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The Bickershaw Programme: Brotherhood of Breath.

  This band , when it isn't occasionally staggering into episodes of the most blindingly beautiful music, spends most of its time performing that curious high wire act of making half the people very high and the other half very angry - which is usually an indication that something interesting's going on. There was a woman in Ronnie Scott's one night who got an earful of Brotherhood at full pressure and was moved to declare that it was all an insult to jazz. In a way , she was right . These musicians had long recognized that most orthodox night club jazz had gone soft ., like old fruit . So they drew on other sources. rock music sometimes , South African Kvvela music sometimes , the inspiration of Duke Ellington sometimes . Sparked off by jagged excursions into freedom , the mixture has often turned instantly and reassuringly into flames.

   Chris McGregor, the one who looks as if he's being played by several blokes in an animal skin- is the pianist  and nominally, the leader. Together with Dudu Pukwana ( alto ) and Mongezi Feza ( pocket trumpet) Chris left South Africa in the mid sixties after a gig at the Antibes jazz festival and has lived here since 1965.  Brotherhood of Breath was formed in 1970 and gave its first performance to an astonished audience in London's Notre Dame hall and the respect that Chris McGregor's small group had already earned was reflected by the performers who turned up as guests. The Jamaican Ken Terrode, the South African Ronnie Beer, even British tenor Evan Parker, whose musical inclinations were ostensibly quite different from Brotherhood's. 
  In the days since then , one record has been released and another is due. The band has played at a variety of European festivals and gigged all round the London clubs, raised the roof at a South Bank concert and generally made audiences forget what kind of music they're hearing . Dudu Pukwana , from Port Elizabeth a devotee of Ornette Coleman , but sounding utterly like himself, has both the musical resources and empathy with the crowd to occasionally make the rest of his colleagues sound as if they are about to retire. Mongezi Feza , who admires Don Cherry but who sounds more like Albert Ayler, has gone right through bebop trumpet and into a peculiar area of his own , a mixture of breathless urgency and moments of broad humour .

  • Front cover
  • Back Cover
  • America
  • Brinsley Schwarz
  • Captain Beefheart
  • Captain Beyond
  • Cheech and Chong
  • Country Joe.
  • Donovan
  • Dr John 
  • Family
  • Flaming Groovies
  • Grateful Dead.
  • Hawkwind
  • Jonathon Kelly
  • Linda Lewis.
  • Incredible String Band
  • New Riders.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric 
  • Sam Apple Pie
  • Stackridge
  • Al Stewart
  • The Kinks.
  • Joe's Lights 
  • The Bickershaw Menu
      McGregor himself , when you can hear him, is a fine pianist, rippling and splashing about the keyboard with disarming casualness that disguises the sweeping imagination reflected in his composing too. Though the band had grown much freer of late, there is an understanding between its members now that permits them to make almost random connections and still come up with a shape. Their spectrum runs from whirling arrhythmic interludes that totally suspend time and obvious form, to infectious themes over a beat that can drag audiences out of their seats as surely as any rock band can do it. The existence of the Brotherhood is a representation of the way some imaginative musicians are thinking. Or rather playing . Or maybe just being . For them , distinctions are left for the people that can't play and can't hear either.
    The Bickershaw Menu

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    Updated May 2023

    Other Bickershaw links.



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