Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Jazz & Poetry

I've been continuing my exploration into the outer reaches of British jazz of the 60's and 70's, having recieved as a Christmas party, Return to Captain Adventure, a brilliant two-disc record of Stan Tracey's 100 Club gig in 1975. The familiar attack of clanking chords, and unique sound of one of the greatest pianists this country ever produced, from something dragged up from obscurity by his son's http://tentotenrecords.com label. Here's what one critic said, better than I could:

"You may have read about the 1970s, the decade in which, according to many
histories of jazz, not much of interest was happening. Maybe that received
wisdom temporarily triumphed over both memory and expectation but, as I should
have known, there was a lot of energy being expended in this group (and
elsewhere on the British scene). On the verge of a comeback to wider acceptance
after beneficial dabbling in free-jazz waters, Tracey plays like a man possessed
and his colleagues have to do likewise in order to keep up. This must have been
Stan's first self-financed album, following a successful launch of his Steam
imprint with the initial reissue of Under Milk Wood and, originally released as
Captain Adventure (a single 48-minute LP), it's now augmented with no less than
68 minutes of previously unreleased stuff from the same night at the 100 Club.
The four long tracks of the issued version contained a fast modal-minor piece, a
loose major blues, some fast rhythm-changes (the title-track) and a beautiful
Ellingtonian ballad, 'Doin' It For Art'. The wide-open nature of the performance
and the spontaneity of interchange between all the players is exemplified, if
anything, even more so on the new pieces, which include an improvised answer to
'Friday The 13th' (called 'Friday The 31st'), more modal material and more
blues. The one songbook item, 'Lover Man', is completely dissected by Tracey
alongside Themen's slightly more rhapsodic approach quoting from 'Parker's
Mood', and there's even a Tracey standard ('Afro-Charlie'), written to feature
Bobby Wellins and not otherwise recorded with Art, I think. The contributions of
Green and Spring are a revelation if you've forgotten them in this context but,
choosing one thing worthy of being singled out, it's the joy of hearing the
hugely underrated Themen at greater length." Brian Priestley. Jazzwise


Well worth my sister's searching for it on the Internet.

I've also just been doing some reading, including the '70's collection of Eric Mottram, A Book of Herne, and it occurs to me that there was a consensus from the mainstream (well, Andrew Motion & Blake Morrison to be precise) that nothing much was happening in the '70's poetrt wise too. Yet this dense, Black Mountain influenced delving into British mythology that takes in references as diverse as Harrison Ainsworth and Jim Morrison proves them wrong. There was a lot going on. Unlike Stan Tracey, however, not much if anything of Mottram's work is available. I found a website, but as yet no poetry on it: http://www.albany.edu/mottram/

How many other undiscoevered treasures of British poetry are there out there? Lots and lots, I imagine; and it's great that some publishers have managed to bring some of it back into circulation. But like British jazz, which some have thought to be almost an impossibility, British modernist writing of the '70's is still hard to find. Maybe not all of it is worth finding; but some, like A Book of Herne are worth discovering again and placing into the canon of British poetry.

3 comments:

With Hammer And Tong...The LetterShaper said...

Very much enjoyed the time I spent here, leisurely strolling through your site. As a poet, and an avid reader, I found it both enlightening and enriching...Thank you.

Sid Smith said...

At last someone else singing the praises of this great album. I saw this line-up a couple of times in 70s and they were astonishing. I picked this album as one of the best reissues of 2006. Great value for money and the best document of musicians at the peak of their collective powers.

Sid

Gsblog said...

Came to this Blog because of the fierce views on the winner of the TS Eliot prize. Found the review of the Stan Tracey record. Ordered the CDs immediately and they arrived today.Such glorious music and such an heroic musician. Thank you for inspiring to listen to the wonderful Stan Tracey again. It really is a special record.