Sunday 2 June 2019

And His Mother Called Him Timothy

There is a crisis behind the scenes shortly before the commencement of Manchester Jazz Society’s tribute to Tim Stenhouse, hosted and presented by Mike Butler (the present writer). The building work going on next door to The Unicorn has been blocking the pub’s wi-fi, which means the Spotify playlist I’ve compiled to illustrate extracts from Tim’s critical writings is useless. This happily turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Gone is all the funereal music, justified by Tim’s passion for ECM and intended to inculcate profound feelings about life and death. The balance shifts towards the members – it was anyway a members' choice – who have each brought in a piece of music on CD in memory of Tim, all of it swinging and life-affirming. And I am forced to improvise, which is never a bad thing, and in keeping with the spirit of the music. The evening opens with a personal memory... 

We developed the habit, when Tim and I both attended MJS, of walking to Piccadilly together at the end of the evening. I would give him a hand with his shopping bags – he did his weekly grocery shop in town before MJS, and so he had a lot of bags – and we would amiably chat until his bus came. It was the Irlam bus, I think. Note the haziness. Tim was a friend, but I didn’t know that much about his private life. He was happier to talk about what was going on in my life, or more likely Eva’s life, or about world events or his latest discoveries and enthusiasms. 

His life was strictly compartmentalised – the word frequently came up at his funeral. What we learned about Tim when the pieces at last began to fall together was a revelation. But by then, I cared deeply, and when I walked with him to the bus station, I was, I think, complacent. I took his sweetness for granted. Tim was too amiable. I recall, in an old jazz magazine, a journalist pressing Steve Lacy to admit that Anthony Braxton was “too European”. Lacy replied that everyone was too something, until it was too late. 

I’ll structure the tribute around extracts from Tim’s scattered emails to me and Eva and excerpts from his prolific reviews for the UK Vibe website, which I dipped into for the first time for the purposes of the present tribute. Their breadth is amazing. They range from funky fusion to spiritual jazz, and take in the sweep of jazz history and related musics from across the globe. He covered a lot of ground. 

November 19, 2018 

...As far as MJS is concerned, the forthcoming ‘Music to play at your own funeral’, does have a morbid undercurrent, but I explained to Peter at the funeral (the funeral of our dear member Frank Gibson) that I had not thought about any selection since I am not planning on departing any time soon! However, I will dedicate a tune or two to Frank, with some Hank Mobley selections. 

Note, he's thinking about Frank, not of himself, which is typical. He didn’t specify the track, so I’ve chosen ‘This I Dig Of You’, because it finds Mobley at his peak, and the title is apt… 

Hank Mobley, ‘This I Dig Of You’

Aug 7, 2017

France is undergoing major political change and I watched a fascinating BBC Parliament special last night on the French elections. I also saw a terrific, but chilling first part of a series on the secrets of Silicon Valley. The new Apple headquarters is a monstrosity and the dystopia they and others are creating is worrying to say the least and, whether we like it or not, we are all going to be on the receiving end.

On the other hand… 

Dec 6, 2017

I had some wonderful news this morning. My younger cousin and daughter of my mum's sister, Catherine, gave birth to a baby son. A lovely time of year to have a new addition to the family.

Robert Reader introduces ‘Parisian Thoroughfare’, in honour of Tim’s love of France. He fondly imagines Tim on the streets of Paris, relaxed, confident of the language and at home. This version is by Le Jazz Groupe de Paris, comprising Jean Liesse and Roger Guerin (trumpets), Nat Peck (trombone), Jean Algedon (also sax), George Grenu (tenor sax), Armand Migani (baritone sax), Fats Sadi (vibes), Pierre Michelot (bass), Christian Garros (drums), with Andre Hodeir as arranger and musical director. It was recorded June 26, 1956, in Paris, and originally issued on LP Vega 30 572. 

July 15, 2016 

Truly awful events to witness on television/online last night after a very enjoyable MJS. Nice was not only celebrating Bastille Day, but also the Nice Jazz Festival was on at the same time. 

Tim is talking about the events of the preceding evening when a 19-tonne cargo truck was driven into crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, resulting in the deaths of 86 people and the injury of 458 others.

Alan Brown, who like myself has attended Nice Jazz Festival (maybe others too), will know that the Promenade des Anglais is just a ten to fifteen minute journey to the Roman arena situated part way up a hill where the main festival events take place and therefore it is highly likely that many people would make their way down to the ‘Prom’ as it is affectionately known, to witness celebrations. The town centre is relatively compact and leads directly onto the Prom itself.

