Thursday, 31 December 2009
Monday, 28 December 2009
Get up - lazy breakfast - watch a bit telly - wee run - listen to jazz - watch a bit telly and bed.
It's like a form of Winter semi-hibernation.
Unfortunately all the snow we had turned to slush - which then turned to ice. The temperature has dropped from "nippy" to full blown "brass monkeys", so sadly it looks as though the ice is here to stay for a good bit. This in turn has limited our options for running.. So, ironically, it's better to head off road and into the hills. Today I went out for an hour and a half and went up into and round the windmills at the back of us. Great fun, at one point I was running through two feet of snow.
Probably a good time to go up there as there's nobody up there working at the moment. So I can show my contempt for the new development by peeing on their unbuilt windmills without fear of being caught!!
Thursday, 24 December 2009
This morning shortly after 6:30 it started to snow and we have had yet another "Oh, for F sake" worth of snow. I know this as I had cleared the small patch in front of the door - by 7:30 there was about two inches of snow on it. And it has snowed on and off since then.
I have not seen or heard a postman or indeed a bin man for two days now.
Luckily, however, today at least the paper delivery van reached us (he arrived before the snow). Yesterday he only made it as far as the farm and our paper had to make its final voyage to us thanks to a kind lady, her friend, and their quad bike!
As long as Santa makes it through the snow with his "big bag of mellow jazz tunes" I'll be OK.
Tomorrow's morning run might be a slippy affair though!
Wednesday, 23 December 2009
It had always been my intention to lay off the running and concentrate on other forms of exercise - until Christmas Day when I would try a 4 mile run.
However, those plans have been altered. On Sunday when I looked out we had a wee bit of snow and ice on the roads. Not too much, but enough to make me decide against going out on my bike.
The thought though of getting no exercise at all was killing me, so I decided to bring my running return forward a few days and just go out for a gentle jog. I thought that even if I only got a mile or so down the road before my leg started to niggle I could just walk home. Good news though. It didn't bother me at all.
So confident was I that I decided to go a couple of other runs during the week.
Now, today we have had a LOT of snow. In fact, see if you can spot the difference:
Me (on Sunday) "Oh look, snow".
Me (today) "Oh, for F sake.. look at that snow".
See? that's how much we got today. Anyway, the large amount of snow was beneficial in that it kept my speed down and my distance down when I went out for a wee run today (probably gave me a softer surface to run on as well).
Like most runners, while I enjoy being back out doing what I enjoy, the first few runs after injury are always tense times; as you run along waiting on something going "twang", "ping", "rip", "crunch" or simply seizing up mid-stride. So far, so good though and everything appears to be well.
The weather is also dictating my musical consumption and my mood.
The roads were really bad this morning. I was working from home but Anne was travelling into Edinburgh. So I said I'd go with her till just before Innerwick. Then if she got that far OK I'd get out and walk back. She did... so I did.
I decided to walk back through the woods though. Given that it was only about 6:15 I had my head torch with me, but didn't really need it as all the snow really reflected what little light there was.
It was fantastic. Really, peaceful and quiet. Not a soul around. I was quite happy to walk along in the quiet without music, but for some reason I decided I wanted to listen to John Taylor's trio playing "In The Bleak Mid Winter". Wonderful stuff.
One of my regrets of 2009 will always be that when I finally got the chance to see Kenny Wheeler and John Taylor playing live I didn't enjoy it as much as I should because I was ill at the time.
Anyway. Put the music off just before I went into the woods though, and glad I did. Or I might have missed the badger that was scuttling around in the road just ahead of me at one point.
We just stood there for a few seconds and stared at each other, but it felt like ages. Then he got bored first and tootled off (quite quickly it has to be said). It was a real sort of Jack Hargreaves moment.
Took me about 40 minutes to walk the two miles home - but it was worth every bit.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
I have about three different rucksacks that I use for day to day transport of stuff to work or for running etc.
The other day I was in one of them that I haven’t used for a wee while looking for something (can’t remember what). Anyway, while rummaging around in the darkest recesses of this bag I chanced upon a little white polythene bag – almost exactly like the type I get purchases from a little second hand CD shop in Glasgow in. In fact – it was a little bag from that shop. And, unsurprisingly, it contained a little CD – Ahmad Jamal “The Awakening”. There was also a little receipt. Dated July!!
