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 bassworld.co.uk.

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!

A solo theremin gig???

Yup, that was the first half of the gig I saw last night – Pamelia Kurstin’s gig at The Vortex was one I happened upon while looking at their website for something else entirely last week. When I saw that her two collaborators on the gig were Seb Rochford and A< HREF=http://www.liamnoble.co.uk/>Liam Noble, it was a sure thing – had to see that.

The first half of the gig was a solo looped Theremin set – Pamelia was using two DL4s and an EH Bass Microsynth – and the first 20 minutes of it was captivating. After that it was still good, it’s just tricky to sustain that level of interest without varying the arrangement ideas (would love to hear what she’d do with a Looperlative instead of the DL4s).

The second half was wonderful – lots of mad squeaky gate improv stuff with Seb on drums and Liam on piano. Both guys are such great and original improvisors, and worked really well with the theremin craziness coming from Pamelia, who veered from violin territory to clarinet tones to the sound of a pizzicato double bass. Fascinating stuff. All in all a top gig, and I’ll have to get her for the Recycle Collective next time she’s in London!

What was also most fun about the night was the number of other players that showed up – Julian Seigel, Estelle Kokot, Mandy Drummond, Phil Robson, Dylan Bates, Jason Broadbent – a most enjoyable jazz-hang! And what’s more, the Vortex are wanting to book the trio from August’s RC gig – me, seb and Andy Hamill – for a gig in Jan/Feb! Yay! And I got booked for a gig with Estelle in a couple of weeks time – more on that soon…

More magical recycling…

It’s becoming a bit predictable – Recycle Collective rolls around towards the back half of each month, and an evening of fabulous creative exciting music ensues.

Audience sizes are less easy to predict, but August is a tough month for playing anything other than festivals in the UK, so I was actually quite happy with our modest gathering of lovely Recyclettes.

We went with the three set/three curators model of Recycling – starting with me playing a couple of solo tunes (Behind Every Word and MMFSOG for those taking notes) and then inviting Andy Hamill up for some bass duets, he on upright, me on fretless, that came out beautifully. Andy’s been playing with Natasha Atlas, and he fed a gorgeous middle eastern melody into one of the improvs.

We then got Seb up to join us on drums, and I looped his drums, and anything else that happened to end up being picked up by the mic over his kit! Much fun indeed, some great noises and great moments.

Second set was Andy’s to curate, and he started it off with a lovely solo piece for looped bass and harmonica, followed by a duet with violinist Julian Ferraretto, who also sang beautifully on Nature Boy – yup, proper jazz at the Recycle Collective! They did another standard after that, My Romance, with Seb on drums, and played it really well – Andy’s chordal comping on the upright was just amazing. Fab stuff.

I then joined them for a quartet improv piece, which started off with a violin and bass loop and spiralled out from there. Such a treat to play with such marvellous musicians.

Seb’s set – the final one of the evening – started with him playing his first ever solo drum piece. Always nice to have firsts at the RC, especially when they’re as good as this. I then went up and we started what was to be about a 20 minute abstract piece that began with me looping his drums, replacing bits of the loop, flipping it back to front and adding some scary elephant noises and spookiness, then moving to a filtered faux-tabla rhythmic thing before andy joined us, and finally Julian and another violinist, Mandy Drummond piled in for a very dark atmospheric finish, with andy playing a sparse groove, seb scattering percussive sounds all over the place and the two violins adding violin loveliness to it all.

All in all, a fab night’s music. Some truly amazing moments and a fascinating journey through a new musical landscape, as well as the first ting-ting te-ting jazz at the RC.

Here’s hope the Bass/Bass/Drums trio happens again very soon!

Preparation for tonight's gig…

Just getting sorted for tonight’s Recycle Collective gig. I’ve not done an improv gig with a drummer for ages… probably since I last played with Seb Rochford, in Brighton! So that’ll be fun – I’m hoping we can find a way to mic the kit and loop the drums as well, but even if we can’t, it’s going to be so much fun.

Andy Hamill is threatening to bring a harmonica and do a couple of solo things with bass and harp, which is going to be great – these gigs have become such an oasis of relentless creativity and fun in each month for me, I really look forward to them.

If you’re in London, please come down!

More recycle bookings…

Been busy over the last couple of weeks lining up the musicians for the new few RC gigs – lots of the people have had on my wish-list for ages are now booked! Yay!

