Hot Nights, Cool Jazz

In June I ended up in Budapest for a week working on a conference in one of the big 5 star hotels in the city centre.  I knew it was going to be a very busy week but in advance of going I thought I’d look into seeing if there were any gigs worth going to while I was there. I did a Google search and it turned up a couple….Sting, don’t think so!…..Duran Duran, oh my word it gets worse. Anyway I decided that these weren’t the sort of gigs I fancied anyway so I started looking for something a little less mainstream. What I was really hoping to find was some sort of underground avant garde club presenting an evening of impenetrable improvised music but nothing like that showed up on a search engine! So I decided to look for Jazz clubs and this was a little bit more fruitful.

There seemed to be a number of different places but the one that looked the most promising was the Budapest Jazz Club which was in Múzeum Ucta and was about a twenty minute walk from the hotel. I knew there was no chance of getting out on the Monday and Tuesday nights so I looked to see what was on on the other two nights I was there. As luck would have it both nights sounded interesting.

So on the Wednesday evening after we finished at around 6pm I went back to the hotel and changed. I decided to put shorts on despite the late hour as it was still warm outside but put a sweatshirt on as well. I had decided to head down to the river first to do a bit of sightseeing and then head over to the Jazz club. I knew it was a straight line to the river bu had printed out a Google map to find my way to the club later. I set off and had only been walking for about 10 minutes before I realised that he sweatshirt wasn’t really required! It took me about 25 minutes to reach the Danube and then another 15 or so to walk along the banks to reach the famous chain bridge. I was disappointed to find that the lights that illuminate it at night weren’t on yet but I spent a while taking pictures in the hope they would come on while I was there. I knew if I walked away I’d get halfway back and they’d come on but it got to the point where I was about to admit defeat and head off but I decided to cross the bridge and have a quick look up the river from the other side. Amazingly as I stood there the bridge suddenly came to life and I then spent another 5 minutes or so photographing this famous landmark.

As time was moving on I set off for the jazz club and decided rather than retrace my steps it would be quicker to cut across  through the backstreets at an angle to get there. It was only after I set off that I realised the combination of darkness, a google map, foreign street names and no glasses didn’t make for easy navigation. I did know however I that if I kept going in a certain direction I had to come to the road I’d walked down so that’s what I did. I eventually crossed it and headed further south until I came to a junction where a quick double back deposited me at the end of the road that the jazz club resided in.

The street had buildings down one side and a small park on the other side and as I wandered down the street looking for the club I could hear loud music blasting from a building further along. That building was the jazz club but the music definitely wasn’t jazz! I figured the club shared the venue with other establishments and hoped that the music wasn’t about to drown out the jazz being played elsewhere in the building. I walked up the steps and past a small sparsely populated bar area to a desk that had a sign saying Budapest Jazz Club above it. I asked the girl behind it if she spoke English and thankfully she did. I asked if it was ok to go in and she laughed and said of course. I handed over 1000 Huf (£2.78) and she gave me a ticket and pointed me towards a stone staircase.

As I walked up the stairs past jazz based murals I could tell that Marton Fenyvesi’s egotrip were already on stage but when I reached the top I entered into a bar. I could see that the performance area lay through some doors on my right but I thought I’d get a beer first. The barman wasn’t exactly over worked but he was bemused by my request for a receipt! I took my beer and went through the doors. The room was quite dark but I could make out down towards the stage there we tables set out cabaret style and then towards the back there were about 10 lines of chairs. I sat myself down in the front row and looked around. There were probably around 30 people in the room scatted widely between the tables and the seats. On the stage were the band, my internet investigation had led me to expect a trio but there were 4 of them possibly with the addition of a percussionist.

Marton Fenyvesi was  left of the stage playing guitar and across the back were a bassist and drummer with the percussionist on the right. I have no idea how far they were into their first set but they were certainly into their groove. Marton plays the guitar as if it’s alive and trying to get away from him and he keeps having to wrestle with it to bring it under control! They played a mixture of their own compositions and cover versions which included the Police’s Message in a bottle and Nirvana’s Come as you are. I had arrived just before the end of their first set and this gave me a chance to get another beer before their second set. I did feel that the second set ended rather abruptly but it had been an enjoyable evening anyway.

On the way out the loud music was still going strong downstairs, luckily it had only affected upstairs between songs as the band drowned it out for the rest of the time. I took a peek through the door which it was coming from and it seemed to be some sort of dance club or class going on. I headed back to the hotel but stopped outside a bar to watch the penalty shoot out that was going on in the world cup match taking place that evening. At the last minute I headed up to the bar we had drank in the previous two evenings and found some of the crew so I stopped for a beer (or two!)

