Drummer Cliff Longhurst has played with Matt Monro, Frankie Laine, Bert Weedon , Anne Shelton, Helen Shapiro, Nat Gonnella, Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent (among many others) and has toured with Herb Miller (Glen’s brother) — in addition to working as musical director for several well-known television shows. His JAZZ KNIGHTS ORCHESTRA came to Staines this week to put on a fantastic spectacle at the famous Riverside Club.
The orchestra delivered power and determination as they put on an extraordinary performance that rewarded us with the sounds & moods of Woody Herman’sbig band era — the 1930s and 1940s.
Starting with a complicated arrangement of “The Good Earth” composed by jazz trumpeter Neal Hefti, we were treated to a golden syrup of sax and beautifully chromatic trumpet — the ambitious number was endowed with attitude, passion and enormous scope.
Herman’s “The Preacher” was a cluster of sound textures with an excellent solo by Nick Charles.
Richard Rodgers’ “Sound of Music” found on Herman’s “My Kind of Broadway” was a first-class re-telling with zestful vibraphone and potent walking bass.
The 15-piece Jazz Knights also treated the audience in Staines to lighter pop numbers such as “Killing Me Softly” [Charles Fox] and “Light My Fire” [the Doors] and a wondrous version of the Beatle’s “Hey Jude.”
The stand-out number was, perhaps, the band’s touching rendition of Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennett’s romantic “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” made famous by singer Vic Dana. This nostalgic piece had a full-on big-band ‘feel’ with rattling rhythms from Longhurst himself and some articulate trumpet.
This was a joyful evening of swing-era jazz, a little bebop, gentle fusion and sophisticated pop — brilliantly polished, propellant and propulsive — yet relaxed in all the right places.
Thanks again to the Staines Riverside Club for hosting another unforgettable evening.
This week MOODY, MAAS and GLEN played a tasty selection of emotionally soul-stirring songs from their recent album Black & Chrome live in Staines, Surrey.
We went along to see.
The collaboration of Ali Maas and Micky Moody started in 2014 as a songwriting project that quickly developed into some excellent album work. Another album is on the way.
Their musical union results from a shared admiration for blues, soul, Americana, palpitating rhythms and captivating melodies.
Aside from his well-documented time with Whitesnake, Micky Moody was also a member of Juicy Lucy, Roger Chapman and the Shortlist, Snakecharmer and others.
Ali Maas was lead singer and writer for critically acclaimed band McQueen.
Their highly accomplished studio band comprised of a group of luminous musicians that included the amazing drummer Jimmy Copley, who sadly died this month.
The British harmonica player Alan Glen — who was a member of Nine Below Zero (1991-1995) as well as The Yardbirds — was also involved.
Their pruned-back live-show boasts that same trio — Moody, Maas and Glen. We saw their concert at the Staines Riverside Club on May 18th. Other dates have also been announced.
Ali Maas took centre stage at the Riverside, with the master-musicians at the flank.
Her vocal style was reminiscent of Alannah Myles with many velvety, sorrowful layers and frequent cloud-bursting highs. The light accompaniment from Moody & Glen reminded us of stripped-back Fleetwood Mac.
Moody, who told the audience he suffered from bad back, “caused by a dishwasher incident...” created delicate and fanciful guitar notes.
In particular, his slide guitar-work was skilful. And even though there was no drummer on stage, he frequently provided percussion through clever touches and slaps of the guitar body and picking the strings.
Glen played electric rhythm guitar for the most part, often adding rich and expressive lyrical moments to songs with his blues harp or providing intense emotions via those howling solos.
The show began with the magnificently melancholic “A Change In Everything” with thoughtful contemplations behind every loose-toned reflection and haunting lyrics like, “Sometimes we are better off alone...”
And then we enjoyed “Woman Be Wise” with those warning words: “Don’t Advertise Your Man…”
Ali Maas suggested she suffered from “fried egg” after a cold — although her vocal was rich and satisfying, and did not seem fatigued or overly mucoid. Moody remained perched on his stool for the duration — maybe his back felt a little sore.
Excellent covers included the excellent “In My Girlish Days” [Memphis Minnie] and the syncopated standard “San Francisco Bay Blues” [Jesse Fuller] made famous by Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan and more.
Dusty’s “Son of a Preacher Man” went down particularly well with the Staines crowd. The interpretation by this talented trio was lunar and majestic.
The soft-shoe number “Emotional Powder Keg Blues” was apparently written by Ali when she was going through what she described as a “bunny-boiler phase…”
This number had pat-a-cake rhythms and expressive guitar-lines provided by Alan Glen.
