Playing a gig with Joey Herzfeld and Chris Dowding a week or two in the fabulous medieval undercroft that is Jurnet’s Bar in Norwich, a couple of old pals came along, Ian Brownlie and Mark Howe of the brilliant immersive site-specific music / visuals thing Klanghaus. Ian did this sketch of me playing live—he called it a ‘scribble’—on his phone, and sent it to me this morning. Thank you Ian! I love it. In return, here’s a photo of us playing together in Norwich, in a band called The Last Blast, from BITD (mid-1980s I think): L-R me on bass guitar, James Edmond on drums (where are you, James?), Ian singing. The other band members not in photo: Martin Tidd and Mike Skulski, both guitars. ‘We were young, we were free!’
[a new blog and film by me produced for the EU-funded Cultural Heritage and Improvised Music in European Festivals (CHIME) project website]
Most villages in Norfolk have at least one ancient church, flint-built, with round or square tower. So I was looking of such a building when driving to the gig last night in the village of Spooner Row, as part of this year’s Wymondham Music Festival. But surprisingly the church here is built of brick, slate rather than lead roof, no tower, just one bell, that hangs outside (and was taken from another church). I looked it up: Spooner Row church was built in 1847, in the Victorian period when many of the Saxon and medieval churches (which had managed to survive the English Civil War) were themselves having their interiors ‘improved’.
The band I was in is called hymn, a trio of trumpet/loops, percussion/electronics and double bass. As the name might suggest it’s a slightly slow music, harmonies and simple melodies, layered but spacious, perhaps contemplative or immersive. Kinda fitted the venue. The other band, Arthur, consist of alto sax, tuba, drums; their repertoire is inspired by the music of the late African-American saxophonist Arthur Blythe, and is somewhat more fiery, driving, and loud than hymn’s.
I filmed a bit of Arthur’s set standing in the rather sparsely populated graveyard of Spooner Row church, in the early evening summer sunset, at the end of a glorious English day. I wanted just to think for a moment about the location, the mature trees all around and fields beyond, the quiet graveyard, the setting sun, a nearby row of cottages, the striking building of this unusual Norfolk church, at one of the outlying events of a music festival centred on the local market town of Wymondham.
I realised that this concert I was playing at was a CHIME event in a modest way, in the manner that all of these re-soundings in mild surprise of musical gatherings that are organised in festivals everywhere are CHIME events. The warm clash of sound and setting, improvisation (music) and solid foundation (building), are one of the things we can expect of a festival.
At this one I thought, too, of how in fact this church and the jazz are not so very far apart in their chronology, or originary narrative, both being made, sort of, arguably, in the same century for a start. Made me think, as I stood in the English churchyard last night, how old that music of modernism is—modernism is—then how very recent.
I play bass around Norwich in three bands currently, mostly original music. There’s a flurry of gigs coming up in early summer. Been a long time since I’ve been this busy musically, what with moving cities and jobs etc. Be lovely to see you at one if you are around here.
Friday 30 June, Jurnet’s Bar, Norwich, a short set by The Punch House Band. Doing a short set around 9.30, the numbers we recorded in the studio a week or two back. East Anglian folk music.
Sunday 2 July, Wymondham Music Festival, Summer Pizzazz concert, Spooner’s Row church near Wymondham. hymn + Arthur. hymn are trumpet/loops, percussion/electronics, double bass trio, compositions to melodic improvisations.
Monday 3 July, same line-up as Sunday, BicycleShop, Norwich.
Wednesday 5 July, Joey Herzfeld Trio, First Wednesday Club, Platform 12, Norwich.Joey’s songs often have some kind of Jewish flavour, though piano tonight (rather than accordion) might change that.
Friday 7 July, is this one on? A trio playing standards, before screening of the film Whiplash, somewhere in Aylsham …
Friday 14 July, Wymondham Music Festival, The Green Dragon, Joey Herzfeld Trio. Perhaps back to the ‘classic’ line up of accordion/voice, trumpet, bass, after the piano of the July 5 gig.