stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Timeline and Trivia

May 3rd, 2008 · Comments Off

Musical Equipment Used

- Modulus Basses (6 string fretted and fretless and 4 string fretted), A Rick Turner 5 String Renaissance ‘Amplicoustic’ fretless bass, two Aguilar SL112 cabinets and 2 Aguilar Tonehammer 350 amp heads, Mark Audio AS602 powered speakers, the Looperlative LP1 for looping, Keith McMillen SoftStep controller, Lexicon MPX-G2 for processing, MXR, Darkglass, Aguilar and Markbass overdrive pedals, a TC Electronics HOF mini Reverb, MXR Bass Chorus Deluxe & Bass Fuzz Deluxe, Pedal Train pedal board an E-Bow+, Latch Lake slides, Dunlop Super Bright strings, East-UK preamps, Evidence Audio cables, GoGo tuners, a Korg Kaoss Pad KP3 and a MOTU Ultralite Mk III Hybrid. And I carry my basses around in SlickBag gig-bags.

Musical History

1986 – got a bass and joined first band
1988 – broke arm, kicked out of first band, formed second band (EARS) – played first gigs
1989 – GCSE Music, Grade C
1991 – AS Level Music, failed – fine at composition, not so hot on history… :o) Somehow got into music college in Perth, Scotland. Teaching as head of bass at West Lothian Rock School.
1993 – left college, moved to Lincoln, tour with Canadian singer/songwriter Johnny Markin. Gigs all over Europe, played on three albums.
1994-96 – working as a pro in Lincoln, teaching, studio and live session work.
1996 – moved to London, more session work, including TV, Radio and theatre work, more teaching.
1997-99 – teaching at Drumtech and Basstech, West London.
1997-2000 – freelance reviewer/interviewer/columnist/gadget guru for Bassist magazine in the UK.
1999 – Toured Europe with Howard Jones. First completely solo gigs in London.
2000 – Released And Nothing But The Bass on Pillow Mountain Records. More solo gigs around England.
2001 – 2 Solo tours of California, including headlining the world’s first solo bass looping festival, and tour with Michael Manring and Rick Walker. Clinics for Ashdown Amps and Modulus Basses. Solo gigs in France.
2002 – Another tour in California, Released Conversations, duo CD with Jez Carr, on Pillow Mountain Records, 2 Major tours of UK Theatres and concert halls supporting first the 21st Century Schizoid Band then Level 42. Two shows at the London Guitar Festival. National TV and local radio appearances in the UK. Featured in the Sunday Times Culture Section. Released second completely solo CD, Not Dancing For Chicken. NDFC picked as one of the best CDs of the year by Aural Innovations
2003 – four week solo tour of California, gigs with Michael Manring and David Friesen, including the Anaheim Bass Bash, featured interview in Euphoria magazine, and review of NDFC in Bass Player (Feb issue). New recordings with Theo Travis, BJ Cole and Patrick Wood for future release. Duo gigs with Theo Travis. Gig at the barbican with orphy robinson. Recording in France with Vigroux/Cury/Rives for upcoming release. first italian solo gig and recording session in august. Duo CD with Theo TravisThe Arts Show, alongside Jenny Eclair and Barry Cryer. Acclaimed appearances at The Detroit Bass Fest and European Bass Day. Gigs in US and UK with Muriel Anderson. A second tour in England with Michael Manring in November.
2005 – another year another NAMM show, followed by a few promo gigs with Michael Manring in California. Dates with pedal steel guitarist, BJ Cole, and recording and gigs with singer Cleveland Watkiss, as well as more UK dates, the Edinburgh Festival and a trip to Italy. Started monthly music night, Recycle Collective.
2006 – back to California, NAMM again and some more dates and another day-long masterclass, Recycle Collective continues to be one of the best live music nights out in London, and features musicians such as BJ Cole, Cleveland Watkiss, Orphy Robinson, Seb Rochford, Todd Reynolds, Jason Yarde, Andy Hamill, Patrick Wood, Leo Abrahams, Julie McKee, Andrea Hazell. UK tours with Theo Travis, Muriel Anderson and Ned Evett. 4th solo album, Behind Every Word, released on Pillow Mountain Records. Recording in Italy with guitarist Luca Formentini. New duo formed with singer Julie McKee, for the Edinburgh Fringe. European tour in October, including EuroBass Day and European Bass Day, as well as an electronica festival in Italy. Behind Every Word makes a number of end of year ‘best of 2006′ lists.
2007 – guess where it started? Yay, NAMM!! Bass-Bash, two days of masterclasses, Modulus clinics and gigs both solo and with Muriel Anderson and Vicki Genfan. Much fun. First New York show too. European tour with Lobelia, including first time visit to Frankfurt Musik Messe and gigs in Italy, Spain, Germany and Denmark, 7 week tour of the US, 24 states, 7000 miles. Gigs at Greenbelt festival with Lobelia, Sarah Masen and Ric Hordinski. Recycle Collective relaunched in September. Playing on one track on Luca Formentini’s album, Tacet. First Amsterdam and Geneva gigs in November. Released live EP with Lobelia in December. Recorded improv album with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds.
2008 – NAMM again, with Lobelia this time, playing the bass-bash and for Looperlative and Modulus. More California shows. Back to England, playing lots of ‘acoustic’ shows with Lobelia, London Solo Bass Night in March with Todd Johnson and Yolanda Charles, . Year ended with Lawson/Wood/Dodds album ‘Numbers’ released, and some LDW gig dates round London, followed by a whole string of house concert shows in England and the US with Lobelia. 2008 was also the year of social media – 10 years of running my music career online turning into a 2nd career teaching and consulting on how it all works, including Nokia flying me to Helsinki for their Open Lab, and working on the launch of Ucreative.tv at UCA in Rochester. Finished the year with a series of house concerts in the UK and the US with Lobelia..
2009 – …which continued into the new year on a trip that included a trip to NAMM, a masterclass at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and a series of masterclasses in bass, looping and ‘social media for musicians’ in various people’s houses. But I did miss the bass-bash for the first time ever. Back to the UK for more bass masterclasses and other University-based projects around the future of the internet… look out for a new solo album at some point this year!
2010 - the first half was spent looking after our new born baby, but at the age of 6 months, we took him to the US for a 7 week, 6500 mile tour of house concerts, that took us from Brooklyn to Milwaukee, Massachusetts to Lake Charles Louisiana, via Texas, Tennessee and Ohio. Lo and I recorded a live album on the tour, featuring Todd Reynolds and Neil Alexander, and while in Louisiana I recorded TWO duo albums with Trip Wamsley, released in September. The end of the year featured a sold out London gig with Michael Manring, and speaking engagements in the UK and Berlin at grass roots music industry conferences. I also released another live album, celebrating the 10th anniversary of my debut album coming out.
2011 - first half of the year was focussed on getting my first new studio album in 5 years finished. 11 Reasons Why 3 Is Greater Than Everything was released and followed by a 2 month, 8000 mile US tour, which included shows with Julie Slick, Trip Wamsley, Tiger Darrow, Steven Guerrero, Darren Michaels, Neil Alexander, Trevor Exter and Catherine Marie Charlton. The trip also included me guest-performing at Victor Wooten’s Music-Nature Camp, teaching a bass masterclass in Virginia, and Lobelia and I being the only overseas musicians to be booked to play at the first Wild Goose festival. Oh, and  I also co-produced, mixed and mastered Lobelia’s new record, Beautifully Undone. We started selling our music on USB Stick, which has proved v. popular. A move to Birmingham in the late summer promises all kinds of new opportunities.
2012 – the year started with the release of Believe In Peace, an all-improv solo record, recorded in Minneapolis. January continued with a return visit to NAMM, 12 shows in 12 days including duo shows with Julie Slick, Michael Manring and Daniel Berkman, a recording session with Steve Uccello and a playing-and-speaking gig at Stanford uni, as well as a masterclass at LA Music Academy. The shows with Julie, Michael and Daniel were all recorded, so mixing and mastering work on those took up a lot of the following months, as well as recording for Californian singer/songwriter Artemis. May saw the relaunch of Beyond Bass Camp, and the remastering of 11 Reasons… 2012 also saw the formation of #ToryCore – a project that coupled the evil words of the Tory govt with twisted avant garde metal. One of my favourite ever musical projects.
2013 – started with NAMM and another 8 shows with Daniel Berkman, and this time Artemis joined us on vocals at every gig. It was one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life to play with them both. Which is why a large chunk of the year was taken up mixing, mastering and releasing EVERY show we’d done up to that point. All 10 of ‘em. Went out to Frankfurt to the Musikmesse, more ToryCore shows & a few more gigs with Alvin Stardust depping for his regular bassist. Started teaching at Kidderminster College, and ended the year with a lovely joint tour with one of my favourite bassists – Yolanda Charles, and with a duo show with Andy Edwards on drums.
2014 – Another NAMM trip, 11 wonderful shows with Daniel and Artemis (part of a run of 14 shows in 13 days for me!). Just before NAMM I was invited to speak at the Microsoft Social Research Symposium in NYC, which was one of the most brilliant few days of my life. The duo project with Andy Edwards expanded to become ‘Andy, Steve + 1’ and we played a couple of gigs with Julie Slick, made an album with Murphy McCaleb and have further projects planned. I released a new solo album – What The Mind Thinks, The Heart Transmits. Playing at the London Bass Guitar Show and inviting Jon Thorne to join me on my set led to the release of that as a new album – Diversion.

Current Musical Projects

Solo gigs and recording -::- Duo gigs and recording with Lobelia -::- duo with Mike Outram -::- duo with Trip Wamsley -::- duo with Michael Manring -::- duo with Daniel Berkman

trivia

favourite artists. – “I’m a big fan of good singer/songwriters. Top of the list is Canadian, Bruce Cockburn, who in 30 years of recording has yet to release a bad album. also top of my singer/songwriter list would be The Blue Nile, James Yuill, Kris Delmhorst, Peter Katz, Rob Szabo, Emily Baker, KT Tunstall, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Kelly Joe Phelps, John Lester, Nik Kershaw, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Rickie Lee Jones, James Taylor, Jonatha Brooke, Randy Newman, Michael McDonald, Martyn Joseph, Julie Lee and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Other favourite artists include The Pixies, The Cure, Iona, Prefab Sprout, anything King Crimson-related, King’s X, Mike Watt, Michael Manring, D’Angelo, David Torn, Lewis Taylor. I love great pop music – good old fashioned POP, like Duran Duran, Wham, Chic, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper… I’m also a big Jazz fan, and top of my play-list there would be Bill Frisell (he’s my other huge musical obsession) John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Ralph Towner/Gary Peacock, John Patitucci, Bill Evans, Pat Metheny, Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Charlie Haden, Marc Johnson… Just getting back into ‘classical’ music, mainly Bartok string quartet’s and Olivier Messiaen’s bird song piano compositions.”
top 10 (or so) favourite albums – “In no particular order, and subject to change at a moment’s notice!

bass influences – “My current favourites are Tony Levin, Michael Manring, Julie Slick and Matthew Garrison but there are literally hundreds. I suppose, in roughly chronological order, those players that have influenced me the most would be – John Taylor (Duran), Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo/Iona), Chris Squire (Yes), Simon Gallup (The Cure), Pino Pallidino (everyone!), Doug Pinnick (King’s X), Ewan Vernal (Deacon Blue), Steve Swallow, Billy Sheehan, Abraham Laboriel, Jaco Pastorius, Scott LaFaro, Freddie Washington, Bernard Edwards (Chic), Ray Brown, Family Man Barratt (The Wailers), Verdine White (EW & F), Tommy Simms, Alain Caron, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Jimmy Haslip, Jaco Pastorius, Danny Thompson, Eberhard Weber, Mike Rivard, Marc Johnson, Kermitt Driscoll, Mo Foster, Todd Johnson, Doug Wimbish, Yolanda Charles, Trip Wamsley and loads more.”
Fantasy Band – “This changes all the time, but right now it’d me on bass (obviously), Lobelia on vocals, Nels Cline on guitar, Roy Dodds on drums. With guest appearances by Theo Travis, BJ Cole and Michael Manring. ..although, the duo shows with Daniel Berkman in California resulted in some of my favourite music I’ve ever played, so that duo may well be my fantasy band (album coming soon!)”
Favourite Books – “Oh, there’re loads! Current fave is Kristin Hersh’s book Paradoxical Undressing, but before that came everything by Douglas Coupland, Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela, Strength To Love by Martin Luther King, The Chronicles Of Narnia by CS Lewis, The Truth Is Stranger Than It Used To Be by Middleton and Walsh, Tar Baby by Toni Morrison, Cat’s Eye by Margaret Attwood, The book of Ecclesiastes in The Bible, The Tao Te Ching, The Road Less Travelled and Further Along The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck, Life On Air by David Attenborough, No Future Without Forgiveness and God Has A Dream by Desmond Tutu, 45 by Bill Drummond…”
Favourite Films – ‘So I Married An Axe Murderer’, ‘Natural Born Killers’, ‘Pulp Fiction, ‘School Of Rock’, ‘The Insatiable Moon’, ‘Bugsy Malone’, ‘Barton Fink’, ‘Falling Down’, ‘Life Of Brian’, ‘Spinal Tap’, ‘Monty Python and the Hole Grail’, ‘the Wedding Singer’, ‘The Breakfast Club, ‘Pretty In Pink’, ‘Whale Rider’, ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’, ‘Fight Club’, ‘Muppets’ Treasure Island’, ‘Brassed Off’, ‘Lars And The Real Girl’, ‘Calendar Girls’, ‘Amelie’, ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Raising Arizona’, ‘Dodgeball’, ‘Team America’ ‘Zoolander’…”

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Ned Evett Trio At The Troubadour

October 4th, 2006 · Comments Off




Ned Evett Trio At The Troubadour

Originally uploaded by solobasssteve.

Back-pedalling to Monday night, I headed down to the Troubadour (home of my first ever solo gig) to see Ned Evett play with his trio. I’d only ever seen Ned play solo before… actually, that’s not true, i did see Ned with a couple of other musicians when I first met him at La Nuit De La Fretlesse in Mende, France, back in… 2001?

anyway, it’s a long time since I’ve seen Ned play with a band, so it was great to hear what he sounds like in that setting. The only problem was that their bags were lost on the flight over, so Ned was completely without his pedal board and two of his guitars. Yup. My. Worst. Nightmare. Well, not quite on a par with world war, or UKIP winning a general election, but still a pretty fearful thought for any musician.

Still, Ned did a fabulous job with just his one guitar, a rented amp and a delay pedal. The juxtaposition of Ned’s fretless guitar and the upright bass is an inspired combination, and Ned’s well developed dynamic control with his voice was ably supported by the rhythm section. A great night out.

If you get a chance to see them play, don’t miss it!

Tags: Uncategorized

Recycle Collective 8 – Fret Phobia 2

June 22nd, 2006 · Comments Off

no, not a football match, it was in fact the 8th RC gig and the 2nd Fret Phobia gig.

And much fun it was too – BJ had brought along Emily Burridge on cello, and they opened the show with a gorgeous duo set. The logistics of getting musicians with lots of looping toys and gadgets onto the tiny stage at Darbucka is always an interesting one, and tonight was as tight a squeeze as we’ve had since the gig with Orphy, Roger and Patrick, but we made it work eventually.

After BJ and Emily, I played a 25 minute solo set, with BJ coming up and doing his special cameo on ‘Scott Peck’ – as much as I still love the solo version of the tune, it’s just not the same without him. I also did Amo Amatis Amare, which isn’t the same without Theo after having recorded it with him… such are the perils of having fabulous collaborators.

from me, we went straight into Ned Evett’s solo set, which was fab. Lots of fretless resonator guitar, and some crazy loopage, especially on ‘Are You Experienced?’ – good noises, very much appreciated by the audience.

And then the RC Royal Rumble, all in at the end – two improv pieces, the first of which started as a disparate ambient mush (in a good way) coalesced around the ‘Windham Hill Blues’ (Am7-FMaj7), and then shifted somewhere else entirely. Good stuff. The second one started with a bubbly filtered slap percussion thing by me, I think looped a pizz. cello line which I doubled in speed and pitch that became the hook for the tune, and gave us something to hang the rest of it on, and it finished with me processing Ned’s voice with the Kaoss Pad… Most enjoyable.

Thanks to all who came along, another fine evening.

Tags: Music News

John Lester/Paul Tiernan gig

June 11th, 2006 · 1 Comment

Headed up to Cambridge last night, to CB2, where I’ll be playing in just over a week with Ned Evett, to see John Lester and Paul Tiernan.

John’s new album, ‘So Many Reasons’ is fantastic, so I was really looking forward to seeing him live again. It’s been quite a while since I was last at one of his gigs, and he didn’t disappoint. He and Paul switched back and forth playing each other’s songs, playing some solo tunes, and a handful of covers, including the only acoustic version of ‘Play That Funky Music White Boy’ that I’ve ever heard.

Paul Tiernan was a revelation – not having heard him before, he’s got a gorgeous voice, like a more intelligible John Martyn. All in all a very enjoyable gig.

John’s album isn’t officially released yet, but I’m sure if you email him via his website, he’ll sort something out for you…

Tags: Musing on Music

Too long since I last wrote anything…

June 7th, 2006 · Comments Off

So what have I been up to, I hear you ask… Well, the usual stuff – teaching, practicing etc. More practicing over the last few days, as I’ve got two gigs this week – tomorrow and Friday (tomorrow is at the Half Moon in Putney, Friday is at The Free Church in St Ives) – need to get the new songs learnt as well as I possibly can!

Also been distributing posters for the Fret Phobia tour at the end of the month, with Ned Evett. Which reminds me, if any of you are anywhere near any of the venues (we’re playing London, Cambridge, Leeds, Wakefield, Manchester and Petersfield) please drop me an email or a comment and I’ll send you a handful of posters to stick up in music shops/coffee shops/waiting rooms/etc.

Been spending lots of time with the Ginger Fairly Aged Feline, who has made the most remarkable recovery… it’s the second time he’s come back from being that close to death. The vet’s amazed. We’re in Friday morning with him, to see what’s happening with his kidneys via the wonder of blood-tests. But as for now, he’s spending most of his time in the garden, running around (if you’d told us 10 days ago that he’d ever run again, we’d have laughed bitterly at you) and generally enjoying himself immensely. Hurrah for the tiny ginger one (no, not you Jude, the cat.) (well alright, hurrah for jude too…)

Tonight I was going to go and see Orphy Robinson do a solo gig in London, but got back from my postering outing and realised I hadn’t done the food-shopping I’d promised to do. So that took precedence. I was meant to be doing a gig tonight playing bass for a friend, but she’s disappeared off the face of the earth! how odd…

See you at the gig tomorrow!

