…and Last night's gig

Forgot to mention last night’s gig in previous blog entry.

‘Twas back at Traders in Petersfield, another marvellous Stiff Promotions evening. This time, it was me opening, then Jez Carr doing his thang, with some duo strangeness at the end. It was the first gig Jez and I have done like this in a v. long time – we do a lot of normal ‘standards’ gigs for weddings and parties etc. but don’t get to improv or play originals nearly as often as we’d like. My solo set went well – I’m playing pretty well at the moment, due largely to the large number of gigs I’ve done since the album came out at the beginning of August. I’ve played Traders three times this year before tonight, so it was really nice to have some new material to play, from Grace And Gratitude.

Jez’s solo set was on next, and he played fantastically – a mixture of originals and choice jazz tunes (Waltz For Debby, Search For Peace and Blame It On My Youth), he had the audience in wrapt attention. Hugely compelling stuff.

The for the duo set, we started as we always do – just start playing and see where it goes – the magic was still there, and the first duo improv went all over the map, pretty seamlessly blending styles, keys, swapping chordal and melodic roles between us. Top stuff, very exhilarating. We then played a couple of standards to finish – Breakfast Wine, a tune we’ve been doing for a while out of the Real Book, which was OK, but I made the mistake of not switching back to fretless, and the melody didn’t really come across the way it does on the fretless. And then Autumn Leaves – a bit of an old chestnut but we played it really well. We were already half an hour over time, and still got called back for an encore (a v. good sign, methinks), and Jez suggested in a moment of inspiration that we play ‘Bittersweet’, from And Nothing But The Bass Fortunately he remembered it even better than I did, and we played a lovely version, a very fitting end to a top night.

If you were there, feel free to post a review in the Reviews section on the forum. And thanks for coming!

A wet weekend in Heaven…

So Greenbelt‘s over for another year. Once again ’twas a fantastic festival. Definitely the best fest there is.

I was pretty exhausted when I arrived, having got back from Edinburgh, then gone to Southampton to play at Greyum and Chrissie’s wedding (which was a fantastic day), and had to jump straight into flyering/postering mode as my solo gig was on the Friday night. two minutes before I went on stage, a GB fire officer came in telling me they were about to remove my car with a crane as I was parked in a fire lane. so move car, rush back to do gig. Previous band overrun, quickest changeover possible, and nice big crowd. Lots of friendly faces (and no friendly faeces). About a minute into ‘Grace And Gratitude, I notice that the second Lexicon unit wasn’t working, so I looped the melody so I could get up and fix it (just plug the powerchord back in), but in getting up, I twatted my head off a TV set hanging over the stage, and nearly knocked myself out. doh!

middle of second tune, I realise that my Ebow is still in my jacket pocket, so more looping and shuffling ensues. All good fun. Many of the jokes from the Edinburgh show make their way in a modified form (tourettes removed), all goes very well.

finish at 10, pack up, and start compering in big acoustic venue at 11. First night was Peter Case, followed by Terry Callier followed by Julie Lee. good lord, what a remarkable night’s music. Terry was breathtakingly good. Lovely bloke too. Big success all-round. Compering’s lots of fun, and back stage crew are very friendly and helpful. Get to bed about 3

Saturday am is first rehearsal for Sunday morning service… ends up being about 5 hours of rehearsal on the Saturday… bit much, but sounding good.

Saturday night, The Low Country played on Stage 2 – fantastic gig, one of the best things on this year. More compering, this time Brian Houston, Rosie Thomas and Denison Witmer. Again, all fantastic. Nice to be compering on this stage rather than having to try and sound enthusiastic about generic rock shite on the mainstage played by people who look like potatoes. got to bed about 3.30.

Saturday as a whole though was spoilt by The Small Person having to head home due to the Aged Feline being v. ill. We’d had to take him to the vets after Edinburgh, not well at all, not eating. Turns out he’s got Pancreatitis, and Pneumonia, as complications of his Chronic Renal Failure. None of it is looking good for the little guy.

