To loop or not…

To Loop – have a read of this article by david torn, archived on the loopers delight website, it’s very good.

To Not Loop – well, to loop a tiny bit – have a listen to the new MP3 of me and Theo Travis that I’ve just added to the MP3s section on the site. It’s very good, and involves very little looping.

One gig I went to that I forgot to mention was Iain Archer, last thursday at Delicatessen in Reading – Deli, you’ll remember is the club that hosted me and Michael Manring and David Friesen, as well as being where I’ve played with Airstar, Julie Lee and Pierce Pettis, and is run by Evil Harv aka The Cheat, and Jimbob aka Sarda aka TAFKA-The-Man-Who-Knows. Anyway, Iain was brilliant – I’ve seen him play countless times before, and recorded and gigged with him as part of Andy Thornton’s band. His new single and album are out very soon, and are certainly eagerly awaited in this house (The Small Person and The Agen Feline are both Archie fans as well….) Also on the bill on Thursday were Electric Gaudi (used to be called Gaudi, but got threatened with legals by la famile de Gaudi the artiste…) featuring my student howard on bass, and a fine job he did too!

Soundtrack – just been listening to ‘In A Silent Way’ by Miles Davis, streamed from launch.yahoo.com – what an amazing bit of music! must buy the album v. soon. before that, was listening to Lucious Jackson, ‘Fever In Fever Out’ and Muriel Anderson, ‘Theme For Two Friends’ – both very fine albums.

lots of interesting musical things…

…but first, I must tell you that there are 453 deleted emails in my outlook express right now – I’ve just gone through my inbox, which had near 600 emails in it, and replied to or filed all but 24 of them!! yippee, what a liberating feeling. NOTE TO SELF – must try to stay on top of email from now on…

anyway, music stuff – lots of exciting things. Saturday night was a sad event, the last night of the Kashmir Klub. so I went along with evil harv, sarda and cap’n-birdseye-pirate-ben. we were promised lots of special guests, but no-one was expecting Rick Astley to play. Yup, 80s pop legend, who quit music years ago, was there playing guitar for a friend of his, and was talked into doing a song. So he did ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, just him and an acoustic guitar, and it was GREAT! His voice sounded marvellous, and the song, stripped of the cheesey late 80s SAW production stood up remarkably well, sounding every bit the multi-million seller it was… For an 80s obsessed pop-fiend like myself, it was a real treat. Also in attendance for the evening – Lewis Taylor, Keith Emerson, Kiki Dee, and a few other celebs…

Then Monday night I went round to see BJ Cole – awesome pedal steel player. Pedal Steel is such an evocative sound anyway, but in the hands of someone with BJ’s skill, it soars. We had a bit of a jam, and listened to lots of tunes, and are getting together again next week – how exciting!

And last night was the best of the lot – went to see alex cook singing ‘The Pirates Of Penzance’. Alex is a drummer I toured with for a few years in the mid 80s, and a very good friend, so the thought of him dressed as a pirate singing light opera was too tempting to turn down. Sad thing was, he was actually really really good. Far too good to be funny. I was hoping for classic am-dram silliness – people falling off the stage, kids crying, out of tune oboes. But alas the singers were great, the band very good, the staging excellent. Far too good for an amateur production. Next time, rehearse less!

So tonight, I’m off to see Maria McKee at Shepherd’s Bush Empire with Evil Harv and Radar. Should be lots of fun.

Soundtrack – Prefab Sprout, ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’; Pat Metheny, ‘Imaginary Day’; Marc Johnson, ‘Sound Of Summer Running’; Rain Tree Crow; The Dum Dums, ‘It Goes Without Saying’; Theo Travis, ‘Heart Of The Sun’; Stevie Ray Vaughn, ‘Texas Flood’ and some forthcoming tracks from BJ Cole’s next album, which are fabulous!

