(I missed Grace Jones.  Drat.)

And, yes, she is.

Haim – 9.  Secret gig.  I wasn’t a fan of Haim despite having seen them before and owning their debut album.  But I am now.  Hugely professional, committed, driven performance.

!!! (chk, chk, chk) – 10.  At 4.15 am I thought this was too late for me but I made it and climbed atop a golf cart for a better view.  It was parked in the centre of the area.

Why?  I know not.

We were also generously supplied for the second time that evening with finest local hashish.  Thank you Amos. Also at Arcade Fire.

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So that’s it. 21 gigs of which 9 I scored at 8.5 plus.  All outstanding gigs worthy of £50+ a ticket.  In reality it cost about £120 total.

Fabulous group of guys.  Great food.  Great drink.  Great Craic.  Great music.  Great flat.

And then on Sunday I went to Sagrada Familia and saw this …

I wept.

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Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. (50th Anniversary Edition.)


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Listen to Martin Freeman’s outstanding two part documentary on BBC Radio 2 (iPlayer) called Sgt. Pepper Forever to hear a really interesting insight into the creation of what many believe to be the greatest record ever produced.

I’m listening to Giles Martin’s remix of his late father’s masterpiece and it does sound zingier, cleaner, crisper and yet deeper.  It’s recorded in stereo of course which adds a dimension that purists may not appreciate but I feel adds quality.

And it is quite incredible source material pushing the limits of sound technology absolutely MILES past anything else that had been recorded by 1967.

It introduced completely new compositional facets to pop music (some drawn from classical repertoire) and now we have the benefit of 50 years’ later’s technology to further emphasise its brilliance.

Of course, the songs are what makes it and there’s only 39 minutes 52 seconds of them.

Top of the pile for me are She’s leaving home and the absolve;ute masterpiece Life in a Day.  The story behind the recording of this in Martin Freeman’s documentary is fascinating.

Amazingly (and possibly rarely) all four Beatles have songwriting credits including Ringo who penned “With a Little Help From my Friends.”

Enjoy this spectacular new take on a five star classic.

 

 

 

Glasto Lite.


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Having  been unable to get tickets for Glastonbury for a few years now I am about to experience the Catalonian equivalent with a cheeky wee trip to Barcelona for Primavera Sound.

Top of my list of, and possible, just about, ‘to see’ are…

  • Solange
  • Bon Iver
  • Kate Tempest
  • Aphex Twin
  • King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
  • Sinkane
  • Magnetic Fields (Playing the ED Fest in August)
  • Arab Strap
  • the xx
  • Sleaford Mods
  • Jamie XX
  • Songhoy Blues
  • Van Morrison
  • Metronomy
  • Teenage Fanclub
  • Grace Jones
  • Arcade Fire
  • Wild Beasts
  • Japandroids

Of these my number one pick is King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  Check out Gamma Knife, their best song.  They have many best songs.