Monday, 30 November 2009

Hijacked by the Suits

This is my first post in a new category. I call it 'Hijacked by the Suits'.
Here I will be exploring the many nefarious ways in which artists, musicians, painters, writers, dancers and all, have allowed the channel between creator and devotee to be hijacked by money men. Once upon a time, these art terrorists were content merely to lift 90% of the profit from our creative endeavours, in return for taking care of the annoying business of taking our work to market. But now their power is such that they have insinuated themselves into the heart of the creative process itself, demanding input into plot, character, location, melody, texture and atmosphere as a condition of their huge slice of revenue.
Now we sing write and sculpt only to order, as directed, for otherwise we know our work will remain secret.
We artists, once proud pioneers and seekers of intangible truth, have become lifeless dummies who can speak only the narrow platitudes of our masters.
The ventriloquists have become greedy; we call them the Suits.

Posted via email from nickweldon's posterous

Thursday, 26 November 2009

For Jeff

I don't know if I can speak these words; I know I must try. The tempo is ferocious, the intensity fierce, I don't know if I can solo there, but I know I have to.

Jeff was fearless at such times. If there was music to be played, music in which he believed, then Jeff would always be there. However high the tempo, however low the fee.

He was the same with musicians. If he believed in you, he would be there for you. Fifty years ago, the day before Ronnie Scott opened the Old Place, Jeff was down there painting the walls, so the club could open on time. "How much did they pay you?", I asked him. Two bacon rolls. And he never stopped, was still out there, in his seventies, seeking out musicians that he liked, young and old, making new music happen. Many of us here today, and many more all around the world, only have a life in music because Jeff was our champion, because he walked with us. We meet today to thank Jeff for these gifts.

And to think about the drummers. Sharing a crotchet is one of the closest feelings in human experience, in which we lay bare all we are and everything we could become. This is a harsh moment for the drummers. Above all for Trevor Tomkins, whom Jeff loved dearly, as playing partner and friend, for so long. By my calculations, Jeff and Trevor together played more than fifty million crotchets. Many of them at the same time.

We also remember how grumpy Jeff was. My fondest and most illuminating memories of Jeff are of his grumps. These, although exacerbated by tiredness, traffic, being held back from an important football result, or by lack of food or alcohol, always had a moral dimension. Woe betide anyone who, having accepted Jeff's support at the beginning of a project, then passed him over for the better gigs later on! Jeff's rage in these cases was swift and powerful. There were elements of disappointment and hurt pride in there, of course, but mostly there was moral indignation.
I first felt Jeff's grumpiness as a young tutor, team teaching. Even as I held the middle of the floor, in the corner of my eye I could see Jeff twitching, and I could also hear a strange muttering. Later, with someone else in the middle, I went to stand by Jeff, and heard what he was saying. Come on...come on...get on with it...we've heard it all before...oh yes it's always about you...every effin' time...come on...get off...we've done it now...let's go home... (and, my favourite, when a fellow teacher was explaining a jazz technique)..yes, mate, you should try taking your own bloomin' advice!
Jeff's grumpy mutterings always made me laugh, even when they were about me!
Jeff didn't like ego. He sensed immediately if players and teachers were drifting into self- importance, if they were becoming more interested in how wonderful they sounded than in the job they were supposed to be doing, and his nose would wrinkle up, and then he would be grumpy.

This made Jeff suspicious of words. He loved them but at the same time distrusted them, feared their power to spin and deceive. He hated any talking that made him dwell in the past, holding him back, stopping him from getting on with the next real thing.

Jeff taught me about modesty and pride in my work; he taught me about courage, and freedom, and openness in my playing; he taught me about commitment and loyalty to my friends and to my music. But he never spoke of these things, not in words. He showed them to me, somehow, in his music.

This is very much how Jeff liked to teach. Out in the Colleges, on Summer Schools, and at home in his own front room. He wasn't one for detailed analysis or trenchant criticism; he liked his students to experience the spirit of music by playing. This wordless, experential approach created an intense, intimate atmosphere, in which students felt both protected and liberated. We remember well the day back at Wavendon when, after an especially liberating session of Free Improvisation with Jeff, three singers were admitted to the local Mental Hospital. The doctors suggested that in future Jeff should run these sessions in the Hospital itself, to save on transport costs, but Jeff, always a true professional, simply changed up his course content, and it never happened again.

So many words, yet not the real ones, the ones that are most difficult to say. I can feel Jeff muttering now...come on...get on with it...come on...get off...we've done it now...let's go home...

Stop talking, he means, and get on with the next real thing. But that's the point, isn't it, Jeff has done it, he has gone home, and as for our next real thing, well we don't have one, many of us, because Jeff was part of our real thing, he was going to be out front, leading us with his lovely surefooted lines, and now..well, we're afraid we can't get there on our own.

One image consoles me, and I share it with you.

We are musicians. In our world the most real things are the most ephemeral. Our sounds live and die in the same movement. This is how I shall remember Jeff - as music - as a light, flowing tone who, in his very moment of completion, reveals his beauty and is gone forever.

Nick Weldon
(as spoken at Jeff Clyne's funeral on November 25th 2009)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

My Website

My website is over at

Jazz School UK

Jazz School UK is the website where you can find details of all the activities we run at the Shoefactory, as well as information about jazz courses and resources in the UK and abroad.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The Birds and the Bees and the Flowers

Sheila Jordan is one of my alltime favourite singers. Jeff Clyne(dearly departed) was one of my alltime favourite bass players. Sheila has great singing craft and a unique blend of Bebop and Native American influences. But I love her most of all for the deep spiritual centre in her music and for her ability to draw in everything around her as she improvises. One night on tour she chose to extend the intro to Jimmy Webb's beautiful song 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' into a Native American chant with Jeff on double bass. As she did so, miraculously, the sound of a flock of birds entered the room and seemed to join in with the bass and voice, fluttering all round the melody until they found the key (Bb) where Jeff and Sheila were!

The tune is It Had To Be You in the key of G, and as usual Jeff Clyne is fluttering about up at the dusty end. The next chord is E7 and as Jeff begins his beautiful and effortless descent back down the G string, I know instinctively that he will land on a B. Thing is, a bee has also begun to take an interest in the bass and is now sitting exactly where Jeff's first finger is headed for, squarely on that B (bees have great intonation). I begin shouting at Jeff and waving towards the bass, "No, no, not the B, don't play the B!". Jeff finally looks back at his fingerboard, sees the bee and manages to make a diversion to the nearest E. He then shakes the bass,the insect flies off to safety, and we haven't dropped a beat! We laughed a lot together over that, in a slightly mystified way, and in the last few weeks of his life it became a musical mantra between us. "Don't play the B".

It was Sheila' s birthday today, and (Jennifer Jones tells me) during her celebration gig at the Bull's Head in Barnes, she movingly spoke about Jeff Clyne, and dedicated a huge bouquet of flowers to him. Then she sang to the flowers!

Jeff Clyne Remembered

All in shock today at the awful news that Jeff Clyne died on Monday (November 16th, 2009).

He inspired so many musicians, students and music lovers from all round the world with his wonderful playing, always warm, creative and singing.

There is a Facebook Group where you can share your memories, photos and stories.

It is at Jeff Clyne Remembered