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

What, no mention of the election result??

What is there to say? Labour back in – no surprise there. Greatly reduced majority – good news, or it would be if the Tories hadn’t taken so many of the seats. Interesting that the Tories took those seats due to a swing from Labour to Lib-Dem, rather than Lab to Tory… Lib-Dems did well but not as well as some predicted. Took a couple of very key seats (Hornsey being about the highest profile of them).

It’s nice to see that Michael Howard is stepping down. Hopefully whoever takes his place will be less overtly racist in their policy formation. While I dread the idea of a Conservative government again, a weak opposition is really bad for democracy. Good riddance to Howard and his race-baiting immigration policies.

‘Tis a shame the Greens didn’t get in in Brighton – they did get a load of votes, and it bodes well for the next election. I just hope that some miraculous thing transpires where we switch to Proportional Representation – that way, we would have green MPs, a vote for the Greens wouldn’t be wasted, and the Lib Dems would just about double their number of seats… though it would also give the BNP a voice in parliment… hmmm, maybe we need stronger laws about racial hate-speech. Glad to see the BNP didn’t get any MPs, and their highest number of votes in any constituency was less than 5000… still, the thought that there are 5000 people in Barking willing to vote for a fascist party is pretty frightening.

Will Blair go? i doubt it. Nice to see some MPs sticking their heads over the parapit and calling for his resignation. Would Brown be any better? Who knows. Sad to see Blunkett back in – off the scene for 5 months, and now all is forgotten apparently. I haven’t forgotten his draconian insanity in his time as Home Secretary, so dread to think what he’ll do in his new role as Work and Pensions secretary.

Basically, it looks like being business as usual for president Blair – a few vaguely contrite words about learning from the election, followed by more of the same. *sigh*.

SoundtrackSheila Chandra, ‘Moonsung’ (I can’t ever imagine getting bored with this album, it’s perfect); Steve Lawson/Jez Carr, ‘Conversations’ (not listened to this for a few months, very nice to pull it out again and have a listen – I’d forgotten how lovely some of Jez’ playing on it is).

Is There Something I Should Know???

…and other such classic Duran hits were all in evidence at the gig at The Forum on Tuesday night. And what a fantastic gig it was!! Really really great to see a bunch of ‘pop stars’ who can a) write fantastic melodies, b) come up with really interesting arrangements and c) play as well as anyone. Seriously great stuff. Oh for the days when pop stars could play instruments!!! It set the dick-heads that currently litter the charts in stark relief, that’s for sure…

Anyway. What else?? Of course, the big news is that the album is here!! All the advanced orders have now been sent out, so you should be getting them early next week. the packaging, CD printing, sound quality and everything is just great – Theo came round yesterday to sort out the press-list and to sign all the extra discs, and we were like a couple of kids with new toys! I’ve been listening to the CD almost constantly since it got here on Wednesday, and it just sounds fantastic! Even though we played it, it’s still hard to conceive that it was all done live… a strange feeling indeed. Anyway, if you haven’t got it already, you can order it now! Paypal/Gemm and post are what we’ve got happening at the moment, but CDBaby will be sorted v. soon, as will evinsol, hmv and a few others…

anyway, here’s the paypal button –


One word of warning to anyone planning to do the same thing, all the backordering on GEMM decimates your rating – if you did buy the CD through GEMM, please go and give us a good feedback rating, or it looks like we’re a bunch of charlatans…!

Wednesday night was fun – Bob Lee, buddy from California was in town, so Bob and I, along with a couple of other guys from the churchbass discussion list met up for a curry. I’m always amazed at the myriad friendships that the internet facilitates – it makes a nice counter argument to www.internetisshit.org, which, while I think they’ve got a point, does take it too far… :o)

Tomorrow I’ve got my first gig in ages with Jez – you know, the piano guy on ‘Conversations’ – it’s a wedding reception, which is cool cos I don’t get to play standards very often, and playing with Jez would be a pleasure even if the gig was all TV Themes!

Soundtrack – Me and Theo (both discs), Billy Bragg, ‘Must I Paint You A Picture?’, The Cure, ‘Greatest Hits’, Scritti Politti, ‘Cupid And Psyche’, John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’ – if you’re in any way interested in solo bass and singer/songwriters, you NEED to hear John’s music – he’s seriously good – great tone, fantastic voice, fine lyrics, and all really well produced – GO AND BUY THIS CD.

