Tag Archives: Edinburgh Jazz Festival

My Week in Beauty

SATURDAY

I spent last week with my jazz critic’s hat on (though it was a bit warm for a beret..), as I was covering the Edinburgh Jazz Festival for Scotland’s two quality broadsheets.

However, the week got off to a glamorous start when I attended my friend Merle’s royal-themed 40th birthday party. A couple of months ago she suggested that I come as Grace Kelly and the more I thought about it, the better an idea it seemed – especially when I remembered that I have a floral-patterned, full-skirted, calf-length  Zara dress which always reminds me of the frock Grace was wearing when she was introduced to Prince Rainier. The bonus was that I could wear this to my gigs (the second of which, appropriately, was a tribute to Louis Armstrong, Grace’s co-star in High Society) and not look ridiculous. I just stuck on fancy headband as I was leaving the concert, and, voila, my Kelly look was complete.

Of course, channelling Grace Kelly in the 1950s was easy – as it’s completely inkeeping with one of my favourite looks: a natural-looking eye make-up and coral-red lips. Luckily, my favourite coral of this summer,  Estee Lauder Pure Color Longlasting Lipstick in Coral Sun  (£18; www.esteelauder.co.uk), hadn’t yet melted on Saturday. By Thursday, it had come a cropper in the Edinburgh heatwave, and it’s now un-usable. Here’s a pic of me in character; my friend, the singer and concert promoter Todd Gordon, plays the part of Frank Sinatra rather well!

TUESDAY

Beige is boring, pink is too/ Only navy nails will do … (apologies to Kay Thompson’s Think Pink song from Funny Face).

I fell in love on Tuesday, in Edinburgh …. with midnight blue nail varnish, two in particular: Dior Vernis in Tuxedo (£17.50, from August 16) and an old one that I discovered I’d never tried – Chanel Le Vernis in Blue Satin (£17.50;  for stockists call 020-7493 3836). They both look fantastic with my colouring (much better than the brownish metallic shades which are also going to be big for autumn) – and, I think, a lot more chic than black or grey. I am definitely a convert.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering who the fabulous-looking woman is in the photo – that’s an American singer by the name of Clairdee, with whom I bonded over beauty tips and style secrets (when we were supposed to be discussing jazz!). She’s got THE most amazing skin, so watch out for her recommendations and advice on this blog over the next few weeks.

WEDNESDAY

Oooh, it’s not too late – I hope – to get your mitts on the exquisite eyeshadow quartet which Chanel brought out about six weeks ago, as part of its limited edition Byzance de Chanel collection which is exclusive to its make-up studios in Frasers, Glasgow; Fenwicks, Newcastle and Selfridges, London.

Chanel Quadra Eye Shadow in Topkapi (£37) is a thing of beauty; very easy to wear and to adapt to either a low-key look or full-on glamour. Though it does seem a shame to muss up the quilted boules of colour..

I got hooked on the top two shades last week for daily wear – and plan to wear them instead of some of the (frankly, rather disappointing) autumn shades I’ve been sent …

THURSDAY

As if by magic, the perfect companion to the Topkapi quartet was also in my make-up bag for the jazz festival: the limited edition Estee Lauder Pure Color Liquid Eyeliner (£19), from its new Modern Mercury collection, is a wonder: a liquid eyeliner which is as soft as a child’s crayon, and glides across the eyelid without dragging. In fact, you barely feel it making its mark.

I’ve been using the Black Quartz shade (can’t wait to try Graphic) which has a subtle sparkle through it and provides a considerably less harsh line than the average pure black liner. Of course, you can build it up for a dramatic look, or play it down for a softer one. The only drawback is it feels a little sticky once applied – on me, anyway.

And, speaking of makeup bags: I finally broke my bad habit of finding myself with my business cards because I’ve changed handbag. My new tip? I’m keeping my business cards in my make-up bag. After all, I never leave home without it!

