A few weeks ago, back in Gijón, Carlos Pizarro, excelentisimo jazz guitarist, invited me to talk about the music I like on his jazz radio programme, La Voz del Arbol. I had a wonderful time putting it together, starting with the earliest LPs that made their way into my Norfolk home in the late 50s, King Joe Oliver and Miriam Makeba – through to Janelle Monae. And, apart from King Oliver, and Hasaan Ibn Ali, I´ve heard nearly all these amazing musicians live. The interview´s in Spanish – but whether you understand it or not, I promise you that the music is very well worth a listen. Thank you, Carlos, for your patience with my relaxed delivery! It´s not that I´m struggling in Spanish, I´m the same in English!
Visiting the Past I´m celebrating having finally got together the things I need to record the audiobook, by publishing this short story. The text is over on Spanglish Rose: the recording has challenged my procrastination and my perfectionism – I did it in one take with a thunderstorm going on outside. But those are the kind of circumstances I enjoy being read aloud to in, so I hope you enjoy listening.
A feast for the ears, and an education for the soul – the wonderful “Twenty Feet from Stardom” which I saw the other weekend in London. It´s about some of the backing singers whose voices contributed to the best-loved sounds of the 20th / 21st century. Of special interest for the theme of my book – the difference between singing from sheet music, which is what their predecessors did, and singing from the heart. I was moved to tears by “Lean on me”, sung by Darlene Love, Jo Lawry, Judith Hill and Lisa Fischer: I´d just been revising the chapter in my book which uses this song as a way of teaching all the chords in a given key.
We all need – to hear these wonderful voices. May this film do for their careers what Buenva Vista social club did for so many wonderful Cuban musicians.
L to R: Derrick Hodge, kind journalist whose name I´ve forgotten – sorry! Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, and me. I see that Robert Glasper is bringing his scrumptious music to London – heard his band – hey, could be 18 months ago in what we call here “the Niemeyer” – wondrous buildings and space designed by the great Brazilian architect in Avilés. Kind fellow concert goers offered me a lift back to Gijón (I was chancing it because there´s no public transport after 10, and I wasn´t going to miss a moment of the gig) and we ended up in the same restaurant as the band. As we all got into a clinch for the photo, I said to Chris Davis, the drummer, “You´re so upsetting” which was the best adjective i could think of for his playing, which was clean as a whistle, neat, and apparently simple – with something ferociously complicated going on underneath. Robert Glasper immediately asked me ” Are you a drummer?” which, apart from being a huge compliment, because it is my favourite instrument, was a beautifully unstereotyped response. The vibe has us all grinning.
Ana Martos and I gave this recital several years ago, in my friend Mabel Lanvandera´s studio. Lorca made piano arrangements of various songs, from between the 15th and 19th centuries, to accompany La Argentinita, a famous singer and dancer.
This is a tragic story: It tells of four boys, getting up early to go to the corrida, one in clothes borrowed for the occasion. (Spoken: Please God, let him come in a cart,…A gypsy´s curse? Foreboding? Vision?) On the way they meet with the matorral, the man who brought the bull up, feeding him milk: he warns them that the bull is wicked. The four gallant boys present themselves in the square. Manuel Sanchez calls to the bull – would that he never had. The bull drags him all over the square, and when he finally leaves him, Manuel is bleeding to death. He dies before the confessor comes. They borrow a cart drawn by oxen from the landlord, and take the body back to his widowed mother.
Here´s the intro to my forthcoming audiobook, “Play it By Ear”. My struggle to get this out into the world has been a long one. (The book, I mean, not just the intro!) I hope it whets your appetite for the first chapter, which I´ll be uploading, free, this week. Nothing like a public deadline. Very much hope that it meets with your approval.
“There are two kinds of inspiration. One is “I´d love to be able to do that”. The other is “I can do better than that!” Sometimes the second is more likely to kick us into action!
Here I am, in good company, in the jam session in El Patio de la Favorita, Gijón