Friday, 30 March 2012

Non sequiturs in Nottingham

Nottingham city council has announced a new levy on workplace car parking spaces that will amount to a charge of about £2.50 a day for people to park outside offices and factories.

The arguments around the new levy remind me of the referendum a couple of years back in Manchester on whether to introduce a congestion charge zone that would mean drivers paying to enter the city centre in order to fund expansion of the tram network.  The Manchester proposal was predictably voted down by the public and the Nottingham one is being imposed in the face of opposition from businesses and workers who will have to pay.

As in Manchester, Nottingham city council are arguing that the scheme will cut congestion and raise money for more trams.  There is clearly a contradiction between these two stated aims.  If everyone who currently drives to work in Nottingham started using public transport instead, two things would happen: the bus and train network would be overwhelmed and the council wouldn't raise a penny for more trams.

Of course, Nottingham council knows what Manchester city council knew: drivers will grumble but pay the charge, congestion won't reduce and they'll get the money for more trams without having to put up the council tax or business rates or putting pressure on central government for the funds.  If they were actually serious about cutting congestion, there are a couple of options: only allow cars with more than one person to travel into the city centre at rush hour, or introduce a charge high enough - say £25 a day - to stop most people being able to afford to do so.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Soccer sabermetrics?

I've just started reading the book Moneyball, having watched the Brad Pitt film based on it.

Moneyball tells the story of how Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A's baseball team, solved the problem of replacing star players on a limited budget.  His approach to finding new players is based on a method of baseball analysis called sabremetrics (named after the Society for American Baseball Research).  Unlike orthodox scouting which is based on judging players on the "five tools" of running, fielding, throwing, hitting and power, sabermetrics looks for the most important individual statistics to determine future performance.  One of the most important is on base percentage, a better indication than batting average of discipline at the plate because it includes the key sabremetric statistic of walks drawn.

All this got me thinking about whether sabermetrics could be applied to football (maybe it already is).  Baseball is obviously much more stats-driven that football but could the traditional scouting methods of the big clubs be overtaken by a more scientific approach, and if so what would the football equivalent of on base percentage be?

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Hattersley the musical

BBC North West Tonight has been showing clips this week from Songs of Hattersley, a new musical film set on one of the overspill estates built around Manchester between the 1930's and 1970's.

The overspill estates were seen by the people who moved onto them as an escape from overcrowded and unhealthy housing in inner city Manchester, even though many of them lacked transport connections and facilities like shops and pubs.  The estates reflect the areas of Manchester they are nearest to: Hattersley near Hyde mainly rehoused people from Bradford, Beswick and other parts of East Manchester, Langley in Rochdale people from North Manchester and the biggest estate Wythenshawe people from South Manchester districts including Moss Side and Old Trafford (from where my grandparents moved to it in the late 1930's).  People in Hattersley are still distinguished by their Mancunian accent as opposed to the broader Lancashire and Cheshire accents in nearby towns (the boxer Ricky Hatton is the most famous person from the estate).

The housing stock on the estates was allowed to decline and some tenants also exercised the right to buy in the 1980's. Most of the overspill estates are now owned by private housing associations and in many ways they are a reflection of British politics in the second half of twentieth century, from public provision to individualism and private profit.

You can watch a clip from Songs of Hattersley here.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

What is"craft keg"?

There's a debate going on over at Tandleman's Beer Blog that includes, not for the first time, the question of "craft keg".

I think most CAMRA members sort of know what people mean when they talk about "craft keg" - keg beer that's been brewed with more attention than mass produced lager and therefore tastes better . But an actual definition of what qualifies as "craft keg" and what doesn't is more difficult.

One definition of "craft keg" is keg beer from a microbrewery. In the US, this makes some sense as most of the tasteless beer is produced by big brewers and most of the decent beer by small brewers.  But even in the US, there are exceptions: surely, for example, Budweiser American Ale counts as "craft keg" even though it's produced by the world's biggest brewer.  On this side of the Atlantic, the picture is completely different.  Big brewers not only produce lots of decent cask beer but "craft keg" as well, like the keg version of Fullers ESB in the picture below.  Is Draught Guinness, produced by global brewer Diageo, "craft keg"? And if not, why not?

