Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Toots

Toots (1922-2016)
Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor Thielemans - known simply as Toots Thielemans - was a musician's musician. A consummate composer and multi-instrumentalist - guitar, harmonica, and whistling (yes, whistling) - Belgian born Thielemans came up through the ranks as a sideman to the likes of Benny Goodman and George Shering in the late '40s; he would later front combos with many A-List jazzers including Oscar Peterson, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Pat Metheny. But he was so much more than a jazz man: ever wondered who played the harp solo in Midnight Cowboy? Yep, Toots. The Sesame Street theme? Ditto. Talk about an eclectic resumé.

But today I want to play you something he wrote and recorded in 1957. It's a tune called Soul Station and is taken from his album Man Bites Harmonica. It predates English R&B by half a decade or more, but I'm guessing at least one future Rolling Stone would have been listening to this. Spot the intro.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Once Upon a Time

Starsky & Hutch - the early years
I went to the pictures on Friday. I saw Quentin Tarantino's latest, his 9th apparently, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Whilst it may not be his best offering (I know what mine is, what's yours?), at 161 minutes it must be one of his longest. Of course size isn't everything, but I was completely immersed in Tarantino's portrayal of 1969 California from the get go and never looked at my watch once.


Whilst my cinematic knowledge may not be encyclopaedic, I think I can say with some level of certainty that this is the first time Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio have been paired together on the big screen. And what a double act. The insecurity of DiCaprio's Rick Dalton, a struggling Hollywood actor, against his more bullish stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt), is played out superbly.
When I heard it was a comedy drama that touched on the Sharon Tate story of 50 years ago I worried where this film may be headed. I needn't have worried. I won't give anyrging away here, but the version of events you see in Once Upon a Time is purely stand alone; as are the 'cameos' of other non fictional characters in this work of semi-fiction. The fight scene, for instance, with Bruce Lee on the lot is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time - I think the Lee estate would be more up in arms than Tate's, that's for sure.
As for the soundtrack, it's precisely what a Tarantino soundtrack should be. It fits like a hand in glove. And whilst the selection appear effortless, random even, you just know it was sewn together with a surgeon like precision. Where else would you find Deep Purple segueing into Neil Diamond?

Neil Diamond - Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show (1969)


The ending, then, takes us somewhere completely different to that seemingly telegraphed earlier in the movie (very much in keeping with Tarantino's skill of misdirection) and is, er, executed quite brilliantly. It really is extraordinary what some people keep in their shed. 8/10

Sunday, 1 September 2019

This is What Democracy Looks Like


Mine is not a political blog, overtly or otherwise; I'd much rather be talking about biscuits. Or bass players. Even brass bands. Not Brexit, that's for sure. That said, it's not difficult to ascertain which side of the divide Are We There Yet? resides. But I can't let the events of yesterday go unrecorded. The recent actions of our new government, this far right Nationalist Party under its de facto leader Dominic Cummings (Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a mere puppet, albeit a vey dangerous puppet) meant that yesterday, I went on a march. Along with hundreds of thousands of like minded citizens up and down the  country, I stood shoulder to shoulder and demonstrated that what is currently happening in this country and its imminent crash out of Europe will not be carried out in my name.

I know that a lot of you feel the same. If you do, please do something (I'm sure some of you already are): sign a petition, write to your MP, attend a rally, protest, march. Doing nothing is not an option. This chilling quote (right) is from a dystopian future - A Handmaid's Tale - but could so easily have been written about these times. Our times. Please do everything you can to ensure we don't go down without a fight. To say that next week is probably the most important week in peacetime Britain is not hyperbole. Make yourself heard. It might be your last chance.