August 23rdSebastian Rochford, Andy Hamill and me. This is a bit of a dream line-up. Seb’s one of my favourite drummers I’ve ever played with. We did one gig together in Brighton a couple of years ago, and he listened so well to the loop stuff, and played beautifully. An immensely creative chap, and Mercury Prize nominee last year, no less! He’s in Polar Bear and Acoustic LadyLand and plays with lots of people in the F-IRE collective.

And Andy Hamill. As well as officially being of the nicest people in jazz ever, Andy’s also one of my favourite double bassists anywhere. If you’ve heard either of Theo’s last couple of albums, he’s the low end on there, but has also played with 4 Hero, Carleen Anderson, Shea Seger, Theo Travis, Mark Murphy, Nitin Sawhney, Chris Bowden, Boris Grebenshikov, Cara Dillon, Tracey Thorn, Kylie Minogue, Ben Castle, Ursula Rucker and Harry Hill!

I’ve been wanting to try a trio with drums and double bass for ages, and feel so lucky that the first time I get to try it is with two musicians of this kind of quality. Wow.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, on Sept 20th, we’ve got saxophonist Jason Yarde, one of the most celebrated young british jazzers of recent times. An outstanding performer, composer, improvisor – a really really interesting musician, who will add something completely new to the RC vibe, for sure. Another huge talent.

And with Jason and I, making a very welcome return, Leo Abrahams – currently out on the road playing guitar for Roxy Music, is also Brian Eno’s guitar monkey, and has worked with Imogen Heap, Nik Kershaw, Ed Harcourt, Paul Simon and a host of other great people. He was excellent last time, he’ll be just as great this time.

And at the moment, it looks like October is going to be BJ Cole and Ingrid Laubrock joining me. How lucky am I? Yay!

Third musician for the April Recycle Collective!

Well, it’s been an enouraging couple of weeks. I’ve been asking lots of lovely musicians to take part in the Recycle Collective, with a very very positive response. Those who’ve said they want to take part in the future include Seb Rochford, Byron Wallen, Andy Hamill, Rebecca Hollweg and Oroh Angiama. Lots of fantastic musicians, all lovely people too!

And what’s more, the third musician that’s playing with Cleveland Watkiss and I on April 29th is Leo Abrahams, an amazing guitarist and looper that I first saw live playing with Imogen Heap and Nik Kershaw at the Kashmir Klub about 5 years ago, and who played after me at Greenbelt last year. He’s hugely in demand, working recently with Brian Eno, Ed Harcourt, Stairstailor, David Holmes and others, and having worked in the past with Paul Simon and Nick Cave amongst others. I’m so excited about both hearing Leo’s solo set, and what he Cleveland and I will come up with as a trio!

Head over to Leo’s myspace page to hear some of his lovely solo music.

All this means that the Recycle Collective continues to be unmissable.

Home from Greenbelt

Another August bank holiday weekend over, which means we’re home from Greenbelt, hot, tired and sweaty, but very mellow after a fabulous weekend of great music, great friends, brain food and organic munchies.

Greenbelt’s been an annual fixture on my calendar for 15 years now (I’ve only missed two years in that time, and really don’t want to have to remember the reasoning behind those…) and as a result I know definitely-hundreds-possibly-thousands of people who go (it’s about a 20,000 attendance).

Aside from my previously mentioned gigs, I did get to see a few fantastic things – here’s a short summary:

Bill Drummond – doing his ‘How To Be An Artist’ talk – funny, charming, self-deprecating and ever-so-slightly nuts. A fabulously entertaining show that resulted in me forking out £2 for 1/10,000th (strictly, 2/20,000ths) of an original Richard Lock print. He was remarkably restrained, given his propensity for doing things that lots of people find shocking (burning a million quid, throwing dead sheep onto the steps of the Brit Awards, numerous other activities that have really upset a lot of people).

Ben Castle – saxophonist with his quartet, featuring the wonderful Tim Harries on bass (sadly not weilding his BC Rich Warlock bass, but sounding just as metal as ever).

Carleen Anderson – with Ben and half his band as well, and featuring the also-wonderful Andy Hamill on bass. (Sunday was a killer bass day at Greenbelt, with Oroh Angiama also turning up on the mainstage earlier on in the evening!

Juliet Turner – I never get tired of listening to Juliet play; genius singer/songwriter, with a great trio, playing in a lovely venue. And I was compering. What fun!

A panel discussion on the intersection between faith and comedy – four very talented comedy peoples (Milton Jones, Paul Kerensa, James Cary and Jude Simpson). I also saw (and guested on) Jude’s own gig, which was as funny and charming as always.

