Stefan Redtenbacher's Funkestra at the 606

Went to another great gig last night (that’s Friday night, just in case the timing on the blog is weird) – Stefan Redtenbacher’s Funkestra at the 606 in Chelsea. Went with Jude Simpson, cos she had much to celebrate, and what better way than with extreme funkiness from Stef and his merry band of funkateers.

I’ve seen the band play a couple of times now, and they never cease to impress – Stef’s an outstanding bassist, really really funky, and a great writer too – I guess it helps when you have musicians of the quality of Mike Sturgis, Hannah Vasanth, Jim Hunt and Eran Kendler.

So a great night out – top company, and magic music. who could ask for more?

John Lester at the 606

Fine gig last night – John Lester was launching his new album, So Many Reasons, last night at the 606 in Chelsea. His band was him, Theo Travis on sax, flutes and marvellousness, Andy Hamill on bass and magicalness and Roy Dodds on drums, percussion and groove-based tremendousness. And then, in the second set, me for two tunes. No looping, no Ebow, no fretless, no big delays… just my 6 string fretted and some rather fun jazz guitar parts. I played on Union Street (which is one of my favourite songs of John’s – no mean feat in a set packed with favourite songs of mine) and Good Intentions, another great song off the new album.

Ever since I started playing solo I’ve wanted to be in a position to give other people a leg up. It’s what I want people to do for me, and in the spirit of ‘do unto others as you’d have them do unto you’ (what wise-ass came up with that? pretty simple formula for changing the world, huh?) I have always wanted to use whatever meagre platform I have to give other musicians a boost. And John is probably the best example of that, even though it was through a tour with Michael Manring that the push came about (and I always pull much bigger crowds when I tour with Michael, for some inexplicable reason… ;o) – anyway, John came out and opened for Michael and I on a bunch of gigs, and was quite frankly awesome. Awesometacular, if you will. He sold a shedload of CDs, won himself an army of new fans, and it helped to establish him in some way in London. Since then – with no help from me at all! – he’s been touring and playing bass for Gretchen Peters, where he plays in her band and opens the show, blowing away audiences night after night, and winning himself so many new fans along the way. He’s a great performer and great songwriter, and last night he had the cream of London’s musicians playing with him – Andy’s one of my favourite bassists in the world, Theo’s, well Theo, i don’t think he’s ever played a bit of music I didn’t think was outstanding, and Roy’s the perfect sensitive groovy player to be in that band. A magical evening all round.

So, now go and get John’s CD, from his website, or at least have a listen to some tracks on his myspace page.

Finally, a blog post that doesn’t feature a video from the 80s… hang on, gimme a minute here, I’ll find one for you…

Two Stevie-gigs this week.

OK, tomorrow night, I’m guesting at the 606 in Chelsea with John Lester – you all know who he is by now, and really ought to have bought his CDs, if my recommendation is worth anything to you at all. He’s fab. Tomorrow night is the official launch of his new album, ‘So Many Reasons’. Which is great. It’s fab. It’s magic. And I’m saying that without even playing on it, so it must be great.

We had a rehearsal today, which took all of 20 minutes. Theo Travis is on sax, Roy Dodds on drums, and basses covered me John, me on two tunes, and Andy Hamill – it’ll be great, don’t miss it. See the 606 website for more details – if you’re in the MU, you can get in free…

Then on Thursday, I’m playing a solo set at The Enterprise in Chalk Farm (opposite Chalk Farm tube station) – opening for BJ Cole and Emily Burridge. Which means it’s a gig I’d have been at even if I wasn’t playing, cos BJ and Emily are fantastic. And we’ll certainly do something together. Come on down! It’ll be great.

three line whip for london bassists… don't miss this.

OK, a few of you will have already had me bending your ear about how you HAVE to go and see Seth Horan at the Bass Centre. But for the rest of you, click on his name there and head over and have a listen – he’s an electric bass playing singer/songwriter, of extraordinary talent. Think male Ani DiFranco on a bass. It’s not wanky bass nonsense, it’s great singer/songwriter material that happens to involve some seriously great bass playing. There’ll be more details on the bass centre site soon, I hope, and there’s a thread about it over at

In fact, that week is a great bass week in london – cos on Monday 4th John Lester has his ‘So Many Reasons’ album launch at the 606 in Chelsea, and I’ll be sitting in on that gig (which will also have John on bass, and Andy Hamill on bass!), and then on Thursday 7th, I’m playing at The Enterprise in Chalk Farm, opening for BJ Cole and Emily Burridge, and will no doubt do some playing with them as well! So, set aside that as bass week, and go to all three!

