• Keiron Farrow

Before the Fab Four turned on my aspirations to play guitar, my instrument of choice was always the saxophone. To my ears, in any tune that utilises it, the sax always appears to be breaking free from the rest of the band. Yet at the same time, lifting the other musicians and of course the listener to somewhere transcendent. John Coltrane wasn’t canonised for the fun of it!

My folks were big fans of Jr Walker & The All Stars, so the sound of sax made sense very early on. When my sister and I occasionally slept the night at my Aunt’s house, we were allowed to stay up and watch Cagney & Lacey. The solo sax break at the start of the theme tune, made my head spin! Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford for me to have a gleaming tenor of my own and the schools I went to didn't offer lessons on the curriculum.

It’s occurred to me a few times to perhaps look at what’s going on Marketplace, pick one up and maybe start learning. I could find a bridge and rekindle the myth of Sonny Rollins for Northamptonshire....In the meantime here’s some of my fav tracks with sax to indulge and immerse yourself in.

Spotify link.

Sonny Rollins - Strode Rode

Ray Warleigh - At The Chime Of A City Clock (Nick Drake)

Jr Walker & The All Stars - Shotgun

Ben Webster - Sophisticated Lady (Billie Holiday)

Brian Travers - Food For Thought (UB40)

Nubya Garcia - The Message Continues

Lester Young - Ad Lib Blues

Tommy McCook - Silver Dollar (The Skatalites)

Kamasi Washington - Leroy & Lanisha

Chelsea Carmichael - Want Me (Puma Blue)

  • Keiron Farrow

Apparently, Art Blakey once said that “Opinions are like arseholses, everyone’s got one…”

One night, in Suzie Q’s (a night club in Daventry) at what was called back in the day a junior disco; the opinionated, gobshite fourteen year old me, narrowly escaped lumps from an equally opinionated seventeen year old. All because I dared to suggest that The La’s were way better than The Stone Roses. Not that I didn’t love the Roses: when ‘The Second Coming’ came out in 94, it felt like I was the only person in the world who dug it. The music press was scathing and no one in my immediate universe was remotely interested either. And by that time, The La’s were already the stuff of folklore.

Despite any misgivings Lee Mavers may still harbour, the album that stumbled into the light in 1990, is still for me, far and away one of the greatest releases of my lifetime. The spartan yet protean backing, always evolving as anyone who listens to the BBC album will attest. The drawl and sneer in Lee’s vocals as he delivers his lyrics with a conviction that I think was missing until Liam Gallagher. And above all, most importantly, those songs. One aspect of The La’s tunes that inspires me endlessly is their brevity: Son of A Gun, clocks in at 1:56, Feelin’ at 1:44. Songs so emotionally and musically ‘there’, it’s almost unbelievable that so much can be conveyed in under two minutes. Learning they were big fans of early rock n roll, I can hear how they mined the seam that runs through Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran on to early efforts by The Fab Four. Whilst being a ‘beat combo’ in the classic 60’s sense, their song arrangements are anything but ‘trad arr’. The most obvious example being There She Goes, which is essentially a repeated chorus: like a house tune with the structure of a folk song!?

In some ways it’s a shame that The La’s dwell in the ‘cult following’ category of popular music and some ways not. As they never ‘made it’, I’ve been able to hold onto them in a way that makes them like mine and mine only. In a way that I know fans of The Verve would love to have.

Perhaps if I’d been able to state my case as I have here, I wouldn’t have ruined that lad’s night out...Then again, no one likes a smart arse.

  • Keiron Farrow

As a rule I don’t really go in for statistics, numbers, points etc. I imagine that Lee Morgan didn’t either. Lee Morgan died aged thirty three in 1972. He was shot whilst on stage at a club, Slugs’ Saloon, in New York. Between 1956 and 1972, Lee played on one hundred and fourteen albums. Thirty one as a band leader. Most of which were committed to tape during Blue Note Records’s halcyon era.

During a radio interview shortly after Lee’s death, Miles Davis no less, had this to say:

“Lee Morgan was the baddest trumpet player out there. Badder than Diz, badder than me.”

The sound of Lee Morgan blowing horn, first became important to me when I heard his break on the track ‘Locomotion’ from John Coltrane’s album ‘Blue Train’. I’d just started digging into jazz after watching Spike

Lee’s film ‘Mo Better Blues’. At that point, I was still trying to get my head around what Jimmy Page and Robert Johnson were playing... Lee Morgan was the first time I encountered real virtuosity. His playing seemed to soar over the entire band, shimmering with bold invention and total command as a player; whilst simultaneously reaching for something beyond himself. It was like hearing the essence of his being. He was nineteen years old when Coltrane cut that album

Looking back at the nineteen year old version of myself, I was, I suppose like many in their late teens, on hedonistic autopilot. Living and charging ahead without reflection on anything outside my immediate experience. I often think that perhaps this is why, for many, reaching thirty and beyond can be a time of personal doubt. Our triumphs and travails tend to have become a back catalogue; causing us to be more cautious in the way we navigate the world.

I’m sure Lee had moments of doubt too. His personal life, like that of so many musicians, has been claimed by our culture as another mythical tale of the tragic artist. Lee Morgan’s power as an artist however, never diminished. Even now, it remains pristine. Pulsing effortlessly with that rare balance of talent, technical mastery, sheer determination and above all else soul. For me, the mythical lies in those elements. Hearing Lee Morgan play leaves me awestruck with every listen, and inspired to keep on with my own search.