On a train somewhere past Peterborough. . . .
Knackered and clapped-out are just two of the family friendly phrases which described my condition yesterday after working in excess of 60 hours in four days at the WOW festival in North Shields.
Yet there was more music to be addressed in the shape of Keith and Julie Tippett who were in concert at The Cluny warehouse in Byker. The venue is a Victorian built whisky warehouse just outside of Newcastle and Keith Morris (all round good guy, promoter and musician) has been presenting an increasingly adventurous series of concerts over the last few months.
The opportunity to see Keith or Julie Tippett doesn’t come around much, so however tired I was feeling I had to get my vast and lardy butt along.
Tippett has to be one of the most technically proficient players on the improvised music scene there is and listening to him last night, it was understood that there was little or nothing that was not available to him.
This is not to suggest that the player was prone to any ostentatious displays of musical prowess. If anything there was a simple humility about the music which belies the complex density of their combined sound.
Although the instrumentation was bare, the duo created the impression of a large ensemble which evoked strings, brass, drummers and massed choirs. Julie Tippett moved in and out of the music, bringing us wordless dispatches which were playful, instinctive and intimate.
The fact that the venue had a very noisy bar immediately next to the performers was at first a drawback. Yet oddly enough, the bar room ambience added another dimension to the performance. There were times when the music was so quiet (a pebble rolled across the strings of the piano for example) that it was in danger of being completely lost. Somehow, this seemed to be part of it.
Anyone who knows Keith Tippett’s work will be aware of the lyrical side to his playing and the second of half of the performance ended with a gorgeous ballad, containing a descending motif which shimmered and hung in the air - a real thing of beauty.
This was by any definition of the word some of the most uncompromising music I’ve heard for a while. Its was also some of the most beautiful and uplifting that I’ve had the privilege to be part of for a very long time indeed.
One other unexpected bonus was the amount of old chums I’d not seen for donkey’s years. This meant the interval and the afterval were taken up with quick catch-ups and promises to meet up at other gigs.
For example, I had wanted to have a chinwag with Chris Wilson and his wife, by the time I got turned around they had gone. Chris is a graphic designer who had got in touch with me a while ago as he had some potential designs for the book cover. I think we managed to exchange about half a dozen words all night. So apologies to Chris if you’re reading this - no snub intended, it was just the ebb and flow of the night. We must flap the anorak another night. Get yourself down to the Fat Ox kidda !
After the concert, we had a few beers with Keith, Julie and Rob Ayling from Voiceprint Records. A few drummer jokes aside it was good fun and very agreeable. Keith and Julie both expressed their willingness to take part in the book and we made plans for me to go down to their cottage next week to do the interview.
We were able to talk about Blueprint which as Crimheads will know was produced by Robert Fripp. It’s always been one of my favourite albums and Julie talked warmly about the recording of it. Rob Ayling suggested it might be re-issued by Voiceprint which would be wonderful.
Keith asked me to tape the Crimson albums he was on, so that he’d be able to recall the events surrounding the recordings. This morning I got on to Declan Colgan at Virgin and asked if he’d send Keith the Poseidon, Lizard and Islands albums.
Within an hour or so, Declan e-mailed back confirming that the deed was done. Caps aloft for Colgan !
Soon to be establishing base camp in Leafy Highgate tonight. Thereafter, I’m off hunting down ex-Crims, their friends and memorabilia for the next few days. Received a cheeky call from Kimber, so I know I’m going to be in for a rough ride.