There ain't nothing like The Dame

Just been listening to Dame David Bowie (was it Smash Hits who christened him that?? I think so… whoever it was, it does seem to fit…) Anyway, been listening to Heathen, his album before the brand new one, released about a year or so ago. And it’s really really good! like, marvellous. What a great thing it is to be in your 50s and still producing great art, carrying yourself with dignity and exercising the kind of creative freedom that Bowie seems to wield.

Anyway, what have I been up to, I hear you ask. Well, I finished that transcription for Total Guitar, though I haven’t heard back from them, so I’m waiting to hear if it’s OK or not…! I’m sure it will be.

Been practicing a lot – got the bug again a few days ago, after a while off from feeling inspired by new solo ideas. I was still enjoying playing the tunes in my set, but wasn’t hearing anything new. Then yesterday, I started to get some more ideas. Can’t wait to get my new bass, which should be here by the end of September… hopefully. As soon as it arrives, I’ll start work on the next solo album.

Hang on! Talk of a next solo album is all too previous, given that ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ by Steve Lawson and Theo Travis isn’t out yet. At this moment in time, I’m listening through the extra material for the preorder CD special. IF you remember, last time I released a CD, the extra disc was ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt 1’, which features some of my favourite solo work anywhere – as you can see, this extra disc thing is not just a way of farming out a load of left over rubbish, for us it’s about getting more music out there, making it available and of course creating the incentive for you lovely people to part with your hard-earned crisp ‘n’ folding before the thing is even released. The reasons for this should be fairly obvious – we don’t have an external record company with a bottomless pit of cash. It’s us, doing it for ourselves, like the sisters, so any money we can make back before the thing is even out is a huge help to the cause.

So we release additional CDs, which entice you into buying more stuff, give us the chance to get more music out there, and help to pay the bills. Everyone’s a winner, baby!

So where was I? Ah, yes, the extra tracks for the Lawson/Travis album – these are freakin’ fabulous!! Easily good enough to have made it onto the CD itself. So do make sure that as soon as the new album goes on sale, you get a copy ordered. It’ll be a strictly limited edition…

Advert over. Start of new advert… :o) – I discovered the other day that my CDs are available at www.towerrecords.com and www.hmv.co.uk – just go to either site and search on my name! Wahey, solo bass goes mainstream! I guess the HMV one means that you can also order it from any HMV shop, so please do – it’ll really help with the distrubution of future CDs if you go and get Not Dancing and Conversations there now…

Tonight, I’m off into town to see Cathy Burton play – she’s a fab singer/songwriter, and is at Sound in Leicester Square tonight, on at 9.15 if you fancy it…

The Aged Feline was at the vets again this morning – good news is his weight’s gone up a bit (been going down for months), bad news is, his kidneys are failing a little more… hoping we can fix ‘im up soon… poor darling.

Soundtrack – right now, me and theo. also, David Bowie, ‘Heathen’; Michael Manring, ‘Thonk’; Denison Witmer, ‘Recovered’; Calamateur, ‘Son Of Everyone EP’; Athlete, ‘Vehicles And Animals”; Vigroux/Cury/Rives/Lawson;

Two steps from greatness…

Have you ever checked out cdbaby.com ? It’s a very cool indie music sales site, based in Oregon, with a great website, cool search functions and a lot of support for artists… Anyway, they have a system where CDs are linked from different pages, and one of them is the ‘Other CDs you will love’ section – Ron Miles is a very fine trumpeter extraordinaire, and dueter with the mighty Bill Frisell on his new CD… which is for sale at CDbaby… and who’s album should be in the ‘Other CDs you’ll love’ section, but me and Jez – Conversations! So there you go, just two steps from Frisell… don’t believe me, see for yourself…

Soooo, what else has been going on here? Currently working on the artwork for a CD by a Danish girl band called Desta – Jez is producing it, and last night I went over to see him and take some piccies of the band, and today I’m putting it together. It’s looking rather good, though I say so myself. It’s amazing what you can do with a fairly crappy digi camera and a bit of experience in photoshop…

Other than that? Been sorting out some upcoming gigs (see the gigs page), and also getting some dates arranged for Rick Walker when he comes over to Europe – Rick is a fine percussionist from Santa Cruz, with whom I’ve toured a couple of times, and whose friendship and musicianship I’ve enjoyed ever since my first solo gig in the US, which he organised back in Jan 2000… I’ll post more details about his Euro-dates here at some point…

Soundtrack – did lots of driving yesterday and listened to more of the Disposable Heros album, which still sounds amazingly fresh and inspiring 11 years after it was released. Then I had Paul Simon’s greatest hits on – I do love greatest hits albums, they are sort of a summary of where people have got to, it’s like recapping for those who missed the first half of a conversation, and Paul Simon’s GH is one of the most consistently outstanding bodies of work in the pop world. He’s amazing, and still making brilliant music, as You’re The One bore witness to. At home I’ve been listening to Ned Evett – ‘Circus Liquor’, Bill Frisell Live, Matt Garrison, and various projects featuring me!

