The Best of 2016 # 2 – Gigs

Having spent quite a lot of the year in and out of medical facilities for one reason or another the number of gigs attended has been somewhat constrained but having said that much improved on 2015 when I spent a good deal of the time in a plaster cast. In the most part the gigs I did attend were all great. There were a couple of bad evenings caused in the first case by an idiotic club owner and in the second case by a less than perfect sound engineering job, it is not my habit to name names, so I won’t, all I would say is that bands deserve more.

Ones I sadly missed due to ill health and diary clashes

  • Robert Forster
  • The Triffids
  • Kim Salmon

Here are the highlights in no particular order, apart from the top four gigs.

  • Manchester Jazz Festival – just a general message to say it was much improved this year with some fascinating bands seen especially in the performance space in Manchester Central Library – the price of the beer in the Festival Village is obscene though!
  • Soft Machine at The Band on the Wall – OK so we sat in the bar for most of the second set drinking and chewing the fat about music but the first set was pretty memorable and I realised a long held ambition to see this band.
  • The Junta at Night and Day – kabuki, mime and beats with El Generallisimo cooking up a techno storm.
  • Aidan Cross & Johann Kloos, Poppycock, Taser Puppets and West Coast Sick Line at Dulcimer, Chorlton. A fun packed night with a storming set from the Westies and a slight hiatus while Mr Maxwell found his guitar.
  • Moff Skellington, Mr Mouse, Loop-aznavour at The Fenton Leeds – a remarkable evening with a sparse audience but excellent performances from all three protagonists only somewhat ruined by the inability to get out of Leeds via the motorway necessitating a circuitous journey home via Harrogate
  • The Eagle, again, for the debut of the much anticipated new band lead by Ian Moss Four Candles , Cambridge rockers, stripped down to acoustic duo  for the night, Bouquet of Dead Crows, all the way from Modena Italy Saint Lawrence Verge, and to close the night the ever excellent Poppycock. A rather special evening.
  • Sam SmithGenevieve L Walsh and The Madding Crowd at The Moston Miners Club – a great set from Sam, memorable poetry from Genevieve,  and an epic set from The Madding Crowd.
  • The Junta, Bouquet of Dead Crows, The Scissors and Kit B at the Eagle as part of Salford Music Festival. Barnstorming sets from all four bands – we need to do this again.
  • Taser Puppets, Poppycock, JD Meatyard and West Coast Sick Line as part of Salford Musical Festival also at The Eagle – one of our most successful nights with a good crowd, fine performances, and a stellar set from Mr Meatyard.
  • Blaney album launch at Pacifica Cantonese. A great album and a memorable album launch with the added bonus of it being five minutes from where I live. It’s been a good year for Ed and he deserves the support he is getting at the moment

and the top four, who all happen to be Australian for some strange reason……


The Necks live at the Band on the Wall – a special performance from an amazing trio of musicians. Unique and breath-taking music bereft of ego and full of invention.


Harry Howard and the NDE with Poppycock at The Eagle – exploding keyboards and horrendous traffic conspired against us but Poppycock were the best I have seen them all year and Harry and co were exceptional given they had a stand in rhythm section with only a couple of days rehearsal.


Dave Graney and Poppycock & Franco Bandini at the Eagle – a long held desire to catch Dave and Clare live was at long last realised. Most of the band were full of germs but still managed to deliver a set packed with classic tunes from across the Graney songbook. The added bonus of seeing Malcolm Ross play the guitar as well.

and my gig of the year….


Dave Graney at the Betsey Trotwood, London – a memorable journey to the capital despite a dodgy knee. A pleasant afternoon drinking with Bob and Jeff in some fine ale houses. A fantastic set from Dave, Clare, Stu and Malcolm covering even more of the Graney songbook topped off by a great tribute to Prince.


Riffs, tiffs and quiffs

Soft Machine

Band on the Wall, Manchester

31st March 2016

At some point in the evening it was pointed out to me that John Etheridge was the doppelganger for comedian Micky Flanagan, true. However, in hindsight it has to be said that John tells better jokes, albeit in a self deprecating fashion.

So the bad news was that John Marshall couldn’t make the gig due to illness, which meant that the exceptional Mark Mondesir sat in on drums, and was stunning, his broad grin and enthusiasm pushing the band. The line-up was completed by the aforementioned Mr Etheridge on guitar, Roy Babbington on bass (he played on    two Bert Weedon albums apparently) and Theo Travis on reeds, flute and keyboards.

But before we get into that, Thursday night in Manc is on the cusp of Spring. The steel industry is collapsing in South Wales and Cameroon refuses to come home to sort it out, Ronnie Corbett has left this mortal coil, England are doing quite well at T20 Cricket and the tram from Eccles to Manchester (via Media City, oh so pretty) is on time. After ten months of personal grim the world seems as precariously balanced, as it always is, between the nice and not so nice.

