Music Spoken Here is a brand new project to connect new and exceptional musicians throughout the UK with appreciative audiences and other services in the West Midlands. Focusing on jazz fusion, funk, soul, blues, Latin – anything really that sits outside the mainstream rock and ‘calco-pop’ that’s already well presented in pubs and clubs up and down the country.
The idea developed from my experience in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when I started playing bass guitar amid a resurgence in the British jazz scene. The bass decision was primarily influenced by listening to the early music of British jazz-funk band Level 42. That soon led me on journey of discovery into the very broad spectrum of music loosely labelled ‘jazz’. I was fortunate enough to live close to London and regularly hung out at The Bass Clef and Treble Clef in Hoxton, where artists like Jason Rebello and the Mondesir brothers were cutting their teeth on the live circuit. Jazz FM launched, Acid Jazz was born with Eddie Pillar’s new label and Gilles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label released the Young Disciples’ Apparently Nothin’ featuring the vocals of Carleen Anderson. I got involved in a regular ‘jazz club’ at my local, The Tudor Arms in Watford where I heard the incredible vocals of Liane Caroll, the late Tina May and Claire Martin for the first time, with their accompanying bands each broadening my experience of the music.
There was one venue – the Rose & Crown pub in King’s Langley – that was particularly great. Run by Mike Holroyd, he put bands on 3-4 nights a week featuring jazz fusion, soul, funk and blues and finished off the weekend with a Sunday lunchtime jazz session. Being a small venue, there was much more to it than just listening to the band. It was great for meeting the musicians, talking music with them, learning and finding out what else they had going on. I remember some great collaborations featuring the young Phil Mulford on bass (Sax Appeal, System X) that played there a few times. It was all really energising for an aspiring bass player!
In my later twenties, the responsibilities of life took me on a different path. I stopped playing, didn’t go to so many gigs and lost touch with the live scene, although never stopped listening. Around 10 years ago I started to reconnect, following those artists I’d seen much younger who are now incredibly well established, and getting up to speed with the newer bands. I really wanted to recreate that vibe from my early twenties, when there was so many small venues where musicians and audiences could properly connect, talk about music and expand!
Music Spoken Here, by John McLaughlin, was one of the first jazz albums I listened to, having borrowed the LP from Watford library, along with Miles Davis’ Tutu. The title perfectly encapsulates the experience I enjoyed as a new musician and listener in those small, intimate venues some 30 years ago and that I will be recreating through this project in various venues throughout Worcestershire and the West Midlands until I find a suitable, permanent home.