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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



my taste in soundtracks vindicated at last…

July 4th, 2007 · Comments Off on my taste in soundtracks vindicated at last…

Just read this post about Bugsy Malone on the Guardian music blog. It’s long been one of my favourite films – there’s something fabulously surreal about the kids-as-adults thing – like a school play, without the forgotten lines and corpsing. And, as cited in the article, the soundtrack is stellar. I only own a tiny handful of Soundtrack albums (odd, given that everything I’ve ever recorded sounds like a soundtrack album) – Local Hero, Paris Texas, One From The Heart, Bill Frisell’s albums of Buster Keaton music, and of course Bugsy Malone. It was the first thing I searched for when I discovered you could buy music online, trying in vain to find it on CD. I think I eventually got it in the Virgin Megastore in London.

Anyway, it’s magic, give it a listen.

Tags: Musing on Music

Friday Random 10

September 1st, 2006 · 2 Comments

here’s today’s random iTunes generated playlist…

The Works – Say Yes
Juliet Turner – Falling (Live)
Juliet Turner – Doctor Fell (Live) (two in a row from the same album? what is random up to?)
Gillian Welch – Everything Is Free
Madonna – Oh Father
Ingrid Laubrock and Liam Noble – We See
Sophia – Another Trauma
Eric Roche – Faja Grande
Bill Frisell – Cadillac 1959
John Martyn – I’d Rather Be The Devil

Yup, I think I’ll listen to that lot again…

Tags: Musing on Music

Friday random 10 on saturday again…

July 29th, 2006 · Comments Off on Friday random 10 on saturday again…

here goes –

  • Bill Frisell – Prelude (from Quartet – a really lovely album)
  • The Kinks – Mr Pleasant (from the best of – never before has one band ran the gamut of songs from ‘perfect’ to ‘dreadful’ quite so spectacularly.)
  • Kings X – Mudd (from Ogre Tones – major return to form)
  • Ry Cooder – Paris, Texas (mmmmmmmmmmm)
  • Hinda Hicks – When You Touch Me There (revealing my hidden love of 80s and 90s R ‘n’ B)
  • Steve Lawson/Jeff Kaiser – Track 4 (soon-to-be released duet project I recorded in California in January with trumpeter jeff Kaiser. probably the most ‘out’ thing I’ve ever done)
  • Mark Isham – Part iii (from Tibet)
  • Paul Simon – How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns (from One Trick Pony – another amazing PS lyric and vocal)
  • Finn Peters – Ballad Boy (from the album Su-Ling, just about to be released on Babel Label. Lovely stuff from a load of F-IRE collective players)
  • Paul Simon – Have A Good Time (always room for more Paul Simon, this one’s from Still Crazy After All These Years)

Tags: Musing on Music

Friday Random 10

July 14th, 2006 · Comments Off on Friday Random 10

Stick iTunes on random, and write down what gets played…

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Pride And Joy
KT Tunstall – Through The Dark
From Branch To Branch – Gary Peacock and Ralph Towner
Like A Star – Corinne Bailey Rae
What A World – Bill Frisell
(Used To Be A) Cha Cha Cha – Jaco Pastorius
Whatsername – Green Day
Time After Time – Cyndi Lauper
Things Can Only Get Better – Howard Jones
She’s Leaving The Bank – Ry Cooder

That’s a pretty accurate version of where my head’s at, musicially, I think!

Tags: Musing on Music

Frisell gig online

January 4th, 2006 · Comments Off on Frisell gig online

One of my students just forwarded me a link to Bill Frisell’s gig from the London Jazz Festival, on the BBC website – it’s a great gig, just a trio of Bill, Greg Leisz and Jenny Scheinman, playing a tribute to John Lennon. I’m told all the songs are John Lennon songs, but I don’t recognise most of them because a) I don’t own any Beatles albums and b) everything I’ve ever heard from Lennon’s solo career has been rubbish. Never ever understood the Eulogising over him as a songwriter, post-Beatles.

Still, Bill Frisell could do a tribute to The Reynolds Girls and make it worth listening to, so it’s fabulously interesting stuff. Go and have a listen!

Maybe one day I should get round to buying some Beatles albums – I used to own an early best of – I think it was called ‘A collection of Beatles Oldies’ or something. Dunno what happened to that. Maybe I should have a listen to Abbey Road or The White Album or something – I hear they’re quite good… ;o)

Soundtrack – Bill Frisell live at the London Jazz Festival.

Tags: Musing on Music

sick-watch 2005

December 29th, 2005 · Comments Off on sick-watch 2005

Feeling a bit better today – definitely not feeling nauseous. Sleep was long but feverish/sweaty/uncomfortable. Will hopefully get some work done today on the tax thingies and some of the much much overdue gig promo things that I really really need to get done ASAP!

SoundtrackBill Frisell, ‘Ghost Town’.

