Tag Archives: Norman Field

PARADISE FOR STRINGS: MARTIN WHEATLEY’S IMAGINATIVE WORLDS

Photograph by Andrew Wittenborn, 2015

Photograph by Andrew Wittenborn, 2015

I know Martin Wheatley as an astonishingly talented player of the guitar, banjo, electric guitar, ukulele.  I’ve heard him on a variety of recordings as a wonderful rhythm player and striking soloist, and had the good fortune to see him in person at the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (now the Mike Durham Classic Jazz Party) from 2009 to 2015.

One facet of his talent is as a virtuosic ukulele player (and arranger for that instrument): a 2010 solo performance of THE STARS AND STRIPES FOREVER:

Here’s Martin on electric guitar from the November 2015 Party in a salute to Artie Shaw’s Gramercy Five, with Lars Frank, Martin Litton, Enrico Tomasso, Richard Pite, Henry Lemaire:

From that same weekend, here are Emma Fisk, Spats Langham, Henry Lemaire, and Martin doing their own evocation of the Quintette of the Hot Club of France on J’ATTENDRAI:

Here’s Martin on banjo in 2010 with the Chalumeau Serenaders — Matthias Seuffert, Norman Field, Nick Ward, Keith Nichols, Malcolm Sked — performing A PRETTY GIRL IS LIKE A MELODY:

And there’s more.  But the point of this blogpost is to let you know that Martin has made a truly imaginative CD under his own name, called LUCKY STAR — a musical sample below:

Martin says of LUCKY STAR, “Quite a mixture of things, lots of my own compositions and some standards.  Some solos –  plenty of overdub extravaganzas.  All me apart from Tom Wheatley (one of Martin’s sons) on bass.”

Solo efforts that have a good deal of overdubbing might suffer from sameness, because of the strength of the soloist’s personality, but not this CD: Martin is seriously and playfully imaginative.  And when you open the disc and read the instruments he plays, you know the disc is expansive, not constricted: guitar, tenor guitar, Hawaiian guitar, lap steel guitar, soprano / tenor / baritone ukulele; tenor / five-string / fretless banjo; moonlute, mandolin, octophone, percussion, keyboard, vocals.

The five standards are IF DREAMS COME TRUE, ALL GOD’S CHILLUN GOT RHYTHM, YOU ARE MY LUCKY STAR, MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE, and MY SWEET.  I couldn’t tell absolutely which instruments Martin is playing on any track, but I can say that DREAMS sounds like a one-man Spirits of Rhythm, with a swinging bass interlude by Tom after Martin’s absolutely charming vocal (think Bowlly crossed with McKenzie, Decca sunburst edition); CHILLUN is Pizzarelli-style with more of the same swing crooning intermingled with virtuosic playing — but no notes are smudged or harmed, and there’s a cameo for Hawaiian guitar at a rocking tempo.  LUCKY STAR begins with harp-like ukulele chords and Martin picks up the never-heard verse, turning the corner into the sweet chorus in the most light-hearted sincere way, and MY ONE AND ONLY LOVE follows — a quiet instrumental masterpiece, a hymn to secular devotion. MY SWEET — beloved of Louis and Django — begins with serene chiming notes picking out the melody delicately and then builds into a rocking vocal / guitar production worthy of the QHCF — ending with waves rhythmically yet gently coming up the beach.

I’ve given these details because if I had heard one of those tracks I would want to know who the fine singer and the fine guitarists were, and I would buy the CD. They are that delightful.

But that survey would leave out the majority of the disc, Martin’s original compositions: STARGAZING / ON THE BANKS OF THE WINDRUSH, FAR AWAY / EPPING FOREST / GOLDEN HILL / THE OTTER / BRUNTCLIFFE / FOUND & LOST / COLONEL FAWCETT’S UKULELE / IN THE MERRY LAND OF UZ / X.  They aren’t easy to describe, much less categorize.  I hear lullabies, rhapsodies, inquiries, echoes of Hawaii, of Weill and Broadway shows, of Bach and modern classical, Forties film soundtracks, harp choirs, Scottish folk music, bluegrass, birdsong and forest sounds — all immaculately and warmly played.  Words fail me here, but the journey through this CD is rather like reading short stories or being shown a series of watercolors — nothing harsh, but everything evocative.

