same air - Jan Ponsford Quartet
I've led a privileged life creatively expressing myself, and enjoying the pleasure of working with
some outstanding talents. The richness with which they've imbued my life is pure treasure, as are the
songs I've encountered along the way.
Never before have I recorded any standards on cd, and paying
my respects to some of the great writers felt long overdue. What would we have done without them?
They cooed in our ears and inspired us. So, here is a taste of interpretations of a few of the many
composers and lyricists whose music still plays and inspires decades on, along with some of my
originals, the likes of which wouldn't have been written without soaking up all that cooing, together
with the musical passion of my fellow artists.
We met in small, smoke filled dives, just like the
movies. I first heard Winston Clifford without actually meeting him, albeit we were in the same tiny
packed room only a few feet away from each other, the historic 606 Club when it occupied its old site
in Kings Road, Chelsea, a regular post-gig haunt for jazz musicians with energy still to burn off
before they retired to bed. Usually around 4-6am. I couldn't actually see who was playing drums that
night, but the sound did it for me. There was something very special about the playing and whoever
was playing that kit. People pressed in all around, obscuring my view (I was sitting, latecomers were
standing, in the front, as they will, a post-pub crowd looking for the next drink). Winston and I met
shortly after that and gigged. Then I discovered what a fine singer he is too. It was the start of a
long and wonderful musical and intellectual kinship.
Another smoky dive was Blakes Wine Bar in
Covent Garden, a long and tiring duo gig, and launching pad for many a London talent. There dear
Frances Knight came up and introduced herself to me, saying that as there are so few of us women
around in jazz it was good to make contact with another. That contact has been as solid as a rock
ever since. Whatever gigging or recording situation we find ourselves in, multi-talented pianist
Frances Knight, unfailingly, always gives just what is needed, her wondrous and sensitive listening
skills interpreting anything at anytime with pure genius.
Bassist Terry Pack I met much later, after
I had moved to the southern shores of England. There, in sleepy Sussex seaside towns, a whole
bubbling underground scene teeming with jazz artists carries on. Drizzly English coastal places more
associated with retirement, blankets wrapped around the knees whilst nurse wheels one along the prom,
the smell of vinegar wafting by, teacakes, and little plastic rain hats that fold up concertina-like;
a chapel cover for an illicit gambling den, which reveals itself only when a special lever is pulled
and everything swings around. There live some of the world's special musical talents, and Terry Pack
is one. In my youth I listened wide-eyed to tales about bands who played in London's West End. At
that very same time, another in their youth, namely Terry, was playing the Marquee club. Not until
the late '90's did we actually meet and start playing together, with Terry having recently switched
to double bass from electric and embarking on a career in jazz, a far cry from his days of
progressive rock at the Marquee. Mr. Pack has paid his dues, and that well-seasoned musical maturity
is a must in any band.
The wonderful thing about jazz musicians is that many have played everything;
featured in orchestras, accompanied opera singers, supported church choirs, played in street marching
outfits, worn tight trousers and leapt in the air next to a Marshall stack, played interminable
renditions of something unmentionable on ships' cruises, and have still managed to smile when some
innocent has braved the approach to the bandstand and requests 'When the saints', held the hands of
the so-called unmusical at workshops and got them going, and transformed the simplest nursery rhyme
in to a concerto.
The social strata that the average jazz musician wends their way through in a
lifetime is stuff enough to create a well-rounded character with a highly developed sense of humour,
if sometimes a little dark, not to mention the musical wealth gathered and shared along the way.
Terry Pack, Winston Clifford, Frances Knight and myself have wended our respective ways and arrived
in tact, crossing boundaries of race, class, culture et al. I'm honoured to work with these people.
c. Jan Ponsford 24/07/2005