Arts and Entertainment

This fine if elusive novel about a jazz giant echoes his art in both its style and its story-telling

Verbal Mugging

PAUL BEATTY, 'the premier bard of hip-hop', according to Newsweek magazine, will read his work at the Poetry International on Monday. 'Verbal Mugging' (below) appears in Joker, Joker, Deuce (Penguin USA, 1994, dollars 12.95), the second collection of his work. A former psychology student at Boston University, he joined a creative writing course at Brooklyn College, where he was taught by Allen Ginsberg - who described Beatty's poems as 'a bit like Miles Davis playing: short, melodic bursts'. (Beatty was less impressed with Ginberg's work: 'I wasn't into all that literary stuff'.) Bob Holman, whose Nuyorican Poets Cafe in Manhattan has been the focus of the new rap and hip-hop poetry, says that when Beatty reads 'it sounds like a rap record gone berserk, a rap record that's sampling itself as it goes along'.

Mark Pappenheim on classical music

'Smash Crash Splatter Kerack. Truncheons thwack, heads crack. The authentic sounds of the militant police state as transmuted through the rampant left-wing paranoia of the dying years of Thatcherite misrule. How many other composers' first operas have had to carry a warning about offensive language?

Balmain collection offers a glimpse of the Forties look

A PLAID mohair ensemble topped by matching beret being displayed yesterday at the Pierre Balmain couture show, in the gilded salon of the Grand Hotel, Paris, writes Tamsin Blanchard.

BOOK REVIEW / In Brief: The Dark Stuff - Nick Kent: Penguin, pounds 9.99

This long overdue collection from 'the living legend of rock journalism' comes Judy Garlanded with quotes about Kent from such celebrated interviewees as Morrissey and Lou Reed. It also boasts the considerable coup of an introduction by Iggy Pop, in which the author is described as 'a great palsied mantis'. If there is an element of fantasy in the idea of a rock journalist whose peer group was not other journalists but the stars he was writing about, no one feels the need to acknowledge it.

Classical Music: Elements of the kitchen-sink drama: When composer Dave Heath joined the Scottish Ensemble he soon made a splash, as Nick Kimberley discovered

Who can fathom the mysteries of the creative process? How do composers construct the sound-world they strive for? Some may conjure luminous visions of eternity at the computer interface, others may labour at their desk as they trawl through musical history for the key to the future; but the process remains elusive. It is doubtful that many go through the procedure by which Dave Heath arrived at a solution for a crucial moment in his new work The Four Elements.

CLASSICAL MUSIC / The Angry Young Man and the sea

THE ANGRY Young Men hit British music a generation later than British literature; and they included Mark-Anthony Turnage, whose glamorously abrasive sound world has been one of the most distinctive of recent years. His work is imagistic, provocative, street-credible and immediate. All of which explains why his latest orchestral score, Drowned Out, was so successful at its premiere in Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall on Wednesday.

JAZZ / The conception of the cool: New York, 1948: Miles Davis met Gil Evans, and a new music was born. An excerpt from Richard Williams's latest book

THE APARTMENT was on West 55th Street, behind a Chinese laundry. Dark and airless, it belonged to Gil Evans, a thin, fair-haired, Canadian-born arranger who had made a small reputation arranging songs like 'Polka Dots and Moonbeams' for the struggling big band of pianist Claude Thornhill. To that unprepossessing pad in the summer of 1948 came a procession of restlessly brilliant young men whose efforts would change the sound of popular music.

JAZZ / Sound of speed: Phil Johnson reviews Sonny Rollins at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane

The pianist Paul Bley tells a story about starting his career in New York by playing a club date with Sonny Rollins. Bley waited nervously as the leader went into a solo on the first number. Chorus after chorus went by until, after an hour, Rollins passed the tune over to Bley and left the bandstand. Bley struggled manfully to maintain the flow as it dawned on him that Rollins had not only left the stand but left the club too. Eventually, after another hour had elapsed, he returned to bring the tune, and the first set, to a tumultuous close.

RECORDS / New release: Miles Davis and Quincy Jones: Live at Montreux (Warner, CD / tape)

Davis had only a few weeks to live when he played the old Gil Evans arrangements in front of a 50-piece orchestra conducted by Quincy Jones at the 1991 Montreux Jazz Festival. His frailty made it obvious that the occasion was in the nature of a farewell to triumphs that he had not revisited in 30 years. The performance needed only to be adequate for the emotions to flow. For which, many thanks to Jones, and to Gil Goldstein, who transcribed Evans's work from the original recordings. On disc, though, the perception is different. When we can listen to the pristine, indelible originals, why spend time with smudged copies? The mix over-emphasises the double bass of the (blameless) Mike Richmond, and fails to repair the climactic 'Solea', on which Carlos Benavent's performance of the pivotal bass riff was undermined by a sharp G-string. So, uniqueness notwithstanding, it's hard to recommend the CD; the video, due shortly, may be another matter.