Tags: Random Catchup

end of year top 10s and general out-of-touchness…

December 27th, 2005 · 1 Comment

Here are two end of year top 10s. Neither of them are mine – the first is the chart of the charts – a compilation of the best of the end of year critics polls. The second is the biggest selling albums of the year –

THE CRITICS’ CHOICE

1 The Arcade Fire: Funeral
2 Gorillaz: Demon Days
3 Kanye West: Late Registration
4 Sufjan Stevens: Illinoise
5 Elbow: Leaders of the Free World
6 Antony & The Johnsons: I Am a Bird Now
7 The White Stripes: Get Behind Me Satan
8 Franz Ferdinand: You Could Have It So Much Better
9 Kaiser Chiefs: Employment
10 MIA: Arular

2005’S TOP SELLING ALBUMS

1 James Blunt: Back to Bedlam
2 Coldplay: X & Y
3 Robbie Williams: Intensive Care
4 Kaiser Chiefs: Employment
5 Westlife: Face to Face
6 Gorillaz: Demon Days
7 KT Tunstall: Eye to the Telescope
8 Eminem: Curtain Call – The Hits
9 Kelly Clarkson: Breakaway
10 Katie Melua: Piece by Piece

So, out of both charts I own one of the albums – KT Tunstall’s ‘Eye To The Telescope’. Rather fabulous it is too. I haven’t even heard any of the others. I’ve heard the singles from a few of them – the Coldplay tracks I’ve heard sound nice, and I’m going to get the Gorillaz album, for sure. Will probably get round to listening to Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire and Anthony And The Johnsons at some point (I’ve heard a track from the Anthony… album and quite liked that.)

I’m feeling marvellously out of touch, despite actually having bought two out of the current top 3 UK singles in the last week! Back in the days when I subscribed to Q, I used to tot up at the end of the year how many of their top 50 from the year I had – normally somewhere between 7-10. This year, it’s probably one – KT Tunstall. I don’t think I own another album that’s charted.

My own top 5 of the year is –

Michael Manring – Soliloquy
King’s X – Ogre Tones
Lleuwen Steffan/Huw Warren/Mark Lockheart – God Only Knows
Bill Frisell – East/West
Juliet Turner – Live

Bruce Cockburn – Speechless would be in there but I had all but two of the songs on it before, so it’s not really a ‘new’ album.

So not a particularly hip top 5, but a vibrant one for sure – Michael’s album is his first solo album for 7-8 years, and his first all-solo CD, the finest all solo bass CD ever released by anyone, if you ask me. Kings X’s album is a major return to form, their best for almost a decade. Lleuwen Steffan’s album was a real revelation – I heard it at the vortex being played before a gig, and bought it there and then, and love it to bits. Frisell’s album is him back doing what he does best – playing live with a trio. and Juliet’s live album is long overdue and captures much of the magic of seeing the the lovely Ms Turner live. 5 great albums, for sure, and all of them way better than some load of hackneyed old bollocks by Franz Ferdinand/White Stripes/Kanye West etc. etc. etc. – piss off you dull bastards, come back when you stop making records by comittee/have had drum lessons/write some tunes, respectively. (and no, The Cheat, claiming that you really dig the Kanye West album doesn’t make you seem cool and hip to the laydeez, so stop pretending that was your musical highlight, when really it was hanging out with Randy Stonehill).

Tags: Random Catchup

Improv inspiration

November 27th, 2005 · Comments Off on Improv inspiration

Last night’s gig made for a fantastic companion piece to the night before… it’s a shame nobody else was able to be at both!

The gig was an improv performance, featuring music, dance and video projections. The musicians were me, Rowland Sutherland on flute, Roger Goula on guitar and loopage, and the organiser, singer Filomena Campus.

The evening started with me playing a low droning loop as people were coming in the door, which served to punctuate the beginning of the gig really well, as it stopped just as the first bit of poetry was read (a TS Eliot poem), from which I surreptitiously sampled the line ‘Before the beginning and after the end. All all is always now’ – which I then used to feed into the rest of my opening solo piece. So end of poem, into a 5 or so minute improv of me, and I was then joined by a dancer, Sofie Arstall, who was responding to what I was doing, and to the projections that were happening on the wall behind me (I’m told they were amazing).

Filomena joined us, and her voice was fed into the sample collage of my stuff and the TS Eliot line. All in all, a fab lil’ improv.

following that Roger and Rowland played a duet – both are great players. in these kind of situations Roger and I think quite similarly, in that we juxtapose weird noises with tonal elements – he created a mad loop of heavily processed and mangled guitar scrapes and squeaks, and then added a lovely jazzy chordal thing over the top, while Rowland played some of the most amazing flute work I’ve ever heard, using a whole load of extended techniques I’d not really come across before. Lovely stuffs.