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…

two weeks of theatre, gigs and puke…

Blimey – it’s ages since I last got to write anything! I’ve now got a broadband connection, so hopefully it won’t be quite so long before I blog again (not that it’s any quicker with BB, as it doesn’t take long to connect anyway, but I’m online more than I was so may be able to get 5 mins here and there to talk rubbish on here…)

So what’s been going on? Potted history of life since the 15th (last blog date) –

went to the theatre to see The Madness Of George Dubya again, which was marvellous again – it’s transfered to the West End (The Arts Theatre in Leicester Square), and is being rewritten daily to keep abreast of current events, so it’s more topical than ever. Vital viewing, especially as there seems to be a lot that’s going unsaid about what’s now going on in Iraq – more shootings were reported this morning, that american guy who’s been put ‘in charge’ doesn’t seem to have much of a clue, and the looting still goes on…

Then it was easter weekend, which was surprisingly un-churchified – an unusual easter for me in that sense, partly cos I was just busy and didn’t plan anything in time, and partly cos I was at a wedding on Easter Saturday. Made it to church Easter Sunday morning, but it’s a while since I last missed a good friday service – anyone would thing that easter was when a rabbit got nailed to a cross, but was a nice rabbit who rose again and gave everyone chocolate eggs… I know that the timing of easter is a hi-jacked ancient solstice or something, but it does seem odd for it to have kind of stuck with some sort of christian significance in the media, but mainly it’s all about eggs and bunnies… the world is a might strange place…

Easter Sunday I went to a very fine gig – Three Blind Mice – featuring Lyndon Conner, the keyboardist who played with Level 42 on the Greatest Hits tour last year. The mice are a three piece – two guitar/vox and Lyndon on keys/vox, and feature some of the finest harmonies I’ve ever heard. Great songs, great delivery in a lovely venue (some pub near Paddington)… Well worth investigating. And after all that guff in the paragraph above, I did eat rather a large number of chocolate eggs at said gig.

Wed 23rd was a gig in Eastbourne with Tess Garroway and Joss Peach – more lovely improv, made even more fun by feeding both the piano and the voice into my loop setup to I could loop and tweak both of them as well… Small crowd, but cool venue.

The trip home wasn’t quite so much fun (this is where the puke in the heading comes into the story – turn away if you’re sqeamish) – I had a headache brewing through the entire gig, which got gradually worse and worse as we were packing up, bordering on migraine as I got in the car to drive home. It may have had something to do with not having eaten since about 2pm, and having had a beer when I arrived at the venue in the evening, but whatever, I wasn’t a well bunny.

Stopped once to wretch, didn’t puke. Stopped again, puked a bit. Was then doing 70mph along the M25 and vommed all over myself, the windscreen, the steering wheel, dashboard, seats, floor, everything. Tried catching it in a cardboard tissue box, but that just succeeded in funnelling said puke down both my sleeves (no, really, it is the most disgusting thing that has ever happened to me, which is why I just had to share it with you…)

One week previous to this, I’d been up to my armpit in blocked drain and thought that that was the grossest thing I’d ever done. This topped it, driving 35 miles covered in my own sick was really really nasty – the kind of thing that one usually associates with recovering smack-addicts…

The following day was a bit of a cleanup day, following my projectile experience of the day before.

Friday I was conducting an Echoplex clinic for the UK distributors, showing them a little of what’s possible (for lots more of what’s possible, see Andre’s site), which was great fun. I also picked up a couple more echoplexes, taking my tally to four – three are now in the rack, trying to work out how to wire the fourth one into the desk to give me a stereo main loop… hhhhhmmmnnnnnn

Friday evening was spent installing my broadband connection, which I’d got wrong somehow, and then Saturday required much rescuing as I’d downloaded too much stuff from Windows Update and had buggered up my machine, so with the help of evil harv, we got it going…

