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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



More reasons to adopt elderly cats…

October 26th, 2005 · 1 Comment

Despite being a huge cat-fan, I’ve long been concerned about the numbers of birds and tiny mammals killed by domestic cats in the UK. So this article in the guardian, forwarded to me by BDB, was scary in that it puts a figure on it – up to 300 MILLION birds killed a year by domestic cats! That’s a terrifying number, especially when some of our song birds are endangered.

So what to do? Well, there’s some obvious advice in the article about not feeding birds in places where the cats are going to jump on them. It also talks about belling them, but there are counter arguments that it’s pretty distressing for the cat to have a bell tinkling away round its neck all the time (as it would be for us, I’m sure).

The best alternative for cat lovers is to a) get all their cats neutered – there are too many cats around anyway, way more than there are responsible owners – and next time you get a new cat, instead of getting kittens, adopt an older cat, preferably a ‘house cat’ – one that for whatever reason needs to stay in-doors, or is a proper aged feline and thus can’t catch anything anyway. They are harder for the rescue centres to home, but make MUCH better pets than kittens do – more mellow, friendly, cuddly, less skittish, less likely to destroy curtains etc.

While the Fairly Aged Felines do go out, they don’t go out much and certainly don’t go far, and in the year we’ve had them have so far brought in one bird between them, which was most likely dead before they found it. In the winter, when birds are most likely to be feeding in our garden on the bird feeders, the boys stay inside anyway.

So, there you go – aged felines are not only the cat-friendly choice, they’re the bird-friendly choice too…

SoundtrackMark Lockheart, ‘Moving Air’.

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Fairly Aged Angel Of Death?

July 28th, 2005 · Comments Off on Fairly Aged Angel Of Death?

Uh-oh, the moment we feared has arrived… One of the Fairly Aged Felines brought in a dead baby sparrow last night!

There are few possible scenarios here – obviously, worst case is that he caught it, and is getting into hunting. second worse is that it fell out of a nest and he killed it when he found it on the ground, least worst is that he found it on the ground dead. The Sigfried and Roy logic suggests that he brought it in so that we could adminster CPR, but was too late and is now distraught at the demise of his tiny feathered friend.

We’re SO hoping this doesn’t become a habit… it’s the first time any of our Fairly Aged Felines have brought in anything like that. Usually they bring in lots of leaves, stuck to their fur, but never carrion…

Ah well, time to go get ready for tonight’s gig in Guildford – see you there!

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Italy post no. 9

July 25th, 2005 · Comments Off on Italy post no. 9

(written 25/705 11.28)

just waiting to get a cab from the hotel to the airport, having spent the last hour talking with Maurizio Rolli (fab Italian bassist) and Hiram Bullock (guitarist with Marcus Miller/Jaco etc.) discussing their drummer problems. I love conversations like this – it makes life as a solo artist seem even more appealing, and also shows me just how easy the people I work with are to deal with. I’m feeling very lucky right now both to be able to play solo and to with lovely people like Theo and Jez and Cleveland and Michael and BJ and Orphy and the other friendly low maintainance musical geniuses that I spend my days making noises with.

The rest of the day yesterday went v. well – the Jam For Klaus went really well – I started it with a ebow ambient loop to set some kind of context for it, and each of the bassists added different elements that all complimented the whole and seemed to work as a fitting musical tribute to this local bassist who’d been so tragically killed.

After that jam, a whole other kind of jam – over at the BassZone stand in the expo bit of the day, I set up to play, and was joined by a couple of other Italian bassists, for a version of Highway 1, which worked really well.

And then the last two bits of the gig were Michael playing solo, followed by him guesting with the Maurizio Rolli big band in a tribute to Jaco, playing arrangements similar to those on The Birthday Concert. Maurizio is a fabulous bassist, and the arrangements were really well done.

And now I’m heading home, looking forward to seeing TSP and the Fairly Aged Felines, and getting back on with the process of sorting out my Edinburgh promo. the C Venues art dept. have come back with a whole load of changes to my poster and flyer (layout stuff rather than changing the design, but still a fair amount of work shuffling things around the screen, which needs to be done tomorrow), and I’ve still got to chase up some press and radio contacts for the fest, as well as playing in Guildford on thursday and Berwick On Tweed on Sunday, and fitting in as much teaching as I can in between… it’s all go in StevieWorld!

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look after your pets!

July 20th, 2005 · Comments Off on look after your pets!

Today’s Independent has a story stating that 70,000 cases of animal cruelty were found in Britain last year. The sad news is, it only led to 1,507 prosecutions, leading the RSPCA to call for a new animal welfare act that places a duty of care on all animal owners.

The weird thing with stories like this is, why the hell doesn’t that exist already? Why are people not legally bound to provide their pets with sufficient food/water/shelter? What kind of barbaric ethical wilderness are we in as far as animal cruelty is concerned?

