Iain Cameron's Diary
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2004-08-29 - 9:04 a.m.

On the Highveld/kwase-kwaza site under the button above, Sweden has just hit one 1000 requests. I take am odd pleasure in notching up these milestones. The next country to cross this threshold will be Hungary – which is ahead (for example) of Spain or indeed Norway. During the Summer – say after May the volume of traffic drops – I think this is because the US students are in no longer in College – and then around now volumes begin to pick up again.

Eike has asked me to play at her wedding in about a month’s time. I would love to do this – its at a time when there is a cluster of commitments – plus some uncertainty about some of them which makes it harder to find a pathway through. Oh dear, how to handle this – last weekend I made a hash of this integration stuff. In particular it is unclear whether I have a commitment to deliver a kind of mini-lecture that weekend. I am probably best off writing the thing anyway - I said I would do it if I got an idea – and and an idea seemed to materialise.

I have been listening to PJ Harvey’s Is This Desire and liking it more and more.

I have also been dipping into John Wickes’ book Innovations in British jazz 1960-80 which is an amazing amalgamation of information. His thesis is that in the 50s British jazzers tended to be a few years behind the Americans but then it all started to change and for 20 years everything bubbled away.

When I downsized my vynil collection I made a point of keeping the records from this era. Graham Collier’s Deep Dark Blue Centre and the New Jazz Orchestra from 1965, for example – also the Don Rendell/Ian Carr Group. Wickes covers all of this – and a zillion more discs that I didn’t hear and are probably impossible to get hold of. The extraordinary thing is that so many people wanted to try out for themselves the new styles of music that were emerging over that period – and the managed to organise so many bands. Indeed it was surprising that there was so much work for them to do. Wickes has gathered an enormous amount of fact about how each band started, where it played, what kind of cross-membership there was etc – what that style linkages were.

I have looked at some of the issues separately such as the career of Graham Bond and the Soft Machine and I can’t fault Wickes’ account.

To cite one example, Wickes sees the West Indian sax player Joe Harriott as being one of the true pioneers at the end of the 50s in extending the basic US bebop model by bringing in free improvisation and non-Western musics. But when he comes to discuss the guitarist Davy Graham he gives DG the credit for having integrated sitar elements and jazz into his solo guitar works about a year before. I , of course, never tire of telling the world that DG was a global pioneer.

John Martyn explains on his BBC4 programme that 5 minutes of listening to DG set the direction for his life. In which connection it is worth noting that Wickes believes that JM’s bassist Danny Thompson had become one of the finest exponents of upright bass in Europe by the early 70s. Not an easy field to compete in given that by this stage Miles Davis had decided to hire a British bass player to replace Ron Carter.

Of course in a book like this there’s bound to be the odd error and Dave Crosby gets misnamed in connection with the Trane influence on 8 Miles High but given that this is in a paragraph about what a great modal jazz player Richard Thompson is – it would be churlish to complain.

So as a footnote one can observe that there s a sense in which ND was standing on the shoulders of giants.

Anyway these apercus are all crowded onto 2 or 3 of Wickes 300 odd pages.

I am doing a little acoustic guitar thing on the Crafter this evening in St Mary’s – feeling slightly intimidated by the amazing dexterity shown last weekend. Also it is slightly underehearsed but at least I have been thinking about the issues. For some reason yesterday I worked on the application of Coltrane changes to Duke Ellington’s Satin Doll – maybe I have something I can bank.

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