Sunday mornig was the service – the Greenbelt service is generally fabulous. This year the music was just me, two drummers and 15,000 singers, which was a fun gig to have! Lots of new tunes by Andy Thornton, and some old GB favourites. Fun to be sat next to the Archbishop of Canterbury, playing afro-cuban grooves… sort of fits into that ‘mark thatcher arrested for funding a military coup’ bracket of weird unpredictable scenarios.

The rest of sunday was a bit more relaxed, punctuated by regular calls to the small person to check on The Aged Feline’s condition, which was not good but stable. I was pretty exhausted all day, but didn’t got and see much so was able to relax a bit more before compering that evening. Three more marvellous things – Cathy Burton (great as always), Moya Brennan (interview plus a few songs to backing track – lovely person, fascinating story, hope she comes back with a band soon.) and Martyn Joseph. Brilliant as ever. another late night.

Planned a lie in on Monday, but Deb and Alice were packing up their tent next door at some ungodly hour. Woke up, went for breakfast with my mum (oh yes, hardcore festival going mum have we). saw Rob Jackson at lunch time playing solo – magical stuff, and very funny too. Then did my gig with Calamateur, AKA andrew howie, which went very well. His songs are just marvellous, and the album’s a must.

An afternoon of wandering was followed by another performance cafe gig, this time with Andrew Buckton, who has the ability to make me cry with his songs while I’m playing them – not great when you’re trying to read chord charts. Magical stuff.

From that gig I rushed up to the mainstage to catch as much as possible of Show Of Hands – possibly the greatest live act in Britain. A massive inspiration in terms of their ability to connection with their audience, controlled virtuosity like a couple of internationally renowned concert soloists, and a great sense of humour. I come away from their gigs feeling like a total amateur. I’m pretty good at what I do, but they take the art of performing to a whole new level. I hope I never miss another London gig of theirs…

They were followed by Ron Sexsmith and Jamelia – Ron was fab (I’m a fan anyway) and Jamelia was agood festival ending gig – loads of people digging it, she had a great band with her, top stuff. We closed out the festival in Centaur with a great jazz singer called Polly Gibbons.

As you’ll notice, I didn’t get to a single seminar or worship event over the weekend – more evidence that I’d taken on far too much. next year, I’ll drop one or more of those commitments, or at least refuse to rehearse for the service! :o) But all in all it was a great fest. It’s lovely to be at a festival where I know literally hundreds of people, and have most of my favourite people in the world on one site. Great to catch up with other lovely people who are equally busy and to meet some new lovely people.

The big shadow over the whole weekend though for us was The Aged Feline. He’s coming home from the vets today, and the future looks bleak, and very short. Please keep the little guy in your thoughts and prayers – the last thing we want is for him to be in any pain or discomfort.

soundtrack – Moya Brennan, ‘Two Horizons’; The Low Country, ‘The Dark Road’; The Cure, ‘The Cure’ (thanks Greg!); the two CD compilations I made to play between the acts at Greenbelt…

John Etheridge and Arild Andersen gig

Just got back from an incredible gig – John Etheridge is doing seven nights at Pizza Express on Dean Street in London, playing with all different combinations of musicians. Tonight was a trio with Arild Andersen on bass and John Marshall on drums.


Just brilliant – the material was a mixture of John’s and Arild’s tunes, and a Metheny number thrown in. The interplay between the three of them was outstanding – I’ve not seen John Marshall play before, and loved what he brought to the trio too.

Arild uses a Paradis looper, the fore-runner to the Echoplex, and layers up bowed, plucked, twanged upright to make a beautiful soundscape for the trio to play on top of. He looped on two tunes in the second set, and a couple in the first set as well, I gather. And his upright tone is amazing. A gig not to be missed…

…and fortunately they’re playing again tomorrow night! You should go, really, you’ll love it.

soundtrack – nothing now, but I was listening to Radio 4 in the car on the way home.

Too long in the wasteland…

…out of blog-dom. So let’s catch up.

