Buena Vista Social Club

Following recent media interest in post-Castro Cuba, it’s worth revisiting Wim Wenders’ 1999 film:






Prepared Piano #1

It’s 70 years since John Cage completed his collection of Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano. 1948, the year that Mahatma Gandhi was murdered, the United Nations created the Jewish state of Israel in Palestine, as well as adopting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Treaty of Brussels was signed, which led to the EU; all of which have come back to haunt and taunt us.

I met John Cage in 1980. Got drunk with him and Merce Cunningham in Soho. I’ve used prepared piano samples in several compositions over the years, but waited until now to compose something for prepared piano performance. This and the following pieces represent fond remembrance filtered through the rejection of Modernism. My thanks to Marabi O’Hare for joining me in performing these recordings, at night in a small country church in the West Country. A quiet place that we shall keep secret.


More in this set to come …


Melodic ornamentation in jazz

Here are some useful resources for developing your extemporisation and improvisation skills …













Marabi piano style

Thomas Mabilesta – Zulu Piano Medley No.1


Thomas Mabeleta’s ‘Zulu Piano Medley’ is one of the few surviving recordings of  Marabi, a keyboard style popular in the shebeens. The influence of jazz, ragtime and blues is obvious, but its roots lie deep in African tradition. Early Marabi musicians were part of an underground musical culture, so were typically not recorded. As with early jazz in the US, this music confronted establishment culture. Nonetheless, the lilting melodies and catchy rhythms of Marabi found their way into the popular dance music of Southern Africa.


The Takadimi system can help you to understand and perform rhythm. It works like Solfege, but for rhythm. It assigns a distinct syllable for each point of a beat. The beat is always spoken as ta.  The division of the beat is spoken as ta – di in simple meter or ta – ki – da  in compound meter.

More …


Attending a musicology conference recently, I was reminded of how many dodgy handshakes one can get on such occasions. In my case, unreciprocated, I assure you.

It is estimated that there are around six million Freemasons in the world today. Most live in English-speaking countries, but their influence is global. Whatever other motivations individuals may have, members of ‘the craft’ knowingly join a secretive and powerful elite. The public face of Freemasonry presents a supportive and charitable bunch of like-minded chaps. Yet–ignoring the many distorted conspiracy theories–there is ample evidence to demonstrate that Freemasonry is exploited to corrupt the police and the judiciary, for example.

The United Grand Lodge of England is openly recruiting university students to Freemasonry, no doubt encouraged by many of their tutors. Shame on them and shame on the Grand Master, HRH the Duke of Kent.

However …

Music & Neoliberalism

‘From the latter part of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, as capitalism has adapted into a more fragmented, resilient and contradictory system than it was first envisioned, changes in patterns of circulation and exchange associated with flexible accumulation have produced a number of incongruous dynamics that pose challenges for these models.  For example, the emergence of an increasing diversity of small independent, musical markets devoted to the consumption of niche musical styles brings into question the notions of standardization and interchangeability associated with commodity fetishism.  Yet, even though these new markets may point to a possible long-term restructuring of a transnational music industry dominated by a handful of large stake holders, and despite the role that new media technologies have had in democratizing access for producers and consumers in these markets, these changes are often accompanied by the ongoing economic and social marginalization of the communities on whose music those markets are based.  Creativity, a concept formerly associated with artistic activity that resists or defies the purported homogenizing tendencies of commodification, is increasingly becoming a buzzword designed to quantify and valuate the soft skills of musicians and other artists as members of an emerging new class producers.  Similarly, concepts like originality, hybridity, counterculture, gender, race or cultural difference, are often mapped onto narratives of freedom, possibility, and innovation associated with globalization and the spread of free market capitalism, redefining the potential transgressive character of music and the agency of those who engage with it in terms of their ability to become effective agents of economic development.’ (IASPM call for papers, Feb 2013)


Neoliberalism and Pop Music

Ed Sheeran, the charts and passivity in listeners

Jazz and Neoliberalism

map anarchism

No Rights to The Rite

David Patrick’s brilliant adaptation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring is no longer available, and the associated tour cancelled, following the threat of a bankrupting lawsuit by UK publishers Boosey & Hawkes. The Amazon CD review reads:

This stunning reworking for jazz octet of Igor Stravinsky’s masterwork retains all of the themes and most of the exquisite orchestration of the original composition. Improvisational sections appear organically out of Stravinsky’s score, allowing band members to be featured as individual soloists as the piece unfolds. Newspaper critics have described live performances of The Rite as “a triumph” and “a brash and brilliant homage”. With personnel drawn from Scotland, England and Germany, this international group is a world-class ensemble, completely at ease with each other and this incredibly complex music. David Patrick’s stylish contemporary piano playing has always worked hand in hand with his arranging and composition skills, whether writing for the dark contemporary edge of The Scottish Jazz Composers’ Orchestra, the smooth swing-feel of singers such as Todd Gordon, Carol Kidd and Jacqui Dankworth, or the avant-garde German cabaret performances of Kurt Weill obsessive singer-actor Bremner Duthie. The Times of London described Patrick’s arrangements as “exquisitely crafted throughout” and the BBC reported that “his virtuosity at the keyboard is matched only by his skills as an arranger and composer of the highest calibre”.

Ironic, given Stravinsky’s boast that mature composers steal (itself not an original assertion). See links below.

That bassoon opening

Stravinsky borrowings

Fortunately, I downloaded David Patrick’s album before the take-down.

Maybe jazz enthusiasts should boycott B&H.