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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Open Letter to the UK Jazz Community Pt III – recordings continued…

April 22nd, 2009 · Comments Off on Open Letter to the UK Jazz Community Pt III – recordings continued…

picture of Beth Rowley live at the Troubadour in LondonOne of the weird ways that a lot of the UK jazz players have been corrupted in their thinking by the pop world is the infrequency of their recorded output. As I said in my last post, cost has a fair bit to do with that. But the reason that cost has become a factor is that we’ve lost much of the spontaneity that made jazz so interesting, and instead have tried to match the production values of the pop world, where the life of a performance is wrung out of it, and then dropped back in by the ProTools surgeons… [Read more →]

Tags: New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Lawson/Dodds/Wood album launch gig next Monday!

November 19th, 2008 · Comments Off on Lawson/Dodds/Wood album launch gig next Monday!

Right, wireless is now working on Das Boot – will be back to full blogging speed before too long. But first, some news you really need to know 🙂

Hopefully you’re already planning on coming to the Lawson/Dodds/Wood launch gig next week at the Vortex in Dalston. If you’re not, there’s still time to postpone whatever it was you had planned and come and see us do our thing. It’ll be fab, I promise.

If you’re VERY new to this ‘ere blog and are wondering who Lawson/Dodds/Wood are, you can go and listen to (then buy if, as you probably will, you decide it’s the most wonderful thing you’ve heard in a long time, and indie loveliness such as this deserves some investment 🙂 ) – head over to stevelawson.net/ldw – there’s a player embedded there so you can listen to the album, which is out on the day of the gig.

Alternatively, also embedded in that page, are videos and links to a load of other videos about the making of the album. Which is pretty amazing, as the main bulk of the material was improvised live in the studio.

It’s fab, honest, and we’d LOVE to see you at the gig – you can book tickets for it at http://www.vortexjazz.co.uk – please come along and hear us. The CD will be launched on the night, and if you’ve ordered the CD in advance, you’ll be able to pick up your CD on the night.

Tags: gig dates · Gig stuff · Music News

Lawson/Dodds/Wood album launch news.

September 16th, 2008 · Comments Off on Lawson/Dodds/Wood album launch news.

As if all the geeking in Helsinki wasn’t enough, we’re actually in the home stretch with the release of the Lawson/Dodds/Wood album, which is now officially called Numbers. The album should be available for pre order and download in the next few days, and what’s more, we’ve got a launch gig booked, and therefor an official release date!

The gig will be on November 24th, at The Vortex in Dalston, London.

I’ll be heading over to see Patrick and Roy on Thursday, with the aim of recording some videos telling the story of the project. That will be lots of fun.

Oh, and for those that case about such things, this entire post was written on my Nokia N95, using a WordPress posting app called Scribe – proper mobile blogging FTW!

So watch this space for news of the album going on sale in the next day or so…

Tags: gig dates

Four gigs coming up in the London area…

September 22nd, 2007 · Comments Off on Four gigs coming up in the London area…

After a bit of a barren time gig-wise, I’ve got four London shows coming up – a couple more half hour sets at the Freedom of Expression nights in Croydon and Marylebone, a return gig at a church event in West London called The Waiting, and the much later on in the month, the Recycle Collective is back at Darbucka, this time featuring the genius talents of Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds.

Patrick’s done lots of Recycle gigs before, and always brings a whole load of beauty, funkiness and melodic magic to the gigs. His playing at this year’s Greenbelt Recycle gig was some of the finest Rhodes playing I’ve ever witnessed, especially in an improv setting. So I’m really looking forward to that!

Roy is an amazing drummer that I first heard playing in Estelle Kokot’s trio, then played with him in John Lester’s band at the 606, and recently heard him playing with Theo Travis’ new project Doubletalk at the Vortex. But I’ve been listening to him play for 20 years, as he was the drummer in Fairground Attraction, and has played with Eddi Reader ever since. I’ve found over the years with the RC that the musicians who are primarily ‘song’ players tend to improvise the most coherently; players who are as happy supporting what’s going on as they are leading. and both Patrick and Roy have that quality by the bucket-load. They’re both fantastic versatile musicians, and I’m really excited about it…

So for more details see the gigs page on my website, or the event page at last.fm, or the event page on facebook.