Across Europe, the Brits are seen as being crazy about our pets, and there are, thankfully, a heck of a lot of concerned loving pet owners, who make sure their pets are looked after, feed them properly and take then to the vets when they get ill. Sadly, there are also a bunch of morons who lack the basic human function of compassion, and so mistreat their pets – why on earth do they have pets in the first place??

But it’s more than that – keeping pets is pretty expensive, so we need some sort of mechanism in place to encourage pet insurance.

On the up side, it’s great to see the mainstream pet food companies doing junior/adult/senior cat ‘n’ dog food now – taking note of the high instance of kidney problems in cats, caused by the wrong food. Please get your cat/dog’s to have a blood test (they might need some convincing – our boys aren’t into the vets much at all), and find out if they need to be put on a renal diet, or some other kind of medical diet (the special food doesn’t cost much, it’s just tasteless so it takes a while to convince them to eat it at all!)

So, if you’re a cat owner, get thee to CatChat.org for muchos good advice, and don’t forget to read Gemini and The Colonel’s diary while you’re there….

…and if you’re thinking of getting a cat, I can HIGHLY recommend aged felines – far less skittish than kittens (which grow up pretty fast anyway), harder to rehome, but just as in-need of love and attention. And if you get them from a decent rehoming centre, they often come with pet insurance already in place so even if they fall ill, you’re covered.

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Update on the fairly aged felines

July 18th, 2005 · Comments Off on Update on the fairly aged felines

Yesterday, the original aged feline would have been 20. We had high hopes of him reaching that most prestigious of cat-landmarks at this time last year. His ongoing chronic renal condition got rapidly worse through August, and he died in September, a couple of months after his 19th Birthday. Which is not to be sneezed at. It makes him a bit of a Yoda amongst felines.

But we now have charge of the fairly aged felines, who are getting along just fine. The new challenge we face is trying to prevent the long-haired-ginger-one from resembling a moving shrubbery by combing him about five times a day to remove the myriad leaves, twigs and sticky seed-pods that he picks up whilst squirrelling through the ragged forest that is the extensive grounds here at Stevie Towers.

Both the boys have increased in bravery and friendliness, greeting new people in the house with curiosity and a request for cuddles rather than hiding under the sofa, which was their prefered reaction for the first few months.

They love their food, love cuddles, but are complaining a little about the heat of the summer. Well you try wearing a fur coat in this weather (I have tried it, it doesn’t work. Even for gigs.)

So raise a glass to the memory of The Aged Feline, and all the lessons he taught me.

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Beware Of The Dog

April 16th, 2005 · Comments Off on Beware Of The Dog

No, we haven’t just got a Dog (the fairly aged felines are particularly glad about that) – it’s the title of the new album from The Works, who used to be known as Woodworks, and are the brainchild of keyboard/guitar genius, Patrick Wood. Pat and I have played together a fair bit – it was fun getting him into my method of ‘spontaneous composition’ and we ended up with some fab stuff recorded, that still needs to be mixed and edited properly.

Anyway, this is his quartet, with Mark Lockheart on sax, Neville Malcom on bass and Nic France on drums – all major players on the London jazz scene – and it is, almost without doubt, the best album I’ve heard come out of that scene for ages. Actually, it’s on a par with Theo’s last couple of albums – which are equally amazing.

The compositions are quite Zawinul/Shorter-ish in places, but with a really strong singer/songwriter sensibility to them, which obviously connects well with me. It’s beautifully recorded, perfectly crafted, and has all four players playing right at the top of their game.

If anyone ever suggests that BritJazz is somehow inferior to US jazz, this is the album to play them to prove them wrong. If Patrick was from New York, this’d be selling tens of thousands of copies.

It’s fab, and you really need to get it. I’m going to talk to Pat about stocking it in my online shop.

Talking of which, I’ll have John Lester’s CD up there before too long.

SoundtrackThe Works, ‘Beware Of The Dog’.

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Heatwave!!

March 17th, 2005 · Comments Off on Heatwave!!

Well, OK, not quite, but it is the first proper day of sun this year in London. It’s warm out! Like, proper spring weather. I actually went out into the garden, without having to empty the kitchen compost bin into the huge compost bin outside! Amazing.

Two other residents of this house are enjoying the sun – The Fairly Aged Felines have been allowed out into the garden for over a week now, ever since I expertly fitted a cat-flap to our back-door (well, OK, I fitted it, expertly or not.)

Much fun to be had exploring our garden, and the neighbouring gardens, to be sure!

Soundtrack – still Pat Metheny/Charlie Haden, ‘Beyond The Missouri Sky’ – this is such an outstandingly gorgeous record, once it goes in the player it’s bound to be there for a day or so… I think I’m on my fifth or sixth listen in a row.

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2nd biggest Izzard fan in the house…!

March 2nd, 2005 · Comments Off on 2nd biggest Izzard fan in the house…!

