Flowers For Albert

David Murray is for me the undisputed king of the saxophone, the living, breathing, embodiment of the music. I’ve seen him many times, in small groups, big bands, but most memorably playing solo. He is a force of nature, and every time it seems like his saxophone is connected directly to my heart.

This video is one of a series, The Lullaby Project, from Opera North.

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Colin Stetson‘s breathtaking pump-it-up saxophone fuelled by apparently effortless circular breathing turning the instrument into an extension of the body like some kind of external hand-held bronchial tree summoning music in the shape of a transcendental endurance sport is quite a good warm-up act.

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Lament For Charleston

Ralph Carney, a saxophonist and jokingly self-described “man of a thousand instruments” heard on albums by Tom Waits, the Black Keys, St. Vincent, Elvis Costello, the B-52’s and Allen Ginsberg, died on December 16 in Portland, Oregon. He was 61. This video and the text below date from June 2015.

Ralph Carney is from Akron, Ohio and currently lives in San Francisco. He’s a multi-instrumentalist who was in the popular band Tin Huey in Akron in the ’70s, and since then has done everything from making curious solo recordings to collaborating with Tom Waits, Jolie Holland, Elvis Costello, the B-52s, and dozens of others. I myself am particularly fond of his work with Daved Hild and Mark Kramer in the 1980s alt-rock band Carney-Hild-Kramer.

And one week ago today, just two days after the horrible events in Charleston, SC, Mr. Carney posted a solo recording of multi-tracked saxophones to his bandcamp and Facebook. “Lament for Charleston” is a remarkable, strong work. I spoke with Carney on the phone today about how it came together, what the inspirations were, and future plans for the song.

It’s worth noting that “Alabama” by John Coltrane was written in response to a brutal church bombing undertaken by members of the KKK in 1963 in Birmingham, Ala. which killed four young black girls. Read more

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Ein Lounge Lizard Allein

A short film from 1990 about John Lurie and his Strange and Beautiful Music.
It’s part one of three. Watch them all then watch Bob The Bob once or twice too.

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Nubya Garcia is one of the leading figures in the recent resurge of jazz-influenced sounds in the UK. Born and raised in London, at 25, she is starting to make headway as a composer and saxophonist. Her signature style combines the use of live electronics with a traditional band format. Using a Korg Kaoss pad interface combined with a Boss vocal effects pedal, she manipulates the natural sound of her saxophone. She also creates custom patches through Ableton Live and Max MSP to add new dimensions to her performance and composition. Alongside her on keys is Joe Armon-Jones, a musician/composer/producer part of an exciting new wave of London-based talent.

Nubya’s 5ive

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I recently stumbled upon this video, if that’s what you call a static image with a soundtrack attached, and now I find it’s stuck on repeat, I can’t shake it. There’s no title for this piece and no telling where it’s from, except that it’s played by Gary Windo, one of my all time favourite saxophone heroes. I had heard him play with Carla Bley and Robert Wyatt and Chris McGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath, and circa 1974 he gave an earbending performance in a tiny lecture theatre at Maidstone College of Art. I was mesmerised and immediately afterwards went straight out and bought a saxophone of my own.

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Living Calendar

The first advent calendar I remember was a snowy landscape splashed in chunky glitter. Little numbered doors were hard to see and fiddly to open but I was delighted when a tiny candle or perky robin was revealed. It was all about finding the right number each day. The increase in open doors a very satisfying way to get to Christmas. Read more

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Martin Puryear

Night Watch, 2011
Maple, willow, OSB board

This was an eye-opener. I’d only once before seen a sculpture by Martin Puryear and I was intrigued then by its craftsmanship and its implied utility. That was three years ago at Villa Panza in Italy and I thought I was looking at a redundant piece of machinery. But now here was a whole solo retrospective exhibition of pieces made with great attention to detail and a love of materials that suggested these were all much more than the sum of their parts. I was attracted to them because they were all such well-crafted, beautifully made objects, and also because they all seemed slightly illogical and perhaps even allegorical. But I didn’t need to know their story, I just loved their mystery, and their integrity. Read more

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Rooted In Instinct

This was a memorable exhibition seen when we visited Lincoln; it was just a few miles down the road at the National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford. Rooted in Instinct was a beautifully simple installation of works by Laura Ellen Bacon; three engaging sculptures made by traditional methods of basket weaving and thatching, handmade, handwoven, handtied, they seem to have been hand grown by the artist herself. In some ways the exhibition was a life-affirming companion piece to the more reductive Log Book performance we’d seen earlier in the Chapter House at Lincoln Cathedral. Read more

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Shepherd’s Warning

The view from our room in Lincoln on our last morning, looking towards the rising sun, the cathedral silhouetted through the trees, reminded of the ancient weather forecasting rhyme – Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight. Red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning. But we had our hearts set on a walk before returning to London, so the more we looked, the more we convinced ourselves it was not red at all, but actually sky-blue pink. But it was the most sun we saw all day. Read more

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