Towards the finale we had “Big Mama” Thornton’s 12-bar blues song “Hound Dog” that has been recorded over 250 times and is one of the world’s best ever sellers…
The MOODY, MAAS and GLEN rendition had all the impudence & euphoria we appreciated in the original.
This was a thoroughly pleasurable evening filled with artistry and flair.
This Sunday the STAINES LAMMAS BRASS BAND hosted a superb “Springtime Spectacular” concert of popular songs at the ancient St Mary’s Church in Staines.
We went along to see the show.
After an excellent introduction — “The March of the Peers” [ by Arthur Sullivan, from Iolanthe] with skilfully interpreted passages and perfectly controlled rhythms, the band was presented by the experienced musical director conductor / garrulous musical director Lee Woodward who was appointed MD of the Staines Lammas band in 2014.
Lee introduced us next to an overture by Austrian composer Franz von Suppé, “Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna.” The piece incorporated a pensive solo that overflowed with emotion.
After that, we enjoyed another eloquent solo, this time featuring Steve Burgess [ the principal cornet player.] Steve also plays with Alder Valley brass and the Freedom Brass Quintet. The poignant number was Dvořák’s “Rusalka’s Song to the Moon.”
“This is about a water nymph who falls in love with a prince …” Lee told us before the start. “But, of course this is an opera. So, as you can imagine, it doesn’t end well …”
Modern numbers in the entertaining programme included “Baggy Trousers” by Madness [arr Alan Fernie.]
And Hans Zimmer’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.”
Our favourite, though, was probably Ramin Djawadi’s theme from the HBO tv series “Game of Thrones.”
The band managed to perfectly convey the expectations of the show, all those dead-reckonings and impressive crownings.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” by Freddie Mercury [arr. Darrol Barry] was magnificent and perhaps we don’t entirely realize what an incredible achievement this piece of music this is until it’s heard performed this way.
And just before the interval we enjoyed a little game of “guessing the melody” when the band played “The Lone A-ranger” by Philip R. Buttall.
Many thanks to Staines Lammas Band for offering us a very pleasant afternoon of masterful music. And also thanks to the Reverend and staff at the Church of St Mary’s for making us feel welcome.
The next Staines Lammas Brass Band concert is on Sunday 25th June 11.00 at the Staines Upon Thames Day, Thames Street.
Also see them perform on July 9 at the Staines Lammas Park, at 2 pm.
JFK (also known confusingly as JFK Blues] is a London /Surrey five piece band that has been playing their rock ‘n’ rolling blues — spiced with jazzy manouche touches — for about a year or so.
If John Etheridge met Ray Davies at Le QuecumBar and they discussed a rhythm and blues project — this is probably how it would have turned out…
The band is composed of some very experienced musicians — PAUL BLOUNT on keys who once lived in L.A. and worked with Jeff Beck, SOL EZRA on drums [an early member of Talk Talk] gypsy-rock guitarist IAGO BANET ; LES ‘LEO’ VICTOR on bass [he played with the Blockheads] and the youngest member of the outfit — lead vocalist/guitar CHRIS ELLIOTT who they found busking at Covent Garden Tube and invited along for the ride.
We attended the “Rough Round The Edges” album launch show at the legendary 100 Club in London’s West End this week.
We enjoyed JFK’s beautifully crafted self-penned songs that began with “St Joseph” and had mellow, mid-tempo beats and instantly catchy melodies.
Chris Elliott’s poignant and cheery R&B voice on songs like “Shadowlands” reached clear trebles without too much difficulty — and this talent helped to take the sounds from blues origins and into pop-rock territory whilst still retaining the genre’s emotional content.
If we really had to designate their brand we would say the JFK sound is similar to that of the Alexis Korner band — in other words, they bring blues, jazz, pop and boogie to the people…
“We’re not really a blues band…” Chris shouted to a passionate audience… directly before the band embarked on yet another raw-blues number — this one adorned with flinty peaks of guitar and a boogie underbelly.
We enjoyed the really excited rhythmic patterns and the cleverly woven guitar songs, such as “Having a Real Good Time.”
Often these songs had insistent backwoods blues-vibes that took us directly to those all-night parties down on 18th and Vine.
This was a poetic and vibrant show delivered by a pack of musicians who have clearly spent a lifetime entertaining their audiences.
The FOUR PLAY FESTIVAL is a low profile affair held at the Acoustic Couch in Bracknell and organized by local progressive rock band SPRIGGAN MIST.
It is a celebration of folk-prog talent and attracts an unprecedented array of free-spirited individuals, including [but not limited to] steampunks, pagans, hippies, fair folk and people of peace.
The unhurried schedule means that bands have enough time on stage to deploy their longest songs and tackle their most extravagant numbers.
