es: .- e . Imagine being trapped in a bedsit with two stoned guitarists and a bongo player. The Penguin Cafe Orchestra revolves round a similar repetitive intensity. but the eight members are all consummate musicians — a sort ofclassical string quartet with percussion. trombone. guitar. acoustic keyboards and a variety ofodd instruments — while their music is layered over interacting motifs as the harmony shifts and drifts.
Their whimsical title and much of their minimalist performing style lies in that seam ofstarched English eccentricity between the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and Michael Flanders and Donald Swarm.
There is also a charming. innocent quality in the pieces — like a musical naive painting— yet the players. like Annie Whitehead who is one of Britain's leading jazz trombonists. have all been schooled. and know exactly what they are doing.
Founder Simon Jeffes relates that he dropped out of music college in 1968 because of 'the deadness of the academic teaching. After an avant-garde guitar group. and a rock band in the early 70s. I started listening to a lot of African music. and it was as if I‘d come home. For years. it sounded more familiar and more meaningful to me than Mozart. which of course is a crazy way of looking at it. In rejecting classical music. I had turned my back on what is the major musical art form ofour culture. And so now after years of wanting to be South American or
Russian or something else. I've come back to where I started. like a refugee. to the Penguin (ate. my re-found home.’
Lest he seem pompous. he quickly adds. ‘But compared to Stockhausen there‘s not a lot going on in our music. It‘s not very eomplicated.'( Norman Chalmers) The Penguin (Safe Orchestra play (he ( 'in Ila/I on Wed 9.
um:- Love child
You have to admit Lenny Kravitz’s has bottle for signing up to play the John Lennon memorial concert in Liverpool on Saturday 5. Considering that the most frequently cited comparison with his own recordings so far is that ol the late Beatle, he could quite reasonably be worried that playing such a tribute might further bury his individuality. He’s not keen on the Lennon comparisons, but that hasn’t stopped them coming, along with references to Hendrix—the two have related dress sense and Kravitz performs ‘lf Six Was Nine’ live- and Bob Marley. And if the
hippies are coming back, who better as a ligurehead than the crystal-toting New Yorker who has filled his debut album, ‘Let Love Rule’ with titles like ‘Does Anybody Out There Even Care?’? And who else, these days (apart from those bandwagon-jumpers who call up Waterfront studio, where it was recorded, asking for ‘the Kravitz sound’), is daring to bring out records which sound so cracklineg live, without studio processing or even reverb to smooth them out? Alter persuading his parents to spend the money they’d saved for his education on booking A&M studios for live solid months so that he could learn recording techniques, he set about capturing the sound he wanted to hear—that of a band playing live in the studio- and has succeeded. His sell-financed album is convincing and impressive enough in that respect; but, ironically, because he couldn’t afford a band, he ended up playing all the instruments himself. Thanks to his new-lound success, the situation has been remedied, and a full complement of musicians will be present for his Mayfest date. (Alastair Mabbott)
Lenny Kravitz plays the Mayfair, Glasgow on Mon 14.
The organ has a long and distinguished history in jazz, beginning with fixed pipe organs in churches and theatres, but the instrument found a new modishness when the American engineers Laurens Hammond and John Hanert launched their portable electronic instrument in 1935. Fats Waller was the first prominent musician to feature it, but itwas the great soul-jazzman Jimmy Smith who took it to its peak of popularity in the 1950s and 1960s. With the exception of Larry Young, the proliferation of
1 electronic keyboards saw the
7 lunk during the 19703. The staccato, reedy sound of the =
Hammond eclipsed in both jazz and
Hammond organ has slipped back into
vogue in recent times, however, with . DJ Baz Fe Jazz championing the cause
of touring musicians like Big John E Patton and Jimmy McGrilf as part of the ' developing jazz-dance scene in the south, while the James Taylor Quartet found new directions in which to push Smith’s unparalleled example.
Taylor denies his music is revivalist, a claim which he ‘doesn't pay much attention to. The Hammond is an important instrument in its own right, and I want to see it recognised as a current living instrument rather than a museum piece. It’s become quite a trendy sound,’ he adds, instancing Europe, Yazz, The Christians and our very own Simple Minds among those insinuating the Hammond’s unmistakabletonalityintotheirmusic. l
The secret of the Hammond sound lay l in its rotating steel ‘tone wheels’, but
they created rhythmic difficulties, and , _
were ultimately abandoned in favour of frequency division and crystal ; oscillators in 1969. The cognoscenti
still favour the classic C3 model, I however, which can change hands for a lot of money, although Taylor came by ' his for a throwaway £600. The Hammond ‘has never been bettered,’ he claims. ‘Having the stops-just like a Church organ - gives you endless } options and variations.’ (Kenny Mathieson)
The James Taylor Quartet play the Mayfair on Sun 13.
. I ‘
There is no equivalent ofa griot in Scottish culture. It would be like a combination of hard. fili and harper. given very high status in the ancient Highland clan system.
But in West Africa. a musician from one ofthe hereditary griot families bears a tradition dating from the 13th century. and continues to fulfil a specially valued role in contemporary society.
As master kora player Toumani Diabate says. ‘If you see a griot concert in Mali. it‘s like a football match in Britain. The audience goes crazy. And everyone comes on stage and gives you money! People of all ages. You have whole families coming. The griots play. and the singers sing forthe patrons. and the patrons give money — even cars and houses. complete and ready built — and clothes and so on.‘
Diabate is at the forefront of the musical fusion that now involves so much African music.
. The young players in the
towns now sport their koras on guitar straps. wired to little busking amps. and Diabate is not averse to experimentation with phasers. pedals and pick ups. And he admits that his musical education was mainly through listening to cassettes ofhis father or his grandfather. but also other music- including a lot ofJimi Hendrix!
A major result ofthis eclecticism was last year's noted album ‘Songhai'. on which he played with Spanish new-wave flamenco duo Ketama and Brit jazszolk bassist Danny Thompson. and he has recently been marrying the kora with lndian classical music. But though he is often lyrical. be prepared to be astonished by his fleet-fingered technique. As he says ‘Speed is very important. it‘s what gives a musician a certain class.‘ (Norman Chalmers) Toumani Diabate plays at the George Square Theatre. Edinburgh on Fri 11 and a Mayfest date at the Third Eye Centre. Glasgow on Tue 22.
24'I‘he List 4 — 17 May 1990