What’s So Special About An Improvised Gig?

Things I adore about improvised music, pt 593:

This is a quote from a book I’m re-reading for my PhD, called Coughing And Clapping, all about audiences and music:

“The pop music gig is a unique and visceral event, which at its most resonant can be a consummate experience involving all the senses. There is a real feeling for the concert-goer of it being for one night only, in that place, at that time, and of being something that can never be replicated – despite the fact that the band will often be playing the same numbers with the same light show on subsequent nights of the tour.” [1]

It sums up beautifully my feelings about the sleight of hand of playing the same thing night after night and hoping that something magical happens and it connects. There are obviously some bands who allow the circumstances to alter the music to a greater or lesser degree – for some, the songs are basically jumping-off points for whatever comes next – but for most pop/rock bands, the majority of the performance is set in stone. Or if not stone, then at least stale bread. Or that weird green stuff that soaks up water that you put flowers in.

For an improv gig, no such assumptions can be made. And the audience’s presence completely alters the music. The music is not only FOR you, but in a very real way, BY you – you change it. Like Jedis at Christmas, we feel your presence. We respond to the room, the people in it, the conversations before the gig, to smiles and looks of consternation, to interruptions, to the decor, to traffic noise. The music is an amalgam of everything in that moment, and if you weren’t there it would be different. So you get to have that experience of something unique 4 REALZIES. It actually happens.

My next gig is in a couple of weeks in Birmingham, and it’s all improv. Andy, Phi and I will be collaborating with whoever shows up, with the venue (we LOVE the Tower Of Song – such a welcoming, warm place to play dangerous music 🙂 ) and we’ll promise you a night of wholly original music that will stay with you, and will be uniquely yours. No-one else will ever get to say that they saw it, unless they were there on that night. Make plans, bring friends, come be a part of the history that will be made, and that is made every time improvisors step onto the stage, swallow the voice that pops up that says ‘er, what happens if *this time* it all goes to shit??’ and instead create something magical. For you. And your ears.

[1] Kronenburg, R. 2014. Safe and Sound: Audience Experience in New Venues for Popular Music Performance. In: Burland, K. and Pitts, S. eds. Coughing and clapping: Investigating audience experience. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Gig with Julie Slick in Birmingham, April 6th + New Video!

OK, two v exciting bits of news!

First, my next Birmingham gig is with one of the most remarkable trios I’ve ever been a part of – Julie Slick, me and Andy Edwards.

[  BUY TICKETS HERE  ]

Julie, for those who’ve been hiding for the last 8 years, has been blowing people’s minds all over the world as part of the Adrian Belew Power Trio SINCE SHE WAS A TEENAGER. Seriously. Now still in Adrian’s band, and also in the 6-headed-behemoth that is the Crimson ProjeKct, she gets to swap bass duties with Tony Levin every night. Also a remarkable solo artist, her two solo albums feature her brilliant compositions, bass work and production alongside guests such as Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, David Torn, Marco Minneman, Pat Mastelotto… A cast of geniuses, with her at the top of the bill. She’s that good. Listen:

Andy Edwards is something of a drum legend – from Robert Plant’s band, he went on to play with many of the UK’s top prog bands: Frost*, IQ, Magenta, and is greatly in demand as a clinician.

I’ve played in duos with both of them, and am excited to see what alchemy takes place with this new band. It’ll be amazing. I promise. here’s the ticket link if you missed it above.

Exciting news part 2!

it’s not often that I get to announce a new video that’s already reached 10,000 views. In fact, it’s never. Until now. this was filmed at the Frankfurt Musikmesse, by Gregor Fris of BassTheWorld.com, who asked me to ‘just play’. No looping, no processing, just bass. However I wanted for as long as I wanted. This is what came out. It sounds and looks lovely, I think. The internet seems to agree. Please do share it around if you dig it:

I’ll write more about the making of the video later… but for now, go buy gig tickets! 🙂

A Gig. On My Birthday. And You’re Invited!

Right, here’s something I’ve never done before – a solo gig on my birthday.

That’s December 28th, for those that don’t know.

The gig will be at Tower Of Song, my favourite venue in the Birmingham area.

The ticket price is ‘pay what you can afford’, and if you buy tickets in advance, [ click here to buy tickets ] there’s a lovely new exclusive download track of a thing I recorded living in London a couple of weeks ago, opening for Yolanda Charles. You’ll get that, whatever you pay, but if you pay over £10, you’ll also get a download copy of my NEXT solo album, called ‘What The Mind Thinks, The Heart Transmits’ – it won’t be out til next year, but you can have a copy now. It’s a single 45 minute track, and is very lovely indeed. I promise. So you may want to buy that even if you can’t be there… 🙂

But Wait! There’s MORE!

