Two gigs this week (watched) and two days at LGS.

LGS being the London Guitar Show. I was there Friday to meet up with the nice peoples at Bass Guitar Magazine to chat about me writing a column for them, which I now need to sketch out a plan for, and then get writing. Caught up with a few other friends. Went back Saturday to see more friends, and was hoping to check out the Celinder basses which are amazing (Lowell brought one to my workshop in Cupertino , California back in January, and I wanted to see more), but the noise was so loud it was pointless.

However through the din I did get to listen to Laurence Cottle, jamming with guitarist Paul Stacey, and despite the noise and Paul having to play through a bass amp, they made a glorious noise. Fab musicians. Caught up with more friends. It wasn’t a bad show for bass stuff – the Bass Centre had a stand with all manner of bargains on it, EBS, GB Guitars, MarkBass, Celinder, the re-born Trace Elliot, Ashdown, Peavey and a few others were there with plenty of bass toys. It’d be unfair to compare it to NAMM as a) it’s open to the public, and all about selling stuff not launching new products and getting dealers and b) it’s in England.

The two gigs were Nitin Sawhney on Wednesday, and The Bays on Friday.

Nitin’s gig was a bit of a disappointment – the tunes he did with the Asian singers, Nina Bhardwaj and some guy whose name I can’t find online, were amazing. Great vocalists. The other stuff came over like a load of Urban Species mid 90s mellow hip-hop grooves with some OK tunes. Nothing special. Maybe it’s just that I had high expectations. It was enjoyable, just not the mind blowing experience I’d expected. Still, Orphy Robinson came with me, and an evening out with Orphy was enough to make it all worthwhile (and I didn’t pay for the ticket – ’twas a present from Dweez, who couldn’t go due to work commitments – thanks John!)

The other gig.. actually, there were two other gigs, as I went to see Roger Beaujolais play with his sextet in the Foyer of the Festival Hall before going to see The Bays in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Roger’s band were very fine – London really does have some fantastic jazz players!

The idea behind The Bays is that they play completely improvised club-tastic dance grooves. The feel can change from night to night – sometimes its more house-y, sometimes more Drum ‘n’ Bass-ish. Friday night sounded like Gong remixed by Daft Punk. Top notch. The addition of a third keyboard player and a guy playing synth stuff on guitar was fine, but hardly necessary, as they make enough noise as a quartet. Still, the gig was fab, and I’d recommend the Bays to anyone who can cope with the volume (it was loud!).

SoundtrackEric Roche, ‘With These Hands’ (Eric’s had to cancel a few gigs again recently due to being ill, so if you’ve been playing to buy this fantastic record, now would probably be a good time! Head over to Eric’s site to have a listen – he’s one of the finest solo acoustic guitarists I’ve heard, one of the nicest people I know, and an indie artist that you really ought to support by buying his marvellous CDs!)

another nice review… but what's a ronin??

This mag –

is Bass Guitar magazine (not to be confused with Bass Guitar Magazine, which is British) – it’s a good mag, if a little focussed on metal for my own reading tastes.

Anyway, they reviewed Grace And Gratitude in their new issue. It’s a small but friendly review, but I’ve no real idea what a ronin is – obviously it’s meant to be slighty cryptic, give the italics in the review, but I’m not sure how it applies to what I do…

(thanks to Fenderbird from the dudepit for sending me the scan!)

Here’s one explanation of Ronin, from This site
The samurai is an elite warrior in service of a lord and bound by codes of obedience and bushido. He is expected to be absolutely loyal to his master, no matter what the personal consequences of his duty are. The ronin is a masterless samurai who have lost their status due to their own misdeeds or the untimely death of their lord. Ronin became farmers, monks, soldiers of fortune or even bandits, beggars, and assassins. Many committed ritual suicide.

…not sure I like that!! Farmer? Bandit?? SUICIDE??????