LIVES OF THE GREAT SONGS / Variegations on a theme: Melancholy, loss, regret. No song captures these feelings better, writes Marcel Berlins in the fifth part of our series; Autumn Leaves

IT APPEARS in 1945, a poem of lost love, memories and regrets. As the dead leaves of autumn pile up, the poet remembers his past lover. They loved each other, lived together. Life was happier then; the sun burned more brightly than today.

MUSIC / Lives of the Great Songs: My fav'rite work of Hart: 'My Funny Valentine' - Some songs are recorded once and that's it. Others lead long and interesting lives: the melody lingers on, the lyrics strike a chord, new singers come along and find new meanings. Giles Smith opens an eight-week series

ELLA SANG it slow and Frank made it swing. Tony Bennett kind of spoiled it but Miles Davis made it last for 15 minutes. Elvis Costello did it on his own, cocktail pianists can't leave it alone, and Rickie Lee Jones . . . well, we will get to Rickie Lee Jones. Most people can hum it, many people know the lyrics but nobody has the last word on 'My Funny Valentine'.

MUSIC / Busker's charter

The warm weather threatens an outbreak of busking. For the safety of everyone, we recommend adherence to the following 10-point plan

The Sunday Preview: Alone at last with a piano maestro

IT'S 25 years since Chick Corea - then a young member of the Miles Davis band - made an album called Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. As far as piano-trio jazz is concerned, it still sounds like the state of the art: pure, swinging and lyrical. Shortly afterwards, a solo piano album confirmed the impression of a musician with a fine touch and a terrific melodic imagination. To answer the question 'What went wrong, then?', choose one or more from the following: (a) Scientology, (b) electronics, (c) rock'n'roll envy, and / or (d) terrible taste in shirts / facial hair / drummers. Left alone with a grand piano, devoid of synthesisers and fellow L Ron Hubbard acolytes, he can still play wonderfully well (Leeds Town Hall, 0532 455505, tonight; RFH, SE1, 071-928 8800, tomorrow; Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 0223 357851, Tues; Royal, Nottingham, 0602 482525, Wed; Univ of Warwick, 0203 524524, Thurs).

RIFFS / Saxophonist David Sanborn on 'Drown In My Own Tears' by Ray Charles

WHAT'S always been great about Ray Charles is the way he combines jazz, gospel and R&B, the three great forms of music, in one. On this great recording of 'Drown In My Own Tears' you can hear he's a little close to the mike, so you get that immediacy, on top of the electricity in the atmosphere. It's a great moment. He always does this song slow anyway, but then, in 1958, he used to do it r-e-a-l slow. You could have lunch between the one and two (beats). Playing slowly and maintaining the interest of the audience is one of the hardest things for a musician to do. Miles Davis, for example, had that gift. I've never heard anyone lay a tune this slowly, it's a 6/8 beat, it's a three against four thing, which means it goes 1-, 2-, 3-, 4-, but slowing down means you risk losing momentum. Ray Charles, though, has so much control in his voice that he can leave a note hanging and you'll always be there with him. In the background you've got David 'Fathead' Newman on alto and tenor sax, plus two trumpets, trombone, a few more sax, three backing singers and a bass guitar. There's a mini big band going on, just playing sustained notes, but what you really hear is just acoustic piano and voice, like you'd get in a gospel church. His voice has a very plaintive, crying quality, it almost sounds like he's breaking down. He's drowning in tears. It's a song about loss and regret and hope, and that's what music's all about, communicating those things.

JAZZ / Tonic for the troops: Eddie Henderson - Tenor Clef, London N1

A number of jazz musicians have experienced psychiatry - most famously Charles Mingus - but the American trumpeter Eddie Henderson is probably the only one to have seen the view from the other side of the couch. Trained in medicine as well as music, Henderson, 52, has balanced his occasional psychiatric practice with a wide and varied career in jazz. It's his flugelhorn voice you can hear on Pharoah Sanders's jazz-dance anthem 'We Got to Have Freedom' and he was, apart from his mentor Miles Davis, the most influential American trumpeter to experiment with jazz fusion in the 1970s.
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