Monday, 20 August 2007


I had hoped to use this post to announce to the poor, unsuspecting world that I'd finally recorded some new stuff and slapped it online to amuse/bemuse/appal anyone who accidentally stumbled upon it. Except I can't, because my computer doesn't want to have anything to do with the notion - I clearly didn't spend enough hard cash (that I now no longer have) on a decent sound card, etc. Ah, well. Probably for the best, anyway - I can spend more time practising while I save up for better equipment, (a couple of decades might do it), so that when I eventually do hit the little red button my playing might be, to quote the traditional Glaswegian post-gig compliment, "no tae bad". I could, perhaps, even make it to the giddy heights of "youse were awright, but" (When in Weegieland, you must never forget the "but" on the end of the sentence if you want to be accepted in the local culture. Travelling west from Scotland's glorious capital, Edinburgh, it starts to creep in roughly when you reach Whitburn, or thereabouts.).

It is certain, however, that I'll never reach the level of the Russian chap who's one of my all-time favourite musicians, equally ridiculously adept on bass guitar or upright, and whose tone is wider than the biggest "Golden Corral all-you-can-eat steak buffet" customer's backside - I give you, BORIS KOZLOV!! (cue sound f.x.: wild applause and cheering, interspersed with a couple's aggressively whispered conversation about precisely whose fault it is they decided to head for the toilets, thus missing 95% of one of the greatest encores in the history of jazz. Applause dies down, and whispering stops abruptly in embarrassment as they realise everyone in the room, including the band, just heard him compare her mother's bladder capacity to that of a bull walrus on growth hormones, and her retort that involved at least three highly-insanitary, but very creative, anatomically-improbable suggestions for him to perform solo with immediate effect).

Now, if anyone hasn't heard of Mr. K, giving him a swift "google" might help, (I'm legally obliged to write "oo-err, missus" at this point), but the root of my personal veneration of all things Boris started before he was "famous", back around 1994...yes, you've guessed it, it's flashback time again.

A jazz pianist friend, Julian Hensey, 'phoned me during the Edinburgh Festival, and insisted that I came along to hear a New York-based Russian quartet in the old Edinburgh University Staff Club building on Chambers Street that night...they turned out to be the Igor Butman (look him up) group, with his brother Oleg on drums, a guy with a moustache whose name has long gone but was the Miles Davis of the trombone (!), and Boris Kozlov on 6-string electric bass. We were, unsurprisingly, completely blown away - as were the other four members of the audience (no, I'm not kidding, the Edinburgh Festival is renowned for those sort of numbers). Boris, being the only polyphonic instrument, was providing all the harmony work, interspersing chords and lines with terrifying ease, and all without a hint of arrogance or being flash for the sake of it.

Well, after that we became a permanent fixture, coming back every night, chatting to B.K. after the gigs - I ended-up lending him my amp for the last 3 shows - how could we pass up on what was essentially a week-long masterclass?
We even dared to get up & play at the post-gig session on the second-last night (I had serious reservations about even taking my bass out of the bag - I mean, c'mon, follow THAT?? What could I hope to contribute?), and were just about controlling our jitters when Igor himself joined in...I have no recollection as to what we were playing (all my attention was fixed on not screwing up), except that Julian's hands were shaking so much he wisely decided to decline a solo, and we staggered to the end without suffering complete disaster, which is always the main thing in jazz...

Come the final gig, naturally, the word had at last got out, and the packed audience contained a fair few of the "great & the good" of Scottish jazz - on the whole seeking to gain lustre by association at the jam session, it transpired. A certain double bass player (naming no names), well known for not suffering from low self-esteem, was plucking away with a significant swagger until Boris (who was a completely modest & non-competitive about music) was eventually persuaded to sit in. He didn't change a single setting on the guy's amp, but as soon as he started playing, that bass sounded twice as loud, round and sweet as before...while its owner stood off to the side trying his best to look 'cool', but sporting the falsest clenched-jaw grin you could ever wish to see...

We corresponded for a short while after that (and he sent me one of his "New Hype Jazz" cd's) - he had a young family, was having to play in wedding bands to make ends meet, thought he might have to quit and go back to Russia - but he was moving apartments a fair bit, and then moving up in the musical world, and we inevitably lost touch along the way.

Still, here's to Boris Kozlov - nice bloke, supreme bass player, and unintentional pricker of grossly inflated egos. Now go & buy some of his stuff.

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