Someone help me out here…

SoundtrackRon Miles, ‘Heaven’.

two fine gigs in one day. (oh, and a really hideous guitar show…)

So last night (well, actually two nights ago now, seeing as how it’s 1am Thursday…) – anyway, on Tuesday night, The Cheat and I went to two gigs in one night. Firstly to see Iain Archer supporting Paddy Casey at Scala in Kings Cross. Scala’s a really nice venue – I’ve seen Spearhead and the Dum Dums there before – and Iain was on top form. He had Paul and Phil Wilkinson from The Amazing Pilots on bass and drums, and the trio was incredible. Loads of energy, big grooves (I’ve been a big fan of Phil’s drumming since I first saw the Pilots play, and he just gets better and more inventive…) And Iain’s guitar sounded particularly good. He’s a megastar in the making. It’s been really interesting to watch his music evolve, from his days as a gentle acoustic pop songwriter (his debut album, ‘Playing Dead’ is marvellous, but very different from where he’s at now), through a mid period of experimentation, to where he’s at now, absorbing all kinds of interesting influences and being genuinely brilliant. His new album, ‘Flood The Tanks’ is just out. I’ve got it on order, and from what i’ve already heard, it’s great stuff and highly recommended.

After that, we walked up Pentonville Road to ‘Bar Academy’ in Islington. Got lost twice (once due to me, once due to The Cheat), to see Nick Harper. Nick’s great. I was introduced to his music by Catherine Streetteam (thanks!), and then saw him play at Greenbelt last year. His is the highest energy one man acoustic show I’ve ever seen. Great guitar playing, great voice, hilarious stage presence, and apparently, tourettes syndrom (someone who swears more than me – is this possible??). Anyway, he was bloomin’ marvellous.

All in great contrast to Sunday – The London Guitar Show was on at Wembley. In case you don’t know, the basic premise is that lots of big companies pile in there, and loads of apparently dreadful guitarists and bassists arrive and playing badly, loudly and incessantly for a weekend. The joke is that people go there to buy guitars, even though trying one out would be like sound-testing it on the hard shoulder of the M25 in rush hour. there’s no way to check things like sustain, quality of tone, noise floor etc. You just can’t hear anything.

The various artists actually playing on the stands had a hard time being heard, so turned up and just became part of the general mush.

Still, it was nice to see some friendly faces – Franck Vigroux, Stuart Clayton, Dave Marks, Bernie Goodfellow, Martin Simms, Svetlana Vasileva, the Bass Centre people, BassTech people, Bass Guitar Magazine People (who got me in for free as well – thanks very much!), and a few old friends.

Also managed to catch a few minutes of the Scottish Guitar Quartet, who even with the din in the background were fantastic. Well worth checking out.

SoundtrackPeter Gabriel, ‘Up’; Jonatha Brooke, ‘Steady Pull’; Calamateur, ‘The Old Fox of ’45’ – this last one is fantastic ; I’ve posted about Calamateur before, and this is just released – great new album, reworkings of some of the tracks that have been on EPs before, and some new stuff. Andrew’s songwriting, singing and production just gets better and better, and it’s no wonder he’s had airplay from John Peel and The Late Junction, amongst others… a lo-hi gem, highly recommended.

Happy Christmas (tour is over)

Last night was the last night of the tour with Michael Manring. Another great gig in a long string of great gigs. I think this was probably the most enjoyable tour I’ve ever done – all the gigs went supremely well, nearly all of them were filled to capacity, the promoters of the gigs were all marvellous, the audiences were all very responsive, we all sold loads of CDs. There are lots of very fine reviews coming in on various forums (see the interact forums on my site for the biggest repository, and if you were at the shows, please sign in and say hi!)

Thanks to everyone who came to the gigs, and especially those of you who took the time to come and say hi. It’s always lovely to meet people at gigs.

Thanks also to Bass Guitar Magazine for their sponsorship, Mansons Guitar Shop for hosting the clinic in Exeter, Stiff Promotions for promoting the Petersfield and Southampton shows, Ali Martin for doing the posters for those two gigs, Sebastian Merrick for co-promoting the Troubadour gig, Ayshegul for all her hard work on the Troubadour show, Catherine for doing CDs at the Troub, Delicatessen for the Reading gig, especially evil harv and Terri, Richard Ravenhill for doing such a killer job on the Brighton show, Grant Sharkey for his help promoting the Southampton gig, Mark the soundman at Joiners for the best live sound we’ve ever had, and my street team for loads of promo assistance, flyering, and generally being very cool indeed. And of course, to Michael Manring and John Lester for doing the shows – what fun!

So the next gig is Thursday in Stoke Newington – that’ll be a lot of fun, as it’s with Theo Travis, so we’ll be playing the material from ‘Open Spaces’.

Soundtrack – Prince, ‘Sign Of The Times’; David Sylvian, ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’; Rain Tree Crow, ‘Rain Tree Crow’; Paul Simon, ‘Greatest Hits’; Abe Laboriel/Greg Mathieson.

Road Tales Pt 1.