Music has the capacity to unite and bring together seemingly disparate individuals who may on the surface have little in common and with jazz being a predominately, though by no means exclusively instrumental music form, it can and does cut across languages, nationalities religions and ethnicities. All the more pity, then, that the festival should be cancelled, but security is understandably uppermost in the authorities’ minds. Nonetheless, jazz has always had a revolutionary ethos, historically countering totalitarianism of all types, and to continue to listen to music is in itself an act of resistance to those dark forces who seek to impose their distorted vision of a religion upon us. Jazz has regularly combined with the music and peoples of other cultures to create something new in the process and long may it continue.

Liberté, fraternité, égalité.


Alan Brown talks about Nice Jazz Festival and introduces ‘Goodbye’ by Bill Evans… 

“My selection considering the circumstance is Bill Evans’ recording with Shelly Manne and Eddie Gomez of ‘Goodbye’ from the album Empathy.” 

Andy Smith introduces ‘A Perfect Day’ by Bobby Cole. “I enjoyed the Thursday chats with Tim regarding our record collections and more to the point, the records we didn't have which were what we called ‘Holy Grails’. Difficult and expensive LPs to obtain but always worth hunting for.” It comes from a Gilles Peterson compilation CD. The original is as elusive as ever.  

Jan 19, 2017:

I have not forgotten that tomorrow is Trump’s crowning. What an awful prospect. I saw a documentary on his family and now I realise why he is such a major league asshole. His father has to be seen to be believed. He looks part werewolf, part mad and demented Nazi scientist and that flatters him. His mother has the weirdest hair-do imaginable and his own hairstyle comes right from her. His father had an utterly ruthless and ambitious streak and regularly tested the outer limits of what was strictly legal. Is this resonating with the Trump of today? I did not know he had three wives. Ivana is exactly what you might expect: a gold digger in search of a numbskull whose only goal is making tonnes of money at the expense of others.    

Well I am making my way over to the pub for the jazz. We are also going to discuss how we attract younger members. You must be the youngest member we had last year. (This was written to Eva, not me, by the way.) 

I am currently listening to some early French music performed by Jordi Savall (I love his group Hisperion XX and his wife is gorgeous too!)

Cuidate y hasta pronto…

Jordi Savall, ‘Chanson et Danse’ from La Sublime Porte

Matthew Thompson introduces ‘El Paso de Encarnacion’… “My contribution, reflecting Tim’s family connection to Ireland and interest in Caribbean and Latin American music, is a live recording by the Conor Guilfoyle Cuban Jazz Quartet at the University of Cork in 2007, featuring the Cuban pianist Vladimir Karell, Andrew Csibi on bass, Ed McGuinn congas and Conor Guilfoyle drums, of the Cuban song ‘El Paso de Encarnacion’.”

Sid Toole introduces ‘Ska-Ra-Van’ by The Skatalites. Says Sid, “Tim had a very wide definition of jazz, and I remember coming to one of his recitals, called ‘Jazz Jamaica’ expecting it to be about Gary Crosby’s band Jazz Jamaica, only to find that he was in fact to be talking about what I regarded as Jamaican Ska music! Tim sometimes seemed to cross over the lines between jazz and other styles of music in his recitals. In tribute I’d like to play something which may not quite cross the line, but hits the line between jazz and ska bang in the middle. I’ve chosen a track by the great Rastafarian composer Juan Tizol. It’s called ‘Ska-Ra-Van’ and was recorded by the Skatalites. I believe Duke Ellington also recorded a version. The track features ‘Dizzy’ Moore on trumpet, Roland Alphonso on tenor and the great Don Drummond on trombone.”

Tim went further than most in Stopping the World – And Listen to Everything in It. He was an omnivorous listener, and always open to new sounds. He didn’t recognise an arbitrary datum-line separating good jazz from bad jazz. He didn’t recognise geographical boundaries. For Tim music was an Eden that covered the planet, and the Fall had never taken place. Musically speaking, that is. Politically, it was a different matter. 

Pete Caswell, our esteemed chair, welcomes 18 MJS members and seven guests. He asks the guests to introduce themselves…

“I am Mike Booth, and I was in the same year at Eccles College as Tim. I was in Tim’s tutor group and sat next to him in A Level classes for both French and History, though his skills and knowledge subsequently far surpassed mine. We also shared a love of a wide variety of musical styles, from Reggae, ska, Latin and African music to Jazz in many forms, though again I was always astounded by the width and breadth of his knowledge in music. He would regularly turn up unannounced at our doorstep in Chorlton, clutching several plastic bags of vinyl and cds and as he didn’t have a computer, I became his unofficial copying service, so we would sit and listen to his latest acquisitions and he often gave me his recommended selections. He introduced me to Blue Note and I think a lot of South American and Latin music, as well as French chansons and a variety of African and World music. Every now and again, I would introduce him to some gap in his knowledge - from Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, to Orchestre Baobab from Africa or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. 