Last night, Jez and I went to see Carleen Anderson at the Jazz Cafe – we’re trying to get out to see more gigs, and were going to go out on Sunday, but there was bugger-all on in London. Boy, am I glad we waited til Monday – Carleen was brilliant, as were her band – Ben Castle on sax, Andy Hamill on bass, Mark Edwards on keys, Winston Clifford on drums and Jules someone on guitar – they are on again tonight and tomorrow, and if you can, you really ought to go… Carleen’s acoustic encore of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ was worth the ticket price itself (and you can stream it from her website – high res with Broadband of course…)

In between all that stuff, I’ve been mixing the tracks that I recorded with Theo Travis, which are sounding great, and may well end up being my next album… It’s time for a duo album (last one was solo, before that duo, and first one was solo), and these are just fine ‘n’ dandy. Hopefully we’ll have something to listen to v. soon…

And obviously I’ve been indulging in the download delights of broadband – fave site at the moment is launch.yahoo.com, a music videos and streaming radio site which is very cool. Go there and watch some of the Bruce Cockburn, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos and Johnny Cash vids – all great stuff. Also been listening to radio on line, including kcrw, kvmr and bbc london.

Soundtrack – other than the online stuff, been listening to lots of Ron Miles – both ‘Heaven’ and ‘Laughing Barrel’, and listening to Paul Simon, ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’, Bill Frisell, ‘Have A Little Faith’, Alex Skolnick Trio, ‘Goodbye To Romance’, Frank Gambale, ‘Resident Aliens’ and King’s X ‘Manic Moonlight’.

Stations Of The Cross

Last night’s ‘gig’ went really well… The event was called ‘UpLate’ and is a sort of alternative worship service at a lovely old church in Thame, Oxfordshire. Once a month they take a theme and set up a whole load of different artistic/musical/poetic ‘stations’ for people to wander round and look at/listen to/read/meditation on, etc. All very inspiring stuff – it’s a great building, and the quality of the art is top notch – it’s kind of like a themed multimedia art-gallery, with good coffee, and a glass or two of wine… ;o)

Anyway, last night, with it being their easter edition, Evil Harv, Jez and I were asked to come up with 14 improvs based on the stations of the cross to soundtrack the whole evening, we were set a time, and given 14 works of art to help inspire us – well, scans of them anyway… The list of station titles is –

(1) Jesus’ agony in the garden
(2) Jesus is betrayed by Judas and is arrested
(3) Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin
(4) Jesus is denied by Peter
(5) Jesus is condemned by Pontius Pilate
(6) Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns
(7) Jesus is made to carry the cross
(8) Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus with His cross
(9) Jesus meets with the women of Jerusalem
(10) Jesus is crucified
(11) Jesus promises paradise to the repentant thief
(12) Jesus speaks to John and Mary on the cross
(13) Jesus dies on the cross
(14) Jesus is buried in the tomb.

So for each of those we did an improv. As you can tell from the subject matter, it wasn’t going to be a happy-jazz sesh, and some of what we played got really dark and atonal – trying to express in music the image of Jesus being whipped and having a crown of thorns rammed onto his head is always going to be a pretty brutal sonic experience! But it’s amazing the way having a concrete theme like this can focus the music way beyond just noodling. Often Jez and I when we’re doing duo stuff will latch onto a particular mood and work with that, in a more abstract, but still just as compelling (for us) way. This time, it was obvious to all three of us what the theme was before we started, and the beginnings of some of the improvs were particularly interesting while we settled into how we were going to tackle that particular image – was the music going to be mournful, confrontational, pain-wracked, hopeful. etc… the tension worked really well at dealing with the many many mixed emotions that the easter story brings up…

The good news is we’ve got some of it on minidisc. The band news is that the batteries ran out after about half an hour, so we didn’t get enough… We played for about two hours (only overran by about 45 minutes! :o) – and it would’ve been great to have it all, as there were some really special moments, so hopefully we’ll be able to do it again next year in a different setting…

Soundtrack – last night and this morning, I’ve been listening to some new recordings by a fabulous bass playing singer/songwriter called John Lester. John’s a californian, who until recently was living in Paris, but is now in London, and will hopefully be gigging all over the place pretty soon. He’s great, check him out. And before that yesterday, was listening to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thiller’ – another tune that was being done in a lesson (PYT), and then staying on the turntable (ahhhh, vinyl) for a few hours… It really is a very good album indeed.

