Another fine Theo gig… and our last at the RFH for a while.

Yesterday’s gig went very well – playing with Theo is about the most relaxed and simple musical setting I’ve ever been in, knowing that whatever I do, he’s going to play something very cool to go with it. We did a couple of big improv things in the first set that came out very well indeed, and played all the usual stuff off the album very well too – we really need to do a live album to document how far the tunes have come, and also get the other stuff we do out there. We do a duet version of ‘Amo Amatis Amare’, from Not Dancing For Chicken, and a duet version of ‘All I Know’, which is from Theo’s ‘Heart Of The Sun’ album (a marvellous album).

What made the gig more special is that it was our last gig in the RFH Foyer for a couple of years, due to the refurbishment, and the last one booked by SueAKATheShark – she’s been booking music for the RFH Foyer for almost a century, since well before she was born, and is now moving to NYC. The Shark has booked some amazing music there over the years, and is a huge supporter, fan and friend to live music in London… Let’s hope she’s trained up some apprentices to carry on the jazz-evangelism on The South Bank.

Tonight is an even more auspicious occasion, in that it’s Sue’s last ever commuter jazz gig – every Friday since the end of the Napoleonic wars, Sue has booked a band to play after work in the RFH Foyer – again, more amazing music to a hugely appreciative crowd. So there’s a party afterwards tonight.

SoundtrackEric Roche, ‘The Perc U Lator’; Nirvana, ‘Nevermind’.

Eric Roche news

I mentioned that I’ve got a new tune dedicated to Eric Roche, and that he’s been ill again of late. Here’s the latest news item from his website

“We offer our sincere apologies to the people who tried to see &/or wanted to see Eric play in his recent scheduled shows around the UK
We are very sorry to inform you all that Eric’s cancer has spread & he is taking some proper time out to receive the best care, love & attention which he needs & deserves.
And, it is breaking his heart not to be well enough to play on stage at the present time, but as you can imagine, he is fighting hard to play live again soon.
Thank you for your kind words on the message board. We will keep updating the site with news as we get it.”

It breaks my heart to think that after all Eric went through last year to beat his initial cancer, that it’s back again. He’s one of the nicest, gentlest people I know, an incredible musician, and all-round inspiration.

If you’ve not heard him play, PLEASE go and have a listen to some of the MP3s on his site, and if you like what you hear (you will, believe me) buy a CD or three. Falling ill and not being able to gig is one of my biggest fears as a pro musician. We don’t get sick pay – this is what we do. If we can’t do it, we’re in the shit. So, head over to, listen, read, buy his CDs, and post nice things on his message board.

Get well soon, Eric,


Another fine Darbucka gig

So last night I was back at Darbucka, which, contrary to previous knowledge is no longer underneath India EC1 – they’ve taken over the upstairs part now, and the whole place is Darbucka! How cool is that?

Anyway, ’twas my third gig there, and I love playing there. The atmosphere is fab, the seating very relaxed and the owner, Ahmad is a good friend and supporter of live music.

Last night was extra-specially fun due to my two special guests, BJ Cole and Cleveland Watkiss.

The slightly surreal air that seems to drift around at my gigs began even before the show started, with George Galloway being in the venue when we got there… …sadly, he wasn’t there for an evening of mellow bass noodling, and left not long after we arrived to set up.

First set was just me, doing my thing. It was fun to play a slightly longer set, and get to play a couple of old tunes I haven’t played for a while – Highway One, and No More Us And Them, as well as a couple of new tunes – one slow country-ish thing so far called ‘What Happens When You Listen To Too Much Gillian Welch Late At Night’ (subject to change), and another untitled one, dedicated to Eric Roche a great friend and genius musician, going through a bit of a rough patch. (speaking of Eric, he’s playing at The Troubadour in Earl’s Court tonight, and is unmissably good – please go along and support him, you’ll thank me afterwards.)

Response to both old and new tunes was good, and Cleveland arrived during the last song of the set, so that was good!

Second set began with me on my own doing on tune (No More Us And Them, I think), and then BJ joined me for the next world premier of the evening – it was the first time BJ and I had played anything that was pre-written together. Usually, we just start playing and see where it goes. This time, we did a tune that BJ had joined in on in my soundcheck, a new tune called ‘So Long And Thanks For All The Thumbs’, and he added a huge amount of loveliness to the track! We then followed that with a bleepy, trippy improv, which ended with BJ in fine industrial soundscape mode, wringing all manner of weird and wonderful sounds from his knitting machine. What a fab player!

So I then kicked him off the stage, and brought up guest #2 for world premier #3 – Cleveland Watkiss. This was the first time Cleveland and I had played together on stage – we’ve played together twice before, but both times in my living room. He started us off with a clicky vocal percussion track, which I looped, slightly out of time, and we glitched it into a really really cool percussive soundscape with layers of oohs and aahs, and some dubby vocal samples, just him singing and me tweaking. At one point I was tempted to join in, but it didn’t need it, so I carried on tweaking and he carried on singing, and that was tune #1.