As you may be able to tell by the time this is posted, I’m jetlagged. very jetlagged. Two hours sleep, then wide awake. It’s 4.38am, and I’m trying to think of things to do, listening to Muriel Anderson’s ‘A Journey Through Time’ (Muriel’s great, and will hopefully be coming to the UK in April…), and chatting to Trip on MSN.

So California stories – flew in on Sat 10th, and got the SuperShuttle to Anaheim, where I was recording a record with Kofi Baker and Ned Evett. Got set up and crashed out.

The next three days were a mix of hanging with Ned while Kofi taught, and then recording all evening – as late as my jetlag going that way would allow us. the material was largely improvs, most of which we then played again in some sort of structured way to see what came out. It’s now all in the editing – some great material was certainly recorded, but the wheat and chaff need separating! Kofi and Ned are both marvellous musicians, so it was a lot of fun to do, and a bit of a challenge to be back playing complex rythmic twiddly stuff after lots of ambient noodling…

then, NAMM – huge trade show in Anaheim, music gear manufacturers, dealers, distributors, journos and players descend on the convention centre, in a desparate attempt to do business. the makers are trying to hawk their wares – some by just making good stuff, others by getting porn stars to stand around on their booths, or lame 80s has-been rock stars doing signings… normally means the product isn’t worth looking at.

I was playing for Modulus and AccuGroove, and doing a show report for Bass Guitar Magazine, and catching up with lots of old friends – it’s one of the downsides of being a bassist is that there are rarely more than one of us on a gig, so we only meet up in airports and at NAMM… Also got to meet up with lots of friends from talkbass, the dudepit, churchbass, TBL, the lowdown, and my street-team! the now annual tradition of dinner with David Torn, Doug Lunn and Vida Vierra was as marvellous as ever, and playing at the Bass Bash was a blast, as was my gig in the lobby of the Marriott next to the show (ah yes, solo bass goes loung-core…)

NAMM ended sunday, on monday trip and I drove to Costa Mesa for a coffee house gig lined up for us by Bob Lee – nice little coffee shop, played outside, Seth Horan turned up and did a couple of tunes and was wonderful. Trip’s set was marvellous too, and his ‘did I suck?’ question at the end was so laughable it almost warranted a kick in the plums. Lots of friendly faces turned up, including Fred Hodson from Talkbass (thanks Fred!), Kerry Getz and Jason Feddy. Crashed at Kerry’s house, and on Tuesday morning Bob Lee showed Trip and I round QSC, and they lent me a poweramp for the tour (the AccuGroove powered cabs weren’t finished in time for the tour, so I took a pair of passive ones, and used the QSC amp, which sounded great.

Tuesday afternoon was the gig at CalArts with Andre LaFosse, which went well, and included a marvellous duo version of MMFSOG. Then off to see Vida and Dani for a few days. I’ve probably spent 3 months total in California now over the last 5 years, and this was the first time I’ve been to the beach! Took a walk along Venice beach, wandered around book shops and record shops, and soaked up the atmosphere. Also took a walk round the Yogananda peace garden in Santa Monica which is a beautiful inspiring place, where I’d be spending a lot of time were I living nearby…

Wednesday night went to see Abe Laboriel playing with 3 Prime at the Baked Potato – a trip to LA wouldn’t be complete without either seeing Abe or going to the BP, and as always the band were amazing.

Friday started with breakfast with Jimmy Haslip, and was followed by the long drive to Santa Cruz, which was even longer due to it taking two hours to get out of LA! But got to Rick and Jessica Turner’s place late evening, and talked for hours. Some tours are all about heavy gig schedules and travellings. Others are all about the people you meet. This was a people tour – the gigs were great, but it was the friendships, talking long into the night, eating lovely food, plotting world domination that made this trip special. I travel half way round the world and get treated like family, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Saturday (24th Jan we’re up to), was dudepit clinic day, at Bob Streetteam’s house – 11 guys, lots of a basses, and a day of talking and thinking about music, and playing some stuff to demonstrate a few concepts which will hopefully keep the guys going til next year. Bob did a sterling job of organising and hosting the event – well above and beyond any expected level of support from a street-teamer. I’m constantly amazed at people’s generousity. There’s plenty of dark stuff going on in the world, and while governments are going about their f-ed up evil business, nice people are running counter to it, demostrating friendship and grace that makes you smile at the world, and gives you hope.

Sunday was KPIG day – Michael Manring and I playing solo and duo on this most wonderful of radio stations.

Next couple of days are spent shuttling backwards and forwards between AccuGroove world HQ (Mark’s house) in Cupertino, and Santa Cruz, catching up with more old friends and hanging out with the Turners and Muriel Anderson.

Then the ‘big’ gigs – three dates with Michael Manring and Trip Wamsley. All three gigs went really really well – loads of friends turned up, Trip and Michael both played really really well, we all sold CDs, had a blast, played some very cool trios and a tasty cover of Bruce Cockburn’s ‘Pacing The Cage’ each night. Each gig afforded us more time to see friends – staying with Bob Streetteam, and Mike Roe was great – and to play lots of fine music to lovely people. The Espresso Garden show was sold out, with lots of people unable to get in (fortunately they were able to stand by the door and listen, but still…)

Then, the long drive back to LA, introducing Trip to the delights of Prefab Sprout on the way, back to see Doug, Vida and Dani, out for Doug’s birthday, a trip round socal delivering gear back to its rightful owners, and a deep sleep.

Sunday, departure day, started with a dance class – no, I didn’t dance, much as I’d have liked to – I was part of the percussion section, which was more fun than one should have on a sunday morning. Doug dropped me at the airport, and after 74 levels of security checking, got on the plane, and fortunately sat next to a fascinating woman called Gael, and chatted for most of the way home, pausing to watch ‘Whale Rider’ and ‘School Of Rock’.

A great trip – possibly my fave trip so far to the states. some great gigs, new family, catching up with old friends, fun at NAMM, great contacts for the future, and a sense that all is not lost with the world despite the crapness of so many things from Dubya to the Dean Girls.

Doug, Vida, Dani, Rick, Jessica, Elias, Trip, Michael, Kelly M, Dan, Wally, Mark, Suzy, Bob A Kelly A, Mike, Kofi, Ned, Kerry, Bob L, DT, Seth, Becca, Jimmy, Anderson, Gael, Keith, Muriel and any others who’ve slipped my mind momentarily – many marvellous friends old and new, thankyou all. (good lord, three weeks in LA and I’ve come back an unreconstructed hippie…!)

And now it’s 5.23am, I need sleep. badly.

more on Tuesday’s gig with Theo soon…

Soundtrack – Muriel Anderson, ‘A Journey Through Time’, Mike Roe, ‘Say Your Prayers’, Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranean’ – three lovely friends with three lovely albums.

Let's go round again…

busy weekend. Have spent a fair amount of time in the last few days recording with Matthias Grob – Matthias is the inventor of the Echoplex, and a stunning guitarist (he built his own guitar as well, natch) and we’ve been coming up with all manner of delicious improv, ranging from ambient soundscape stuff to more funky things through to some scary out noises. All rather marvellous and invigorating. As with all this recent duet activity, I’m hoping to have some up online before too long – now that Sarda is back from the states, maybe he’ll get this server of his happening, and I’ll be able to move my site away from zetnet for eva…

Anyway, I digress – Matthias and I have been looping and chatting for a couple of days – talking lots of what we do, why we do it and how to get it across to people… All very stimulating stuff.

What else? ah yes, saturday there was a party for the 30th anniversary of the Greenbelt festival – a fun event, held at Lambeth Palace (the official residence of the AB of C – a nice gaff, which makes up for the rather crappy salary that goes with the job, as interestingly enough, all Church Of England Clergy are on the same wage, whether parish priest or Archbishop…) Anyway, was a fun time to catch up with lots of GB related chums that I’d not seen for a while.

This week is going to be BUSY – first up, I’ve got a recording sesh on Thursday )(more on that later, no doubt), then Friday night I’ve got a rather fun gig, filling in for the keyboard player in Lovesjones. ‘What, you don’t play keys!” – indeed I don’t, but I do make odd noises with a bass, so will be covering the keyboardish role on bass… then doing a solo set.. at Jazz After Dark in Soho… on Friday night.

Also got to relearn some of the improvs that Theo and I have done over the last couple of months for our gig next Tuesday at the National Theatre. So busy week of learning stuff. Still editing the tracks with theo. And the news stuff with Matthias. And hopefully hooking up again with BJ Cole. And listening through the tracks with Patrick Wood. Blimey, how much recording have I been doing lately???? loads, I tell yer!

What else is new? Oh, The CD shop at Bass Guitar Magazine’s website has started stocking my CDs, which is nice of them.