Jesus wept. It’s a sign that either I’m getting too much that I can forget about something for 5 months (either that or a sign that my short term memory is going).
Anyway. Really surprised that I forgot about this so long because it’s quite frankly a beautiful collection. I obviously got it when I was really going through a piano trio “thang” and this is a wonderful example of that.
It has on it one of the best covers of Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance” that I think I’ve heard (and I’ve heard a few). A faster tempo than the original, but still at a pace that keeps that sort of lyrical modal fluidity that makes it such a wonderful tune.
Why did I leave this for so long?
Saturday, 19 December 2009
Thursday, 17 December 2009
My leg appears to be getting a little bit better daily. Certainly, I’ve been walking pain free for a bit and “running” over the road to avoid traffic appears to be OK.
I have been attempting to keep fit and keep the old Body Mass Index at the thin end of the “ideal” category by swimming (boring), cycling (ok) and visits to the gym (baffling).
Strange that I’ve been spending so much time on the bike, and then when I go to the gym? Why yes.. I spend time on a bike (only, going nowhere).
Now. It’s a universal truth, possibly explained by boffins such as Stephen Hawkins or somebody equally clever, that the piped music in gyms is crap. I’ve been forced therefore to take my MP3 player in with me and listen to proper music. Music for adults and those of us with an IQ that actually reaches into double figures.
However, it would appear that the rhythmic “boom..boom..boom” that passes for music nowadays is not enough stimulus for today’s youngsters.
Each of the cardio machines it appears is fitted with a telly… A telly that transmits visual clues as to what the f* these “pop stars” are actually warbling about.
Anyway, the telly fitted to the front of my bike was showing videos by today’s young lady entertainers. Young chanteuses who go by names such as “Lady Ga Ga” and Rihanna (I was about to make a flippant remark about whether or not the title “Lady” was hereditary – but then I remembered a man who listens to Duke Ellington and Count Basie should maybe not cast the first stone).
Their “act”, from what I could figure out, seems to involve singing badly, while writhing around in various costumes each getting progressively smaller.
Despite trying to turn off the telly I was forced to watch this while attempting to cycle at a relatively vigorous tempo.
My MP3 player at this stage decide to play Andy Sheppard’s “I Wish I Knew”. Strange, but music and video worked. (find the track and listen to it) J
Yesterday saw me sans MP3, sans “Rihanna” and on a proper bike pushing out a steady twenty odd miles in the piddling rain and cold. With nothing but my own pure thoughts to keep me company. That’s more like it.
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Ask me what sort of jazz I like and I probably couldn't pin it down to one sort. Bebop would be at the top of a very long list. It has to be said though that the list changes week on week.
Certainly on the list but somewhere near the bottom would be "Trad" ( probably below "free jazz" but way higher than the music of Jamie Cullum).
So what possessed me the other day to buy three CDs, two of which can be defined as Trad (or in one case "Dixieland")? Answer: they were cheap, and I am weak.
We were in one of Leith's many many many charity shops (again). And came across a little "gold mine" of four or five jazz albums.
I had to get a couple (it's an illness I tell you).
First up is Sidney Bechet at Storyville. One of the true giants of jazz I suppose and a pioneer of the soprano sax (often confused by some people as a clarinet). A contemporary of Louis Armstrong and a product of the early Dixieland jazz bands. His stuff just swings joyously.
I had hoped that this being one of his relatively late recordings it would be very good quality. Well. It is and it isn't. It's a recording made by the piano player, George Wein, at the gig, and I don't know what the recording medium is but there's a few "hiss, crackles and pops" on it. But probably still better audio quality than a lot of Bechet stuff out there.
Next up was Jonah Jones at the Embers. Trumpet led quartet. Now, I like the British trumpet player Kenny Baker and this CD really reminds me of him. This is a full on 50's "trad" record. Good fast tempo tunes and a couple of blowsey trumpet led blues.