Pure Reason Revolution – neo-prog trippy loveliness, with a former student of mine on bass. Sounded great.

Jazz Jamaica – the motown project, featuring many many amazing musicians and some very cool arrangements. Nice to see Alex Wilson, Jason Yarde and Gary Crosby again.

And aside from that the hundreds of friends caught up with, smiles and hugs shared, news swapped, and friendships rejuvinated. Much fun indeed. I’ve got a lot of pictures, that I’ll hopefully put here over the next few days.

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and on a lighter note

Had a fun weekend, though not got as much work done as I should have.

Starting Friday lunch-time, it was yet another ‘last ever’ gig for the RFH Foyer as booked by JazzShark. It was a particularly fitting booking, as it was Rebecca Hollweg, a fabulous singer/songwriter, with a great lil’ quartet, featuring Andy Hamill on bass – one of my favourite bassists in the country. It was a lovely gig, with yet another ‘thanks, Sue!’ speech at the end, and a great rendition of ‘How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You’, with Winston Clifford changing the words to ‘How Sweet It Is To Be Booked By Sue’!

Friday night was a Soul Space meeting, planning the next service, which I won’t be at. They’re doing a Labyrinth service, which are always fun – see labyrinth.org.uk for more on what they are (and do the online version – it’s very chilled and lovely.)

Saturday started with teaching, and then in the afternoon it was Malcolm’s ordination at St Paul’s Cathedral. Malcolm (and his other half, Meryl) have been at St Luke’s for ages, and have had a pretty huge influence on the way the church looks, feels and thinks. Very lovely peoples. Malcolm has been at Vicar Hogwarts for a couple of years, and was ordained on Saturday. I got there 10 minutes before the service started and already all the seats were gone – seems there are lots of people in London who like the high-camp of some C of E pomp and ceremony on a Saturday afternoon. So I stood at the back, gave Malcolm a wave as he came in, and left after about half an hour, and headed over to The RFH, to go to the Patti Smith gig at Meltdown.

Was there very early, so was following the score in the Tennis. Murray was two sets to love up, looking good for another upset. Fell apart in the third, lost it 6-0. Was a break up in the fourth, all going v. well, but the length of the match got the better of him, and he still lost. It was a very odd experience just following the score – no news, no report, no audio. Just the score changing on my phone screen as I hit refresh… Very sad to see him lose.

Anyway, Juliet turned up, and we went in to see John Cale – who was on startling form. The opening tune was a spooky surreal monologue in the style of Velvet Underground’s ‘The Gift’, which some fantastic spacey noises.. and a very recogniseable bass sound… …which I soon recognised as being Flea from the Chili Peppers. I’m still not sure if I really dug what he was doing… it was a lot more pentatonic/obvious lick-based stuff than the rest of the band, but maybe in needed that to ground it… hmmm

Anyway, the rest of the set blended so many fantastic elements, from the spookiness of the opener, to some really straight ahead piano-playing singer-songwriter stuff through to full on Neil Young stylee guitar-rage in the last track. A sublime set. Always good to see the old guys rock out!

during the break, we realised we were sat next to Roy Harper, a genial chatty bloke, for sure, who amusingly kept throwing plastic cups at the losers in front of us who kept blocking our view by standing in stupid places.

Patti’s gig was very fine too – she played through the whole ‘Horses’ album, start to finish, and then did ‘My Generation’ as cover at the end, not wholly convincingly, with a ‘rise up and take the streets’ rant in the middle… A fine sentiment, but a tricky one to deliver in the middle of a song without looking like a raving polemicist. Discourse works better than shouting, methinks. Or am I just getting old?

Anyway, I was very pleasantly surprised by her set – most of Rock’s sacred cows have no place, in my humble opinion, being on the throne they are on, but she was entertaining, engaging, intelligent and captivating.

Sunday – church in the morning (sermon was way too long and I can’t can’t handle full-on exegesis on a Sunday morning…), followed by coffee in Highgate with Steve and Lorna, after which the three of us meet up with Harry, Karen and Juliet for more cakes. Too much cake.

And finally, last night, called round to Orphy’s to drop off a copy of Jazz Review (he does the blindfold test this month), and ended up helping him register orphyrobinson.com and getting orphyrobinson.blogspot.com set up as well, so he’s now got a news page, and an atom feed – here.

Soundtrack – Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder, ‘Talking Timbuktu’.