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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



The Importance of Accountability In the Creative Process.

June 5th, 2009 · 2 Comments

This came up the yesterday in a couple of discussions on solobasssteve.com, the idea that random things can often provide the impetus to think about what we do in a more focused way. Particularly in this post by Mike, which this post is basically a very long response to…

One example of this random accountability was the way that record companies – even if their input was unhelpful – provided a degree of focus to the creative process that disappears if you’re not answerable to anyone. [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies

A gig and some deep listening…

November 30th, 2006 · Comments Off on A gig and some deep listening…

Forgot to blog about last Friday’s Rodrigo Y Gabriela gig at Shepherd’s Bush. Went along with gig-buddy extraordinaire, Catster, not having heard them but having heard lots of great things from other people. And was not disappointed in them at all – flair, style, energy, incredible playing, and lots of hilarious and gratuitous swearing; they’re Mexican and have been living in Ireland, so have learned to swear with an Irish brogue… it’s very funny.

Anyway, their set is a mixture of originals and metal classics by Metallica, Slayer etc. all done on two acoustic guitars. It works brilliantly, and if it ever were possible to mosh to a gig without drums, this was it.

The big problem though, as always, was that the Bush is a Carling venue, so the music is provided as a soundtrack to drinking. And drinking goes hand in hand with talking. So there was the constant din of people get drunk and chatting through this incredible music. It’s insulting to the band, and awful for people who’ve paid £15 to hear some acoustic music! Breweries should be banned from running venues.

And then last night was Steve and Yo’s listening night – snacks, chat and piles and piles of great CDs. An evening of musical wonder and therapeutic conversation to feed the soul. Yo discovered the new Spearhead stuff, Rosie Thomas and John Lester, and I discovered early Parliament, Don Blackman, a Bill Withers album I’d never heard, and an amazing recording of some Bartok that I was unfamiliar with. A very late night, and I’m paying for it now. But today is shark day, which only comes round a couple of times a year, so is much cause for celebration. Yay!

Get well soon, Miles – your turn to pick the tunes!

Tags: Musing on Music

Looperlative update…

September 7th, 2006 · Comments Off on Looperlative update…

Bob’s just released another Looperlative update – this thing just keeps getting better! Two great new features, one being a ‘bounce’ feature, where you can record from one or more channels to an empty channel, to either consolidate loads of tracks into one (to free up track space) or you can sample from the middle of a long loop a much shorter section, but you also get to keep the first loop (unlike a destructive resample function) – coming out of bounce mode mutes the stuff you were playing into it, but the tracks are still there unless you choose to delete them. Very handy for mangling long loops, or imposing rhythmic form onto abstract stuff.

The other new function is a ‘catch’ setting for the volume and feedback controls – so if you’re adjusting the volume on lots of tracks, when you turn one off, then go to the next track, the volume control doesn’t start at ‘off’, it waits until the value of the pedal matches the current value of the track, and only then does it do anything. This is SO useful.

This are fun times to be into looping – lots of great new musicians coming out doing loop things (JazzShark went to see Richard Bona last night and reported back that he was doing some delicious loopage), and plenty of developments going on in the looping technology front too. I still have come across a laptop set up that I’d be happy with, but in the dedicated hardware looper world, the Looperlative is a LONG way out in front at the moment – definitely the way to go. (and if you do plan to get one and you’re in the UK, email me first…)

And if you just want to see what it can do, come on down to the next Recycle Collective gig on Sept 20th!

Tags: Music News

Two nights at the vortex.

July 31st, 2006 · Comments Off on Two nights at the vortex.

Been to two gigs at The Vortex in the last week – last Monday, I went to see the launch of Ingrid Laubrock and Liam Noble’s album ‘Let’s Call This…’ – I’ve heard Ingrid play before, in a quartet, but wasn’t familiar with Liam’s playing other than through MySpace. The music was exquisite, whether improvising or playing Monk tunes, the interplay between the two was gorgeous, with Ingrid switching between squeally extended range techniques and lovely lush full melodic stuff, with Liam providing entirely unpredictable but completely logic accompaniment – a really really interesting piano player.

