chronicles 2007

No.34 January 2007

A live broadcast set the ball rolling, courtesy of the Scaledown club, and their eponymous show on Resonance 104.4 FM, broadcast to London and webcast worldwide for the broadbandits amongst us. All the music was improvised, and half the poetry Oulipian. The trombone poetry set recorded at the club back in October may also be broadcast on this Friday afternoon show one day: see Scaledown for details.

At Joan Coffey’s Coffee Culture at the Green Note café/bar in Camden on a blue sky Saturday afternoon, trombone poetry threaded New Orleans jazz through a sequence of poems and soundwalks. Joan sang a couple of favourites and showed a very likeable short film by Andrea Dorfman. Also combining music and spoken word, Andrew Clarke sang a fine set of songs including that hymn to infidelity, A Shot in the Mouth, and returned to the stage with a handful of gothic short stories.

For an event entitled Word Incest & Cut-Ups, Malgorzata Kitowski invited James Byrne and me to join her in simultaneous readings by all of us of a series of poems by each of us. The mèlée took place in a former gun shop reborn as the Riflemaker Gallery, in Soho, featuring, under the banner of Indica, artworks such as Yoko Ono’s apple-on-a-pedestal plus convulsions of kinetic art.

Some sparks were struck, but more thoughtful preparation could have taken things much further, and richer relationships between the poems and the improvised trombone-playing would also have been created. Bright spontaneity was also undermined by the dull blunder of giving someone the wrong order of pieces. The sudden dialogue between the trombone and a resounding metal sculpture, though, was a happy bonus.

No.35 February 2007

Another melodious night in the bowels of the Green Dragon in Croydon, courtesy of Freedom of Expression: the guest hostess, specially primed with finely-wrought biographical material, managed to leave it all on the tram or somewhere, so had to busk it, being too shy to actually ask performers who they were.

This chronicle maintains that loose, impersonal approach. A polite young songster from Memphis twanged through polite young songs with lines like, “because from birth I’ve been on this earth”. No gap year on Pluto for him, then. He did have a pleasing habit of getting too close to the mic, thus momentarily changing the shape of his hooter.

Another tuneful turn kicked off with a lullaby, then rushed into. A. Slow. One – hurtling next into a ballad before shifting into reflective mood to calm things down.

Freedom of Expression is now crawling with technicians eagerly documenting every strum and stanza, so a trombone poetry improvisation and a slightly rough reading of the Louis Armstrong/Earl Hines tribute, Weather Bird, can be found on Youtube, with a couple of mugshots on Flickr.

No.36 March 2007

Joan Coffey hosted another thriving Coffee Culture session at the Green Note café/bar in Camden on a Saturday afternoon, wherein trombone poetry offered a selection of poems, perverbs and musical inventions. Joan got us in the mood with a couple of songs and showed a fine little film about armed cattle. A long loud bard re-enacted his magic mushroom trip.

The wonderful Ivy House pub near Peckham Rye, besides being The Klinker’s South London home, is the venue for the very occasional Pipe and Slippers club, a wildly varied cabaret that kicked off with a short story by Fabian Acker and rattled along with David Goo’s songs, Katrina Naomi’s poems, Stuart James’s dense lyrics and Itchy Circus Odour. Trombone poetry played variations on Exactly Like You, amid sundry poems. To confuse things, there was a duo also called Pipe and Slippers: a geriatric response to yoof music, like a 1960’s band still on the road. Imagine. Compered by boyish Ben Hicks and carefree Carrie Quinlan, the afternoon climaxed with a desperate attempt by Eleni and The Glitter Dancers to resuscitate a collapsed CD-player.

The poem, “The Higher Plane”, has been chosen as Write Out Loud‘s Poem of the Month for April by last month’s winner. This seems like good news, till it emerges that the admirer of the poem has got a completely contrary idea of what lies behind it, imputing some kind of spiritual message. Poetry as communication: discuss; give examples.