Tags: gig dates · Gig stuff · Musing on Music

Putting on gigs

September 20th, 2007 · Comments Off on Putting on gigs

I got an email today via last.fm from a lovely chap who saw me play at the Spitz a few weeks ago, and is wanting to bring over a band from Germany, and was looking for some tips on putting on gig. I got on a bit of a roll with the advice, and so thought I’d copy it over here as the ideas are pretty much applicable across the board. And, in reading them, you can see why house concerts are the way to go – minimal overheads, built in marketing network, bespoke venue, and great place to form cool relationships with your audience (assuming that, like me, you find meeting the lovely people who connect with what you do as interesting as playing it to them).

Anyway, here’s the letter…


Putting on gigs is tough, as it’s affected by so many variables. obviously your first thing to add up is how much it’s going to cost in absolute terms – so that includes all travel, accomodation, fees, equipment rental, additional staff needed and venue costs. Obviously, the smaller the band, the more chance you’ve got of keeping those costs down. Anything with a drummer becomes exponentially more complicated, due to the need for a much more complex sound system, and larger stage area in the venue. Travel from mainland Europe to here can be very expensive too, especially if the musicians are bringing instruments – consider the hand baggage and checked baggage limits on the airlines being considered when you’re looking at costs.

Once you’ve looked into that, you need to find a suitable venue. There are some venues that can be had for free – often they are the back room in a pub – but they rarely come with their own PA, and very rarely ever have any kind of built in audience or promotion channel/ticketing mechanism.

As an example, the Recycle Collective is run as cheaply as possible – over time i’ve built up a relationship with the owner of the venue, Darbucka, who now lets me book pretty much whatever I want – at least partly because I have a polite sit-down wine-drinkin’ food-eatin’ audience, who spend way more per head than club-night patrons do. I own a PA that works for what I book (there is one in the venue, I just don’t like it), and I book musicians who are either a) local or b) already on tour. I promise them no guarantee in advance, but split all money equally amongst the performers, minus tangible expenses like congestion charge… For this reason, almost all the musicians I ever book live in London, have their own gear and transport (if someone is getting a taxi each way to the gig, that’s probably going to eat up half of what we’ll make on the gig!)

The alternative is to find a night that already exists and will book them – like the Arctic Circle night that booked Hauschka and Max Richta – while I hadn’t heard of either of them, they clearly have a substantial following that Ben was able to tap into and put on an amazing night, but again, his events have a history and a certain level of ‘regular clientele’ – it’s really tough to put a gig on that makes money without that.

As a bench mark for some of the potential costs involved, 5000 A6 double-sided colour flyers costs about £80-£90 – you might be able to split the cost of that with the band’s record label if you put an ad for their latest album on the other side – you then need to get those distributed, either in bars/clubs/restaurants that have flyers available, or by standing outside targeted gigs, giving them out to people who will hopefully be interested.

Contacting the press is also tricky if you have no pedigree – I’ve finally started getting good write-ups in Time Out after years of them being largely indifferent to what I did, but I think it’s because someone who was already a fan of mine is now handling the jazz listings there.

So who to talk to? Ben Eshmade, for sure. Might also be worth approaching The Vortex in Dalston – they might be interested in helping out. And any other venues where you’ve seen similar gigs – Notting Hill Arts Centre, the Arts Depot, Cargo, The Bill Chill House, possibly the Regal Rooms in Hammersmith…

Bottom line, you can never do too much research, but make sure that you’re not promising something you can’t deliver on – in my head I cut in half the projected audience that anyone says they can bring in if they are putting on a show featuring me – people who like my music always overestimate how interested the general public will be in what I do… They do tend to love it when they get to hear it, but trying to get people out to gigs by people they’ve not heard of before is REALLY difficult.

Tags: Gig stuff · Musing on Music

Last night's Recycle Collective gig…

September 7th, 2007 · Comments Off on Last night's Recycle Collective gig…

Ah, it’s good to be back Recycling! :o)

It took Lo. and i ages to get to the venue, thanks to nasty south London traffic, but we’d left plenty of time, so no panic. When we got there, Cleveland was already setting up, Sarda and Kari were downstairs, Oli was sorting out the venue, and all was familiar. We set up, and just listening to Cleveland soundcheck made me realise how much I’ve missed hearing him perform in the last 9 months – for all of 2006, he was doing the Recycle Collective every 2 or 3 months, so I got to both listen to and perform with him a lot. He’s definitely one of my favourite solo looping performers anywhere, and he gets more proficient with the technology every time I see him play.