The album is released – like so many great UK jazz albums – on Oliver Weindling’s Babel Label, home to such artists as Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Christine Tobin, Huw Warren… definitely worth investigating.

Then this saturday, Lianne Carrol was booked to play but fell ill, so the lovely and ever-so-slightly mad Estelle Kokot was booked to fill in, and did a fab job. It was also a rather nice London jazz hang, with JazzShark over from NYC, Orphy Robinson calling in, Huw Warren visiting from north west Wales, Christine Tobin nursing a nasty cut in her leg from a bike accident, and the aforementioned Oliver Weindling from Babel Label.

The Vortex is a lovely place to hang out – if you see something on their Programme that you’re going to, drop me a line and I might meet you there if I’m not playing myself.

Dalston feels like it’s a bit out of the way, but if you’re driving from north london it’s really easy to get to, and it’s just round the corner from Dalston Kingsland BR station… Go on, go out and support some homegrown jazz instead of wasting your time and money on an overpriced trip to Ronnie Scott’s.

Tags: Musing on Music

Recording again…

April 26th, 2006 · 2 Comments

Back to recording today… Why? Well, on this album adventure I’ve had a remote co-pilot, the Shark. It just started by me sending MP3s over for her to hear, but her comments were (usually) well placed and useful, and she’s become a very valuable sounding board. So album was finished, and Shark drops into IM conversation ‘is that the version of Behind Every Word that you’re having on the album’. The evil lady sows seeds of doubt in my mind, and I head back to try a new version, coming up with a new (trickier) arrangement, so I’m back recording again… The new version is sounding fab though… so that’s one thing, I guess!

If you want an easy life, don’t listen to anyone else!

Tags: Musing on Music

A great day's recording…

April 20th, 2006 · Comments Off on A great day's recording…

Album is coming along rather nicely. Have finally got a version of my song for Eric Roche that I’m happy with, and then this afternoon, BJ Cole came round to play on a track. The track in question is called ‘Scott Peck’, and was the first thing I played after I heard that Scott Peck, author of ‘The Road Less Travelled’ had died last year.

The bass parts were recorded as a single solo live performance earlier this week, and BJ then overdubbed three full takes through the entire form, which I’ve added fades to. I’ve actually ended up with his last two takes both happening for most of the track, panned left and right. BJ’s sound and playing are just so perfect for the track, it’s amazing. When we were recording the different takes, it wasn’t in mind that they be playing simultaneously, but the two takes work so well together that they just HAVE to be there!

So I’m rather grateful to The Shark, who both suggested that I re-visit Scott Peck (having heard an MP3 of it when I first recorded it last year), and suggested BJ for this track. It was in my mind all along to get BJ on one track on the album, and this is the perfect one for it.

You’re going to love it, believe me. :o)

Tags: Music News

Great news for people who like their own lungs…

February 15th, 2006 · Comments Off on Great news for people who like their own lungs…

MPs have voted in favour of a total smoking ban in public places – fantastic! I’m so glad they didn’t bow to pressure to make it OK for pubs that don’t serve food to avoid the ruling – that would’ve just meant that posh pubs protected people’s health and pubs in poorer areas left them all to choke to death.

The one group that will suffer from this, sadly, are people with mental illness, whose medication is set based on the fact that they smoke, and need to smoke for the delicate balance of their mental wellbeing. There are already a lot of people who can’t travel on public transport because the need to smoke more frequently, and they are people for whom giving up smoking is a way more difficult proposition that it is for the rest of the population. I’m not sure what needs to happen for them, but I hope due consideration is given.

But for the majority of people, this will be a huge step forward. I might even start going to pubs again. It’ll certainly make going to gigs in venues that currently allow smoking much more enjoyable – no more coming home from the Borderline smelling like Guy Fawkes.

And for those of you that smoke, you’ve got until next summer to give up, then you can be grateful like the rest of us. Hey, if the Shark can quit, anyone can.