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Beauty

Remembering Kenny Davern (1935-2006)

There can be few sounds as thrilling as clarinettist Kenny Davern cutting loose with one of his characteristically passionate and exhilarating solos – as anyone who heard the American jazz star during one of his countless visits to Scotland over the last 20 years of his life will testify. Davern was widely regarded as the foremost exponent of his instrument in the world; a musician whose sound was immediately identifiable and who brought a touch of class to everything he did.

Amongst regulars at the Edinburgh and Nairn Jazz Festivals, and at the former Glasgow Society of Musicians, Davern was also known as an intimidating character who did not suffer fools gladly, and who reserved his greatest contempt for anyone who tried to make him play in front of a microphone. Woe betide any sound engineer who hadn’t been alerted to Davern’s strongly held views on acoustics.

Similarly, festival organisers were known to vanish mysteriously when Davern went on the attack – and he never let anything like an audience get in the way of a rant. Indeed, he often treated his listeners with derision too: one trick was to ask for requests and then shoot them down with an acerbic comment.

However, the cantankerous clarinettist was a part he enjoyed playing. It wasn’t the whole story. The intimidating Davern was my first-ever interviewee. Forty-five minutes into the nerve-wracking session, the significance of the fact that the wheels on my borrowed tape recorder weren’t turning dawned on both of us: I had forgotten to lift the pause button.

After a terrifying five minutes, during which I was ready to jack in journalism for good, the unthinkable happened: he softened. At 11.30pm, as I tried to make a break for the door, he offered to start the interview again. Not only did the second version turn out better than the original, but, years later, I learned from mutual musician friends that Davern was dining out on the story of how he launched my career in journalism.

The soft centre shouldn’t have been so unexpected. Davern was a player of great warmth and passion. He routinely sent shivers down the spine and made hair stand on end when he broke out of his hitherto controlled solos and let rip. There was absolutely nothing like it when he soloed, exploding unexpectedly into the upper register and then swooping back down again.

Playing ballads or blues tunes, he had a seductive style, coaxing the sound from the horn the way a snake charmer would draw the reptile from a basket. His playing embraced extreme musical characteristics in the same manner as his personality was, by turn, intimidating and charming. His sound was sweet, fluid and polished one minute; thrillingly spiky, raw and plaintive the next. It is impossible to think of his signature songs – especially Sweet Lorraine – without hearing him playing them.

Born in Huntington, New York, the self-taught Davern began his jazz career at the age of 16. He played with many older greats, including Jack Teagarden, and despite flirting with avant-garde jazz during the 1950s, his primary influence was always Louis Armstrong. In the 1970s, he and fellow clarinettist/saxophonist Bob Wilber formed the super-group Soprano Summit. Davern then formed The Blue Three with pianist Dick Wellstood, before operating as a touring soloist after Wellstood’s death.

He leaves an impressive, though not vast, legacy of recordings. He once told me: “Just to record for the sake of being in a studio is masturbatory.” He is survived by his wife, Elsa, his two step-children and four step-grandchildren.

* Kenny Davern, jazz clarinettist and saxophonist, born January 7, 1935; died December 12, 2006.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Doin’ the Chameleon

