When I was at school there was a girl called Colette who walked almost everywhere with The Big Black Bowie book under her arm. I didn't get his music then and it took Let's Dance to be released before I really began to enjoy him. Then, like I often do, I went back through the catalogue and found the riches.
What I really loved about Bowie was his thirst to move on and change. He played the hits but he seemed to live for the next song, the next album, the next change in sound. This, along with a tide of truly great songs, is what I take from his life. Oddly, this was also at the back of my mind when I decided to sell my 1951 issue Fender bass. It's the last Fender I own and I have a picture of my daughter sitting with it when she was a baby, however, it belongs to a style of music and a kind of band I don't fit any more. Exciting pictures of the new bass that will replace it will come soon. In the meantime, here's that bloke from Brixton singing the song that has haunted most of my weekend.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of bassist Mark Wade’s debut album, Event Horizon. On it he has Tim Harrison on Piano and Scott Neumann on drums. I love piano trio music and keep being surprised at how different groups can stretch the format. Usually the piano player is the leader but in this case the bassist is at the helm. Not that you’d know, as Mark is not one for hogging the limelight.
The album opens with the appropriately upbeat Jump for Joy and this introduces us to the fluid, live sound of the trio. Mark brings out a wonderful tone from his bass; a full woody sound which he uses to great effect in the solos. My only grumble about the opening track is the fade. Why fade it?
The following tunes take us through beautiful chamber jazz (The Prisoner), tasteful use of space (Apogee), the almost funky riffing in Tossed and some lush bowing on the lovely Valley and Stream; a tune that felt like a suite. One of my favourites was Twist in the Wind, which I would love to see played live (if we’re lucky enough to get the trio in the UK). The penultimate track, Cold Spring, delivered on many levels and it wouldn’t surprise me if one day it becomes a standard and ends up with a lyric. To close the album the trio play their only cover (a refreshing surprise for a debut) with If Only I had a Brain. This, with its terrific swing, left me wanting to hear more.
Mark Wade’s group are well worth watching. I suspect a band (and a leader) that can produce a debut this accomplished have a lot more to offer.
Recently I felt the need to revisit a set of books I hadn’t read since my teens. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy intrigued me when I was fifteen and now, in my fifties, I wanted to see why.
I went into Oxford and found a copy of the first book but held off buying it. This was partly because I’m a bit poor this month and partly because I suspected my original copy was still at my mum’s house.
So, on my next visit to my mum’s I rooted through the shelves and found only books two and three of the original trilogy, resplendent as they were with their Chris Foss covers. My next step was to call up my favourite independent bookshop and order the first book. Amazingly, the owner had just ordered some classic science fiction books, including a copy of Foundation, which he put aside for me.
Will this end with crushing disappointment or a happy rediscovery? I’ll let you know.
2015 has been a seriously good year for music. As ever, I’m served well by the ECM label who produced seven of the twelve albums in my top ten. Of the rest a few have connections to the great world of King Crimson and one was recommended to me during my brief experience of Apple Music. That album was a French sort-of jazz album influenced by minimalist composers and to be fair to Apple Music, I would never have hear of it if I hadn’t tried the suggest link.
I listened to and enjoyed a lot of music this year. If there was one common factor in most of it that would have to be the drummer Pat Mastelotto. He’s only on two of these recordings but there was a period where I had been listening to seven albums in a row with him drumming. I was even lucky enough to meet him after the amazing King Crimson show in Aylesbury where I also got to hang out with Markus Reuter and Sid Smith (whose listening habits make mine look positively half-arsed).
The most listened to album for me this year isn’t this list (because it came out earlier) and that’s Touch and Flee by the Neil Cowley Trio. Mr Cowley’s tribute to Dudley Moore, which J and I saw at Ronnie Scotts in April, was a hugely entertaining and moving experience.
So, after all this waffle, here is my top ten list. So good I had to include twelve of them. If I had to pick one album that stood out above all the others I would pick KOMARA, but it’s a very close call.
Mette Henriette – Mette Henriette
Komara – KOMARA
Thomas Strønen – Time is a Blind Guide
Markus Reuter – Mundo Nuevo
Sylvain Rifflet – Mechanics
Gary Willis – Larger than Life
Nils Økland Band – Kjølvatn
John Potter – Amores Pasados
Sinikka Langeland – The Half-FinishedHeaven
Chris Potter’s Underground Orchestra – Imaginary Cities
Anouar Brahem – Souvenance
Trey Gunn – The Waters They are Rising