Busy musical friends…

Thought a quick update on what various musical chums are up to would be pertinent –

First up, Theo Travis is on tour with his quartet at the moment. He’s got a new CD out that’s fantastic, and the tour is playing lots of tunes from that – click here for tour dates – he’s all over the UK.

Singer, songwriter and Burning Shed records main-man, Tim Bowness has got a gig in London on Monday – he’s very good! Click here for details of that.

Solo bass singer-songwriter, John Lester is on tour in the UK over the next couple of weeks – Click here for his gig details – one not to be missed, for sure.

Singer/songwriter Martyn Joseph is on tour throughout November and December – Click here for the dates – Martyn’s a hugely compelling performer, and well worth seeing.

And before he comes over here for the tour with me in a couple of weeks, Michael Manring is playing at a festival in France. So if you’re in France, go see him! check out his gig list here…

SoundtrackMatthew Garrison, ‘Shapeshifter’; Miranda Sykes, ‘Don’t Look Down’; Show Of Hands, ‘Dark Fields’.

So come on, own up, who the hell was voting UKIP???

So the UK Indepedence Party came third in the Euro Elections, gaining 12 seats on the European Parliment. Who on earth was voting for them? Is it just that people are scared of Europe but don’t see the European parliment as important enough to not waste a protest vote on it? The Greens are also against the european constitution, but also have a series of policies on everything else. UKIP are a pressure group, and a pretty daft one at that.

The ludicrousness of a political party with Robert Kilroy Silk and Joan Collins as it’s public face is to farcical for most comedy writers to have come up with it. Since when did I care what either of those two losers thought about anything? Kilroy only got back into politics because he was sacked for writing racist crap in the papers (he claimed that the Arabs have contributed nothing to world culture at all… huh? Clearly he’s not been listening to Andy Kershaw or Late Junction…). He’s a former labour MP, who went on to present daytime chat shows with people who married their step parents or fell in love with their pets or were bullied for having two heads, his perma-tanned faux-sincere frown fronting the UK equivalent on Springer without the comedy. He’s a moron. And Joan Collins? When did she even last live in the UK? Why is anyone concerned what she might think about anything? She’d be well into the UK getting into NAFTA given that she’s a UK citizen living in the US, but it’d be lunacy for the entire country.

There’s an article in this week’s New Statesman by a former UKIP party activist, who paints a picture of a highly divided party, whose only point of common value was their homophobia. Hey, that’s a great party image…

So they came ahead of the Lib-Dems in the Euro-Elections, which does say a lot about the Euro-Scepticism of the UK population, and also that the Europhiles have a very long way to go in making their case palletable for the general public.

So while the sport obsessed section of the population are getting upset over England’s defeat by France in Euro 2004 last night (very funny it was too – two goals in extra time by the French – that came as a bit of a shock… DOH!), I shall be mourning the stupidity of the UK electorate…

Soundtrack – still me, I’m afraid…

Happy New Year!

Oh yes, it’s 2004. Another year over a new one just begun, as a songwriter no longer at the top of his game and desparately in need of his old writing partner once wrote.

So out with the old and in the new, hopefully. Or maybe it’ll just be ‘what goes around comes around’. Who knows.

I’m hoping for the usual crap – more time to read, more gigs, more CD sales, less big countries blowing up small countries, less reality TV, more properly researched documentaries, more decent comedies on TV, more going to the cinema, more exercise (!!), more journies on public transport, less using the car, more bass practice, less time wasted online… yeah yeah, right.

So this afternoon, I had a listen to an album I’ve not heard for a while – ‘Beyond These Shores’ by Iona. This is an album that when I first got it blew my mind, but as I’ve only got it on tape, and the tape is just about worn out, I hadn’t listened to it in ages. However, the small person has got it on CD, I remembered this afternoon. So put it on. and. wow. Unbelievable. Still as good if not better than I remember it. Great songs, amazing playing, fantastic production, moving lyrics (it’s a sort of concept album on the legend of St Brendan sailing from Ireland to America a few hundred years before Columbus…) – truly wonderful. Seriously, it’s great, get it.

It’s kind of apt at the start of a new year to be listening to an album about a journey into the unknown – not that stepping over into 2004 is like sailing the atlantic in medieval times – after all it’s just another day in ‘actual’ terms – but new year is a rite of passage, giving us a chance to pause, take stock, rethink, set some goals, change the way we do things, and also chops the past into convenient chunks for us to assess whether they were good or bad.

