all things blurt!

Review of "Live At Oto" by Sammy Stein

"When I grow up I want to be a jazz musician," says the poet Milton - no, not that one (he of Paradise Lost, “Of Man's first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree" but THIS one - Ted Milton - he of, “Giant Lizards on high strapped into their pink parachutes". I had just invited Ted to a jazz event and believe his tongue was planted firmly in cheek when he responded.

Ted Milton – poet, puppeteer and musician – founded Blurt in the late 70′s. Their music is not definable and that is a good thing, although it veers towards freer jazz in many references (also a good thing).  Blurt’s first single ‘My Mother Was a Friend of an Enemy of the People’ (1982 Blackhill records) was followed by the live album ‘In Berlin (1981 Armagedon). Since then more than 20 recordings have followed including vinyl albums, EPs and CDs. They are still touring and have a new album ‘Bomb’ out on Salamander Records. Ted Milton has also created artworks which have been exhibited in Paris and the UK and is a puppeteer with contributions to Terry Gilliam’s film ‘Jabberwocky’ and his poems have been published both on their own and as parts of an anthology. Somehow, I have passed Blurt by until now but in many ways, the discovery of this music is a joy. Ted Milton is poetical leader, sax player and vocalist of Blurt, one of the best combos I have heard.

This CD was recorded at Cafe Oto, London and starts with ‘Let Them Be’ which is driven by relentless guitar and drums, thrashing out the beat into which Ted Milton inserts his manic sax playing and rampant vocals. Energetic, vibrant and bringing with it a sort of mania, which brings grins and smiles, this is a wonderful opening track. The drum is key and emerges several times in short solos, which emphasise and drive the music. The vocals are mad; words like, ‘Secrete them in an alabaster cove, with the Da Vinci Code, Known only to the Sheik of Araby – and eat them! ‘but it is not the sense of them that matters, rather their shape and how they are used to extend and emphasise the textures in the sound provided by the instruments. ‘Giant Lizards on High’ is fast, crazy, driven and bonkers but there again is that wonderful juxtaposed playing of Milton, here mixed with harmonic runs too over the steady, thunking drums and guitar. The final section sees the texture laid down as a second vocal line is introduced and the track ends on a high.
‘I Wan See Ella’ is beautiful, crazy sax and vocals over a funky, blues-influenced guitar and drums.  Ted’s loose-tongued sax is allowed complete freedom in short bursts and offers the perfect contrast to the rhythm kept by the rest of the band. The middle section where Ted’s whiney vocals talk of Ella staying in his arms forever and a day are perfectly foiled by the sound, flowing guitar work. The vocals are reminiscent of John Lydon at his whinging best but somehow even better – and I mean that in a very positive way.