So The Small Person took the Izzard test and scored 90!! Which leaves me no longer the top rated in my age group, but also not even the top rated in my house. Still, I’m rather proud of TSP for her remarkable knowledge of all this Izzard-esque.

I think it’s safe to say that the Fairly Aged Felines (who are doing really well, thanks for asking) won’t score quite so highly, as they haven’t watched Circle or Dress To Kill yet. Whenever we go to put one of those on, they complain and want to see Glorious or Definite Article again…

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And It's Happy New Year From Them Too…

January 1st, 2005 · Comments Off on And It's Happy New Year From Them Too…

The Fairly Aged Felines wish you a happy, warm, snuggle-filled year of mouse-dreams and giant laps.

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General update…

December 5th, 2004 · Comments Off on General update…

OK, I’ll fill you in on general goings on over the last week or so.

Last weekend was spent in Holland and Germany. The event I went over for was the European Bass Day, run by Marco Schoots, who publishes the Dutch bass mag, and runs a record label – an amazing guy. I was booked to play solo (actually, I was booked to play last year, but there was a pretty major breakdown in communication with the people who had offered to fund the trip, and I ended up not going… but that’s a whole other story…) Anyway, I was booked to play solo, and also with one of my favourite singers/bassists, John Lester – John, as you’ll know is the guy that opened for Michael Manring and I back in March on our tour here in England, and neither Michael nor I can work out why he isn’t a megastar yet – amazing voice, great songs, friendly engaging stage presence and a fabulous bassist… I’ll never understand this industry…

So, I went over to Amsterdam a day early to see John, to rehearse a few of his tunes and hang out in Amsterdam (oh, life is hard for your friendly neighbourhood solo bassist!). That was Saturday, and Sunday we drove to Viersen, just over the German border, where the Bass Day was being held.

My feelings about bass-days in general are mixed – I really like the idea of getting together with a load of bassists, and I love the chance to catch up with all my bass-chums that are at these events. But I really can’t cope with listening to hours and hours of machine gun slapping; after about half an hour it all starts to sound like someone drilling for oil. I guess it’s just me, ‘cos lots of people seemed to really be into it, but it really gets tired pretty quick. Guitar-fests and drum-fests are the same.

On a gigging level, it tends to work in my favour, as I’m often there as the alternative to the slap-monsters, and certainly both my set and John Lester’s went down really well – good crowds, well received, and quite a few CDs sold.

And it was great to see so many friends there – Stefan Redtenbacher, Jan Olof Strandberg, Jono Heale, Stevie Williams, amd even one very nice guy who’d travelled from Germany to see the gig with Michael Manring in London a couple of weeks ago!

So a fine time was had, and we stayed up in a bar back in Venlo til the early hours of the morning.

Monday was back to England, and Tuesday we collected the cats. So the rest of the week has been pretty cat-centric for The Small Person and I, discovering that these truly are remarkable, friendly and utterly adorable little animals. How anyone could have given them up is beyond either of us. It’s been a week of many snuggles with our new feline family. We always felt so lucky to have had five years with The Aged Feline, and there’s no way that any new cats could replace him, but it’s great to be able to give a home to more abandoned cats, and to then find that they have personalities bigger than most drummers is such a great bonus!

Teaching has gone mad of late – I’ve been doing loads and getting loads more emails from people wanting to learn, travelling from all over the southern half of england, and wales! I really really enjoy teaching, so it’s great to be in demand, but I don’t want to get into a position where I have to start turning people away… maybe I should make street-team membership a prerequisite of having lessons, and whittle them down a bit that way! :o)

Which brings us up to Friday night, when I went to a comedy gig – I’m a big fan of Rich Hall, but this was the first time I’d seen him live, doing his ‘Otis Lee Crenshaw’ failed country singer routine. Very very funny indeed, don’t miss him if he’s gigging near you. He was on at Club Senseless, which is hosted by Ronnie Golden – a comedy songwriter, who plays at the club with his band Ronnie and The Rex – he’s great, very funny, very clever. My only problem with the club is the amount of smoke. The Kings Head in Crouch End has a very low ceiling and really shitty air conditioning, so I end up leaving half way through anything I go to there, choking to death. BRING ON THE SMOKING BAN, says I.

And Yesterday, after a 7 hour teaching day, I went over to Oxford to see Jez and Susan Enan. I hadn’t seen Susan in ages, probably not since I played on her EP, but she’s been very busy working on a new album, getting a management deal and is about to move to the states and become a star. She fab, and it was very very nice to catch up with her and hear a few of the rough mixes from the new CD.

But I got back so late that I slept in and missed church today… doh!

anyway, here’s another piccie of the Fairly Aged Felines –

Soundtrack – Keith Jarrett Trio, ‘Tokyo 96’; Julie Lee, ‘Stillhouse Road’; Eric Roche, ‘The Perc U lator’; John Martyn, ‘Solid Air’; Lifehouse, ‘Stanley Climbfall’.

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