Selection: Theme 6, Ensemble,Tenor solo and Tenor Cadenza, duet
. . .
Graham Collier, leader, bass; Harry Beckett, trumpet; Geoff Castle, piano; Alan Wakemen, tenor/soprano sax; Bob Sydor, tenor/alto sax; John Webb, drums; recorded live at The Torrington, Lodge Lane, North Finchley, London N12, on December 8, 1970, engineer David Voyde.
Of The Torrington, North Finchley (now closed)
“Shocking – this was one of the few real pubs in Finchley, with a back room which was almost an institution, the kind of place where you’d go to see your mates’ bands play and where they used to have record sales. Now turned into yet another Starbucks…. Just what Finchley needs (!) another poncy coffee shop”
Graham Collier Music marshalled some of the cream of British jazz musicians at the turn of the decade.
Career Retroscope – Bob Sydor
Jazz critics assessment of Bob Sydor, saxophone, in 1970: “Unlimited potential”.
Bob Sydor survived in the jazz performance world until the mid ’70s, recording with visiting American artists like Oliver Nelson and Maynard Ferguson. Music critics assess the talents before them at the time, they are not tellers of musical fortunes. British jazz musicians, even those of unlimited potential, turned to studio sessions, touring behind popular artists, TV and film scores to pay the rent.
Sydor’s discography quickly shifted to work behind the scenes in the commercial pop world: Bjork, Elton John, Paul McCartney, boy-band Wet Wet Wet, jazzy 80’s electronica duo Everything But The Girl, the Original Cast of “Miss Saigon”, and many more, lesser appearances. But at least he was earning.
New century, new times, a new appetite for cultural diversity, and the emerging niche of ethno-jazz, Bob Sydor re-emerged with expatriate Israeli composer and pianist Yuval Havkin and his London-based Carousel Ensemble,who blend world music, jazz and electronic music: Yuval Havkin Feat. Bob Sydor, “saxophone legend“.
Always interesting how things work out in the world of musicians. Good to see them fifty years later still alive and kicking, and playing, bravo Bob Sydor, staying the course. The Carousel Ensemble music is available only for download and CD, not vinyl but a pleasure to hear you on vinyl Bob, if only from fifty years distant.
Career retroscope 2 – Harry Beckett
Harry Beckett, Barbados-born trumpeter and flugelhorn-ist , one of several jazz musicians from the Caribbean who moved to London in the mid-50s, and gradually worked his way into the London jazz scene. By the early ’70s Beckett had earned sufficient recognition to win the Melody Maker jazz poll “Top Trumpeter in Britain”, a carefully-worded award which excluded a certain country on the wrong side of the Atlantic. He recorded frequently in the company of all the British jazz pioneers: Graham Collier, Neil Ardley, Chris McGregor, Mike Westbrook, Mike Gibbs, Stan Tracy, Elton Dean, and more recently, the Jazz Warriors, and bassist Jah Wobble (me neither)
Beckett recorded just a few titles as leader, more comfortable in the role of sideman but no lesser talent for that. His warm lyrical style offered a recognisable and distinctive voice within the adventurous and challenging compositions of the jazz leaders of the day. Beckett died following a stroke in 2010 allegedly aged 75, though according to his wife Veronica, really 86, “he always knocked the years off, because he thought if they knew his age nobody would want to hire him“. It is never wrong to lie about your age. People have lied about far worse.
Carer Retroscope 3: Alan Wakeman/ Geoff Castle
After Graham Collier Music, saxophonist Alan Wakeman, (a relative of Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman), joined the celebrated jazz-rock Soft Machine in the mid-70s, and towards the end of the 70s,a free jazz power-trio Triton, (Wilderness of Glass).In the following decades, Wakeman became a fixture of the Mike Westbrook Band, and he is still with us.and shows no sign of slowing down, popping up with assorted gigs and line-ups all over the country, from Devon to Brum..
Pianist Geoff Castle made his debut with Graham Collier Music and went on to join Ian Carr’s jazz fusion Nucleus, later joining the latin jazz fusion outfit Paz. Castle passed away just this year.
What with the recent departures of Jack Sheldon, Geoff Castle, Richard Wyands, Ginger Baker, and now Jimmy Heath, 2020 looks to be a bumper year for obituary writers.
Mosaics, as the title suggests, consists of a number of discrete musical fragments. The composed segments consist of a landscape of quirky tunes, abrasive harmonies and shifting tempos, dark themes. Nothing here swings, other than by the neck.
Between each composed fragment, a group member is given solo space, to perform in music vocabulary, a “cadenza“. A cadenza is where the ensemble pause or hold a note “while a soloist improvises in free time, in a vituosic display“. You knew this, of course, but I had to look it up.. Bob Sydor’s tenor is razor-edged and ferocious, Alan Wakeman is a perfect foil in duet, feeding off Sydor’s lines. The solo breaks are a little austere over all, but there is enough meat in the ensemble passages to make this a stimulating journey.
All Music sums it up, initially with a baffling linguistic metaphor:
“Here jazz meets the old world, which in turns refashions itself into a newer one; a world where eloquent expressions of harmony, and the convergence of different melodics, are translated as one tongue, with multiple dialects holding discourse.
Simultaneously more outside, and yet still firmly “inside the tradition,” Mosaics is one of Collier’s most provocative works, and stands the test of time extremely well.”
