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Thursday 11th January 2007. 9 : 00 pm
BILL NELSON DIARY ENTRY: THURSDAY 11th
JANUARY 2007. Late evening.
First diary entry of 2007 and I'm feeling somewhat sluggish. Haven't been in the mood for the various musical tasks awaiting me. Just can't seem to drum up enough enthusiasm. Perhaps it's because these immediate projects involve, in the main, old material, the Be Bop Deluxe Decca audition sessions, the last two or three years worth of solo guitar concert backing tracks and so on. I would really prefer to sit down and get on with something completely new, but...until I've spent a few weeks dealing with past music, there's no chance of that.
Then again, it's just as much a result of my physical lethargy as anything else. I've overdone the festive food and drink, as I always do at this time of year. I'm ashamed to admit that I've let go of everything and indulged myself to a decadent degree. It's a sort of 'to hell with it all' attitude. Not neccesarily a good one either. I'll get back in the saddle though, bit by bit.
Took my mother to see the 'Glenn Miller Orchestra' last week. They were performing a concert in Harrogate. Not the original Glenn Miller Orchestra, but a kind of tribute band. I'm no fan of tribute bands but, as it's 60 years or so since Glenn Miller vanished from the face of the earth, perhaps they can be forgiven. There's certainly no danger of a tribute band treading on Glenn's toes.
Actually, the band is made up of what was once the 'Ray McVay Showband.' They have a history going back to the 50's, '60's and '70's. Ray McVay was apparently a big Glenn Miller fan and at a certain point in his career decided to change his band into a Miller revival/tribute outfit.
It seems that there are Glenn Miller franchises up for grabs: Ray McVay negotiated a deal with the person who owns the rights to the Glenn Miller name and music. (This person is the son of Glenn Miller's lawyer. I'm generally a little suspicious when ownership of such a prestigious and important music as this comes into a lawyer's personal possession, but that's the way of the world.)
The outcome of the deal is that Ray McVay's band were granted the right to perform under the name of 'The Glenn Miller Orchestra' and were given legal access to Miller's original arrangements.
I have to admit that there were moments when I thought it worked beautifully, particularly on the slower or mid-tempo ballads although the more up-tempo numbers didn't really swing hard enough for me. (But being both a musician and a lover of swing music, I'm possibly being unduly picky.)
There were two genuine high spots during the concert...one of which was a smooth reading of 'Moonlight Serenade.' It sounded authentic and warm and its easy tempo allowed soul and expression to be breathed into the piece. A classic composition by Miller himself and wonderfully arranged.
The other high spot was a romantic ballad whose title I can't recall. I don't think it was a Miller number, 'though it sounded as if it came from the same era. It featured the band's star player, Peter Hughes on soprano saxophone throughout. He's a veteran player, having worked with Benny Goodman, Nelson Riddle and Henry Mancini, amongst others. This distinguished pedigree certainly showed as his playing on the piece in question, (how I wish I could recall its title,) was pure class. I was spellbound.
By its conclusion, my eyes were filled with tears, not because it was a particularly sad or melancholy piece, but simply because Peter Hughes' playing was so achingly, devastatingly beautiful.
It was a reminder of how deeply music is able to penetrate the soul when placed in the hands of a master. It was worth the admission price and more, just to hear this one piece played with such tenderness and understanding. Absolutely inspirational for me. I was so pleased when it received a tremendous and well deserved response from the audience.
The show also featured a vocal group who did a good job of harmonising on the more familiar Miller hits. ('Though the Rat Pack medleys that were thrown in at a couple of junctures were inapropriate to the era and rather hammy.)
There was also a four-piece jump-jive dance group who added a strong kinetic and visual counterpoint to some of the pieces.
Although at the start of the concert I was in a skeptical mood, by the end, I was won over. My mother loved it, of course as it brought back memories of my late father who had led his own dance bands in the 'forties and early 'fifties. She mentioned how my dad had worn a white tuxedo, as leader of the band, when she'd first met him, and how dashing he looked.
Like my brother Ian, Dad had played alto sax and clarinet, 'though as a very young man he'd begun his musical career playing banjo and, I believe, a little bit of guitar. I have only one memory of seeing him play in public...I was a very small boy at the time. It was when his band played for the silver wedding celebrations of a couple who were very good friends of my mother and father.