The second tune we did I started it off, funky thing in Am, which built up with layers and layers of fantastic beatbox into a full on clubby dancey thing, wah-wah guitars, clattering drums, dub vocals, all from just he and I. Another big success.

To finish off, I closed the main set with ‘People Get Ready’, then got BJ and Cleveland back for a mellow country ballad improv thing which just topped off the evening perfectly. A resounding success!

Hopefully I’ll be back at Darbucka before too long, I love it there!

if you want to get BJ’s or Cleveland’s CDs, you can get BJ’s here and Cleveland’s here (BJ’s newest album Trouble In Paradise is fantastic, as is Cleveland’s duet with Nikki Yeo)

If you were at the gig, please post your thoughts over in the reviews section of my forum.

Soundtrack – Maxwell, ‘Embrya’; Lewis Taylor, ‘Lewis Taylor’.

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!)

Andrea Dworkin has died

Apparently she died on Friday, but it only reached the press yesterday.

Dworkin was one of the most controversial writers of the 20th century, but also one of the most influential. Rabidly loved, hated and misquoted in almost equal measure, her opposition to pornography as a violation of all women’s rights made her the target of much vitriol from liberals in the US, but her books were read in their thousands, and and she even managed to temporarily get the US law changed (it was overturned at appeal.)

The net is filling up with comments – how sad that it takes the woman’s death for us (including me) to reappraise her contribution. Makes me want to go and read some of her books, having only read articles by and about her before now.

here are a few links to obits and comments –

Guardian Obit.
Hugo’s blog post
Jyoti’s blog
some crappy myths clarified.

There don’t seem to be that many revolutionary thinkers around these days – maybe I’ve stopped looking for them, but it just feels like the substance has dropped out the arse-end of cultural critique. Please, if you can suggest any books I should read, post them in the forum.

SoundtrackCathy Burton, ‘Burn Out’; Jaco Pastorius, ‘Jaco Pastorius’; Eric Roche, ‘With These Hands’; John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line; John Scofield, ‘Up All Night’.

American Tales pt 1

So I’m currently in Santa Cruz, having survived NAMM, and the drive north, and one gig with Michael Manring.

Got in last Tuesday, and was staying with the wonderful Doug, Vida and Dani for the first couple of days – it’s great to come out here and immediately feel at home. It just serves to reinforce my dislike of hotels.

Two days with the Lunns, then off down to NAMM. NAMM, for those new to the game, is a HUGE music equipment trade fair. The connection with the music industry means there are a fair few lovely people around. The commercial side of it means there are also a lot of losers on the make there. I tend to view NAMM as an archepelego (spelling, harv?) of lovely people in a sea of turd. you just run from one booth of nice people to the next, hoping not get hijacked by some moron trying to sell MIDI leiderhosen or the keyboard the doubles as a trouser press for musicians on the move…

All in all, it was a fab experience – I played at and compered the BassQuake event on Thursday night, which was much fun – Dan Elliot, the BassQuake founder, does an amazing job of putting together a great show every year.

On the show floor, I did one short set a day each for Modulus and AccuGroove, and spent lots of time just milling around catching up with people I rarely get to see. Some great friends where there – Anderson from Modulus, Mark and David from AccuGroove, Peter Murray, Michael Manring, Doug Lunn (again), Warren from Fodera, Wally and Lady Bo, Carl at Lakland, Eric Roche, Steve and Jill Azola, Rick and Jessica Turner, Dave Swift, Muriel Anderson, Sarita Stewart, John East, John Fearrante, Otiel Burbridge, Jeff Campatelli, Bill Walker, Bob Amstadt, Lowell, Dude. etc. etc. etc. loads and loads of great people, many of whom I only get to see once a year. Eating is a sacrament at NAMM – for me, I break bread with the Subway people every day – a foot long veggie delight, being my element of choice. Getting to eat with friends at NAMM is great, time away from the convention centre. Friday it was with Doug, Vida, Dani and Vinnie, Saturday with Peter Murray, Lunch was with Bob Amstadt on Saturday, and Tal Wilkenfeld on Sunday (fantastic young bassist from Australia working in NYC – you’re going to be hearing much more from her, I guarantee it).

So NAMM was lots of fun once again, and by not writing for a mag this year, I had a lot more time for just hanging out and enjoying the show.

During NAMM I was staying with Bob (QSC Bob from all the bass forums) and Alison – great people, who made me very welcome. The best thing about travelling is the people. The worst is missing the small person and the cats, but emailing whenever possible, and the occasional snatched phone call is having to do for now…

Sunday night after NAMM, Doug Lunn and I headed off the the Knitting Factory in LA to see Kaki King play – Kaki’s a killer guitarist, produced by the wonderful David Torn. She’s from that post-Hedges school, with a few twists of her own, and a great line in on-stage patter. A killer gig.