And a track from Not Dancing (Amo Amatis Amare) is on the cover disc that comes with Bassics Magazine – oh, have I mentioned that already? well, here’s the confirmation that it is indeed Amo Amatis…

Soundtrack – been listening to loads of the duo stuff with Matthias, obviously, and the tracks with Theo, and Matthias’s CD, which is great (out on Pillow Mountain Records v. soon) other than that, Kenny Wheeler’s album ‘Angel Song’ has been going round a lot in the kitchen, and today I’ve been listening to Coltrane’s ‘Complete Africa Brass Sessions’ which is incredible – I put it on to play during Mark’s lesson this morning, and it’s been in the player ever since…

A week in the life of…

…yep, sorry evil harv, I’m just going to write about what I’ve been up to again… ;o)

Main event of the week was another recording session with Theo Travis – I’d invested in a few new studio toys (a pair of powered monitors which make mixing a lot easier, and a new mic for recording flute/percussion etc…) so the session was better than ever, with some rather groovy results. The album’s really coming along – we’ve got loads of recordings to choose from already, but are in no hurry to just release anything. We’ll keep recording until we get a full album of stuff we love with no fillers. It’s slightly different to the way I normally work, in that we’re allowing ourselves to edit some of what we do (on one of the tracks we recorded on Thursday I removed an entire solo that I’d played, cos it was a bit dull…) but what you end up with at any one time is still just the two of us playing and looping in real time, with no additional overdubs… Theo was playing Soprano Sax as well on this session, which added a lot to what we were doing. It is, I guarantee, going to be a stellar album.

Thursday night, Evil Harv, Jimbob (AKA Sarda) and a couple of other chums went down to the Kashmir Klub – possibly London’s most important music venue, in that it costs nowt to get in, no-one gets paid, but the quality of the acts on is (usually) very high, (I played there with Susan Enan once) with occasional high profile people there (Lewis Taylor played there a lot earlier this year, and I’ve seen Nick Kershaw, Imogen Heap, The Dum Dums, Nerina Pallot and Doctor Robert (from the Blow Monkeys) play there). Anyway, Thursday wasn’t a great line up (better than most acoustic nights around, but not really up to The Kashmir’s usual standard) so we went off for coffee instead. The sad news is that the Kashmir is closing, at least for a time – the guy who owns the venue is doing something else with it, and despite them filling it night after night, he’s kicking them out. They are looking for a new venue, but who knows how long that will be. Please visit the website, and if you can sign petitions, write letters or just offer moral support to Tony Moore who’s been running it for 5 years, please do. It’s a great club, he’s a great bloke and London needs it.

Today, Evil Harv and I went to the London Guitar Show, at Wembley Conference Centre. It was fun, though alongside the NAMM show, it feels a little small and parochial. As most of the people there hadn’t been to NAMM, it was fine (I remember loving shows like that when I was a kid), and it was great to catch up with some friends I’d not seen for a while – Nick Beggs was playing on the Bass Guitar Magazine stand, doing his rather fabulous stick thang. It was fun to see the rest of the guys from BGM too. I had a nice chat and a coffee with John East, who makes the U-Retro preamp that I’ve got in my 6 string fretless, and bumped into Svetlana, who used to teach at BassTech, and is now playing bass for Moby! Also saw the Ashdown people, Nick Owen from the Bass Centre, lovely Hoda who now works for SWR and The Bass Centre, and all manner of other people that I only ever see at trade shows!

Another bizarre coincidence – was chatting to Barry Moorhouse from the Bass Centre about wanting to do more support slots. ‘You know who you should support’ says Barry, ‘The 21st Century Schizoid Band!’ – ‘I already have’ says me, and as I’m saying it, up comes Jakko Jakszyk, guitars from the Schizoids. which was a lovely surprise, as I’ve not seen Jakko since I did the tour with the them at the tail end of last year… We caught up on news and then I came home.

soundtrack – yesterday was the St Luke’s May Fayre, so I’ve got the usual haul of CDs, though it’s rather fewer than some years… Right now I’m listening to Lucious Jackson, ‘Fever In Fever Out’, which is rather good. Yesterday it was John McLaughlin, ‘Que Alegria’, which is also rather good, if a little note-heavy in places. Theo leant me a marvellous album – Arild Andersen, ‘The Molde Concert’, feature Bill Frisell on guitar – gonna have to buy that one. And in the car I’ve had Talk Talk, ‘Laughing Stock’ on regular rotation. And of course, in between all that, lots of the duo stuff with Theo…

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