Skip to main content

Bill Wells – The Loathsome Reel

‘I had a dream that I was on a bus going to a Beach Boys convention somewhere in the USA. The bus stopped and picked up a crowd of beautiful, blonde, suntanned Californian types who, after they had all got seated on the bus and while it was at the stop, stood up and launched into this: an imaginary coda to a Beach Boys song.’

As an illustration of how Falkirk born composer, pianist and bass player Bill Wells’ mind works, the anecdote above to ‘On The Beach Boys Bus,’ recorded by Wells and Japanese band Maher Shalal Hash Baz for their joint ‘Osaka Bridge’ album, is perfect. This gem and others can be found in ‘The Loathsome Reel Book,’ a gorgeously packaged collection of 61 musical scores by Wells, each one no more than a page long.

With illustrations by former Pastel Annabel Wright, this leaves plenty of room for footnotes outlining each piece’s recording history alongside assorted scrap book cuttings of bad reviews, sketches and dedications to a who’s who of left-field music, from jazz trombonist Annie Whitehead, Barbara Morgenstern and To Rococco Rot’s Stefan Schneider, with whom Wells recorded ‘Pick Up Sticks’ for Leaf Records in 2004, to Future Pilot AKA’s Sushil K Dade, V-Twin’s Jason MacPhail and The Pastels themselves. The end result rounds up a kind of musical diary cum autobiography of Well’s development from solitary jazz sound-scaper to off-kilter collaborator of choice

“I always felt like I was having to catch up in some way,” Wells reflects. “Starting off in the jazz scene, it was really difficult to get records out. Now with this book I feel I’m finally getting there. But with this as well, I wanted it to be the kind of thing that people can just pick up, put on a music stand and play without rehearsing. Some parts are quite complicated, but you still don’t have to be able to read music well to play it.”

Published by Wells himself in an edition of 300 and launched with a performance by Wells and viola player Aby Vulliamy at Stirling’s Le Weekend festival, ‘The Loathsome Reel Book’ cheekily nods to ‘The Real Book,’ the semi-legal volume of sheet music for jazz standards that first appeared in the 1970s. That collection allowed players unfamiliar with how each other blew to find a common starting point before veering off beyond the transcribed melodies to invest it with their own musical personality. As Wells himself observes, long before recorded music took over, sheet music was the only way of disseminating the latest sounds beyond their composer.

“There was no sense of anything being definitive,” Wells points out. “Everything was open to interpretation, and even a lot of records are made by brilliant performances, but you can’t write down that performance. Like the one I made with Jad Fair. I don’t think anybody could write that down.”

Beyond his own work, it’s a busy time for Wells. Last year he spent four days with various Teenage Fanclub types recording Kevin Ayers’ last album, and he’s just returned from touring with Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. As we talk, Wells is preparing a two month trip to Japan, where he’ll be recording with assorted Japanese artists who he toured with on the most adventurous of the Tune Up tours a couple of years back. Wells will also be hooking up with former Sonic Youth guitarist and Tokyo émigré Jim O’Rourke. All a far cry from the Falkirk social clubs the young Wells cut his musical teeth in before never quite fitting into the mainstream jazz world.

“Even when I had a jazz band,” says Wells, “I always thought it was a jazz band playing pop tunes.”

‘The Loathsome Reel Book’ is available in Monorail, Glasgow, or from Bill Wells directly at -

www.myspace.com/thenationaljazztrioofscot
www.myspace.com/billwellstrio

The Herald, July 22nd 2008

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1
1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77)
3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77)
4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77)
5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77)
6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77)
7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77)
8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78)
9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78)
10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79) 
11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79)
12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79) 
13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79)
14. JOLT See Saw (6/79)
15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79)
16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79)
17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79)
18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79)
19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79)
20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79)
21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79)
22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79)
23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79)
24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80)
25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980)

1. THE REZILLOS I Can’t Stand My Baby (Sensible FAB 18/77) If it wasn’t for T…

Clybourne Park

Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy Four Stars
It’s a case of whoops, there goes the neighbourhood twice over in Rapture Theatre’s revival of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which opens in 1959 in the same Chicago suburb where Lorraine Hansberry’s drama, A Raisin in the Sun, which appeared that year, is set. Here, Robin Kingsland’s Russ and his wife Bev, played by Jackie Morrison, are preparing to move out of their now almost empty des-res following a family tragedy.
Unknown to them, the bargain basement price tag has enabled a black family to move in, with Jack Lord’s uptight Karl a self-appointed spokesperson for the entire ‘hood. Russ and Bev’s black maid Francine (Adelaide Obeng) and her husband Albert (Vinta Morgan), meanwhile, bear witness to a barrage of everyday racism. Fast forward half a century, and a white family are trying to buy the same house, albeit with a heap of proposed changes which the black couple representing the block’s now much more diverse community aren’t…

Losing Touch With My Mind - Psychedelia in Britain 1986-1990

DISC 1
1. THE STONE ROSES  - Don’t Stop 2. SPACEMEN 3  - Losing Touch With My Mind (Demo) 3. THE MODERN ART  - Mind Train 4. 14 ICED BEARS  - Mother Sleep 5. RED CHAIR FADEAWAY - Myra 6. BIFF BANG POW!  - Five Minutes In The Life Of Greenwood Goulding 7. THE STAIRS - I Remember A Day 8. THE PRISONERS - In From The Cold 9. THE TELESCOPES  - Everso 10. THE SEERS  - Psych Out 11. MAGIC MUSHROOM BAND - You Can Be My L-S-D 12. THE HONEY SMUGGLERS  - Smokey Ice-Cream 13. THE MOONFLOWERS - We Dig Your Earth 14. THE SUGAR BATTLE  - Colliding Minds 15. GOL GAPPAS  - Albert Parker 16. PAUL ROLAND - In The Opium Den 17. THE THANES - Days Go Slowly By 18. THEE HYPNOTICS  - Justice In Freedom (12" Version)

1. THE STONE ROSES Don’t Stop ( SilvertoneORE1989)
The trip didn’t quite start here for what sounds like Waterfall played backwards on The Stone Roses’ era-defining eponymous debut album, but it sounds like it. Vocalist Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire met in 1980 at Altrincham Grammar School. With bassist …