You could also argue that "craft keg" is keg beer that's unpasteurised or unfiltered. But again, most keg beer in the US - including Budweiser lager - is unpasteurised. A more popular definition is to exclude from the "craft" category beer that's been brewed with adjuncts in addition to barley malt, water, hops and yeast.  This excludes beers like Budweiser - brewed with rice for a "lighter taste" - but also overlooks the fact that British cask beer since the nineteenth century has included adjuncts such as wheat for head retention, maize flakes for flavour and most importantly brewing sugars to adjust flavour, strength and colour.  That's before isinglass is added to make the beer drop bright.

As an exact term "craft keg" seems pretty meaningless to me.  Unlike "real ale" (cask or bottle conditioned beer), it's subjective ("keg beer I like the taste of") and the line between it and Carling or Tetley's Smoothflow is an arbitrary one.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Football from the North

I've just been reading a review of a new book about the 1879 FA Cup Quarter-Final between Darwen and Old Etonians.

The tie went to a second replay but all the matches were played in London as the Old Etonians refused to travel to Lancashire and the FA declined to intervene (no change there). Like other Northern teams, Darwen's players were working men and as amateurs had to find the money to travel to away matches from their meagre wages, unlike the sides made up of ex-public school boys who dominated the FA Cup in the first decade of the competition.

By the 1880's, Northern working-class teams had begun to compensate their players for expenses and lost wages and some also surreptiously employed professionals, many of them from Scotland where the "passing game" had been invented in the early 1870's. This led to the FA threatening to throw the Northern teams out of what was still officially an amateur game (there was also a proposal to ban Scottish players from English football in order to stem the tide of professionalism). Thirty-seven Northern teams responded by meeting in Manchester in 1884 and forming the openly professional British Football Association.

All this is of course an almost exact parallel with what happened in rugby football in the 1890's: the threat by the amateur Rugby Football Union to expel Northern working-class teams for paying players and the meeting in Huddersfield in 1895 that led to the separate game of rugby league. The FA headed off a permanent split in football by legalising professionalism in 1885 and in 1888 the Northern clubs met in Manchester to form the Football League as a league competition alongside the FA Cup. But what if the FA hadn't sanctioned professional football? Would amateur football in the South and professional football in the North have continued to be played under the same rules or would they have grown apart like rugby league and union? Would professional clubs like Arsenal and West Ham still have emerged in London and the South to challenge the amateur FA? Would they have eventually linked up with the professional Football League clubs in Lancashire and the Midlands as they did in the early twentieth century?

I think football would be broadly similar if the split between amateurs and professionals had continued and the Football League would still have expanded from its Lancashire birthplace to the Midlands and then the South in a way that rugby league didn't (apart from to Australia, and you can't get much more Southern than that). 

Friday, 23 March 2012

Taxing granny?

It's no surprise that the Labour Party has jumped on the Chancellor's decision in this week's Budget to phase out higher personal allowances (the point at which you start paying income tax) for pensioners, dubbing it a "granny tax".

I'm not quite sure of the rationale behind higher personal allowances for pensioners.  There are obviously rich as well as poor pensioners just as there are highly paid as well as low paid workers.  While poorer workers and poorer pensioners don't pay income tax, they do pay far more proportionately in taxes and duty on food, petrol, heating and beer (a mixture of mild and old ale is nicknamed "granny" incidentally).

The way to help poor pensioners and workers is to raise personal allowances for everyone, increase the minimum wage, link pensions to wages and phase out indirect taxes in favour of a progressive income tax.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Whitbread and madeleines

A friend forwarded me a photo yesterday of the original Whitbread Brewery logo from 1742.  Like the famous madeleine in Marcel Proust's A la recherche du temps perdu, it triggered lots of memories of twenty and more years ago.

The first pub I drank in regularly in the late 80's was a Whitbread house.  Between eighteen and nineteen, I spent pretty much every Friday and Sunday night in there with my mates.  Drinking and enjoying - CAMRA forgive me - gallons of their keg Trophy Bitter.  I think I probably enjoyed it because of its similarity to the cans of Shandy Bass I'd drunk before that and I even bought cans and bottles of Trophy to drink at home. (The pub also sold bottled Whitbread beers including Gold Label and Mackeson's Stout but I can't remember anyone under fifty ever ordering them). The other place I drank regularly then was the local Labour Club which was owned by Greenall Whitley and sold their keg bitter. The only cask beer I drank was Boddingtons Bitter in a pub we occasionally popped to in free periods in Sixth Form.