Martin told me, “Over the last seven or eight years I’ve returned to writing music and wanted it to have an outlet, which it wouldn’t get on gigs.  Although jazz is what I do, I have other musical interests and have played other sorts of music in the past. Without making any self-conscious attempts at ‘fusions’ I’ve tried to allow it all to come out – English folk tunes, Psychedelia, classical music – especially English 20th century, Hawaiian music, doubtless others. I don’t know how evident any of those is but they’re in there somewhere!

It probably is evident that most of it is romantic – Bruntcliffe, for example, I wrote as an organ piece to be played as entrance music for my wedding to Lindsay in 2011.  Most of it is less specific.  One piece with something of a programme is Colonel Fawcett’s Ukulele. Aside from punning on Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, it was inspired by reading about Colonel Percy Fawcett and his habit of playing his ukulele to the natives he encountered in the Amazon.  What he played and how they reacted is unrecorded.  It’s an amazing tale.  The obvious conclusion is that he was deluded in his belief in the Lost City of Z and its civilization from which we could learn; however, we know that with no more certainty than we know what he played on his ukulele.”

A technical note: “Overdubs were done usually to a guide track which is not heard on the final mix (pulling up the ladder after climbing up!).  This allows for a steady pulse and changes in tempo when required.  Wayne McIntyre, the sound engineer, did a terrific job.”

“If anyone would like a copy please contact me. £10 incl p&. Hope you like it!”

Find Martin on Facebook here.  If it’s not evident, I recommend this disc fervently.  It’s original yet melodic, lyrical, sweet and rocking.

May your happiness increase!

 

LUCKY STAR

Advertisements

THE BEAUTY OF IT HOT: AFTER HOURS IN THE VICTORY PUB, with JEFF BARNHART, BENT PERSSON, ANDY SCHUMM, TORSTEIN KUBBAN, KRISTOFFER KOMPEN, GRAHAM HUGHES, NORMAN FIELD, MATTHIAS SEUFFERT, FRANS SJOSTROM, LARS FRANK, JACOB ULLBERGER, JOSH DUFFEE — AT THE 2013 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (November 1, 2013)

Collectively and joyously, Jeff Barnhart, keyboard / vocals; Bent Persson, Torstein Kubban, Andy Schumm, cornet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Kristoffer Kompen, valve-trombone; Lars Frank, tenor sax; Norman Field, clarinet; Matthias Seuffert, reeds; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums.

Recorded on November 1, 2013, in the Victory Pub at the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party in Newcastle, England.

THEM THERE EYES:

NOBODY’S SWEETHEART NOW:

LULU’S BACK IN TOWN:

A fellow named Andy Schumm came by . . . and so did Josh Duffee:

MARGIE:

COME ON AND STOMP, STOMP, STOMP:

Because it is difficult to manage a camera, a tripod, a sheet of paper, and a pen, under these circumstances, I could be slightly inexact about who was playing what, when. (No doubt my precise readers will let me know my lapses.) It could have become November 2, 2013, while I was videoing. And if you think, “I can’t see the musicians,” I agree with you.

What matters is the liveliness of the music. These are the moments we remember all our lives — when improvisers, united by common love, memory, and knowledge, give us everything they have spent their lives experiencing — for the pure joy of it.

By the way, there’s more from this and another November 2013 jam session.  But the best way to experience such marvels is by being there. Consider this seriously if you can.

May your happiness increase!

