Category Archives: jazz

2019 ➤ The Boulevard rises from the ashes of the Raymond Revuebar

Architecture, theatre, cabaret, live music, comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar,

Contemporary new Boulevard Theatre and function space, photographed by Jack Hobhouse

comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar, Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Rhys James,

Friday’s Late Night Scene: Kiri Pritchard-McLean and Rhys James

◼ AN INTIMATE NEW 170-SEAT THEATRE and function space has opened in Soho on the site of Paul Raymond’s original striptease Revuebar from 1958 to 2004. It is named after the Boulevard Theatre which reinvented itself there in 1980 from its racy predecessor by showcasing The Comic Strip team who went on to rewrite the rules of British comedy. The stage proved the springboard to success for Alexei Sayle, Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.

After a £40m redevelopment of the site in Walker’s Court under the shrewd business eye of Raymond’s grand-daughter Fawn James, there’s now an active programme of theatre and weekly late events for live music, cabaret and comedy. This weekend’s unruly Friday comedy set from 10.30pm was fronted by the wry Kiri Pritchard-McLean. Stand-ups included Olga Koch, whose name struck a risqué note from the start, plus an Edinburgh Award winner who sadly didn’t quite click. However, topping the bill at machine-gun speed was TV face Rhys James and he alone was worth the £15 ticket price.

The in-house theatre production playing daily is Ghost Quartet, the 2014 “song cycle about love, death and whiskey” by American Dave Malloy, directed by Bill Buckhurst. In January comes The Sunset Limited, from the American novelist Cormac McCarthy, his 2006 exploration of free will dubbed “a novel in dramatic form” and directed by Terry Johnson, the multi-award-winning British dramatist.

The Boulevard’s rebirth is down to Fawn James as a director of Soho Estates, who says she intends to honour her grandfather’s legacy as an impresario and property investor by helping to promote Soho as an arts and entertainment district. The Boulevard’s artistic director is Rachel Edwards who founded the award-winning Tooting Arts Club.

The glorious Revuebar neon sign from Raymond’s era has been faithfully reconstructed to shine out as a Brewer Street landmark though, true to neon tradition, several letters have already blacked out! The four-storey building houses an adaptable, state-of-the-art auditorium, restaurant, bar, lounge and rehearsal room. Versatility is at the core of the venue, with every space fully customisable for a range of functions embracing weddings and conferences. The Boulevard has been actively recruiting to fill a variety of jobs.

Click any pic below to enlarge

Architecture, theatre, cabaret, live music, comedy, Boulevard Theatre, Soho, Fawn James, Raymond Revuebar,

Boulevard Theatre’s new facade and bridge by Soda Studio

➢ Revolving auditorium is showpiece of Boulevard Theatre by Soda – Amy Frearson reporting at Dezeen magazine, 28 October 2019:

The Boulevard Theatre features stalls and a balcony that both revolve independently, along with a stage that moves up and down, making a wide variety of different configurations possible. The entire project is designed by Soda, a London-based studio that works across architecture, interiors and graphic design. It forms part of a new development in the heart of Soho.

The bar and restaurant is an art-deco-inspired space featuring pink panelled walls, marble surfaces, brass lighting, and leather and velvet upholstery. There are also subtle references here to the Boulevard logo, while the glass bridge features an inlay of lace, in reference to a brothel previously located on this street.

Soda worked with theatre specialist Charcoalblue to make the auditorium as functional as possible. The transformations all take less than 10 minutes, so the space can easily host three or four different types of performance in one day.

Developer Fawn James said: “One of the things that I really wanted was that element of surprise, because when you’re in Soho you don’t necessarily know what you’re getting. Sometimes you could come to a show in the round, go downstairs, grab a bite to eat, then come back up for the next show and feel like you’re in a completely different room… / Continued at Dezeen online

Photography is by Jack Hobhouse unless otherwise stated

Comic Strip, 1980, Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Alexei Sayle, alternative cabaret, cuttings, David Johnson, Over21 magazine

First published in Over21, January 1981

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1981, At The Comic Strip, ‘alternative cabaret’ throws up the next generation of household names

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➤ How Bowie threaded blue notes through his final surge of creativity

David Bowie, The Last Five Years,TV,video, Sue,

Bowie as a projected image in the video for Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)

“If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel capable of. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting” – David Bowie

THE MOST GRIPPING SEQUENCES in the new TV documentary about Bowie’s final surge of creativity are those which assemble every musician in the bands he worked with from 2012 to the end. Each band re-enacts pivotal moments when they rehearsed the music, inspired by his lyrics, and laid down the tracks for the albums The Next Day and Blackstar. Particularly revealing is the session when pure jazz soloists created the nerve-tingling Sue (Or in a Season of Crime), which Bowie added to his 2014 “best-of” collection, Nothing Has Changed.