I’m somewhat late at the Collier party, but it contains a depth and inventiveness that warrants investigation. It is the continuing war of independence, from this side of the Atlantic.
Vinyl: Philips 6308 051 (1970)
A live band-in-pub-session but nicely recorded by Fontana in-house engineer David Voyde, behind the controls of most Philips/Fontana jazz recordings 1969-71, including Graham Collier, Tubby Hayes, Alan Skidmore, Keith Tippett, Harry South and Harry Beckett.
Pressed by Philips Phonodisc plant, Walthamstow, London E17, Outer North East London, Walthamstow, bordered by Chingford, Leyton,and Epping Forest. Not my manor to be honest, I’m more a Decca New Malden type, south of the river, more sophisticated than the north-of-the-river tribes.
Harry M has more photos of Graham Collier Music, at Montreux 1971, see foot of post.
Collector’s Corner: Vinyl Hygeine
As I had nothing special in mind for this Collector’s Corner, I’ll improvise a vinyl-collector cadenza. Can we talk dirty? During a vinyl listening session with a couple of friends last week, I was reminded of the importance of – for lack of a better description.- vinyl hygiene.
I had recently noticed the critically revealing effect of viewing a record surface under an LED spotlight. A surface which looked aparently clean and glossy black in room-light (incandescent bulbs), was revealed to be quite shockingly “dirty” under the pure white piercing light of a (clear) LED spot – revealing lots of dust specks, and number of white spots of debris lodged in the grooves, despite the record having been cleaned ultrasonically.
When playing a direct cut disc the listeners found the bass was almost overpowering, tending to boom, thick like porridge. A quick check confirmed the cartridge had not been been demagnetised for over two months. The magnetisation of coils takes place simply over the passage of time, not related to hours of playing time. I write the date of each demag session on a white label stuck to the underside of the demagnitiser – crude but more effective than memory. The date raised a red flag.
A close look at the stylus tip indicated an accumulation of transfer from the grooves, of dust and whatever else was down in there. Not huge, but enough to begin to impair the effectiveness of the stylus in reading the groove wall information.
Houston, we have a vinyl hygeine problem.
I had been neglectful. Cliche Alert! Time to up my game, step up to the plate, turn over a new leaf, begin a new chapter, but more specifically, pull my finger out, and clean up my act.
Before playing further, the stylus tip was cleaned using Lyra SPT – Stylus Performance Treatment.(Stereophile Recommended Component 2018) This purified water-based, non-alcohol stylus cleaner helps keep a cartridge stylus scrupulously clean. SPT contains small amounts of organic chemical cleaning agents, and is applied by a pupose-designed brush with super-soft bristles.The product is not cheap, but it is applied to a cartidge that isn’t cheap either – a Dynavector TKR. Brushing the stylus makes me nervous of damaging something, but it is a necessary step to optimise stylus reading sensitivity. Some people recommend this treatment before every play.
Stylus cleaned, the Dynavector MC cartidge was then demagnetised with an Aesthetix ABCD-1 9v battery-powered moving coil cartridge demagnetiser.. Moving coil phono cartridges employ strong magnets, and the moving coil absorbs some of the magnet’s charge, causing the sound to become becomes muddy and less defined. As it moves within the magnetic field of the cartridge, a magnetized coil does not generate as great a signal variation. De-magnetising requires unplugging the phono leads, connecting the Aesthetix, run the current up the phono leads, and then refitting the phono leads after demag, takes just a few minutes.. It is recommended action every two weeks, and I had left it two months. Bad boy.
Final step, LJC Extreme Record Cleaning™. A ’60s vinyl disk under the LED spotlight, showed a lot of “harmless” household dust, likely attracted by static charge, but also a dozen or more white specks each side, which caused a “click” when struck by the stylus. These spots highlighted by the LED are effectively lodged or welded into the groove and resistant to most machine cleaning methods (both RCM and Cavitation) However, I have found manual intervention most effective . Be aware this offends the most universal rule of record handling, which is never to touch the vinyl grooves. But it is the lesser of other evils.
Dry finger-brush in the direction of the grooves to physically dislodge any loosely wedged specks of detritus, rotating the disc manually, finger-brushing both sides. For any remaining wedged spots of debris which resist brushing, apply repeated finger-nailpressure to the spot until you see it shift. When satisfied there was no more debris to be loosened up by hand, the record goes into into the ultrasonic cleaning machine, on a triple-length cavitation cycle.
Post-cleaning inspection under the critical LED confirmed with disk was truly as clean as one could hope. Dust gone, and no cleaning-reistant white specks.
Back onto the turntable platter, with the cartridge demagnetised, the sound quality of the record was massively transformed. The blooming bass gave way to taut musicality, allowing the midband and top end to flourish, like a completely different record. In addition to greater tonal fidelity, timing improved dramatically, with fast response, attack and decay,
Because mechanical performance deterioration occurs slowly, incrementally, you are not aware of the changes. But when you carry out sound hygeine practice, everything jumps back to life. And play on this particular ’60s vinyl, which previously had irritating random clicks, was remarkably free from surface noise, like upgrading from VG+ to EX.
Any slovenly vinyl players out there (and that includes me), shape up or ship out.
Harry M has kindly shared photos of Graham Collier Music taken at Montreux 1971.
All photos courtesy of Harry M