Tags: Random Catchup

2005 – a year in review

December 31st, 2005 · Comments Off

Good year? Bad year? not sure…

Musically, not a bad year – didn’t release any albums, but I guess that means that the last one is still doing OK, so didn’t feel any major pressure to get something new happening. Now I’m glad I waited due to all the new musical ideas offered up by the Looperlative.

Some great gigs – bassday, bassfest thing in Italy in July, Edinburgh festival (where staying with Jane and Gareth was also a year highlight – much fun). Gig with Ned Evett in Petersfield was much fun, as was recording with Ned. Finished an albums worth of material with Calamateur, AKA Andrew Howie, and there’s a lot of great stuff on there – I’m excited about what we might be able to do with that. Recycle Collective started – was v. small, but musically one of the best gigs I’ve been involved with.

Teaching’s been great – lots of very fine students, lots of beginners making progress, and meeting lots of lovely new people. also started a new column for Bass Guitar Magazine – good to be back writing again (which reminds me, I’ve got one to finish ASAP!)

Personally, it’s been a fairly good year – one big scare with the ginger fairly aged feline, who was given roughly two weeks to live, but with chemo got rid of a satsuma sized tumor IN A WEEK!!!! – we’re still amazed by that, and he’s going great. Life with both the fairly aged felines has been lots of fun (I really feel sorry for all those of you with cat allergies who have to lavish your attention on human offspring as a replacement…) seeing them both take over the house and garden and settle in.

another year of doing no work on the house… hmmm, maybe I should start by just TIDYING MY OFFICE!!! lazy bastard…

World events – both the best and worst things that happened this year were the same – the Make Poverty History campaign was such a monumental success at getting poverty reduction and the plight of people living in extreme poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America into the minds of every day people, it felt like there were really a chance to make a proper change. millions of people signing petitions, emailing MPs and congressmen, documentaries being made, and of course Live8 and the march in Edinburgh.

And then the worst thing – the gargantuan fuck-up that the G8 leaders made of the opportunity to do something for the world’s poor. Never before in the history of the world had there been such a wellspring of popular support for governments making decisions in favour of the poor, diverting cash and resources to help those in need, changing trade laws to balance things out. Millions upon millions of people around the world were calling for it, huge numbers of politicians were calling for it. Even mad right wing american jihadists like Pat Robertson were on-side (!!), but still those sad twisted old men of the G8 sat round the table in Gleneagles, in their opulence and grandeur and bollocksed the whole thing up. Their pledges fell woefully short, and then they even undid a lot of that. It was disgusting, sickening and saddening that such an opportunity had been wasted. Bono and Bob Geldof had done an amazing job of getting the campaign off the ground, from their involvement in the commission for Africa, and DATA, through to organising Live8, but they bottled it when the announcement was made, took the encouraging words one step too far and declared the Gleneagles bullshit to be a triumph. I’m guessing they aren’t too happy with where it’s gone. The follow up at the World Trade Talks in November was equally shit. A tragedy on a scale that all the terrorists in the world couldn’t hope to achieve.

The week of Live8 and the G8 was a busy one, given that it was also the week of two other disasters – firstly London getting the Olympics (another monumental waste of money which will leave the PPP funding bodies rubbing their grubby hands in glee), and then the London bombing. The bombing had begun to feel like an inevitability for a while – there was no way that the huge disquiet amongst the world’s muslim population about the Iraqi occupation and the continued support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land was going to go unmarked in the UK. And finally it did, four huge bombs, three on the underground, one on a bus, quite a few people dead (though not as many as lost their lives in Iraq that weekend… that didn’t make the world news). A tragedy, but one that the government still refuse to admit was linked to the situation in the middle east. Stupid stupid fools.

But at the end of the year, some great news, perhaps the first great news in british life for a long time – registered civil partnerships for Gay couples. Finally gay people can get married (no, I really don’t care if you don’t want to call it a marriage or a wedding – it is, and that’s great.)

And the media spectacle of the year was certainly George Galloway in front of the US senate committee, absolutely ripping them apart. The most damning indictment of the Bush administrations lies and coverup in Iraq, and right there in the heart of the beast. Genius! Galloway can be a bit of a bellend, and his campaign in the General Election (ah yes, we had one of those – what a non-event that was) was horrible and divisive, but on that one day in the Senate, he ruled the world.

oh, media event of the year joint first was Harold Pinter’s nobel prize acceptance speech – another damning destruction of the history of US foreign military intervention.

