Recorded at KD's Studio, London W4 and Temple Music, Sutton, Surrey
A View From Behind The Desk
I first saw Dick Heckstall-Smith play around 1957 at St Martin's School of Art, with the band of progressive Dixieland swing clarinetist Sandy Brown. Three years later, we did our first gig together, a poetry and jazz concert, He was the jazz, I was the poetry.
Dick suffered in the tiny London jazz scene of the time for being too intelligent and broad-minded. The prevalent opinion was that if you'd been well educated, had a hyphenated name and a degree, you couldn't possibly have the right feeling in you to play jazz and blues with any conviction (A fine example of the reverse is the posh Sue Lawley’s notorious interview with John Lee Hooker on Desert Island Discs, where she insists, over the vehement denials of JLH, that he must have come from incredible poverty and suffering in order to play like that) In fact, he could just flat out play, and so can Dick.
Dick and I have now done hundreds of sessions together, from my own first record as singer with the strange Battered Ornaments (where I dragged Dick in as co-producer) to this wonderful record, Dick has been involved with the Blues for a very long time, influenced by Sidney Bechet and Wardell Gray, both innovative blues players Dick was the fist jazz musician to join the legendary Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated. Some jazz musicians undoubtedly became involved with the R&B boom in Sixties Britain because of the prevailing cruel economics, but Dick's heart had always been in the Blues, and over the years, through long stints with John Mayall, Jack Bruce and the Hamburg Blues Band, he has developed a unique vision of this music.
Purists may comment on the lack of traditional forms on this record, but they’d be missing the point; real Blues has always found its own shape. Listen to Sleepy John Estes' amazing "Drop Down Mama" and try to count the bars and work out the time signatures!
I have to say that I encouraged Dick when we were writing our songs for the record to push out the boundaries a little, and I don't regret it. I hear too many blues records with the same stuff on them and I don't want to be responsible for any more of it!
Dave "Much" Moore and I have now co-produced three very different Dick Heckstall-Smith records, and we have evolved our own working procedures. "Much" has more technical knowledge than me, and is often able to communicate with engineers in a language for which I would need a translator. I am more generally concerned with logistics, i.e studios, musicians and schedules, and for relaxation I get involved with performance and structure. "Much" and I, both very patient (aren't we, Dick?), have learned to deal with Dick's occasional studio excesses. On one record, Dick tried eight different tenor sax mouthpieces on a track where only he could tell the difference. On this recording, it was Dick's last minute radical musical changes (and sudden “great ideas”) and his antique and uniquely temperamental electronic sax setup.
In conclusion, I'd like to thank Blue Storm Music for helping realize this long dreamed-of project. Dick has been winning European Blues Polls for years, and now the rest of the world will be able to find out why.
My Guests: Paul Jones, John Mayall, Mick Taylor, Paul Williams, Peter Green, Pete Brown and Jack Bruce.
The Band: David Hadley on bass guitar, Gary Husband, Martin Wilde and Jon Hiseman on drums; Clem Clempson, Rab McCullough and Eddie Martin on guitars; and 'Much' Moore on keys.
The Production Team: The man with the Vision, Pete Brown, the gentle man of iron with the in-yer-face nifty-grifty Dave Moore; the ever gimlet-eared, ever-musical man of broad-focus detail behind the desk, Ben Matthews.
Shu Tomioka, who took all the session photographs.
Pete Grant, WebMaster Extraordinaire, who always pays exhaustive (and sometimes exhusting) attention to the DHS Website.
Without Arnie Goodman, Jim 'Koz' Kozlowski, Mike Carden et al at Blue Storm Music, 'Blues & Beyond' would have got about as far as the swamp at the bottom of my garden. Thanks, guys, for your support; thanks, and thanks again. Thanks, also, to Eagle Rock. The uniquely essential role you play can't ever be exaggerated. You are the ones that get our music out, and into the ears of the people; without you, all the labours of the rest of us are suddenly nothing.
The Safest Place In The World is available from Quartet Books Ltd.
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Visit Dick Heckstall-Smith online at: www.dh-s.co.uk
(P) (C) 2001 Blue Storm Music.
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