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  • Writer's pictureKeiron 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.

  • Writer's pictureKeiron Farrow

I started learning to play the guitar in June 1993, I was ridiculed about my decision for quite some time. All my mates were into rave music, and my girlfriend and my parents didn’t really get it either... Sometimes it pays not to listen. The sarcasm, put downs and sniggers were being drowned out by The Beatles, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Cream and Eddie Cochran. I learnt bar chords in a week, playing ‘Come On Everybody’ on a Spanish guitar strung with heavy gauge strings and an action so high, I could put my hand into the sound hole, to retrieve a plectrum with ease. My biggest ambition in life up to that point had been wanting to be Spiderman. I’d still like to, as my spidey senses are first class. But being a guitar player was, so I thought, more realistic.

The biggest myth about the guitar and perhaps why a lot of people choose to learn, is that it's the top line instrument in any beat combo and as a result, a lot of really famous musicians are guitarists. Which gives the impression that it must be easy. The fact is, that despite its incredible range of sonic possibilities, its power and aesthetic allure, the guitar is a ridiculous instrument to learn. I am yet to encounter any other human activity which requires such odd motor skills. The fretting hand and by extension the arm, are operating upside down causing the neural messages between brain and arm to howl like Jimi’s Marshall stack. It’s uncomfortable in ways a pianist could never fathom. It’s painful; no wonder it's painful for anyone in earshot. All this before the right hand/arm starts windmilling…

All this being said, perhaps that’s why my obsession is so strong. What you put into the guitar, you always get back. Granted, I’ve realised that this is true of other instruments and yet it's still all about the guitar for me, to the point that it feels like an extension of who I am. Playing guitar is incredibly intimate, because it has to be held so close to the body, it's all about touch and feel. Certain chords have become so integral, E Augmented is definitely the chord that sounds most like me. More recently, I have become so enamoured by Open C Tuning because of the depth and resonance it creates. It puts me in a state of being that for me, Vipassana, Kundalini and Transcendental meditation have been unable to match.

Playing the guitar is such a valuable metaphor for living, in terms of how to focus effort in order to attain a sense of achievement, communication and collaboration. It is also massively humbling: you are always at the beginning. I can recall the first time I came across a video of Paco De Lucia playing Entre Dos Aguas and it made me want to literally burn my guitar and exclaim “What’s the point?”. I’ve experienced dozens of these instances, as I’m sure many other players have. But then, something kicks in and I carry on. And if I stick with it, I reckon one day I could be, at a push, a decent guitarist.

  • Writer's pictureKeiron Farrow

I’ve always had a thing for trees. Well, it's a bit more than that really. They captivate me; I feel a sense of safety and protection when I’m surrounded by them. I can feel their living presence in the way one might be aware of others in a crowd or queue. Ever since I was small, there has always been a silent sense of recognition between us. I know this qualifies me as a ‘Tree Hugger’ and yes, I admit it, often I’ve wandered up to a tree in Abington Park (there’s a huge gnarled Beech that springs to mind) and run my hands along the skin, excuse me, bark.

I can distinctly recall cycling to work one morning just before my son was born and seeing what I call a ‘Mother Nature Moment’. On the edge of Nene Water Centre stands two mature Horse Chestnut trees and as I drew parallel with them on this particular cloudy, autumnal day, I saw a cluster of conkers suddenly skydive from the upper boughs and clatter onto the bonnet of a silver Mercedes SKL250; before scattering on the pavement and road. Firstly it made me chuckle and then feel like I’d seen a sort of miracle…I started to think about who lets go of who, is it the family tree or do the chestnuts know when it's their time? And their fate, to lay on concrete rotting, or to be pulverised by Pirellis. No chance to grow. I began to consider my imminent parenthood: the decisions I would have to make on behalf of my child; how much I could positively influence and protect and how much of the world they would have to navigate by themself one day…

In the last year or so I’ve become familiar with the work of Henry David Thoreau; finally, I’d found someone else who felt the force of a forest. His observations of the natural world and in particular trees are sublime. He talks about how they can stand for hundreds of years and they achieve this by knowing when to resist and when to accept change: how they sway so they don’t crack and fall. Which, I suppose is a pretty sound metaphor for the times we live in as much as Thoreau’s.

For me though, Howard Nemerov said it best in the poem ‘Trees’

“To be a giant and keep quiet about it,

To stay in one’s own place;

To stand for the constant presence of process

And always to seem the same;

To be as steady as a rock and always trembling,

Having the hard appearance of death

With the soft, fluent nature of growth…”

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