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Sign o’ the Tyne’s
Sue Wilson clambers aboard a boat to Bolivia with Martin Stephenson,
the Newcastle singer and songwriter ;
who’s been waiting rather too long for his ship to come in.
When a musician is described as ‘quirky‘.
‘idiosyncratic‘ and‘individual‘.it‘s usually because V
music writers are having trouble getting a handle on them. Martin Stephenson has been attracting such epithets ever since he named his first album Boar To Bolivia (a landlocked country) and included on it songs about alcoholism. miscarriages and grasping relatives at funerals. as well as a track expressing. according to the sleeve notes. ‘a brother‘s sadness toward the termination of his sister's lesbian love affair‘. The album. hailed as one of 1986‘s most original debuts. was also notable for its seamless blending ofstyles (among them folk. blues. country jazz and reggae) and strong. distinctive melodies. all bearing the stamp of an engagingly warm and cheery personality.
'l‘wo albums later ( 1988‘s (ilarlsome. Humour and Blue. which ‘contains some of the finest songs you‘ll ever hear‘ according to Record .ilirror. and last year‘s Salutation Road). the combination of accomplished musicianship with close-to-the-heart subject matter has remained a Daintees trademark. Songwriting for Stephenson has always been a spontaneous process. his way of responding to events. ‘A lot of the songs are about observations. sort of a fly-on-the-wall thing.‘ he explains. ‘Something happens. or I find myself delving into the past. and then a song just starts coming into my head. I have to wait for things to land on me. really. it‘s not something i sit down and work on — hence the fact that we only produce
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an album once every two—aml-a-half years!‘
Stephenson‘s music is not so much derived as distilled from a vastly eclectic range of influences: it‘s forever reminding you of another song. another tune. while remaining unmistakably his own. ‘lisually when a song comes into my head. it lends itself fairly naturally to a certain flavour.‘ he says. describing how he splices different styles together. ‘I come up with most ofthe tunes and then the band all add a bit in their own departments. we bounce ideas offeach other. trying to make it a little bit less standard. But l don‘t think anybody is going to invent a new style of music on guitar; everything's already been done. in a way. You just add a bit of your own character to it.‘
The Daintees have been comfortably ensconced in the middle league of British bands for some time now. with a dedicated following around the country. Dedicated. but far from huge. Does Stephenson never dream of mega-stardom‘.’ ‘lt would be nice to get a hit single. or a hit album or whatever.’ he admits. ‘But it might detract from what the band are really about. which would be a shame. because it‘s got a really nice feel to it. But everybody wants success. I don‘t want to tell any lies. When we first started out it was a lot easier.
there seemed to be a bigger market for us. But now it‘s as though there‘s a change in trends about every two or three weeks. and there‘s not much need for a bunch ofold blokes with guitars playing old-fashioned music. I‘m 30 now, and I‘ve done all these tours, I‘ve had all this fun, I‘ve done the whole lot. I still want to have fun. but I‘d like to make a decent living as well.‘
The band are currently starting work on a fourth album. tentatively scheduled for release next spring. There are no plans. however. for any radical departures in pursuit of the elusive hit factor. ‘There‘s a couple ofsongs which are slightly sort of hardened up from what we usually do. we‘re toying with the idea of making them a bit more rocky. although we don‘t want to spoil the reputation we've picked up for lyrics and melodies,‘ says Stephenson. ‘Hopefully we‘ll be doing some of the new songs in Edinburgh - it‘s
good to test them out on people. It’s hard to say exactly what the new stuff’s like — I find it difficult to put myselfoutside the music. I‘d rather wait until the album‘s out, then people can decide for themselves.‘
Martin Stephenson And The Daintees play the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh on Tue 13. Their show on Mon 12 has been cancelled.
Not quite cricket
Unlikely as it may seem, glasnost may i be responsible for making Soviet jazz f considerably more familiar in the West j than is currentlythe case. i The indefatigable Leo Feigin has laboured toryears to bring artists like the Ganelln Trio, Sergei Kuryokhin, Valentina Ponomorava and Boris Grebenshlkov to audiences outside the
USSR through the medium of his Leo Records label, but has always been hampered by the fact that these musicians were not able to tour, a position which is slowly being
Leo has championed the more radical and experimental figures in Soviet jazz (although he always prelers to call it Russian jazz) and new music, but the latest visitors to the UK come out of the
American-inﬂuenced side of the music, which has already produced expatriates like saxophonist Anatole Geraslmov, who recorded with Duke Ellington, and trumpeterllaleri Ponomarev, who played with the Jazz
Sverchkovoye Chisio (which apparently translates as Cricket Number in English-l guess it makes sense in Georgian) are a piano trio from Kiev, featuring lvan Davidenko on piano, Oieg Putyatin on bass guitar, and drummer Dmitri Pasichnik. They play a modern style of chamber jazz which owes something to the example of Bill Evans, and provide an intriguing addition to the Pasta Jazz series at the Concert Hall, which has been dominated by cabaret-style singers until now. (Kenny Mathieson)
Cricket Number, Strathclyde Suite, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Tues 13-Thurs 15.
The List9-15 August 199181