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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



National Theatre gig…

August 31st, 2006 · 1 Comment

In my post-Greenbelt blogging frenzy, I forgot to blog about the NT gig with the lovely Theo. It’s amazing that we keep getting booked there, given that most of the music there is either solo classical guitar, or standards. We seem to get away with playing original spacey ambient loveliness in a straight setting. Still, the audience seem to like it, we like it, so what’s not to love?

Anyway, the gig went really well – it’s always too quiet in there, thanks to the powers that be complaining about the volume, but that aside, it was such a joy to be back playing with Theo – he’s an exceedingly nice bloke, and a fantastic musician and improvisor. It’s a really natural musical hookup. Most of the gig was freshly improvised stuff, with a couple of ‘Open Spaces tunes thrown in’ (Flutter, Bernie and Lovely), a solo tune from me (Behind Every Word) and our duo arrangement of ‘All I Know’ from Theo’s excellent Heart Of The Sun album. All in a most enjoyable gig, with a mix of friends and strangers in the audience, many of whom were most complimentary about the music afterwards. We even sold a pile of CDs, which is fairly rare for a foyer gig…

No doubt we’ll be back there soon.

Tags: Music News

The finest weekend of the year is over

August 29th, 2006 · Comments Off on The finest weekend of the year is over

For another year.

Another magic Greenbelt has come to a close, and we’re home. We drove back late last night, which was pretty hair-raising given how tired we were, but I’ve got a gig today at the National Theatre Foyer with Theo so couldn’t really have stayed over and partied til 4am like so many others…

The last day of GB was a fab one – starting with an organic vegan breakfast, and progressing via a panel discussion on Norther Ireland featuring Assembly members from the DUP and Sinn Fein along with two peace activists, one of whom had had his wife murdered by the IRA. The session was incredible, and what was said was so remarkable, that I doubt they’ll release the tape of the session… A big step forward. Maximum kudos to the most wonderful Gareth Higgins| for chairing the session so well.

After that, I was back into compere mode, to introduce Lleuwen Steffan, Huw Warren and Owen Evans – definitely one of my musical highlights of the festival (that’s their gig, not my introduction, which was good, but hardly a highlight). Amazing music, great performance, very well received.

After that it was full-on Recycle gig logistics – collecting keyboards for Huw to play, getting my gear up to the venue, missing lots of things I really wanted to see… Anyway, got all the gear up to the venue, and set up. Lovely audience comes in along with my co-conspirators.

The gig started with a me-solo set – (Grace and Gratitude, Behind Every Word, MMFSOG, Scott Peck, FRHU, Deep Deep Down and Deeper Still, for those keeping notes), then Julie joined me for some New Standard-ing – Video Killed The Radio Star, I Don’t Wanna Know and Running Up That Hill. Then we went into One Step from the album, and about three quarters of the way through, I gave Huw a nod and he joined in on the baby grand piano that was in the corner of the room, which worked an absolute treat.

After that, he came up to the stage on Keys and laptop, and he Julie and I did a couple of improv things, with them doing a duo version of ‘The Water Is Wide’ in the middle that was exquisite.

All change after that, and Andrea Hazell joined in on voice for our version of Dido’s Lament, which was gorgeous as always.

The wonderful Juliet Turner then got her first taste of Recycling with Harry Napier and I. Most lovely.

And finally, Huw and I played a gentle duet to send the lovely crowd off into the night. All in all, a fab Recycle night. Don’t miss Sept 20th at Darbucka!

Then it was all systems go to get all the stuff packed up before Spearhead started on mainstage. We missed the very beginning of the set, but it must be said that standing in a field at Greenbelt with TSP listening to Spearhead is as close to utter bliss as I can imagine. Really really great way to end a stunning weekend of great music, me-gigs, new friends, old friends, brain food, organic food, camping, chatting, hugging and kissing, laughing, sharing etc. etc. etc. All good nothing bad. Everything was wonderful in this best of all possible worlds.

See you there next year?

Tags: Random Catchup

Another great day at Greenbelt

August 28th, 2006 · Comments Off on Another great day at Greenbelt

It’s was a fabulous day at Greenbelt on Sunday – I wasn’t scheduled to play, but did a couple of poetry and bass things with Steve Stockman, which was much fun.

Two great moments to day – Nizlopi on the mainstage were outstanding. If you get the chance to see them on their upcoming tour, don’t miss it. John’s an amazing bassist – to play like that and beatbox at the same time is remarkable, and for any of you BassMonkeys reading, it’s unmissable. Go and see it!

Great moment number 2 was Jude Simpson’s gig – jude is an amazing performer. She’s a performance poet, comedy songwriter and weaver of rambling spontaneous tales and stories from her life. She was in a tent that held 450 people, with at least as many again outside – they had to take the sides down, and she had the entire crowd rapt. You may remember she guested on my last night at Edinburgh last year, and was brilliant then. Go and see her if she’s gigging near you – I’ll book her for the Recycle Collective soon…

And now it’s Monday, last day, and we’ve got loads to do – have got keyboard sorted out for the gig, am compering this afternoon for a couple of shows, and then getting ready for the recycle collective show tonight. And somewhere in there i’ve got to pack up the tent, and get the car loaded so TSP and I can get back to London late night tonight, so that I’ll be ready for tomorrow’s gig at the National Theatre Foyer! Busybusy…

Tags: Random Catchup

Photos from National Theatre gig.