“Tim was an extraordinary character who managed to love the life he lived, despite many potential obstacles and was in the happy position of following his passions most of his time. His passion and enthusiasm about a wide range of topics was a great quality and we will miss him hugely.”  

Mike’s wife, Claire Donoghue, says that Tim introduced her to some lovely French music, including Henri Salvador. They also enjoyed a Celtic connection with their shared roots in Scotland and Ireland.

“I am David Walton and I am married to Helen. I met Tim at Eccles Sixth Form college where we studied A Levels. Tim had been at Winton High. Susan, Mike, Adam and I had been at Moorside High. He was therefore a friend of ours for over forty years. He came to our weddings and he was part of our yearly gatherings which often centred around Cup Finals and World Cups.   

“Tim coached both our boys (Alex and Dan) for their GCSE French oral exams, and particularly assisted Daniel for his A Level History exam. Tim didn’t need notes (he remembered what he had been taught in 1980/81). On a couple of occasions, he stayed over and, in the morning, turned Dan’s bedroom into a fully functioning examination room. Question papers were turned face down, only pens and pencils were allowed and the whole thing was timed. At the end the papers were marked and graded.

“When Adam, Mike and I were inter railing in Europe we had agreed to meet up with Tim in Germany where he was working in the kitchens of a huge hotel. We had no money and were looking forwards to being thoroughly fed and watered at the hotel, thinking that Tim could ‘pull a few strings’. In the event he just wasn’t on the same wavelength. We had a lovely chat with him, I think he managed to get some orange cordial out to us – but that was about it. That night we had lost our tent in a fierce storm. We left Tim in the splendid comfort of his hotel wonderfully oblivious to our plight.

“Whatever Tim chose to immerse himself in he became very knowledgeable about. Everyday stuff like DIY, gardening , financial planning weren’t of any interest to him. Music, politics, sport, European and World culture were what interested him. He could, for example, talk in detail about domestic and world football as well as anyone I have ever met. He supported Manchester United and he came to Old Trafford to watch them play as well as often coming to school games where he would watch Dan and Alex.

“My family and I have never know anyone quite like Tim and I doubt we will do so again. There will be people we know and meet who share some of his traits but never somebody who could become so focussed and knowledgeable about matters that he had personally selected for himself. He lived amidst a back drop of tragedy and ‘life stresses’ that would have floored most people. Tim had the capacity to focus on other matters and in that way, to live most days to his order, not to the order of others. We will all miss him.”

Susan Grant and Tim were in the same German class at Eccles Sixth form college, 1980-1982. Tim went on to study French at the UEA and Susan went on to study languages at the University of Bradford. “However my memories of Tim are more recent with trips to the Met here in Bury where Tim introduced Ross and I to a wide variety of music, which left to our own devices we would not have even considered. Some examples are Vent du Nord and the Good Lovelies, and there are no doubt others to obscure to remember. Tim was unique and he has left a distinct hole in all our lives.” 

Ross Grant recalls that he and Tim were at UEA at the same time but somehow never managed to cross paths there. 

Adam Sharman was another of the European inter-railers, and has travelled far to be here: he is Associate Professor in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at Nottingham University. 

Second half

Mike hands over to Bruce Robinson… 

Bruce: “I have chosen three varied tracks, each of which relates to something Tim wrote. The last communication I had from Tim was a Facebook message that simply stated without any explanation: ‘Errol Garner has never seemingly been more popular with a younger generation. And yet Nat Cole is almost forgotten as a pianist with the general (and younger) public.’ 

Surprisingly this was accompanied by a video clip not, as one might expect, of Nat King Cole but rather of Erroll Garner. So I’ll start with a track that demonstrates Nat’s piano chops. From 1944, George Gershwin’s song ‘Liza’

“The second track was inspired by the knowledge that Tim was preparing to give a recital on Hugh Masekela. If I was superstitious, I’d think it was spooky. I picked a track from his recording with the band Union of South Africa called ‘Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive’. Later I read Tim’s review of a boxed set of Masekela’s late 60s to early 70s albums. He wrote ‘There are a few surprising omissions from the recordings that are covered here. In particular, from 1971, why leave out the terrific ‘Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive’?’ That’s either telepathy or we just share a taste for good music.

“Finally, I drew on Tim’s musical autobiography on UK Vibe. 

