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CMU Leeds Concert

These tapes contain some of the items performed at the concert given on 7 February 1970 at Leeds University.

Items omitted are:

Past Midnight (by James Gordon and Edward Lee) – it was not possible to engineer a recording of a suitable technical standard.

God Bless the Child and Japan(featuring Larraine Odell) – these are omitted for copyright reasons.

Technical considerations:

I have to warn listeners that the recording quality of the tracks is far below what I would wish.  The concert was recorded on a domestic reel-to-reel machine, with one microphone.  The tapes are now nearly 40 years old.  When I decided to get them into digital form, my ancient tape machine literally went up in smoke in the middle of the process. The kindness of a neighbour tracked down an equally ancient machine. This would only play back at half-speed – the speed change mechanism had broken.  The result therefore had to be put through the Audacity software which allowed me to restore the pitch.  I now had one stereo recording with various clicks, bangs and tape noise.  All the options given by multitrack recording were closed.  Fortunately modern technology still gave a lot of options for enhancing the tracks.  Nevertheless, there are at times high levels of tape noise, and EQs have had times to be an unhappy compromise between the needs of the various instruments.  It was just not possible to bring James’ voice (under-recorded) sufficiently forward.  Adrian’s string bass (and in particular his beautifully conceived and executed solos had a very low signal strength, so a lot of quality was lost in bringing the volume  up.

All that said, I have decided to release these tracks which have sat on a shelf for over 30 years, for two reasons. First, I think they are likely to interest some listeners, despite their obvious deficiencies. Though I would not dare to compare the musical quality of these tracks to the famous Charlie Christian recordings in the early days of bebop, the same principle applies: at the end of the day, most listeners listen to music for its emotion and excitement, and not for its technical recording brilliance, important though that it for giving the finest possible rendering of the music.

The other reason for release is to link up with the launch of James Gordon’s book, Rocky Foundations. With these tracks it is possible to hear the music he talks about. This is one advantage that even Shakespeare didn’t have !

The performers

Terry Mortimer guitar
Ed Lee guitar
Adrian Kendon string bass, violin
Roger Odell drums

James Gordon and Larraine Odell (both vocalists) were also part of the line-up, but there are no recordings of them in this selection.

Babysitar listen to the track

Title:  Still reflecting the jokey approach to labelling serious pieces (eg Charlie Parker’s Ornithology (the study of birds – he was nicknamed “Bird” Parker), the title was given by my rhythm guitarist (Lee Barnes) in an earlier group.  There are a couple of phrases which pick up on Indian ragas, and the piece was put together at rehearsals in my house. I was babysitting to allow my first wife, Jenny, an evening out. Sarah (the then baby) doesn’t seem to have suffered from the experience !

Basic Form: Introduction – theme (1) guitar – theme (1) guitar and violin -solos: violin – guitar solo (1) – drum break – guitar solo (2) – repeated rhythmic riff.

Comment:  The piece begins with tremolo guitar chords which set an atmosphere. Underneath is a sustained drone, inspired by the role of the tampura in Northern Indian Classical music.

This leads into the theme played on guitar (Terry). It is repeated with the theme in imitation (the theme is repeated against itself after a short interval, as in a round). The violin gives the slightly oriental touch which is reflected in the title. (This is done by altering the basic (Dorian) mode). 

The violin gives way to a guitar solo (Terry). A short drum break leads into a jazz type of rhythm, but in 7 beat time. Adrian moves onto bass to join Roger in creating the basic rhythm. Over this Terry takes a jazz guitar solo.  As is typical of his work on these tracks, there are frequent chromatic and bitonal elements (ie he moves out of the basic key and scale, while this is sustained by the other instruments). 

The band moves into a repeated pattern, bringing the piece to a climax. Unusually, the piece does not end with a reprise of the theme, but only of its last phrase.

A version of this piece in notation and tablature is (along with 20 other pieces) in the book Gulf Stream available from  the website Shop . 

Black Dog Blues listen to the track

Title: “Blues” were originally assumed to be about sad topics, whereas the label applies to a wide range of music.   But the black dog was an 18th century image of melancholy or depression. Winston Churchill used to refer to his “black dog” periods.