Long Time No See…

Haven’t blogged in a while – what’s been going on?

Er, lots of teaching, mainly. Did have a fun recording sesh with Theo Travis on alto flute – just doing improv duets. We got some great stuff down, some of which will be on the website before too long. However, it was all recorded in Mono due to the limitations of my recording set up, so I finally bit the bullet and got a new sound card, and a miniature desk – nothing flash, just an M-Audio Delta 44 card, and a Beringher 8 channel desk – but it will allow me to record two people in stereo separately, so that I can then mix it properly afterwards, and also record at a much higher resolution than before, meaning better fidelity… All in all, I’m rather excited about the possibilities. It is amazing what can be done now with such basic technology (or at least, basic by current standards) – stuff that 20 years ago would have taken weeks of studio editing and very expensive gear is now doable at the click of a button in a bit of free software that came bundled with your soundcard. Very nice.

Anyway, I shall start recording some new solo stuff before too long as well, as I’ll be able to route the Echoplexes to different channels, and mix the whole thing afterwards. It also means I’ll have to original material on one track, so that people can remix it, which I’ve had a few requests from remixers for…

What else? Ah yes, I just added a new MP3 to the site – it’s of Michael Manring and I playing together at The Anaheim Bass Bash in January – that was a lot of fun, organised by the people behind bassquake, and at the end of my solo set, I called Michael up to do a duo tune – he was on after me anyway, so it made for a nice smooth cross over. Anyway, he came up, got a sound, and I started playing a sort of dubby percussive groove, he joined in with the E-Bow and started playing a melody/solo idea, which I looped a tremolo chordal part of the top of my initial bass/percussive stuff loop. I then pickup up the E-Bow too and added an odd atmospheric line (sounds sort of like a bowed cymbal, if you’ve ever heard that), and then a strummy funk guitar line, all under Michael’s ever evolving melody line. Eventually I switch to a distorted melody line that’s pretty fractured and spikey – lots of dissonance and nastiness. I think that’s followed by us trade melody lines (interesting to hear how our different fretless tones sound together) and at the end Michael uses the sample and hold function in his VF1 to do an ambient loop, which I follow, fading out my loops and building a more soundscape-type piece to fade. All in all, a lot of fun – hope you enjoy it too – go to the MP3 page for more on that….

Er, what else? not much. Been reading more of ‘Stupid White Men’ by Michael Moore, a very vital voice in the current world political scene (which seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, just when you thought it couldn’t get any lower… Michael’s film, Bowling For Columbine is by far the best film I’ve seen in the last couple of years, and is the biggest grossing documentary of all time (he’s got #2 as well, with ‘Roger and Me’) – it’s a must see.

Soundtrack – lots of things of late. Right now, it’s Greg Mathieson and Abe Laboriel – a CD I first heard 3 years ago, and which has finally been released – an awesome bass/piano duo record, and part of the inspiration for Conversations. What else? Madonna – ‘Something To Remember’, Ron Eschete – ‘Mo Strings Attached’ (with Todd Johnson on bass), Ornette Coleman – ‘The Shape Of Jazz To Come’, Genesis – ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, Cyndi Lauper – ‘She’s So Unusual’, Sugar – ‘Copper Blue’, The Minutemen – ‘Double Nickels On The Dime’, Donnie Hathaway – ‘Live’, Julie Lee – ‘Made From Scratch’ and the tracks that Theo and I recorded last week…

Improv…

I’m feeling rather lucky at the moment – Tuesday night, lovely Jez came round, went out for a curry, then had a jam for an hour… playing music with Jez is always a treat – he’s a very very musical chap, great listener, and exceedingly creative improviser (as those of you who have conversations will no doubt be aware) – the kind of stuff we play changes depending on our mood, the instrument (normally he’s playing an electric piano, here he was playing a real one), the room, whether I’m looping or not (I wasn’t), and whatever we’ve both been playing recently. So it really is very conversational, and quite revealing as to how we’re feeling…

