London showed me its most disagreeable face as I landed at Heathrow on Friday: grey skies, drizzle and temperatures which appeared sub-zero to me.
Nevermind. There were lots of consolations, mainly of a musical kind because I am staying with David and Jeremiah and that always turns into a musical Odyssey. This time it started with my watching a DVD of Don Giovanni from Glyndebourne at night alone since my hosts were out somewhere. But this inspired us and the following morning we dug into David's inexhaustible library of DVDs and played all the greatest performances from Don Giovanni: the best Donna Elviras and the best Donna Annas of all time etc and what David called the 'Duel of the Basses': the final of Don Giovanni with the Commendadore, Leporello and Don Giovanni himself.
I dragged myself away from this aural feast reluctantly only to plunge directly into another one of a very different kind: Saturday afternoon live Bebop at the Elgin in Ladbroke Grove. I met up with my old friends Pia, Andrew and Yonatani at this this legendary
Ladbroke Grove watering hole which is just across the road from my flat,
now let. We saw the Steve Fishwick/Alex Garnett Quartet. Pia is an expert at finding interesting performances at fun venues. We have all seen the trumpet playing Steve Fishwick before, that time it was in another venue that Pia found many years ago...
I have a store of special places in my memory: places far out of the ordinary; places which are so unusual that only a fabulous reality could possibly make them up-one's imagination would never be inspired enough. I call them my seven wonders of the world. One such place was called BB's.
We would all meet up once a week at Liverpool Street station then get on a train which took us to Forest Gate, far away in East London suburbia. We would walk down an unassuming street like many others lined with small terraced houses in this somewhat down at heel neighbourhood until we reached a house which had a sign above its entrance advertising "The East London Dancing Club". We had arrived. Inside the host greeted us, BB, a Jamaican devoté of Jazz, Blues and just about any other music which could be performed in his house- the whole place was turned into a club where we saw New York Tap Dancers as well as Bebop with Steve above; fabulous blues singers from Croydon and jazz pianists from Chicago. I do not think the performers were paid, but nevertheless everyone wanted to perform there. Half way through the evening BB would serve up a generous buffet of good Jamaican fare, Jerk Chicken and the like. One paid whatever one wanted to contribute- I remember once I had forgotten to bring cash but BB just told me to 'dig in' anyway.
BB has now left this world alas (Pia and Andrew went to his well frequented funeral) but he and his wonderful East London Dancing Club certainly lives in our memories for ever.
The music did not stop at the Elgin on Saturday. I had to rush on to the ENO where I was meeting David an Jeremiah once more at 6pm and we saw a performance of 'Lulu', an opera by Alban Berg based on the 'sex tragedy' plays of Wedekind. All dissonance and German Expressionism- fabulous sets by William Kentridge. Musically not quite as impossible as I had imagined, in fact I liked it although I felt it could have benefited from some editing... too long. David wrote this review: www.theartsdesk.com/opera/lulu-english-national-opera
And that was not all by any means on the Musical front. The following morning I met Andrew and Clare at sung Mass at Our Lady of Victories, Kensington which featured organ Prelude by Bach, Exultate Deo by Palestrina, Our Father by Rimsky -Korsakov, Agnus Dei by Mozart and Toccata by Egil Havland.
Then we all went back 'home' to Jeremiah and Davids for lovely Sunday lunch (pork with crackling!) where more music flowed: A friendly argument had erupted: who is the greatest? Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan? All the four others at the lunch ganged up on me and had the bad taste of believing Leonard Cohen should have been the one to receive the Nobel Price instead of Dylan. (Now, I do like Leonard Cohen too of course but even he himself realized he was in the shadow of Dylan...) Anyway, we staged a 'duel' between the two greats. Two numbers were to be played by each. The Leonard Cohen Camp chose one called 'Joan of Arc' and one 'Anthem'. I chose 'Hard Rain' to represent Dylan as well as 'Lay down your Weary Tune'. The outcome was unclear since we all stuck to our convictions...