It also reminded me, when I was listening to it, to the sort of thing you used to hear Kenny Ball play on TV in the late 60's and early 70's. Only, I thought, without the singing. And then right on que half way through Basin Street Blues, Jonah lets rip with a couple of choruses. Thanks, but you needn't.
Last one was areal bargain. A double CD of Johnny Hodges and Wild Bill Davis. And this is a wee bit closer to "my kind of thing". Hodges was alto sax player for Duke Ellington for years and has a real soft syrupy sound from his alto. Strange then that my pick of the bunch is a Neal Hefti number made famous by Count Basie ("Lil' Darlin").
Drawbacks? Well one. I've never been a massive fan of the Hammond organ - I can take it in small doses but I couldn't sit and listen to it all night. Which is a shame because I could probably listen to Hodges all night.
So. All in all good value. But (ooh, there's a "but") I think these are CDs that will get played a couple of times and stored, perhaps to make the odd appearance, but they probably won't be regular visitors to the CD player.
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
To all those people who feel compelled to bravely drag themselves into work in the run up to Christmas – despite being full of the flu/cold and looking like crap – rejoice I have a cure. No need for you to sit there a moment longer. All sweaty, and nose running and coughing and sneezing all over the place. Hell no.
A hollow point bullet through the back of your ignorant skull! That should do it.
Monday, 14 December 2009
Helping out the club with a cross country race yesterday.
This involved trudging along a small part of the course with Frank and Jim and poking lots of garden canes with red and white tape tied to them into the ground. Starting the runners off and then standing about getting chilled to the bone waiting on them coming back.
And feeling nothing but envy for each and every one of them.
Three weeks I’ve been off the running now and, while cycling and swimming etc at least “take the edge off”, I’m getting terrible withdrawal symptoms.
But the good news is my shin isn’t really hurting nearly as much as it was and yesterday I did manage a wee jog down as far as the farm barn at the end of our road and back (probably about 200m) without any pain or discomfort. So, it looks as though the recovery seems to be going well. In fact it would be tempting to get the old kit on and try a wee run… but I’m going to give it another couple of weeks before I even do that. Err on the side of caution I think.
Can’t rule out a wee 4 mile run on Christmas day though…..
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Friday, 11 December 2009
You can’t please all of the people, all of the time.
Certainly not when it comes to jazz….
I got an email the other day thanking me for the music I’d put together for the radio. Quite pleased that the chap who is doing the show is going to use a few of the tunes this week and some next. Believe it or not, we can’t get the FM reception required to listen to the show at home, so I’ll just take his word for it.
Now. When I was putting the tunes together I erred on the side of SAFE. Or at least I thought I had. I didn’t put anything too fiery and hard hitting on it. Though thinking back to what I said the other day, I should have given him old Pharaoh and “The Creator…” That would be a DJs dream that – 32 minutes – just pop that on and tootle off to the pub for a quick pint or two J Rather, I was thinking of late night listeners and loaded my selection with the likes of Lester Young, Ben Webster etc. But I did think I’d throw in one or two more “modern” offerings (don’t know what they’ll make of the Portico Quartet).
Anyway, it seems that what one jazz fan thinks is safe may not always be what another thinks. He’s come back and said that he doesn’t really rate one of the albums – “The Nine Mile Burn Sessions” by Brian Kellock and Julian Arguelles, which to my mind is a set of very mainstream piano and sax duo’s. Ah well there you go.
At least he didn’t get the police on to me. Jazz fans can be very, VERY picky it seems as this wee story from the Guardian makes clear http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/dec/09/jazz-festival-larry-ochs-saxophone How weird is that? Though to be fair, I do get a bit upset myself if exposed to “non jazz” for any great length of time.
I’ve been to see a bands who deserved the police called out to them. Luckily I forget their name, but there was one Canadian band who supported Andy Sheppard once …. Bloody awful racket.
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
At 6:30 this morning to be exact. There I was with the bike propped up against the fence, using my head torch for light and frantically going at the derailleur with the most sophisticated piece of kit I have. To wit....
