Chance encounters at LJF & Ronnie Scott’s

One of a travelling series by Mick Paddon

The Necks at The Blue Whale | image by  John Tapia Urquiza
The Necks at The Blue Whale | image by John Tapia Urquiza

Jazz is a music made in the moment, but which honours its history and the musicians who made it.  It is also music which displays its local roots and variations while being, in its essence, international.  All of this was in my mind a couple of weeks ago while I was waiting for performance at the London Jazz Festival billed as Movers and Shakers.  A sextet of younger British musicians led by saxophonist Mark Lockheart was about to play their own arrangements of pieces composed and performed by some of the greats of post Second World War British jazz, including Stan Tracey, Joe Harriott and Don Rendell.  A long time friend was with me,  who was instrumental in opening my ears to the music back in the day, and had studied saxophone with Don Rendell when he was a teenager.  He was telling me that they would spend as much time listening to the latest vinyl Don had just acquired from the States as they did playing.  You will find a similar story in the biography of most Australian musicians of the same generation who poured over the latest recordings of the American greats as soon as they could get their hands on them.

The concert was a knockout, and featured a reprise by veteran tenor player Bobby  Wellins, who joined the youngsters for a couple of numbers, of his solo from Tracey’s Starless and Bible Black, which still has the capacity to make my spine tingle.

The same thoughts, the intertwining of history with immediacy, of the national and international, were still in my mind a couple of days later at Ronnie Scott’s.  The club has had a real renaissance after a few years hiatus when the great man himself died.  I was there to hear a quartet led by Bennie Maupin.  I still listen to Miles Runs the Voodoo Down from the Bitches Brew sessions, just to hear Maupin’s asides on his unmistakable bass clarinet and play it on my shows on Sydney’s Eastside Radio when I feel I can justify 15 minutes of uninterrupted music.

Sharing the solos with Maupin’s bass clarinet, tenor and soprano, and getting almost as much applause from a packed, spell bound audience at Ronnie’s was Australian born guitarist Carl Orr.  I had thought I might get a chance to chat with Bennie (a friend of a friend who had arranged for the tickets is involved in managing Ronnie’s) and was intending to ask him about his sessions and recordings with another antipodean, Mike Nock,  in the band Almanac in the ’80s.  As it turned out I did not get that close.

The London concerts were the latest in a series of gigs I have been able to indulge myself in on a long journey up from Southern Europe through the capitals of Central and Northern Europe.  It was not planned as a musical extravaganza, but I have manage to squeeze in visits to jazz clubs in Budapest, Prague, Berlin and Copenhagen.  In Copenhagen’s Jazzhouse, I missed the Necks by just a couple of days, as I was told by the club’s young and enthusiastic barman, who admitted to never having heard of them before but who, along with a full house,  had been mesmerised by their music.  It’s probably just as well.  A year of so ago I dropped into a club in Manchester which used to be my regular hang out when I lived in that city before I moved to Sydney.  The unexpected surprise for me was that the Necks were performing there for just that one night.  So I also surprised Lloyd Swanton, who is of course the bassist with the trio, and was until quite recently also a long time broadcaster with Eastside.  I started getting concerned that popping up unexpectedly but repeatedly at Necks performances in European jazz clubs might have given me the appearance of a stalker.

‘Miles Runs the Voodoo Down’ from Bitches Brew


Mark Lockheart website

Carl Orr on the web

Eastside Radio

The Necks

Ronnie Scotts