Today was a long intense day in the studio playing bass on sessioneer Ahad’s record. We managed to nail six songs, some adjusted from earlier sessions and others completed from scratch. Although there are some quite simple songs here chord-wise, it doesn’t always follow that the bass will be as simplistic. Finding the groove, finding the part that fits not only with the chords but with the vocal melody and sits with the drummer, can be a tricky and time-consuming process and the first song we worked on today was just that. Some of the others were easier and some in between but as I sit here now I can feel in my body, in my neck and in my hands and fingers that I’ve been playing bass all day. It’s as physically challenging as it is mentally challenging and Dare and I came out of the studio today after 7 hours rather wrecked.
We did have one short break where we went into the park around the corner for some fresh air. We heard music (you can’t escape) and on the bandstand was a circle of old folkies playing old folkie songs. There was a violin, a trombone, a piano accordion, drums that you hold in front of you, a few different guitars, some weirdly shaped and including a 12 string acoustic. There was a man in the middle of the bandstand who seemed to be the leader and he’d count a song in and they were off. We stayed for two songs. There were people all around the park sitting and listening, not that many, but a few. There was something else, something strange. Have you ever asked someone, “Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”. Just to check you are not hallucinating? Dancing around the bandstand was an 8-foot tall dark shape hidden in folds of cloth that hung like wide black shortened streamers. Atop was the skull of an animal that might have been a cow or a horse with a crown of flowers. The shape moved around in ecstasy opening and closing the elongated jaw to the rhythm of the music and producing a noticeable clicking sound. I can only presume it was something pagan. It felt like one of those seventies films where suddenly everyone stops, turns around, looks at you with dead eyes and slowly moves towards you. We didn’t exactly run out of the park screaming but we did make a quick exit before the sacrifice.
It was one of those lovely days, breezy and sunny and warm but then when the sun drifted behind the spotted clouds a chill came. But it was like having the best of both worlds and we certainly experience variation down here in the south-west of England. Most of the year we experience different shades of grey and as Kate Bush had “50 Words For Snow” we have a hundred words for rain. The seagulls were squawking, the chicks were making high-pitched squeaks, waiting for food, the trombone was adding to the cacophony of frequencies and was the most clearly heard instrument as we returned to the studio. An interesting anniversary today – Dylan and Caitlin got married next door to the studio/In Deep today in 1937.
I have three different techniques for playing bass and I find that I use them all, fingers, pick, and soft thumb. All the sounds are different and I find that different songs need different things and it’s helpful to have these different approaches. There’s a lot to be said about bass and I find myself enjoying playing the bass more and more. It’s a hypnotic instrument and grooving your way through a song is very satisfying, bring it on.
After the studio today we went up to Dare’s house where his brother Dave was cooking us some baked potatoes. Mine had baked beans, butter, and avocado, everyone else had melted cheese – it’s my favourite other thing to dislike along with a rather long list. I had a revelation this week about my food issues and I came to realise that my problem lies in Western flavouring versus Eastern flavouring. I like Thai and Indian food, Japanese food, Ramen, Vietnamese food, or going south even Lebanese food, Ethiopian food. I like Tibetan food (not so keen on Chinese food). I like pasta dishes and lots of vegetables. But I don’t like Mediterranean flavours, olives, sun-dried tomatoes (or any tomato), aubergine, peppers, I don’t like vinegar or coleslaw or mayonnaise. I don’t like eggs (I don’t eat meat or fish). I think the main problem for me is that I don’t like anything that’s tangy like salad dressing but if it’s spicy then that’s not a problem, not that I eat suicidal Indian dishes, as hot as possible, the food has to be medium spiced. I remember once in Thailand I went into a restaurant and ordered some food and thought that I’d communicated that I didn’t want it too hot. I ate a little when it came and nearly died it was so spicy, I remember sitting on the kerb outside the restaurant trying to recover with the staff laughing at me. How is marijuana illegal and this allowed?
Music today has taken me down that dangerous road where few follow, Jazz Rock Fusion. I felt like some Ian Carr’s Nucleus. He was a trumpet player but playing in a modern environment. He was the bandleader for over 20 albums but there were also some famous names that filed through the ranks. Early on it was Chris Spedding, but also Allan Holdsworth and Soft Machine members Karl Jenkins and Roy Babbington. The list is very long and I won’t attempt to share it here. There’s surprisingly little about them on Wikipedia, as suspected, there’s only a very limited interest but those who are interested are very interested. It’s like trying to find people who collect stamps. Have I ever told you about my stamp collection? One day.
I don’t have the first three Nucleus albums (or the fifth) or the later ones but I have four seventies albums, Roots (1973), Under The Sun (1974), Snakehips Etcetera (1975) and Alleycat (1975), plus a collection. I’m not going to break them down, I put these albums on one after another as if it’s one long jazzy event. Amazing musicians, warm sounds, seventies productions, experimenting, different instruments taking the lead, complexity, musicians playing off each other’s skills, but to me, like Jazz in general, it never sounds self-indulgent. It’s a vibe that you tune into like the classic Jazz of Miles Davis or John Coltrane. I was looking at the prices of those first three albums, Elastic Rock (1970), We’ll Talk About It Later (1970), and Solar Plexus (1971), plus the fourth, Labyrinth (1973), and came to the conclusion that I should buy CDs. There’s some ‘two for one’ albums on eBay at the moment that would cost £20 for four albums instead of £500 for the original vinyl albums on Vertigo.
It is tempting to listen to those first albums on Spotify after tonight’s experience and the word is that the first three are the best – as I’m digging these middle albums it can only get better. I’ve also never heard the dozen albums made beyond 1975. I hope you can find the courage to investigate this kind of music, I’m a fan and it’s not necessarily the skills, it’s the mood, the skills are the icing on the cake. Carr was also a professor of music and wrote biographies about Keith Jarrett and Miles Davis. He died of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2009 at the age of 75 but left behind a wonderful musical legacy that is alive and kicking in the In Deep Music Archive.
Song Of The Day is Concert Of The Day and it’s Ian Carr’s Nucleus from NRK TV Molde Jazz ’74 Rådhuset, Molde, Norway…if you dare, if you daren’t go to 27.35 – 35.10 and listen to the interview, he may be able to explain to you what’s going on, intellectually. I’d just like to add that this live concert is completely out there in comparison to the albums that I have. So you might want to investigate the albums first.
Ian Carr – trumpet
Roger Sutton – fretless bass
Ken Shaw – electric guitar
Bryan Spring – drums
Geoff Castle – keyboard
Bob Bertles – alto sax and flute