Thursday, February 28, 2019

Dziļi Violets

28 February 2019

My new favourite band is not Deep Purple. Dziļi Violets – Latvian for Deep Purple (literally deep violets) – is a band created for the Latvian satirical TV show ‘Midnight Show Seven’. They recently released a tongue-in-cheek offering to be Latvia’s entry in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, ‘Tautasdziesma’ (“Dance: I don’t know how to dance”) – and I love the first comment posted on the YouTube page for the song which says “Europe is the place were a latvian guy is wearing a scottish kilt while singing french and i think that's beautiful." But when they move away from spoof songs Dziļi Violets are a pretty cool band. Their song which first attracted my attention was ‘Sprīdītis’ which has a modern take on old-fashioned swing in a similar way to Caravan Palace (reviewed here in July 2009), see: And I love the cheery upbeat ‘Dullais Dauka’ featuring Elza Rozentale whistling, rapping and singing like a Latvian Caro Emerald (reviewed here in April 2017), see: I look forward to the first full album from Dziļi Violets.

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Friday, February 22, 2019

'Already Ready Already' by Galactic

22 February 2019

I can tell you exactly when I first discovered the New Orleans funk band, Galactic: it was the attention-grabbing use of their powerful song ‘You Don’t Know’ (Featuring Glen David Andrews And The Rebirth Brass Band) in an episode of the third season of ‘Fargo’ (reviewed here in October 2017). This week I’ve been enjoying the new album by Galactic, ‘Already Ready Already’. Featuring a range of guest vocalists, its an eclectic set from a band that is always hard to categorise. There’s jazz, funk, R&B, rock, brass band, blues, hip hop, electronic and more squashed into eight tracks. I particularly like punk cabaret artist Boyfriend’s quirky speed-rap on ‘Dance At My Funeral’. Galactic are difficult to describe but undeniably cool. If you don’t know them I would recommend starting by listening to ‘You Don’t Know’ at

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Friday, February 15, 2019

'Living on the Volcano' by Michael Calvin

15 February 2019

Michael Calvin is a very accomplished sports writer who has been named Sports Writer of the Year and Sports Reporter of the Year (twice). He was Chief Sports Writer at the Independent on Sunday until 2016 and in recent years he has won the Times Sports Book of the Year prize twice and has received much acclaim for ghostwriting the autobiographies of the rugby player Gareth Thomas and the footballer Joey Barton. He also happens to be one of my neighbours, living a few doors down from us. I’ve just finished reading Mick’s book ‘Living on the Volcano: The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager’, which was shortlisted for the 2015 William Hill Sports Book of the Year. It’s a collection of interviews with managers working across the Premier League and the English Football League, including Brendan Rodgers, Roberto Martinez, Alan Pardew, Sean Dyche, Karl Robinson and Eddie Howe. Given the precarious nature of the football manager’s job, the book now feels like a snapshot of 2014 as hardly any of the managers Mick talks to are still at the same clubs now. It’s a fascinating examination of the transition from player to manager. I was particularly struck by the wide range of incredibly thorough approaches taken by most of the managers who have meticulously studied statistics, foreign coaching styles, other sports or completely different industries to give them an insight on how to build the best team for their club. It seems cruel that, given this determined attention to detail, the fate of most managers seems to be decided on luck and the mood of players, fans and owners: these days football clubs rarely manage to take a long-term approach. Mick is good at getting behind the pantomime villain image of many football managers and showing the genuine, sympathetic human beings struggling against impossible odds. While it is true that most sacked managers will have reaped huge financial rewards, when you consider the ridiculous levels of scrutiny and stress involved you do wonder why anyone would want to be a football manager.


Wednesday, February 06, 2019

'The Mousetrap' by Agatha Christie

6 February 2019

Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’ has been running in the West End in London since 1952 so I have spent my whole life avoiding spoilers before finally seeing the play at the Royal Theatre in Northampton on Monday. The longevity of ‘The Mousetrap’ is particularly amazing as I can’t imagine many people wanting to see it more than once: it is not knowing who dunnit that is the appeal. Nevertheless Gareth Armstrong’s touring production is great fun and very well acted. The plot is darker and more believable than I had expected and I wasn’t alone in wanting to finally see it for myself: the Royal Theatre was packed and we all left the theatre promising not to spoil the show for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

5 February 2019

On Saturday I played in the third concert of the Northampton Symphony Orchestra’s 125th anniversary season. Our programme focussed on the year in which the orchestra was founded, 1893, featuring one piece written in 1893 and one by a composer who was born that year. Arthur Benjamin is best remembered for ‘Jamaican Rumba’ but his ‘Romantic Fantasy’, premiered in 1938, is a much more complex, serious piece. It is a remarkable double concerto for violin and viola, for which we were joined on Saturday by Stephen Bryant, Leader of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and Benjamin Roskams (who played Bruch's 'Scottish Fantasy' in a Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert reviewed here in June 2015). Most of us had not heard the ‘Romantic Fantasy’ before but NSO conductor, John Gibbons, knows it well, having conducted one of its few recordings (with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for Dutton Epoch). It’s a lovely piece which really grew on me as I got to grips with it. The two fiendishly-difficult solo parts intertwine to sound at times like a single player. Stephen and Benjamin’s synchronicity was amazing, particularly in the cadenzas. We finished the concert with a much more familiar piece,  Antonín Dvořák’s ‘Symphony No 9: From the New World’, composed in 1893. The NSO has played the ‘New World Symphony’ 20 times over the past 125 years and I think Saturday’s performance was really impressive. Jayne Henderson had the scary challenge of having to play one of the most famous tunes in orchestral music – the cor anglais solo in the slow movement – and she delivered a perfect performance which was the highlight of the symphony. There were also beautiful solos from most of her woodwind colleagues, including Sarah Mourant (oboe), Graham Tear and Helen Taylor (flute) and Naomi Muller (clarinet). And the brass section was in magnificent form, particularly in the finale. It was a lovely concert.

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