chronicles 2005

No.10 – January 2005

This year’s adventures were launched on the Thames, courtesy of boat-ting, with the wailing, jumping-up-and-down whatnot of Primal Fruitcake, followed by legendary Lol Coxhill in concert, if that’s the right word, with Hugh Metcalfe, Mike Walter and John Edwards.

Trying to follow all that, trombone poetry offered a set of portmantreau perverbs and curmudgeonly poems about the musician’s trade.

The evening was finished off by Tongues Of Fire, an ensemble led by Tim Hill that sported a French horn, of all things.

A couple of days later, trombone poetry spent a morning scribbling poems in the Tadim Café in Camberwell for a discussion on arts and media to be televised by Southwark TV. The show includes a great documentary on Georgina Okoro’s Young Parents Project.

The week finished with an impromptu benefit gig for the tsunami victims, put on in Downton, Wiltshire, by composer Sarah Collins, who played a John Cage piano piece. Also performing were drummer Olu Taiwo, harpist Katie Flanaghan, The Farrant Singers, Suite Jazz and several Moodies playing chamber music. The money raised amounted to £3,104.

The Klinker gig began with Peter Cusack and Viv Corringham – bouzouki electronica and lugubrious vocals. How the band, I Headed North ended it can’t be said, as the auntie-folk set by David Cronenberg’s Wife distended the schedule. After a trombone poetry set that included another lament for lost pubs, Conversion Factors, I headed south.

No.11 – February 2005

Clerkenwell revisited: at another gig in the plush cellar of the electroacoustic club, where the twang of guitars meets the sproing of sofas, trombone poetry shared the bill with Putney bluesman Vana, songster Will Rees, and a brace of Essex troubadours, Brooking & Martin. Poems included that old stalwart, Owns A Sax. Another recital is now booked for a jazz evening there on April 7th so that it can be read again.

After last month’s session scribbling and breakfasting in the Tadim Café for Southwark TV, trombone poetry resumed what is now a six-month residency with more short-notice versifying in the back of a theatre for Programme 2. This show featured Decima Francis, co-founder of From Boyhood To Manhood, Antonio Ribeiro of Blue Elephant Theatre, fellow-musician Danny Williams, Chair of Castle Arts, and Paul Langton of Castle Day Centre.

Programme 3 has just been recorded, in a Peckham radio studio, and features Kevin Quinn, editor of Southwark News, Shane, project leader of Peckham Radio, Penny Hall from Teesside University, and Euan Mills from The Team, who animate children to animate. Researchers are looking for a suitable pub for Programme 4. Surely.

A late booking, and hence unannounced last month, was that rare thing, a trombone poetry lunchtime concert, at Croydon Clocktower’s Cafe Opera. Oblivious folk wandered through, mid-poem, en route for the library/gallery/toilets, but among those listening was a clutch of poets from Poets Anonymous, who, paradoxically, introduced themselves afterwards.

An air of gloom descended on the gig at The Poet, mainly due to an incredibly poor would-be comedian, but otherwise this was a typically rum mix, enhanced by a fine solo guitar set by a morose Hungarian. The fact that, in March, we go north, west and south but not east is just coincidental.

No.12 – March 2005

The month’s wanderings began in Hampstead, at the Pentameter Theatre, for an after-show cabaret called Club Intimacy 2. Performances were on a boudoir stage-set for a dramatization of Sartre’s story, Intimacy, with a dolled-up house band led by chanteuse/mandolinist Lucy. Scene-stealing star was Boy, a large hound ambling across stage whenever he felt like it.

Then trombone poetry went west, for a stint at The Troubadour in Old Brompton Road for The Restless Horizon. The host was Andy Thornton, a singer who was as melodious as he was glum. I particularly liked the Sunflower Girl song, but suspect I may have misheard another one: “sailing for heaven with my bowels open wide.” Surely not?

Back to South London, for a screening of short films presented by Southwark TV at The Blue Elephant Theatre, including the UK premiere of Melusine by Florian Viale, a documentary from Corsica Arts Club, and a talk by John Lynes about Palestine. A clip from Southwark Hour 3 was shown, so, to complement a theme of training, trombone poetry offered Sound Check, about duff sound engineers, and Owns A Sax, about shameless sax-wielders.

No.13 – April 2005

The joys of Spring. Our journey begins a stone’s throw from Mme. Tussaud’s house of dummies. Once the cellar has been swept of salsa dance zealots, a distinctly rickety jazz cabaret takes to the stage, with a house band edging its way through a smudge of standards. Imagine a composition counter-attacking a disrespectful rendition in a kind of jazz crime story:

jungle music

scaly and insidious

gently merciless
the blameless bossa nova

snaked its way round
the clueless band
till it was all over.

Next! In amongst it all, two short trombone poetry sets focussed on jazz themes, with a diversion, verbally, into sex.