When did I blog last? er, 25th, so let’s start from there…

Friday 25th was Rob’s leaving do – Rob’s a friend from church, moving away from London down to Devon (wise man, methinks), and it was lovely to see so many friends turn out to give him a good send off. He’ll be missed…

Saturday 26th – Masterclass at Colchester Academy Of Modern Music‘s Bass Day. Lesson number one in the Steve-makes-mistakes-so-you-can-learn-from-them book is always check the address of the venue – I got an address off the website for what I assumed was the college venue, but was actually the home of the organiser. Got there, rang him, and was fortunately only 5 minutes away. Lesson two is not to trust the RAC website’s directions to anywhere – very shoddy indeed, and resulted in a 45 minute detour on a journey that should’ve taken less than 2 hours anyway…

However, the masterclass went really well – seems like a great little set up at CAMM, run by good people. The questions asked were good, and we were able to talk a lot about the process of learning an instrument and how to apply practice material to real music… A fine day.

This week I’ve been to a couple of gigs – the first was G3 at The Albert Hall – G3 on this tour is Robert Fripp, Steve Vai and Satch. Fripp was up first, and was, as expected, remarkable, playing a beautiful beguiling, deep, rich soundscape, to an audience half captivated, half disinterested. Breathtaking stuff, but pearls before swine methinks for much of the audience. Then Vai came on – did a solo intro on a triple-necked guitar, before getting his band up on stage. Now I had high expectations of Vai’s set – I know he’s an incredibly gifted technician on the guitar and have heard some stuff by him that I really liked, but tonight was a bit of a disappointment. Actually a huge disappointment. Not helped by possibly the worst mix I’ve ever heard in a major concert hall – no drums, very little bass, a tiny bit of keys and second guitar and then Steve’s guitar ripping your face off. And it’s not like I had some weird seats up in the gods – I was not far behind the sounddesk, so apparently in a good aural vantage point. Anyway, the material didn’t grab me at all either, and the shredding got tired very quickly. Especially following Fripp, it seemed unbelieveably dated and teenage. It’s a shame, cos I really wanted to like it, but it so didn’t happen for me. That coupled with the fan on the front of the stage blowing Steve’s hair back… oops.

Last on was Joe Satriani – This is the fourth time I’ve seen satch, and the third time in 18 months, and by far the best. His current band of Matt Bissonette on Bass, Jeff Campitelli on drums and Gaylan Henson on second guitar is, IMO, his strongest ever, the tunes were there, the shredding was well placed, the mix was better, the interplay between the musicians was great, and Fripp joined in on some numbers towards the end of the set. The playing was a bit freer than before, with Joe giving Jeff and Matt a fair bit of space to play, deservedly so, as they are definitely one of the finest old school heavy rock rhythm sections I’ve ever heard.

The encore was matt and jeff with all three guitarists doing Ice Nice, Red (a King Crimson number) and Neil Young’s Rockin’ In The Free World – apart from the obviously surreal experience of seeing Fripp and the Shredders takling Neil Young, it was a great choice of tunes, and Free World an inspired choice of closing number. The aftershow was fun too, with a chance to catch up with Jeff and Matt and Matt’s wife, and see Jakko, Clive and a few other old friends too…

Wednesday night was an altogether more satisfying musical experience, watching Spearhead at the Jazz Cafe (thanks to Deb and Alice for the ticket!) – one of the finest live bands on the planet, they were well on form tonight, if a little loud. A heavier reggae content than the last couple of gigs I’ve seen, they were nonetheless as groovalicious as ever, with Franti’s tales of his recent trip to Iraq an inspiration to everyone there. Very late finish though – why on earth did they start at 9.30 if they wanted to play for three hours? surely starting an hour earlier would have made sense…

Which brings us to last night’s gig, an improv sesh with Filomena, Orphy, Dudley, Roger and Roland, along with some improv theatre and dance stuff. A slightly shakey start before the gig got underway due to a couple of misunderstandings about the nature of the gig, but the gig itself was fantastic – great players, lovely people, some marvellous music and surprisingly engaging dance and theatre stuff. All in all, a marvellous night. It’s always great to catch up with the lovely musicians on these gigs, and Fil gave me space to play a solo tune from the new album, which was a great plug (and I sold a few CDs afterwards too… :o)

anyway, in between all those events, I’ve spent the last week doing album/tour/promo stuff – emailing radio, sending out CDRs, ringing venues etc. all trying to get this bass-show on the road! Things are looking good!

SoundtrackCathy Burton, ‘Speed Your Love’; Muriel Anderson, ‘Heartstrings’; me, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt 1’ and of course more of the new album.

more great live music in London.