Form: Ostinato (riff)- theme (guitar and bass) (x 2) -solos: guitar (Terry) – 3 choruses- theme (guitar and bass)

Comment: The piece is based on an extension of the concept of building music over an underlying riff. This is normally of two to four bars length, in single notes (usually on the bass guitar), and repeated exactly or moved in pitch to fit chord changes. The Black Dog riff crosses over into being a classical type of ostinato. This too is a repeated pattern, typically on the bass, but is developed more flexibly and over a longer time period than its Afro-American counterpart.  Some classical ostinati are placed in an upper (higher pitched) part, which is what happens here. An even more important difference is that the line is harmonised in thirds (common enough in many types of music) but in this case they change constantly, changing the implied modes which the soloists can use, and adding a feeling of restlessness to the insistence of the riff.

Another feature of the band’s music at this time is the use of echo on the riff which sets up a distant, slightly eerie feel in contrast to the low pitched power of the riff – ideally this would have had the power of the Rhythm and Blues bands of the period, but at this point our amplification did not run to such luxuries !

Terry’s guitar solo begins in a fluent blues style, but he begins to introduce modal elements, and chromatic element derived from earlier blues styles, but given a more contemporary flavour.
 
After three choruses of solo, the theme is repeated.  Using an old trad jazz technique, it ends on a break.

Gulf Stream listen to the track

Title: The Gulf Stream is an ocean current which transmits some of the heat gained from the Caribbean sun to influence the climate of the UK. (It meant that my mother-in-law used to be able to swim in the sea off the west coast of Scotland in May.  I felt that it was a good image for my own music – inspired by the New World, but definitely European, and not at all creating (or wishing to create) the authentic rhythms I so much love. (We must learn distinguish what we admire from what we are or can be).

Form: theme (Ed) x 2 - solos: guitar (Ed) 3 choruses – guitar (Terry) x 3 – bass (x 1) – drums ( x1) – theme (Ed) – coda

Comment: On the original recording, as normally in performance the whole backing is played through once, to set the atmosphere and the underlying structure. This has been omitted in the present track because it was too under-recorded to reproduce. The listener needs to realise, though, that,as in Black Dog Blues.  The tune’s character and  structure is created by what amounts to a long, varied ostinato. In this case it has three elements: the first rather folk-like riff line; a section with breaks, played with a light, quite classical accentuation, very different from this procedure, say, in the music of Ray Charles; and four bars of bossa nova-like rhythm.  

The first guitar solo very much follows the mood of the theme and the movement of the chords and has quite a traditional effect. By contrast Terry moves further out, showing particularly the influence of bebop and Miles Davis, creating a dissonant contrast to the underlying pattern. 

Adrian’s bass solo is very well structured and rhythmic and successfully combines a jazz approach and is followed by a sensitive
solo by Roger, using only brushes.

The theme returns to be followed by a coda which closes lyrically.

A version of this piece in notation and tablature is (along with 20 other pieces) in the book Gulf Stream available from  the website Shop . 

 

Slow and Lonesome Blues listen to the track

Title:  It needs a James Gordon to write about the isolated (“lonesome”) nature of the modern urban dweller, whose torments finally culminate in the ambulance siren which you will clearly hear. 

Form: Intro – theme (Ed) x2 – solos (chorus structure): guitar (Ed) 6 – (free structure) guitar (Terry) – moving into collective improvisation – rising guitar line (Ed)added ending in a siren effect – theme
 
Comment: The cook of one of the Medieval English kings (I think Edward III) was accused of attempting to poison his master. He was boiled alive.  This piece could be said to attempt to do the same to the listener.
Though the basic rhythm laid out in the intro could be compared to the sort of pattern favoured by Hendrix, the real feel is much lighter, and the rhythm sections patterns give a bounce and lift.  The line is modal rather than truly blues.  Once the fist guitar solo begins, we have an almost country rock feel (enhanced by rhythm guitar chords), but enlivened by a jazzy or slightly funky lift. 
At the fourth chorus Ed changes the guitar tone to a much harder sound with reverb. His intensity is strengthened by the use of dissonant contemporary jazz chordings from Terry and increasingly intense drumming.
The piece then drops into a free passage with very chromatic lines from Terry. At a certain point Ed re-enters with a low tremolo, then building a contrasting rising chromatic line. The drums and bass are now equally dissonant and fragmented,. The piece rises to a climax with Ed’s “ambulance siren”, before the theme returns in a heavy rendering.  The piece ends by disintegrating into chaos. The cook has now truly been boiled alive.
 
