Archive for the Jazz category

The vicuna overcoat – menefreghismo to the max


coat front

Nick Tosches’ Dean Martin biography Dino: Living High In The Dirty Business Of Dreams memorably defines its subject as a menefreghista – “one who simply does not give a fuck”.

And if ever there was a garment which oozes menefreghismo, it is the vicuna overcoat.

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Is that really Jah Wobble? Images from amazing new promo

THE LOOK has been having a whole bunch of fun contributing to the promo shoot for Jah Wobble’s forthcoming single Blow Up.


Asked to help out with styling, extras and props, we gathered up friends Lloyd JohnsonEmma Peelpants and Jenny Drag for a sequence recalling the notorious fashion-shoot-as-metaphor-for-sex scene featuring star David Hemmings and model Verushka in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 movie.


//Jah Wobble aka John Wardle: “I look a complete and utter ****!”//

Wobble looked especially scary, with a bouffant blond wig, perma-tan make-up and on-camera behaviour updating and bringing new extremes to the arrogant and manipulative character originally played by Hemmings.

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Given that Wobble’s new song is a hard-edged 3/4 time three-minute instrumental bordering on drum ‘n’bass, the brief was that the atmosphere should be rooted in 1966 London, yet with a contemporary air so that it didn’t slip into either Benny Hill territory or pure pastiche.


Hence Wobble’s decision against skinny white jeans a la Hemmings (“too Nathan Barley”) and also the involvement of Missoni; he wore a jacket from their latest men’s wear range and model Laura works for the company, so the label’s retail manager Giesela Tschirpig was on hand supplying beautiful dresses from A/W09/10 and S/S10. 

Jenny based her outfit around a red and black op-art mini while Emma (real name Liz) plucked a vintage cream and black striped mini shift from her extensive collection.


With an original chess-set designed by Hermann Ohme to underline the main character’s game-playing instincts, we took our cue from the cool jazz soundtrack to the original film and littered the record collection with the likes of Errol Garner and Chet Baker, as well as edgy mid 60s British r&b exemplified by Georgie Fame and The Spencer Davis Group.


Amid the contact sheets we placed Alan Fletcher plastic ashtrays, contemporary copies of Life, Esquire and Time, an original Anello & Davide “Stallion range” catalogue and well-thumbed Penguins around the centrepiece: John D. Greene’s stunning Birds Of Britain.


//Lloyd and Liz take a break// 

With other scenes including Wobble haring around town in an Aston Martin and luxuriating in a Canary Wharf penthouse, the promo – from the sure hand of Procam‘s John Brennan – is shaping up to become an online favourite on release this spring.


John Brennan tells us that there are plans to build a microsite around the clip, tour it around film festivals and include it as a video installation at art galleries.

Jah Wobble’s single Blow Up is out soon on his label 30Hertz.

Broken Hearts go Beyond The Valley

Currently available from London’s Beyond The Valley (as well as ASOS and Farfetch) is the first collection from dynamic DJs, recording artistes and gals-about-town Broken Hearts.


Taking their inspiration from an unlikely source – Tod Browning’s 1932 classic Freaks – Amber Jane Butchart and Nisha Thirkell have concocted a capsule range of capes, blouses, playsuits, tops, shorts and dresses pitching frills, bows and a print of their faces against solid blacks and reds.

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And the duo tell us they have now finished the SS10 range for BTV and are about to start on AW10/11. Busy, busy.



Forthcoming DJ dates include London’s East Rooms, Bern’s Bonsoir Club and the Beyond The Valley Christmas Party in Newburgh Street.


//All shoes Terry de Havilland// 

We’ve had a sneak preview of Amber and Nisha’s new album Musical Theatre; it’s excellent and delivers on the promise shown by their fantastic debut single of a couple of years back, Black Cat/Bianco.

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Meantime you can keep up to date with Broken Hearts’ antics on their blog.


Beat + Ivy League = jazz cool

An exclusive extract from sleeve-notes written by Paul Gorman for the forthcoming reissue of early recordings by the tragic jazz trumpeter Chet Baker:

He was an extraordinary romantic. When I first saw him, he was sitting in a convertible in a snowstorm in front of Tiffany & Co, all covered with snow. And I didn’t look at him and say, ‘Wow, that’s weird.’ I said, ‘Wow, that’s romantic.’ Bruce Weber, photographer/filmmaker

The moment in 1953 that photographer Bob Willoughby’s camera lens captured the image of a backstage Chet Baker, an icon was born.