Before I’d gone to Budapest I had found it easy to find information about Marton Fenyvesi but the only thing I had found out about the act the following night was that it was part of a series of collaborations between Hungarian and Rumanian musicians called Jazzmozdony and I had guessed that this was the 9th in the series as it was called Jazzmozdony9. I liked the idea of a collaboration so I had thought that if I could only go one night I’d go to this one but I was glad I’d gone the night before and having done so was keen to go back. I had hoped that as it was a collaboration it might be a bit avant-garde or experimental but this idea faded when I looked  in the brochure I’d been given the night before and saw that  (translated by Google)  the band consisted of drums, double bass, piano and a singer.

I set off later than I’d expected as I spent ages on the phone talking to Sarah so once again I arrived when the band were already on stage. This time entry was free so I just headed up the stairs to the club. Once again I paused at the bar for a drink but this time I headed towards the tables nearer the front that I had sat the night before. I grabbed one near the window because if anything tonight was even hotter than last night. On stage there were 3 musicians playing what I guessed was the opening number. There was a piano player sitting at a huge grand with his back to the audience, a bass player and a drummer. At the end of the song a singer came on stage and stayed for the rest of the evening.

The music was much more laid back than last nights manic guitar meanderings but the bass player was really good (actually they all were). The singer Gabriela Costa (who I presume was Romanian) introduced the songs and what she said was translated into Hungarian by a guy in the audience with a microphone. It was weird to have all of the announcements in two languages and one of them not being English! They played two sets of jazz standards like Favourite things, Funny Valentine and Fly me to the moon while the sounds of a hot Budapest evening drifted in through the open window. Oddly for the second night the show ended rather abruptly!

I decided not to go and see if any of the crew were drinking in the bar afterwards as I knew the following day was going to be a long one so I headed back to the hotel but not before I sampled one of the kebabs from the many Turkish kebab shops that line the streets around Budapest! I really enjoyed my time in Hungary and hope to return one day soon.

I note that the Jazz Club has since moved to another location in the city, not sure why but check out their website or Facebook page for their new address.

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Comus – Borderline 28th April 2012

A couple of years ago I hadn’t even heard of 70’s cult psychedelic folk band Comus but then for some reason their name kept cropping up on one of my e-mail groups so I decided to check them out. I fell in love with their first album First Utterance the first time I heard it and have been wanting to see them ever since. They only reformed in 2009 playing together for the first time in 37 years and have done a handful of gigs since. I was going to go and see them about this time last year but my car broke down a few days before the gig and I ended up spending all my money.

We did manage to get Roger Wootton and Glenn Goring to appear as a duo at the Summer of Love festival last year but although I enjoyed their set it didn’t have the weirdness that the Comus songs have on record – I don’t think the fact that it was pissing down with rain helped matters much either. So I decided that I needed to see the full band and was glad to see that they were playing at the Borderline in London on 28th April.

I’ve always loved the Borderline as a venue but it had been quite a while since I’d been and the first thing I noticed was that there had been some changes. I think they’d knocked the wall behind the sound booth down and made the gents smaller so that there was more room to stand and watch the band. Other than that and a new small bar near the “dancefloor” it was still pretty much as I’d remembered it.

I was at the bar when the first band came on. They were called Purson and from the very first song they had the audience entranced with their sixties flavored rock. They looked and sounded as if they were playing a speakeasy in 1969 with just the lack of oil lamps and a smokey haze giving things away. The lead singer, Rosalie Cunningham, who was wearing a long flowing hippy dress has a lovely voice and plays a mean guitar while the rest of the band kick ass behind her!

Next up were Fusion Orchestra 2 who turned out to be a reincarnation of a band that were around in the early 70’s  with one album that has achieved a cult status – bit like Comus then! However the new incarnation (with a 2 added on the end of the name probably to avoid lawsuits!)  only has one original member, Colin Dawson, in it. At first glance I thought that maybe it was the drummer but it turned out to be the guitarist. The band came on and were just about to start when a female singer suddenly appeared wearing a black dress with a flower in her hair. This sudden last minute appearance jarred me for a few minutes because she didn’t look as if she belonged with the rest of the group but once you got used to her looks her voice fitted in well. She did admit though that the album, Skeleton in Armour, had come out almost 20 years before she was even born.