Given that he’s so supremely crap at ever letting me know when he’s got a gig on, it was a rare pleasure to see theo travis play with his quartet at Pizza Express on Dean Street (this distinction is an important one, given that Dean Street Pizza Express is a proper jazz club, as opposed to a pizza restaurant with a couple of blokes in the corner playing some jazz…)

Anyway, it was a double bill, with Aussie bossa singer, Karen Lane, who was very good indeed, helped along by having Andy Hamill on bass – one of my favourite double bassists anywhere…

Theo’s quartet also featured Andy, along with Marc Parnell on drums and Simon Colam on piano, looking almost exactly like Howard Jones did 20 years ago… Mixing Theo’s prog fetish with acoustic jazz, his is one of the finest jazz quartets I’ve seen in a long time. It’s mad that bands this good aren’t put on in double bills with the big american jazz stars that come over – it’d be a great way to expose the Barbican and SBC-going masses to some home-grown talent. There aren’t many of the american young jazzers that could keep up with Theo’s quartet, or Ben Castle‘s quartet.

So what else is new? Well, my copy of Adobe Audition 1.5 arrived this morning – which rather helpfully supports VST plugins so I’ve got loads more to choose from, which is nice… Just recorded a fun jazzy piece, with lots of backwards looping, which as with everything else I’m doing may or may not end up on the album. It’s track #25 to be recorded though, so the chances of it being a double album are pretty strong…

Soundtrack – mememememememe.

recording so far

So, the recording process for this album started about a month and a half ago, when I decided I wanted to have the album out by the summer. At that point, I started to demo ideas – just recording them as stereo files into FLStudio, just to get me thinking about the whole album writing/recording process.

I also started to think through how I want to recording process to go, and the kind of equipment I’d need to take it on a step further from the last solo album. I’d decided I want to do another all solo all live recording record, not a step-time layering or sequencing record. I figure I’ve got at least one more all solo album before I need to do something else just to break up the flow… :o)

In order to be able to record the loops and all the processing onto individual tracks, I needed a mixing desk that had ‘insert sends’ on each channel – that way I could have Lexicon MPX-G2 #1 going into the desk, sending a signal straight to the soundcard, but also sending signal via the auxilliary channels to both Echoplexes, and the other MPX-G2, those are also input into individual channels, and each of those channels has an output to the soundcard, giving me a total of 6 outputs. However, my soundcard only has four inputs… time to get a new soundcard as well.

Ebay came up trumps on the search for a mixing desk, and I got a Mackie 1404-VLZ-PRO, which is fantastic. It was slightly less forthcoming on the soundcard front, and after two weeks spent being certain I was going to get a MOTU 828 Mk II, I decided to just get another Delta 44 and run the two alongside eachother.

So now I’ve got my set up with 6 channels going to the computer via my sparkly new desk. Time to decide on recording software…

Having used Cool Edit Pro in Italy at Luca‘s studio, I knew I liked the interface and editing facility. Cool Edit was recently bought by Adobe, and is now called Audition. So I downloaded the 30 day trial version, and waited for the immanent release of version 1.5 – not wanting to pay over £200 for a bit of software only to have to pay £50 a week later for the upgrade…

So, equipment and software in place, I started recording in earnest. The process changes slightly from track to track – sometimes I’ll work on one of the ideas I came up with before, other times I’ll put on a CD and then record whatever it inspires, or I just noodle around with the computer in record and see what comes out.

Then I’ll do a quick mix to see if it’s going to work at all, sometimes do another take or two to see if there’s a better one there, and then fire of an MP3 to Evil Harv to see what he thinks, knowing that he’s insult it.

So far I’ve got a few more funky tracks, some jazzy chordal stuff on the new 6 string, a couple of big sprawling ambient pieces and a tune with a reggae feel. This weekend I’ll probably put together a CD of what I’ve got so far, so I can have a listen through away from the computer and see if there’s any continuity between the stuff, and whether or not it might even end up as a double album…

Hopefully I’ll have an MP3 or two ready to go soon.