Coupla gigs this week (seen not played)

Been to a couple of great gigs this week. Firstly on Tuesday I went to see Patrick Wood’s band The Works – who, long term bloglings will remember, released one of my favourite ever British Jazz records a year or so ago, called Beware Of The Dog (get it, it’s great). They were playing at the 606 in Chelsea – a bitch of a place to find, but with a lovely policy of letting MU members in for free. Thanks to teaching, I only got there for the second send of The Works, but they were fantastic, and have two special guests augmenting the usual quartet – Bosco D’Olivera on percussion and voice, and Mick Hutton on steel pan. Mick’s pan playing was a revelation – Mick’s much better known as having been one of the finest double bassists in the country for years, but some major trouble with his hands has stopped him playing that altogether – a major loss to bass playing, but bass’s loss is steel pan’s gain. He’s a great musician, and fitted in perfectly with The Works.

So their set ended, and I thought people would start leaving, but another band were setting up. 11pm? another band? WTF? Now a dilemma – should I stay or go, the band featured some amazing musicians (Dudley Philips on bass, Julian Seigel on sax and Winston Clifford on drums), but I had an hour’s drive home, was utterly knackered, and really couldn’t sit through a whole other set. Which is a shame, cos I’m sure the whole gig was marvellous.

And then, last night I went to Koko for an album launch gig by Alexander’s Annexe – an intriguing trio of Sarah Nicholls on piano, Mira Calix on laptop and noises, and David Sheppard processing and manipulating the acoustic piano. The music was amazing – proper spikey weirdness, but with a strange beauty to it. Sarah’s a brilliant pianist, and thus gave David a whole range of lovely stuff to work with.

the big problem was the venue – Koko is a pretty big space, and they had it laid out with tables and chairs downstairs. The lack of a compere, and the drift from one musical act into another meant that the audience didn’t really stop talking when the music was on, which with this kind of thing was pretty ruinous. Next time you do a gig like that, David, gimme a mic and I’ll tell people to shut the fuck up before you start playing… ;o)

Anyway, the other fantastic revelation of the night was an ‘act’ called ‘Mr Hopkinson’s Computer’ – a laptop doing covers of 80s and 90s indie tracks that was just heartbreaking. Here’s are three myspace pages with examples – the first one has his versions of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ and ‘Where Is My Mind?’ on it. I rang a coupla friends while it was on who I knew would dig it, and they did! Jyoti, you so need to check this stuff out if you haven’t already…

Anyway – MySpace Page 1, MySpace Page 2 and MySpace page 3. go there, it’s beautiful.

Was supposed to be going to Paul Simon at Wembley tonight, but it doesn’t look like my ticket-spy has been able to secure the moychendyz. Ah well, I’m exhausted so could do with a night in.

The disappearance of the best gig in the country…

Ronnie Scott’s is one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world. It’s legendary. The late saxophonist who gave his name to the club was clearly a tireless campaigner for jazz music in London, and for as long as most jazzers can remember, Ronnie’s was a place to go and hang, to meet other musicians, hear some great tunes.

They’ve always done really cheap tickets for MU members, and best of all, they always booked a local band to play opposite the big names. It was pretty much the only serious venue around that booked UK jazz acts for week-long residencies. the money wasn’t great, but it was fabulous exposure, a chance to shift a load of CDs, and a great one for the CV. Without doubt, one of the best gigs that any UK jazz band could get booked for. I’ve seen some great stuff there – Ben Castle’s quartet opposite The Yellowjackets, Christine Tobin opposite Gary Husband….

well now, they’ve refurbed the building, but made a right arse of the booking policy and now have a house band. The James Pearson trio play every night, with a different guest. Yup, just like a regular restaurant gig. There are lots of these kinds of gigs around – house trio, hired in front person, plodding through the Real Book, sometimes playing lovely versions of standards, often sounding a bit bored. It makes a really nice accompaniment to dinner and is a great way to spend £4 if your local pub has put a gig on like that in the back room.

But, it’s not what I’d expect if I’d just paid £45 (£45!!!!!!!!!!) to see Chick Corea or Wynton Marsalis or whoever.

I’ve not heard James Pearson play. This isn’t about him or his trio. It’s just that the format isn’t an art gig. It’s not fair on the front person to not have their own band there – Theo isn’t going to sound anything like his records with some generic trio behind him. You can’t turn up to a blowing gig and expect them to play Schizoid Man. Ben Castle couldn’t go in with the chart for Mousecatcher General. They’ll just end up playing Satin Doll and Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, and it’ll be like any other restaurant gig in London.

So, if you feel moved by this, feel free to boycott Ronnie’s. email them and tell them why, if you like. I just think it’s sad, and will take my custom and my gig money to The Vortex, or the 606 or just about anywhere else instead.

