Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-06-05 - 12:28 p.m.

Andrew makes a point in his diary today about “holism” – By coincidence someone made a similar point to me yesterday evening about how to think about security. He was the head of the International Security programme at Cambridge when I was hanging out at Hughes Hall again. Really ideal conditions – soft June evening etc.

I said hullo again to the retired Air Commodore who runs the place day to day. Funny old world.

I also talked to Dieter who had tuned Keith Jarrett’s piano – a German who earns his living as an up-market piano tech. He seemed to know a lot about Jarrett eg about the background to the Koln concert. He said its not played on a Steinway and this influences how Jarrett improvises – especially his avoidance of the upper octaves. I asked him what he thought of the biography by Ian Carr. He said he was just coming to the end of it and he thought it was good.

There was a Steinway at the party and his girlfriend played a piece by Poulenc – which sounded great in all the circs. She said that the piano wasn’t properly played in.

Nick Brown (whose party it was) played some mainstream stuff and I thought his left hand had changed a lot. He really seemed to have got Freddie Green (Basie’s rhythm guitar) down. Its very subtle – coming in a long way off the beat – I guess it must be ahead of it – but there’s also a volume envelope so that the sound pulses mid way through. That gives a great platform for the right – in fact you don’t have to do much on the right when you have got the rhythm going so well with the left.

I joined him on Nice Work and Autumn Leaves – using the French flute rather than the Japanese. I was really pleased with how it blew.

Lots of nostalgia of course – twenty years ago on a Friday night we might have been blowing at the White Hart in Drury Lane with the Steve Pheasant band. Steve who introduced me to Nick was at Caius and knew Robert Kirby, Paul Wheeler and Mike Weissman – in fact all three of those played at the famous May Ball event and indeed Steve and I were the woodwind section of the Kirby Orchestra for Magic etc. Jon Cole played too at the event. Jon Mayall and Marc Almond as well. One of those nights.

I plan to send Nick the mp3 of the White Hart – its not bad as it was done on a portable Uher by a woman I met at Selsey in Sussex while being instructed by someone who was subsequently made a Freeman of New Orleans for service to jazz – Owen Bryce. I think this may do as a present for the first anniversary of the marriage which was the occasion of last night’s party. Nick’s wife is very good fun and it was one of her childhood friends from Greece who played the Poulenc.

At some point towards the end of last night’s foray I mentioned that I had been listening to Throbbing Gristle – not many students of abjection present which surprised me in a way. The TG is from 78 and 79 but not punk – very abstract – close to Ann Arbor. Dieter is into Rzewski – who I missed a few months back. Rzewski is listed along with Fred Frith and Marcel Duchamp as a collaborator of Gordon Mumma who helped push AA in that direction.

I discussed Keith Jarrett’s approach to Bach with the Greek pianist – I have a taped interview of him on the subject. He says that he just plays it – there isn’t an approach – the music is there and he plays it. The pianist is now studying the acquisition of musical skills by young-ish children. She is quite against a style of instruction which over specifies eg phrasing or articulation. I told her about Artaud , David Tudor, Cage and the Boulez piano sonata. Its surprising how many people don’t know about this. I also let slip that I was made a flute player by a pupil of Webern – this went down surprisingly well so I said a bit about Blink Music Beyond Belief.

Artaud is very big with Rachel Rosenthal – not least in her Santa Monica days – and I saw yesterday how she intersects with the cultural trajectory of Laura Nyro – how from different angles they become part of the same cultural cluster in the 1980s – maybe even TG are part of the convergence.

On the way back I switched from playing New York Tendaberry to listening to Jazz FM where they were playing non-stop Elvin Jones. If you had to find a point of connection it might be Miles Ahead – glorious New York musicianship and studio craft – with an adventurous eclecticism. Jones plays percussion on that date – which he had learned from the main percussionist in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

There is a photo of Miles and LN discussing whether he will blow on NYT – he said that he thought that LN had already said what he might say. That’s what I call discipline.

I talked to Dieter about seeing Keith Jarrett and Miles close to in 1971 with Stevie Wonder’s bass player and a lot of percussion. That is a long way from NYT oddly enough – as if the music has been catapulted through some invisible threshold. (Possibly the threshold is Hendrix J – although Elvin Jones was already there – Hendrix recognised how close he was to Mitch Mitchell.)

The piano player who was on many of Elvin Jones most famous recordings was McCoy Tyner and Nick used to play a lot like him.

I tried the Steinway – a few bars of Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square – just to see what it was like. Very very weird – not as fruity as Becks - must be more Posh?

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