Larry Ryan - Caught in the Net

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

The London Jazz Festival took place recently at venues around the capital. To mark the event, BBC Radio 3 asked the British jazz piano man Neil Cowley, of the Neil Cowley Trio, to make a series of video diaries for each day of the fest.

Armed only with a mobile-phone video camera he did that very thing, shooting 14 little snapshots, offering his insights into the proceedings and occasional interviews with other artists. It's nice to get a commentary on such events from a musician rather than a television presenter, and Cowley's enthusiasm is refreshing. Watch the videos at; look out for a short clip of Cowley's drumming cohort Evan Jenkins warming up by lightly beating out a tune on a tea-bag jar and a large tin of coffee.

Staying in a jazz mood, I happened across a good website dedicated to the work of the legendary bassist, composer, pianist and bandleader Charles Mingus. The site offers a broad overview of his music, along with some background information on the life and times of Mingus. A selection of his music is streamed, and there is a great piece of live footage of Mingus in full flow – see

The vintage footage on the site is also in the documentary Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog, which can be found on YouTube (where else?) at 6lm39a. The film features some great original footage and interviews with the musician who died in 1979.

Another musician trying his hand at presenting rather than being a guest is Elvis Costello. In a not so subtle nod to Costello's trademark thick-rimmed glasses, the show is called Spectacle: Elvis Costello with.... Each week, over 13 episodes, the programme will feature Costello interviewing musicians (and Bill Clinton, for some reason) as well as live performances by said musicians. Among those appearing are Rufus Wainwright, Kris Kristofferson, Herbie Hancock, She & Him, Smokey Robinson and Jenny Lewis.

The show is produced by Elton John and has links to the charity Red and their much-publicised new online music venture (Red)Wire – see Channel 4 will be screening it from 15 December, and it has already started running on the Sundance Channel in the USA – videos from episodes with Elton John and Lou Reed can be seen at http://www.sundancechannel. com/spectacle.

Somewhat further left-field of this show is another music programme, From the Basement. Hosted by the acclaimed music producer Nigel Godrich, it showcases intimate live performances without an audience by a grand array of interesting bands, recorded at Maida Vale studios. The second series began on the digital channel Sky Arts on Wednesday, and the website,, carries a number of performances recorded for upcoming episodes, including an excellent showing by Fleet Foxes, one of the bands of the year.

And finally, in honour of the Turner Prize winner Mark Leckey, you could do worse than check out his excellent 1999 video work, Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore. The 15-minute collage film takes a hallucinatory look at British dance music subcultures of the late Seventies, Eighties and early Nineties, from northern soul to acid house rave, with a particular nod to those from the era with a penchant for Italian sportswear. Following Leckey's win the film might be seen in a gallery again, but in the meantime it can be found at

Pick of the week

It's no surprise that Gabriel Kahane has worked with Sufjan Stevens; they share a proclivity for intricate, beautiful pop fashioned from myriad instruments, with a nice line in softly delivered vocals. Kahane is a 27-year-old Brooklyn musician whose work flits between classical composition and artful pop. In September, his self-titled debut album of immaculate pop tunes was released – several tracks are on his website. In 2006, Kahane premiered 'Craigslistlieder', a song cycle for piano and vocal inspired by ads on the classifieds site – earlier this year it was made free to download from Kahane's website. Here you can also keep track of his endless projects including performing with Elvis Costello, a tour, a new piano sonata, a new song cycle based on the poems of Robert Lowell, a musical genealogy of his family and a New York Public Theatre commission.