To mark the first anniversary of the star’s death, this weekend BBC2 screened David Bowie: The Last Five Years, Francis Whately’s sequel to his other superb documentary Five Years broadcast in 2013. The role of jazz in Bowie’s musical temperament seldom gets discussed, though his producer Tony Visconti says the jazz influence had always been there in the music but underneath the surface. As a small child Bowie heard a jazz band and right away said: “I’m going to learn the saxophone. When I grow up, I’m going to play in [this] band. So I persuaded my dad to get me a kind of a plastic saxophone on hire purchase.”

In 2013 in New York he met Maria Schneider, a jazz composer, handed her a demo disc and asked her to extemporise around a tune called Sue. In turn, she told him he had to listen to this sax player Donny McCaslin and without missing a beat Bowie went straight into the studio with his group and Maria and out came possibly the purest jazz number of his career, a discomfiting tale of infidelity. It won Schneider a Best Arrangement Grammy in 2016.

➢ Watch the Donny McCaslin Group working
on Bowie’s Blackstar

Click any pic below to launch slideshow

REVIEWS OF THE LAST FIVE YEARS TV DOC

➢ A thrilling portrait of a late-life renaissance
– Jasper Rees at the Arts Desk

The opening yielded much joyful footage of Bowie goofing around on the Reality tour (2003), seeming much more like one of the boys than he ever managed with Tin Machine. The band still seemed spooked at the memory of his collapse, before he was carted off to retirement in an ambulance.

Maria Schneider was one of many musicians – three complete bands – who re-formed to walk through the creation of the music. Drummer Zachary Alford still looked shocked at the NDA handed him as he showed up to work on The Next Day. “If I said anything about it,” remembered bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, “I would be in big trouble legally.” Nobody was asked if Bowie really would have sued his collaborators for spilling the beans.

The recent collaborators reflected on the extent to which the new music was steeped in the past. But there was also good stuff from the old lags who worked (and sometimes slept) with Bowie in the feather-cut era: Ideally there would be a DVD with extras featuring much more from each of them. Chief keeper of the flame Tony Visconti sat at a console and played excerpts of Bowie’s unaccompanied vocal takes. On Blackstar came the haunting sound of Bowie wheezing like an ancient mariner fighting for every last scrap of breath. . . / Continued online

➢ A treat and a treatise on music’s departed genius
– by James Hall, Daily Telegraph

The Last Five Years wove previously unheard Bowie interview material with on-screen contributions from collaborators including producer Tony Visconti. The access and insights were faultless. Whately’s programme was essentially a treatise on artistic rebirth. And it showed that although Bowie’s musical style constantly changed, the themes that preoccupied him — alienation, escape, the notion of fame — were there until the end.

During his final creative burst, Bowie gradually revealed to collaborators that he was ill. In the most poignant scene, we learned that Bowie only discovered his cancer was terminal three months before he died. This was in October 2015 when he was filming the video for Lazarus, in which he sings the line “Look up here, I’m in heaven”. Bowie worked and cared and joked until the end. Through tears, Visconti said that he was at ‘the top of his game’. . . / Continued online

➢ David Bowie: What have we learned since his death? Some astounding new Bowie facts
have come to light – via The Guardian

70TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE CONCERT IN LONDON

tribute ,concert, David Bowie, Steve Norman, London

Brixton tribute concert for Bowie: Gail Ann Dorsey singing Young Americans with Spandau Ballet’s Steve Norman. (Photo: Getty)

❏ On what would have been Bowie’s 70th birthday his friend the actor Gary Oldman gathered at the Brixton Academy a 30-strong all-star lineup of musicians who had collaborated throughout his career, with some glorious orchestral and choral support. The show is the first in a run of gigs around the world taking place in cities that have a strong connection with Bowie and his work.