After they had finished the stage was virtually stripped bare of equipment leaving only a small rack of drums before Comus took to the stage and opened with Song to Comus off the First Utterance album. Unfortunately due to a technical hitch Colin Pearson’s violin was not audible during the song and there was a long gap while it was sorted out before the set continued with a favourite of mine Diana. The sound seemed to improve as the night went on and by the end they sounded great. The set was comprised of all but one song from First Utterance and the three new songs from the new album (or mini album as they called it) Out of the Coma.

Set List

Song to Comus
Diana
Out of the coma
The Return
Drip Drip
The Herald
The Sacrifice
The Prisoner
Encore
The Bite

I enjoyed seeing them live and my only criticism would be the lack of material. Given that they only play stuff from their first album as the second album was generally regarded (even by the band) as crap they will find it hard to continue to pull in crowds if they play the same songs every time. The three news songs were good and Out of the Coma sounded much better than it did when I first heard it at SoL last year. They seem to be working closely with David Tibet of Current 93 who was supposed to be there but couldn’t make it due to illness so maybe that might produce some creative outpourings.

SoL 2012 – The Trailer

The 6th annual Summer of Love Party is to be held in Kent on the 6th & 7th July 2012

The line up  is

Friday 3.00 pm – 12 midnight
======

Marrakesh Express – covers of Byrds and CSN
Sarah Tonin – psychedelic rock
Heart of Rust – Neil Young cover band
Adam Piggott & Jayne Freeman
Corey Webb

Saturday 11.00 am – 1am
========

Cosmic Finger – Grateful Dead Cover Band (from Germany)
Michael Chapman – a fully qualified folk survivor from the 60s
Rant ‘n’ Rave – Americana originals
The Blox – Ian Dury cover band
Galley Beggar – describe themselves as a mix of Fairport Convention and Led
Zep.
Kerry Andrew “You are Wolf” – young alt.folk original

Summer of Love Party is a private party and entry is for members only – so pop along to ourwebsite for details on how to become a member!

 

Dark Star Orchestra

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Dark Star Orchestra
The Garage, London
18th March 2012

Show: The Lyceum 23rd May 1972

Set 1

The Promised Land
Sugaree
Mr. Charlie
Black Throated Wind
Tennessee Jed
Next Time You See Me
Jack Straw
China Cat Sunflower>
I Know You Rider
Me And My Uncle (Not played)
Chinatown Shuffle
Big Railroad Blues
Two Souls In Communion
Playing In The Band
Sittin’ On Top Of The World
Rockin’ Pneumonia & The Boogie Woogie Flu
Mexicali Blues
Good Lovin’
Casey Jones

Set 2

Ramble On Rose
Dark Star >
Morning Dew
He’s Gone
Sugar Magnolia
Comes A Time
Goin’ Down The Road Feeling Bad >
Not Fade Away >
Hey Bo Diddley >
Not Fade Away

Encore
Uncle John’s Band

Filler
Brokedown Palace – with other drummer

So I went to see the Dark Star Orchestra’s first ever UK appearance tonight at the garage in Highbury, London. They’re a Grateful Dead cover band but one which is well known in the US for playing whole shows taken from the 30 years or so that the Dead toured. As 2012 is the 40th anniversary of one of the Grateful Dead’s most (in)famous tours – their tour of Europe which spawned their triple album Europe 72 it seemed only fitting that the band come over and play some of the 72 shows in the cities where they were originally played. It doesn’t look like we’ll get a visit from the latest incarnation of post Dead bands Furthur so we’ll have to do without any of the original members.

It was obvious from the pre-show blurb that they would be playing one of the four Lyceum shows but which one? There were two which had huge versions of Dark Star and the other two had great versions of The Other One so either way we were in for a treat. There was speculation in the pub before hand with the 23rd May and the 26th May being the favourites. Unless it was the 24th it was going to be difficult to spot which show at first as the other 3 nights all opened with the same song. In fact the two nights mentioned shared the same four songs at the beginning of set 1!

As it turned out the show in question turned out to be the opening night of the run at the Lyceum back in 1972. The Garage was actually a lot fuller than I thought it would be as the band kicked off the show. I was quite close to the front in the middle so I had a good view of the band. Unfortunately I also had to put up with some drunken idiot dancers too and one in particular seemed to think it was a good idea to celebrate the end of a song by throwing his beer up in the air, something he did twice during the first set.

