::                                                              ::
  ::                     - WHAT'S RATTLIN' ? -                    ::
  ::       The Weekly Digest for Canterbury Music Addicts         ::
  ::                         Issue # 143                          ::
  ::                Thursday, November 25th, 1999                 ::
  ::                                                              ::



Last week was another great seven days for this lover of Canterbury music, with several Canterbury-related musical events in London. For me it all started in the Eurostar from Paris to London. Who was I to meet in the waiting room but our good old Elton Dean? It may seem to be the most extraordinary event, but Elton is actually a regular commuter, living mostly in Paris with his French wife but working mostly in London, in this case planning a duo appearance with pianist Howard Riley at the London Jazz Festival. Our favourite sax player told me there weren't as many gig opportunities as he'd wish these days, although he is hopeful that more activity is forthcoming for the "new" quartet SoftWare, which made its debut in Germany last September and features the stellar line-up of Elton, Keith Tippett, Hugh Hopper and John Marshall. Let's hope it's the case since the recordings made there apparently are of no use - too much reverb in the medieval castle the gig was set in!

The following day provided the opportunity to witness the continued activity of Phil Lee, former guitarist with Gilgamesh and (briefly) National Health, as a fifth of the Paul Edmonds Quintet. Edmonds is a young trumpet player and composer, and joining him and Phil was the usual jazz rhythm section of piano, double bass and drums. While very much in the jazz tradition, the compositions were inspired and provided many opportunities for Phil and others to shine. Those unfamiliar with Phil's playing are advised to check out Stanley Kubrick's last movie, "Eyes Wide Shut", where he is cast (but uncredited) as a... jazz guitarist. With such a prestigious debut in the film industry, Mr. Lee is certainly bound for worldwide fame soon.

Wednesday, November 17th, was of course *the* day - Annie Whitehead's Soup Songs project billed as one of the major attractions of the London Jazz Festival. Additional excitement was provided by the announcement that Robert Wyatt himself would be there to sign his records. The advertisements didn't make it very clear whether there was any chance of him joining "his" band for a little vocal or percussive contribution, but unfortunately we true fans know this is hardly to be expected from the man. Anyway... I'd voiced my reservations on the whole project after attending the second performance in Nancy, and I must say I was doubtful whether, in spite of the presence of Julie Tippetts, the London gig would be a significant improvement. It proved to be, to a much larger extent than I'd have expected.

First of all, much more music was played. About an hour's worth of additional material, much of it proving my favourite part of the show. Not only were the extra songs a welcome addition, they actually changed the whole balance of the performance. In this respect I think the London concert must have been by far the best of the three. The Newmark premiere consisted of two separate shows, focussing on acoustic and electric material respectively. Due to Julie Tippetts' absence, the Nancy show focussed largely on the more down-to-earth, less ethereal stuff. In London, the mixture was richer and more convincing.

Highlights of the two-part show (a half-hour interval inbetween) included the whole of side B from "Ruth is Stranger than Richard", bookended by the lovely "Muddy Mouth(s)", and delightfully sung by Julie Tippetts. "Solar Flares" featured Phil Manzanera playing a loud, spacy guitar solo that was an eloquent summary of his style - economic use of a high technical expertise. Sadly, Phil still didn't play a lot of really audible things, focussing on various effects in the background except for a couple of solos. Yet in either case his contribution seemed relevant to the spirit of the project. Another high point was "Alliance", which began the second set - this anti-Thatcher diatribe is more relevant than ever in the light of Maggie's recent outburts of anti-European xenophobia, which the Centipede-like end section (Tippetts vocalising on top of the improvising brass section) seemed to echo. "Sight Of The Wind" was a most moving moment, one of the rare instances where Robert Wyatt's musical environment was successfully and totally re-created in all its emotional range. I may be wrong, but it seemed to me that Janette Mason's keyboard playing had shed a lot of its academism since the Nancy gig in favour of a more Wyatt-like fragility. Also this time a grand piano was used, in addition to inspired atmospheric synth bubbles.