The electroacoustic club took a turn for the jazzy this month, with a trombone poetry set including Jungle Music and Bad Start Blues. Ivor Game and host Will Rees strummed and sang fore and aft. Also playing was afracadbra, a strong brew of free-blowing sax and Afro-grooves that was a welcome surprise. This zoologically-oriented club has moved from The Walrus to The Slaughtered Lamb to The Bear on the Square. The electroacoustic club: music for mammals?

Club Astrakan hosted a gig in a soon-to-be-defunct restaurant in Crystal Palace, where trombone poetry kicked off with a series of improvised pieces and the only Crystal Palace poem to hand, Triplets. Then a dozen musicians took over, as the Astrakan Collective played a well-designed set of original compositions. Also playing was afracadbra, a strong brew of free-blowing sax and Afro-grooves that was a welcome surprise.

Out East again, to Sweet ‘n’ Sour at the 291 Club, for a variety night held up by sound system snags for so long that the Sound Check poem had to be dropped to keep the peace. Tabitha Benjamin sang a refreshingly unmelancholic set to a largely oblivious crowd, followed by an equally welcome trombone poetry set. Kanoko from The Numbskulls sang a cheery punk ditty while playing the djembe. Later she added harmonica, and was joined by host Tonny reading a poem in French plus a writhing dancer, in a kind of infernal triangle. We then watched an industrial wasteland film by Dan Harris, wherein he reckoned that that mysterious creature, the tardigrade, is extra-terrestrial, whereas it seems to be yet another amazingly well-adapted earthling. The electroacoustic club should now move to The Tardigrade’s Arms.

The Glue Rooms gig was a treat: the last band on was Blank, a French improvising group full of ideas and variety. There was an attempt beforehand to create a ring-tone orchestra, but this seemed to strain the networks. Earlier there was even a charming solo mobile performance from some gormless punter during the beginning of the trombone poetry set. Also playing was afracadbra, a strong brew of free-blowing sax and Afro-grooves that was a welcome surprise.

Finally, the tour ended in Hip Heaven, where John Clarke crammed as many acts into the evening as was humanly impossible. Among others, Baden Prince celebrated singletons, a Berkshire guitarist drowned out his own cellist, Bob Mills /Nick Lubran/Paul Shearsmith traded poems and sounds, and a band called Walking Wounded nearly caused a dance.

No.14 – May 2005

Not exactly a flying start (again). Here’s a question: would you like to read your poems or sing your ballads to an audience while, on a huge bare wall behind you, the promoter is projecting (silent) footage of Peter Sellers thrashing around in a Pink Panther film? Not quite sure of the “reasoning” there, in that Shoreditch basement.

Now this is more like it: up in Crouch End, singer/songwriter Peyoti presents a brilliant evening out called Jamboree, at The Creamery. Good singers, a great audience and to cap it all that night: free absinthe and a burlesque dancer. Now we’re getting someplace.

The Creative Swing resurfaced in Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, with a show loosely aligned on the themes of surrealism and fairies. This meant singers, an escapologist, contemporary dance, a glove-puppet performance of Little Red Riding Hood, a brilliant potted history of banks and finance, and a belly-dancer. Trombone poetry brought a couple of fairy poems and an old surrealist haiku.

Next came a revisit to the glorious Klinker, where Hugh Metcalfe treated us to a showing of his first film while Matt attacked a piano. Also on board was a fine troupe of improvisers called APE. Trombone poetry was visited by Premonitions on the way there, and read them out.

The fifth Southwark Hour TV programme focussed on problems faced by Somali people living in London, and was recorded in the Rockingham Community Centre in the Elephant and Castle. Once again, trombone poetry brought a handful of spontaneous poems to the table.

Salisbury Arts Centre has now been completely refurbished, and trombone poetry was invited to perform at the first public gig in the renewed venue, hosted by Sam Moran and the Poetry Cafe. The first half comprised readings by invited poets plus a trombone poetry set, and after the break we experimented with improvised trombone accompaniment to poems by Grace Gauld, Sam Moran, Becky Carter, Val Bridge, Paddy Hughes and Martin Agombar.

An unexpected highlight this month was an invitation from the BBC to take part in Radio 3’s The Verb, hosted by the ebullient Ian McMillan. The programme featured Joyce Carol Oates, Derek Beavan, Peter Blegvad, Ian McHugh and, from trombone poetry, Uptalk Turnoff, Perverbs and 42% of the opening poem, For The Record, plus instantaneous music.

Finally, trombone poetry returned to the Bonnington Centre, the Vauxhall improvised music haunt, for a splendid session with two bands, Bucket and No Can Do, and inspired solo pianist Fyfe Hutchins. A fine finish.

