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hated poetry at my secondary modern school. Hymns seemed like the only poetry until
The Mersey Sound (Henri, McGough and Patten) and Bob Dylan found their way to
me. Through this teenage interest I soon found my way to the Penguin Modern
Poets No 5 paperback – the Beats Ginsberg, Corso and Ferlinghetti.
Island of The Mind’ (City Lights) by Lawrence Ferlinghetti was my favourite
book for many years, “Sometime during eternity…” was the first poem that
gripped me for a life time. Its fluidity, which others might term simplicity,
allows everyone who can read into it. The page layout is the metre (the voice).
It is a universal poem, written in the heart of the beast, the USA, addressing
religion, rendering that which is the human circumstance as chance – but the
chance to be and to do.
seventeen at college I had to read poems aloud as part of the intensive Speech,
Drama and Dance course I was studying – for an English Speaking Board exam. I
wasn’t a high flyer in that process but I got to read “Sometime during eternity…”
I was also introduced to Louis MacNeice’s ‘Snow’ poem but preferred his ‘Prayer
Before Birth’ is also an open, simple poem with the incantation of prayer; and carries
the questions of the unborn into a world torn apart by war and exploitation.
an interest in poetry carried me in all sorts of directions – back and forwards
between the accepted cannon of classical poetry and the flowering small press
third favourite poem is more of an experience than a poem! After the college
course I spent time in Liverpool and, by chance, stumbled upon a performance at
the Walker Art Gallery by concrete Poet Bob Cobbing. I think the poem is titled
‘tantandinane’ (ABC in Sound?) and was an improvisation in sound using elements
of words. Later, the revelation that a text could be an intermediary between performances
became important to my own work.
a concrete/sound poem in my top ten? I was into artists like Kurt Schwitters
and Diter Rot and the idea of things being broken (deconstructed) and remade,
which is an essence of Modernism, appeals to me still.
year later I was back in Suffolk and began reading Sylvia Plath – every poem.
Though carefully structured, her work is ever lively and succinct. ‘Daddy’
became a favourite – opening up a debate in my mind about the sexes – a war
between the sexes, Freudianism and the fight for women’s equality. The nursery
rhyme like structure undercuts the images of the fascistic father and holds out
the horrors of the world as male constructs.
Plath was all about individual and internalised struggles – the world as an
influence in the head and soul – Adrian Mitchell’s poetry was about the big
struggles in the world, from war and famine, to a war between capitalism and
Mitchell’s ‘Tell Me Lies About Vietnam’ is a brilliant poem because he inverts
the linguistic style of tabloid reportage to create a powerful poem of
statements in opposition to the ruling ideology of the tabloids.
years after I first bought Mitchell’s ‘Riding The Nightmare’ I was lucky enough
to read with the poet at a gig in aid of Medicine For Iraq in the wake of the
US/UK embargo on medical supplies to its people following the first 1991
imperialist war on that Middle East country. If you can’t wipe out people with
bombs, wipe them out with disease!
Roger McGough got comfy money by doing the voice for Waitrose ads, Mitchell
never gave in to that comfort. Apart from Sylvia Plath perhaps, these poets
whose poems have ended up on my top 10 list, wrote or performed for objectives
beyond themselves – for the world.
MASTER 7-STRING GUITARIST PAUL HILL RETURNS
TO MILESTONES JAZZ CLUB This month's concert at
Milestones Jazz Club on Sunday 6
April features the first return visit since 2010 of the master
guitarist leading his own funky band - The Paul Hill
Paul Hill, one of the region’s finest guitarists, is
distinguished by the fact that he plays the specially built BJH 7-string guitar
that creates a much bigger sound than the normal 6-string guitar.
began playing classical guitar at about 9 years of age before progressing to the
electric guitar and by the age of 13 was regularly playing in rock
Soon he began studying advanced concepts in jazz and is now a
very successful teacher, examiner for the London College of Music and the author
of the popular book - The Paul Hill Guitar Theory and Technique Book.
fleet-footed, punchy playing confirms the influence of jazz guitar greats like
Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel and Joe Pass.
leads a quartet of the region’s most respected players through an imaginative
selection of both American Songbook classics and modern jazz standards by Chick
Corea, Mike Stern, Bob Berg, Stevie Wonder and Pat Metheny that showcases Paul's
warm tone, inventive lines and advanced sense of harmony.
full line-up features Paul Hill (7-string guitar), Simon Brown (piano), Andy
Doyle (bass) and Cath Evans (drums).