No.37 April 2007

The Rhythm Factory in Whitechapel Road presented another unbalanced diet of delights and derangements, hosted by Vis the Spoon and his half-trained, half-cut DJ. Truman plunked an offhand ukulele through his hit song Babylondon, followed by some geezer hiding his boat behind a music stand while he regaled us with a kind of atonal madrigal, bejewelled with lines like “everybody ready for the dance of crystal meth death”. After a set from the man who put the harm in harmonica, trombone poetry cranked out a few freeform miniatures and a bouquet of horticultural verse. Another visit is pencilled in for July.

Not since that Creative Swing jamboree, clinging to the gilded hem of the Clerkenwell Literary Festival a couple of years ago, has trombone poetry been heard in that historic cultural quarter, but thanks to an invitation from Ntshuks Bonga, a recital was delivered at the leather-sofaed Leonards EC1, a nouveau boozer. Between two frenzied sets by Bonga on alto sax, with Claude Deppa on trumpet, Oren Marshall wrestling a tuba to the floor, and Mark Sanders driving the drums, including at least one number by former sparring partner, Archie Shepp, trombone poetry offered tributes to Jelly Roll Morton and John Coltrane. If this monthly fixture gets more support, we may look forward to another bout later this year.

No.38 May 2007

Another night up the Green Dragon, so to speak, in Croydon, under the empire-building banner of Freedom of Expression. Happily ensconced with a fine pint of porter beckoning from the oak table, harpoon fresh from the whet-stone, what should have been a plain pleasure, the arrival of a steaming plate of scampi and chips, was perturbed by a vague twinge of guilt, as a singer called Ingrid suddenly sang “I’m a mermaid of the deep”.

Next up was a gent with a guitar, apologizing for not intending to sing, just play, and for not having done that for a while either. Within moments, we were transported to Andalucia (though the porter didn’t quite fit) as Brian Smith rattled through bulerias, soleas and sevillanas. A treat.

For the other booked act, apart from trombone poetry, it was hard to find words. How can we classify her style, pin down her unique sound, capture the shifting moods of her songs? A tricky business, as Milla didn’t show up.

In an extended set, trombone poetry offered an old piece of miserabilia, Performing Dogs, and a batch of what we term Portmantreau [sic] perverbs [sic], amongst a selection of refracted jazz standards.

Coffee Culture was hosted, in Joan Coffey’s absence, by Oscar Cainer. Presumably because of the giant brunch, Barefoot Tim could only summon up a half-hearted, full-stomached singalong for his song based on the Little Prince book by Saint-Exupery, though it was an ideal moment to buzz along on the trombone mouthpiece to warm up. After his set came a revelation: Barefoot Tim sock shock!

The trombone poetry set featured a brand new poem, in marinet form: A Drift, and the Satchmo tribute tune, Louis. Bringing the afternoon to a very entertaining climax, was songwriter Daniel Cainer, shamelessly smuggled in by his own son. Coffee Culture is now suspended, oddly, for the summer.

Freedom of Expression has now invaded Penge , hosting a Penge Festival event at The Crooked Billet. Cris Tanzi, Liz Crawford and Chris Parr joined trombone poetry in what should become a regular event. May Flower, a poem scribbled on the spot for the occasion, was sneaked into the set, and will end up on a spruced-up website soon.

No.39 June 2007

Freedom of Expression now has yet another outpost , with the result that the profane glory of the trombone was heard once again in a church, as the promoter is helping to fund-raise for a community centre there in Gipsy Hill. Goodliffe Hall, behind Christ Church, is the projected centre, but the gig was a resonant, candle-lit affair in the church itself. These events are on the last Thursday of the month.

Ben Summers, the non-cello-playing half of Mozzy Green, gave a cracking solo recital, during which he explained that the thicket protruding from the back of his head was due to doing his own haircut with only one mirror. Will the mullet be rivalled by the mozzet?

The trombone poetry set featured Bee Attitude, Touché, and The High Life plus a rediscovered 10-year-old limerick about New Labour, called 1997.

Roshi Nasehi sang beautiful Iranian love songs with a pared-down keyboard accompaniment, and Liz Crawford once again brought her lovely portamento singing to another fine FOE knees-up.