Coming Up – a weekend of delicious improv!

I’m really looking forward to my gigs this weekend – I’ve got two, tomorrow night I’m playing at an alternative worship service called ‘Up’ at an anglican church in Thame (St Mary’s maybe?), where Jez, Evil Harv and I will be improvising 14 pieces based on the stations of the cross – for each one, we’ve got a painting or image to represent it and hopefully trigger some ideas. It should be really good, and probably quite emotionally involving, as the stations take us from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene through to his burial…

Then on Sunday, I’m playing at the Barbican ‘ere in London – on the free stage from 6-7, with Orphy Robinson, who is best known for his vibes playing, but on this one will be playing Marimba, Steel Pans and misc. percussion, with us both looping and processing our sounds (and I’ll be looping orphy’s loops too!) – we had a bit of a play this morning just to see what was possible, and it sounded great, so I’m really looking forward to this one too. We were going to be joined by top pedal steel player, BJ Cole but he’s got a gig he can’t get out of… I’m sure we’ll get to try the trio version soon. Instead we’ve got a singer coming to sit in one a few numbers, which should be a lot of fun too… Please come down if you’re in London, it’s a great way to spend a sunday evening in London…

Before that, I’ve got a full day’s teaching on Saturday, and am playing in church on Sunday morning, so it’s going to be a pretty full weekend playing-wise! And I must remember to change the batteries in my bass, as they’ve just run out…!

soundtrack – right now, Donny Hathaway Live. Earlier on, Bill Frisell with Elvin Jones and Dave Holland and while teaching today I was using Joni Mitchell – ‘Hejira’, Pat Metheny – ‘Bright Sized Life’ and Anita Baker ‘Rapture’… Also had a listen to ‘Beauty And The Beast’ earlier – the improv piece that Jez and I uploaded to my site as a Christmas pressie a few months back. If you’ve not heard it, head over to the MP3s page and have a listen…

Right my saaaan, you're nicked!!!!

My what an eventful last 48 hours I’ve had.

Wednesday evening, after spending a lot of the day on Wednesday practicing, I went off into central London to meet up with Evil Harv, as he was in town for a Greenbelt festival planning meeting. Got there, meeting was overrunning, so I sat in (strange feeling, as I was on the plannin group for the last three years…). When it had ended it was too late to go to a gig as we’d planned, but instead went off for a coffee, with Jude as well… So far so uneventful.

Heading back to the car, Jude and I see two of her majesty’s constabulary officers standing next to my car writing stuff… mmm, I was certainly legally parked, so initially assumed they were just making routine notes, what with the heightened threat of terrorism or whatever… sadly, I was wrong. I was in fact FIVE MONTHS OUT OF DATE on my car tax – steve, dear boy, you’ve taken absent-mindedness to a whole new level. How can I have not seen that for 5 months?? Anyway, was obviously very polite to the lovely officers doing their job – I was clearly in the wrong, so just chatted nicely with them while they took all the details, confirmed my address, date of birth, height (??), and all that jazz, had a bit of a laugh with them, and they then said they were letting me off the ticket they could have issued!! How nice is that?? ..I would however, still face a

Food for the soul

Last night I went to see three stunning singer/songwriters do their thang at the 12 Bar Club in London. The 12 Bar is a really weird venue, in that it’s got a tiny downstairs, and a tiny balcony, and the stage is sort of half way between the two – too high for downstairs to see properly and too low for upstairs… bit odd, but kind of fun with it…

Anyway, last night’s magical sounds came from Brian Houston, Julie Lee and Pierce Pettis, all three of whom were amazing. Like, world class, seriously. Way better than just about anything you’ll hear on the radio in the next month or so (unless you listen to Bob Harris on Radio 2, in which case you might end up hearing all three of them).