The couple were called Herman and Ada Ackroyd, (Herman was a pianist who was involved in some of my father's musical projects,) and their celebratory ball was held at the 'Minor Hall' which was part of the 'Unity Hall' above the old Co-operative Society, located on Westgate in Wakefield. (Known as 'Unity House' these days.)
I was taken along to the event by my mother and, for one brief number, was lifted onto the edge of the stage, dressed, (I'm told,) in a little red blazer with white shorts, white socks and shoes, to stand in front of my dad. In my infant hands I held a little toy saxophone made of tin with a kazoo-like mouthpiece. I pretended to play along with my father, much to the delight of the assembled guests. If only someone had taken a camera along. What I'd give to have a photograph of that moment...
The Glenn Miller Orchestra concert provided a brief respite for my mother who has been understandably melancholy over Christmas. As noted in previous diary entries, the loss of my brother still hangs heavy on her heart. I too, am regularly waking up in the middle of the night, turning over various memories and thoughts about Ian. Somedays I think I'm dealing with it o.k. At other times, it's painful. I know that this is natural and will go on for a long time.
I look at the photograph of him I've framed and placed on a side-table in the dining room...I look at it every night as I turn the lights out before going to bed. I can still conjure up his voice in my imagination, his mannerisms, his laugh. I keep finding articles of clothes that I would have passed on to him if he were still here.
I often did this in the past with things that I'd hardly worn. Ian graciously accepted them, whether or not he intended to wear them. But it was one of those 'brotherly' things that we had between us. I miss that.
Had a surprise 'phone call from my old friend John Leckie. He called to say that he was going to be in the area and would like to spend a couple of days with me, chatting about old times. He was due to arrive this week but has since called to say that it will now be next week. I'm looking forward to seeing him.
The last time we physically met up was at the Bloomsbury Theatre during my 2004 'Be Bop Deluxe And Beyond' celebratory tour.
Emi and I have cleared out the guest room for John. It was piled high with various things that we had nowhere else to store. They are now piled high in our still non-functioning en-suite bathroom. (See the MFI saga in a much earlier diary entry!)
When John has concluded his visit, we'll no doubt dump all this stuff back in the guest room.
Also last week, Emi and I had a day trip to London so that Emi could attend a service at her Buddhist Temple in Surrey. As usual, I wandered here, there and everywhere, bookshops and galleries, a solitary lunch at Tate Modern, until Emi returned from her meeting, late in the afternoon.
We then decided to have dinner at Trader Vic's in Park Lane, a wonderfully '70's kitsch polynesian restaurant and bar situated beneath the Hilton Hotel. We sat in the bar area, beneath fishing nets and various castaway desert island flummery, induging ourselves with Trader Vic's Tidbits, Crab Rangoon and Singapore Noodles.
I first visited a Trader vics in the '70's whilst on tour with Be Bop Deluxe in Canada. The restaurant's visual style, (and menu,) has hardly changed in all those intervening years. I still order a Tikki-Pukka-Pukka cocktail and oggle the waitresses in their long, split-sided exotic dresses.
Have been reading a book of reminicences by the wonderful Humphrey Littleton, jazz man, radio presenter, caroonist, after-dinner speaker and all round thoroughly decent chap.
One thought of Humph's that made me laugh out loud was this:
"Progress is nature's way of reconciling the elderly to the prospect of death."
For those readers of my diary who might be looking a little puzzled right now, I'll just point out that the key word is 'reconciling'
The book, (titled ' It Just Occurred To Me...') is a warmly written collection of stories and anecdotes from Humph's long career. There are some highly amusing moments concerning the colourful characters the author met on the British Jazz scene in the 'fifties. It's proving to be a most enjoyable bedtime read.
The final version of my Nelsonic Transitone guitar is apparently winging its way to me as I type these words. Dean Campbell emailed me to say it had been dispatched. I'm eager to see the 'proper' version, complete with the cosmetic details that were not incorporated on the prototypes. Should be with me in a few days, all being well.
Weather has been wild these last few days and still is. Very high winds with a lot of rain. The river in town was dangerously high when I walked alongside it this afternoon. The far banks have burst and water extends into Museum Gardens. It's moving along very fast too, driven by more rain further north I suspect. I stood and watched it rattle along for a while. There's something hypnotic about it.
Fitting new effects cards to my mixing desk tomorrow. Perhaps these will inspire me to start work on the mixing of the Be Bop Decca tapes. I've kept putting the job off but it has to be done. Maybe it won't be as dull a task as I'm anticipating. Such a long time ago though that I don't feel connected to it at all. A challenge then.