A glorious concert from Pink Martini in Oxford. From my Times review:

This is the side of America we aren’t seeing much of: open-minded, optimistic and outward-looking. If one band could repair the country’s image abroad, it would have to be Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes’s quirky lounge orchestra, an ensemble that seems intent on finding inspiration in every corner of the globe. Cynics might complain that there’s a slightly cosy element to the presentation: you do occasionally feel as if you are a gatecrasher at some Ivy League private party. Yet the sheer depth and range of the musicianship remains intoxicating: in an era of relentlessly dumbed-down, packaged culture, Pink Martini remind us that popular music can still aspire to quality and sophistication.

Posted in Music, Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Smooth samba

“Corra e Olhe o Céu (Run & Look to the Sky)” from her new album, “Canta Cartola”.

Posted in Music, Uncategorized | Tagged


This same report gives us a vivid glimpse of Mosley as a speaker: “There was a tepid welcome when Sir Oswald Mosley came. He was a lithe and catlike figure, and as he sat down smiling one thought of M. Rigaud in Little Dorrit whose ‘moustache went up under his nose, and his nose came down over his moustache.’ The moustache is trim, the nose shapely, the teeth very white and perfect. The profile is aristocratic…When he begins to speak we find that he has a powerful, harsh voice that would carry well on a parade ground… His illustrations are striking. He told how he stood in the Ford works at Detroit and watched a man who earned £6 a week for working six hours a day at nothing but turning a screw with a screwdriver. Any illiterate oriental could learn the job in half-an-hour, and then he would work not for six  but for eight, ten, twelve hours a day, and not for £6 a week but for 5s.a week or for a bowl of rice.”

Robert Skidelsky, “Oswald Mosley”.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged ,

All Saints, Bisham 

Image | Posted on by

John Ellson, music man

We said goodbye to John Ellson last week. A lovely humanist service, with John Harle performing a piece by Johnny Hodges. I was one of the speakers. Here’s part of what I had to say. Thanks to all the people who contributed their reminiscences.

johns-funeral-serviceA couple of weeks before he died John was helping out at a country festival called Nashville Meets London. Country isn’t the kind of music you’d associate with him, but he loved that weekend, meeting the artists and getting to know people backstage. After it was all over, he was still putting Nashville albums on the CD player at home. It reminded me of the old story about Buddy Rich being admitted to hospital when he was seriously ill. When the nurse asked if he was allergic to anything, he just said “Country and western.” I don’t think John was allergic to anything. Music was music. That was all. He loved being with musicians, and they loved being with him.

You can’t talk about him without mentioning his partnership with another John, John Cumming. In their years together at Serious, they created the blueprint for much of the jazz scene today. They met at the Bracknell Festival in the late Seventies. John was just helping out at first. I was talking to him about this period a couple of weeks before he died. He told me that the first time he saw the other John, he had his hands around the neck of one of the staff and was throttling him. All in jest, of course. It was the start of a long partnership. They also worked on the Camden Jazz Week, and soon decided to try producing their own concerts. Which was how they ended up based in a room above an off-licence in Soho – a perfect location given all those famous long lunches Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized

When John Major met Boris Yeltsin

Pithy. A  diplomatic tale from Lynn Barber’s review of Jeremy Paxman’s autobiography:

JM: Well, Boris, in a word, how is Russia?

BY: Good.

JM: And in more than one word?

BY: Not good.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , , , ,


Latin tinge. Street musicians, W11.

Posted in Music, Photography | Tagged , ,

Less is always more

An enthralling show from Steve Gadd’s band at Ronnie Scott’s. From my Times review:

When drummers are also bandleaders they tend to make a point of letting the audience know who is in charge as often as possible, courtesy of a manic salvo of fireworks. Steve Gadd isn’t averse to such displays from time to time, but the dominant theme of this remarkable set was restraint. Here were five hugely accomplished musicians who were listening to each other as intently as members of a string quartet.

Even people who don’t know his name will probably have heard Gadd at some point or other, whether on a Paul Simon album or in an Eric Clapton concert. Even now, 40 years on, fans can still parse every stroke of that famous solo on the title track of Steely Dan’s Aja.

The group he brought to Ronnie Scott’s this week straddles jazz, R&B and pop with astonishing fluency. Not a note was wasted in a 90-minute set that constantly shied away from over-familiar standards. Keith Jarrett’s serene Country nestled alongside Wilton Felder’s Way Back Home, a Crusaders tune that was stripped down to its essentials over a white-hot funk riff from the guitarist Michael Landau. It was a rare example of a cover version eclipsing the source material.

Posted in Music, Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

On Marlow Bridge.

Image | Posted on by


The last day has dawned. Since I drew up those statistics I have tramped an additional 114 kilometres. In a moment I am going into the garden and will cover another ten kilometres, so that I shall be ending my walk at kilometre 31,936. And this evening a last violation of the prison rules. At eleven pm a telegram is to be sent to my old friend which he should receive around midnight: “Please pick me up thirty-five kilometres south of Guadalajara, Mexico. Holzwege.”

And one last item: When I entered the garden a while ago I saw Hess standing in the side court. He had his back to me. I went up to him and stood beside him, just as a gesture of sympathy. Great mounds of coal for the prison were being unloaded in the court. For a while we stood in silence side by side. Then Hess said, “So much coal. And from tomorrow on only for me.”

Albert Speer, prison diary, September 30th 1966.

Posted in Literature, Notebook, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,