The Acoustic Couch is a community project built in the concrete heart of Bracknell town and offers locals a pleasant and welcoming place to come and enjoy live music.
First on stage at FOUR PLAY were the five-piece JADE VINE based in London. This band was formed by the brothers Constantine (guitars, vocals) & Marios Magdalinos (guitars, vocals) in 2006.
Constantine & Marios wrote the first songs and gigged extensively as a duet before bringing the band together. At Bracknell we saw Mila Verney (piano & keyboards) and Yannis Paloyannidis (bass) with Babis Margaritidis (drums.)
We enjoyed songs like “Lost it All” that had a shimmering murkiness to them. We loved the repetitive guitar motifs and the slightly off-kilter drum-work. We also appreciated the vocals that we thought were reminiscent of Fish. Their neo-prog achievements soared with mind-blowing musical content, astounding lyrics and expert musicianship. Their 2016 album “MIND OF A MAN” is out now.
We’ve written about Elaine Samuels and her band KINDRED SPIRIT many times before.
It was great to see them onstage at Bracknell bringing their extraordinarily beautiful prog-folk songs to life and creating a series of imaginatively elaborate musical ideas.
“Wolves at the Door” had a fretful sax [Catherine Dimmock] and lamenting violin [Martin Ash ]and created ever-developing sensations of enhanced anxiety.
The song formed part of what Elaine described as the “Beast” cycle — consisting of three songs . The cycle was completed by “Run Red.” This had tranquilizing yet sinister textures — peacemaker flute with violin flares.
The bass-play on this song was excellent too [Mike Hislop] as was Catherine’s backing vocals. The remarkable thing about Kindred Spirit was that the band soldiered on without their drummer [he was taken ill at short notice] yet they managed to deliver a very polished and surprisingly tight performance.
Cult Welsh prog band MULTI STORY was formed in the 1980s.
Around the dramatic vocal performance of Paul Ford and Rob Wilsher’s wizard keyboards and superlative programming.
At that time  the band was invited to the BBC Maida Vale studio to record a session for Radio One Rock Show with Tommy Vance. The band was signed to Heavy Metal Records [FM label] and recorded a debut album in 1985 at Rockfield Studios.
Paul Ford was replaced by Grant Nicholas [who went on to be the Feeder front-man] and Grant worked on an album with the band in 1986 :Through Your Eyes — though the project broke up shortly afterwards.
The members of Multi Story went on to have successful careers in production and film projects and more recently, the original writing partners Rob Wilsher and Paul Ford starting working again. A new band began playing shows during 2015 in support of their project “Crimson Stone.”
Paul’s delivery at Bracknell was dramatically poignant — bordering on theatrical at times — and included some superior guitar-play. Rob’s keyboards were, as expected, sheer quality of class. A series of oscillations, waves and huge columns of sound. The song-melodies were catchy — with instant appeal. And often reminded us of 1969 era The Who.
If this event is to become something more ambitious in the future then the organizers will have to watch their ticket sales. [Fifteen pounds is good for a “full day of music” but too much for locals who might want to drop-in to catch just one or two bands.] They should also look at the possibility of wider promotion. It looked as if most of the audience consisted of “Sprigg” fan-club members or supporting musicians.
FOUR PLAY was a completely enjoyable way to spend a day. With hugely talented performers, friendly hosts and good (cheap) beer. What’s not to like?
Thanks to all involved… especially the co-hosts Spriggan Mist & Kindred Spirit and their fantastic crew. Also thanks to the staff at Acoustic Couch who made this special day so friendly.
It’s Lent so we decided to get “churched up” this week.
We headed to the excellent Wilde Theatre, at South Hill Park to see the Eagle House [ School in Sandhurst] present their GODSPELL.
The 1971 show with music by Grammy award winningStephen Schwartz [Enchanted ] and a loose script based on the Gospel of Saint Matthew ( originally re-envisioned by playwright John-Michael Tebelak) is a popular show for touring companies and has enjoyed many revivals.
The structure of the musical is a series of parables interspersed by rock arias that have been inspired by the Book of Psalms.
The original London production starred characters like Julie Covington, David Essex, Jeremy Irons and Marti Webb. We were fortunate enough to have seen the original West End Wyndhams production back in 1972. But we love to see new productions and were excited to see the Eagle House show.
In the Seventies the stage show was a fluid and conceptual performance. It borrowed elements from dance, music and circus to tell the story of “Christ’s Passion”.
In the early days of the stage-show the figure of Christ was dressed as a clown. His “tribe” were portrayed as a group of irresponsible, long-haired hippies.
Now the hippie clothing is gone, because today’s youth movements tend to be associated more with athletic trainers and sportswear. The younger elements of the Eagle House Godspell Team wore printed t-shirts with the hash-tagged “Godspell logo” while main cast members wore distinctive tartans.
