March 3, 2010
Apart from the now very famous ‘Take Five’ by The Dave Brubeck Quartet, which actually made the charts in the mid sixties (now there’s a thing in itself) my first real encounter with jazz was listening to a single that my mate Tony Hammersley had just bought of Miles Davis playing ‘On Green Dolphin Street’.
I mention this because, for no reason in particular, I just became reminded of this piece of music and, through the magic of the internet was able to simply go into YouTube and listen to it for the first time in nearly fifty years and be transported. This is Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Jimmy Cobb and Paul Chambers, giants among men. Have a listen, see what I mean:
Lovely or what? But the remarkable thing is that I was just able to do that. In the sixties music was so hard to find. There were no music radio stations worth the name and no specialist record shops outside central London. A very narrow range of records were sold from small booths in the corner of shops that dealt in musical instruments and sheet music, or otherwise tucked away on the top floor of some dreary department store in Grays or Romford. So we just had to sniff the music out and that meant going to London for a start, a distance of twenty-five miles and three train journeys from South Ockendon to dangerous places like Transat Imports, a tiny independent record shop up a rickety iron staircase in Lisle Street, off Leicester Square if memory serves me well. It was only open on Saturdays, and sometimes not even then if the owner didn’t fancy it, but here in this magical room we could rummage through boxes of records imported from America by bands we’d never heard of and just take a chance on the shopkeeper’s recommendation.
It opened up new avenues of music for me, as well as my first date with Maureen, as I mentioned in an earlier post. We saw Miles Davis at the Hammersmith Odeon a couple of times, Archie Shepp, Roland Kirk, Sonny Rollins, MJQ, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Ben Webster at the Marquee, and at The Royal Festival Hall we heard Stan Getz playing this:
This album was, as it happens, the first Christmas present that Maureen bought me forty-four years ago and I have it still. And it’s still very cool.