No.40 July 2007

On arrival in Durham for the International Brass Festival, we were whisked off sharpish to Greenfield School Community & Arts College, in Newton Aycliffe, in a pioneering scheme to volley trombone poetry into the eager brains of youth. Fresh from an in-depth study of the role of the trombone in modernist poetics, the scholars revelled in the opportunity for interactive inquiry, with questions like, “How much are you getting paid?” and “Are you a stand-up comedian?”. I admit to pacing up and down on a big stage, clutching a radio mic, but this was at the request of the cameraman from Tynes Tees Television, for an item presumably never to be broadcast.

Having chopped out all the poems concerning drink and other nocturnal pursuits, the trombone poetry set was more trombone than poetry, but there were fruitful chats about inspiration and constraints, and very little was thrown. When it was all over and done with, a photographer for the Northern Echo showed up to document it, and a small flock of schoolgirls was rounded up to pretend they’d been there. This imagery has also vanished.

Barnard Castle Library was the next target, the first of three warmly welcoming library events. The trombone poetry set rambled through jazz history, horticultural by-products, figmentalism and Moscow Yacht Club, with occasional reflections on trombone poetry’s long-term educational programme.

Crook Library followed a similar format, with some participants now to be seen wandering the streets scribbling soundwalks in notebooks and clanging into lamp-posts.

At Lanchester Library, the happy climax of this tour of County Durham, the audience was boosted by members of the Lanchester Creative Writing Group, in a very handsome stone building. As in all these recitals, there was an opportunity for questions and discussion at the end, with plenty of lively and friendly queries. Just before I was kindly driven back to the hospitality of Hatfield College and the wifi haven of the Varsity Bar, a smiling punter handed me a note: “I have the most awkward question. No need to thank me for not asking it.” Thanks anyway, Derek.

No.41 August 2007

The Perseverance pub in Marylebone is yet another outpost of the benign empire of Freedom Of Expression. David Goo, Simon Metheringham, Chris Parr and Blue Rose Code held forth, not necessarily in that order, and their mellifluous songs were interrupted by trombone poetry, in the penultimate slot, with on-the-road poems and fragmentary improvisations.

The evening’s efforts were broadcast to an eager planet via a streaming webcast facility. This looks like a regular feature of FoE shindigs, but is obviously no excuse for staying in, especially on a Friday night.

At the Whitechapel Gallery, an avian conspiracy known as Littlest Birds convened an evening of song and poetry with a vague swimming theme. This theme was more or less uniquely represented by The Table Top Swimmer, who did just that, later on contriving to liberate her silent self from a child’s lifebelt. The trombone poetry set included Uptalk Turnoff and the spontaneous Blankchurch Blues. The talented but strangely-monickered Outernet recited from a handsome book of poetry, and Fiona Bevan stole the show with scintillating songs.

No.42 September 2007

Back to The Green Dragon, hallowed hind-quarters of Freedom Of Expression. Neither Lu Cozma nor Mississippi McDonald could attend, perhaps due to blues tongue, but Andy Raeburn showed up, with some yearning originals and covers .

The trombone poetry set dusted off Local Girl Makes Good, a poem that once graced a fleet of 38 buses, and tried out new stuff like Playing The Changes, in a batch of work about being in Spain.

The evening ended on a high note with an invasion from Essex: Aliceband, with Alice presiding on keyboard and vocals .

This year’s Elefest provided another chance to play in a big tent, namely The Groovy Movie Picture House, “the world’s first solar-powered cinema”. It was a further treat to perform immediately after a short black-&-white film of Liberace pounding out Twelfth Street Rag to a pair of blank-stare beauties. Naturally, this being Elephant & Castle, the soundwalks composed there last year had to run through the set, while the music was partly furnished by some kind of street theatre band rehearsing on the same green a mere boot’s-throw away. Fragments of their lovely marches were snatched and shaken up into instant counter-melodies.

Exactly one year ago, this chronicle warned: beware of gigs in tents. Some people never learn.

