Blues and beyond

I visited The Blues Kitchen in Camden recently to hear Big Joe Louis and his band. They sounded great and seem to have worked up a new introductory routine. There was a good crowd and, apart from the fact that the pub doesn’t sell bitter, I enjoyed the night out. It was part of a week long festival and it is good to see plenty of people enjoying live blues. I was beginning to become a bit cynical about the current music scene, well perhaps not cynical so much as dispirited, so it was good to be reassured that all is not lost in London. I asked about getting a gig there and was given an email address, to which I responded the next day. So far the only response to my approach has been an email advertising a Rolling Stones memorial night. I always thought you had to be dead for a memorial night to be justified. Perhaps it was a tribute night instead. Still, I’m really bad about responding to emails myself so I live in hope.

The next day I met up with  our guitarist Bernie Pallo who has been having extended cancer treatment. It turns out that his lung cancer had returned and he still has a small shadow which will get more treatment. He also told me that the cancer had spread to the pancreas but that seems to have been dealt with, much to the surprise of the doctors. Bernie is still being the optimist and it was good to see him much more positive and it would be good  to see him playing live again with the band.

Live music of another kind was the object of my next excursion, but it was in the form of the orchestra playing at The Albert Hall accompanying the English National Ballet with the music and lyrics of the Gershwin brothers. The show is called Strictly Gershwin and the whole company, musicians, dancers and production staff did a great job. The conductor, Gareth Valentine, was really animated and enthusiastic. His adaptations of the music was in keeping with the Gershwin originals and highlighted the dancing. There were backdrops of Broadway and Hollywood which added to the feeling. The guest pianist Jonathan Scott did a superlative spot. Another great night out.

My belated education into the higher forms of music continued with a trip to the opera at Glyndebourne. It took almost as long to get to Victoria Train Station on the bus after the Trooping of the Colour as it did to get to Lewes by train. However we got there in time to get a glass of wine before the show opened. The opera was Don Giovanni but with a modern setting or at least a post-war setting. Again I was surprised by how animated the conductor was. The singing was brilliant and the production definitely justified the traditional form of respect to the idiom in the pratice of wearing tie and dinner jackets. Needless to say I didn’t conform though with no intention to downplay the tradition. I did manage to wear a jacket and tie. Gigi did not get a photo, I’m pleased to say.

The other day Jim Mercer phoned me to invite Gigi and I to celebrate his birthday. His partner Norma has been in theatre in Leicester but had a couple of days off so they decided at the last minute to party. We met at Megan’s in New King’s Road where they did the same last year. It’s a great restaurant and we were able to dine al fresco in the garden at the rear. The food and service are really up to scratch and I don’t know why we don’t go there more often. A busy week ended with a trip to a jewellery and design exhibition at Cockpit Arts in Bloomsbury. This a busy centre with many artists and craftspeople with a great policy of encouraging turning  the individual enterprises into successful business.

As it happened that wasn’t my last outing, because on Tuesday last, I dropped in on the Round Midnight pub in Islington and by chance found there was more live blues  I hadn’t realised that they have a blues jam there on Tuesdays so it was just by luck that I was in the area and decided to drop in. There were plenty of jammers but what surprised me most was the choice of material, which had more than a fair share of older and lesser-known blues songs. The place was much more crowded than when I was last there and I’m again feeling more positive about the London blues scene. It’s about time I got my act together again.