Tuesday was the long drive north, up here to Santa Cruz, staying with Rick and Jessica Turner. Rick and I could be stuck in a room together for months and not run out of things to talk about. They are both two of the most interesting and marvellous people I know, so coming here is my Northern California home, in the way that staying with the Lunns is in SoCal.

which brings us up to last night’s gig, back at the Espresso Garden in San Jose with Michael Manring. playing with Michael is, as you know from my raving after the UK gigs, the most enjoyable and fullfilling musical enviroment i’ve ever found myself in, and last night was great. Thanks to everyone who turned out.

And now I’m off out for lunch with Rick Walker, another great friend and fab percussionist.

more later…

General update…

OK, I’ll fill you in on general goings on over the last week or so.

Last weekend was spent in Holland and Germany. The event I went over for was the European Bass Day, run by Marco Schoots, who publishes the Dutch bass mag, and runs a record label – an amazing guy. I was booked to play solo (actually, I was booked to play last year, but there was a pretty major breakdown in communication with the people who had offered to fund the trip, and I ended up not going… but that’s a whole other story…) Anyway, I was booked to play solo, and also with one of my favourite singers/bassists, John Lester – John, as you’ll know is the guy that opened for Michael Manring and I back in March on our tour here in England, and neither Michael nor I can work out why he isn’t a megastar yet – amazing voice, great songs, friendly engaging stage presence and a fabulous bassist… I’ll never understand this industry…

So, I went over to Amsterdam a day early to see John, to rehearse a few of his tunes and hang out in Amsterdam (oh, life is hard for your friendly neighbourhood solo bassist!). That was Saturday, and Sunday we drove to Viersen, just over the German border, where the Bass Day was being held.

My feelings about bass-days in general are mixed – I really like the idea of getting together with a load of bassists, and I love the chance to catch up with all my bass-chums that are at these events. But I really can’t cope with listening to hours and hours of machine gun slapping; after about half an hour it all starts to sound like someone drilling for oil. I guess it’s just me, ‘cos lots of people seemed to really be into it, but it really gets tired pretty quick. Guitar-fests and drum-fests are the same.

On a gigging level, it tends to work in my favour, as I’m often there as the alternative to the slap-monsters, and certainly both my set and John Lester’s went down really well – good crowds, well received, and quite a few CDs sold.

And it was great to see so many friends there – Stefan Redtenbacher, Jan Olof Strandberg, Jono Heale, Stevie Williams, amd even one very nice guy who’d travelled from Germany to see the gig with Michael Manring in London a couple of weeks ago!

So a fine time was had, and we stayed up in a bar back in Venlo til the early hours of the morning.

Monday was back to England, and Tuesday we collected the cats. So the rest of the week has been pretty cat-centric for The Small Person and I, discovering that these truly are remarkable, friendly and utterly adorable little animals. How anyone could have given them up is beyond either of us. It’s been a week of many snuggles with our new feline family. We always felt so lucky to have had five years with The Aged Feline, and there’s no way that any new cats could replace him, but it’s great to be able to give a home to more abandoned cats, and to then find that they have personalities bigger than most drummers is such a great bonus!

Teaching has gone mad of late – I’ve been doing loads and getting loads more emails from people wanting to learn, travelling from all over the southern half of england, and wales! I really really enjoy teaching, so it’s great to be in demand, but I don’t want to get into a position where I have to start turning people away… maybe I should make street-team membership a prerequisite of having lessons, and whittle them down a bit that way! :o)

Which brings us up to Friday night, when I went to a comedy gig – I’m a big fan of Rich Hall, but this was the first time I’d seen him live, doing his ‘Otis Lee Crenshaw’ failed country singer routine. Very very funny indeed, don’t miss him if he’s gigging near you. He was on at Club Senseless, which is hosted by Ronnie Golden – a comedy songwriter, who plays at the club with his band Ronnie and The Rex – he’s great, very funny, very clever. My only problem with the club is the amount of smoke. The Kings Head in Crouch End has a very low ceiling and really shitty air conditioning, so I end up leaving half way through anything I go to there, choking to death. BRING ON THE SMOKING BAN, says I.

And Yesterday, after a 7 hour teaching day, I went over to Oxford to see Jez and Susan Enan. I hadn’t seen Susan in ages, probably not since I played on her EP, but she’s been very busy working on a new album, getting a management deal and is about to move to the states and become a star. She fab, and it was very very nice to catch up with her and hear a few of the rough mixes from the new CD.