No.15 – June 2005

The month began with a performance at Corsica Studios for Southwark’s Write Stuff Literary Festival, where trombone poetry was joined by painter Mentor Chico, Gisela Jachnuick, Suzanne Andrade (purveyor of unsettling monologues), singer Sofia Buchuck and Andra Simons at what seemed to be the Tonny Ajoup Show. Southwark struggled to pin down a theme for the festival, but rumour has it that next year’s has been provisionally narrowed down already: words. A few more committee meetings should clinch it.

The following week a trombone was once again smuggled into a bar full of guitarists, this time at The Acoustic Club, presented by Keef Jackman at the Offside Bar in City Road. Well worth a visit on a Sunday night.

June’s finale was a gig at The Klinker in Nunhead, where guitarist Hugh Metcalfe sported his famous cabbage hat, plucking and plunking in the company of Messrs May and Wilkinson. Highlight of the evening was a turn by the wondrous Emile Sercombe, which included an energetic verbal tennis match and the folding away of an imaginary bicycle into his left nostril. A man to watch.

No.16 – July 2005

The garish upstairs bar of a Camberwell pub, The Funky Monkey, is now the monthly home of Echo Chamber, a night of experimental music and video projections. First on was The Sambaski Quartet, a string quartet that played free improvised music, without pausing for breath, for at least half an hour. Imagine.

The trombone poetry set persevered through coughing fits and the occasional bird-brain‘s mobile burble, and included a grim new hospital foyer poem, Threshold, amid cheerier offerings. We then watched a slowed-down sequence taken from a Buster Keaton film with a soundtrack from Mark Aitken designed to make it into some bizarre ballet of a spinning house. This would have been ideal at last month’s Acoustic Club, just before the giddy singer who suddenly hurtled off the back of the stage.

I was unable to stay till 2.00 to catch all the other acts, but heard some of Zak Farfisa (trumpet electronica). I then realized that the ridiculous experience elsewhere back in May of having performers upstaged by a giant projection of a Peter Sellers comedy behind them could have been worse. While this band hooted and buzzed away, the large video screen treated us to grainy excerpts of some kind of homosexual porn movie. Quite a few people must have found the music very distracting.

The following day, trombone poetry returned to Crouch End’s best cellar, to cough through another set for Jamboree. The host, Peyoti, opened up with a vibrant set of gitano guitar songs, trying out a couple of new ones and showing that he’s going from strength to strength. Singer Jameet also showed that she’s going places. The trombone poetry contribution included Jamboree Jive, a tune scribbled earlier on in the restaurant and ably supported by the finger-clicking audience. Again, due to infirmity, I missed the rest of the evening, including Gaz Twist, but the CD he gave me shows he’s worth checking out.

An attempt was made to smuggle a trombone into a cinema in Stepney Green, but a stop-and-search was necessary before trombone poetry could take part in London’s 3rd PoetryFilm Night, at the Genesis Cinema. Numerous fascinating short film-poems were shown, and the evening ended in the bar with poetry recitals from John Clarke, Malgorzata, Matt Widgery and the coughing trombonist.

Mocha, latte, espresso, sofas and canned music, the chatter of chums and flicker of laptops. It must be Starbucks. But what’s that strange noise in the corner? The scrap of paper taped below the counter downstairs was no real warning. However, there it was: trombone poetry, courtesy of The Jazz On The Streets Midsummer Festival. Luckily, some listeners colonized my end of the lounge. Many thanks to them all.

No.17 – August 2005

Creative Routes presented an evening of music and poetry at The Crypt, in Camberwell. Ably MC’d by comedian Tash, the bill included Dolly Sen, Liz Bentley plus other poets, and John Clarke was on the beat route again. A band of multi-instrumentalists called Klektivo played a brilliant set featuring flutes, harmonica, charanga, dulcimer, clarinet, drums and fine grooves.

At Slappers Club in Turnmills, Clerkenwell, Katharine Blake sang several torch songs, Katy Carr sang in wellingtons, Lucas Schnepel read poetry in crimson crepe-sole shoes, John Clarke brought reinforcements on sax and percussion, and Two Men In A Boat were four without one. Trombone poetry offered a new poem, Bus Stop Bust Up, about a typhoon of a tiff.

Oddest moment: the house pianist invited a percussionist to join him and Ms Blake in a rendition of Caravan (a tune that trombonist Juan Tizol wrote for Duke Ellington’s orchestra). Without any warning, the pianist played the whole thing at 5 beats per bar instead of the usual 4. A perfect stitch-up. Did the drummer know what was wrong? Yes, he told me: unlike him, the pianist wasn’t playing the “correct” 7 beats per bar. Lovely. Like a seven-legged dog race.

No.18 – September 2005

After a year’s absence, trombone poetry returned to the fold at The Black Sheep Bar in Croydon to disturb the flow of singing guitarists. Tim Eveleigh rang out three bright new songs. Also causing a disturbance was a human beat-box: a brilliant set by Simon Cadweller.