So the gig itself started with me solo, with a couple of improvs, including the now-fairly-regular one based on Bach’s Cello Suite #1 in G, and then I got Andrea Hazell up, for a big sprawling open ambient piece – Andrea’s voice lends a gravitas to everything she sings on, as noted before. Lovely stuff.

We then finished off the first half with some trio improvs, some cool funky stuff with Cleveland beatboxing, and some more spacey ambient things.

Second half started with Cleveland on his own, but he very quickly got Andrea up to join him, and their duo segment was really really wonderful – their voices combine so well, and the juxtaposition of his funkiness and her operatic poise was beautiful. I really hope we get to hear more of that!

Cleveland invited me back up, and we went into more funky, spacey territory with Cleveland launching into a tune from Carmen, which he and Andrea then played around with for a while which was both marvellous and hilarious, especially when Cleveland went into a patois/ragamuffin version – really magic stuff!

And to finish the night, I got Lo. up to sing with us, and she improvised a really gorgeous sound, that Cleveland added harmonies to, and the three of them stacked vocals for a big ambient ending. Lovely lovely music.

It was really lovely to play the vortex, though with the venue shift and the big break from the last show to this one, the audience numbers were down on our Darbucka averages… We should be back with a Darbucka show in October – watch this space, I’ll be booking it ASAP!

Tags: Gig stuff · Music News · music reviews · Musing on Music

write up in Time Out for tomorrow night's Recycle Collective gig…

September 5th, 2007 · 2 Comments

Once again, we’ve got a really lovely write up in Time Out

“Singularly talented solo looper/electric bassist Lawson moves his long running RC night from Darbuka to a new regular slot at the Vortex. Joining the ambient effects maestro tonight will be bewilderingly versatile singer Cleveland Watkiss, also looping his a capella voice, and Royal Opera singer Andrea Hazell, this will be breathlessly spontaneous, indefinable, music making.”

That’s rather nice, and true, and means you shouldn’t miss it!

Tags: gig dates · Gig stuff · Music News · music reviews

Gig booking frenzy…

July 31st, 2007 · Comments Off on Gig booking frenzy…

All kinds of exciting gig booking news today – first up, on August 22nd, I’ll be back playing at Darbucka for the first time this year, in my duo with Lobelia and also with Monk aka Ric Hordinski – Ric is a stunning guitarist, a former member of Over The Rhine, has produced records for people like Phil Keaggy and David Wilcox and made a stack of amazing records under the Monk moniker.

I played a show with Ric in LA a few years ago that was a whole lot of fun, and a whole lot of great music, and I tracked some fun noises for his new instrumental record when I was in Cincinnati on this last tour in the US.

The duo with Lobelia is one of the most exciting and fun musical projects I’ve had in ages, and you can hear some of what that sounds like on my myspace page and on her myspace page too.

So that’s gig #1.

Also this evening I’ve booked Patrick Wood and Andrea Hazell to come and play with the Recycle Collective at Greenbelt – both are Recycle regulars, stunning improvisors and just all-round amazing musicians.

AND, as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve booked Andrea, and am just waiting for confirmation from Cleveland Watkiss for the Recycle gig on the 6th September at The Vortex – how exciting!

Lots of great gig news fo’ sho’. :o)

Go and put them in your diaries now, you lovely london peoples.

Tags: Music News

Polar Bear and EST at the Barbican

November 17th, 2006 · Comments Off on Polar Bear and EST at the Barbican

So Catster and her ticket connections came up trumps again last night (yay Catster!), and we headed off to see Polar Bear and EST at the Barbican. Polar Bear is Seb Rochford’s band, Seb you’ll remember came and graced the Recycle Collective with his lovely presence back in August.