Inbetween takes, I’m also trying to sort out some more gigs for August (I’m planning on having the CD available from the beginning of August), and starting to get magazines etc. interested…

Soundtrack – nothing except me :o)

The end of An Era in Jazz…

Elvin Jones, drummer with the John Coltrane Quartet in the 60s, and one of the most original and inspirational drummers in the history of jazz, died yesterday.

here’s a link to an obit in the NYTimes.

And here’s a re-post of something I posted over in the dudepit discussion board a few weeks ago when it was reported that Elvin was seriously ill, about the one time I got to play with Elvin…

I once got to play with Elvin, at a clinic at the drum school I was teaching at. It was before I’d really started to listen to the Coltrane Quartet (I now own about 20 Coltrane albums, and have listened to Elvin more than any other jazz drummer…), and I was pretty rubbish, but Elvin just kept on grinning, giving me really obvious signs as to where the form was going, taking me with him. He could’ve made me look a fool, but instead did what great musicians do – play to make the band look good.

At the end, as people were applauding, he said ‘these are the cats’ about the guitarist, and I, even though it was clear to anyone with a pair of ears that we really weren’t…

Afterwards, he came over and said, ‘man, that scared the shit outta me – I haven’t played with an electric bassist in 25 years – I’m not used to HEARING to bass, just feeling it’

I’ll never forget either the fear of playing with him beforehand, or that feeling of him holding me up when I could so easily have falling on my arse. A pivotal moment in my playing career.

Today is a day to remember one of the pivotal figures in the development of jazz, and one of my all-time favourite drummers. Those moments at the end of a lot of a the Coltrane live recordings where McCoy Tyner and Jimmy Garrison drop out and leave ‘Trane and Elvin to go at it as a duo as an extended firey cadenza to the tune are some of the most sublime moments in recorded music – two hugely innovative and gifted musicians exploring the outer limits of where their music can take them.

Soundtrack – right now, clatter, ‘blinded by vision’, which just arrived this morning and is excellent but will soon make way for a day of Coltrane…

CD round-up…

Been listening to Cipher a fair bit recently – Cipher is Theo Travis’ other duo with a bassist, this time the bassist in question is Dave Sturt. Most of the gigs they do are providing soundtracks to silent movies, but their last CD, ‘One Who Whispers’ was conceived as such, as far as I know.

Anyway, however it came together, it’s fantastic – you really ought to get it. If you enjoyed ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ (which you really ought to have by now…), then you’re love the Cipher CD – lots of very fine bass playing, lovely ambient textural stuff, and Theo’s marvellous sax playing over the top. All available from the Cipher website.

I’ve also been listening to Ben Castle‘s new album, Blah Street, which is fantastic. Ben’s quartet features some of the finest musicians around – Tim Harries on bass, Mark Edwards on keys and Winston Clifford on drums, and the new record is stellar. Also worth of note is the ‘Bop Idol’ game that you can play on Ben’s website. very bizarre… Anyway, his CD is out now, and you can get it from usual places, like Amazon.

Another album I’ve listened to a bit recently is ‘Adventures in Hammered Dulcimer’ by Scott Brannon – one of the many many CDs I was given at NAMM this year (I’m about a third of the way through listening to them). To be honest, this almost didn’t get listened to, cos the artwork really doesn’t say ‘Play Me’ to me – it’s in the same ballpark artistically as the Ragatal sleeve was (which, you’ll know if you’ve seen it, is pretty dreadful). Anyway, I gave it a listen and really enjoyed it! Folky Jazzy instrumental stuff, with some proggy elements, and the rather refreshing sound of hammered dulcimer thoughout. Recommended, if you can stomach the artwork…

So there you go, a few things for you to buy this month!

And how about another webcam photo? here’s me about 40 seconds ago…

3 gigs in three nights

that’s going to gigs, not playing them this time.

Monday night was Carleen Anderson at the jazz cafe. I’ve see her there before now, and it’s always an amazing gig. Her band is wonderful – Ben Castle on Sax, Andy Hamill on bass, Winston Clifford on Drums, Mark Edwards on keys, Mark someone on guitar (didn’t catch his surname, but he was very very good), and a backing vocalist I think was called Natasha. Anyway, a great gig – Carleen’s voice is amazing, her songwriting is really strong, the grooves were exceedingly funky, and a fine time was had by all.

