Music

McCoy Tyner, 1938-2020

The jazz pianist, composer and bandleader McCoy Tyner has died aged 81. Best known as a member of the “classic” John Coltrane Quartet between 1960 and 1965, in a career of over 50 years Tyner developed one of the most influential styles of modern jazz piano and produced a wide range of varied yet distinctive music. Tyner grew up in Philadelphia where there was a thriving jazz scene in the 50s. He started learning piano when he was 13 and had some classical training. He first met Coltrane in 1957 and they developed a friendship and musical understanding despite more than ten years age...

Diary: My Grab

There are two cranes at work which are used to continuously load waste from the pit into the furnace. Each crane grab looks like a bit like a fuchsia flower suspended from the roof, with four “petals” that carry the rubbish in 40 tonne hauls. D, the fitter I have been having arguments with, has just moved from a contracted company that Veolia hired to service the crane grabs. His speciality is hydraulic systems. We both put on white disposable overalls over our usual overalls; plus dust masks, hoods, disposable gloves and the usual head and eye protection, then switch the crane into “Remote”...

Is Drill really killing people?

Bing. You have one new WhatsApp message — “What you up to?” asks one of my friends, “Nothing. Watching Drill videos”, I reply. Drill eh? Isn’t that the music that literally kills you? I’ve heard it literally comes out of the headphones and stabs you as you listen to it.” The joke lands well. I find it funny mostly because it plays right in to all the preconceived notions I already have about this Drill debate. As far as I’m concerned, the war on Drill music is just another in a long line of moralistic, oversimplified, sensationalised, outrage campaigns designed to sell papers to an...

Workers' Liberty summer camp 2019

Fifty friends and supporters of Workers’ Liberty gathered in the hills of West Yorkshire for our annual summer camp on 8-11 August. Although storms were forecast, socialists of all ages enjoyed wild swimming in a nearby waterfall, hiking, trips on the canals and steam railways of the surrounding valleys, football, and our annual pub quiz and talent show. Longtime socialist Bruce Robinson ran a presentation on African Jazz; we learned about the history of Esperanto in the European workers’ movement; and we enjoyed talks from Deliveroo strikers, Nama’a al-Mahdi the Sudanese revolutionary...

Blues Power

Right-wing politicians always have great difficulty trying to get support from anyone with artistic integrity. In the Thatcher era, when numerous talented musicians sang up for the Labour cause under the banner of Red Wedge, all the Tories could cobble together were talentless tosh like Vince Hill, Jim Davidson and Mrs Mopp. Similarly, the Trump Presidency from the world of showbiz have been decidedly threadbare. Apart from the odd aged crooner or obscure country artist, the chief White House favourite has been the despicable Ted Nugent – NRA nut and serial slayer of North American wildlife...

Dirty Old Town

A vast number of popular singers have by now recorded Ewan McColl’s song “Dirty Old Town.” Luke Kelly, Liam Clancy, Esther Offarim, The Pogues, Rod Stewart (in Las Vegas!), Paddy Reilly, Van Morrison, Roger Whittaker, Julie Felix, and many others. It is sung by Manchester United supporters at football matches. (Salford is part of Manchester). It is a good song, I think. It was made in 1949 for performance at London’s Unity Theatre, an ancillary organisation of the British Communist Party (CP). I met my love, By the gas works wall. Dreamed a dream, By the old canal… I heard a siren, From the...

Hugh Masekela 1939-2018

South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela died aged 79 on 23 January following a recurrence of prostate cancer. He was famous internationally for his playing and singing; for blending South African musical styles with jazz and pop; and as a prominent anti-apartheid activist. Born in Witbank, a mining town near Johannesburg, Masekela started his musical career in a school run by the British anti-apartheid priest Trevor Huddleston. After seeing a biopic about jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke, he agreed to stop getting into trouble at school in exchange for learning the trumpet. He then became part of...

A soundtrack for the movement against Trump

Found dead people in the forest Tallahatchie River and lakes The whole wide world is wonderin’ What’s wrong with the United States What’s wrong indeed! Lyrics from the Staples Singer’s Freedom Highway recorded twenty five years ago still resonate. It’s now the closing track on the second solo album of Rhiannon Giddens. Her latest collection of songs lay bare the condition of Afro-Americans from slavery days to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Although the thoroughly reactionary Trump regime trumpets the “threat of terrorism”, the black population of North America has lived in a state of terror...

Real soldiers do feel sad

Last week saw the drop of Stormzy’s debut album Gang Signs and Prayer . Whilst the whole album is beautiful, brave and ambitious, it’s a bit of a grower and maybe not what most grime fans were expecting. It deals with themes of black identity, love and spirituality in a way mostly unheard in grime before. One track, the final one, above all others, has been causing waves. Lay me down is a heartbreaking, complexed ode to depression. The track is not just about Stormzy’s experience with mental illness, but also the underlying pain of being from a working-class background in London; of growing up...

100 years of jazz on record

It was fortunate for both jazz and the phonograph industry that their emergence co-incided: the improvisational music that is jazz was caught in its early days by the phonograph, and jazz repaid the industry a million times over in sales of music that owed its existence to early jazz. It is generally accepted that the first jazz records were made in New York on 26 February, 1917. The band was the Original Dixieland Jazz (or “Jass”) Band from New Orleans, and the records were Livery Stable Blues and Dixie Jass Band One-Step, which were released as the two sides of a 78 rpm record on 7 March...

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.