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London Jazz Festival fun

November 25th, 2007 | 1 Comment | Categories: bass ideas · Music News · Musing on Music · tips for musicians |

Yesterday’s gig at the Barbican with Corey Mwamba was all kinds of fun. As I’ve mentioned before, this was definitely the most difficult music I’ve ever had to play, and I was still a little under-prepared given that we’d had only two rehearsals as a band – there were a couple of the lines that I could play fine on my own, without the distractions of other musicians, but in the context of the gorgeous improv soup going on around me, I got a little lost. However, one of the very useful skills I’ve picked up from all the improvised music settings that I’ve played in is how to get lost in interesting ways. Learning what to do in a situation like that is your most important tool when it comes to winging it. If you’re underprepared, you’re very likely to screw up, and no amount of bravado or talking yourself up is going to make your playing any better. So instead, you try and give yourself markers through the tune to find your way again when you’ve lost it, and in between playing things that sound GOOD even if they aren’t RIGHT – after all, the audience don’t know the music. There were VERY few of the mistakes I made in the gig that anyone who was intimately acquainted with the music would have been able to spot at all…

At one point in the title track of the set – Argentum – the twinned power of Robert Mitchell on piano and Shaney Forbes on drums just blew over me like an unexpected storm. It was amazing, and beautiful, and a little scary, and I just tried to hang on to my bassline, listening for some clues in Shaney’s drumming for where the hell I was meant to be, but really just enjoying the ride. It’s a healthy feeling to be out of one’s depth with musicians who do their thing with a lot more confidence than you do their thing… I was off of home territory, but as a result was able to take something different to the gig… I don’t carry any of the machismo so often attached to anything possibly describable as ‘fusion’, and I think Corey was drawn to that – both in terms of my ‘sound’ and my approach to improvised stuff… I don’t/cant’ do twiddly clever solos over complex changes, so when I get in that situation, I tend to play atmospherically, shaping a sparse melody through the harmony, looking at it as a composition exercise – much the way I approach the Recycle Collective, just with a little more pre-ordained structure. And to my ears, it worked beautifully…

…there was a lovely moment at the end of the second last tune, where it had slimmed down to a drum solo, and we were all creeping back in to an improv section – I was using the ‘woodblock’ sound that I get by fretting the strings with my nails up near the bridge, and you could see the audience craning their necks to see where the additional percussion was coming from…. I like moments like that. :o)

It was a privilege to play with musicians that good – Corey, Robert, Shaney and Deborah are all incredible players, and delightful people, and I hope I get to play with all of them again v. soon!

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