You wait for a gig, then two come along at once…

Orphy phones. The gig on the 24th in Chelsea needs to be moved. Fine, when to. Oct 13th. Shit. What? I was going to book you for a gig on that day too.

We chat about whether or not we can do both gigs. Doesn’t look likely – it would involved far too late a start at Darbucka. And, if Orphy can’t move the other gig, it means I need to find another percussionist for Rise’s set at the |John Peel Day gig. Fortunately, London is awash with marvellous musicians, and I should be able to find someone suitably marvellous. Or, hopefully, the Chelsea gig will be moved again.

I’m really looking forward to the gig on the 13th, whoever the percussionist may be – Calamateur is fabulous – I’ve known Andrew (AKA Calamateur) for many many years, and we gigged together last summer. He’s a great songwriter, John Peel was a fan, and his album, ‘The Old Fox of ’45’ was recently voted one of the top 15 greatest Scottish albums of all time!

Rise, as founder, guitarist and latterly lead singer with the Bhundu Boys, is an African music legend – the Bhundu Boys were the first African band I was ever properly aware of, thanks to airplay on John Peel and Andy Kershaw‘s radio shows in the mid-80s.

Rise’s band for that gig will be him and his rhythm guitarist from scotland, Champion Doug Veitch (they recently did a session together for Andy Kershaw’s Radio 3 show), me on bass, the TBA percussionist, and Jez on keys – there was a marvellous moment at Greenbelt when Duncan Senyatso first heard Jez play piano. His eyes went wide and he said ‘wow’ lots of times, and asked me who he was. When I told him that Jez had grown up in East Africa he said ‘ahh, this is how we play piano’ – his delight was at having recognised the ‘African-ness’ of Jez’s playing, even in his jazz stuff. Guess you can take the boy out of East Africa, but you can’t squeeze East Africa out of his piano playing…

I’m not sure which set I’m going to do that night – whether to see if Andrea Hazell is free, and do the Greenbelt ‘Global Footprint’ improv thingie again, with Rise playing Duncan’s role, or to do my Edinburgh set (not having played that exact set in London, or done the audience participation bit), or to do a bit of both – shorter collaborative improv piece, and some solo tunes… hmmm, we’ll see. WWJPP? What Would John Peel Play?

Soundtrack – Rise Kagona (all the tracks that we might be playing on the gig).

Another great Greenbelt Gig

Saturday at Greenbelt, and my plan was to avoid anything ‘work’ related for most of the day, and it mostly paid off. What I did do was to invite lots of special guests onto my show during the day in the hope that some of them would turn up!

So following a couple of seminars and a lot of sitting around chatting to lovely peoples, I headed up to my venue for the 7.30 start. just after 7.30, the band before started their last song – which then went on for 12 minutes. Always nice to be 15 minutes late getting on stage for a gig at a festival where audiences are on a tight schedule and probably have the gig bookended by other things they wanted to see…. if I’d been on sound, I’d have turned the power off.

Anyway, we got set up and I explained the premise of the gig – one piece of 50 minutes long (it was going to be 70, but the delay meant I cut it down), with a whole load of special guests, each one coming on stage one at a time, then playing, me looping them and then leaving while their contribution lives on for the next guest to interact with.

The four guests who ended up doing it were Jez Carr (obviously – Jez being a genius improvisor and perfect first contributor to anything like this in terms of letting the others who are less familiar with the form to hear roughly what’s going on.) So Jez played some piano, which got looped, then left, and after me layering a little more, guest number 2 was Andrea Hazell, (soprano from the Royal Opera House), who sang three of four beautiful layers of wordless vocals, harmonsing my ebow line.

Guest no.3 was Duncan Senyatso, who contributed some beautiful guitar, and a vocal line that meshed so marvellously with Andrea’s voice that it sounded composed, though far to intricate to have been composed by me!

Last guest was Patrick Wood, keyboardist and composer with The Works – I’ve collaborated with Patrick on a lot of improv things before, and once again he played some gorgeous fender rhodes sounds to the loops. To finish things off, Jez came up and played some bass – Jez is a great bassist and plays very differently to me, so it was lovely to have him take the low end somewhere else…

And in between and through it all I was mixing and adding and fading and chopping and multiplying and post-processing and keeping it all interesting for 50 minutes.

and the end result was without a doubt the best gig I’ve ever done at Greenbelt, and one of my favourite ever, I think. Some really really beautiful music – I’m gutted that I didn’t record it, but I’m sure we’ll get to do something similar again – time to contact the British Council in Botswana and see if we can get them to fly us over there!

So after the show, I was compering in Centaur – the huge indoor venue here at GB – where The Works were playing, followed by Aradhna – both played fantastic sets and went down a storm.

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