There are still a few tracks I don't like - the opening "Sonia", with its almost reggae arrangement, doesn't really fit in; most of the songs from "Rock Bottom" fail to re-create the unique atmosphere of that most unique album; and Ian Maidman never really convinces as the dep for Robert Wyatt, although he comes close to making a couple of songs his own, like "Free Will and Testament". But on "Team Spirit" he doesn't really cut it off - although admittedly this MacCormick-Manzanera song is a hard one to sing convincingly.

The general intent of the project, Annie Whitehead said at one point, was to emphasise Robert Wyatt's achievements as a composer. Well, not wanting to overlook the latter, I've always seen Wyatt as a superior interpreter and creator of sonic emotions (by way of his voice and instruments), rather than primarily a songwriter. This is why I initially failed, and to some extent still do, to see the relevance of such a project. To these ears, the Hopper/Polysons project earlier this year, covering Hopper and Ratledge compositions from the classic Soft Machine catalogue, was in this respect a more worthy venture, especially since the performance featured an original and essential member of the group. Soup Songs provided largely faithful renditions of Robert Wyatt's songs, and those were the source of a good amount of musical pleasure, but whether in any of the cases they amounted to an improvement, or even equalled the original versions is anybody's guess. On a more prosaic level though, it is certain that most of us had a great night.

A few of Robert's former musical accomplices could be seen among the audience, although quite predictably no-one from the Soft Machine camp - former Matching Mole members Phil Miller and Bill MacCormick, as well as Lol Coxhill, Chris Cutler and Keith 'The Bass' Bailey. But of course the focus of everyone's attention after the gig was the bearded man in the wheelchair, who had agreed to devote a good amount of his time to meeting his fans and signing various pieces of memorabilia. Of the approximately 1,000-1,500-strong audience, probably 150-200 people queued to briefly chat with this living legend who was quicky to make everyone feel as if it was just "a day in the life" and not the extraordinary event of seeing in the flesh a man who has not appeared in public performances for almost 25 years. This conclusion definitely made that evening a memory to cherish.

On a more factual note, Phil Miller updated on his upcoming album project, saying he had booked a studio for January 5, 6 and 7 of next year. Overdub sessions will probably follow quickly so a new Miller opus is hopefully to be expected early in the new Millenium. And while we're talking of famous people in attendance that night, I should mention that Chris Cutler's new project, The Science Group, is a killer - in my opinion, possibly the best stuff he's done since Henry Cow. We'll certainly talk about it again soon. Stay tuned...

* * * *

It has been announced on this list and elsewhere that new 'live' e-mail list devoted to all things Canterbury has been created. I should perhaps make clear that, although it has been decided to call that list 'Calyx' (a choice I would have discouraged, had I been consulted, although obviously I don't own this name in any way), I am not personally associated with it. I actually know very little about it since it was launched while I was away from home and although I have subscribed to it I have yet to receive any messages. Anyway, I'd like to say that I remain faithful in the idea of a moderated, digest-form list, as the format that will appeal to most. Yet the advent of this new, live, list, seems to have reduced the amount of discussion on this list in a significant way. I am willing to keep the 'information/official' side of this project going, but of course I strongly encourage everyone to send in their most substantial contributions to this list, as in any case it is bound to remain the one with the highest claim to posterity. I hope this doesn't sound pretentious or aggressive, and the owners of the abovementioned list are welcome to state their views in this forum.


From: "MARCHON, Xavier" <Xavier.MARCHON@RP-RORER.FR>
Subject: Hugh Hopper Quartet - live in Argenteuil
Date: Tue, 23 Nov 1999 09:53:26 +0100

A last minute warning reminded me that Hugh Hopper's new quartet was playing last Friday (November 19th) in Argenteuil (near Paris). The lack of advertising probably accounts for the low attendance. There were about 50 of us, including friends and family of the musicians.

The gig was billed as "the Hugh Hopper Quartet", with Patrice Meyer (guitars), Pierre-Olivier Govin (sax, he's a member of the group Polysons who made 2 tribute-to-Soft Machine gigs with Hugh Hopper last year in France - see review by Aymeric in an old WR issue) and a drummer named Francois Verly (formerly of Abus Dangereux, replacing the drummer originally billed for the gig, one Stephane Huchard). Hugh Hopper band is a franglo-band tout court now...

