Friday, March 26, 1982

Friday night prayer meeting

Heat, sun and sweat. All the geographers were panicky as the 2.30 deadline for their projects approached. They've been slaving away most of the week and Lee and Claire have been out since Wednesday. Lee came in looking relieved.

Really, with the heat, it was a lazy day.

After tea I set off for the first ever Easterby Jazz Festival which was being held at Easterby Poly. In Robinson Hall I was greeted by a scene of frenetic activity, people everywhere, milling around, mobbing record stalls in the foyer, and upstairs more crowds and sales and a packed auditorium, walls hugged by scaffolding on which sat two TV cameras. It was good to see so many people my age in the audience but there were lots of the usual middle-aged Ronnie Scott-type swing era big band enthusiasts in tight polo-neck sweaters. A couple of them to my left tapped and swayed to the music all night, but really it was a pretty mixed bag.

The Stan Tracey Big Band was on first after a pathetic intro by a cardboard compère in blue crimplene trousers.for the benefit of the TV cameras. He seemed oblivious to the fact that it was a live event, and instead tried to script it all. The slimy suffocating grip of commercialism. Pathetic.

Apart from that the night was brilliant. The Stan Tracey Big Band played the expected trad-oriented Duke Ellington arrangements which I’m not hooked on but which are entertaining. The best piece was their fourth, the steamy, slow and soulful “Passion Flower,” a version of which I have by Grover Washington. Their set ended to good applause and everyone left the hall to rummage through the boxes and boxes of records out in the foyer or upstairs or to listen to a four piece jazz band in nearby Simmonds Hall. It was superb, a great atmosphere. . . .

Mingus Dynasty were up next, again introduced for the cameras by Crimplene Trousers, which made me sick. Mingus Dynasty featured Randy Brecker (who looks like Ricky Villa) on trumpet, a portly black pianist with graying beard and glasses (Roland Hanna), a happy looking Reggie Johnson on bass, Ricky Ford on sax,  Jimmy Knepper on trombone and Kenny Washington on drums.

They began with “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” (I have a version of it on Mingus’s Me Myself An Eye) which was really good, but their best was a Mingus tribute to Charlie Parker (“Reincarnation of a Lovebird”) which was slow and sad and evocative. Towards the end of their set everyone was really getting into the music. The musicians really seemed warmed up and there were several superb saxophone breaks which were just incredible. Fantastic!

They got a rapturous reception and the applause went on for ages, everyone stomping and clapping and demanding “more.” Crimplene Trousers was drowned out as he made his staged exit and our loud banging carried on and on and on but they didn’t come back, probably because of TV restrictions. There were loud complaints. . . .

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