The Slaughterhouse Sessions

A combination of factors came together to spur me on to doing something “a little bit different”. Many, many musician friends have been facing challenges both financial and mental. I know many who have not maintained their skills over the period because performing is why we do it. The interaction with the physical audience; the “of the moment”, or “fly by wire” is all part of the reason. I know of others who have had to turn their hands to other tasks simply to get by and leave music alone all together.

There’s been much attention given to collaborations via zoom and similar online but for most people it just doesn’t get anywhere near live performance. Those who know me realise this is not a new view as I’ve kind of had that opinion about recordings anyway. They always seem to miss the essence of why its happening. For me, live recordings are generally the only ones that get remotely close.

I was chatting to Ashley John Long after listening to his solo album, “Psi”. Later with Paul Hession, after listening to his solo “Giant Soft Drum Set” CD and we agreed that free-form recordings are generally the poorest genre to engage once reproduced. The exception seems to be solo works which seem to retain some of the direct communication between player and audience. (I must mention Dag-Erik Knedal Andersen’s lovely solo drum LP “Solo” – the vinyl I played the most in 2016).

So what?

well, James Chadwick had the bright idea of approaching Welsh jazz musicians to do a video and he’d publish one a day on his Facebook Page “Jazz in Cardiff“. This has worked well and lots of players have contributed to it, and as they are largely unaccompanied or in very small groups there is a sense of “now”. At the same time I was keen to explore my Celtic heritage and had Phyllis Kinney’s excellent book “Welsh Traditional Music” to feed me some good tunes. With those two inputs I then chose the local deserted abattoir as it provides a very special sense of sparseness and isolation in these times of lock-down. It seems quite apt at the moment.

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the “Slaughterhouse Sessions”:

9th June 2020

There’s a lot of good players out there playing jazz standards on Alto and Tenor. I thought I’d do something a bit different and break away from the standard jazz repertoire. So here’s a Soprano Saxophone improvising over an old Welsh Carol collected by Ifor Ceri about 1817.

Near to where I live is an old abattoir known as “Slaughterhouse Arches” where I’ve often played as it has a certain acoustic and sparse “feel”. I think this might be the first of a series of videos I’ll do using Welsh folk tunes. Then applying my own (allegedly jazz) treatment to them.

22nd June 2020

Several years ago I worked my way through Phyllis Kinney’s excellent book “Welsh Traditional Music” and picked out several tunes I fancied playing. To my surprise, out of the 8 or so I chose, 3 appeared on the new “Llef” CD by my good pals in Burum (https://www.burum.org/).

I play two of them here on Gaita Gallega, the third, “Titrwm Tatrwm” I still quite fancy at a later date. “Ffarwel I Aberystwyth” is an air sung by a young guy gone to sea due to failed love. Its full of homesickness for all the landmarks of the town. “Y Gwydr Glas” is framed in our Welsh habit of knocking on the window to commune with our sweetheart. In this case the girl has already gone out with someone else from another parish. Tradgedy!

10th July 2020

Simon Fell’s legacy has been on my mind so I wanted to push out a little. I remember he had a project in the mid-90’s where several people were recorded playing solo and then he mixed them; his independent control of the musical inputs being an essential creative part of the project. I decided to do something similar here by taking two videos in the same location playing the Welsh folk tune “Titrwm Tatrwm” and juxtaposing it against quotes from Monk’s “Round Midnight”.

I like the way the music and the videos conflict and resolve several times and ultimately end up resting with the same scene and birdsong. “Titrwm Tatrwm” is about a lover knocking on his girl’s window, but for me it also reminded me of plainsong in this context so its mixed way down. It reminds me a little of walking in Cathedrals in France, Simon’s home in latter years.

The Dodouk

I also chose to use the “well known” jazz instrument, the Armenian Dodouk. As a result an Armenian harvest song, “Horovel” keeps slipping in and out. The Dudouk is a real mental and physical challenge to play as it has ten “finger” holes. It uses the full five of the left hand, before engaging the right hand and the tonic (a useful Ab) is seven fingers down. The tenth hole is at the bottom on the back and is played using the stomach to close the hole. All semitones are played by half covering the holes and sound weak. The depth of sound is due to the huge double reed which is wider than the instrument.

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