Chatting with Patrice and Pierre-Olivier at the end of the first set, we learned that the quartet had rehearsed about 10 times for this concert. And, joking, they said this gig was the 11th rehearsal... Will a recording follow this gig? Nobody knows yet but we all hope it's not just a one-off project. Patrice also told us he will play with John Greaves in a quartet in the near future. Who else will be in it? "It's open ! We only know it will be a quartet. Anybody who is free and willing to do it may apply for the job !". A concert was more or less planned for January but is now likely to take place in the spring (stay tuned!)... But I digress. Let's go back to this gig.

A good surprise was the venue : the "Cave Dimière" [In Cahoots played there last year]. I was expecting a little and sordid cellar, it was in fact a very beautiful place dating from the 13th Century with wonderful archways (listed historic building). The sound was good, the bar was in another room, so nothing could distract the listener from the pleasure of the music. So the conditions of the concert were optimal, and the quality of the music was the same level !

We were graced with very powerful versions of old Hopper's numbers like "Wanglo Saxon", "Sliding Dogs", "Miniluv", "Shuffle Demons", "Dedicated To You But You Weren't Listening", some Patrice Meyer's tunes "Carousel", "No Long solos", and Elton Dean's "Seven For Lee" in an astonishing unplugged version (acoustic guitar, sax and tablas).

But there were also some brand new tracks. I've noted the titles : "Looks Better" (Hopper), "For Alan" (Hopper, dedicated to, guess who... Alan Gowen!), "Grosso Modo" (Meyer), and "Horny Brownie" (Meyer). The latter being a tune I had already heard live by Tertio (Pip Pyle, Patrice Meyer and Emmanuel Bex' Band) some years ago.

They played LOUD, with great solos by Patrice Meyer on electric guitar, and Pierre-Olivier Govin on sax, despite some sound problems that even made him stop playing at the beginning of "Shuffle Demons". They eventually all stopped to start the number again. The drummer also was sometimes too loud (he's in fact better known as a percussionist) hitting his kit louder than, say, Pip Pyle... But the drums sound is always problematic in little clubs. And Hugh Hopper was as discreet as possible, building the rythm, no solo (or if you want to call solo a 10 second bass line...).

During the pause, the manager of the Cave Dimière told them they had been a bit too loud and kindly asked them to go piano for the second set. Hence the "unplugged" versions of "Dedicated To You..." and "Seven For Lee". But it was soon forgotten with the following "Carousel" and, above all, "Horny Brownie". Those who have heard this track still remind it for its wall of sound and powerful riff.

Well, yes, it was a very good concert, and I was not the only one to enjoy it a lot. And moreover before returning home, we had the pleasure of talking to Hugh, Patrice and Pierre-Olivier who are really nice persons.

Let's hope we can hear this Hugh Hopper quartet line-up in the next future again, this time with better advertising and a bigger audience which their music


From: Ireedmon@aol.com
Subject: Here and Now
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 18:49:29 EST


1. I've written before, but, again, do you know where I can find a Here and
Now Band tune called "Cast Out of Oxford"? I will happily pay for a copy-I need
the points with a certain lady from Wokingham! I've even asked Keith, but even he doesn't have a copy. As I understand it, it came out on either a compilation
cassette or on an EP cassette.
2. What's on the Here and Now CD set you've sited?
3. I'm in the States, so, obviously, how can I purchase a copy?

Thomas Cartier-Dilbeck
Wand'rin'Star Reviews


From: "simon meader" <herbedaceous@hotmail.com>
Subject: Magma Live in the UK!
Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 13:33:22 GMT

Those of you of the Zeuhl persuasion may be interested that the very wonderful MAGMA are playing Queen Elizabeth Hall South Bank, London on 7th February 2000 (Box Office Telephone : 0171 960 4242)Tickets are £15 and £12.50 plus a £1 booking fee.

According to the ad I saw in MOJO magazine this will be the first time the full electric band have played in the UK since 1975, so it promises to be a very special evening.

Snooker fans may be interested that (unless it's a classic urban myth?) the former world champion Steve Davies is allegedly a big Magma fan - I wonder if he'll be there?!!!

Simon Meader


                           END OF ISSUE 143


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