Milestones gigs are held on the first Sunday of every month and take place at
Hotel Hatfield, Esplanade, Lowestoft with the doors opening at
J. Jucha, in his otherwise informative book ‘Jimi Hendrix Faq, disputes that
Hendrix’s Woodstock ‘Star Spangled Banner’ instrumental is political, is a
rebellious howl against war. He is wrong.
1969 the HUAC (House of Un-American Activities Committee), established in 1938,
still existed, and the shadows of the Hollywood Blacklist and controls against
media and cultural criticism of government, persisted. Allegiance to the flag
the reverse side of this was the Civil Rights Movement, a global rise in
national liberation movements, industrial strikes and the War in Vietnam.
Hendrix knew the score and lived his short life in the contradiction between
the entertainment industry and the persistent fight for equality.
rendition of the anthem is not an overly imaginative interpretation of the
lyrics but a collision between their history and the moment – war, riots and a
summer of love. “You can hear the bombs dropping in Vietnam” someone recently
wrote on the YouTube video of Hendrix’s masterpiece.
‘Star spangled Banner’ isn’t his usual jam/impro. He almost instantly loses
Mitch Mitchell on drums: here is a great musician turning the veneer of US
reality over, revealing the napalm, the destruction and the pointlessness of
war. With his eye on maintaining his own armour, his fingers paint a masterly
satire of the state of the nation. It is revolutionary.
remember seeing Woodstock in 1970 at a special screening in Sudbury, Suffolk,
in the cinema the town once had. Way back then I wondered if he’d be arrested
for such expression. But Hendrix knew how to dress the anthem up – with a hand
to the crowd and a smile – and people saying, “well, how else do you think
Hendrix would do that one?”
BOP RETURNS TO MILESTONES JAZZ
CLUB This month’s concert at Milestones Jazz Club on
Sunday 2 March features a return visit by a talented saxophonist
delivering driving swing and earthy blues – Josh Kemp’s Jazz
Tenor saxophonist, composer and arranger Josh Kemp is
based in London and known for his melodic inventiveness, warm sound and grooving
Josh came to jazz at the early age of nine and by his teens his
quartet was awarded the Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Band of the Year prize before
winning scholarships to study jazz at London’s prestigious Guildhall and Trinity
College of Music.
Josh’s lyrical and melodic saxophone style reflects a
wide knowledge of jazz from the tender tone of Ben Webster and Stan Getz to the
probing thoughtfulness of John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter.
Part of his
repertoire and style comes from Hard Bop, the strand of blues and gospel
influenced jazz developed by Art Blakey and Horace Silver in the
The Jazz Prophets remix Blakey’s bluesy swagger and the brittle
explorations of Wayne Shorter on hard-swinging originals and standards that
showcase Josh’s big, round
This concert is part of a UK wide tour supported by
Jazz Services to promote Josh's newly released album, 'Tone
Josh has already released three CDs
to wide acclaim – Kukus, Animation Suspended and Animus,
has performed extensively at venues around the UK including Ronnie Scott’s club,
The National Portrait Gallery and The National Theatre and is active in jazz
education, directing the Cambridge Youth Jazz Orchestra and coaching at
workshops and courses.
The band’s full line-up features Josh Kemp (tenor
saxophone), Simon Brown (piano), Bernie Hodgkins (double bass) and George Double
(drums). All Milestones gigs are
held on the first Sunday of every month and take place at Hotel
Hatfield, Esplanade, Lowestoft with the doors opening at
18-PIECE BIG BAND RETURNS TO MILESTONES JAZZ
CLUB This month’s concert at Milestones Jazz Club on
Sunday 2 February features a return performance by one of the region’s
finest big bands, Horn Factory, playing dynamic music in an intimate
setting that is all too rare.
Horn Factory was initiated by former
National Youth Jazz Orchestra saxophonist Gilly Burgoyne in 1998 and is made up
of eighteen of the finest jazz musicians from the region with proceedings being
led from the front by percussionist and musical director Bob Airzee.
bands varied repertoire reflects the rich history of big band jazz - classic
arrangements from Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Buddy Rich to contemporary
material by Pat Metheny and Michel Camilo and is performed with the attack that
only a big band can muster.