Walking up Oldham Street from Piccadilly things seem as dour as usual. Hustlers hustling, people rushing home, pavements dirty and cracked, the fading decadence of the shop fronts. Quite ironic that the formerly “sticky floored” Gullivers is now the smartest place on the street. I meet Mr Moss there for a quick pint and a quicker catch up on record label business, we amble round to the BOTW and, once inside,  we both meet separate old acquaintances. Soft Machine appear to attract “men of a certain age”.

Sound wise the BOTW remains the best live venue in Manchester. A packed room is served up a heady stew of new , newish and old  Softs material with music from Ratledge and Jenkings mixing with newer stuff from Bundles onward. What stays in the mind is the effortless performance from four consummate musicians, there is no grandstanding or frippery here, this is four exceptional players delivering.

The first set is notable for an impressive “Chloe and the Pirates” as well as some pretty intense riffing from the band. At times you could have been listening to Van Der Graaf Generator, or King Crimson (some osmosis from Travis’ time with Fripp and Co no doubt). The revelation was the use of free jazz in the set, after impossibly long opening riffs the band leap off into strange sonic areas and explore tonal colours and spaces that are quite breathtaking.

I have to admit that my sciatica got the best of me and for the second set, due to the lack of seating spaces in the concert room, we decamped to the bar, where we could watch the gig via the remote feed and sip some excellent Pinot Grigio. The second hour provided more the same, a potted history of the Softs, and the more recent “legacy” material. Whilst it seemed the first set was more oriented to Etheridge, Travis seemed to take centre stage for the greater part of the second set.

All in all a remarkable performance of quality jazz/rock fusion for players at the top of their game.


World of Jazz – 20th September 2012

This time around the show (which can be streamed here) features:

1 Bonobo Ghost Ship Black Sands Remixed
2 Electric Masada Kisofim 50th Birthday Celebration Vol 4
3 Monk Higgins Watermelon Man Extra Soul Perception
4 Robert Glasper Trio Maiden Voyage Mood
5 Herbie Hancock Just Around The Corner Mr Hands
6 Ronnie Foster Funky Motion Cheshire Cat
7 Soft Machine One Over The Eight Softs
8 John Zorn Prelude 2 – The Book of Pleasure The Gnostic Preludes
9 Roy Ayers Ubiquity Moving Grooving Vibrations
10 Roy Ayers Ubiquity Baby I Need Your Love Vibrations

World of Jazz – 17th November 2011

On this show :

Clifford Adams – Darshan’s Love – The Master Power (1998) – he used to play the trombone with Kool and the Gang – but this is straight ahead jazz. The band is pianist Kenny Barron , bassist Ray Drummond,  drummer Lewis Nash and Antonio Hart on alto. One of those ridiculously cheap Naxos jazz releases.

Miles Davis – It Never Entered My Mind – Workin’ (1959) – the first great Miles quintet – but this time without Trane who sits this one out. The product of  a  productive pair of  recording sessions in May and October of 1956 which delivered four albums.

Soft Machine – Nettle Bed – Seven (1974) by this time the Softs had completely abandoned their original style and immersed themselves in a heady mix of jazz-rock fusion.

Wallace Roney – No Room For Argument – No Room For Argument (2000) – one of Roney’s better albums demonstrating that he respects the history of the music but also carries it forward into a new age.

Stacy Dillard – Pleasant – Good and Bad Memories (2011) – as the promo says “On his Criss Cross debut tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard projects the intelligence and fire that have made him a major force in New York hardcore jazz over the last decade. Playing tenor and soprano saxophone with great facility and no cliches, Dillard leads a strong quintet of young masters – Orrin Evans, piano; Craig Magnano, guitar; Ryan Berg, bass; Jeremy ‘Bean’ Clemons, drums – through a set of meaty originals, bluesy, soulful, and swinging, reinforcing his ever-growing stature as a must-hear voice.”

Sonny Rollins – St Thomas – Saxophone Colossus (1956) – Rollins recorded many memorable sessions during 1954-1958, but Saxophone Colossus is arguably his finest album of that period and often features in the top ten polls for best jazz albums. Joined by pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Max Roach, Rollins debuts and performs the definitive version of  his own piece “St. Thomas”.

Helge Lien Trio – Afrikapolka – Natukashii (2011) – Norwegian Lien leads a great trio who deliver modern jazz at its most potent.

Lou Donaldson – The Thang – Alligator Boogaloo (1967) – a perfect example of Donaldson’s successful combination of hard bop and soul-jazz.  The excellent band, consisting of Melvin Lastin, Sr. on cornet, George Benson on guitar, Lonnie Smith on organ, and Leo Morris on drums, mixes laid-back vamps beneath driving hard bop.

Jimmy Smith – Blues After All – House Party (1957) as with the previous track Smiths ability to merge soul-jazz and bop creates a memorable and funky piece of jazz history.

Kenny Dorham – Night Watch – Trumpet Toccata (1964) – this was trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s last full album as a leader – he was only 40 at the time and still in his prime.   This modern hard bop quintet set with Joe Henderson on tenor, pianist Tommy Flanagan, bassist Richard Davis, and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath delivered a suitable closing statement to his career as a front man –  a career which which was tragically cut short by kidney disease.

To listen to the show click on the link below –