Hurrah!

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

four things…

December 31st, 2005 · Comments Off on four things…

OK, end of year meme, nicked from sharklady’s blog

A. Four jobs you’ve had in your life
1. waiter
2. factory worker (stitching little ‘R’s into Russel Athletic sweatshirts!)
3. Market research observer for Philips
4. solo bassist

B. Four films you could watch over and over
1. the wedding singer
2. so I married an axe murderer
3. bugsy malone
4. muppet’s treasure island

C. Four cities you’ve lived in
1. London
2. Perth
3. Lincoln
4. Berwick on Tweed (er, cities?????)

D. Four Tele programs you love to watch
1. question time
2. never mind the buzzcocks
3. newsnight review
4. family guy

E. Four favourite places you’ve been on holiday
1. Krakow
2. Lake Garda, Italy
3. North Norfolk coast
4. Nashville

F. Four websites you visit daily
1. BassWorld
2. last.fm
3. MySpace
4. Jonatha Brooke forum

G. Four of your all-time favourite restaurants
1. Romna Gate, North London
2. Henderson’s, Edinburgh
3. Mia’s, just outside Reading (best curry I’ve had in years)
4. Ristorante Cascina Capuzza, Desenzano del Garda, Italy

H. Four of your favourite foods
1. just about any veg Curry, but Mia’s Veg balti is pretty remarkable.
2. Fajitas
3. Caprese Salad
4. fresh fruit salad.

I. Four places you’d rather be right now
1. North Norfolk
2. on the banks of Lake Garda
3. Mexico (I’ve never really been but I’d sure like to go… ;o)
4. driving across the US with TSP.

J. Four things you find yourself saying
1. ‘sorry, I forgot’
2. ‘imitate, assimilate, integrate, innovate’
3. ‘anecdotally’ (way of covering myself when presenting loosely observed trends amongst my friends as scientific data)
4. ‘OK, I’ll do it, when I’ve checked my email.’

(and sharklady, note anglicised questions – you’re from here, stop typing like you’re from there!)

Tags: Random Catchup

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

A Blogger's Favourite Blogs blog-meme

September 27th, 2005 · Comments Off on A Blogger's Favourite Blogs blog-meme

OK, here’s a meme for all y’all who blog out there –

If you were stuck on a desert island with an internet connection to only one blog, whose would it be?
Which is the blog that makes you laugh the most?
Which blog is most likely to make you cry?
Which blog is most likely to inspire you to part with cash for a CD/DVD?
Which blog is most likely to cause you to change your mind about an issue?
Which blog do you read first in the morning?
Of the blogs you read by people you don’t know, who would you most like to meet?

And here’s my answers –

1) – assuming that www.howtobuildboatsoutofsand.blogspot.com doesn’t exist, It’d probably be Liz’s – I’m sure if there was a decent curry house on the island, she’ll blog about it at some point, as well as somewhere to purchase stylish footwear should the opportunity arise.
2) – either Liz’s or Going Jesus.
3) – er, probably Sleepless In Sudan – which could also fit into the above category – equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking.
4) – Most likely Sid’s blog.
5) – Hugo’s blog – either him or his comments. Lots of great brain food there. There are a couple of others that teach me a lot – George Monbiot and Jyoti but I don’t often change my mind on an issue because of them, just discover an issue I wasn’t previously aware of.
6) assuming all the blogs I read have got new posts listed, it’s normally Gareth’s, knowing that we’ll be chatting about whatever we’ve both blogged about within about 5 minutes of me switching my computer on. Though, it may actually be the Shark, as she lives in NYC and thus blogs later than anyone else I read, so is more likely to have posted after I went to bed… And this was in no way influenced by her offence at not being mentioned in the rest of the list. Not at all.
7) Either Sara, Hugo or Jyoti – all very interesting peoples.

Right, there you go – now go answer them on your own blogs!

Soundtrack – Duke Ellington, ‘The Classic Tracks Of The 40s’ (featuring the legendary Jimmy Blanton on bass).

Tags: Uncategorized