Category Archives: Jazz Booth

Profiling Jazz

Captain Marvel: RIP Chick Corea

The world of music is mourning the loss of Chick Corea, legendary jazz pianist and composer, who died on 9th February at the age of 79.

Image via Jazziz

A colossus of the jazz piano stage, his endless creativity can be heard fizzing across the decades, whether as part of the broiling textures of Bitches Brew or Black Beauty behind Miles Davis, or the white-hot cultural meldings of Return to Forever’s fusion; the sinuous partnership duetting with Gary Burton; his Elektric Band and its kinder counterpart, the Akoustic Trio; or the stand-alone intimacy of Children’s Songs.

My ears were first opened to his music after a crate-digging spree with my father in a junk shop in West Worthing when I was around nine or ten; a jazz fan with a burgeoning record-collection, he emerged from the dusty recesses of the shop clutching a brace of cassettes – Secret Agent and the Return to Forever album, the latter adorned with a swirlingly psychedelic cover, the former sporting a young dude in a trilby. The neat, deft, and dazzling intricacy of ‘Fickle Funk’ (featuring Allen Vizzutti) was all it took, and from then on his music became a firm fixture in my listening. OK, the Elektric Band felt a little lacking in warmth, perhaps because Dave Weckl’s drumming was technically brilliant but lacking the loose-limbed fluidity of Jack DeJohnette or the neat trim of Ed Thigpen, or the generosity of Grady Tate – but I loved the tapestry of textures.

I saw him live in a solo piano tour at Leeds Town Hall in 1992, in my first year at university, travelling across to Leeds from York. And I witnessed a remarkable moment. During the concert, Chick announced he was going to play music by someone he truly admired, and opened a copy of Bach’s 48 Preludes and Fugues, and started to play. And every pianist’s nightmare happened – it must have been a new-ish score, as the pages slowly closed in front of him as he played. Turning to the audience (still playing), he gave a shrug as if to say ‘What can you do ?’ and carried on playing, and slowly moved out of Bach into an improvisation, opening out with a wondrous organic sense from Bach’s language and into his own, improvised extension-cum-response. It was amazing, and rightly received huge applause.

For me, nothing quite beats the gentle melancholy of ‘Crystal Silence,’ particularly in this wonderfully hushed duet with Gary Burton. 

And the energy of La Fiesta, Spain and 500 Miles High.

So, jazz has lost one of its most fiercely creative legends; but we have the catalogue of recordings to explore, enjoy, and at which to marvel still. He will be missed.

Scholars’ Spotlight: David Curtiss plays Phil Woods

Our Scholars’ Spotlight series of filmed short recitals by Music Performance Scholars and Award Holders resumes tomorrow, with second-year saxophonist reading Physics, David Curtiss.

The continuing series, filmed without an audience in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, highlights many of this year’s students, and this week’s screening at 1.15pm sees David perform the wonderfully colourful, jazz-infused slow movement from the Sonata for Saxophone and Piano by the great Phil Woods.

Join us at 1.15pm when the film airs, or catch-up with it anytime afterwards.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside: a jazz recital for Christmas now online

It’s not Christmas without a performance in the Music Department of Santa Baby, and we’re delighted to bring that annual tradition round again this month, albeit in a slightly different format.

Although we can’t bring you the traditional Christmas Swingalong, we hope you enjoy this short jazz session, featuring third-year singers Elle Soo (reading Social Anthropology) and Robbie Frederick (Comparative Literature and Drama) in a handful of festive favourites, concluding with the evergreen seasonal duet, Baby It’s Cold Outside.

A little festive cheer for us all…

 

Filmed in Colyer-Fergusson Hall; with thanks to Thomas Connor, Luke McCann and George Morris.

All that jazz: General Tomfoolery is back in action…

Dust off your dancing-shoes, you’re going to need them this year; the 1940’s dance orchestra, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, has emerged phoenix-like from the ashes and is back playing once more.

The ensemble performs from original sheet-music bequeathed to the Music department back in 2005 by George and Maureen Morgan; the collection belonged to George’s group, the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra, which was active throughout the 1950s to the 1970s playing around the county. This wonderful legacy form the core repertoire for the department’s ensemble, which breathes life anew into the vintage parts.

This year, the group is joined by guest singers with an international spirit, second-years Elle Soo (from Singapore) and Robbie Frederick (from Spain). Elle will be familiar to followers of the University Big Band, with whom she sang last year and continues to do so this year; both Elle and Robbie are bringing alive classic tunes including Lady Is A Tramp and Baby, It’s Cold Outside.

