English Folk Song and Jazz in Burton Bradstock's CD All upon a Lovely Summer's Day



Peter Slavid writes about Burton Bradstock's new album All Upon A Lovely Summers Day, launched on Monday October 29th.

Monday night saw the launch at the Pizza Express of a new album by Burton Bradstock called All upon a lovely summers day. It’s unusual in that all the songs are English folk songs. I really enjoyed the album which has guest appearances by Iain Bellamy and some interesting strings in the background. The live show was a bit different but equally good – with Rob Updegraaf’s slightly more aggressive tone on the guitar working really well as a nice contrast with Dorian Ford’s more lyrical piano.

This is an important and interesting album which made me think seriously about the nature of song in jazz. We are all familiar with The Great American Song Book which is the “tradition” in jazz – it’s a mix of real jazz standards and show tunes which are now the staple diet of jazz singers all over the world. But as we have already seen in Scandinavia, the folk tunes of a region are as valid a source as those of Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley.

What all these sources share is a common pedigree – they are the songs that have survived over years of use and misuse, interpretation and manipulation - and the best survive. In the case of the English songs these are mainly from the oral tradition and have always existed in multiple versions with multiple meanings. Those that are still with us have emerged from the various collecting and revivals. As with much folk music many of the best tunes have been used by classical composers too. Some come from 17th Century poems, others from rural and industrial environments and have been handed down over generations.

Burton Bradstock’s interpretations are fascinating. I particularly liked the bluesy take on Foggy Foggy Dew. This is often sung as a bawdy comic song (including famously by Benjamin Britten), but the blues style gives it a slightly darker feel – appropriate since many people think it came from an Irish term meaning something supernatural and scary – or possible another term for TB.

Another song much interpreted is Sally in our Alley here given a straightforward treatment with good use of the strings. A good word also for the two “modern” songs – both very much in the folk style – one from Pentangle and one The Mermaid of Hampstead Heath which inspired the album cover.

Despite my personal interest in both genres, and excepting some interesting interpretations of Bob Dylan songs, jazz and folk music have never been comfortable bedfellows. There is no good reason for this and there really should be more. All Upon A Lovely Summers Day is a good model which delivers some fine jazz while respecting some of the best words to be found anywhere in song.

PETER SLAVID is Chair of the F-IRE Collective and this CD was released on the F-IRE Presents label. This piece is written in a personal capacity, with the aim of drawing attention to some issues raised by the release.

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