June 1st, 2006 · Comments Off on Photos from National Theatre gig.

One of the regulars – Cryptic – over at the forum just posted this link to some photos of yesterday’s gig – there are some fantastic photos there, though it’s clear that I a) need a hair-cut, and b) need some new things to wear on stage!

‘Twas a fab gig, and the perfect warm up for our Edinburgh run in August. I’m looking forward to it even more now!

Tags: Music News

Gig tonight…

May 31st, 2006 · Comments Off on Gig tonight…

Just about to start rehearsing for tonight’s gig with Julie McKee. I’m so looking forward to this one – I rarely bother to learn other people’s songs, as the only gigs I tend to do these days that aren’t my own music or improvised are jazz gigs where I’ve got charts. But as there aren’t many Green Day, Slipknot, Cure or John Martyn songs in the Real Book, I’ve had to actually learn them.

Please come down if you’re in London at 6pm – it’s at the National Theatre Foyer, free to get in, and will feature much bass and vocal loopage. Go on, you know you want to.

Tags: Music News

Good times, bad times..

May 19th, 2006 · 1 Comment

My what a mixed up week!

Starting with the screwed up car – bad times.

Then Tuesday I had a rehearsal with Julie for our gig at the National Theatre on the 31st – got lots of songs done, including songs by Green Day and The Cure. It’s going to be a fab gig. – good times.

Wednesday was another great rehearsal, this time with Andrea Hazell – Andrea’s only improv experience before this was onstage at Greenbelt last year with me, so she came round for a run through before thursday’s RC gig. Working through various ideas we found that Dido’s Lament by Purcell worked beautifully when looped and layered over ambient mush! – good times.

Which leads us to Thursday and the RC gig. The day started with renting a car – Enterprise do a scheme where they pick you up for free as well, which was nice. I then set off to pick up Todd from Peckham. When, after an hour and a half I hadn’t reached the river, I had to admit defeat to the traffic and head back home, leaving Todd to get the bus to the gig! – bad times, but at least I got to have a listen to the whole of the new album on the in-car CD player and check out what it sounds like in another situation. it’s pretty damned fine sitting in traffic music!

Anyway, came home, loaded the rental car, with gear and TSP, and headed down to Darbucka. Got there nice ‘n’ early, got set up and sound-checked, and even the sound check was sounding lovely. It’s safe to say, that this Recycle gig was one of my all time favourite gigs. Y’all know by now the the RC is ALWAYS stunning, but this perhaps even eclipsed the others. I started solo, with a glitch-free version of ‘Behind Every Word’ (first time that my opening tune at the RC has gone off without a hitch)… However, the loop gremlins just hid until my second track – some weirdness going on in ‘FRHU’ but it was still fun. Followed that with ‘Grace And Gratitude’, then got Andrea up to join me. We did two long pieces – the first a wordless improv, and the second was the Purcell – the purity, clarity and power of Andrea’s voice makes for a completely unique duo experience. Like so many people, the harshness of bad opera has left a bad impression on me, but working with Andrea shows just how good operatic vocals can be when performed by a world class singer. A total joy.

After the break, Todd Reynolds was on. I already knew Todd was amazing, world-class. I wasn’t quite prepared for just how awe-inspiringly amazing he would be as a solo performer. This was, without a doubt, one of the greatest virtuoso performances I’ve ever seen – it’s hugely inspiring to watch someone play who has obviously dedicated such a super-human amount of time, energy and love to being right at the top of their game. I can count on one hand the performers I’ve ever seen of equivalent levels of skill and beauty in their playing – Gary Husband, Show Of Hands, Antonio Forcione, Michael Manring… it’s a tiny tiny select group that serve as a wake-up-call to the rest of us to up our game considerably. I don’t think I’ve ever heard violin played like that live, even on video. It was a fairly small crowd for the RC, but every single one of the people there got a major treat checking out Todd’s magic.

And then the improv bit at the end, the musical equivalent of a 70s wrestling ‘royal rumble’, only a bit more gentle and considered. For this, the three of us were joined half way through by Julie, and the transition from the layers and layers of Andreas’ huge expansive voice fading across to the intimate exquisite layers of humming from Julie was definitely one of my favourite improv moments ever.

How lucky am I? Definitely Good Times.

And then today. I took the rental car back, they found a stone-dent in the back door (was it there when I got it yesterday? I didn’t see it…) and charged me £75 for it, making a grand total of £105 for the day’s car rental. Bollocks. Bad times. Then, just as I arrive home, the garage calls and tells me my car’s ready – £666,69. I’m not sure if the number’s significant, but it’s certainly an evil amount of money. Still, they are a fantastic and trustworthy bunch of guys, and it was really nice to get back in our car. It’s the first time ever that the switch from rental car to own-car hasn’t been a disappointment. This is one lovely car, and even with the blown gasket, I’m still hugely grateful to the lovely G and J for selling it to us for a solo-bass-wages sized sum. So bad times on the cost, good times on getting it back.