The gig will also feature the debut of my excellent new duo with drum-legend Andy Edwards. Andy and I recently got together to record some promo stuff for a new Tama drumkit. None of it was what you’d call ‘songs’ – no beginnings/middles/endings, just fun jams to show off the kit, but they’ll give you an idea of where we’re heading 🙂

Home From Greenbelt. First Blog Post – Some Pictures

Home from a wonderful weekend at Greenbelt Festival. My show there on Sunday afternoon was quite possibly my favourite ever time playing at Greenbelt, and resulted in quite a few USB Stick sales. Which is nice 🙂

I’ll post more about it soon, but here, for starters, are a selection of the photos that people took and posted on twitter while I was playing, along with Lobelia who joined me for two songs, one of them also featuring the lovely Andrew Howie. Good times 🙂

Birmingham Bass Night – A Resounding Success!

So the first Birmingham Bass Night was a resounding success. A comfortably full venue, some amazing music and a good time was had by all.

I feel really lucky to have had such a great line-up for what was really the pilot for a regular event. Russ Sargeant played a beautiful opening set, including an exquisite cover of The Blue Nile’s Let’s Go Out Tonight… so often when an instrumentalist decides to sing a number, the verdict is ‘brave but unwise’, but Russ has a voice to match his bass skillz… hope we get to hear him sing again! He’ll be back at another Birmingham Bass Night soon, I promise 🙂

Then me, doing my thing. Running a night and playing at it can be a stress, but I’ve done it enough and have stripped away the unneccesary stuff well enough that I had no such troubles here. It helped that the venue, Tower Of Song, is SO musician-friendly. There are way too many ‘music venues’ these days whose primary concern is selling beer and musicians are just the bait to get people in the building. Tower Of Song is run by a dedicated and talented musician, Tom Martin, whose primary concern is to run a venue where music gets heard in the optimum environment. It makes a huge difference to how you play to know that your music is respected in that way by the people hosting you… almost house concert-like.

I played A Year Afloat, The Kindness Of Strangers, Hello and an extended new version of Grace And Gratitude (a request fromSarah in the audience… was happy to oblige 🙂 )

 
Then our headliner was Lorenzo Feliciati. As I said in my introduction on the night, hearing Lorenzo’s musical world grow over the last 10 years has been a joy. He was already an amazing musician when I first met him, and has continued to stretch himself and find new vehicles for expressing himself musically. Definitely a kindred spirit. Of late, he’s put together an amazing band called Naked Truth, with Pat Mastelotto of King Crimson that combines fusion, ambient, post rock and deep improv to amazing effect. His latest solo album Frequent Flyer is also magical.

For Birmingham Bass Night, Lorenzo teamed up with Dave Walsh – a brilliant drummer from Leeds – for a duo set that covered Miles Davis and Alan Holdsworth tunes (Holdsworth for bass and drums duo?? yup.) and some of Lorenzo’s own compositions. It was a wonderful contrast to the more mellow sounds that Russ and I conjured up to have something that was at times ferocious and funky as well as gentle and contemplative.

All in a marvellous night. Thanks to everyone who came! PLEASE feel free to post your own thoughts and observations in the comments (there’s been loads of talk about the gig on Facebook which has been great, and it really helps with the promotion of the event to have positive audience feedback to link people to 🙂 )

We’ll be doing another one in May.. stay tuned for an announcement about the line-up ASAP!

New Video Pt 1 – Videos from California

Well, the California tour is over, I’ve been home a week or so, jetlag has worn off and the mammoth task of preparing the recordings from the tour with Daniel Berkman for some kind of future release is tentatively underway.

Meanwhile, our duo album seems to have found favour with the people who are listening to it and buying it. Thanks for the positive feedback. Here it is, if you’ve missed it so far:

Continue reading “New Video Pt 1 – Videos from California”

Book A Gig!

Photo of Steve Lawson, by Photocillin

Over the last couple of years, the joys of parenting have meant that both Lobelia and I have gigged less than we’d might… Which has the knock on effect of people thinking we’re not available for gigs…

Time to fix that. 🙂

So, what’s happening?

I’m available for gigs. Simple as that. Continue reading “Book A Gig!”

London Bass Guitar Show and My new Markbass Amps(with video!)

This last weekend was all kinds of fun – I had two days at the London Bass Guitar Show and a wonderful improv gig in Derby…

The bass guitar show was my first ‘official’ outing for Markbass Having been using the Markaudio PA gear for about 3 years (those incredible tiny speakers you’ve seen us use on UK house concerts? Mark Audio), I’ve just got a pair of unbelievable combos from Markbass – the Combo 121 Lites, designed in conjunction with Alain Caron. Continue reading “London Bass Guitar Show and My new Markbass Amps(with video!)”

Tour Update

So, we’re 7 gigs into our tour – Green Brook, Toledo, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Wisner, Boonville – We’re having all kinds of fun, meeting up with so many wonderful friends, and making new acquaintances all over the place.

Bizarrely, 3 of the gigs so far have been in art galleries. That wasn’t planned, it just happened, and for that we’re happy and grateful. Playing music surrounded by great art is a real honour, and a deep inspiration. Continue reading “Tour Update”