Fri 16 November: Celluloid Inspiration LOOKS LIKE JAZZ/BUSTER PLAYS BUSTER
Sat 17 November: The Guest Stars ON FILM, IN CONVERSATION, LIVE PERFORMANCE
(Two nights of live interaction between musicians and film. Chats Palace, London E9 6DF. Preview by Alison Bentley)
What should jazz look like? What should film sound like? Popular guitarist Deirdre Cartright and bassist Alison Rayner are central to both these evenings of jazz and film for the London Jazz Festival. They join drummer Buster Birch on Fri. 16th, to play live jazz to a series of films that he’s put together. The films feature jazz greats (e.g., Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans) -the ‘celluloid inspiration’ comes when the trio plays standards to match the films. Cartwright’s bands always groove, with a great sense of enjoyment and empathy between the musicians. Her take on standards is fun-loving and individual, with influences from John Scofield to Emily Remler.
Part Two of the evening is Buster Birch’s tribute to Buster Keaton. The 45-minute silent film Sherlock Jr. features his quartet playing standards to fit the mood of each scene. For example, Let’s Face the Music and Dance accompanies a slapstick billiards scene, while a love scene is accompanied by Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered. Birch’s quartet features the rich tenor tones of Jo Fooks (formerly with Humphrey Lyttelton), as well as the excellent Jim Treweek on piano and Pete Ringrose on bass.
Sat. 17th features one the most popular jazz bands of the 80s: the iconic (and rare) all-women band, the Guest Stars. Their last tour was in 2004 so this gig is a very special occasion. While hunting out material for the online Women’s Jazz Archive, they unearthed some professionally-made videos that none of them remembered seeing before. Some footage is from early as 1977, as well as interviews and gigs when the band were at their busiest, touring in the 80s.
Their mix of Afro Cuban rhythms, free improv, sparky scat and strong soul vocals still sounds highly original and ahead of its time. Cartwright, Rayner, Josefina Cupido (drums/vocal), Laka Daisical (piano/vocal), Linda da Mango (congas/vocal), and Ruthie Smith (sax/vocal) arranged pieces collectively, with a supportive attitude, and their gigs have a great atmosphere.
When the group disbanded in 1987-8, they felt the band had done its job in a man’s world. As Cartwright says, ‘… it had allowed us women the opportunity to get valuable new experience in music-making.’ Have things improved for women in jazz, she wonders? Jazz college courses nurture female musicians, but how well do they fare in the jazzers’ world of ‘…hanging around, the ad hoc nature of things…’ ? Along with their former manager Debbie Dickinson, they’ll be discussing questions like this at the end of the gig.