As one year ends…

This is a great time of year for me – Christmas, then my Birthday (28th – you missed it) and then New Year – lots of time for reflecting on a year gone by, and looking forward to the year ahead. Time to compile daft lists of favourite things from the last year, and make resolutions about things to do in the coming year. To count my (many) blessings, and resolve to see the good things as they happen in the year ahead.

A couple of books that I find useful for this kind of thinking – Proverbs, attributed to King Solomon in The Bible, here translated by Eugene Peterson – some marvellous advice for living. The link starts you off at Chapter one.

And the Tao Te Ching. is an online version, though not a particularly inspiring translation. (my favourite translation that I’ve looked at so far is This one, by Ralph Alan Dale – definitely worth reading.)

So, anyway, I’m 32 now – not that it really means much; you see all those lists in magazines about ’50 things you should have done before you’re 30′, and I’m usually very relieved not to have done three quarters of them – most seem to involve a high risk of either death (yours or someone else’s), disease or at least a serious loss of dignity… No thanks, my life’s quite exciting enough. You never see ‘do a solo bass gig at the Royal Albert Hall’ on those lists…

One of my ongoing resolutions every year is to practice more, and for 2005, I’ve started early. Been practicing quite a lot in the last few days, hoping to keep it up into the new year. Not writing any new music at the moment, strangely, but I am working on a couple of new technical things that I’m happy with…

SoundtrackJonatha Brooke, ‘Plumb’; Brian Eno, ‘Music For Films’; Terje Rypdal, ‘Skywards’.

Christmas TV gets it right for once…

Usually, Christmas TV is all about blockbuster films, climactic soap storylines and the Queen’s Speech.

This year, Channel Four presented what is arguably the best ever bit of Christmas Day TV – a documentary entitled Who Wrote The Bible?, presented by Robert Beckford. A fascinating look at the origins of the Bible, it’s writers, the earliest manuscripts, the relationship between written word and oral history and the various agendas at work in what was kept in and what was left out. Fabulous viewing. Robert Beckford is a speaker I’ve heard a few times before at Greenbelt – engaging, interesting and massively well researched.

Well done Channel Four! For a self-confessed BBC fanatic like myself, it was interesting to see them being totally outclassed in the quality programming for christmas day this year.

A Christmas pressie for my bass!

Well, it’s been two years since I last changed them, so I thought as a christmas pressie I’d give my 6 string fretless a new set of strings… Woah! It feels like a completely different instrument (that might also be down to me ill-advisedly tinkering with the truss rod at the same time…) – it suddenly sounds all bright and twangy! They’ll break in in a week or two, I’m sure, but it’s a huge difference from two year old flats to brand new ones… Now, do I do the 6 string fretted at the same time? Those have only been on for just over a year… :o)

Also discovered in changing the strings that thanks to not really playing much bass over the festive period thus far, my intonation has gone to shit… time to put in some practice, methinks!

In other news, The Small Person and I were due to meet up with Andrew AKA Calamateur today, but got so snarled up in traffic on the way, that we had to abort the visit and head home – the worst traffic I’ve been in in London for many a year… :o(

On a more upbeat note, I’ve just had an email from Michael Manring inviting me to do a couple of gigs with him at the end of January in CA, which will be a lot of fun!

BTW, a couple of people have emailed/AIM’d in defense of Lost In Translation, but nothing even vaguely convincing has been said of yet…

SoundtrackJonatha Brooke, ‘Plumb’ (one of the greatest albums ever made – she’s coming to do some gigs in the UK soon, finally!!)

Lost on me… Lost in Translation

OK, The Small Person and I just watched Lost In Translation… am I missing something? Did anything happen? Was there some really subtle deep character development and plot magic going on that I’m just too much of a philistine to see?

It was all fairly pleasant visually, nicely lit, etc. but ultimately seemed to be a film in which nothing much happened. There was no sense of a special friendship developing between the two main characters, beyond neither of them really wanting to be there. Bill Murray’s character didn’t seem to go through any epiphanous moment in his clubbing/partying scenes, but neither was he rescued from feeling hideously out of place by Scarlett whatsherface… One of the least developed plot lines I’ve ever seen. And for a film that appears to make so much of the fact that they didn’t end up jumping into bed together, very very little was made of Bill’s character shagging the lounge singer – once again, the female half in a cinematic sexual-encounter is reduced to a footnote in a story serving the rest of a lame non-plot.

He’s still a sack of shit for screwing the singer, so don’t pretend he’s all heroic for not doing the same with Scarlett… What a load of bollocks. Sophia Coppola’s got a lot of work to do to uphold the family name… Still, she did match her dad in the great soundtrack/shoddy film stakes – his deeply forgettable film ‘One From The Heart’ has one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, courtesy of Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle.

Soundtrack – Weather Report, ‘The Is Jazz’ (a best of, covering all of it, not just the Jaco years).