I drank in the Whitbread pub up until I went to college in 1990, in Stoke-on-Trent where I drank a lot of Banks's Original, Draught Bass and Marston's Pedigree as well as Worthington's keg bitter in the student union bar. But when I was home from college, I started going to what was known as the "old man's pub", an incredibly smoky Holt's house that served decent pints of their bitter and mild, and which eventually became my regular pub for the next few years.

But for better or worse it was with Whitbread that I started my drinking career and I still have a lingering and no doubt misplaced affection for the Trophy Bitter that I haven't seen let alone drunk for twenty or so years. As you can see, the 1742 stag's head logo is not that different to the one I remember from the late 80's, just before Whitbread were forced by the Monopolies and Mergers Commision to sell off much of their tied estate and a decade or so before they sold their brewing operations to what is now AB-Inbev.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Wembley of the North?

The England rugby league captain Jamie Peacock spoke recently about how the game needs its own national stadium like the FA's Wembley and RFU's Twickenham if it is to expand.

This may appear an attractive idea but it's a non-starter for a number of reasons:

1. if a national rugby league stadium were built, it would presumably stage the Challenge Cup final and Super League Grand Final now played at Wembley and Old Trafford respectively.  Unless its capacity was 80-90,000, it would mean a sharp drop in the number of tickets available for those matches.

2. a national rugby league stadium would also presumably be built in the North.  Leaving aside the question of whether Lancashire or Yorkshire would be chosen as the site, it would end the eighty-odd year tradition of rugby league fans having a day out in London for the Challenge Cup final.

3. The RFL makes big profits from staging Challenge Cup finals at Wembley.  The vote to move the 1929 final to Wembley may have been close - 13-10 - but has not really been an issue since (despite the efforts of Stan Chadwick, Huddersfield fan, ILP member and the editor of Rugby League Review who fought for the final to return to the North into the 1960's).  When it has been played elsewhere - in 1932 at Central Park in Wigan when there was a football international at Wembley or even the 1954 replay at Odsal Stadium in Bradford that attracted at least 102,000 fans - the gate receipts have been far lower.

4. unless they could attract a big commercial sponsor, I doubt the RFL could raise the money to fund such a project.

I have taken stats and other info here from the superb Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain by Tony Collins.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Language in our nature?

In the mid-90's, I did a part-time course in teaching English as a foreign language at Manchester College of Arts and Technology. One of things we studied was theories of language acquisition and it's something I've been fascinated by ever since.  The mainstream theory of language aqcquisition since the 1970's - developed by Noam Chomsky, Stephen Krashen, Stephen Pinker and others - is centred on the idea of a Language Acquisition Device (LAD), a innate genetically transmitted ability unique to humans which allows children to instinctively learn their native language. This means that grammatical features (tenses, plurals etc.) appear in children at the same time whatever that language is.

I was interested therefore to read about a new book by one Daniel Everett which apparently seeks to overturn the LAD theory of language acquisition on the strength of a language called Pirahã spoken by around three hundred people in the Amzonian region of Brazil and which Everett claims doesn't include these grammatical features.

There are a number of holes that can be put in Everett's claims: he is the only non-native speaker of Pirahã and there is no way of knowing if what he says about the language is true (even if he thinks it is, there is no saying that the he has picked up all its nuances from the native speakers). He also seems to have oversimplified what Chomsky says about language acquisition in order to try to knock his theories down.  But the killer point to me - and one the Guardian review doesn't really deal with, possibly for reasons of undue politeness or liberal sensibilities - is that Everett is an evangelical Christian and former missionary who travelled to Amazonia to convert the native peoples and whose only reason for learning Pirahã was to translate the Bible into it.  Whatever Chomsky's political faults, I'd trust his rational judgements on language acquisition over Everett's any day of the week.

Monday, 19 March 2012

The Vulcan bomber and me

I watched a Channel 4 programme last night about the bombing of the runway at Port Stanley airport in the 1982 Falklands War.  In showing the technical and logistical background to the operation, it included a lot of humour from the RAF crews too.