Roger and I were then both employed to loop a load of noise from the audience as part of the next guided improv, which errupted into a (staged) argument amongst a load of audience members (this again was looped and processed), which blended into another improv piece…

I love gigs like this – I always come away with new ideas for places to go, musically. It’s also really unusual to do gigs where I don’t get to connect with the audience by chatting with them as well. It’s got to the point where the chat is as much a part of allowing the audience to know what I’m about as the playing is, so going back to just playing is another interesting challenge, and a good one.

Hopefully we’ll get to do all of this again soon – Roger is going to be at the Recycle Collective in March, and I’m sure Filomena will be involved very soon too – maybe I’ll do a trio gig with her and Rowland at some point…

SoundtrackBill Frisell, ‘East/West’.

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Last night's gig

November 17th, 2005 · Comments Off on Last night's gig

Last night was the first of the Recycle Collective gigs. Usual Darbucka affair WRT to getting there, setting up, dealing with people who are ‘just there to eat’ etc. But all fine.

Music was great – Trip played a fabulous set, as always, and went down supremely well. The sound was great (well, except an earth hum off his bass whenever he wasn’t touching the strings, which was less than ideal…) and his between song banter was funny and engaging too. Good stuff.

After him, our first surprise guest of the series – JazzShark had sent me a link a week or so ago to a guy she’d seen live, called Jeff Taylor – the MP3s on his MySpace page were amazing. a few days later another message arrives from La Shark that Jeff is coming to London. So we exchange emails, meet up for lunch on Monday, and he says he’s coming to the gig, so I suggest he brings his guitar.

He did, and so I got him to play three songs, which were fantastic. A great performer/vocalist/guitarist/songwriter. The whole thing. He really ought to be huge. I’m sure he will be, and the select audience from Darbucka will be able to see that they saw him first.

Then onto Theo and I – we played a mixture of the tunes from Open Spaces and some improvised stuff, including a marvellous improv thing with Jeff on beatbox/vox/weird noises. the sad part of all this (sorry, guys) is that once again, the minidisc has let me down and is blank. It might be that it was still blank from the last time I tried to record a gig, and I’d not formatted the disc. either way, I’ve once again missed out on documenting some marvellous music. Bollocks. It’s getting to be something of a frustration with me – I’ve not been able to record a live gig for lord knows how long, and would really like a document of how I’m playing these tunes now (and I really ought to have had a copy of the Edinburgh show!) I need to come up with a fool proof way of doing it. If I had a roadie I’d get a rack-mountable minidisc deck wired into the rack so I could just put a disc in and go, but I just haven’t got the car space or the muscles to carry it.

So all in all, a great night’s music. The only disappointment was the size of the crowd, which was surprisingly small. I guess there are a few factors, like the Jazz Festival being on, and it not being that long since my last Darbucka gig, but it’s been well publicised… It seems like Theo and I generally struggle to pull a good crowd in London, which is frustrating, as it’s probably the most rewarding musical collaboration I’ve ever been involved in. He does fine if he’s playing with his quartet, and I do fine if I’m playing solo, but together it doesn’t seem to get the peoples in.

The next Recycle gig definitely needs to be bigger. I know these things are meant to grow, but still…

Anyway, it was a fab night, those that were there seemed to love it, Trip got to play London and went down a storm, and we all got to hear Jeff Taylor in a setting that we’ll remember for a long time.

Today, Trip and I are down at the ACM in Guildford for another clinic/masterclass thingie, which will be a lot of fun – it’s a great school, and is always good to go and play for the students there. Hopefully we’ll leave them with something quality to take away.

SoundtrackBill Frisell, ‘East/West’ (new double live album from my favourite guitar player – great stuff, a return to form)

Tags: Uncategorized

Gig week is underway

November 16th, 2005 · Comments Off on Gig week is underway

This morning was the first of a few gigs ‘n’ stuff this week. Trip Wamsley arrived yesterday afternoon, and last night we headed into town to flyer outside Bill Frisell’s gig, which finished earlier than expected, so we went round to spitz to flyer outside another gig, which was more successful, and also bumped into the lovely Sebastian Merrick, promoter extraordinaire (booked me for my first ever solo gig at the Troubadour!), who in turn introduced me to two people I’ve been a fan of for a while and have wanted to say hello to – John Walters, jazz writer for the Guardian and Unknown Public amongst others, and Fiona Talkington, one of the presenters of the world’s finest music radio show, Late Junction. So that was a good night!

Then, this morning, Trip and I were giving a clinic/masterclass thingie at the Access To Music ‘British Academy Of New Music’ in East London, which went really well – a class of mixed musicians, we talked a lot about the thinking behind taking your instrument outside of its formal context, and Trip pulled apart the technical side of one of his tunes. Most entertaining it was too. Looks like I’ll be back at the college before long…

And then onto tonight’s gig. I’m really looking forward to this – playing with Theo is always a treat, watching Trip is always a treat. No idea how many people will be there, but it’s listed in Time Out, and there are flyers and posters up all over the place so there could be a few people come down!

Time to get ready to leave… see you there!

Tags: Uncategorized