What else? A few noteable partings – we lost the great Ronnie Barker, one of the finest comic actors and writers Britain has ever produced; Mo Mowlam, one of the few politicians of conviction we still had; Rosa Parks, the unwitting god-mother of the civil rights movement in the US; Andrea Dworkin feminist writer and thinker.

And on a personal level, the death of Eric Roche was a terribly sad loss – a huge talent and dear friend who has featured in this blog more than almost anyone else. Playing at the tribute gig to him on what would have been his birthday was a huge honour.

Blogwise, it’s been my most bloggingest year ever – over 510 posts this year, over 450 visitors a day (??? I’m sure there’s a mistake there somewhere…) and the demise of being able to tell people what I’ve been up to – ‘so, steve, what have you been up to?’ ‘well, I had a gig th….’ ‘yeah I read about that’ ‘oh, well I went out to see a…’ ‘ah yes, that film, read your review of that’ ‘THEN WHY DID YOU ASK???’

Thanks for reading, for emailing for commenting on the blog, and particularly thanks if you’ve been buying CDs and t-shirts, coming to gigs, spreading the word, and generally helping me pay the bills this year. Love you lots! x

Soundtrack – The The, ’45 RPM – the singles’.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

A very fine Big Idea

October 7th, 2005 · 1 Comment

never let it be said that Britain doesn’t have a vibrant and burgeoning jazz scene.

Mark Lockheart is one of the busiest and most respected sax players in the country, and for his current tour he’s assembled a fantastic group featuring four marvellous saxophonists with a killer rhythm section. It’s pretty rare to see four sax players in a contemporary jazz setting in the UK – it’s not often that anyone can afford to take that kind of project on the road, but Mark has managed it.

Due to my having a gig on the same night, I won’t be able to make it to the London gig next thursday, so last night, Orphy and I headed out to Oxford to see ‘Mark Lockheart’s Big Idea’ play at The Spin, a weekly jazz gig at The Wheatsheaf in Oxford. I’d heard a lot about the gig from friends who’d played there, so was looking forward to checking out the venue too.

The gig was fantastic – playing mainly music from Mark’s latest album Moving Air, with Mark, Julian Siegel , Steve Buckley and Rob Townsend on saxes and bass clarinets, Martin France on drums John Parricelli on guitar and Dudley Phillips on bass.

Mark has a very distinctive writing style, that can be traced all the way back to the tunes he wrote for seminal british jazz outfit, Loose Tubes in the mid 80s. The horn arrangements are stunningly beautiful, and he made full use of the dynamic possibilities of having four horns on stage. Parricelli was on rare form, playing beautifully and blending with the sound of the horns magnificently.

Fortunately, the room was packed, and the audience were hugely appreciative. It’d be mad to suggest that Britain was in any way deficient in the jazz world – I guess the problem, as it is in most parts of the world, is a lack of places to play anything other than standards. The main jazz gigs in London are restaurant gigs, with venues like The New Vortex and Ronnie Scott’s doing their bit to promote interesting vibrant music. It’s still tough to find a gig, moreso now that the foyer gigs are the Festival Hall are on hold while the renovate the building.

So, in the spirit of last night’s gig, I’m going to offer you a beginner’s guide to the British Jazz scene – a handful of essential CDs that prove our place alongside the Americans and Scandinavians, while still all sounding uniquely British…

- The obvious place to start is with Theo Travis – his last two quartet CDs, Heart Of The Sun and Earth To Ether are both outstanding.
- Next up would be Ben Castle – his last album Blah Street is marvellous – clever, funny and intelligent in all the right ways.
- Of course Mark Lockheart who inspired this list in the first place – his latest, Moving Air is fabulous.
- And then there’s Mo Foster – any of his records are worth getting, but particularly Time To Think is gorgeous.
- Another one featuring Mark Lockheart, the Works is Patrick Wood’s amazing quartet – what Weather Report would have sounded like if they’d grown up in London. Beware Of The Dog is one of my favourite instrumental albums from any part of the world, not just the UK.

If you were to buy that lot (and I think you should), you’d have a pretty decent representation of why I’m excited about the future of British music, rather than wallowing in the despair that would ensue from burying yourself in the world of X-Factor, Pop Idol and the lame faecal mountain that is the pop charts.

Soundtrack – some tracks that I’ve been recording over the last three days with american fretless guitarist, Ned Evett – some really really cool stuff (to add to the stockpiles of other really really cool stuff that are sitting here waiting to be released!) – hopefully I’ll have an MP3 taster or two for you soon from this lot…

Tags: Uncategorized

We like surprise phone calls.

October 3rd, 2005 · Comments Off

Phone rings. Caller ID thingie says it’s Ned Evett. Where’s Ned? I answer. Turns out his in Islington! (the exclamation mark is there ‘cos I was expecting him to be in Boise, Idaho – if someone from St Luvvie’s had rung me to say they were in Islington, they wouldn’t warrant any ! at all.)