Most northern gig yet for trombone poetry was an expedition to Edmonton Green to investigate Bohemian Night at The ArtsZone in the Market Square. James Messam sprang to his feet with Jamaican rhymes, and Anthony Fisher offered poems daring to tackle scientific language. Presiding was Mario Lopez-Goicoechea, who started us off with a poem by Langston Hughes.

Slinking from the sunshine into a shady Old Street bar, trombone poetry took part in a live broadcast for Resonance 104.4 FM from The Foundry, and formed half of the house band with saxophonist Mike Walter. Tha chat ranged from singing in Hoxton Hall to psychogeography at the Elephant & Castle.

In stark contrast, the following weekend trombone poetry voyaged through the sun-blessed fields of Dorset to play a couple of sets at the Wessex Poetry Festival in Blandford Forum. This event, hosted and organized by poet Val Bridges, featured the East Street Poets, Grace Gauld and many others. It was a feast of verse, followed by a feast, and was the first time trombone poetry was heard in a Freemasons’ lodge.

No.19 – October 2005

Regular readers may recall February’s gig at Croydon Clocktower’s Cafe Opera, when trombone poetry held forth while a lunchtime crowd chomped on ciabattas. This month’s return visit was a more elevated evening affair, staged in a secret bar on the first floor, and rebranded by some mystery marketing type as “trombone party“. And what a party it was: a friendly group of chronicle-readers kept the beer flowing, and Chris Jagger wandered through carrying a giant washboard.

At the 291 Gallery on Hackney Road, trombone poetry shared the gloomily-lit Sweet ‘n’ Sour stage with glum but gifted singer/songwriter Conil and a rap double-act: Shane Solanki, apparently also known in Paris as Mango Soufflé, and Yam Boy, perhaps known there as Legume Sauté. The trombone made the most of the churchly acoustics, and poems included a newish tribute to the experimental writer, B.S. Johnson: Beach Head. The night ended with some Subterraneans and a miming Suzanne Andrade.

Finally, this month, another adventure at The Klinker. The collective lug-hole was tickled by a thicket of recorders, occasionally boosted by a tuba, violin, or rare flash of soprano trombone, all rejoicing in the name of Bitten By A Monkey. Since Oulipo was mentioned on the Klinker flyer, trombone poetry offered a few metro poems amidst the musical inventions. A real treat was a brilliant improvising trio: Veryan Weston on piano, Dominic Lash on bass, and rasp-wielding Paul May, who should have a completely powdered drum kit by about 2010.

No.20 – November 2005

This month trombone poetry was inspired by a conference on Literature and the Mathematical, co-sponsored by the Institute of Germanic & Romance Studies and the Institute for the Study of the Americas, and convened by Mairéad Hanrahan of University College Dublin. The star turn was a wry talk by an original member of Oulipo, Jacques Roubaud, on “Bourbaki and Oulipo”.

The moment Roubaud finished speaking, it was time to hurtle off to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, where trombone poetry provided the finale for another esoteric gathering, a conference on Attainable Utopias. Poems about designs, visions and dreams were recited, heralded by Utopian Fanfare No.1 (Are We There Yet?). This marks a new venture: performing at conferences and conventions, however rarefied. Brighten up your neuropsychology knees-up with trombone poetry!

After those plugs for several luminous organizations, we plunge once again into the nocturnal undergrowth of Whitechapel, this time for trombone poetry¹s debut set at the Rhythm Factory. Compered by Vis the Spoon, who was unable to offer any of his own poems due to tumbling down a staircase and landing on wherever he stores them, this rollicking fixture alternated scribes and songsters, plus a comic who seemed to have tumbled out of the undercarriage of some American airliner, landing on his funny bone.

No.21 – December 2005

A cyclic experience! The Poetry Da Da event took us straight back to Chronicle No.1, where performers found themselves sharing the space with noisy locals. This time we followed, rather than replaced, the pub quiz. After a rapper and a room-wandering, hat-swapping story-teller with pre-recorded flatulence, the MC tried to goad the drinkers, and ended up inviting one to tell a joke. A name to watch out for, though: Ayanna the singing cellist, who brightened up the evening.

The year’s adventures wound up with a revisit to the songs and sofas of the electroacoustic club, where trombone poetry interrupted the flow of singing guitarists with a recital of Hackney Marches, a wee meditation on death called Looking On The Bright Side, and an old snarl called Yule Be Sorry. Among the minstrels were high-toned Mark Gidden, blue-toned Kelly Waters, and sun-toned patriot Victoria Robertson, en route for the craic in Iraq. Chinooks over Clerkenwell? Brighten up your gulag knees-up with trombone poetry? Maybe not.

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