Special Feature:
Jan Ponsford On A Gig At The Klinker Club At The Olive, Stoke Newington High Street, London N16, Tuesday 5th February 2013, And On Free Improv

Rainlore's World invited jazz singer extraordinaire Jan Ponsford to chat freely and without interruption about the above! This she did excellently shortly after the gig, and here is the result to delight us all.
Edited 2013/03/01

At The Klinker Club At The Olive, Stoke Newington High Street, London N16, Tuesday 5th February 2013

Nothing like a gig to get a bit of energy back!

No legs broken, although steep stairs down to basement below The Olive, a nice little Turkish restaurant with friendly staff, and a boss lady that's far out enough to allow an acoustic free improvisation club in her basement!

We kicked off at about 9ish. This time Frances and I as a duo without the full band (wages and venue size not really permitting). The multi-talented Frances Knight played bandoneón and I sang, without lyrics, exploring laryngeal possibilities! We did a short but sweet free improvised set (lovely to get together again). We were followed by John Wade reciting his self-penned poem Slag Heaps Of My Youth, about his Nottinghamshire roots and how planners decided to 'hide' the blood, sweat and tears efforts of miners by covering the slag heaps with    grass,   trees   and   gorse,  thereby     prettying  up
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the landscape and 'disappearing' history. Then, after a short break on came the Cross Dressing Violin Quartet featuring Sylvia Hallett, Sue Ferrar, Julia Doyle - who, despite knowing Julia years, but always as a double bassist, I never knew played violin - and last but not least quartet member Dylan Bates as Linda Beast - his anagram and other self, befrocked Hinge and Bracket style, whilst Sylvia, Sue and Julia sported stick on beards and moustaches. This quartet's music was rich, very textural, what I term as 3-D, like you can step into it, as in other worlds, indeed preferable to the wet, cold 'real world' of Stoke Newington High Street on this night.

This dingy basement on-the-door venue is run by good devoted chaps Matt and Hugh (sadly Hugh was off due to a bad back, having lifted a piano, on his own by all accounts!). Hugh has run the Klinker Club for improvised music for 30 years. Now that's devotion, especially when there are always more musicians playing than audience members, so no big earner there! However, it's the steaming cauldron of art music, where some of the most inventive stuff is birthed. Free improvised music has always been musicians' music, and not for the want of the musicians trying to encourage audiences.

...And On Free Improv

Many moons ago the Pied Bull in Islington (now a branch of Halifax plc) had a Sunday lunchtime free improvised music session, where I often played with the likes of trumpeter Jim Dvorak and friends (often to a very small audience. Oh well, quality not quantity!). New Zealand barmaid Marie, who worked there at the time, hated doing that shift. So, being devil's advocate, I asked her why? 'Because this is what they do!' she said, and started messing about on the piano, making what seemed unrelated, bonkers sounds. Intending to show just what a load of old rubbish free improvised music was she got quite stuck in. Quietly, almost surreptitiously, one by one the musicians gently joined in. An hour later, when the music had subsided, Marie, beaming and flushed with the enjoyment of playing, looked round from the piano and said 'Oh! Now I get it!' Having tried to prove a point, like the chap that tried to disprove astrology and in doing so proved its merits more and more, Marie was now convinced that free improvisation is most definitely music.

And that's it I guess. Free improvised music means getting involved, work in progress, communicating, either by partaking or truly listening if an audience member, and not just letting something predictable wash over you. It's why most people say they don't like jazz, because they don't get involved in truly listening, when stepping into 3-D sound. Jazz is slightly more acceptable than free improvisation because rather like an aural safety net for the public jazz has the underpinning of chord sequences, recognisable rhythms, and mostly uses the 'classical' system of notes, albeit woven into the not so familiar to the average ear modes. Any improvisation gets cushioned for the less adventurous ear by this 'safety net', but it still demands involvement, and most people don't want to have to do that. Being washed over with the predictable is what people want. Everything else is just too much like hard work! But, it's that 'work' that leads to the ultimate high and understanding. Marie had an 'enlightenment' experience. Once you've had that there's no turning back. You can't unsee what you've seen, or in the case of sound, unhear.

Anyway, that's my plug in favour of free improvised gigs! Next stop will be the Jan Ponsford Quartet gig party, playing  socially  more  acceptable  sounds,  as  in  actual


tunes with lyrics and something you can tap your feet to! Venue/times/dates to be announced. The forthcoming evening will also feature music archivist Tim, who will dj (presently seeking suitable Dansette record player or similar to play sounds on, which will be mic-ed up through PA).

Tim is now gathering archive material about our dear departed Lol Coxhill. Looking through Lol's amazing and important record collection Tim came across a 1958 EP of the Dick Heckstall-Smith Quartet. At that time Dick would have been a student at Cambridge (I've seen old pics of him from the time wearing the ubiquitous chunky framed specs, uni scarf and duffle coat). As typical there's no mention of who the trio members are, but I reckon the pianist is likely to be dead but not forgotten Lionel Grigson (he who started the Jazz course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, thereby making Jazz almost 'respectable'! But, do we wanna be? As an aside...... Lionel insisted everyone who taught on the course there, or any part of it, was referred to as Professor, and given the same status as the classical educators there. I was amused when a small pay cheque arrived, for some teaching I'd done for said course, addressed to Professor J. Ponsford. Respectable at last!).
As for the bassist and drummer on Dick's early EP, Frances is going to ask saxophonist Paul Zec (son of old Fleet Street journalist Donald Zec). Sometimes Frances and Paul gig together, and Paul was at Cambridge at the same time as Dick, so probably knows who the other guys were on that recording, as back then at Cambridge there was a small gang of Jazz fans, in their duffle coats, with thick rimmed specs, hunched over a turntable soaking up Charlie Parker, each working like demons on perfecting their musical prowess. I'm honoured that as a slip of a gal (by the time I was on the scene they were all bald and old enough to be dad) I had the opportunity to work with these guys, because now, sadly, they're going up to that big gig in the sky. It's great there are people who are gathering the info of their lives, and can save their amazing record collections of the genius that went before them and taught us all. Hopefully forthcoming party night should prove fun and educational if Tim can find the suitable machine in order to play a fine selection from Lol's prized 45s, 33s and 78s.

© 2013 Jan Ponsford. All rights reserved.

Wow, what a fascinating story - thank you so much for sharing this with us Jan! I wonder if Marie stayed actively involved in free improv. It can be such a liberating experience.

And I'm sure we're all looking forward to the Jan Ponsford Quartet Gig Party, thick, dark-rimmed glasses, roll neck jumpers and duffel coats at the ready!

© 2013 Rainlore's World/Rainlore. All rights reserved.

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