‘The early 1980s was a period of intense listening and discoveries… Like many, I initially started with jazz fusion (Herbie Hancock, Fuse One), but quickly developed a passion for Brazilian jazz fusion with George Duke’s ‘A Brazilian Love Affair’ a seminal recording. This opened my ears to a whole new sphere of influence and directly led on to other discoveries from Elis Regina and Tania Maria to the more esoteric hues of Hermeto Pascoal.’ 

“Accordingly, my final track was a live version of one of Tania Marias best known tunes ‘Yatra Ta’.

“I will also pay tribute to Tim in my next two recitals, particularly the one on Michel Legrand where, had he still been with us, he would doubtless have contributed information from his vast, vast knowledge of French culture. He will be missed.”

Alas, music appreciation amounts to very little in the world’s account (continues Mike Butler). It doesn’t add to wealth creation like fracking, banking, property speculation, rent-seeking and war. If he had followed any of these pursuits, Tim might have been wealthier and perhaps even ennobled in the House of Lords. As it was, he held out for civilised values and tried to make the world a better place through creative endeavour…

Sept 12, 2018

I volunteered to do some work with a theatre production company. The playwright explained to me his dream to turn a play set in Moss Side about an individual facing moral dilemmas and we have been working on an adaptation and putting in a bid to the BFI. At uni I wrote and directed a film in French with a BBC Look East cameraman and have always wanted to write and direct again. My role on this, if it does materialise, may be more consultative (especially the music soundtrack), but it has spurred my creative juices to write a film screenplay about a journey from Ireland to Manchester, inspired in part by my grandmother, but taking artistic liberties along the way. I have for six months or so been following cinema masterclasses with a professional film critic and learning an awful lot about the history of cinema…  

Eddie Little introduces ‘Minor’s Holiday’ by Kenny Dorham 

Alan Nuttall introduces ‘Five, Four and Three’ by Lee Konitz. 

“The first time I had any real dealings with Tim was through the Jack Kinsey bequeath,” says Alan. “It was made quite clear that whatever you received, you had to collect from the people holding your selection, not them delivering to you.  After more than ten emails from Tim, all with different arrangements, none of them mentioning coming to my house.  This became a bone of contention.

“When he eventually came to my house, to collect the records, he arrived already weighed down with a rucksack and several shopping bags, and he left with three more of those large, strong, supermarket shopping bags, full of recordings.  I felt terrible.  I helped him to the bus stop, feeling dreadful, guilty.  I kept thinking I should have gone in my car and delivered the records to his home.  I’ve done it for others, why not him? 

“From that moment on Tim showed me nothing but kindness.  We exchanged records.  For all his knowledge and intensiveness there was an extreme innocence.  I remember going to his house with some CDs. He was not in, so I posted them through the letterbox.  Later he thanked me and said, “And they were posted from Italy!”  I said no, they were in an old jiffy bag with an Italian address on it!

“The music I have chosen is from a CD that Tim gave me. It is Spiritual Jazz Volume 4 - Americans In Europe.  The track is ‘Five, Four and Three’ by Lee Konitz (track 2, CD2). The line-up is Lee Konitz on alto saxophone, varitone, flute, Enrico Rava on trumpet, Franco D’Andrea on piano, Giovanni Tommaso on bass and Gegè Munari on drums. It was recorded in Italy in 1968.” 

One channel is out during the play, and Konitz and Rava can’t be heard at all. Alan rises from his chair, walks to the CD player and jiggles some wires in the back. The full sound is marvellously restored for perhaps the last half minute of the performance. 

“Oh dear, do you want me to play it again?” I offer. 

“No, it’s alright,” says Alan, magnanimously. 

Bruce, taking advantage of the interval, is now able to access some of my Spotify selections direct from his smart phone, so I can partially revert to my planned playlist and original script.

Cutting across language, nationality and discipline appealed to Tim. This, from his UK Vibe review of Out of the Underground 1958-1967: Jazz in Polish Cinema, a four CD set, gives a glimpse of an engrossing record recital that might have been, ‘Jazz in Polish Cinema’…

June 10, 2015
Arguably, the best known of the films, and by extension the best known music soundtrack, is the early Roman Polanski film, Knife in the Water, with its fantastic black and white print. From this, Ballad for Bernt’ by Krzysztof Komeda from 1962 is a wonderful piece of acoustic jazz that is akin in some respects to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver from a decade and a half later… 

Krzysztof Komeda, ‘Ballad for Bernt’ 

This, from Tim’s review on UK Vibe.…

Bavarian label, MPS, rightly prided itself on its superb sound quality and captured some of the key American and European jazz musicians at their peak. The label went one step further and recorded some gems of Brazilian music. Unquestionably, one of the jewels in the crown is this superlative recording that is one of the finest examples of Afro-Brazilian music with a strong jazz bent ever laid down in a studio setting. It certainly helped that it was recorded in Rio de Janeiro with the cream of Brazilian musicians. These included the great Milton Banana on drums, Copinha on flute and a significantly enhanced percussive section that featured three specialists and another two musicians doubling up. The varied set has a strong emphasis on Afro-Brazilian grooves and this contrasts with the more reflective side of the leader…

The artist is Baden Powell, the album is Tristeza on Guitar, and the track is ‘Canto de Ossanha’. 