Over the last few years Horn Factory have
honed their skills, making numerous appearances at theatres, festivals, jazz
clubs and several performances at Snape Maltings.
Since the band last
performed at Milestones in 2012 there have been many requests for their return,
making a packed room and exciting atmosphere guaranteed for this
Horn Factory’s 18-strong unit features 5 saxophones, 5
trumpets, 4 trombones and a 4-piece rhythm section.
The power of a jazz
orchestra in full flight on record or television is impressive but to experience
it live, and in an intimate venue like Milestones, is exhilarating and not to be
missed! All Milestones gigs are
held on the first Sunday of every month and take place at Hotel
Hatfield, Esplanade, Lowestoft with the doors opening at
8pm. Admission - £7 / £6 (concession).
‘Starting At Zero’ from Blloomsbury was part of my
reading for Christmas 2013. Jimi Hendrix, His Own Story, compiled and edited by
Paul Neal is particularly moving. Neal combines Hendrix’s diaries, letters and
interviews with the lyrics of this revolutionary musician who lived just 27
If Bob Dylan was the voice of 1960s rebellion, Jimi
Hendrix was the revolutionary vibration of the era.
I was fourteen at an extremely conservative and rural
Secondary Modern school when I first heard The Jimi Hendrix Experience –
‘Purple Haze.’ It literally shook me. While the Beatles had opened a door to
popular music, Hendrix blew the roof off.
The son of a poor black man and a woman of American
Indian stock (who left him and then died when Jimi was in childhood), the
musician-to-be had only one way to be brought up – the hard way. He was not
only thrown out of school but also the local church. Though he knew the
criminal streets of Seattle, from an early age his heart strings were those of
Though The Jimi Hendrix Experience was an urban sound
spanning continents, Hendrix’s endless references to air, water, fire and earth
immediately suggested to me that this man, like myself, was a) quite shy and
sensitive off stage and b) not the product of a university!
I make no claim that Jimi Hendrix’s lyrics are poetry –
as Dylan’s are poetry – but in all his songs it is impossible to separate his
lyrics from the swirling blood of his guitar and arrangements. However, in
‘Starting At Zero’ the inclusion of some lyrics works because they are
wrapped in the spoken tongue of Hendrix’s own words. They stand like
illustrations in the book.
Together, word and sound here are poetry. In that sense,
it was Jimi Hendrix who got me writing at fourteen. Just that sense from this
libertine that anyone can write or pick up a guitar. More importantly, at the
centre of each song was ‘feeling’ – which is referred to over and over in this
ghostly autobiography. That is, the root of all creativity is feeling – a
visceral rather than a cerebral connection with the world.
On ‘The X Factor’ Simon Cowell or Gary Barlow will advise
contestants to make the song they’re singing “their own story.” But fake soul is
not real empathy. Rather it is the expectation that popular music has to be
enjoyed without creating a riot. Today popular music is created to make money,
not to touch souls and make people feel deeply. Most of all, popular music does
not want real engagement and collaboration between those listening. Its job now
is to make the masses passive.
No one could accuse Hendrix of passive music. Within
eighteen months of being in England in the 1960s, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
had created three albums – Are You Experienced? Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland – and
the group had toured half the world.
Most of his output was penned by himself and all
arrangements of others’ songs were his - in collaboration with bassist Noel
Redding, drummer Mitch Mitchell and, occasionally, producer Chas Chandler. In
my view, he created the greatest popular song of the post war era – ‘All Along
The Watchtower’ by Bob Dylan.
Without Dylan, Hendrix wouldn’t have sung at all. Jimi
could hear the absolute sincerity in Dylan’s voice and lyrics and he knew that
this must be his direction too. Between the two of them they made it possible
for anyone to sing – not just the trained or talented. They opened the door to
Lou Reed and Punk.
