I first became aware of Laurence Jones because I kept seeing him at jazz gigs I attended. We began a conversation one Friday afternoon at what was then known as Rush Hour Blues, the commuter jazz sessions held every Friday at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. I recall asking him if he was a musician because whenever I’d seen him at gigs he seemed to be friendly with a number of them. It was then that I learned that by profession he’s an archaeologist, currently freelance, and that he has a real passion for music and for jazz especially. He is an occasional reviewer of recorded jazz.
My portrait of Laurence was shot in Edmund Street in Birmingham on an overcast day in December 2016 outside the Birmingham School of Art. For those interested in the technical stuff it was shot using my Nikon D750 and 70-200 f2.8 Nikkor lens wide open at 80mm.
Over to Laurence himself:
“Growing up there wasn’t much jazz or even rock to be heard in the house of my parents. My folks were into classical, folk or easy listening. The only two records in their collection, that had a jazz flavour, were by Edmundo Ros and Frank Sinatra. The first music that grabbed my attention as a child was glam rock (T Rex, Roxy Music and Bowie were big) and then some of the heavier rock sounds of Zeppelin.
“All things changed when punk happened, while I was still in school, and it was almost like a Stalinist year zero. For a while if it wasn’t ‘punk’ it wasn’t worth a ****! Many of my few records were literally thrown out of the window and in came the Pistols and the first wave of punk, later followed by Joy Division and what became known as post-punk.
“It wasn’t until much later, as I tired of what had become stale, that my tastes widened and I began exploring other genres, looking for something new to me. By chance I heard some of the modern jazz Peter Clayton played on BBC Radio 3 and I was really drawn to the feel of it. Then one day I passed a ramshackle little record shop, called The Diskery in Birmingham, selling second-hand jazz records. I poked my head around the door and the jazz habit kicked in from that day. A kaleidoscope of new and exciting music all seemed to be filed under jazz.
“As an archaeologist one can spend a lot of time sifting through the more prosaic stuff, when suddenly something unexpected leaps out of nowhere. I had the same feeling when I first heard these tracks”
Laurence recommends the following 5-a-day:
- Sack O’ Woe– Cannonball Adderley Quintet. The first jazz tune I really listened to. This irresistibly groovy soul jazz number appeared on a compilation (it was originally on At the Lighthouse, 1961) which I bought from the irrepressible Jimmy at The Diskery. It was recommended to me when I wandered in and confessed I didn’t know anything about jazz, but wanted to know where to start!
- Shakara (Oloje) – Fela Ransome Kuti and the Africa ’70 from Lady/ Shakara (1972). This is my favourite Fela track (and there’s no shortage of tunes to choose from), all the trademark afrobeat ingredients are here: slow build, insistent hypnotic guitar, heavy-weight baritone sax, call and response chorus. The irresistible groove builds with an incisive horn section sparring with Fela’s stabbing keyboards and the whole thing is underpinned by the Tony Allen’s Yoruba-influenced polyrhythmic drumming.
- Las Cuevas De Mario – Art Pepper from Smack Up (1960). Brilliantly simple bass and piano riff rolls along before Pepper’s sublime alto enters and carries the tune heavenwards.
- Right Off – Miles Davis from A Tribute to Jack Johnson (1971) Herbie Hancock and John McLaughlin help Miles conjure up a beautifully foreboding soundtrack.
- Blue Moon – Ahmad Jamal from Blue Moon (2012). Just a wonderfully propulsive and life-affirming tune, played by the then 82-year old Jamal, which explodes with vitality.