There’s Chet, waiting for the go from his boss Gerry Mulligan, one black pants leg astride two functional chairs. On his feet Venetian loafers, with cream ribbed socks on display, on his chest a crisp white T – now there’s a Beat statement for the early 50s, the undershirt worn as fashion item – and over it a black natural line two-button black suit jacket.

Chet Baker by Bob Willoughby
//Chet Baker by Bob Willoughby//

One hand priapically cradles his horn. On his chiseled features – part cast in shadow by the flopped, greased tendrils of his quiff –a look of doomed, stoned beauty. Images of Baker are almost as powerful as the evocative music he created.

Gavin baker book

New York Times critic and Baker’s biographer James Gavin once described a 1956 shot by fashion photographer William Claxton of the shirtless trumpeter alongside his wife Halema as “so erotic that his camera all but drools over it”.

The fact is that Baker embodied a new type of cool, one at odds with the coming of teen-dominated rock & roll. Altogether more mature and masculine, the modern jazz look fused the restless spirit of post-war rebellion among America’s beats with the sharpness of Ivy League.

Chet Baker by William Claxton
//Chet and Halema by William Claxton//

This style has its roots in the stores at the leading American college which drew on the deepest traditions of British clothing for student custom, supplying a complete range for all weathers and circumstances.

Often the clothes – in tweeds, linen and jersey – were manufactured in Britain strictly for export to this market. With raincoats, scarves, jackets such as Baracuta’s tartan-lined windcheater (otherwise known as the skinhead favourite, the Harrington), the suits were similar to the Italian “columnar” cut which emerged in the early 50s, in that the drape jacket was eschewed. The shoulders were not padded but natural and the trousers often flat-fronted and without cuffs.

The shoes ranged from slip-ons, such as the classic loafers, Bass Weejuns, to lace-up wingtips, the heavy-soled brogues whose design harks back to the time when they were worn on grouse shoots in Scotland. Harringtons, loafers, plain-caps, wing-tips and other items are currently available from the UK’s leading Ivy League store J. Simons.

In THE LOOK, Richard Channing – who worked at Manhattan Ivy League emporium Paul Stuart (regular customers included the likes of Miles Davis during his phase of working with Gil Evans on Birth Of The Cool) – points out that the post-war increase in live jazz concerts, particularly at college campuses, was another reason why performers picked up on collegiate style.

“You couldn’t get more conservative than the Ivy League, and I’m sure that’s why a lot of musicians went for it,” says Channing.

Lets Get Lost release from PoppyDisc

“Also, in 1953, the LP record was launched. It had been produced for classical music but the jazz guys took it over. Now the stuff that somebody blew for 10 minutes in a jam session could be taped, and that gave rise to highly orchestrated music. The clothes added a veneer of respectability which gave the whole mix a twist.”

Whatever, Chet continues to enchant because of his insouciance. The man born Chesney Henry Baker Jr in Yale, Oklahoma on December 23, 1929, didn’t give a good goddam for “fashion” or “style”, we know that for sure. His preoccupations lay elsewhere.

Maybe that’s why the fashion world’s obsession with him has increased in the years since his mysterious passing in 1988, found dead having fallen from the window of an Amsterdam hotel room.It’s one which ensnared fashion photographer Bruce Weber, whose dreamlike cinematic valediction Let’s Get Lost celebrates and investigates the enigma. And it’s an obsession which has been repeatedly revived and revisited as a style template, even by the likes of Hugo Boss, who named a black tux jacket from it’s 2002 collection “Chet Baker-style”.

In his review of Weber’s movie, James Gavin gets to the nub of Chet: “”[His songs] were stark, poetic, as luscious to the ear as he once was to the eye. His life was another matter. Unlike other fabled drug casualties (Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix), Baker didn’t give much cause for sympathy. He was known to abuse women, to lie, steal and con, as most addicts do. By his 40s, he had turned into a ravaged scarecrow, unrepentant about the trail of sorrow he had left behind.”

Baker’s is indeed a sorry tale, expressed in his frail but muscular music. Best remember him this way; stoned, immaculate and don’t-give-a-damn cool.

Let’s Get Lost is released by After Hours/Poppydisc on March 1.

Visit Bruce Weber’Ns world and read all about Ivy League apparel in Chapter 2 of THE LOOK.