2003 was very different for me musically than 2002 – ’02 was the year I did the two big tours with Level 42 and The Schizoid Band, but ’03 was a year of fewer gigs but a lot of musical experimenting – loads of new improv settings, gigs with Orphy Robinson, Tess Garraway, Corey Mwamba, Filomena Campus, Josh Peach, Seb Rochford, Theo Travis, Mano Ventura, Michael Manring, Jez Carr, Harvey Jessop; I’ve also recorded loads of improv stuff this year – most importantly the new album with Theo Travis, but also material with quartets in France and Spain, duets with Matthias Grob, Luca Formentini, BJ Cole and Patrick Wood. Loads of space to develop new ideas, much of which will be launched on anyone who wants to hear it in 2004.

So, here’s to the new year – may all your gigs be well paid and your audiences attentive.

Soundtrack – The Smiths; ‘Louder Than Bombs’; Bill Frisell, ‘The Willies’; Rob Jackson, ‘Wire Wood and Magnets’; Iona, ‘Beyond These Shores’;

end of year roundup top 5s

So we’re rapidly approaching the exit of 2003 and the entrance of 2004, to take up the batton of time for it’s year in the spotlight. It can’t really be much worse than its younger sibling on a world scale (well, I guess it could, if the bush/blair axis of evil decide to invade more countries, and don’t realise that they really have no place being in Iraq… but I digress…)

Anyway, there have been some cool things this year, so here’s a series of top 5s to sum up my year (each of them is in no particular order…) –

top 5 albums from this year –

Athlete – Vehicles and Animals
Bill Frisell – The Interncontinentals
John Lester – Big Dreams And The Bottom Line
Bruce Cockburn – You’ve Never Seen Everything
Kelly Joe Phelps – Slingshot Professionals

Top 5 albums I got this year but were released ages ago –

Theo Travis – Heart Of The Sun
Rob Jackson – Wire, Wood and Magnets
Denison Witmer – Philadelphia Songs
David Torn – Tripping Over God
Medeski Martin And Wood – The Dropper

Top 5 musical collaborators this year –

Theo Travis
Orphy Robinson
Patrick Wood
Luca Formentini
BJ Cole

Top 5 fave gigs I went to –

Athlete – The Astoria
Bill Frisell – The Barbican
King’s X – The Mean Fiddler
Kelly Joe Phelps – The Stables
Bruce Cockburn – The Stables

Top 5 fave gigs played –

National Theatre Foyer (with Theo Travis)
Greenbelt (with Patrick Wood)
Derby Dance Centre (with Orphy Robinson and Corey Mwamba)
Constable Jacks (California – with Michael Manring)
Anaheim Bass Bash (with Michael Manring)

Top 5 International Destinations –

California (USA)
Garda Lake (Italy)
Le Monstastier (France)
Amsterdam (Holland)
Copenhagen (Denmark)

Heroes –

Tony Benn
John Pilger
Michael Moore
Michael Franti
Scott Peck

Villains –

Bush
Blair
Blunkett
Richard Desmond
Max Clifford

would’ve done top books and top films, but haven’t seen enough of either to
come up with a convincing list of good ones.

I’ll add more as I think of them, but that’s it for now…

Soundtrack – yesterday I downloaded the new version of WinAmp – WinAmp 5, and have been listening to various Shoutcast radio stations ever since!

Gigtastic!

Right, so my phone line was finally fixed – had to replace the line from the house to the pole outside. Two days without BB access was really bad… but I got lots done… there’s a lesson in there.

Wednesday evening was the Tim Berne gig at The QEH in London. My interest was particularly high due to David Torn playing guitar, but the band also featured Marc Ducret on guitar, Craig Taborn on keys, Tom Rainey on drums and the Arte Saxophone Quartet.

Met up with Theo at the gig, and watched the first half – hard going, very dense writing for lots of saxes. Half time, moved back a few rows to sit with Bill Bruford, and musically it all became a lot easier to deal with. Firstly a piece just for the sax quartet, then the other quintet playing some amazing stuff. Ducret was oustanding – I was familiar with his playing from before due to Franck Vigroux being a huge fan of his and playing me a lot of his work, but seeing him live was a revelation – amazing stuff. The whole band was great, really energetic, some marvellous improv. After-show party was fun – nice to see Mick Karn again, who I met briefly a few years ago in my past life as a Bassist journo.

It was so good in fact that I did it all again on Thursday! Though not before meeting John Lester for lunch, and spending a couple of hours on the anti-Bush march. The march was amazing – huge, colourful, noisy and featuring some particularly, er, ‘forthright’ slogans…

Then off to Oxford for the Tim Berne gig again. This time at the Zodiac, a club I’ve played at with Airstar. More of a rock club vibe, and a very different sound for the improv bits, another blinding gig. Loved it.

