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
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
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.
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".
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
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
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
"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
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
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."