Then I come home and finally start to tackle the monumental task of tidying my office. – scary times. The problem is, I’m halfway through and need to somehow make it so I can teach in it tomorrow! arrrrggghhh!

Good times, bad times, you know I had my share…

Tags: Random Catchup

Remembering tunes

May 4th, 2006 · Comments Off on Remembering tunes

Been rehearsing with Julie McKee today, for our gig at the National Theatre on May 31st. It’s the first gig I’ve done in ages where I’ve actually had to remember anything more than about 16 bars of music!

It’s great, in that it’s going to stretch me, and I’m having to think creatively about how to do certain arrangements with the Looperlative, and it’s also good not having to worry about the tunes for most of the song. The results are really cool, and songs we’ve got on the list are pretty broad in scope (no NWA tunes though…)

So I’ve now got a list of tunes that I need to finish off, work out the chords for, and REMEMBER! Whoever heard of actually having to remember anything? Pah!

…and yes, I did go and vote when the rehearsal was over…

Tags: Music News

Two gigs and a soul-space service…

March 6th, 2006 · Comments Off on Two gigs and a soul-space service…

lots of gig-goings-on this weekend.

Saturday was a two-gig-day, with Theo and I playing twice in the foyer of the National Theatre. It’s a nice little gig, that we’ve done before during the week, but this was the first time we’ve done it on a Saturday. They were also the last gigs of our little tour, and we were recording them for possible inclusion on the forthcoming live album…

…which made it all the more stupid that I forgot to take my foot controller along! Yes, the main midi controller that I do all the Looperlative-loveliness with, was languishing on the floor of my office at home, while my feet wafted around in the empty space where said pedals should have been, feeling decidedly underused.

As it was, the set went fine, not many people would have noticed any change at all, it was just a little more floaty than usual, and we didn’t do the heavily rhythmic tunes like Uncle Bernie.

Between the two sets, I drove home to get the foot controller, and as the Shark was in town for the weekend, and Catster was in for both gigs two, they both came along for the ride, a good chat and a catch up on everything.

Re-inspired by having buttons under my feet to push, the second set was one of the best sets of music that Theo and I have ever played. I haven’t listened to the minidisc yet – I can’t find my minidisc player – but if it’s not peaking and distorting, we’ve got ourselves another very releasable gig. Lots of new directions in the improv, some amazing playing from Theo – his melody playing had me grinning from ear to ear for most of the gig.

After a quick clear-up, I drove home, dropped off the music gear, and headed to St Luke’s for an overnight shift in the night-shelter.

Sunday was a lovely day, with my cute lil God-son, his big sister and mum and dad all coming over for lunch and then a lovely walk in Trent Park.

Sadly, I had to leave mid evening, as I was playing at a Soul Space service at St Luke’s last night – another lovely mellow ambient chilled hour of candles and peace and some marvellous ambient noises courtesy of me. :o)

This week is a week of teaching, mainly, and getting some more new things recorded for the new album…

Soundtrack – Mark Isham, ‘Tibet’.

Tags: Musing on Music

Couple of photos from the National Theatre gig

June 16th, 2005 · Comments Off on Couple of photos from the National Theatre gig

here’s a couple of piccies from the NT Foyer gig on Tuesday with Theo –

Yesterday was spent recording with Cleveland Watkiss again – more lovely layered improv stuff and a gorgeous version of ‘Black Hole Sun’ by Soundgarden. It’s shaping up to be a very creative and productive duo, so we’re going to be setting aside a week or so soon to really get stuck into it and see just how good it can be! It’s all rather exciting!

Soundtrack – John Patitucci, ‘Now’.

Tags: Uncategorized

Right now, I should be at a Jonatha gig…

June 14th, 2005 · Comments Off on Right now, I should be at a Jonatha gig…

So the plan for this evening was to do my gig at the National Theatre, come home, drop off my stuff and shoot down to the Borderline to catch Jonatha Brooke’s gig there.

The gig at the NT went very well – lots of friendly faces in the audience, some very fine improvs in the set, and nice versions of all the album tunes too. We finished at 7.20, then chatted to people in the audience for about another 20mins/half an hour (this is where I could have saved time, but would have been very rude to all the lovely people who came to the gig to run off), then go and get the car from the carpark, load up, drop Theo at home, head back up here and unload.

The small person had rung The Borderline to find out what time Jonatha is on stage, and they said she goes on at 9.15, will be off by 10.30 – I was expecting it to go on til 11. So I’m not ready to go out til 9, ergo, no gig for us this evening.

Bugger.

This is Jonatha’s first ever gig with a band in the UK, as far as I’m aware (I don’t think she brought a band with her when she played here in 95…) and certainly the only chance we’ll have to see her with band for a while (unless it’s a storming success and she comes back!)

I’ve got a whole load of texts on my phone from people who are there asking if I’m going…

Ah well, at least our gig went well…

Tags: Uncategorized