Tour diary vol II

So, we were up to the Espresso Garden gig, which was lots of fun. The following night (Thursday) was another gig with Michael Manring, this time at The Brookdale Lodge – this place has a heck of a lot of weird mythology around it, involving mobsters, prostitutes, ghosts and god-knows-what-else. Very odd place.

As a gig venue, however, it rules. Firstly because dinner is served in the restaurant, which has a river running through the middle of it (I kid you not), and secondly because the music room has a great PA, a marvellous soundman, and a nice stage to play on.

Thanks to a borrowed mixer, I was able to do my ‘proper’ setup for the first time on the tour, with the Echoplexes in an auxiliary channel and the MPX-G2 in stereo. The sound was fantastic. Accugroove had lent me two identical cabinets to the ones I use at home, and a poweramp, so I was pretty much rocking.

The gig went well, though the big storm outside meant the audience wasn’t huge (brookdale is up in the Santa Cruz mountains, a pretty hazardous drive in the rain!)

So we’re up to Friday – Friday I set off from Santa Cruz, called in at the new AccuGroove world HQ (very nice it is too!) on my way up to meet Jeremy Cohen in Berkley. Jeremy and I have been chatting online for years, and have met up at past NAMM shows and last year in London when he and his wife were visiting. Now it was my turn to hang out on their turf, and then take Jeremy to see Kaki King at Freight and Salvage, a fantastic acoustic music club, with a lot of history, great sound and a fab view from everywhere in the room.

Saturday was masterclass day in San Jose – after Bob the original host falling ill, Mark Wright at AccuGroove became Mr Fixit and organised for the clinic to move to the Koinonia coffee shop, which was where the AccuParty in the evening was going to be anyway.

The day was a big success, the guys who came all asked lots of great questions, played well, and seemed to take lots away from it (if you were there, don’t forget to keep the discussions going over at the forum).

The clinic was followed by the AccuParty – a fun little hang out, time for people to try out the AccuGroove cabinets, and a chance for me to play some cool duets with Edo Castro.

Sunday – breakfast with the Turners, then left their lovely home and headed north to Novato to see more of my favourite people in California, Anderson Page, who works for Modulus and has been a good friend for many years, and Laura. After all the driving around gigging and teaching of the previous week, an evening in watching Pink Floyd live at Pompeii, drinking gorgeous wine (a present from Jim at the masterclass – future masterclass attendees take note!) and catching up was just what the doctor ordered. A marvellous evening on every level.

Monday morning I took my basses into Modulus – Joe Perman, who used to work there, has come back, and in the interim, my carved top fretted 6 was built, so he wanted a look at that, and while there sorted out the set up and intonation for me (thanks Joe!).

From there, I drove up to Sacramento to see Mike Roe. Mike’s the singer/guitarist in the 77s, who I’ve opened for in Sacramento before, and also in Orbis, an ambient side-project who opened for Michael Manring and I a couple of times. Dinner with Mike and Devon followed by watching about half of ‘Standing In The Shadows Of Motown’ made for another great evening.

Tuesday following breakfast I set off back to the Bay Area, calling in to see Michael Manring on the way, to discuss the next step in our plan for solo bass world domination. And then it was back to AccuGroove-land, for dinner with Mark Wright and family, and talking long into the night before flying home Wednesday.

All in all, a great trip – meeting up with so many great people in such a short space of time give me faith in the world. It often seems like a crappy place with the good people few and far between, but there are loads of ’em around. Much fine music was made, and much fun had.

Soundtrack – the CDs I took with me included – Talking Heads, ‘Stop Making Sense’; Athlete, ‘Vehicles and Animals’; Iain Archer, ‘Flood The Tanks’; Peter Gabriel, ‘Greatest Hits’; The Cure, ‘Greatest Hits’; Jing Chi, ‘3D’; Prefab Sprout, ‘Steve McQueen’; Julie Lee, ‘Stillhouse Road’; Pierce Pettis, ‘Everything Matters’; The Dum Dums, ‘It Goes Without Saying’; John Scofield, ‘Up All Night’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘Live’.

Festive Fives Pt 3

OK, fave live gigs of 2004 (no particular order etc.)

The Pixies – Brixton Academy
Billy Bragg – The Barbican
John Scofield – QEH
Show Of Hands – The Stables (and The Bloomsbury, The Borderline, Greenbelt…)
Julie Lee – The Station Inn (and Tower Records, Greenbelt, The Basement…)


Juliet Turner – The Borderline
Spearhead – Jazz Cafe
Gary Husband – Turner Sims
Carleen Anderson – Jazz Cafe
Psychodots – Cincinatti
Sam Philips – The Belcourt, Nashville

Soundtrack – Beck, ‘Sea Change’; The Low Country, ‘The Dark Road’, David Torn, ‘Best Laid Plans’.