I remember the raid and the refuelling on Ascension Island and mid-air over the South Atlantic that allowed the Vulcan bomber to make the 16,000 mile round trip from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire but I hadn't realised what a close run thing it was. The probe the aircraft needed to refuel in mid-air was found being used as an ashtray in the mess, the bomb aiming system worked on pulleys rather than electronics and the RAF didn't have charts for the South Atlantic so the navigator turned his map of the Northern hemisphere upside down and pretended the Azores were the Falklands. After Port Stanley airport had been bombed, the Vulcan came close to running out of fuel before it encountered a Victor tanker aircraft almost by chance and made it back to Ascension.

As a kid, I was into military aircraft, reading about them, making models and going to airshows at Woodford near Stockport.  The Woodford factory and airfield were once owned by Avro, the company that built both the Lancaster and Vulcan bombers, and flypasts by the two aircraft were highlights of the shows.  I also went to Manchester Airport in 2009 for the last flypast by a Vulcan.

Friday, 16 March 2012

A city united?

The two Manchester clubs exited the UEFA Europa League last night, having already dropped down into it from the Champions League.

The Europa League began in the mid-50's as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup with representative sides from cities hosting trade exhibitions.  Although Barcelona just entered FC Barcelona with a token Espanyol player, the London XI drew upon all the capital's First Division clubs.  In the early 60's cities were allowed to enter more than one team and the Fairs Cup, later the UEFA Cup, became a club competition.

But what if the Cup had continued to be played between teams representing cities? The Manchester XI might read Hart, Richards, Ferdinand, Kompany, Evra, Silva, Carrick, Yaya Toure, Young, Rooney, Hernandez and would most likely still be in it.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Salford here we come

A couple of weeks ago, Hydes Brewery in Manchester announced that it is moving from Moss Side to a new site in Salford.

Hydes have been in business since 1863 and at the Queens Brewery since 1899 (it's unclear what will happen to this, apparently it's a listed building). The new brewery is on a site near Salford Quays, next to where the BBC has moved. It will, at least initially, have a smaller brewing capacity than the existing brewery as Hydes will only be brewing cask beer. Their smooth beers and contract-brewed Harp lager are going, to be replaced by other breweries' products in Hydes' tied estate. More significantly, the cask Boddingtons Bitter that Hydes has contract brewed for Inbev since the Strangeways Brewery closed in 2005 is also being discontinued.

I thought Hydes cask Boddingtons Bitter was a decent version of the beer I drank a fair bit of in my youth, although that itself was nowhere near as good as it had been according to older generations of Mancunian drinkers. Clearly sales have been dropping since InBev took over Whitbread in 2000 (who had themselves taken over Boddingtons in 1989) - I haven't seen cask Boddingtons Bitter in a pub in Manchester for about five years.

Will Hydes still call themselves The Manchester Brewer after the move to Salford? I suppose it's the first large-scale brewing in the city since Whitbread closed the Cook Street Brewery that once produced Threlfalls and Chesters beers.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

That horse and another gate

One of my favourite films is All the President's Men, based on the book by Washington Post journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward. It tells the story of their investigation into the Watergate break-in and the subsequent resignation of President Richard Nixon to avoid impeachment. 

Subsequent political scandals have since acquired the suffix -gate and the phone hacking scandal at News International is no different.  The revelation that David Cameron rode an ex-Metropolitan Police horse belonging to his friend, ex-Eton classmate and now racing trainer Charlie Brooks and his wife,  former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks - both of whom were arrested and released on police bail yesterday - summed up the corrupt connections between the police, politicians and News International and has led to the affair being dubbed Horsegate.

Surely a film will eventually be made about the phone hacking hacking scandal but who could possibly play the main characters?  Richard E Grant as Cameron? Dustin Hoffman as Nick Davies of The Guardian? I'm struggling with Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks to be honest.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Watering the beer

There's a tendency here in the rainy North of England to laugh at the news that the sun-soaked South is about to have a hosepipe ban imposed, just before spraying the garden with a few gallons from the brimming local reservoir.  But the news might not be so funny if you drink beer.

Although brewers are confident they have enough water for brewing, the British Beer and Pub Association is warning that a continuing drought in the South and East of England will push up the prices of hops and malt with a knock-on effect on pub prices.

Yet another reason to cut the tax on beer!