The London concert featured Mike Garson, Earl Slick, Adrian Belew, Mark Plati, Gerry Leonard, Sterling Campbell, Zachary Alford, Holly Palmer, Catherine Russell, plus such guests as Tony Hadley and Simon Lebon. Special highlights saw Gail Ann Dorsey singing Young Americans with Spandau’s Steve Norman on sax; and an audience singalong to Life on Mars? led by Adrian Belew and gifted vocals from Tom Chaplin from the band Keane. Plenty of live videos at YouTube.



➢ 10 Jan update: Gary Kemp joins his friend Robert Elms on BBC Radio London to discuss David Bowie, one year on. (Catch up on iPlayer for one month: starts at 13mins)

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: “I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said – No, David, you were a messiah

➢ 13 Jan: Iggy Pop’s tribute to The Songs of David Bowie on BBC Radio 6 Music and iPlayer for another month

➢ As a confused teenager living in Seventies suburbia, singer Andy Polaris retraces his obsession with Bowie

➢ Commemorating Bowie at the BBC

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➤ Escape to the Nightlifers’ Shangri-la just in time for Christmas

Animal Nightlife, Andy Polaris, soul music, jazz, pop group,London, Andy Polaris,nightclubbing,Shangri-la, CD

Cool-hunters 1985: the Animal Nightlife lineup who charted with their album Shangri-la. . . Billy Chapman, Paul Waller, Andy Polaris, Leonardo Chignoli and Steve Brown

REMEMBER SNAKE-HIPPED ANDY POLARIS, frontman for Animal Nightlife, the soul/jazz/pop socialist collective who emerged from London’s cool clubbing scene and charted with Native Boy in 1983? This week their debut album Shangri-la is re-issued in a deluxe two-CD edition, having charted in summer 1985 only on vinyl.

Andy says: “It comes with a bonus disc of remixes and a great booklet with retro photos of the band in its two phases. Just in time for Christmas. The vinyl album has long been deleted and since then a very poor compilation of songs was released. The re-issue’s  tracks consist of the album in its original form and a second CD containing other singles and extended remixes that were only available on 12-inch before.” Lois Wilson supplies some nicely informed sleeve notes identifying Animal Nightlife’s role as innovators when the UK’s thriving underground changed the face of nightclubbing.

“Just listen to the Pink Panther style
saxophone of instrumental Basic Ingredients
and try not to lose yourself momentarily
in another world, a better world even”
First review (7/10) by Loz Etheridge

Managed by Steve Lewis, London’s coolest club deejay in the Beat Route’s heyday, Nightlife’s swing sound with an electronic twist enjoyed its moment as the hippest trend in music while Polaris penned his own brand of torch song and the band wore head-to-foot styles from Bolshevik bolshieness to Johnson’s jazz-age retro. Rabid clubbers must remember how Nightlife’s crazy animalettes and animalads went through about 35 line-up changes during their eight years on the scene, sadly scoring only four chart singles. For some band members, good times tended to take precedence over naked ambition in those highly competitive years when British acts were storming international pop charts.

“The must have re-issue CD of 2016.
A perfect Xmas stocking filler”
– deejay Mark Moore

By 1985 the band had slimmed down to the five-piece pictured on the CD cover. They consisted of Andy Polaris (vocals), Leonardo Chignoli (bass), Paul Waller (drums), Steve Brown (guitar) and Billy Chapman (playing a thrilling saxophone). After switching from the finger-snappy Innervision label to supercool Island Records, they were all packed off to Philadelphia where the first album was recorded at the legendary home of Philly World Records.

“The label wanted a bit more discipline from us,” Andy says, “and they sent us to America to get us out of our element and into the hands of those seasoned veterans who’d created the fabled Philly sound. We five working-class boys from London were wide-eyed and just did everything they told us. It paid off, because after our sojourn at Philly World our urban jazzy feel translated into a more sophisticated British club sound.”

❑ Standout track on the second Shangri-la CD of lost mixes is reggae producer Dennis Bovell’s version of Native Boy. Whoever’s on vibes – “mm, nice”.

➢ Shangri-la is cheaper direct from Cherry Red records (plus quick delivery)

➢ Polaris recalls his impressions of recording with the Philadelphia greats

➢ Definitive yet unofficial Animal Nightlife band history created online by Mike Albiston, a fan who remembers their last gig and senses something’s afoot that might require a web update

➢ Catch Andy Polaris’s reminiscences in the recent BBC doc Boy George’s 1970s: Save Me From Suburbia

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Animal Nightlife as part of the UK’s second wave of 80s image bands

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