Thursday, 3 February 2011

Sweet Georgie Fame

Music From BBC Children's Programmes, it soon became clear, was going to take some finding. What you did sometimes used to find in those damp-eroded cardboard boxes though, in amongst the miles upon miles of James Last, Bert Kaempfert, Ray Conniff, Johnny Mann, Nina And Ferederik, Nana Mouskouri, Johnny Mathis, Manuel And His Music Of The Mountains, Mario Lanza, Mario Lanza, Mario Lanza and Mario Lanza, was an unusually high proportion of sixties jazz records.

Presumably the genre afficionados hadn't quite got around to appreciating the merits of vibe-heavy breathy-girl Modern Jazz with world music inflections and touches of sitar/backward tape experimentalness yet, because this stuff just used to sit there untouched, with the intriguing-looking tinted sleeves and elongated typefaces seeming to become more and more appealing as Barnaby's Heavy Concept Album seemed to become more and more elusive. After a while, it seemed churlish not to give a couple a try.

This was, it turned out, an entry into a very different sort of secret world to the quasi-psychedelic retro-heavy nirvana promised by Music From BBC Children's Programmes. It was kind of how you'd always thought jazz sounded as a youngster (though in the mould of those piano-syncopating characters that showed up in the middle of TV Light Entertainment shows, rather than stripy-blazered 'ragtime' loons like those planks who did the music for Harold Lloyd's World Of Comedy and indeed exhorted us all to "laugh a while, dig that style - a pair of glasses and a smile"), but spiralling off into unexpected directions, full of smooth instrumental textures and wild improvisation that evoked some lost Beatle-John-Lennon-Meets-Dalek-era world of arty sophisticates slipping into hip modernist joints serving terrifyingly strong coffee.

There was Blossom Dearie, who sounded (on her That's Just The Way I Want To Be album at least) like some hip Kohl-eyed psychedelian that the cover photo confirmed she was most definitely not. There was the amusingly-named Tubby Hayes, whose reverberating vibraphone workouts seemed almost too fast for the vinyl to keep up with. There was The London Jazz Four, whose sadly underappreciated Take A New Look At The Beatles succeeded in making even the overfamiliar likes of Michelle sound like totally fresh compositions (and if you're interested, please please check out their dancefloor-scorching Things We Said Today, almost unrecognisably harpsichorded up I Feel Fine, and shimmering snail-paced rearrangement of Rain). More exotically, there were the bossanova-toting likes of Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, and the unhinged raga experiments of The Dave Pike Set.

All very exciting, but in the words of another charity shop find from around the same time, "nice though this be, I seek yet further kicks". I was being drawn further and further into the genre, and further and further away from the sonic holy grail of Dylan The Rabbit And Other TV Favourites, and so began the descent into affecting an interest in 'free jazz'. And it was all Keith Chegwin's fault.

1 comment:

  1. This is just fab (ouch!). You can barely hear the tune, but I love this vibe..