Archive for February, 2014

Wearing Tom Kirkpatrick’s Tie

Tom PlayingIt is said that one can get somebody’s vibe by driving their car, or sitting on their favourite chair, or playing their trumpet… likewise… when people have organ transplants some of the innate characteristics of the donor do affect the recipient. Thus when delicate souls who spent their days doing embroidery and macramé  in a lady-like parlour receive a heart, liver or toenails from a hell’s angel, the delicate one inexplicably gets a taste for motorcycling, beer and listening to heavy metal.



Tom's TieThe last time I went to Italy, the very wonderful jazz trumpeter, Tom Kirkpatrick, saw that I was wearing a very silly tie, so he rushed off and showed me his eclectic collection of ties, some featuring musical motifs, instruments and exotic flora and fauna. He invited me to take one… so I chose this goldy thing, hoping that once I put it on, my musical skills might miraculously emerge while wearing the tie, and I might be able to sing and play the horn with consummate skill… but when I put it on for the first time last weekend, the nearest I got to osmosing Tom’s prodigious talent was revving up the sound system and listened to the fabulous Shirley Horn with an (almost) new set of ears… but it was worth it.

Tom Kirkpatrick is such a brilliant jazz musician. To hear him live is always thrilling, he is a dazzling exponent of bebop, but just about any kind of jazz is as natural to him as breathing. How sad it is that we so rarely if ever hear him in the UK, where he is not known. He lives in Italy in a jolly little town called Bondeno, a bit of a way away from Ferrara, and there he resides with his wife, close by her family and their friends, and a bit of a distance from his family and home country of the US where he grew up and became well known in New York jazz circles.Unknown

Tom is a team player, he interacts exquisitely with his students, bringing out the best in them, making them harmonise as perfectly as any professional group. His humour and joie de vivre are completely infectious, which is why he has a great popular following both locally and nationally in Italy, where the Italians have adopted him as one of their own. Italy has always had a great relationship with US jazz musicians.

When we visit Italy we always share a wide range of sounds, as diverse as Dusty Springfield and Vaughan Williams. It was Tom that introduced me to Red Garland, and many other greats. Last time I was there I played Tom some of the dotty stuff to be found on the album called ‘Larkin’s Jazz’, a strange compilation of the favourites of Philip Larkin (‘This Be the Verse’). We fell sideways at the witty sound of Ray Noble’s Tiger Rag, not to mention the seriously tinkling tones of the Washboard Rhythm Kings. I was having a phase of listening to Shirley Horn then, and Tom explained to me what a great jazz pianist she was, and how she loved to do everything ‘real slooow’.




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The Great Betrayal

How the world’s holiest of holies have failed to comment on manmade climate change, and the threat to our planet

rainmudThe consequences of climate change and the reality of climate change are here, shoved up, close and present and dangerous, pushed into your face and mine… right now. The deluge is here and we made it happen.

One of the saddest moments of an otherwise inspirational training as an Interfaith Minister was the day, at the end of the two years, when we were asked if there were any issues that we felt had been overlooked. We broke up into small groups, and when it came to my turn I said that I was deeply disappointed that the Interfaith Seminary had given no time, no interest and no acknowledgement to the issue of climate change and the threat it poses to millions of people, animals and plants, which by nature of their existence were all sacred.

My comments went down with the interest that might be awarded to bag of orange peel, found at a bus stop. Some of my fellow ministers looked at me with utter contempt. One who never speaks, but who since has become a close friend half agreed, but virtually said nothing; another one said I was completely politicized and naïve, and should keep my views to myself, and another one, who is now a teaching member of the faculty said “there, there, we all get this kind of bee in our bonnet. You see, it means a lot to you, but it really doesn’t mean much to any of us, because it won’t happen.”rain1 Of course as people of the holy persuasion these Interfaith Ministers are absolutely no different to their counterparts in the Church of England, the world of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or anything else. Admittedly there are pockets of religious groups that say stuff, like the previous Archbishop of Canterbury – Rowan Williams – who did actually go to the Copenhagen Climate Change Summit and make a speech. Speeches are so useful, they pay such wonderful lip service to the occasion. In days of old Archbishops could actually use their powers to bring about change, support or destroy Kings and empires, threaten dictators, represent the views of the people. Now they go to a summit meeting or a conference and talk, and 45 people and two trainee journalists listen, politely… with a touch of boredom.

This is our world. If you are a person of faith you will believe that something – God, the divine, the great spirit, the supreme being, was able to create our beautiful, rich, and complex world. So why the hell don’t we look after it? Do we have to continue on this path of consumerism, greed and insane fracking before we wake up and realise that we are destroying the planet… our planet… this most sacred world. What do you reckon?

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