since the pre-punk days. he remains pretty much a cult figure in Britain. But who knows? His current small-band tour — Lofgren always favoured basic rock line-ups. even at the height of pomp-rock — and the dry. stripped- down feel of his new album Damaged Goods might inspire the Brits to latch on to him again.
It's not a paean to hedonism nor a record of rousing anthems. You might call it a celebration of the indomitability of the human spirit. and it sounds like a few long. dark nights of the soul went into its creation.
‘Not really.‘ Lofgren pam'es. ‘All the characters are kind of struggling. it is kind of a dark record. but if you listen enough you'll ﬁnd that they're all surviving. basically. and some with a sense of humour. lt's rnorejust a reality check for me — obviously. a lot ofthe characters themselves are ﬁctional but the emotions are real.
‘I don‘t know if it was a particularly darker period than many. I mean. life's the dark and the light all the time. and l‘rn bobbing between one and the other and they both feel like natural places to be. I prefer the light. but . . . I'm 44. I‘ve had ups and downs and I've a lot of experiences and emotions to grow on.’
He has indeed. A Maryland kid who was playing accordion from the age of ﬁve. Lofgren picked up his ﬁrst guitar at ﬁfteen. formed the band Grin. moved to Greenwich Village. met Neil Young and played guitar and piano on After The Gold Rush. all by the tender age of eighteen. His association with Young continued through Tonight’s The Night. Trans and most recently the excellent MTV Unplugged set. At around the same time he met Young. he also ran into Springsteen and ended up playing guitar for The Boss at his commercial
Nils Lofgren: that’ll be the bounce
peak. post-Bum In The USA. He's also found time for Ringo Starr's All Star Band.
Which is not to deny his own achievements. both with Grin and solo. The 1979 single ‘Shine Silently‘ is still a radio favourite. and a lot of thirtysomethings cart still whistle their
I way through ‘Back it Up' and the Keith
Richards tribute ‘Keith Don't Go'. Lofgren recommends Grin's l + I and his own solo records Nils Lofgren and Wonder/am! - as well as the new one. ofcourse — for the newcomer to get a handle on where he’s coming from.
Which leads us to the big question: is he a solo artist who spends much of his time backing other singers. or a sideman who’s been fortunate enough to pursue a career of his own?
‘I think of myself as a writer and singer and guitarist. and I guess that would fall under the heading “solo artist". But I also think of rnysclfas a band person. I love great bands and I'm a real team player. I do not need to be the boss all the time to enjoy it. lfl love the music. I get just as much out of playing with The E-Street Band or with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band or many ofthe bands with Neil Young I‘ve been in as I do playing my own music. And 1 take it just as seriously. I think the word sideman is a bad word.
‘When I‘m in a band. I don‘t want anybody on stage with me trying to put my music across who feels like they‘re not as important a key to the puzzle as I am. Because then people start slacking off. they don‘t take it as seriously. it's just a gig. ldon't like that. I like people who are right down there emotionally with me. And that's how I approach playing with other people.‘
Nils Lofgren plays The Plaza. Glasgow on Sun 29.
Sophie Bancroft and Gina Rae have 0 been working as a duo for around l three years now, but the newest version of their group has only a bare handful of gigs under its belt as they prepare for a Scottish tour. The singers, both of whom come from well- established jazz families, have tried a few changes to the format in developing their collaboration, but, as Gina confirmed, the new band will still i leave the vocal contribution at centre stage.
‘It has changed a little bit from the things we do just as a duo because the grooves and so on have to be a bit more settled for the band - when it’s just the two of us, we can be a little . bit looser about tempos and things to ; influences right from the outset, burlt suit ourselves. Rick Taylor is an around their light, flexible singing and amazing arranger, though, and they trademark harmony vocals. There is are all very sensitive players, so it will i not a great deal of variation between still have that delicacy - we won’t be ‘_ the two voices, but they manage to swamped by them. work together in very appealing
‘We have added a few more uptempo : fashion nonetheless, and have been tunes, again because that suits the ? encouraged by the early success of band, but it has been pretty easy to , the new combination, which features adapt our songs to this context. The Q Sophie’s brother Phil on saxophone, tunes have all been written by me and Rick Taylor on trombone, bassist Tom Sophie, and we are still drawing on the i Lyne, and drummer lain Copeland. same kind of mixture of different (Kenny Mathieson) kinds of music that we use as a duo.’ i Sophie Bancroft and Gina Rae play the
Their music has been a hard-to- l Tron Tavern, Edinburgh on Sun 22, and categorise mixture of sophisticated end their tour at the l'dacﬂabert Arts pop with diverse jazz, folk and ethnic ; Centre, Stirling on Fri 27.
I Gina and Sophie chill out
Assembly Direct launch a new occasional series with the first of their Portraits in Scottish Jazz. They could hardly have chosen a more , eclectic (or less representative) figure ' than saxophonist and clarinetist Dick lee, a musician who has succeeded in , eradicating the perceived boundaries between jazz, classical and folk music.
Lee is a classically-trained musician who has been much involved in contemporary composition, but is at least as well known both as a jazz player with a particular love of swing- based music, and an exploratory folk musician, notably in his collaborations with piper Hamish Moore. And that is before we start to consider the even less readily classifiable strands of his work, such as ‘The Lemon Tree Samba’, composed for pipe band and the Inner Sense Percussion Orchestra.
This may all seem to make him an unlikely subject for a portrait in Scottish jazz, although he is happy to acknowledge his interest in the music.
‘I guess I have always listened to jazz, but I didn’t start playing it until after I left University, when I was living in the wilds of Argyll, and I learnt by listening to records by Django Reinhardt, Sidney Bechet and W Beiderbecke. I got into folk music
Dick lee: no frontiers
traditions, I didn’t really feel any boundaries between them.’
That eclecticism will be evident in a concert which will feature several facets of his work, including his r mango-inspired quartet Swing 95, now in its fifteenth year, and a solo saxophone improvisation which is likely to fuse jazz and folk leanings. He will be joined by his partner, flautist Anne Evans, on a piece for electronics and flute, and the concert will finish with the launch of a new quintet featuring trombonist Rick Taylor and pianist Paul Flush (both from the Tyneside area, although Paul is now resident in Edinburgh), and locals Stuart Smith and Mike Travis.
at the same time, and was playing in (Kenny Mathieson) rock bands as well, but because I . Dick Lee plays the Queen’s Hall, wasn’t immersed in any of those 3 Edinburgh, on Fr127.
The List 20 Oct-2 Nov I995 37