TTB @ NPR

The Tedeschi Trucks Band recorded live last month at a Tiny Desk concert for NPR’s All Songs Considered. These intimate performances produce some great music and this is one of my favourites. We saw them last year at the O2 where they gave us the best music of 2015. They’d earlier celebrated Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen, and they performed some of those songs along with their own expansive blues/jazz/soul/gospel jams. They’re a great live band. This video gives a taste, but also try Tedeschi Trucks Band Live: Everybody’s Talkin’.

Frames of reference

For Gato Barbieri

Gato Barbieri died last Saturday, 2nd April 2016, at the age of 83. He was a great and memorable saxophonist with a big-hearted sound (later celebrated as Zoot, the saxophone-playing puppet in The Muppet Show). I first knew him from recordings with Charlie Haden and Carla Bley, particularly Liberation Music Orchestra in 1969, an album that opened the door to so much influential music. This live recording of Brasil is from the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival (released as El Pampero) with Lonnie Liston Smith on piano, Chuck Rainey on electric bass, Bernard Purdie on drums, Sonny Morgan on conga and Naná Vasconcelos on percussion and berimbau. It may not be completely representative of his best work, but it is wonderful and impassioned and a good way to remember him (I chose it for my daughter who is presently in Brazil, dancing capoeira and playing berimbau).

For a fuller tribute see Gato Barbieri 1932-2016 by Richard Williams.

Frames of reference

San Gimignano

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A roadside coffee stop en route to San Gimignano. They serve the best espresso macchiato I’ve ever tasted. Immediately refreshed and we’re watching out for our destination’s distinctive towers, checking the horizon for their silhouettes, easily confused by the outlines of countless cypress trees. Read more

Frames of reference

Living Tree

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It’s said they planted trees by graves
to soak up spirits of the dead
through roots into the growing wood.
The favorite in the burial yards
I knew was common juniper.
One could do worse than pass into
such a species. I like to think
that when I’m gone the chemicals
and yes the spirit that was me
might be searched out by subtle roots
and raised with sap through capillaries
into an upright, fragrant trunk,
and aromatic twigs and bark,
through needles bright as hoarfrost to
the sunlight for a century
or more, in wood repelling rot
and standing tall with monuments
and statues there on the far hill,
erect as truth, a testimony,
in ground that’s dignified by loss,
around a melancholy tree
that’s pointing toward infinity.

Living Tree by Robert Morgan from Dark Energy, Penguin Books 2015

Frames of reference

Ankerwycke

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Ankerwycke is a small corner of riverside farmland and historic parkland on the north bank of the Thames at Runnymede. Planes fly over constantly, in and out of Heathrow and there’s a continuous drone from the M25 half a mile downstream, yet this place still remains a hidden green sanctuary. Runnymede gets all the visitors and Ankerwycke gets overlooked. Read more

Frames of reference

Montefegatesi

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We were on the lookout for ancient trees. I asked for directions at our local Tourist Information in Bagni di Lucca. The forests here are mostly sweet chestnut and we were told that there were some Castagni Monumentali in the hills of the Garfagnana, high above the town. Read more

Frames of reference

A February / March Garden

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Sarcococca

A fantastic shrub that just missed out on being in the January blog. It started flowering 1st February and filled the garden with the most delicious scent. The black berries are the product of last winter’s flowers. It’s a small evergreen plant that does best in shade or semi shade, remains small, and is another contender for Most Useful All-Round Plant. Read more

Frames of reference

For Naná Vasconcelos

Here’s a reminder of the great Brazilian percussionist Naná Vasconcelos, who died too soon last week aged only 71. I was fortunate to see him once, performing with Don Cherry and I heard him many times on recordings by Codona, Talking Heads, Jan Garbarek, Egberto Gismonti, Pat Metheny, Caetano Veloso, Laurie Anderson and Penguin Café Orchestra, as well as many albums under his own name. He was a master of the berimbau, a single-string percussion instrument, the soul of Capoeira.

Frames of reference

George Smart

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The Goosewoman & Old Bright, The Postman; c.1840. Private Collection

After 18 months of researching, writing, photographing and designing, my book George Smart, the Tailor of Frant: Artist in Cloth & Velvet Figures has finally been published. I first encountered George Smart’s pictures when I was a student at Maidstone College of Art over 25 years ago. I came across a few thumbnails of his work in a book by James Ayres and, despite being poorly printed, they jumped off the page at me and lodged themselves in my mind. Read more

Frames of reference

From The Poet’s House

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It’s almost 30 years since John Hubbard visited New Harmony, a small town in Indiana, USA, established in 1825 as a model community by the Welsh utopian thinker and social reformer Robert Owen. John was invited by Jane Blaffer Owen, New Harmony resident and the wife of Robert Owen’s third great grandson. Read more

Frames of reference