Chapter 31

The End

Listen to "The End"

It's a cavernous, circular, domed building of classical design, one of the truly great constructions of the era of Queen Victoria. It's got totally crap accoustics, but still you can't have everything - it is Britain's cultural Colisseum after all. The atmosphere in the auditorium is as joyful and celebratory as it is for the annual "Last Night of the Proms". But tonight we are spared the mindless jingoism. Gone is the stuffy, predictable, chauvinistic, and pompous music. Here we have a musical event of epic proportions.

No, wait a minute. Rewind like a Jamaican Dub Reggae recording. If this was really happening it would have to be not at the Royal Albert Hall, in wanky London, but at this beautiful old theatre in the Corn Exchange right here in Leeds, next to the Markets, scene of much of his busking over the years.

During two one hour sets he has caressed and stimulated this adulatory audience to an almost orgiastic frenzy. If Adolphe Sax were present he would revel in the fact that someone has finally been able to do full justice to his invention. After three rapturous encores, this unique triad of alto saxophonist/bass clarinettist/percussionist, bassist/trumpeter and drummer/baritone saxophonist is finally ready to call it a day and clock off.

(Find out more about Adolphe Sax)

That's if the audience will let them call it quits. In the course of the night, we have seen guest slots by Lester Bowie, Alan Wilkinson and The Shuffle Demons. Even Alphonse Material has made it out to join the performance tonight. We have witnessed all of these virtuoso performances somehow gel together as the performers have become one. Then a chain reaction has happened and the audience too have become part of that entity. This has been one hell of a gig: One which no-one present will ever forget.

The swarthy saxophonist jumps down from the stage and saunters through this mass of sweaty, pheromone-soaked people. They separate before him like the Red Sea before Charlton Heston. Xero wanders between them to the rear of the hall, all the while playing his mellifluous, strolling melody, his personal signature tune "The End".

Gradually, tantalisingly, and to knowing smiles all round, he exits through the huge smoked glass doors and walks off into the Mezzanine and beyond. The occasionally rude and rasping alto can still be heard until it dissipates into the mix of bus engines, taxi horns, and the swish of vehicles in drizzle that are part and parcel of late night Leeds life.

Passengers on the top deck of a double decker bus point him out to one another. A Hackney Cab driver points him out to some Japanese tourists, explaining that he is something of a local celebrity. Fellow pedestrians shelter under shared umbrellas, and a lone British Bobby watches Xero walk by. The two of them exchange nods and Slingsby smiles to himself, shaking his head and laughing to himself in disbelief. He packs his saxophone away in its velvet-lined leather case, slings it over his shoulder and swaggers off, down through "The Calls" behind Leeds Market.

Back onstage Gene Velocette, the " GARGANTUAN, HERCULEAN " drummer (as Xero has introduced him to the audience one last time) also makes off, stalking away stage left, still tapping a single cymbal and chewing his gum. He affects nonchalance as he sidles away, his face and muscular torso streaked with rivulets of sweat. He looks the spitting image of Tintin, the hero of "Herge's Adventures of.....": the same eternal youth, the same blond Number One short-back-and-sides-with-quiff. Even the same perpetually quizzical expression. And now he too is gone.

Only Louis Colan, the " REPTILEAN, AMPHIBIOUS " bassist remains behind. He is stranded in the spotlight, dead centre of their scrapheap of a stage. As the other two disappear, he glances hopefully in each direction. He vainly tries to carry off the ungainly upright bass but misses none of the slithering, snaking notes along the way. Louis has a shaven head and porcelain skin which contrast vividly under the lights with a black T-shirt and baggy black pants. He delivers a frightened, maniacal stare as he surveys the hushed arena. With a shrug and a hint of a wryly resigned smile, he gives up and crouches down, hidden between amplifier and instrument. He leaves one last finger behind in the rapidly shrinking spotlight to


the final note of the night before he too disappears (presumably through a trap-door) leaving the bass behind. It is prostrate, rocking on its arched back like a supine cockroach.

The crowd erupts. They clap, shout, stamp, whistle, bang, holler and sing for more: All to no avail. Xero Slingsby is already in "The Adelphi" down the road with a pint of bitter and a brandy chaser in front of him. His trusty Selmer saxophone is by his side...and the grin to end all grins is plastered from ear to ear. Sally, the ever more gorgeous Sally is there to meet him and, what's more, she's already got them in.

Now that's how it all should have ended.

Not in tears, with this premature obituary in the Guardian....


Tuesday August 23 1988

or this one in The Wire....

Denis Dalby from Leeds has left a story on the Memorial Wall that describes The End. By then, I was living in Australia, so I will leave it to someone who was there:

"I have never been to a funeral like Matthew's before and probably never will again. I arrived at Lawnswood Cemetary gates with two friends just as the hearse was arriving and was immediately caught up in a procession that had formed behind the hearse. Leading the cortege were about 10 to 20 musicians, I knew quite a few of them but wouldn't like to name them all for fear of leaving anyone out and they began to play - like some New Orleans Jazz band following the cortege - quietly at first, then gradually building as we got nearer to the remembrance chapel. As we drew up to the chapel they exploded into a massive free jazz jam and then there was a minute or two of silence before we followed the coffin into the chapel.

Two things stand out about the service, first Sally's wonderful valediction for Matthew, a mixture of emotions, happy and sad and all through it Sally was so composed and calm, amazing !
And then the playing of Matthew's recording of 'Somewhere over the Rainbow'. After the service there was a fantastic feeling of serenity and respect.

We were invited to the wake, held apropriately at the Adelphi, where Xero Slingsby and the Works had given so much pleasure to so many people.
There was beer and food and it seemed that everyone wanted to tell their own story about Matthew. There were a lot of laughs too, I'm sure he would have approved."



                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                ©barbara christina wuellenweber


Seeyoulater by solomonrobson


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