There’s been a strong response to my recent ‘Inspirations’ Playlist on Spotify. Several people have asked ‘Why these tracks; why not those tracks?’ I thought I’d offer a sort of commentary or explanation – doubtless with diversions – in this blog. It’s too much info to digest all 28 tracks in one go, so I’ll break it up over three blogs or so. Here we go…

‘Inspirations’ Playlist: Part One

Like so many, my musical tastes were formed by what came out of my ‘Dansette Record Exchanger’ and what came out of that machine was probably put there by a bunch of jazz guys at Tonbridge  School in the mid-1960s. They introduced me to Max Roach, Art Blakey and Dave Brubeck’s drummer Joe Morello. Such riches; such skills! The Graham Bond Organisation had, to this fifteen- year old’s ears, the grittiest rhythm section in the world on the old spiritual Wade in the Water with Jack Bruce on bass and Peter ‘Ginger’ Baker on drums. I couldn’t stand it they were so good. Check out the explosive groove after the ascending diminished chords at 1’18”. It all came from the blues and Ray Charles’ band introduced me to the big band version of it with One Mint Julep. What was a Mint Julep? Heck, at 15, I didn’t know, and there was no google to ask (spoiler alert: it’s a bourbon-based cocktail associated with the American Deep South).

Dave Brubeck’s Blue Rondo à la Turk introduced me to the delights of 9/8, subdivided here as  ||12|12|12|123|| [x3] plus ||123|123|123||, and I’ve been cutting up and re-ordering odd meter time-signatures ever since. Apparently the pianist heard some Turkish musicians fooling around with that rhythm as he was leaving an Istanbul café, and wrote this rondo around it. From Brubeck’s drummer Joe Morello I wanted that elegant technique, from Max Roach I got the idea that drums were fully musical instruments that could play songs, with Art Blakey I wanted his press roll and thunderous drum sound.

A lot of the jazz we listened to was a blues-drenched soul-jazz, with straight eighths on the cymbal and a back beat, so relatively easy to understand for a kid who had just realised it was going to take a while to be Max Roach. Cannonball Adderley’s Sack o’ Woe had all that and the sound of US jazz clubs, but I was hanging out at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street, London, and heading toward the exciting post-psychedelia of Cream, with – yes – Jack and Ginger reformulated with guitarist Eric Clapton. On I Feel Free, it was the singing as much anything that got me. But get Baker’s drum entry at 0’29”.

Check back in a few days for Part Two!