Baden Powell, ‘Canto de Ossanha’

Stan Getz popularised the samba in the USA and UK, I blurt, introducing Lorraine Barnett introducing ‘Insensatez (How Insensitive)’ by Stan Getz and Luis Bonfa. She didn’t know Tim very well, Lorraine says, but she knew he liked Latin music. (Lorraine’s choice cuts deep: ‘insensitive’ about sums up Tim’s treatment by the world. All he really wanted was to be left alone to listen to music all day and otherwise absorb the achievements of art and culture, and perhaps improve his mind by adding to his repertoire of languages. That’s fine, but the world won’t leave you alone.) Tim, Lorraine points out, was the only person who ever took notes during recitals at MJS.  

Feb 16, 2019

Hi Mike, Down with the flu, but recovering slowly. Best wishes, Tim

Feb 18, 2019 

Hi Mike, I am on the mend now thanks. The nature of this kind of illness now varies so I started with a bad cough and sore throat, then it morphs into the flu. Just as politics starts to get more complicated here, the new Spanish PM calls a new election. Surely, the Right are not going to get back into power. Hoping to come and listen to the talks at MJS. Anything live and musical of note in Manchester forthcoming? Whatever happened to those cultural evenings at the Cervantes? It seems a couple of years since I last went in and I must find out if they still show films and have occasional music evenings. Best wishes, Tim

Feb 19, 2019 

Mike. Just in case Eva gets that job in Paris, plenty to keep you occupied. And in English and French. 

(There followed a link, in English and French, to an appreciation of the chansonier Charles Trenet. This moved me to request, on behalf of MJS, Charles Trenet singing ‘La Mer’ at Tim’s funeral. They got the later, inferior version. To make sure we don’t make the same mistake twice – we can’t be sure which version will emerge on the internet via Bruce’s mobile – we here plump for Django Reinhardt’s version of ‘La Mer’, which is fabulous in itself, and I also commend the reader to Charles Trenet’s 1945 version…) 

Django Reinhardt, ‘La Mer’ 

“In addition to what Mike said,” says Bruce, “this is the version recorded in Rome in 1949, with Stephane Grappelli on violin, and an Italian rhythm section of Carlo Pecori on bass, Aurelio De Carolis on drums and Gianni Safred on piano.” 

It is self-evident, when you stop and think, that listeners are as necessary to music as players, but we tend to undervalue listeners. Listening is antithetical to leadership, probably, which seems to mostly be about bullying and bending your fellow creatures to your will, or the will of a higher authority. Tim resisted this emphatically, and his chief means of resistance was listening. 

Oct 28, 2014

I am very partial to the French impressionist composers as well as the Italian and Spanish ones, especially the guitar music of the latter. When I was young my parents used to play me an album of Kathleen Ferrier’s songs which I enjoyed, and as recently as June I picked up a 3 CD [set] of her work which I must confess I have yet to play in full, but now you have mentioned her name (I can’t remember: something about style defining category not repertoire. I was saying Kathleen Ferrier could never be a folk singer…) I have to make a point of incorporating that into my required listening. It is amazing what music you remember from childhood. 

Trends come and go but that should not detract from the wonderful music the likes of Duke Ellington and others composed. I still firmly believe the legacy of jazz should not be forgotten while at the same time jazz has to constantly evolve.

In an ideal world, the world that Tim was quietly working towards, listeners would receive some kudos too, and Manchester Jazz Society would be recognised as a hall of heroes. So let’s take a tip from Tim and learn to value ourselves, and not do ourselves down, or waste time in pointless squabbles about what is or isn’t real jazz. Tim was a virtuoso listener, a veritable musical Library of Alexandria. His passing represents a great extinction of knowledge and passion. He was also, manifestly, one of the good guys. 

Apologies to MJS members whose choices didn’t have a chance to get aired, including our beloved life president, Harry Fisher (Johnny Hodges), and Trevor Miles (Miles Davis), and chair Peter Caswell (Bud Powell). 

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