Fortunately, I had a few hours that I’d set aside for practicing and writing new tunes that I could happily sacrifice for a couple of hours sat eating and drinking mint tea with Ned. Ned’s a fretless guitarist – makes his own fretless guitars (or, at least, renders other guitars fretless) by removing the fingerboards and replacing them with mirrored glass. Yes, that’s what I said, mirrored glass. No lines, no frets, just smooth glass. He’s clearly insane, or would be if it didn’t sound so great. The lovely thing about Ned’s music is that despite the freakishness of his chosen instrument, it’s all about songs. He’s a singer/songwriter, who happens to have a guitar that looks like it was designed by Salvador Dali.

Anyway, I can’t think of many nicer ways to spend a monday afternoon that sitting chatting with Ned.

Soundtrack – Talk Talk, ‘Spirit Of Eden’.

Tags: Uncategorized

Less heavy stuff.

July 8th, 2005 · Comments Off

First up, thanks to everyone who phoned, texted, emailed – very nice of you all to call, especially those who only call when you think I might be dead… (just kidding).

So yesterday. Obviously started with bomb news. I had a gig booked with Ned Evett, a fabulous fretless guitarist and singer, who had landed in London the day before. He was, obviously, knackered and jetlagged, so slept very long indeed. His mobile wasn’t working cos he was in Angel – too close to all the shit. Didn’t get in touch with him til about 3.

Tried to get him to get a cab north, but no cabs would go down to Angel. So I had to go and get him.

Told him to start walking up Upper Street, and I’d get him somewhere along there. Got to Upper Street in good time, but then took 40 minutes to do half a mile on the street. Found Ned, loaded up, and headed for the back roads.

The radio announced that the motorways were largely unuseable. So we headed out on the A40, passed the M25 and started to weave through the backroads – Slough, Windsor, Bagshott etc. down to Guildford and onto the A3.

Eventually got to the venue at about 8.50, set up in double quick time, ate fast dinner (were both starving), and I was on stage before 9.30. Did it as one set straight through, with Ned joining me for a couple of improv duets before doing his solo set. A lovely audience of great listening peoples. Sold a bunch of CDs, and had a marvellous time. Well worth the hassles.

Driving home was obviously easier, listening to BBC London and people phoning in their stories of involvement in the days horribleness. Some really touching stories. Must be appalling for those who were involved. A nightmare for the relatives, and those critically injured. Still didn’t seem to be any consensus about the actual death toll. Each life already decided but unaccounted for.

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Road Tales Pt 1.

February 4th, 2004 · Comments Off

As you may be able to tell by the time this is posted, I’m jetlagged. very jetlagged. Two hours sleep, then wide awake. It’s 4.38am, and I’m trying to think of things to do, listening to Muriel Anderson’s ‘A Journey Through Time’ (Muriel’s great, and will hopefully be coming to the UK in April…), and chatting to Trip on MSN.

So California stories – flew in on Sat 10th, and got the SuperShuttle to Anaheim, where I was recording a record with Kofi Baker and Ned Evett. Got set up and crashed out.

The next three days were a mix of hanging with Ned while Kofi taught, and then recording all evening – as late as my jetlag going that way would allow us. the material was largely improvs, most of which we then played again in some sort of structured way to see what came out. It’s now all in the editing – some great material was certainly recorded, but the wheat and chaff need separating! Kofi and Ned are both marvellous musicians, so it was a lot of fun to do, and a bit of a challenge to be back playing complex rythmic twiddly stuff after lots of ambient noodling…

then, NAMM – huge trade show in Anaheim, music gear manufacturers, dealers, distributors, journos and players descend on the convention centre, in a desparate attempt to do business. the makers are trying to hawk their wares – some by just making good stuff, others by getting porn stars to stand around on their booths, or lame 80s has-been rock stars doing signings… normally means the product isn’t worth looking at.

I was playing for Modulus and AccuGroove, and doing a show report for Bass Guitar Magazine, and catching up with lots of old friends – it’s one of the downsides of being a bassist is that there are rarely more than one of us on a gig, so we only meet up in airports and at NAMM… Also got to meet up with lots of friends from talkbass, the dudepit, churchbass, TBL, the lowdown, and my street-team! the now annual tradition of dinner with David Torn, Doug Lunn and Vida Vierra was as marvellous as ever, and playing at the Bass Bash was a blast, as was my gig in the lobby of the Marriott next to the show (ah yes, solo bass goes loung-core…)

NAMM ended sunday, on monday trip and I drove to Costa Mesa for a coffee house gig lined up for us by Bob Lee – nice little coffee shop, played outside, Seth Horan turned up and did a couple of tunes and was wonderful. Trip’s set was marvellous too, and his ‘did I suck?’ question at the end was so laughable it almost warranted a kick in the plums. Lots of friendly faces turned up, including Fred Hodson from Talkbass (thanks Fred!), Kerry Getz and Jason Feddy. Crashed at Kerry’s house, and on Tuesday morning Bob Lee showed Trip and I round QSC, and they lent me a poweramp for the tour (the AccuGroove powered cabs weren’t finished in time for the tour, so I took a pair of passive ones, and used the QSC amp, which sounded great.