And the amazing thing is... it's worked! Perhaps there's a lesson in there for me. Maybe I should clean my bike more often (OK. to be fair you could probably just delete the words "more" and "often"). If I do decide to wash my bike in future I will try to do it at a more civilised hour. For once I really can't blame the neighbour's cat, Fatso, for sitting there staring at me as I crouched there in the dark, with a torch strapped to my head, attacking a bike with a toothbrush!
So lunch time saw me off for a quick spin around some of the local roads for just over an hour with the old HRM reading a brisk 154.
Like I say cycling really isn't "my thing". Though it was, very much so, twenty odd years ago, and, if I say so myself, I've still got a fairly good cadence and pedal action. Still,at least it's a pretty good "filler in" during these times of convalescence.
Last night I was off to the gym for about 50 minutes followed by a wee swim for about half an hour, after which I met up with some of the running club at an Indian restaurant in Musselburgh and negated all the good by filling my face with korma and nan bread. Nice though.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Well. Don’t know how much longer I’ll be away from competitive running – or even any proper running training. BUT I now, at least, know that I can run, quite quickly, about ten metres. Note to self: Do NOT time a visit to the cludgie so that a return to your desk coincides with the arrival of the sandwich trolley! It’s amazing how quickly some of them can move and god help anything that gets in their way!
Anyway, not happy about it, but I’m getting used to the possibility of a lengthy period of recuperation. Plan to cycle three times a week and gym/swim twice.
The cycling would be better if I didn’t have to use my right foot to “nudge” the front derailleur every time I switch chain ring. I’ve only had the bike ten years – perhaps it’s due a service. I’ll try to scrape the worst of the crud off the mechanism tomorrow and get it working. Failing that I’ll try to get it repaired. Quite happy to “have a go” at most cycle repairs myself – but this involves splitting the chain and I don’t have to proper kit.
I’ve also been using jazz as a “musical balm” to ease those jittery, bad tempered, moods I get into when I don’t get our exercising. Or indeed the jittery, bad tempered, moods I get into even when I do get out exercising.
Last night I switched up from Big Band jazz and bebop and increased the dosage to the full 32 minute harmonic waves of sound that is “The Creator Has a Master Plan” by Pharaoh Sanders. An old stand by this that I always dig out and bung on when I’m having a crisis. I love it. Avant-garde “free jazz” at it’s most spiritual and it’s best.
This anthem of optimism should be played LOUDLY on a continuous loop through massive speakers built into the Queen Street tunnel and the tunnel between Haymarket and Waverly.
32 Minutes – probably the ideal thing to listen to tonight on the cross trainer at the gym. Just the right length of workout. J
Sunday, 6 December 2009
So it looks as though I'll be "confined" to a bike for a bit! Have to try and talk Anne into letting me get a new one!! Been out twice this weekend each time for over two hours with the old heart rate monitor averaging about 151 - so, thank god, I'm back into the cake burning zone!
Anyway. There are other reasons to be cheerful... Like cheap jazz thanks to UK copyright laws!!
When I first got into jazz the shops would be full of a plethora of cheap, and annoyingly badly packaged, compilations of jazz from the old trad bands and big bands of the thirties and forties.
If that's your bag - great. And I must admit that I did buy one or two. But most of the jazz that I listen to is more contemporary - a mere 50 years old in some cases. And that's the important bit... 50 years. Because in the good old UK after 50 years copyright expires (much to the disgust of Sir Cliff-scrotum face-Richard apparently). This means that everything recorded before then can be freely distributed and shared (I think - though I may be over simplifying).
So what does that mean in real terms? Well, the fifties were a very productive time for jazz. Productive in terms of both output volume and creativity. And it means that a lot of that good stuff is now becoming cheap - very cheap.
"Avid Jazz" have released a series of double CDs of albums all recorded prior to 1959. So for £5 you can pick up four albums by Sonny Rollins or four by Stan Getz.
I've picked up a few of these bargain CDs (Dizzy Gillespie, Zoot Simms etc.) and I have to say that I'm quite impressed.
Now, there are drawbacks - just because the copyright has expired that doesn't give any old distributor free access to the original master tapes. So these "re-issues" are I think simply copies of good quality first pressings. They have been, apparently, "digitally remastered" but I think that means nothing more than they have been quickly run through some standard software to eliminate the worst crackles or tape hiss. The result can mean that sometimes you don't quite get the crystal clarity you would hope for - but the sound is more than adequate. Lack of access to the masters means that the albums are pretty much presented the way they were when they were released in the 50s - no "extra" tracks or alternative takes here.