The post-Live 8 debate rages on

Thanks to the London bombings and the tragedy in Lousiana, the post Live8 Make Poverty History debate got, understandably, sidelined from the news.

Today’s Guardian has this interview with Bob Geldof – it’s the first time I’ve heard Bob answer his critics post-Live8, and he does so with his usual brash honesty. I really like man. I think he’s great. I still think he missed the mark with the unconditional nature of his statements after Gleneagles, but I trust him to pursue the cause of the poor first an formost. Of all the accusations levelled at Bob, the least convincing seem to the be the ones that he’s power-hungry and just out to promote himself. I’ve seen no real evidence for this at all.

Anyway, we need to keep the pressure on in the run-up to the UN talks in New York this week, and the WTO talks in Hong Kong in December.

It’s odd, given that the WTO in its present form has no business existing. It’s never going to work properly appealing to agencies like the WTO, World Bank and IMF for reform when they are the problem. It’s like asking the Government to vote themselves out of power. So we need a two-pronged attack – one that carries on appealing to those pernicious bodies to reform, acting as a thorn in their side, building up the pressure of global public opinion, and the other calling for their scrapping, offering suggestions for alternatives, and resourcing leaders in the developing world in building their own economic power-base to bargain from.

Soundtrack – VOL, ‘Audible Sigh’.

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Last Night's gig.

So last night was the gig with Theo Travis and Orphy Robinson at The new Vortex in Dalston.

The old Vortex, in Stoke Newington was a vital element in London’s Jazz-life. Along with the 606 and The Bull’s Head, it was one of the few places where you could regularly get to see the best of London’s jazzers playing in a small club for not much money.

So when it close about 18 months ago, it was a bit of a loss. There was talk for a while of it opening up in Hackney’s ill-fated Ocean venue, but then that went belly-up, and it looked like the Vortex was no more.

So it’s great to have it back, just off the A10 in Dalston. Very easy to get to, nice room, all back how it should be.

The fun thing about this gig was that it was the first time that Orphy and Theo had met, let alone played together. I’ve played with both before, obviously, so I was the link.

I set up with a mic on Orphy’s vibes so I could loop him, though had to be judicious so as not to loop Theo too (Theo’s loop-ideas are so incredibly well formed, that bits of his flute and sax cropping up in my loops is not really desireable).

Anyway, the gig went superbly well – we played a bunch of tunes from Open Spaces, and a load of improvs, with Orphy playing vibes and piano (I’m still not sure how well piano works with the thickness of sound that Theo and I get – I remember spoiling a duo gig with Jez at Greenbelt one year by putting far to many layers down and not really finding that gorgeous sparseness that is there on Conversations)

The audience was tiny, as per lots of midweek gigs at the Vortex, but David, the owner, loved it and wants us back for a weekend gig.

The only downer was that I was feeling steadily iller and iller as the evening went on (and not in the Beastie Boys send of the word ‘ill’ either)… I’m still not sure if I’ve beaten this cold or the worst is yet to come. We’ll see.

Anyway, it’s great to see The Vortex back happening again – check out the programme here.

Soundtrack – Tim Berne live at the QEH

A fine review of Live8

from Alexis Petridis in the Guardian – for a jaded old cynic like Alexis, this is very good indeed.

However, one correction, from the video footage. Alexis wrote –

“Martin leaves the stage with an announcement about the importance of the film that’s about to follow. The video screens immediately show jowly old Duran Duran at the Rome concert. Either there’s been a technical error, or the gravity of the occasion has sent Martin bonkers.”

I’ve just watched the Coldplay set on AOL streamed archive of the gig, and it went from Coldplay to a video about the G8, just as Chris Martin intimated. The Duran clip came after Elton’s duet with Pete Doherty (which wasn’t half as bad as I expected, but maybe I’ve just got low expectations of the hyped-up-talentless-smack-head (that’s Pete, not Elton – Elton’s a pub-singer).

Live8 – bringing rock stars together

So other than the G8-related politics, the biggest news of Live8 so far has to be that Pink Floyd are going to play, with Roger Waters back in for the first time since 83.

An infamous rock falling out, of Spinal Tap proportions, with all the dialogue via lawyers that usually accompanies these school-boy squabbles, made significant purely by the sums of money involved.

But they’re doing the gig, and it’ll be interesting to see the result (though fly-on-the-wall footage… or should that be fly-on-The Wall footage? from rehearsals would be more interesting.)

Anyway, today’s Guardian has a nice profile of David Gilmour – I have a few friends who know him, who testify to his all-round good-egg-ness. Seems like a nice bloke.

Soundtrack – lots of my duo stuff with Cleveland Watkiss and Andrew Booker.

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