Tuesday afternoon was the gig at CalArts with Andre LaFosse, which went well, and included a marvellous duo version of MMFSOG. Then off to see Vida and Dani for a few days. I’ve probably spent 3 months total in California now over the last 5 years, and this was the first time I’ve been to the beach! Took a walk along Venice beach, wandered around book shops and record shops, and soaked up the atmosphere. Also took a walk round the Yogananda peace garden in Santa Monica which is a beautiful inspiring place, where I’d be spending a lot of time were I living nearby…

Wednesday night went to see Abe Laboriel playing with 3 Prime at the Baked Potato – a trip to LA wouldn’t be complete without either seeing Abe or going to the BP, and as always the band were amazing.

Friday started with breakfast with Jimmy Haslip, and was followed by the long drive to Santa Cruz, which was even longer due to it taking two hours to get out of LA! But got to Rick and Jessica Turner’s place late evening, and talked for hours. Some tours are all about heavy gig schedules and travellings. Others are all about the people you meet. This was a people tour – the gigs were great, but it was the friendships, talking long into the night, eating lovely food, plotting world domination that made this trip special. I travel half way round the world and get treated like family, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Saturday (24th Jan we’re up to), was dudepit clinic day, at Bob Streetteam’s house – 11 guys, lots of a basses, and a day of talking and thinking about music, and playing some stuff to demonstrate a few concepts which will hopefully keep the guys going til next year. Bob did a sterling job of organising and hosting the event – well above and beyond any expected level of support from a street-teamer. I’m constantly amazed at people’s generousity. There’s plenty of dark stuff going on in the world, and while governments are going about their f-ed up evil business, nice people are running counter to it, demostrating friendship and grace that makes you smile at the world, and gives you hope.

Sunday was KPIG day – Michael Manring and I playing solo and duo on this most wonderful of radio stations.

Next couple of days are spent shuttling backwards and forwards between AccuGroove world HQ (Mark’s house) in Cupertino, and Santa Cruz, catching up with more old friends and hanging out with the Turners and Muriel Anderson.

Then the ‘big’ gigs – three dates with Michael Manring and Trip Wamsley. All three gigs went really really well – loads of friends turned up, Trip and Michael both played really really well, we all sold CDs, had a blast, played some very cool trios and a tasty cover of Bruce Cockburn’s ‘Pacing The Cage’ each night. Each gig afforded us more time to see friends – staying with Bob Streetteam, and Mike Roe was great – and to play lots of fine music to lovely people. The Espresso Garden show was sold out, with lots of people unable to get in (fortunately they were able to stand by the door and listen, but still…)

Then, the long drive back to LA, introducing Trip to the delights of Prefab Sprout on the way, back to see Doug, Vida and Dani, out for Doug’s birthday, a trip round socal delivering gear back to its rightful owners, and a deep sleep.

Sunday, departure day, started with a dance class – no, I didn’t dance, much as I’d have liked to – I was part of the percussion section, which was more fun than one should have on a sunday morning. Doug dropped me at the airport, and after 74 levels of security checking, got on the plane, and fortunately sat next to a fascinating woman called Gael, and chatted for most of the way home, pausing to watch ‘Whale Rider’ and ‘School Of Rock’.

A great trip – possibly my fave trip so far to the states. some great gigs, new family, catching up with old friends, fun at NAMM, great contacts for the future, and a sense that all is not lost with the world despite the crapness of so many things from Dubya to the Dean Girls.

Doug, Vida, Dani, Rick, Jessica, Elias, Trip, Michael, Kelly M, Dan, Wally, Mark, Suzy, Bob A Kelly A, Mike, Kofi, Ned, Kerry, Bob L, DT, Seth, Becca, Jimmy, Anderson, Gael, Keith, Muriel and any others who’ve slipped my mind momentarily – many marvellous friends old and new, thankyou all. (good lord, three weeks in LA and I’ve come back an unreconstructed hippie…!)

And now it’s 5.23am, I need sleep. badly.

more on Tuesday’s gig with Theo soon…

Soundtrack – Muriel Anderson, ‘A Journey Through Time’, Mike Roe, ‘Say Your Prayers’, Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranean’ – three lovely friends with three lovely albums.

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