On the plus side Avid have gone to the bother of reproducing the original linear notes from the albums as well. So quite nice packaging.
These double CDs are great value and offer a good way to "get into" and "discover" some of the great jazz men of the 50's and at £5 for 38 tracks even work out cheaper than downloads.
Friday, 4 December 2009
I've been catching bits of his series "The Making Of Modern Britain" (and very good it is too). Anyway, the other night they were talking about WWII and the effect of an "invasion" of GIs into our backward shores. Anyway, to emphasise the point they showed a squad of American troops marching along to a Big Band tune. And for once they didn't use a Glen Miller song! No, it was "Skyliner" by Charlie Barnet - and bloody good it is too. One of only a handful of "hits" for Mr Barnet, but there you go.
Bringer of joy
Anyway. Since seeing this the tune has been stuck in there. I've been on the train, listening to music by a hundred and one different people - and I'm still humming along to Skyliner.
I'm at my desk trying to get on with something - and I burst into a few bars of Skyliner. Quite often complete with band-leading style arm waving and pointing at completely imaginary saxophonists.
I'm thrashing around in the swimming pool (yes - I did try it) - and I'm humming Skyliner.
I knew I had a copy of this. I knew it was on one of the many compilation CDs I've got, but I could not remember which one - or more importantly where it was! The problem is when you have a fairly small abode and a relatively large collection you tend to end up with music in just about every room.
Finally tracked it down to a little wooden box tucked away in the bedroom.
Bunged it on the CD player and cranked up the volume; though I'm led to believe that modern "young" peoples parlance is to "pump" up the volume. Whatever, two sessions of this and a good old "dance-like-no-one-is-looking" around the room should have exorcised this from my soul.... Didn't do my sore leg much good though.
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
Give me a couple of hours free time (oh yes. Please do), give me a nice cup of coffee and a bit of cake. Then ask me to rummage through my CD collection and amuse myself and I’m in heaven.
I’ll go off on flights of fancy. I’d probably start by playing something new(ish) – say Jan Garbarek’s latest - “Dresden”. That might get me into a sort of ECM’ish/Nordic groove. Norway? Scandinavia? Its all the same to me …Next thing you know I’ll be rooting through the old ACT part of my collection for a bit EST or a little track or two by Nils Landgren – maybe one of his covers of an ABBA song! That’ll get me to thinking about how jazz musicians can take any old “pop” tune and make it better – so that might lead to Steve Swallow’s album of Elton John cover versions (I kid you not) or Brad Mehldau doing a bit Lennon and McCartney or Colin Town’s covering Frank Zappa.
And so it would go on and on. With one remote and spurious link leading to another then another – for hours and hours I could just go on and on.
Until, that is, somebody asks me to do that very thing. And then it appears I just dry up.
A local radio station is being set up for a 4 week trial period. If it’s a success they can then get a license and broadcast full time. Anyway, the chap who is doing the jazz and blues show heard through a mutual acquaintance that I’m a bit of a jazz nut. So he got in touch.
Could I help? Yes. I said I’d be happy to – though not behind the mic!(being as I am a shy and retiring type). I said I’d gather some tunes together and help him out with his “playlists”. His “bag” is firmly rooted in the Big Band era with a liking for vocalists – where as I’m more a “jazz-didn’t-really-get-up-and-going-till-the-late-40’s-early-50’s” and onwards sort of a guy.
If the show was themed (i.e. Scottish jazz, film jazz, cover versions etc etc.) it might be a bit easier. But it isn’t. And I don’t really know who the listener is and I’m having to try and pick music for an “imagined other”. So far, I’m veering too far towards the “safe”. If I try too hard to please everyone and offend no one then I’m in danger of inspiring no one.
Anyway, I’ve used some of my time over the weekend to get some stuff together – so we’ll see what happens.
Probably just be best though to broadcast directly from my living room….. flask of coffee … big pile of cakes