Occasional Writings

The Guardian (Letters to the Editor)

Dear Sir,

While Jimmy White’s name-change as part of HP Sauce’s sponsorship of snooker is terrific, it does represent a missed opportunity, though there may still be time to correct this (“Brown is the new White in saucy promotion” February 9th).

James Coburn

re. obituary of James Coburn (Independent November 20 2002)

Further to your obituary of James Coburn (Independent November 20 2002), something which does not really appear there is the extent to which Coburn’s work as an actor was informed by a rare alertness into contemporary culture. It was the fact that your obituary mentioned that he was “listening to music at home” when he died that reminded me of the following incident.

"Vexations" and its Performers

JEMS: An Online Journal of Experimental Music Studies Reprints Series

Vexations and its Performers

Originally published in Contact no. 26 (Spring 1983), pp. 12-20. Reprinted with the kind permission of the author. Jems upload date: 17 March 2004.

Slam Stewart and other bowed bassists

Re. Bow Techniques for Jazz Bass

I enjoyed John Goldsby's article very much. The section on Slam Stewart reminded me of the time in 1964 when I played opposite him at the Carlton Cabaret Club in Chesterfield. I was bassist in the house band and he was the bassist with pianist/singer Rose Murphy - known as the "chee chee girl" whose most famous number was Busy Line (used as a telephone advert in several countries). I would play at the club from around 9 PM to 2 AM and Slam would arrive with Rose at around 10.

Steve Reich at 70 (Barbican)

The French music critic and broadcaster Daniel Caux used to say that there have been three major new developments in music since the Second World War: the music of John Cage, American minimalism, and English experimental music. I have been lucky enough to have been involved with all three.

Bill Evans Trio (for Mojo)

“Most Influential Album of all time”

John Cage (Guardian)

My first encounter with John Cage changed my life. I had known about Cage from quite an early age as Dr. (“Bud”) Ramsey, the extraordinarily enlightened music master at Goole Grammar School, had told me about the prepared piano and about 4’33” – the so-called silent piece – things which he found interesting, though puzzling.

Giya Kancheli (Independent)

The appearance of the music of Arvo Pärt in the mid 1980’s was a startling thing, as though one had walked into a strange but parallel musical universe, one which seemed quite unrelated to the pattern of contemporary western musical practice. It was a particular album, Tabula Rasa, one of the first of ECM’s New Series that had such an impact.

Derek Bailey

(supplement to Guardian obituary)

There is no doubt in my mind that my friend Derek Bailey was one of the major figures in music – and not just improvised music – over the last thirty years. I was a 19-year old philosophy student, and beginning jazz bass player, in Sheffield when I first met him in 1962. Along with drummer Tony Oxley, our trio – called Joseph Holbrooke - developed over the next four years an original and experimental approach to improvisation that led us away from jazz into uncharted areas of collective free playing.

Serendipitous counterpoint (Guardian)

(Following an article in the Guardian by Steven Isserlis on audience behaviour)

As far as musicians and the concert-going public are concerned mobile phones and digital watches are unwelcome, obtrusive and have had a rather bad press in recent times. I would like to point to occasions when their presence can provide something more positive.