Festive Fives Pt 1

OK, here’s the first of a few top 5s of this year –

Albums of 2004 (in no particular order)

Julie Lee – Stillhouse Road
Tom Waits – Real Gone
Sarah Slean – Day One
Matthew Garrison – Shapeshifter
Theo Travis – Earth To Ether

oh sod it, I can’t just pick 5!!

The Low Country – The Dark Road
Calamateur – The Old Fox Of ’45
Todd Johnson/Kristen Korb – Get Happy
The Cure – The Cure
A Marble Calm – Surfacing

Feel free to post your own festive fives over in the Forum.

Soundtrack – Talk Talk, ‘Spirit Of Eden’.

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’.

New residents in the house…

So Tuesday was the day our new owners moved in. Oh, we would love to think of ourselves as their owners, but it’s more than apparent who runs the show, even at this early stage.

Gizmo and Spender are two Fairly Aged Felines, from whom many lessons will be learned over the next while. They are both cuddly, gorgeous and full of personality. We picked them up from a cat-fosterer, courtesy of HAWS – Hounslow Animal Welfare Society – very lovely people who take good care of lots of lovely animals.

I’m sure I’ll blog lots over the next wee while about their antics, but at the moment, here’s a few pix to give you some idea of who we’re talking about…

this is gizmo –

and this is spender –

they’re currently investigating the house, getting into everything, and pausing occasionally for food or cuddles.

Soundtrack – Kim Taylor, ‘So Black, So Bright’; Chic, ‘C’est Chic’; Julie Lee, ‘Stillhouse Road’; John Martyn, ‘Solid Air’; Paula Cole, ‘This Fire’.

Holiday/tour recap, Pt III – Nashville

Right, so we’re four days in, and are in our fourth state (Started in Illinois, and drove through Indiana and Kentucky on our way to Tennesee – not sure how many Es Ns and Ss there are in that…)

And we arrive in Nashville, where we’re staying with Elron for a week. Elron is the unofficial Sheriff of Nashville, and a very nice man.

Tuesday, I gave a Masterclass at Belmont University, as arranged by my good friend Roy Vogt – Roy used to play bass for Englebert Humperdink but quit that and is now doing rather well for himself as a Nashville session dude and teaching at Belmont in their music dept. A great guy, and a fantastic bassist, who sat in with me on a couple of tunes during the session. Sadly it was only an hour, so I couldn’t do as much playing or talking as I’d like, but it went well.

During the rest of the week, I had a couple of little Coffee-shop gigs, the first one was at The Sherlock Holmes pub, an English-style pub in Nashville, and I was joined by two special guests, Muriel Anderson, who’s wonderful and I’ve played with before, and Stan Lassiter, who’s wonderful but I hadn’t played with before. Much fun was had, and it was nice to meet up with some people that I’d beein emailing for a while but never met – Dan Borsos from Churchbass, and Sarita Stewart (Sarita organised the gigs – hurrah for Sarita!)

After the gig, we went off to see HREF=”” TARGET=”NEW”>Dave Pomeroy’s trio, with Rob Ickes and Andyt Leftwich at Douglas Corner – one of the many gorgeous little music clubs in Nashville. An unbelieveable band. Seriously, some of the most amazing instrumental music I’ve ever heard live. If you’re anywhere near Nashville, you’ve got to go and see these guys live. Their combined CVs mark them out as Nashville session royalty, so catch them live and see what all the fuss is about. And say hi to Dave from me.

The second of the gigs was at Caffeine, a cool little coffee shop, which again was a lot of fun, and again more chums turned up, namely Josh Doyle and Dave Pomeroy, along with the group of friends that we’d gone to Nashville to visit in the first place – Elron, Julie Lee, Julie’s dad Larry, Anne, Gail… lovely people one and all.

Much of the rest of our time in Nashville was taken up with our favourite holiday past-time; browsing CD shops. With the dollar being pretty weak, it’s a prime time to buy CDs, so we made the most of it.

Saturday afternoon was The first of three Julie Lee gigs that we got to see. Julie’s a bluegrass/americana singer/songwriter that I’ve played with over here in the past, and she’s amazing. Destined for super-stardom for sure (she’s already got Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Colin Linden on her new album, which is in the Americana airplay top 30 in the states!). This gig was an in-store at Tower Records, and she was sounding mighty fine.

