The Good News

It’s been a great year for music already. Nik Bartsch’s Mobile, Esperanza Spalding and Avishai Cohen have all made amazing albums which stretch genre labels and show that the only way to make great art is to acknowledge the past but not copy it.

And there’s more great stuff coming. Tuner’s FACE can’t be far off and a trio album with Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matthew Garrison is arriving in May.

It’s good to be 52 and seriously excited about album releases.


The Bad News

My mum’s dementia has taken another turn for the worse. After she spent a short period in respite care so I could recover from the pneumonia, she’s home but not really sure where ‘home is. She knows she is in her house but doesn’t completely recognise it. Sometimes she asks if she can sleep in her bed, as if it’s not hers. Sometimes she talks about going home to her family home where she (mostly) grew up. Sometimes she acts as if her house is mine.

Yesterday she forgot I had got married and, on finding out I was, became deeply upset that she hadn’t come to the ceremony. She had come, of course, but it took hours to convince her that she hadn’t let me down.

It’s beginning to feel like my mum is being slowly and inexorably erased in front of my eyes.



I've been a huge fan of Nik Bärtsch and his band Ronin since Sid Smith put me on to them years ago. I came in a bit late, with their last studio album but quickly worked through the whole discography and caught a live show in London that became a 'top five gig' instantly. I loved the space and the funkiness. The music surprises and the bigger than the sum of its parts nature of the band.

What I never did, for some strange reason, was listen to his other, acoustic, band, Mobile. Actually there was avery good reason. There was no bass player and an important part of my love of Ronin's music was how the bass worked within it. I'm a bassist. What can you expect but bigoted rejection of what looked like an otherwise great band.

But... Mobile (still without a bass player but with occasional strings) have a new album, Continuum, out. It's on ECM and it's astonishing.

I have just listen through once and, though it's obviously too soon to pin my feelings down, I'm reaching for words like: mysterious, funky, beguiling, surprising, cinematic, lush, eerie and pretty much perfect.

If you like Nik's music. Buy it. If you have open ears. Buy it. If you're not sure, buy it. I am now going to listen again.


Pneumonia Blues

I'm having a rough week thanks to a chest infection that turned into pneumonia. Bed rest, appropriate drugs, lots of water and no going out are bad enough but that I can't do much to help my wife, who is working doubly hard - this is the tough part.

You have to take pneumonia seriously though, as it can turn from bad to worse very quickly. It's also quite debilitating.

One of the weirder side effects is that I keep being reminded of my dad, who pent his last day in bed, coughing a lot and having increasingly trouble breathing. He didn't have pneumonia of course, but oesophageal cancer. Even if my coughing sounds just like his, I'm on quite a different path here.

Also, I do have a wonderful book to read. My reading had been quite patchy lately and my wife bought me a pile of books at Christmas  which were starting to gather dust. A bit ironic then that I should now pick up Andy Miller's 'The Year Of Reading Dangerously' which has kick-started my love of books. It's also given me that pleasurable feeling that I'm not alone as it reflects plenty of my good and bad habit. I had the same feeling with Nick Hornby's 'High Fidelity'.

Another help is, as ever, music. Today I am mostly listening to Lorenzo Feliciati's Koi album.

Back and better soon.


Freya and the Bass

When my daughter was seven months old I took some pictures of her with my Fender Precision bass. The bass is lovely but it didn't get used very much as I tend to use a five-string fretless. So, after a recent trip to a local music shop I found a replacement instrument and decided to sell the Precision.

Just before it went, I foolishly mentioned the old photograph and the bass to Freya. However, instead of getting sentimental and demanding I don't sell it, she suggested we re-stage the pictures.

So, here you are. A bass and a girl, nearly eight years apart. Let's hope I sell the right one.


The Second (post about the) Foundation

Last month I wrote about re-reading Isaac Asimov's book, The Foundation. The first time I read it was when I was about 15 years old and I had remembered more of the ideas than the actual plot.

Now I've finally finished it (it can take me a while) and overall I was pleasantly surprised. The book is a classic of the genre for a reason. It's more about history and politics than it is about whizzy spaceships and aliens. The biggest shock was that, as a 51 year old reader, I couldn't help but notice there was something missing. Women.

You have to wait until page 185 until a female character appears. She says nothing but just wears an ornament. BY page 188 you get a female character who speaks. She is unsympathetic and is soon 'put in her place' by one of the male characters. That seems to be all the female content there is.

Does this spoil the book. Well, yes, a bit. It is a product of the nineteen fifties but still, I expected better of Asimov. It goes to show how those who decry 'political correctness' seem to have missed the point. Without awareness of what we were doing (or not doing in this case) we're in danger of making the same mistakes. The Trumps and Farages of this world would seem to think that's OK, by I don't.

Oh, and everyone smokes in the book, almost constantly.

Funny how a book about history has now become an artefact of another age.


The camera

My new camera. from Will Cruttenden on Vimeo.

After my dad died in 2012 I found his old camera, which in turn had belonged to his dad, my grandfather. I have pictures of my dad, as a boy, taken on this camera and I still enjoy looking at them. He looks carefree and happy, on his bike, exploring London in the 1930s.

Dad seems to have taken a few pictures of me as a carefree and happy young boy (not on a bike but looking bewildered in Slough). Now I have this camera and a (mostly) carefree and happy young boy of my own. I kept telling myself that I would find film for the camera and take pictures of Jude so we could have three generations taken on the same device.

But, of course, things got in the way, life became busier, finding the correct film was hard and, most importantly, I’m rubbish.

So yesterday evening, in a fit of good intentions, I tracked down some film in Germany (thank you internet) and ordered two rolls of it. Now I need to learn how to load the camera, take the pictures and find somewhere to get the pictures developed.

The film is due to arrive in the week and then the experiment begins. If anyone reading this knows anything about 1920s pockets cameras and 127 film, I’d appreciate any advice.