No.43 October 2007

For Beatroot Rendez-Vous, at The Space on the Isle of Dogs, trombone poetry shared the bill with Stuart Masters, Liam Dullaghan and a rather stern Silvia Fioretti, singing and enjoying the luxury of the Steinway piano. MC Moss Beynon Juckes came up with some unsettling links, such as Artaud meditating on death, if memory serves, finishing the proceedings by exchanging her guitar for a didgeridoo to join a double-didge/sax/drum ensemble that managed somehow to rope in a trombone for an encore jam.

For a further night Out East, trombone poetry took another Spoonful Of Poison at The Rhythm Factory, courtesy of Vis the Spoon, along with grumpy Vic Lambrusco and singing twosome Johnny Heartache. An open mic bloke dragged a guitar onstage and tried to remember a couple of instrumentals and/or the reason he walked on to begin with, and an apprentice stand-up tackled snippets from a newspaper while juggling a Welsh accent.

Littlest Birds invited trombone poetry to their West End premises, the crammed basement of The Poetry Café in Covent Garden, where they were to be found whittling pumpkins that suspiciously resembled oranges. Rhian Edwards, nostalgic for some feral incident in a closet, romped through a batch of poems. A trio with guitar amps defeated themselves. Again.

No.44 November 2007

Not far from the glittering railway palace of St Pancras sits the slightly less glitzy Cross Kings pub, a den of minstrelsy. Here, at the invitation of David Goo, trombone poetry offered that luminous old standard, Blue Skies, along with Self-Portrait With Vinegar & Baked Beans, and other poems. Onstage as we arrived was a rare bout of multi-tasking, as a man belted out some kind of punkabilly number while pretending to stamp out a bushfire.

Thanks, perhaps, to Eurostar, some acts had to compete with air-brake French from one corner, or else road-drill Spanish from another, both usually musics to these ears. In amongst all that, Graham Cobbold treated us to a fine set of 20’s/30’s blues. From Bexleyheath.

On another chill Sunday night, trombone poetry journeyed to a shadowy club known as The Jewel Of The East, somewhere south of Victoria Park. The bar was adorned by a creaking Dansette playing Cat Stevens, alongside a discarded razor blade. The de-licensed premises, The Milton Arms, has been run by a co-operative for some time, but this cultural oasis is due for demolition at the beginning of January. Happy New Year.

Still, there we were, for a thoroughly mixed bag of performers, hosted by the ebullient John Clarke, who recited some of his ferlinghetto verse accompanied by swinging Vivienne Soan on tenor sax, or shouted it in the company of his beat combo, Swing It, that combined guitar, didgeridoo, djembe and Aime Hansen, a straw-boatered dervish.

Jake Doran discarded the didg for a solo set with his guitar, singing a song called It Was a Sad Day Losing My Leg that somehow brought to mind Kevin Rowland. The Hanging Gardener of Babylon gave vent to a gothic monologue and Cathy Flower blossomed. Who could compete, though, despite the faltering dialogue, with a bloke dressed as a giant turkey with two heads?

Freedom Of Expression III, at the Perseverance in Marylebone, was a more dignified affair, graced with Roshi Nasehi’s Persian love songs floating over keys and cello. Trombone poetry offered Local Girl Makes Good and Fats Waller’s Keepin’ Out Of Michief Now. Amelia Tucker rounded off the evening with some Bristolian melancholy. Where were you?

No.45 December 2007

The curse of Deptford strikes again! The debut appearance at the Deptford Arms was not quite what was planned (or agreed). Simply put, the event had been scrapped without warning, and replaced by a soiree of indy bands. Consolation copies of “speech” were handed out to those who came from Rochester to catch trombone poetry in the act. Harumph.

Tufnell Park was more on the case, in a sherry-fuelled kind of way: the Saltpeter Christmas Bash held forth at the splendid Dartmouth Arms, where performers tottered on a tree stump in front of a TV aquarium. The guest trombonist politely declined two invitations to accompany other turns, to his infinite relief when he watched them. A tricky business, music.

No messing about, of course, at The Slaughtered Lamb in Clerkenwell, where Will Rees’ Electroacoustic Club resounds in the upholstered basement . This was the Christmas Cracker, and notable amongst the crackers were Henry Dingle, Adam Klein (all the way from Athens, Georgia), and a very fine set from Note to Self.

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