Festive Fives Pt 2

Films (again, in no particular order)

School Of Rock
Harry Potter III
Shrek II

Soundtrack – right now, some me-loops. Before that, Duran Duran, ‘Greatest’ (a pressie from me to the small person for Christmas); Kerry Getz, ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’; Top Banana radio’s non-stop christmas hits.

Festive Fives Pt 1

OK, here’s the first of a few top 5s of this year –

Albums of 2004 (in no particular order)

Julie Lee – Stillhouse Road
Tom Waits – Real Gone
Sarah Slean – Day One
Matthew Garrison – Shapeshifter
Theo Travis – Earth To Ether

oh sod it, I can’t just pick 5!!

The Low Country – The Dark Road
Calamateur – The Old Fox Of ’45
Todd Johnson/Kristen Korb – Get Happy
The Cure – The Cure
A Marble Calm – Surfacing

Feel free to post your own festive fives over in the Forum.

Soundtrack – Talk Talk, ‘Spirit Of Eden’.

Happy Christmas, blog-readers!

Right, I’m just off to do my christmas shopping, and just have time to wish y’all and very happy and blessed christmas. Please don’t spend too much, eat too much or drink too much – there’s something deeply perverse about celebrating God coming into the world as a homeless refugee by overindulging in everything. Instead, be thankful for your family, tell them you love them, and spare a thought for those who are alone. If you can, invite someone over who’ll be on their own.

Thanks for reading this year – I must congratulate you on your superb taste in trivial reading matter. :o)

SoundtrackJonatha Brooke, ‘Steady Pull’; Theo Travis, ‘Earth To Ether’; Talk Talk, ‘Spirit Of Eden’; The Pixies, ‘Doolittle’; The Works, ‘Beware Of The Dog’.

Oh how times change!

Was flicking through some old photos the other day, and came across this passport photo, which I think dates from ’91… blimey, the years really do just disappear. To think, 13 years ago, I could have been KD Lang on Stars In Your Eyes.

Anyway, I’d better go, I think Timmy Mallet wants his glasses back…!

Soundtrack – The Pixies, ‘Doolittle’; Kris Delmhorst, ‘Songs For A Hurricane’; Talking Heads, ‘Stop Making Sense’; Bill Frisell, ‘The Willies’.

Turning down gigs…

It’s been an interesting week work-wise. I got a phone-call last Tuesday from Carl Palmer, the drummer with 70s prog-rock legends, ELP, and 80s prog legends, Asia. Carl now has his own trio, which until recently Dave Marks – who I taught when he was studying at Basstech – was playing bass for. Dave left to take up a job at Basstech, and Carl had been recommended me via a few sources, aparently. Carl rang to find out if I’d be interested in joining the trio. Having been a big ELP fan in my teens (‘Pictures At An Exhibition’ got some major rotation on my record deck in the late 80s/early 90s), I was really up for meeting him and finding out more.

We met up on Thursday, to have a listen and chat about the gig – he lives pretty locally to me, and seems like a very nice bloke.

The music itself is mainly heavy rock reworkings of classical works, by the likes of Bartok, Prokofiev, Copeland etc. Most of it is at full-throttle, and while very exciting and energetic, a long way from the languid mellow stuff that I’ve spent the last five years getting good at…

So I was faced with a very odd decision – here’s a good paying high profile gig with a legendary drummer who seems like a very nice bloke, that I’m going to turn down… What?? But still I felt very comfortable with the decision. I’ve obviously been primarily a solo/duo player for some time now, but that was never tested until now due to not having been offered anything of this kind of size. Now that I have been, but am faced with the need to change my technique back to a full-on rock approach, and build up a huge amount of stamina to maintain that level of drive for almost two hours a night, I chose to stick on the path that I’ve been carving.

It’s not that I don’t want to work with other people – I’d still happily do sessions, and obviously do a fair few jazz and funk gigs with Jez Carr, Mike Haughton and our floating drum chair (which features some incredible players – Mike Sturgis, Tom Hooper, Phil Crabbe, Eddie John etc…) – but if the gig requires me to divert a lot of attention away from the path I’ve chosen, that I’d rather stick where I am.

It feels like a bit of a rite of passage. Four years ago, I’d have jumped at the chance, seeing it as a big step forward. Now, despite the obvious advantages of the gig, the distraction from what I’m doing was too great, and I’ve turned it down.

Am I nuts?

Soundtrack – Talking Heads, ‘Stop Making Sense’.

Panic Over…

…not that you knew I was panicking anyway, but my and domain names came up for renewal a couple of weeks ago, (today was the deadline), and there’d been a problem with my VISA card not working on the hosting site’s payment page. Got to today, and was forwarding to a holding page – very scary stuff, given that there are many many search engine pages and porn sites happy to snap up domain names that have that volume of traffic that this site does…

Anyway, a nifty phone-call to the States, and some much-needed assistance from a chap called Blaine, and it’s all sorted. But it was a little scary for a while!

Soundatrack – Talking Heads, ‘Stop Making Sense’.