I’ve seen a few GD cover bands over the past few years, The Cosmic Charlies and Workingmen’s Deed from the UK and Deadicace from over the channel in France/Belgium. I have to say though that I found DSO to be a lot tighter and sounded more together than any of the other’s I’ve seen. This could be that they play together on a much regular basis and as the market for GD cover bands is so much bigger out in the States there are far more opportunities for them to play and earn money. I obviously can’t comment on how authentic they were to 1972 Grateful Dead as I wasn’t at those shows as I was only 11 (thank you to the person who asked me that down the front!). My only comment on that score was I thought DSO were a lot rockier that I would have expected from listening to the recordings from that era. I did get a comment from an old timer at the bar during the interval who said they were “too loud and lacked finesse” but obviously that’s his opinion and I don’t know if he was at the original show.

I guess that’s the thing about the Grateful Dead there are so many reasons why people like them. I, for example like the extended jams in songs like Dark Star or The Other One but other people like the danceable rock numbers, there is even one friend of mine who swears that 1995 Dead is the best there is, whereas most people think their final tour was awful. Some like to listen to the music, other like to dance the night away and of course there are all stations in between! This also means that while some people liked some of the above mentioned cover bands others saw different aspects to them – I still think the one I enjoyed the most was Workingman’s Deed as to me they were in the right area musically but other’s didn’t like them because of their vocals.

I was pretty sure I had the right date at the end of the first set but not being someone who memorises set lists so a quick check on deadlists during the interval confirmed what was to come in the second set. They kicked off again with Ramble on Rose before heading off into my favourite piece of Dead – Dark Star. Sadly I never got to see them play it and have only really seen it played live by the Cosmic Charlies and as a short jam by Workingmen’s Deed so I really enjoyed seeing it played right in front of me. It never ceases to amaze me what can be made of something that is essentially a riff and two verses of words. The only studio version that exists last a mere 2:40 and yet the live versions lasted 20, 30, 40 or even in one case on the Europe 72 tour 50 minutes.

The song was just reaching a crescendo when the drunken dancer suddenly re-appeared next to me. Now I wanted to listen to the song and the last thing I wanted was to have my enjoyment spoiled by someone sticking their drunken face into mine and starting to stroke my beard! So I brushed him away and when he came back I lifted my arm and basically shoved him away from me. Luckily for him he didn’t come back again otherwise I might not have been responsible for my actions! In fact I didn’t see him again for the rest of the night although his legacy remained as my feel stuck to the beer sodden floor!

So all in all a good night, bumped into lots of people some of who I knew and remembered and some that knew me but I couldn’t remember them (I’m hopeless!). I handed out a few leaflets for SoL at the end and even managed to give one to the band and tell them they should come and play next year. They did say they’d be coming back but then we’ve heard that before from American bands who then are not seen again. I can quite understand it though as I’m sure they enjoy playing here but suspect that once they get home and tot up the finances it doesn’t look as attractive as it did. The sad reality for most musicians these days especially those in bands.

Summer SoLSIX

The line up is almost finalised for the 6th annual Summer of Love Party to be held in Kent on the 6th & 7th July 2012

The line up as it stands at the moment is

Friday 4.00 pm – 12 midnight
======

Marrakesh Express – covers of Byrds and CSN
Sarah Tonin – psychedelic rock
Heart of Rust – Neil Young cover band
Adam Piggott & Jayne Freeman

Saturday 11.00 am – 1am
========

Cosmic Finger – Grateful Dead Cover Band (from Germany)
Michael Chapman – a fully qualified folk survivor from the 60s
Rant ‘n’ Rave – Americana originals
The Blox – Ian Dury cover band
Galley Beggar – describe themselves as a mix of Fairport Convention and Led
Zep.
Kerry AndrewYou are Wolf” – young alt.folk original

 

Every year Michael Eavis says of Glastonbury “This years festival will be the biggest and best yet” so I can confidently predict that this years SoL will be the same size as last year and be every bit as good!

Summer of Love Party is a private party and entry is for members only – so pop along to our website for details on how to become a member! Full membership is just £50 and if you join before 7th February you’ll get a 10% discount.

Go on you know it makes sense!!

When an old cricketer leaves the crease

I thought I’d post this today for two people who died in the past few days:

The first is composer David Bedford who arranged the song and in particular the brass section played by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. He also worked with artists such as Mike Oldfield, Billy Bragg, Madness and even Frankie goes to Holywood!

The other person who sadly passed away was England Cricketer Dilly who died aged just 52. He played for England, Kent, and Worcestershire during his long career and I think I may have seen him play at the latter club but I can’t be sure!