The magnificent Wilde Theatre is perfect for this kind of innovative, unpretentious presentation. At Godspell the audience was seated on all four sides of the staging.
After the exultant sound of a brass shofar the audience and cast “Prepared” for the “Way of the Lord”. This first song was an exceptionally compelling and enthusiastic number, sung by the whole cast [all five teams] who circled the newly baptised Christ in a spiritual state. Followers were given rubber wristbands to show their affiliation and discipleship.
A characteristic of the earliest shows, and all theatrical productions since, has been topicality.
Once we saw Godspell during the period known as the Three-Day Week, this was in the “power-cut Seventies” and the big joke was that it didn’t matter how dark things got because the audience was “The light of the World.”
Similarly, during the storytelling from Eagle House we had mentions of Facebook, Premier Inn, Justin Bieber and Fake News.
And of course the big, rich baddie (before “All for the Best” ) was Donald Trump.
Ben Trunck, perhaps shorter in stature than we expected, played a fascinating Jesus character — full of vivid personality. While Mark Dickin interpreted Judas skulking presence perfectly.
Each year group of Eagle House wanted to stage their own parable and musical number — so this meant the show was a wonderful consolidation of excellent sketches — each interconnected with the next.
The overall experience, from the perspective of the audience, was a feeling of “loving community” that encompassed everything.
“Day By Day” always was — and still is — the most memorable song from the show and in Basingstoke the number was handled intelligently and with sympathy.
“All Good Gifts” was brilliantly choreographed and elegantly efficient. Also, at one point, after “Save the People” we had an army of scary zombies grabbing at souls…
There was humour, movement, excitement and tenderness throughout the show — with great dramatic use of simple objects, like the coloured blocks.
Our favourite song was “On The Willows” — it came after the Last Supper scene. Psalm 137 — from which the song is taken — has been set to music by several composers over the years and the lament found in Godspell is possibly the best of all of them. The Eagle House vocalists performed the difficult harmonies with distinction.
This was an excellent production.
All 128 cast members [ages 9 to 13] should be congratulated, as well as their staff at Eagle House and the committed parents who made it all possible.
This Sunday we visited CLAYGATE — at the tail-end of their superbly organised MUSIC FESTIVAL week — to see the pioneering British progressive rock group CURVED AIR play live in concert at the Claygate Village Hall.
Their “Air Conditioning” album (1970) is still considered “essential listening” by the prog-rock crowd.
It was exciting to see a band — so famous — in what amounted to a village hall.
And the band have a strong Surrey heritage too [forerunner Sisyphus played one of their first performances at the Leith Hill Place Ballroom, Surrey] — so they were made very welcome.
After an extended instrumental introduction, the original “Hair” girl Sonja Kristina emerged onstage in a swirl of boho gypsy waftiness to get the crowd clapping along before the start of her distinctive low-dark, sexy vocal styling.
One of the first songs performed was “Stay Human” from the most recent album “North Star”  with the “I am still your lover...” line.
This has strong riffs and thriving violin work from the “Sideshow Bob” lookalike Paul Sax on violin
(Fiddle-wizard Paul was one of the first participants at the Yehudi Menuhin School… and it shows.)
“Screw” began with a two-tone riff played by the elfin “Legolas” Robert Norton on keyboards.
With clashing cymbals from original drummer Florian Pilkington-Miksa and unfolding vocal drama.
This number sounded like an avenging angel — on the prowl and dangerous. The alarming shrieks from Paul’s violin added to the sense of urgency and impending doom.
In the Seventies the band were often referred to as “the British Jefferson Airplane” and with songs such as “Marie Antoinette” [from Phantasmagoria, 1972] it is easy to see why.
This number was full of delicious harmonies, expert twiddles, and a lot of punches and trills.
However, it was a protest song at heart, although misted in historical imagery. Back in the 1970’s the worlds of fantasy, psychedelia and new-age shininess could all be packed-together in one gorgeous song. And they still made social comment. How cool is that?
Sonja took an acoustic guitar for the popular folk-song “Melinda (More or Less)” [also from Phantasmagoria.]
This beauty is a fan favorite and shows the hippie principles of the band as well as their eternal affection for the folk-star Donovan.
Unfortunately the second half of the show was bugged by a very loud and completely unpleasant feedback squeal.
“We need to find that pesky mouse….” Sonja told the crowd.
The problem was temporarily fixed — but it didn’t stop a lot of people from wandering off into the night.
The show ended with the fantastic “Back Street Luv.”
This super-hit demonstrated Sonja’s slow vocal style, which still reaches those husky tenor lows where she seems happiest, though she breaks into expressive contralto register at times.