Dick Hyman has a lot to answer for. Had it not been for him, who knows if I would have turned out to be a jazz fan. It all happened in 1986. My brothers and I had watched – and recorded – a movie over the Easter holidays, and become absolutely obsessed with the music, in a way that only teenagers can. We played the same scene over and over till we knew it off by heart and were able to sing it even without the video playing.
The film was a TV movie biopic of the pioneering ragtime composer and pianist Scott Joplin, and the scene which caught our imagination was one where the unknown Joplin and his accomplice wipe the floor with the established “professors” in a piano battle that culminates in Joplin’s rafters-raising rendition of his Maple Leaf Rag.
Three months into the obsession with this scene, my jazz-daft dad – who had already used such devious methods as midnight feasts for Louis Armstrong’s birthday to kickstart the brainwashing process – casually mentioned that the guy who had played the piano in the Scott Joplin was coming to the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. His name was Dick Hyman – would I like to come?
So it was that, at the age of 14, I accompanied my dad around the Edinburgh Jazz Festival’s erstwhile Pub Trail for a day. The Dick Hyman gig took place in one of the rooms in the labyrinthine Royal Overseas League, on Princes Street. The bespectacled American made an immediate impression. To play the rickety old upright piano at a comfortable height, he was perched on two stacked chairs, but what struck me most of all were how thin and fast his fingers were as they flew about the keyboard – not least on the showstopping Maple Leaf Rag.
I heard more than just ragtime that night. Hyman has the unique ability to mimic the styles of all the great jazz pianists – and he morphs seamlessly from one into another, on a sort of whirlwind tour of the jazz piano hall of fame. A solo set from him is an education in jazz history, as he elegantly conjures up the spirits of the likes of Fats Waller, Earl Hines, Teddy Wilson (who gave the teenage Hyman lessons) and his personal favourites, Art Tatum and Bix Beiderbecke.
He is truly a chameleon of the keyboard, and it’s therefore highly appropriate that he should have been the man responsible for the music for Woody Allen’s 1983 mockumentary Zelig, about a man who takes on a similar appearance to whomever he’s standing beside. For Zelig, Hyman drew on his talent for recreating period music, in this case the novelty tunes of the 1920s. The soundtrack was an integral part of the success of the film because it added another layer of authenticity and humour.
When I embarked on my own Woody Allen phase, I was thrilled to discover that Hyman was my then favourite filmmaker’s regular musical director: indeed, when I heard him in Edinburgh, he was undoubtedly in the midst of composing the brilliant jingles and themes for the nostalgic, 1940s-set comedy Radio Days. He arranged music or wrote for all the period Allen films – plus his bold musical Everyone Says I Love You – and is heard on several more.
Over the years, I have seen Hyman performing in all sorts of concerts – in spine-tinglingly moving duets with the trumpeter Doc Cheatham, in trio sets of Disney and Wizard of Oz music, in showcases for his compositions for an orchestra, in organ recitals, in two-piano extravaganzas with such formidable fellow ivory-ticklers as Jay McShann, and in the all-star extravaganzas which he co-ordinated with flair and characteristic unflappability (and zilch time to prepare) at several Edinburgh Jazz Festivals in the early 1990s.
Hyman is such a class act that he elevates any event into a different league, and his gift for rounding up a rag-tag bunch of soloists and arranging them, on the spot, into a slick band is legendary. At one Blackpool Jazz Party, it fell to Hyman to conduct 30-odd world-class solo stars through a grand finale. As the cast of what seemed like thousands swung a Basie-style riff, the beady-eyed Hyman – whose nickname should really be The Headmaster – walked up and down in front of the stage picking out soloists, sectioning off bands within the band, and bringing it all together with his usual aplomb.
He may seem a rather cool character but his enthusiasm and passion for jazz (and classical music) is apparent not just in his playing but in his voracious appetite for new and often off-the-wall projects. Shakespeare sonnets set to jazz? He’s done it. An album which imagines how Bix Beiderbecke’s bands might have sounded playing Gershwin? Yup. An hour-long blues tune? Uh-huh.
But all the above-mentioned events and achievements only skim the surface: during a six-decade career, Hyman has played with legends ranging from Benny Goodman to Charlie Parker (that’s him on piano in the one existing bit of footage of Bird), he’s written pop hits (Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time; kd lang’s Shadowland), pioneered the Moog synthesizer, penned innumerable classical compositions, scored ballets, served as musical director of two major festivals plus a string of classic TV shows, and recorded a CD-rom (A Century of Jazz Piano) which is now a library reference tool.
Now in his 83rd year, Hyman shows no sign of slowing down. Coasting is not an option – certainly if his forthcoming week in Scotland, which includes a harpsichord gig, a four-piano spectacular and a History of Jazz Piano concert is anything to go by. Oh, and there’s also the small matter of converting the next generation: my children are primed and ready for brainwashing…
* Dick Hyman is at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival (0131 467 5200; www.edinburghjazzfestival.co.uk) from August 2-5, then at the Nairn International Jazz Festival (01309 674221; www.nairnjazz.com) from August 6-8.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized