Music

Musical revolutionary

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What makes someone a great artist? Surely one of the criteria has to be to what extent they have revolutionised their art form. On that measure alone the trumpeter Miles Davis must be regarded as one of the most innovative and creative musicians of the 20th century.

At the age of 18 he played an important part in the musical revolution called bebop. Throughout his 50-year career he released many outstanding records but in 1959 he surpassed any of his previous work with the release of Kind of Blue. Modal jazz was born. Again in 1970 Davis released another era-defining and path-breaking album Bitches Brew (that Davis used the sexist word "bitch" in the title, as a term for excellence, clearly taints the album).

Standing on the shoulders of jazz giants

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New Orleans is often regarded as the birthplace of jazz. Martin Smith spoke to jazz musician Christian Scott about growing up in the city, the devastation after Katrina and making music to move the listener.


A young 27 year old black man found himself driving alone through New Orleans on his way back from the Mardi Gras at around 2am one night. As he looked in his rear view mirror, he saw a car tailing him with its lights off. For eight blocks the blacked out car followed him. His life flashed before him: was it a gang out to rob him, or, even worse, a lynch mob?

The soaring beats of Flying Lotus

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All of a sudden the stage lights went out, police sirens wailed and their lights flickered across the stage. Slowly emerging from the dry ice stood six silhouetted Black Panther type figures carrying rifles. Then, like a thunderbolt, the band launched into "Countdown to Armageddon".

The band was Public Enemy and the venue was the Electric Ballroom in Camden in 1988. It was one of those musical experiences that will live with me for the rest of my life.

Readers of this column will have their own musical highpoints and lows. For some it will be when Elvis Presley swivelled his hips to "Heartbreak Hotel", for others it will be when the Sex Pistols spat out the words to "God Save the Queen" on Top of the Pops and for younger readers it may have been Jay Z at Glastonbury.

Sounds of city streets

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The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) rips through the heart of two of New York's finest boroughs.

If you ever get a chance to drive along it, your journey will take you through a cityscape of dilapidated factories, graffitied walls and in the distance the gleaming skyscrapers of Manhattan.

I want to take a musical journey through the eyes of the composer Aaron Copland and the multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Stevens. Just like the BQE, it's a journey of the old and the new.

The Specials - so much, so young

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In 1981 Britain was in a state of crisis: 2.5 million people were unemployed and Margaret Thatcher's government was deeply unpopular.

In April of that year the police introduced a stop and search policy in Brixton, named Operation Swamp. In just six days 943 people - most of them black - were stopped and searched by plainclothes officers. This led to the Brixton riot - an uprising against racist brutality and poverty.

On 10 July the country just exploded with wave after wave of rioting. In the midst of the turmoil The Specials released "Ghost Town". It hit number one. Can any other record claim to have captured the spirit of its age so acutely?

Interview: Jon McClure of Reverend and the Makers

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Jon McClure, lead singer of Sheffield band, Reverend and The Makers, hosted the recent 4,500-strong Love Music Hate Racism Rotherham Carnival. He speaks to Lee Billingham about his music and politics

How did you get into music?

I got into music by being a kind of poet and writer. I put on parties and performed poetry. I also wrote stuff for the Arctic Monkeys' website. I used to write it under various pseudonyms, which kind of increased their mythology. It was more politically inclined than their music would be.

Terence Blanchard - full interview

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Terence Blanchard's latest album, A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina), is about the abandonment of the people of New Orleans by the Bush administration. Here the composer, saxophonist and film-score writer speaks to Martin Smith about his new music, the US government and working with Spike Lee.

What made you record the album?

Big mouth...

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Once again the singer Morrissey has plenty to say about immigration and British society. In a November edition of the NME, the magazine claims that he said, "The gates of England are flooded. The country's been thrown away."

Later in the same article Morrissey boldly declares, "With the issue of immigration, it's very difficult because although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. If you travel to Germany, it's still absolutely Germany... But travel to England and you have no idea where you are... If you walk through Knightsbridge you'll hear every accent apart from an English accent."

Welcome to the revolution

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I might be a month late, but I think it is time to celebrate the October revolution. No, not the Russian one, but Wednesday 10 October 2007.

That was the day Radiohead released In Rainbows, an album not only available as a download, but - wait for it - the buyers decide how much they pay!

Yep, for as little as one penny you can get yourself an album by one of Britain's biggest bands. Thom Yorke, the band's lead singer, told a journalist, "We're not part of this big empire - it's trying to get away from that because it's the death of anything creative." But I wonder just how noble the band's aims are.

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