Monday, 12 March 2012

A4e: the bigger con

Police are continuing to investigate "welfare to work" outfit A4e over allegations that its staff falsified documents to meet targets for finding jobs for the unemployed. There is now speculation that the Department for Work and Pensions is about to suspend its contracts with the company.

In concentrating on the media allegations against A4e there is a danger of overlooking the wider scam the company is engaged in.  Even if A4e staff haven't been falsifying records, or senior executives were unaware of it, the company is still running a massive swindle.

A4e's "welfare to work" approach consists of dragooning unemployed people into overcrowded premises, delivering cod-psychological motivational speeches to them, forcing them into unpaid "work experience" and ignoring the fact that there are far more people out of work than there are jobs.  In many cases, it subcontracts work to one of dozens of competing local agencies, slicing off a large share of the money as profit and leaving them to fight over the scraps. Even it was finding jobs for unemployed people, that is work that should properly be done by DWP civil servants whose numbers have been cut by the last Labour and current Tory-Lib Dem governments at the same time they were awarding A4e multi-million pound contracts.

A4e and its founder Emma Harrison share one thing with benefit claimants: they depend for their entire income on public money.  Harrison has awarded herself close to £7 million in bonuses, charged luxury overseas trips to the company and lives in style at Thornbridge Hall, a country estate in Derbyshire.  She has been invited to Downing Street and to Buckingham Palce to receive a CBE. As the saying goes, steal a penny and you're a thief; steal a million and you're a lord.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Mild in Manchester

This post yesterday got me thinking about the state of mild in Manchester.

According to CAMRA, the North West is one of the last strongholds of mild.  Given it's not disappeared as a regular beer here as it has in most of the country that's sort of true.  But what's really happening?

In the mid- to late 1980's, breweries in the Manchester area producing a mild included Boddingtons, Whitbread subsidiary Chesters in Salford, Holt's, Hydes, Lees in Middleton, Robinsons in Stockport and Wilsons in Newton Heath. Twenty five years later, Boddingtons, Chesters and Wilsons breweries are no more.  Holt's Hydes, Lees and Robinsons all still brew a mild (some of them light and dark ones) but not all their pubs sell them and others only in keg rather than cask form.

It's also debateable whether some of their milds are really separate beers with their own grists.  Robinsons Hatters light mild is I suspect its Unicorn bitter with a hefty amount of added caramel (caramel is the dominant taste I remember from Wilsons mild too) and Holt's Mild is just as hoppy as their Bitter (which is less hoppy than it used to be anyway), only darker - presumably achieved with brewing sugars rather than a darker malt.

As mild drinkers in Manchester tend to be of the older generation, and mostly don't seem too bothered whether it's a cask or keg beer, I suspect I may just witness the disappearance of cask mild as a regular draught beer in the pub within my lifetime.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Messi the kid

The Baseball Hall of Fame has a rule that a player has to have been retired for five years before they are eligible for election.  It's to stop enthusiasm for someone's current or recent perfomances overly influencing the decision, allowing time for reflection on a player's true place in the game's roll of legends. 

All too often in football, current players are lauded as stars and players of the past overlooked.  But the performance of Barcelona's twenty-four year old forward Lionel Messi in last night's European Cup game against Bayer Leverkusen only underlined his claim to be one of the greatest players of all time, fit to be included in a South American trio with Pelé and Maradona.

Not for nothing is Messi nicknamed The Flea and the diminunitve Argentinian danced around Bayer Leverkusen's defence as if it wasn't there at times, finding the space that lesser players can't.  It's hard to think of anyone else in world football at the moment who combines anything like his acceleration, touch and finish.

It helps that Messi plays in a team based on stylish, attacking football and it also helps that that team is Barcelona, owned by its 170,000 members and standing in sharp contrast to the fur-draped and bejewelled racists and ex-Francoist businessmen who support arch rivals Real Madrid.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Beer writing and the Dunning-Kruger effect

I've been reading about the Dunning-Kruger effect recently. It's a theory put foward by psychologists of that name which basically states that less intelligent people overestimate their abilities because they're not bright enough to spot their mistakes while conversely more intelligent people underestimate their abilities for the opposite reason.