The ensemble will be in action as part of Nostalgia Night on Friday 22 November, performing pieces including Moonlight Serenade,  and then taking to the foyer-stage at 1.10pm for A Christmas Tomfoolery, on Weds 11 December, as a prelude to the ‘Christmas Swingalong’ later that day.

It promises to be a vintage year – make sure you catch them playing this year; details on our What’s One pages here.

Tomfoolery play for Sibson launch

Yesterday afternoon saw the launch of the Sibson Building, the University’s newest addition to the Canterbury campus, and the joint new home shared by Kent Business School and the School of Maths and Actuarial Sciences. The musicians of General Harding’s Tomfoolery were in action for the second time in less than a week, entertaining the guests at the reception held before the unveiling of the plaque formally to open the new facility.

A great afternoon for everyone involved; the players particularly enjoyed themselves, channeling their inner Blues Brothers whilst playing some vintage jazz for the assembled guests. Tomfoolery will be back in action on Monday 5 June in Five O’Clock Stomp in Colyer-Fergusson Hall as part of Summer Music Week; admission is free, details here.

Well-met by Moonlight: vintage jazz next week

Fresh from the success of its lunchtime concert last term which had people on their feet dancing in Colyer-Fergusson Hall, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, the vintage jazz orchestra, is back in action next Friday night.

The 1930’s style dance band will unveil a whole new repertoire on Friday 19 May, as well as favourites from its previous gigs; together with the close-harmony singers, The Minervettes, the players will unveil an evening of vintage swing classics alongside forgotten gems from the Golden Age of Dance Bands in Moonlight Serenade: an evening with GHT.

The ensemble has continued to delve deeply into the treasure-trove of archive repertoire that was bequeathed to the music department back in 2005 by the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra, a dance band active throughout the South East from the 1950s to the 1970s. Original band-parts crackle with renewed vigour as tunes such as The ContinentalOn The Street Where You Live and Pennsylvania 6-5000 dance off the music-stand in rehearsals, alongside tunes from slightly off the beaten path, such as Button Up Your Overcoat and Zambezi. And of course, Glenn Miller’s signature tune, Moonlight Serenade, will be a part of the programme that night too…

Tickets are only £5 a pop for what promises to be an energetic trip to a bygone era – dancing-shoes are essential, cloche hats optional! Find out more here.

Image Gallery: A Feelin’ You’re Foolin’ with General Harding’s Tomfoolery

(Straw) hats off to the member of General Harding’s Tomfoolery and the Minervettes, for their recent, storming lunchtime concert in Colyer-Fergusson Hall. The thirteen-piece dance orchestra, performing from original sheet-music from the 1930s, 40s and 50s delivered an energetic performance that had people dancing along.

We were particularly delighted to welcome to the gig Maureen Morgan, wife of bandleader and founder of the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra, George Morgan, whose generous bequest of all the sheet music from the original dance orchestra allows us to breath new life into the original band-parts.

Tomfoolery will be back in action on Friday 19 May in an evening performance; bring your dancing-shoes!

Images © Kester Campbell / University of Kent

More Tomfoolery as the jazz band returns

Cometh the hour, cometh the jazz musicians: the stars have aligned, and this year the twelve-piece dance band, General Harding’s Tomfoolery, is back in action.

02-first-rehearsal-newThe group was originally formed in 2013 to breathe new life into a set of dance-band musictomfoolery_2013 originally bequeathed to the Music department by the Ken Lewis Dance Orchestra. The original folders of music contain vintage original copies of pieces from the 1930s through to the 1950s, including swing classics such as Tuxedo Junction and American Patrol, brittle with age and with faded Sellotape sometimes holding the fragile pages together. The group gigged throughout the year, including a memorable afternoon which had Colyer-Fergusson Hall filled with people dancing along.

tomfoolery_sheetmusicThe band has returned with faces both old and new, bringing together undergraduate and postgraduate musicians from a variety of subjects from both the Canterbury and Medway campuses, and is busy rehearsing for its first gig on the foyer-stage next month, Weds 14 December. We had a mock-up yesterday – leaving space for a drum-kit, not one but TWO bassists, and a couple of additional brass instruments – to check we can all fit on the stage. Who knows…

tomfoolery_stagechecktomfoolery_logoBring your dancing-shoes on Weds 14 December at 1.10pm, when Tomfoolery will play a festively swinging set to get people In The Mood for the Big Band’s seasonal favourite, the Christmas Swing-along, at 5.15pm later in the day. More details here.