Brian Houston, native of Belfast, sort of Dylan/Buckley/bit of Neil Young but more frantic. Amazing stuff.

Julie Lee – I’ve played bass for Julie before, and will be next week in Reading – she’s sort of Bluegrass/Nu-grass, with an beautiful voice and a great guitar style. And is one of the finest songwriters I’ve heard in a long time.

Pierce Pettis – has written hits for Garth Brooks, doesn’t really sound much like him though. More Bruce Cockburn/70s Tom Waits/Lyle Lovett/John Gorka sort of vibe. Great between song banter, fantastic songs, and a seven string guitar!

All in all, a night to recharge the creative batteries, and bask in the glow of songwriting genius. If you’re wise, you’ll catch them on the rest of the tour –

Tues 4 March: Birmingham – Ceol Castle – 0121 440 4278
Thurs 6 March: Belfast – The Errigle – 0289 032 2925
Sun 9 March: Southampton – The Brook – 0238 055 5366
Mon 10 March: Brighton – The Greys – 01273 680734
Tues 11 March: Reading – Delicatessen – 0118 901 5234

I’ll be playing a few tunes with Julie at the Reading gig (and maybe one or two with Pierce too, hopefully, if the Deli organisers don’t weird-out about it…)

In other news, I got a new pre-amp put in my bass on Saturday, made by John East, who makes the J-Retro preamp (if you’re a bassist, you should know what I’m talking about… if you’re not a bassist, you won’t care…) – anyway, I replaced my old Bartolini one with one of John’s and it sounds amazing – it’s really weird what a huge difference a new preamp can make – the basic sound of the bass is still the same, there’s just the option to add more sparkle without it getting harsh, or make it sound more ‘acoustic’, or make things fall off the walls. Truly an amazing addition to my bass, and one that I’ll be adding to my other bass very soon, and will be getting in all my basses from now on. Seriously, these thngs are great!

But you don’t really care do you? well, I’m sure you do if you’re a bassist. If not, probably not.

Anyway, I was chatting with evil harv this morning, who was asking why no-one had signed the guestbook in ages. Then someone did (not evil harv as I first thought, as I can actually verify that the person who signed it did indeed just buy a CD of mine, and the eville one didn’t know about it…) – but that’s still only one in ages, so if you’re reading this, go and write nice things on the guestbook (unless you’re harv, in which case, keep your evil weirdness to your self, you strange man) – go on, off you go.

Soundtrack – more of The Minutemen, followed by lots of Donny Hathaway Live (pulled it out to look at the solo from ‘Everything Is Everything’, and kept it in the player for a couple of hours after the lesson). Also been listening to State Of Grace by Pierce Pettis, which I bought last night, and is very very good.

A Play What He Wrote

Last night I went to the theatre (er, beginning to sound like a 12 year old writing his summer project – “we went on holidays and it was really good and then we went to the beach and it was really good and my dad fell in the sea and we all laughed and then my mum laughed so much she dropped her ice-cream and we all laughed but she wasn’t laughing any more because she said she had ice-cream on her best clothes and if daddy thought that was so funny…’ etc. etc. or, er, something like that)

Anyway, as I said. Theatre, Last night. Brilliant. Genius. Speechless.

The play in question was called ‘The Madness Of George Dubya’, and is apparently an update on Dr Strangelove (or at least that’s what the review in the Guardian said – I’ve never seen Dr Strangelove, so can’t really comment on the veracity of that… but I digress) – anyway, if it is an update, it’s an incredibly topical one. It was, in fact, written in three days in January, and rehearsed in 6, before beginning a sold out run at Theatro Technis in London, then moved on to The Pleasance Theatre in Holloway, London.