The effect can be seen in lots of different fields but one that strikes me as especially apt is beer writing.  On the one hand are people paid to write on beer who proclaim themselves "one of the world's leading beer writers" or "an internationally known authority on beer" while recycling myths or just making things up; on the other, unpaid bloggers like Ron Pattinson at Shut Up about Barclay Perkins and Martyn Cornell at Zythophile whose writing is based on extensive research in their spare time and rigorous analysis of primary sources, correcting their own misconceptions and overturning orthodox opinion where necessary.

The idea behind the Dunning-Kruger effect isn't a new one - I suppose it's a variant of the saying "An empty vessel makes most noise" - but it's good to have a scientific label to stick on it.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Cardinal and slavery

I'm not sure whether Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland, took any PR advice before writing an article comparing homosexuality to slavery. If he did, he probably ignored it given his track record of publicity seeking.

The Catholic Church regards homosexuality as a grave sin, presumably extending a person's stay in Purgatory almost indefintely. Catholic peers led the opposition in the House of Lords to legislation allowing churches to celebrate civil partnerships if they want to. So far, only nice, liberal Christians like the Quakers and Unitarians have taken up the offer.  The Church of England unsurprsingly can't make its mind up. Having a less centralised structure than the Catholic Church (although it's hard to see how it could have a more centralised one) it will probably leave the decision to individual vicars. The Church of England would also have probably avoided using the term "slavery" given its relatively recent history of slave-owning.

O'Brien sees civil partnerships as a form of slavery which is no less morally harmful because those who enter them do so by choice, unlike the millions of Africans shipped across the Atlantic. The interesting question is by what right O'Brien and his fellow cardinals think they have the right to police the morals of those outside the Catholic Church, especially when they now police those inside the Church pretty loosely, turning a blind eyes to their communicants taking advantages of scientific advances like contraception and IVF that they similarly rallied against as immoral when they were introduced. 

If O'Brien wanted to make a moral statement against slavery, he could of course have spoken out against this.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Grappling on the gridiron

The National Football League is investigating allegations that New Orleans Saints defensive players set up a so-called bounty programme that paid them for injuring opponents.

There's nothing wrong with big hits, either in American football or rugby league.  The difference is the injuries they cause.  Because linemen in American football don't have to run with the ball, there's more incentive for them to bulk up, either legally or illegally. And the amount of protective gear American football players wear conversely seems to lead to more injury.  Padded up players are more reckless in tackles and collision with a metal helmet is far more likely to cause concussion than a clash of heads.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Making a spectacle of yourself

This month's edition of the right-wing Spectator magazine has an article by Melissa Kite in which she supposedly exposes widespread benefit fraud by middle-class, professional and well-heeled people (i.e. her chums).  Colin Fox of the Scottish Socialist Party and public school teacher and professional controversialist Simon Warr had a "heated debate" about it on the radio this morning.

Much like people who "know" that disabled people and asylum seekers are all fiddling benefits, Kite bases her argument on someone she spoke to at a dinner party and  friends "in the country" and "a genteel part of central London" who have both "heard" of such cases.  She even goes so far as to admit that "Of course, these are just anecdotes. I have no concrete evidence that there is such a thing as middle-class, or indeed upper-middle-class, benefit fraud." which rather torpedoes the whole argument of the article and prompts the question as to why she was paid to write it.

Even if she's right, there's still only one person who's made serious money out of defrauding the benefit system.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Charlie Christian

Very few artists are the originators of the style of music they play: Muddy Waters with post-war Chicago electric blues, Thomas Dorsey with gospel, Clifton Chenier with zydeco. When it comes to modern jazz, the beginnings of bebop in the 1940's are often traced back to the after hours jam sessions at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem which included Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Kenny Clarke.

One artist who is often overlooked from the Minton's sessions is the guitarist Charlie Christian, partly because he died at just 25 in 1942 from alcoholism-induced tuberculosis. Born in Oklahoma, Christian's big break came in 1939 when he joined the Benny Goodman Sextet in Los Angeles, before moving to New York and becoming the house guitarist at Minton's. His influence can be heard not only in bebop but also in the West Coast blues of B.B. King and T-Bone Walker and through them the West Side Chicago blues of the late 1950's and British R&B of the 1960's. He deserves to be remembered. Manchester Jazz Society will be doing just that at its meeting tonight. If you can't make it, here's a track recorded by Charlie in his prime.