THREE VARIETIES OF JAZZ EXPERIENCE at the 2012 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY (October 26, 2012)

Three delights, previously unseen, from the 2012 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party:

MY HONEY’S LOVIN’ ARMS, by Keith Nichols, piano / vocal; Norman Field, clarinet / vocal; Emma Fisk, violin, Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Spats Langham, guitar:

STOMP YOUR STUFF (with a Louis Hot Chorus at 3:24) by Bent Persson, cornet; Jean-Francois Bonnel, Rene Hagmann, Thomas Winteler, reeds; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Martin Seck, piano; Josh Duffee, drums; Martin Wheatley, banjo / guitar; Phil Rutherford, brass bass:

LOUISE (where are Bing and the Rhythm Boys?) with Andy Schumm, cornet; Spats Langham, banjo; Keith Nichols, piano; Michael McQuaid, C-melody saxophone; Norman Field, clarinet; Alistair Allan, trombone; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Phil Rutherford, brass bass; Richard Pite, drums:

See you at the Village Newcastle in November 2014. Details here.

And I just learned about the pre-Party opening jam session, featuring the Union Rhythm Kings on Thursday, November 6: that’s Bent Persson (trumpet), Lars Frank (clarinet and saxophone), Kristoffer Kompen (trombone); Jacob Ullberger (banjo & guitar); Frans Sjostrom (bass saxophone); Morten Gunnar Larsen (piano).  They are a wonderful band.

May your happiness increase!

TWO HOT, ONE WISTFUL: UNSEEN MUSICAL TREASURES FROM THE 2012 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

Three New Beauties from the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party — recorded on October 26 and 27, 2012 — living advertisements of what the musicians and the Party-givers do so superbly.

Part of a rousing tribute to the power behind the throne, Lil Hardin Armstrong (pianist, composer, bandleader, inspiration) — a song named for her young husband, PAPA DIP.  It’s performed here by Bent Persson, cornet; Stephane Gillot, alto saxophone; Matthias Seuffert, clarinet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Martin Seck, piano; Martin Wheatley, banjo; Malcolm Sked, string bass.

YOU RASCAL YOU has serious Armstrongian associations, although the performance here takes its impetus from the magnificent series of 1932-33 recordings by the “Rhythmakers,” ostensibly led by Billy Banks or Jack Bland — but really driven by Henry “Red” Allen, Pee Wee Russell, Jimmy Lord, Tommy Dorsey, Joe Sullivan, Fats Waller, Pops Foster, Eddie Condon, Zutty Singleton and other luminaries.  At the Classic Jazz Party, the New Rhythmakers kept things hot — Andy Schumm, cornet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Norman Field, clarinet; Jean-Francois Bonnel, tenor; Martin Seck, piano; Emma Fisk, violin; Spats Langham, banjo; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone; Josh Duffee, drums. This video also contains a sweet, sad memento: the voice and right hand of our much-missed Mike Durham introducing the band and cracking wise (as was his habit).  Thank you, Mike, for everything:

After all that violent heat, something rueful seems just right, so here is Cecile McLorin Salvant’s melancholy reading of the Willard Robison song A COTTAGE FOR SALE, with the empathic assistance of Norman Field, clarinet; Duke Heitger, trumpet; Spats Langham, guitar; Alistair Allan, trombone; Emma Fisk, violin; Martin Litton, piano; Henri Lemaire, string bass; Richard Pite, drums:

We don’t have to end on a wistful note.  I have three more 2012 delights to post and many more from 2013 . . . and (with a Nick Ward drum roll) the 2014 Party is happening this November 7 through 9 — details here.

You can learn all about it — the accomodations, pricing, concert themes . . . I’ll content myself my lingering over the list of musicians who will be there:

Trumpets: Bent Persson (Sweden), Duke Heitger (USA), Andy Schumm (USA), Ben Cummings (UK), Enrico Tomasso (UK) / Trombones: Kristoffer Kompen (Norway), Alistair Allan (UK), Graham Hughes (UK) / Reeds: Jean-François Bonnel (France), Mauro Porro (Italy), Claus Jacobi (Germany), Matthias Seuffert (Germany), Lars Frank (Norway), Thomas Winteler, (Switzerland) / Piano: Keith Nichols (UK), Martin Litton, (UK), Morten Gunnar Larsen (Norway), David Boeddinghaus (USA) / Banjo/Guitar: Spats Langham (UK), Henry Lemaire (France), Jacob Ullberger (Sweden), Martin Wheatley (UK) / String Bass: Richard Pite (UK), Henry Lemaire (France) / Brass Bass: Phil Rutherford (UK), Malcolm Sked (UK) / Drums: Josh Duffee (USA), Richard Pite (UK), Debbie Arthurs (UK) / Bass Sax: Frans Sjöström (Sweden) / Violin: Emma Fisk (UK) / Vocals: Janice Day (UK), Debbie Arthurs, (UK), Spats Langham (UK).

May your happiness increase!

MORE LIGHTNING IN THE DARK: JAMMING AT WHITLEY BAY 2013 (Part One)

I don’t quite know what it is like when the music isn’t being created there, but the Victory Pub in the Village Hotel Newcastle (UK) has become a small shrine for Hot music when the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party is in session — a once-yearly transformation into a place where dreams come true.

Here’s the second half of WASHBOARD WIGGLES, with Jeff Barnhart, keyboard / vocals; Bent Persson, Torstein Kubban, cornet; Graham Hughes, trombone; Lars Frank, reeds; Jacob Ullberger, banjo; Frans Sjostrom, bass saxophone:

Then, the Master stopped in — Norman Field and his clarinet — for a romp on LITTLE GIRL (with the verse and a characteristically buoyant Jeff Barnhart vocal):

We don’t like to talk about Buddy behind his back, but we must — BUDDY’S HABITS:

More of the good stuff — The Good Stuff — is on the way. And a cinematographic postscript: if you can, while watching on YouTube, boost the settings (where the little gear or toothed wheel is) to the highest — 1o80 — and watch full screen. That way you will find, no matter what Gertrude Stein said, there is a there there!

May your happiness increase!

THIS ONE’S FOR PATTI: SWEET MUSIC FROM THE 2012 WHITLEY BAY CLASSIC JAZZ PARTY

If you know anything about the Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party (formerly known as the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival) you can’t help being fond of and admiring Patti Durham.  She continues to be a loving presence, a truly dear friend to many people.  So “this one’s for Patti”: one of her favorite songs, performed at the 2012 Party.

GUILTY is one of those pretty, emotive early-Thirties ballads associated with Al Bowlly.  Here, it’s performed by the emotionally compelling (and always swinging) Spats Langham, vocal and guitar; Rico Tomasso, trumpet; Jens Lindgren, trombone; Emma Fisk, violin; Norman Field, reeds; Martin Litton, piano;  Manu Hagmann, string bass; Richard Pite, drums.  And as the performance goes along, I always imagine a meeting of Bowlly with a mid-Thirties Teddy Wilson band . . . an alternate universe in the Brunswick studios, where sweet meets swing:

Thank you, dear Patti, for inspiring us in so many ways.

May your happiness increase!

STOMPING AT WHITLEY BAY (November 2013)

First, the theme song of the overtired jet-lagged jazz blogger:

Having offered that, I proceed to the reason for the joyous exhaustion: my visit (with video camera and notebook) to the 2013 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party. To tell all the tale would tax my five wits, but the music — small concerts in the main ballroom, plus rehearsals and jam sessions in the Victory Pub — was engrossing.  As I write this, more than three hundred videos are up-or-downloading.  And many of them will be shared with what I know is a fervent audience.

Speaking of that audience, I met a number of most grateful and devoted JAZZ LIVES readers in person, always a very heartwarming experience.  I said to more than one person, “It means so much to me to know that real people are out there, that I am spending hours in front of the computer so that _____ can see and enjoy this performance.”  Thank you all, those people I’ve met and those yet to be encountered.