The story revolves around a gung-ho US general on an airbase in the UK, deciding to order an all out nuclear strike on Iraq, and being the only one who knows the code to call the order back, you’ve now got your suspence. However, the play revolves around the idiotic mumblings of the US president, and the pathetic attempts to solve the problem by our own prime ministerial buffoon, Blair. Throw into the mix Yasmina The Cleaner – an Al Quaeda operative working as a cleaner on the air-base, a couple of US pilots flying the first plane ordered to drop it’s payload (all the while discovering their long buried desires for eachother), some useless British civil servants, more US army generals and a breath-taking speech by an Iraqi Ambassador and you’ve got yourselves one of the most powerful, funny, moving, disturbing, remarkable theatrical performances I think I’ve ever seen.

Justin Butcher, the writer, has been carving a reputation for himself for a few years now – last year his play, The Seven White Masks Of Scaramouche Jones toured with Pete Possilthwaite delivering the one man show to sold out audiences round the UK. But Dubya is a whole other kind of triumph – it would have been impressive if he’d written it in 3 months. 3 days suggests some sort of pact with the devil in exchange for genius, or conversely an angelic visitation, complete with finished script. Truly unbelieveable. And on top of that, one of the most vital, vibrant and controversial comments on the current impending (pleasegoddontletithappen) war.

‘If’ they get another run at it, you would have to be stark staring mad to miss it. Already they’ve had coverage on CNN, in various US newspapers including the Chicago tribune, on MSNBC, 4 stars in the Guardian, 5 in What’s On, been in the Independent’s top 5 theatre shows in London for weeks on end. Seriously, it’s magical, you have to see it.

phew, that was exhausting. Tonight’s the last night – if you’re in London, you can catch it at either 5 or 7.30. But I’m certain it will get another run. It HAS to.

In other news, last night I was on nightshelter duty again (meant to be next week, but I swapped) – as was evil harv. He wasn’t meant to be, but while we were in the theatre, some sort of serious police ‘incident’ took place outside, and Harv’s car was in the cordoned off zone, and he was unable to move it til this morning!!! So the poor guy ended up sleeping in a freezing church hall on a couch… :o)

Came home, slept, got woken up about five times by the phone. One of the calls was telling me about the funeral details of a friend of mine who died of lukemia last week. I’m not sure what to think about that one. I didn’t even know he was ill til the day he died. 11am – a text saying was on life support. 3pm phone call saying he’d died. WTF???? What? Where? When? How? Andy was officially my land-lord when I live in Lincoln, but the house for most of that time was more like a live-in community. He was a fantastic cook, so we’d throw dinner parties fairly often, there were up to 5 of us living there at any one time – me, farmer Joe, DJ Ben, Biker Wendy… it was like some poorly scripted sit-com, with some very bizarre events. One favourite was Farmer Joe trying to make his own garlic bread, and misunderstanding the difference between a ‘clove’ of garlic and the whole bulb. So he crushed three whole bulbs of garlic, and put them on two slices of bread under the grill. The dogs were yowling for days. Ah yes, the dogs – Max and Polly. Insane and ever-present. Andy doted on them. He married Sharon just before I left Lincoln, and they’ve now got at least two kids (could be three, who knows). I can’t even begin to imagine how she must be feeling. He was only in his late 30s. Still officially a ‘youth’ (18-40). And now he’s gone. I can’t get to his funeral on Thursday – it’s in Lincoln and I’m already mad mad busy that day. But I’ll be thinking about him. About live on Richmond Road, dinner parties, mad dogs, video nights, trips to the pub, Dave Elcock at his wedding reception.

Last time I saw him was at Martin Clarke’s 40th birthday last year. he was smiling from ear to ear, telling me his news and looking remarkably pleased to see me. I wasn’t overly friendly with him (it’s always odd being back in groups of people from Lincoln – too much weirdness left there for me), but he was very eager to hear what I’d been up to and to tell me about his kids.