You may wish to compare this version to that on the album Open Spaces, obtainable from www.esotericrecordings.com

A version of this piece in notation and tablature is (along with 11 other pieces) in the book Gross Ideas available from  the website Shop . 

Osiris listen to the track

Title:  Osiris was the Egyptian god of fertility, among other things.  This piece reflects aspects of that fact, and also includes touches inspired by African music. The piece also inspired poet Edwin Webb to create a poem of the same name.  This gave rise to later realisations of this piece, which can be heard on the Sounds Like recordings to be released later this year.

 

Form: Introduction- theme (guitar – Terry) – theme repeated with violin drone – Third playing of theme (both guitars) – fourth playing  of theme – free passage (all players improvising) - guitar riff beginning second section – entry of drums - Theme 2 (guitar – Terry) – guitar solo – violin backing lines – climax built by rhythmic guitar chords- fall in volume, guitar(Terry) creates drum sounds – joined by violin and second guitar –volume falls to end the section.

 

Comment: Atmospheric chords lead to the theme played on the guitar.  On the second playing, the violin begins a drone, and the theme is heard a third time in imitation (the two guitars follow each other).  On a fourth playing the second guitar plays a freer line which leads to a section in which all four players improvise contrasting lines. This section concludes with a repeat of the opening phrase of the tune. 

The guitar (Ed) begins the riff which shapes the second half of the piece. He is joined by the drums. Terry (guitar) sounds the second theme. This leads to a solo with short violin figures behind it. The solo takes on a contemporary jazz flavour, with bluesy moments.  The violin increasingly interacts with a slower line which binds the music together as the guitar increasingly leaves the (Mixolydian) basis of the section.  The guitar part becomes increasingly intense, adding dissonant chords. A chord riff follows, building the excitement. The music then falls in volume and the riff comes to the fore again as Terry’s guitar begins to create an African drum effect. The riff drops out and the second guitar and violin also create percussive effects.  The tempo slows and the section subsides to an undramatic end. (Listeners who heard the original may remember a short chord at the very end; unfortunately this was cut off on the available tape).

 

Three Part Work

Title:  “Suite” seemed too formal a title, though that classical form was the basic inspiration.

 

Part 1: White Heather listen to the track

Title: This was written after I had met Frances.  Though entirely English in upbringing, she is pure Scots in that both her parents came from Ayrshire.  Heather is of course deeply associated with Scotland, and white heather is said to bring luck.

Form: Intro – theme (x 2) -  guitar solo (Terry) – theme – bridge passage – section 2 (Latin) with guitar solo (Ed) – Theme (second half only) – coda

Comment: The folk mood is set by the finger style guitar (Ed) and rhythm, leading to the theme (played twice). Terry’s guitar solo starts to move quickly into tonal areas away form the underlying basis; it is strongly rhythmic, contrasting to the evenness of the rhythm guitar which plays the opening pattern continuously.  The solo becomes increasingly tense, before returning to reinforce the basic pattern.  The theme returns in imitation.

A bridge passage using the same rhythmic pattern but changing chords leads to the second section, where the rhythm section moves to a light samba-like rhythm. The solo role passes to Ed’s guitar.  This builds but remains in the modal area of the chords. 

The second half of the theme reappears before the group moves into a coda which uses both the rhythm patterns which have been used in the piece.

A version of this piece in notation and tablature is (along with 20 other pieces) in the book Gulf Stream available from  the website Shop . 

 

Part 2:  Jeannie’s Reel listen to the track

Title:  This piece is meant to have an atmosphere of the broad spaces of the Highlands, followed by a rocking pseudo-reel. Being “danced” by eccentric Englishmen, it is in 7 beat time. Jean is Frances’ other forename.