Then, last night was the radio broadcast for LCR, which included lots of duo improv with Antoine Farfad – a bassist who was using a V-Bass processor to get some great synth sounds. More improv, very different context, and with someone I’d never met before let alone played with. So the whole thing was very different from the jez setting, but just as rewarding. Antoine’s playing was marvellous – something you’ll be able to check out next week when the show gets archived at the radio station website. I’ll add a link as soon as it’s there…

Then, this Sunday, I’m off to Brighton to play with Tess Garroway (see gigs page for details) – a jazz singer with a heavily improvisational slant. Just got a CD of her stuff yesterday which is excellent (listening to it right now). What fun – all this improv is great for developing listening skills, new approaches, learning new ideas, and finding new contexts for stuff that I already do…

What fun!

What else has been happening? er, lots of teaching, which has been great – new students, old students, lots of very interesting people with a desire to learn.

Got the new copy of Q through… very disappointing. Christina Aguilera on the cover? Q? huh? not good. And, in their 50 most outrageous people in rock article, GG Allin doesn’t get a look-in. And frankly, if there were a more outrageous person in the music industry, they’d probably be dead by now… GG made Marilyn Manson look like Cliff… a true nutter, very sad case, and now dead, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Supposedly there’s a documentary about him somewhere, but I’m not sure I’d have the stomach to watch it… dark stuff…

but I digress.

So today – teaching, and a workshop for a church band down in Kent tonight, which should be a lot of fun.

Soundtrack – lots of Mike Watt, mainly ‘Ball-Hog Or Tug Boat?’, which is marvellous. Also, this Tess Garroway CD, which is a mixture of live and studio stuff, and is very good. what else? ah, Lewis Taylor’s first album, which is unbelieveably good. Amazing. Genius.

Lessons learned from a useless DJ pt 1

I have to thank Jon Gaunt… I made a fine discovery today, thanks to him.

For those of you that don’t live in London, or do but don’t listen to BBC Radio
London, he’s the ill-informed, reactionary, argumentative waste of oxygen
that comprises a big turd-stain on an otherwise fabulous schedule at Radio
London, between 9 and 12am… His is a phone in show, in which anyone
who disagrees with said loser gets shouted down or cut off or insulted and
sundry equally ill-informed losers (why on earth should I give a monkey’s
what Joe-schmoe-cabby thinks about Asylum seekers?? Has he done the
research? has he worked in a camp, or a homeless shelter? does he have
any idea what it’s like to be dislocated??? of course not!!! So why on earth
are his views being broadcast across London, at the licence payer’s
expense?????????????) phone in to agree with Mr Gaunt’s ludicrous polemic…

Anyway, thanks the small person leaving the radio on to entertain the
aged feline today when she went to work (a futile exercise, given the
profound deafness of the afore-mentioned feline, but a cute attempt
anyway…), I was subjected to about 5 minutes of Gaunt’s bile-filled
ranting, and turned over to radio 4. Woman’s Hour. What great radio!!
Quality broadcasting, expert opinions, funny presenters… good lord! any
way of getting that Gaunt loser to have a listen?

Jumped in the car to drive to Oxford to see Jez, and leave the radio on –
very funny radio play, followed by fascinating docu-thingie on inner city
schools. So thanks to Gaunty’s attempts to be ‘the british Rush Limbaugh’
(yes, my US friends, he’s that useless…) I have now discovered the delights
of Radio 4… :o)

Anyway, the visit to Jez’ was highly enjoyable and resulted in another
fascinating improv track, which will probably be available from the Pillow
Mountain Records
website for download soon, as an early Christmas Pressie
for anyone that wants it… No looping on the track this time, just my bass
and his piano and some lovely noises. Same premise as the ‘Conversations’
stuff. No discussion of key/vibe/anything. Just plug in and play… a rather
invigorating way to spend the day. Jez is a very intuitive musician, and
plays some fantastic stuff on here…

Came home, listening to more Radio 4 stuff on the way. Was hassled
mercilessly by the cat when I got in, who clearly doesn’t like being left
on his own during the day anymore, even though I’d fed him and given
him maximum snuggles before I went out… There’s no pleasing some
small furry people…

Soundtrack – well, during the few moments when I’ve not
been indulging my new love affair with Radio 4, I’ve listened to Cupid
and Psyche again, Peter Gabriel’s Up, the new Keith Jarrett double live CD,
and this new track from me and Jez, which is play at the moment…

Right, off to cook dinner now…