As said, Hendrix’s lyrics were never astounding when
ripped from the music they breathed in. Not surprising, Hendrix wasn’t educated
and his resources were the church (he’d been excluded from), Indian folklore,
modern fantasy and a smattering of sci-fi placed firmly in the streets of the
I loathe fantasy. Yet Hendrix’s use of fantasy was to
weave general myths increasingly touched by the folklore of his mother. For Hendrix,
breathing under water is freedom and life beyond the mirror is reality. That
is, to break the mirror is to pass from one controlled existence in this world into
a higher, uncontrolled but universal harmony in another world. He wasn’t an
atheist. He just hated the church. For him, life and faith were about passing
from one stepping stone to another, echoing American Indian philosophy.
In my early poems I followed his stepping stones.
Though he had sudden fame and wealth, Hendrix hated money
and sunk much of his earnings into making LPs, promoting concerts and into
building a recording studio in New York. By 1969 The Jim Hendrix Experience had
folded and he set up Band of Gypsies with Billy Cox and others. Though never
overtly political, he knew which side he was on in the Civil Rights Movement in
the USA and performed at anti-Vietnam War gigs.
As ever, his music was his politics (and his life was his
art). His version of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at Woodstock is an anthem for
those fighting for an alternative world of ‘love.’ In his last year, Hendrix
was ever more fervent about the art of his music. With a Band of Gypsies he
wanted to create a music for the open air – like the concerts he played in
places like Harlem, often for free. His was always the opposite of “art for
art’s sake.” Art was life – is life.
From our vantage point of 2014 it is easy for critics to
belittle Hendrix on the grounds of sexism. Yet ‘Starting At Zero’ throws
light on the sensitivity of the man and his contradictory nature. This is apparent
from his songs, for ‘Little Wing’ is one of the most delicate and moving love
songs of the age, imbued with a sense of another’s freedom.
‘Starting At Zero’
also undermines the notion of Hendrix’s own fatalism. He had big dreams and big
plans to turn his music into theatre and film – and considered studying music.
Every budding young musician or poet should read this book - instead of watching the X Factor or The Voice!
Regular readers of this blog hopefully will know the answer!
K.M. Dersley is an Ipswich born poet, reviewer and singer-songwriter whose work I have featured. Indeed, through the Ipswich Poetry Workshop, Syntaxophone and other ventures, our lives have often intertwined. Dersley is the closest we have to a Beat Poet in this country. In the best sense of the word folksy, this poet turns the mundane on its head and makes the dead pan and ordinary extraordinary.
Doug Coombes has written an excellent enthusiasm for this 'forgotten' Ipswich Poet in the online magazine InSuffolk
In Britain at this time the dead hands of academic poetry are burying voices from the working class, voices from otherwise anonymous locations. As Doug Coombes says, it's time again for The Derz.
EAST ANGLIAN JAZZ SCENE AT MILESTONES JAZZ CLUB This month’s concert at Milestones Jazz Club on
Sunday 5 January kicks off the 2014 programme with a band led
by a much-loved veteran saxophonist - The Derek Cubitt
Quartet. For over fifty years Derek Cubitt has
been a key figure on the East Anglian jazz scene, respected for his
free-flowing, melodic and intelligent style on tenor, alto and soprano
saxophones and clarinet.
Having just celebrated his 86th birthday, Derek shows no
signs of stopping the music and this Milestones concert puts him firmly in the
spotlight, leading his own band on a choice selection of jazz
standards and a few Cubitt originals. Born in Gorleston, Derek
started playing clarinet in 1942, initially influenced by Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, but with
the arrival of modern jazz he fell under the spell of saxophonists like Charlie
Parker, Ben Webster and Zoot Sims. This
experience of both traditional and modern styles of jazz has proved to be one of
Derek's great strengths - a melodic melding of swing and bebop styles not only
as a reed player but also as a respected arranger.
Although Derek spent many years
playing all over the UK and Europe in everything from circus bands and pit
orchestras to theatres and holiday camps, the exciting, unpredictable nature of
jazz has always been his first
love. The admiration of the local jazz community is testament to
Derek being still one of the best the region has to
offer. The band's full line-up features Derek Cubitt (tenor, alto and
soprano saxophones / clarinet), Phil Brooke (guitar), Ivars Galenieks (double
bass) and Brian McAllister (drums).
Derek's music via the club website at http://www.milestonesjazzclub.co.uk All Milestones gigs are held on the first Sunday of every month and
take place at Hotel Hatfield, Esplanade, Lowestoft with the doors
opening at 8pm.