PREVIEW: Loose Tubes (Opening Concert of 2015 Herts Jazz Festival, Welwyn, 18th September)

Loose Tubes with Eddie Parker (centre)
Cheltenham Jazz Festival 2014
Photo credit: John Watson/ . All Rights Reserved

Loose Tubes will open this year's Herts Jazz Festival. Stephen Graham previews the concert: 

“These guys are into real compositions, real melodies, not just being super-hip. I haven’t seen a young band in the US who want to do things like that.” That was how Miles Davis producer Teo Macero described Loose Tubes - he would go on to produce on one of their albums.

Now successfully reformed, winners of the Best Live Experience at the recent Jazz FM Awards, for their Cheltenham festival appearance last year, their first since breaking up in 1990, the anarchic wildly original big band have long held a fascination for those who saw them the first time around.

And as befits their by now legendary reputation they also radiate great appeal too for newer listeners coming to their music inspired by more recent bands such as Polar Bear or Beats & Pieces Big Band who certainly owe a debt of gratitude to the groundbreaking example of Loose Tubes.

Two out of three of Loose Tubes’ first albums made during their heyday, however, are still not on CD and are now very difficult to find even on vinyl. This certainly contributes to a definite air of mystique about the band. Their self-titled debut from 1985, and the follow-up Delightful Precipice put out a year later, with the slightly easier to get hold of Teo Macero-produced Open Letter (which is on CD but out of print) following two years further down the line, are the records everyone wants to hear but still can't quite – at least not yet.

Better news is that just a few weeks ahead of the Herts Jazz Festival appearance new album Arriving (the title track featured on the Tubes’ 1985 debut) is to be released, an album that includes both material from the big band’s farewell residency at Ronnie Scott’s in 1990 and picks up the story already heard on archive releases Dancing on Frith Street and Säd Afrika but also adding new material, their first issued since reforming.

The band personnel scheduled to play at the Herts Jazz Festival includes many players who have developed significant solo careers of their own since the first time around. And it's looking like Eddie Parker on flute; Dai Pritchard, clarinet; Steve Buckley/Iain Ballamy, alto/soprano saxophones; Mark Lockheart and Julian Nicholas, tenor saxophones; Julian Argüelles, baritone saxophone; Lance Kelly, Noel Langley, Chris Batchelor and John Eacott, trumpets; Paul Taylor, Ashley Slater and Richard Pywell, trombones; Richard Henry, bass trombone; Dave Powell, tuba; Django Bates, keyboards; John Parricelli, guitar; Steve Watts, bass; Martin France, drums, and Louise Petersen Matjeka, percussion who are to play Herts.

Drawing on a range of styles that encompasses bebop, jazz-rock, South African township music and freer elements all finding their way into a lively creative cauldron Loose Tubes are unique and their appearance in Welwyn is something of a feather in the cap for the Herts jazz organisers in this the festival's fifth year.

LINKS: Tickets for Loose Tubes on 18th September
Interview with Clark Tracey and full Festival Programme
Review of the return gig at the 2014 Cheltenham Jazz Festival
Django Bates interview from January 2015

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