Tuesday night involved going to hear Duke Special at Sound Acoustic in Leicester Square, which is a lot better than the Sound venue upstairs in the same building, which is horrible. Duke Special, AKA Pete Wilson, is brilliant – dread-locked piano-playing singer-songwriter with a stellar voice, beguiling stage presence, and some fantastic songs. His EP ‘Lucky Me’ is brilliant, and he was one of my top three favourite acts from Greenbelt last year. He’s on again at The Barfly in Camden tonight, but I’m teaching til 9, so don’t think i’ll be able to make it. I’ll have a mooch around online and see if I can find a stage-time…

Then last night (wednesday), I spent a very pleasant evening listening to the JazzBerries in the Crypt at St-Martins-In-The-Fields, in Trafalgar Square. It was a rather lovely set of vocal standards, well played and sung. Good stuff.

I love wandering round London on balmy evenings – the centre of london is such a gorgeous historic place, brimming with culture and marvellousness. Theatres, restaurants, street musicians, historic buildings and monuments, groovy cafes and swanky celeb bars. Add to that the majesty of the museums, and you’ve got one amazing city. OK, so we’ve got one of the worst recycling records in Europe, the public transport infrastructure has gone to shit, the hospitals are being sold off to people who don’t want to do operations that aren’t ‘cost effective’, the government are happy to ignore democracy in action, gun crime is rampant… etc. etc. but it does have its upside too… :o) I tend to walk around with a big grin on my face at this time of year.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been listening through all the tracks that I recorded for ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’ that didn’t get used, and some of it’s really good! I obviously did a really strong stylistic selection job on what went on and what got left off, and there’s tonnes of stuff here I really like. So it might be time for a downloadable extra and live tracks album… I’ll get round to that ASAP!

– right now, more of the out-takes. Before that, Carl Young, ‘A Few Sides Of Myself’; Ben Castle, ‘Blah Street’ (which is out next Monday, and is fantastic); St Germain, ‘Tourist’; David Sylvian and Holgar Czukay, ‘Flux and Mutability’.

Photography is the new Rock 'n' Roll

Well, not really, but we did go to two stunning photography exhibitions today.

We’d only planned to go to one, as a birthday treat for the small person, but when we got to the Natural History Museum, there was a second free exhibition displayed outside.

The free exhibition was ‘earth from the air‘ – an exhibition of aerial photography by Yann Arthus Bertrand. His work focuses on the twin poles of the majesty of the natural world and the influence of mankind upon it. Lots of pictures of bizarre natural phenomena and of man’s impact on everything. Seeing it on Good Friday, it acted as a kind of devotional tool – amazing to see the wonder of creation, and the fallen-ness of the human race in its abject inability to fulfil the mandate to protect the planet.

For there we moved onto the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year exhibition – clearly these people get to glimpse through God’s letter-box, and then come back and show us their holiday snaps. Some of the most startling images I’ve ever seen, beautiful, moving, illuminating, awe-inspiring. It’s only on for another week, so if you can get to it, do. After that, it’s on tour, so check it out!

London’s museums are one of the things that give me hope for the city. Some things about living here are so f***ed up, it’s frightening. Other times, there are glimpses of magic. The museums are some of those magical places – free to get in, brimming with information and inspiration about the world. They went through a few years of charging to get in, but fortunately went back to being free. When I was a lil’ kid and we had no money, the museums was one of our favourite days out – Sundays were really really cheap on the underground, and the museums were free to get in. I was captivated by the blue whale in the Natural History Museum, and developed a fascination with whales and dolphins as a result. The British Museum is another fave london haunt.

So the funding for them now comes from the shops, restaurants and from donations, so I always make a point of buying food and books when there – today we had lunch there, and bought the catalogues to both the exhibitions. If you go, and can afford it, do support the museums – helps to keep it free for the people who can’t afford it.

SoundtrackRebecca Holweg, ‘June Babies’ – went to see Rebbeca play yesterday in the foyer at the Royal Festival Hall – her hubby is bassist Andy Hamill, whose solo CD is fanastic too. Rebecca’s gig was great, as is the CD. Highly recommended jazzy singer/songwriter.

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