But I got back so late that I slept in and missed church today… doh!

anyway, here’s another piccie of the Fairly Aged Felines –

Soundtrack – Keith Jarrett Trio, ‘Tokyo 96’; Julie Lee, ‘Stillhouse Road’; Eric Roche, ‘The Perc U lator’; John Martyn, ‘Solid Air’; Lifehouse, ‘Stanley Climbfall’.

Eric Roche is on the mend

a few weeks ago I blogged about my friend, Eric Roche – a fantastic guitarist, who’d be diagnosed with cancer of the saliva gland, and was going in for an op.

Well the great news is the docs say it was a complete success (so far), and he’s back home! Thank God.

Anyway, you can send him messages via the guestbook on his website, and also find out how to order his CDs from there which are amazing – I’ve got all three, and love ’em.

Last night was the Grace Barbeque, followed by ‘grill the bishop’, where Pete Broadbent, the bishop of west london (not sure what his official patch is, but it covers Ealing), was there to answer some questions. And what a remarkably cool bloke he is too. Sadly didn’t wear any weird point hats, and to be honest, I can’t imagine Pete wearing one… Must see that at some point. Lots of questions about a new book that the Church Of England has publish about the nature of church, and its relationship with churches that meet in cafes or nightclubs are are mellow and ambient like Grace is… all good stuff – seems like the C of E is waking up to church not having to happen on a sunday morning with a hymn book and a dude in a dress preaching. Though I quite like that style as well… :o)

Having said I like it, I woke up too late today to go to St Luke’s, so will do some recording today instead.

Soundtrack – yesterday, I was listening to a lot of Peter Gabriel, ‘So’ and ‘Greatest Hits’. as well as Jaco Pastorius, ‘The Birthday Concert’.

A week at the old bailey…

This last week I was on Jury Service. By rights, I should still be on it, given that it’s meant to last for two weeks. If I was still on it, I wouldn’t be writing about it here. However, the criminals of London must’ve been on holiday of late as there just weren’t enough cases to keep all the jurors occupied. The one case I was offered was set to last for months, so I was excused, being self employed ‘n’ all.

Still, it was a fascinating, if fleeting, look at the mechanics of one small part of the english justice system, finding out how jurors are chosen, what the inside of the Old Bailey looks like (and that’s it not really called the Old Bailey – it’s the Central Criminal Court – Old Bailey is the street its in…) and discovering just how much sitting around reading is involved in jury service. I managed to finish a fairly sizeable book in three days for the first time in years! Also met some lovely interesting people – Justine, Jeffrey and Louis, who wasn’t really called Louis, but looked so much like Louis Theroux (clearly we weren’t the first to notice), that a re-christening was in order to keep everyone amused. Marvellous interesting people that made the whole process far less dull that it could have been.

Also alleviating the dullness was the book I was reading – Dave Gorman’s GoogleWhack Adventure. Dave Gorman was the chap who travelled round the world a few years ago looking for other people called Dave Gorman, based on a drunken bet. Well, two years and one more drunken bet further into his life, and he’s travelling round the world meeting people whose websites contain googlewhacks, as found by the previous googlewhack in the chain – doing know what a googlewhack is? go here. Anyway, it’s a supremely funny (as in spit coffee all over yourself in the old bailey funny), endearing, moving and engaging book. The man has a lust for life and a love of meeting new people that makes his hairbrained schemes highly desireable. Get it, it’s great.

Anyway, after being dismissed at around 1 or 2 each day with no cases on offer, it gave me the opportunity to get moving in earnest on this new album, and must material has been recorded. Not sure how much of what’s gone down so far will make the cut, but there are some marvellous ideas that seem to be bubbling around. It’s catching them that’s the fun.

SoundtrackIain Archer, ‘Flood the Tanks’; David Torn, ‘What Means Solid, Traveller?’; Pierce Pettis, ‘State Of Grace’; Eric Roche, ‘Spin’; Pat Metheny Group, ‘Quartet’.

adventures in multimedia

yesterday I downloaded the 30 day trial version of Adobe Audition – a bit of multitrack recording software, that used to be called Cool Edit Pro. I used the Cool Edit version at Luca‘s house in Italy earlier in the year and really liked it, so in prep for doing this new album, I thought I’d get it, but I’m just trying out this download version first before spending the cash on buying it.

So I’ve been recording some new tracks, with the direct bass signal and the loops on separate tracks. I still need to get a new Soundcard, as the one I’ve got only has four inputs, and I need at least two more in order to record the post-processed signal as well as the other stuff, and could do with 8 in order to record other people as well. So I’m probably going to get another M-Audio Delta 44, which is what I’ve already got – the software will happily managed multiple cards, and it’ll be cheaper tha replacing it.

on top of that, I’ve been taking more web-cam photos, so here’s a few moody Black and White ones…

SoundtrackCalamateur, ‘the old fox of ’45’; Eric Roche, ‘With These Hands’; some new recordings that Luca Formentini and I made back in March that he’s just sent to me, and rather fine they are too!