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hip to be square

RECOGNISE THIS MICROPHONE? No? Well, you should do. It's the mike currently to be seen in front of manic DJ Robin Williams outside cinemas all over Britain, advertising the wacky comedy 'Good Morning Vietnam'.

In fact, the microphone is a genuine 1950s design manufactured by Shure - the company that donated three (more modern) Prologue microphones for the third part of our Win A Studio competition (see page 64). The model number is 55SH, and even if you haven't walked past a cinema lately, chances are you've still seen one of them in the rush of nostalgic pop videos made recently: Terence Trent D'Arby, Brother Beyond, the Primitives, and the brilliantly beautiful Bros boys have all been seen crooning behind a 55SH. And what's more, on-the-set reports suggest that this classic mike is also being used in the new 'Batman' movie: will it provide Shure with their first-ever "Best Supporting Microphone" award?

Seriously, the real purpose of all this is to announce that, by popular demand, the 55SH is being re-released by Shure, and will be available again from a stockist near you in the New Year.

Two problems remain: it's not yet clear whether the 55SH will be able to hold its head above water in today's more competitive mike market; and it's also not clear whether buying one will automatically make you the next Terence Trent, Brother Beyond, or even Batman.

INFO: HW International, (Contact Details)

wired for sound

NO, NOTHING TO DO with Cliff Richard, hi-fi, or even the 'Young Ones'. Instead, news of a seriously serious occasion for jazz fans young and old: the British Jazz Awards 1988, sponsored jointly by 'Wire' magazine and Carlsberg (who make beer, which immediately explains their involvement).

This was truly a glittering affair, with an imaginative setting (well, a big trendy clothes shop actually), a galaxy of stars in attendance, and some cute little sausagey things soaked in a nice tangy sauce.

Among the many talented young musicians lucky enough to pick up awards were saxophonist Courtney Pine (best album), Human Chain (best band), Mike Westbrook (best composer) and pianist Jason Rebello (best newcomer). Before and after the awards were presented, young Jason tinkled the ivories with sickening skill, flair and originality, much to the pleasure of the aforementioned galaxy of stars.

Still, to anyone not much interested in jazz, the people who presented the awards were almost as fascinating as the award-scoopers themselves. Among the "and the winner is" speech-makers were Sting, newsreader Moira Stuart, comedian Robbie Coltrane, and "look mum, no drugs" sprinter Linford Christie. Next month at another swish Kensington nightspot: Britain's best-known Rent-A-Celebrity committee members will be duly honoured and presented with awards by a bunch of unknown jazz musicians. There's hope for us all yet...

time and motion

ANYONE FAMILIAR WITH our sister magazine, 'Rhythm', will also be familiar with a long-running technique series called 'Time & Motion'. Now, the author of that series is experienced session sticksman Francis Seriau, who also happens to run an informal drummers' school known as Drumtech.

The Drumtech organisation has just announced details of its forthcoming programme for 1989, including a unique series of ten-week part-time courses. These involve one two-hour session per week, and begin on 23 January.

Along with Francis, such luminaries as Charlie Morgan (who's played with Elton John and Gary Moore, among others), John Marshall (a leading British jazz drummer) and bassist Robbie Burns will be offering a programme geared towards such things as studio drumming, time control, rhythm-section techniques, jazz concepts, and rock and funk drumming.

Also commencing at Drumtech soon is a new "Funk Fusion" course featuring Neal Wilkinson, who's played with the Average White Band and Joan Armatrading.

INFO: Drumtech, (Contact Details)

heavy session

EVERY CLOUD has a silver lining, they say. Well, most musicians would probably agree, while also acknowledging that they'd be quite happy not to see so many clouds in the first place.

But if ever there was a story that looked likely to have a sad ending yet somehow produced a ray of sunshine, it is the story of Session Amplification. Now, Session amps have been part of British rock's staple sound-reinforcement diet for years. Though they never acquired the mystique of, say, Marshall or Vox, they could always be relied upon to sound good at a wide range of sound levels, to be excellent value for money, and to, er, be reliable.

Sadly, even though Session amps continued to be competitive for many years, all was obviously far from well on the financial side of things at the company that made them, Axess Electronics. After surviving any number of problems with things like component supply, Axess went into liquidation earlier this year - despite an apparently full order-book.

That looked like the end of the road for Session - until a company called Musimex (who'd previously sold Session amps) stepped in to save the day. Now Musimex have set up a new company, Axession Ltd, and production of session amps is due to resume in the New Year at the factory in sunny Basingstoke.

So, good news for anyone in the market for a new Session amp, and equally good news for anyone who bought one recently - since the new company has vowed to honour all the warranties on existing amplifiers.

INFO: Musimex, (Contact Details)

knock on wood

FED UP WITH a snare drum and two tomtoms? Bored by the prospect of a set of bongos? Driven to tears by the tedium of electronic percussion? Take heart. There's at least one outlet left for your undoubted stick-wielding abilities: namely, tuned percussion.

The world of tuned percussion has never quite come to terms with pop, rock, or just about any other kind of music made since the Dawn of Mankind. Yet almost every child in the land gets a chance to bang a gong, strike a xylophone or tinkle a triangle while at primary school. And on virtually every synthesizer sold today, tuned percussion sounds are some of the most varied, striking, and usable tones on offer.

So why don't more bands use tuned percussion on-stage? Partly because most of these instruments are big, heavy, and generally awkward to lug around; partly because they cost an arm, a leg, and a couple of beaters.

Yet for those committed to furthering the cause of tuned percussion, suppliers E J Arnold & Son offer a tremendous range of instruments at surprisingly down-to-earth prices. The instruments comprise things like xylophones, glockenspiels, and weird-sounding "marching bell lyras", and are marketed under the Percussion, Plus brand name. And of course, Arnolds can also supply all the necessary accessories, like the above-mentioned beaters.

You may have one or two problems tracking down one of these beasts at your local music store. But there should be a Percussion Plus stockist reasonably nearby, and even if there isn't, it's highly likely a school or college near you will have some of their instruments lurking in a stock cupboard somewhere. So dig it out and beat it!

INFO: Percussion Plus, (Contact Details)

axe attacks

IF SERIOUS LAST-MINUTE Christmas presents are proving a problem, here's news of a seemingly unbeatable system that should suit the needs of a great many budding axe-thrashers.

It comes, funnily enough, from a company called Axe Limited, and basically consists of everything you need to get a foothold on the rock 'n' roll ladder: a guitar, an amplifier, a carrying bag, a strap, a lead, and even a plectrum. Plus, there's a couple of tutorial books and a set of tapes, so once you've got everything set up, you won't be at a loss as to what to do next. Depending on which kind of music you want to learn, there's a choice of tutoring packages: heavy metal, "chart rock" (whatever that may be), reggae, or soul and funk.

But the Axe system's killer punch is its price - an unbelievable £81. That makes it just about the cheapest way there is of setting up a stall in the rock business, other than scouring the back rooms of a hundred junk shops up and down the country (and even then you might end up saving no more than a tenner).

Now, PHAZE 1 hadn't secured precise details of the equipment on offer at time of going to press, let alone tested it in its usual ruthless fashion. But at a little over eight brown ones, you can't really go too far wrong, can you?

So now you know what you want for Christmas. If only everybody else was as easy to cater for...

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Phaze 1 - Jan 1989


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