I’ve been attending the banquets of music put on at the Village Newcastle in England since 2009 — first, the Whitley Bay International Jazz Festival, now the Classic Jazz Party — and they have always delighted and enlightened. They continue to reflect the spirit of their departed founder, Mike Durham, who felt that if the music was not presented in its historical context, then that history would be lost.  So these weekends have always offered us something more elaborate than six people on the stand having a good time playing the blues or a ballad medley: mini-concerts that are often highly educational although never tedious.

On paper, it might look as if one had wandered into a living jazz museum — the Hot Tate, for instance.  But since “museum” has immediate associations of antiquity, with the treasures safely packed away, visible but out of reach, I think the Classic Jazz Party is more properly compared to a wondrously shape-changing repertory company.  One hour, Matthias Seuffert is Johnny Dodds; another, he has reappeared as Coleman Hawkins, then Lester Young, which is the jazz equivalent of seeing Olivier one night as Iago, then next as Stanley Kowalski, a third as Everyman.

This year, there was a lively hour of Jelly Roll Morton, a swinging evocation of the early Basie band, two sessions of Ellington (Twenties, then late Thirties), a lovely reincarnation of the Coon-Sanders Nighthawks — where else would such a thing happen? — an hour with the 1929-31 Luis Russell band.  There were also more informal tributes to Mildred Bailey, Lee Wiley, Coleman Hawkins, Stuff Smith and Eddie South, Bix Beiderbecke, Eddie Condon and the Chicagoans, Harry Reser, Ray Noble and Al Bowlly, Jabbo Smith, Fats Waller and his Rhythm, Bessie Smith, Johnny Dodds’ Black Bottom Stompers, Tiny Parham, the California Ramblers, Clarence Williams Jazz Kings, King Oliver in New York, British dance bands, the Jimmie Noone Apex Club Orchestra, and more . . . torch songs and cheerful songs from the Great Depression, solo piano recitals, two outings for Jeff and Anne Barnhart’s Ivory and Gold, and more.  The program lists thirty-eight separate sessions, including the nocturnal happenings in the Victory Pub, which (I am told) continued well past 2:30 AM.

The players and singers were:

Bent Persson, Duke Heitger, Andy Schumm, Ben Cummings, Andy Woon, Torstein Kubban, Kristoffer Kompen, Alistair Allan, Graham Hughes, Aurélie Tropez, Stéphane Gillot, Jean-Francois Bonnel, Claus Jacobi, Matthias Seuffert, Lars Frank, Frans Sjostrom, Keith Nichols, Jeff Barnhart, Morten Gunnar Larsen, Martin Seck, Spats Langham, Henry Lemaire, Jacob Ullberger, Roly Veitch, Richard Pite, Henry Lemaire, Malcolm Sked, Phil Rutherford, Jean-Philippe Palma, Josh Duffee, Julien Richard, Nick Ward, Emma Fisk, Daryl Sherman, Cecile McLorin Salvant.

I won’t single out individual performers — that would take more energy than I have at the moment — but the music ranged from excellent to enthralling.

Thanks to all the musicians, to Mike Durham, to Patti Durham, to Julio and Jonathan, and to pals Bob and Bobbie, Ron and Ellen, Peter and his saxophone, to Michel Bastide, to Emrah and Pascal,to Norman Field,  to Mary B. and John Carstairs Hallam . . . and more.

And — not incidentally — here are the last notes I heard on Sunday-night-into-Monday-morning before I went to bed.  The jam session at the Victory Pub continued, but here’s KING PORTER STOMP — featuring Morten Gunnar Larssen at the portable keyboard; Andy Schumm on C-melody saxophone; Torstein Kubban on cornet; Kristoffer Kompen on trombone; Jacob Ullberger on banjo; Nick Ward on drums; Claus Jacobi on Frans Sjostrom’s beloved bass saxophone:

Stomp, indeed.  More to come.

And “more to come” is a serious thing.  Amid general rejoicing, it was announced that the 2014 Whitley Bay Classic Jazz Party will be held, beginning Friday, November 7, 2014.  As Harry Barris wrote, IT MUST BE TRUE.

May your happiness increase!