The shock of the familiar; Welcome back Loose Tubes, Cheltenham Festival, Saturday 3rd May

“I’m feeling a bit emotional” declared Tony Dudley-Evans, Cheltenham Festival host and programme advisor, as he took the stage to introduce the first gig of the re-formed Loose Tubes. He wasn’t the only one. With preview features galore in the jazz press and I’m sure a deluge of reviews to follow, I’m not going to add to them with an account of the gig and the music, but with a brief personal reflection on the emotional response.

Like a significant portion of the audience, I had never seen Loose Tubes live (Ashley Slater‘s wildly divergent repartee in between tunes included an invitation to previous initiates to raise their hands; it was a minority) and yet from the first chord of the huge ensemble, there was something breathtakingly familiar about the sound. It wasn’t the familiarity of a much listened to recording, more like the sound of an old friend’s voice, something that has made up the warp weft of life’s routine.  This was momentarily a puzzle until I reminded myself, with a quick scan of the stage, just who was in the band.   My personal discovery of jazz started around 1990 with a ‘hear something you like – listen to something connected’ odyssey that quickly led to all sorts of music that moved and excited me and was surprised to find under an umbrella marked jazz; Iain Ballamy‘s All Men Amen, Julian Arguelles‘ Phaedrus, bands like The Perfect Houseplants and Django Bates‘ Human Chain and Delightful Precipice.  Which of those bands didn’t have Martin France on drums? Hallf of them had Steve Watts on bass. There they all were on the stage.  Chris Batchlelor was there as well , animator of so many diverse bands, so too was Mark Lockheart. Without knowing it at the time I was delighting in the legacy of the creative maelstrom that was Loose Tubes and an approach to music making that was unapologetically eclectic, often politically committed, always passionate and frequently delivered with a huge grin and a wink.  No wonder the band sounded like an old friend, I’ve been listening to them all in different incarnations for approaching 25 years. And their individual and collective influences are readily apparent if you listen carefully to new generations of musicians all around. Once those Tubes were Loose, there was no putting them back in a box.  I can report that on the evidence of Saturday’s gig, their joy and exuberance in music making is undimmed (old and freshly penned alike) .  Long may they continue. It’s life enriching and life affirming stuff.



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