Weekend of musical friends

So, Friday was the last commuter jazz gig (or ‘computer jazz’, if you’re the chief exec. of the South Bank) before the big refurb kicks in at the end of Meltdown at the end of June. Peter King was playing, and was marvellous – very fine saxophonist, even if he does play alto (not a big fan of alto, generally – it’s just a tenor sax for kids) – and the aforementioned malapropism-prone chief exec. did a lovely speech about lady jazzshark who as previously mentioned has been booking bands at the RFH since prehistoric days, and will be much missed.

So, naturally, sharky person had a big party afterwards, at a friend’s GORGEOUS flat overlooking the Thames along by Blackfriars bridge. That’s one hell of a view to wake up to each morning, for sure. Much celebration took place, and by all accounts no small about of debauchery, though I left at 10.30, so thankfully missed all that.

Saturday was a fun day – started by meeting up with the wonderful Todd Reynolds – an outstanding violinist, and truly lovely wonderful person. Todd and I have exchanged emails and been reading eachother’s posts to Loopers Delight for years, but hadn’t met, so it was great to put a face to an email address and spend the day filling in the gaps. We went back down to the RFH Foyer for the last Saturday gig before the closure (and therefore JazzShark’s last saturday gig) – many fragile hung over people there from the party the night before (fools… ;o) ) – and a lovely short film about a couple in their 70s who meet at the free gigs in the foyer to dance together.

After that, gave Todd the shortened tourist trip round central London (interesting that my tourist trips never take in Buckingham Palace – maybe my anti-royalist sentiments are spilling over into my appreciation of what’s valuable to see in town. I always take people past Downing Street and along Whitehall (the seat of our sham-democracy) and Trafalgar Square (site of many a kick-ass protest) and down to the South Bank (home of the arts), but ignore any of the Royal nonsense, unless it’s for a quick walk round St James’ Park.

I digress… A fantastic day spent wandering round with Todd, all in. Top bloke, fun day.

Then home, to pick up TSP to head out to Lizzie’s leaving do, only TSP is behind on writing work (TSP is high powered celeb journo, interviewing the great and good about all things healthy), so I leave cinderella at home and head off to the ball on my own.

Lizzie is one of life’s lovely people – a fantastic photographer/photo journalist, and very funny lady. Party was full of lovely people, naturally, with no repeats of Friday night’s debauchery (totally different group of friends here…) So good send off for Lizzie, but crap that she’s moving (only to Bristol, so we’ll still see lots of her, but still…)

Sunday – head off to church, but it’s an ‘away match’ (meaning that a family from outside the church are having a christening – though it turns out they were from the church, I just didn’t know them – major black mark against my name for not having said hi to them!!) anyway – decide to go for fry-up at nice cafe on the Holloway Road was Gawain instead. Gawain is a marvellous producer/programmer/musician who has got heavily into community music education and is doing amazingly well. Very inspiring to talk to, with lots of plans for collaborative stuff.

Then home, domestic stuff, drop mixing desk off at St Luvvies to be used at Soul Space service before heading to Finsbury Park tube to meet up with BJ and Juliet to go to Joe Jackson/Todd Rungren gig at Hammersmith homebrew Apollo or whatever it’s called this week.

The reason BJ and I are at the gig is that the lovely Todd Reynolds who I met up with on Saturday is playing with his amazing string quartet Ethel as opening act and collaborator with Joe and Todd (BJ played with Todd in John Cale’s band in the 90s). Juliet had a ticket anyway, so Todd got her an aftershow pass and we all piled down to the gig together.

Ethel kicked out – wow. Incredible energy and performance, and great gig. They looked great, played great, the music was magic and the audience were captivated.

Then Joe Jackson came on – now I’m quite a fan of Joe’s singles collection (playing at the moment, in an attempt to rescue my memory of his music), but the gig was poor. Very poor. The sound was very compressed, and solo voice and piano versions of his uptempo stuff didn’t, to my ears, work at all. The new material was particularly bad. Some of his piano playing was lovely, but the overall feeling was one of big disappointment.

So a lot was rest on Todd Rungren’s shoulders. And he didn’t rise to the occasion either. The songs all sounded thrown away, I couldn’t remember one snippet of melody at the end of any of them, his guitar sound was possibly the worst I’ve ever heard at a ‘big’ gig, and again I was left contemplating self harm as a more pleasant sensory experience than the assault my ears were currently being subjected to.

Then, all change once again. Ethel come back on, and we’re back to the gig being amazing – a Gilbert and Sullivan tune, a couple each from Joe and Todd and an encore of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (after Todd’s solo set I wanted to rename it ‘While My Guitar is Gently put through a wood-chipper’) – I’ve never seen a couple of aging rock stars so outrageously upstaged by a string quartet in my life. If the gig had been 40 minutes of Ethel, followed by 80 minutes of all five of them on stage playing a mixture of hits and misses, it could have been a breathtaking gig. As it was, it was two hours of dire self-indulgent horse-shit topped and tailed by two exquisite but far too short sets.

Ethel were a revelation, and are destined for hugeness. Please go and buy their CD, I guarantee you won’t regret it.

After all-too-brief chat with Todd after the gig, with just enough time to introduce him to Juliet and blag a copy of the Ethel album, it was time to hop on the last tube home.

Soundtrack – Joe Jackson, ‘Stepping Out – The Best Of’.

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