Form: Theme (out of tempo) – free line (guitar-Ed) – leading to riff (high, reverberant) – drums and bass enter –guitar (Terry) harmonies, leading to solo and dialogue between drums and lead guitar – floating passage over rhythm – theme (in tempo)
- coda

Comment: The piece opens with evocative very reverberant guitar chords (Ed) between which Terry plays the theme out of tempo.  [Listeners may notice a strange slightly drum like sound, which at first puzzled me. But remember there was just a single mike standing at ground level on the stage.  The bumping (sometimes heard elsewhere in these tracks) was coming from the Watkins Copicat echo unit which we used at the time – it was highly sensitive to any sort of knocks!]

Ed (guitar) then moves away on a solo improvised line, which leads to him playing the riff which underpins the second section.  After a while Terry harmonises this before going into a solo. This rapidly contrasts with the underlying basis both in being chromatic and in rhythm. Roger increasingly adds an exciting commentary on the drums.  One feels that the originally romantic and sociable reel has now become a war dance. 

Ed leaves the riff and the upper structure becomes a floating dissonance over the continuing bass and drum rhythm. The riff returns and Terry plays the theme, this time in tempo. (Once again the time signature is 7/4).

A short coda brings the piece to rest.

Part 3:  Finale listen to the track Title: I’ve never been able to think of a title which really summed up this piece !

Form: Theme 1 – guitar (2) – solo guitar (Terry) – chord riff – breaks in which theme 2 is presented in sections – solo guitar (Ed) – theme 2 – solo guitar (Terry) -  theme 2 (imitative)

Comment: The guitar (Ed) plays the theme which is in traditional AABA form. However, unlike in such cases, the middle eight (B section) is taken at a slower tempo and with a heavier rhythm which prefigures what is to come later.  The second guitar (Terry) improvises over a chord sequence which is through-composed (ie does not consist of a repeating pattern which is typical of earlier jazz and of rock).  This builds over a rock rhythm which then releases into a swinging contemporary jazz passage.  The chord sequence again builds towards a new climax, when we get the entry of the chord riff which structures the next section.

This is then relieved by the old jazz device of the break, in which the guitar plays one section of theme 2 – the whole theme is then presented over the three breaks.

Guitar 2 (Ed) goes into an intense solo while Terry keeps the riff going.  Theme 2 reappears to send Terry into his solo

Theme 2 returns, this time in imitation (guitars chasing each other).  It is repeated as the volume drops steadily, ending  peacefully after all the excitement.

[note: the final notes are as heard but in the original lasted longer. Some editing had to take place as a different item had been recorded over the last 10 seconds or so of Finale]

 

Little Miss Julie listen to the track

Title: Another play on words. Julie was the sister of a girl I went out with for a period.  But the dark undertone of Strindberg’s play title is also intended.  This piece was always the actual finale and in some ways summed up where we were going from and where we were going.  For the record, my normally ever-supportive wife notes that this was the one number she never really liked !

Form: opening riff and theme (repeated) – solo (guitar-Ed) –solo (guitar –Terry), later featuring the Watkins echo chamber – drum solo (Roger) – theme.

Comment:
The piece starts with the band going flat out on an opening riff. Breaks are used to present the theme on guitar. The section is repeated.
Ed takes the first solo, while the riff continues and the bass and drums drive things along with a jazz beat set against it the rhythm and blues riff.

The music calms, and Terry moves to centre stage musically and literally.  He plays a solo, out-of-tempo line. To the horror of my jazz friends I had presented him with the options offered by the Watkins echo chamber. He seized upon this and developed a way of delivering a stunning solo (it really is just him) which illustrates his immense gift (then and now) for reacting instantly to the sonic options offered by a medium.  So he generates a figure which is suited to be the starting point when he turns on the Copicat.
[Note you will again here the insistent beat of the machine at times]

He builds up to an intense climax, reinforced by Roger – the reaction of the audience is on the tape.

Roger then goes into his own solo.   In the performance he first plays very softly with brushes, and introduced a lot of mimed playing, which made the audience laugh. Unfortunately, this again did not meet even these minimal standards of re-mastering.  He does use the same device again during the solo you have. The playing is outstanding, and shows very clearly why he was able to go on to become a valued part of the music scene (which he still is, I am glad to say).

The piece concludes with the repeat of the theme. Sadly, the recording did not catch the extent of the final applause.