And today has just been about teaching, answering stuff on thedudepit, talkbass and my own forum, which let’s be honest, kicks the ass of all those lame-o forums… :o)

Soundtrack – right now, Billy Bragg, ‘Must I Paint You A Picture’, before that, Pat Metheny, ‘One Quiet Night’ (fantastic); Shawn Colvin, ‘Fat City’; Bill Frisell, ‘Good Dog Happy Man’.

Greenbelt 2003

Just got back from Greenbelt – ostensibly a Christian Arts festival, but with a strong focus on justice issues, and some seriously great music and seminar speakers.

We arrived Friday afternoon, pitched our tent (oh yes, proper camping), and went to watch Eden Burning (reunion gig – their final gig was infront of 10,000 people at Greenbelt 97, and they reformed for a one off this weekend to celebrate this being the 30th year of Greenbelt), then saw Pierce Pettis, Iain Archer, Juliet Turner, Boo Hewerdine with Rob Jackson, Kate Rusby and Old Solar – all marvellous, and a great start to the weekend, in fact, too much great stuff to take it all in, and I missed a lot of artists that I’d have to catch in other venues over the weekend. Watching that many amazing gigs in one evening does make you a bit blase about the genius on offer, but any one of the acts listed about would be worth driving 50 miles to see on an ordinary evening – Pierce I’ve seen lots of times before, and played with in Reading earlier this year, Iain Archer has been getting better and better over the decade that I’ve been watching him play (new album out in a few months, which promises to be a blinder), Juliet is another singer I’ve been familiar with for a long time and have got both her albums, Boo Hewerdine I was more familar with as a songwriter than a singer, but he was marvellous and Rob Jackson who was guesting on guitar is a solo looper that I’d had contact with before, and showed himself to be equally adept providing gorgeous pedal steel-esque guitar parts to Boo’s finely crafted songs.

Kate Rusby’s gig was a particular treat as she had Ewan Vernal on bass – former Deacon Blue bassist, and one of my earliest and biggest bass influences (check out the bass/voice tracks ‘Orphans’ and ‘Trampoline’ by Deacon Blue for a taste of his genius)…

Old Solar are old faves, and old friends, and played a very fine set.

Saturday began with a Dave Andrews seminar – Dave is an radical activist/speaker from Australia, and regular speaker at Greenbelt, this time expounding on the notion that we’re in the new dark ages with the financial and governmental institutions in the west providing a heavily protected fortress for the extravagance of the world’s rich to the exclusion of the poor, who are battled in a feudalistic way to protect the already disproportionately huge share of the world’s wealth that those of us in the so called developed world have. His answer was to look to St Francis for a model – Francis having been an aristocrat who gave up his wealth to work with the poor. He wasn’t a politician, and didn’t set out to change the world, just to live right. As Schumacher put is ‘think global, act local’… all great stuff…

after Dave, it was off to a Mike Riddell seminar – Mike’s an author from New Zealand, and another Greenbelt fave, talking about artistic integrity and freedom – nothing new but very encouraging and helpful nonetheless.

Next up, Martyn Joseph’s songwriter’s circle event, The Rising – lots of great songwriters playing their songs and discussing them. What a treat to see MJ, Juliet Turner, Pierce Pettis and Brian Houston talking about their songs and playing together. Amazing stuff.

Other gigs – Elan (very good), Juliet Turner and Pierce Pettis (genius, obviously), Cleveland Watkiss (with Orphy Robinson on Vibes) – outstanding, joint best gig of the weekend, Calamatuer (marvellous) and Denison Witmer (another new discovery for me this weekend – fantastic singer/songwriter from Philadelphia).

But as always, Greenbelt is about people – meeting up with loads – hundreds – of friends, meeting loads of people I deeply admire, amazing musicians, great speakers, writers, actors, and just really nice people that I aspire to be like. Spent lots of time between gigs drinking apple tea in the tiny tea tent and enjoying the gorgeous weather.

..and tomorrow I’ll tell you about Sunday and Monday!

(and in case you’re interested, the virus email count for over the weekend was in excess of 650!!!)

Soundtrack – right now, the first mixes of the tracks I recorded with the quartet on my most recent trip to France – more on that when I’ve heard them some more. Before that, Denison Witmer, ‘Recovered’ and Jaco Pastorius, ‘Jaco Pastorius’.