So following a drinks and nibbles corporate reception beforehand (including the surprise appearance of lots of lovely people – the Gay Gordons, Julie and Mark and assorted friends), we headed in to see Polar Bear. I’d never seen them live before, and was completely blown away. I’ve always loved Seb’s drumming since we first played together years ago, and am very familiar with Mark Lockheart’s great sax playing. But the whole band – rounded out by Pete Wareham on sax, Tom Herbert on bass and Leafcutter John on noises – were a revelation. Fresh, exciting, edgy, funny, chaotic, original music, with great tunes, fantastic spikey feels, and god-know-what weird noises from John, sampling bowed cymbals, balloons, the rest of the band and anything else. A really really great gig. Seb’s between song banter was on top form, and the audience were well and truly seduced.

And then EST – the poster boys of icy scandinavian cool. Like characters from a Nokia advert, or Bond villains. Not a note out of place. The sound, lights, staging, smoke – everything, perfect. Too perfect. After the danger and excitement of Polar Bear, it all felt like it was too good to be true. It wasn’t in any way a bad gig, far from it. A couple of the tunes were so impossibly beautiful they took your breath away. It just didn’t connect in the same way. I wonder if there’d been no opening act, if I’d have been deeper into it. I wasn’t NOT into it. At all. It was great. It just felt like an orchestral performance masquerading as improv. I’m really glad I saw them, and I may well even get the new album – on CD, that kind of perfection is welcome – but for me, the night belonged to Polar Bear.

Bumped into yet more very lovely people after the gig – my coat came in most useful again, as the sublime Zoe Rahman came up and said ‘you’re steve aren’t you? We’re myspace friends’, along with her squeeze, Patrick Illingworth. CDs were swapped, laughs were had, plans were hatched, and all was good. Also saw Julian Maynard-Smith – a fabulous jazz writer, who interviewed me for Unknown Public (I still haven’t seen the final article, but the transcript that he sent me was the most interesting interview I’ve ever done) – very nice to catch up.

And then late night, I headed down to The Vortex to hear Seb and John play AGAIN, this time playing a bunch of chaotic crazy improvs with Mandy Drummond on violin and piano, and a bloke who looked like he was in Franz Ferdinand on recorders and voice. Some of it was magic, some of it was nonsense, all of it was risky and fun. A lot of it was hilarious. It wasn’t even close to being safe. Yay for noisy squeaky improv!

And tonight, if I’m well enough, I’m off to see Estelle Kokot at the Octave, and then Huw Warren with Lleuwen Steffan at the Vortex. The London Jazz Festival is one seriously busy couple of weeks!

Tags: Musing on Music

le weekend

November 6th, 2006 · Comments Off on le weekend

spent a large chunk of Saturday afternoon sending out MySpace event invites to the Recycle Collective first anniversary (which you’re all obviously coming to). Then had to attack the bomb site that is my office to get it into good enough shape to teach in.

After teaching, headed down to the Vortex to see Partisans – a fab electric jazz quartet from London, whose individual members I’d seen on lots of different gigs, but never in this lineup. A very fine it was too. Also great to see a packed room at the Vortex. It’s got a lot of vibe when it’s full, and there are always a whole load of musicians in checking out whatever’s going on, so it’s great for meeting up with friends. Have a look at the Vortex Website for a list of what they’ve got on during the jazz festival – lots of great music.

Sunday I decided to skip church and head up to the Music Live thingie at the NEC in Birmingham. These kinds of shows are always a great way for me to catch up with a lot of friends in the industry on one day, call in, say hello, and as happened yesterday, get booked for a load more masterclasses in colleges all over the place! Yay! I got a free pass thanks to Jono at Access To Music, but the ticket price on the door was £17!!! That’s insane for a show that’s essentially about selling stuff to the public (unlike NAMM or Frankfurt, no-one would dream of launching new product there, it’s definitely a show for the public first, and any other business that goes on is a bonus.) It’s a great place to get christmas bargains if you’ve got a family full of musicians, but at £!7 a ticket and £7 to park, the savings are all but gone in the cost of being there.

Still I got to see a couple of really nice acoustic singer/songwriters on the Access To Music busking Stage… good stuff.

Home around 7ish, and another evening spent catching up on email from when I was away, chatting to lovely friends online, and trying to console a v. distraught fairly aged feline, who REALLY doesn’t like fireworks.

Tis a heavy teaching week this week, as well as sorting out gigs for next year for California in January, and Europe in March… yay me!

Tags: Random Catchup