And now on a lighter note, tonight I’m going to see Muriel Anderson play at The Troubadour in Earl’s Court – lovely venue, I’m playing there myself at the end of March, and it’s where I recorded my first album! Muriel’s great, so I’m really looking forward to that one. If you’re going, I’ll see you there…

Soundtrack – been listening to a CD by Ollie Collins ‘Make Time Last’ – rather nice acid-jazz influenced layered bass and keys stuff, with some great sax playing. Before that, it was more of Michael Manring and I…

When work is more fun than fun…

I do feel very lucky to get to make my living playing and teaching music… the playing side of that is obvious, but the teaching side is just as much fun, just as rewarding and just as challenging. I get to meet a fascinating bunch of people, all of whom I learn things from as well, many of whom are very creative and capable musicians, I get the challenge of creating a course of study that will help them to maximise their musical potential, I try to guide them through all the psychological pit-falls that can befall anyone trying to do something creative and especially for those who need music as a release from the stress of work etc… It’s a big responsibility, and one that sadly, it seems from what I’m told, a fair few teachers don’t take seriously. Fortunately, there are enough of us left for people to be able to find a good teacher if they look hard enough, but I guess the fact that I have students who travel from all over the south and midlands of England and even Wales suggests that there are still some areas where it’s pretty hard to find a good teacher…

Anyway, as I say, I feel very lucky to get to meet all these fascinating people. I benefit from it emmensely both musically and from the friendships that develop, and obviously the feeling of watching someone that you’re teaching discover whatever it is that they were looking for in music is a great feeling – teaching them what they want to know, and even more, teaching them what they didn’t know they wanted to know but actually wanted to know more than the stuff they thought they wanted to know.. :o)

Er, what else? Well, I’m still in post-tour consolidation at the moment – catching up with all my students, finally getting round to some of the promo stuff to do with Not Dancing For Chicken that I really ought to have done when it came out but didn’t cos I was on tour, and hopefully, eventually, sorting out my office, which is still a complete tip. In between all that, I need to make sure that the aged feline gets his medicine (high blood pressure), and gets a good brushing (to prevent hair-balls), and start booking some more gigs (oh, BTW, I’ve added a couple of dates to my gig page, and will be adding another two or three in the near future…)

For those of you that are on the Street Team – don’t forget to re-sub to the new topica list. The street team was getting a little big for me to handle via email, so I’ve created a topica list, like my main mailing list, so that you can manage it yourself, and I don’t have to try and find out what your new email address is when you decide to change it without warning me!

For those of you that are musicians in bands, I heartily recommend the street team idea – it’s very reassuring to have a bunch of people who like your music and are willing to help out getting the word out about gigs and cds and everything – even a handful of willing friends can be a bonus, and if you get an international list then it can be really useful in helping to build profile.

even if you’re not on the street team, feel free to have a look at the street team ideas page, so that if you feel like helping out in an unofficial capacity, you can do!

So what’s up for the next wee while? Er, I’m working at the nightshelter again this evening (was meant to be rota’d on next weekend, but have swapped) am meeting up with evil harv this evening – he organises delicatessen (click the deli link over the the left hand side of the page there for more on deli – a great acoustic night in Reading), and I’ve got a suggestion for another weird deli night, like the solo bass one we did last year with me, Michael Manring and David Friesen… watch this space for more on that…

And tomorrow I’m going to see Muriel Anderson play at the Troubadour in Earl’s Court – she’s very good, and well worth checking out, should you want to. I’ll meet you there!

SoundtrackBeen working through some CDs borrowed from Not At All Evil Dann – some Django Bates (some of which is excellent, some didn’t do it for me), and a CD by Richard Leo Johnson, which is sort of Michael Hedges meets Oregon, and is rather lovely. After that today, I’ve been listening to a recording of Michael Manring and I, live at the Anaheim Bass Bash – I’ve got my whole set here, but haven’t been paying much attention to the other tunes in it, just this duo with Michael, which with any luck will surface here as an MP3 before too long…