Sunday morning was church at Downtown Pres, preceded by a visit to their book-club/discussion group, which was much fun (though the minister at the church looks kind of like an albino Bin Laden, without the bombs, which was slightly disconcerting). Downtown Pres is an amazing place – a beautiful bit of architecture (check out the photos on the website), and also hosts numerous artist’s workshop spaces and runs a feed the homeless programme as well as all kinds of other cool stuff. A good bunch of people (we suspect also run by Elron, ultimately).

And that’s where we’ll leave it for now, as Monday/Tuesday were spent adding a couple of other states to our holiday stats, and visiting more friends… stay tuned!

soundtrack – Jan Gabarek, ‘It’s OK To Listen To The Gray Voice; Talk Talk, ‘Laughing Stock’; Kris Delmhorst, ‘Songs For A Hurricane’.

Before Nashville…. Kentucky!

I know I said Nashville would be the next US blog entry, but before we got there, we stopped at a truck-stop in Kentucky. This, obviously, after driving through Indiana (which looked beautiful from the freeway…)

Anyway, Kentucky, truckstop, me with long hair and nail varnish. It was a little like Deliverance to say the least – lots of people stopping what they were doing and turning to stare. Fortunately we were only there for coffee and gas (that’s petrol to you english lot), but I swear I heard Duelling Banjos from somewhere…

Anyway, the coffee was dreadful. So we left, and headed for Nashville.

SoundtrackKris Delmhorst, ‘Songs For A Hurricane’ (Kris opened for Julie Lee at The Basement in Nashville while we were there, and was fantastic); Stan Lassiter Group, ‘Chi’ (Stan sat in with me on one of my nashville gigs, and was fabulous).

Trip to the US Pt 1 – Chicago

OK, here’s the first entry in the holiday/tour blog. The Cheat and I flew into Chicago, as the first stop off was staying with the lovely Steve and Diane from the band Dolly Varden (apparently ‘Dolly Varden’ is a type of fish…) – on the day we arrived (Friday), DV were playing at Uncommon Ground, a very cool coffee-shop gig in Chicago, so we went to see that. Given that Chicago is six hours behind London, this meant that we arrived at the gig at about 2AM our time, and left sometime around 5. This, we both still protest, was our reason for leaving without paying… doh! We ran up quite a big food, beer ‘n’ coffee tab, and then left with the band when they’d packed up… But you’ll be pleased to know that we did ring the venue the next day and tell them that we’d be in again on Sunday so would settle up then…

Anyway, here’s Dolly Varden on stage at Uncommon Ground –

So after that, The Cheat and I spent a couple of days wandering around Chicago, which we both agreed was one of the coolest cities we’d ever visited – in evidence I offer you,

there you go, lovely. We checked out loads of the record shops in town, including Jazz Record Mart, the world’s biggest Jazz and Blues record store (who now stock my CDs, for those of you in Chicago wanting to get them). We also checked out the Millenium Park which was hosting a photo exhibition called ‘Family Photo’, featuring about 110 photos from the 1000 families photography project, by Uwe Ommer. Marvellous stuff.

Sunday night it was back to surprise my solo bass buddy Seth Horan by turning up at his gig at Uncommon Ground – he played a great set, and it was fab to be able to catch up with him, and to see his face when we walked in, while he tried to compute what the hell I was doing turning up at a coffee-shop gig in Chicago. (we also settled the bill from Friday night!)

And Monday we set off for Nashville, which will be Pt II…

soundtrackMatthew Garrison, ‘Live’; Julie Lee, ‘Made From Scratch’; Morphine, ‘Best Of’.

Recent new CD roundup.

Got a few new fab CDs lately, so here’s a quick summary –

The Low Country – The Dark Road. The Low Country is Rob Jackson‘s band with singer/songwriter Emily Barker. Coupled with a sensitive understated rhythm section, that make downbeat miserable as though they’d been born and bred in rural Tennessee, not Newcastle and Australia respectively. Rob’s one of my favourite guitarists around, and the marriage of his gorgeous tone and open tuning with Emily’s moving songs and emotive voice is magical.

Julie Lee – Stillhouse Road – more country stylings. I played a load of gigs with Julie a few years ago, and have seen her play loads of times, and enjoyed her self-produced Cds for ages. Now she’s released her debut big-budget album, with a bunch of friends from Nashville… friends that include Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, Colin Linden, Dave Pomeroy… Nashville A-listers one and all. It’s beautiful as you’d expect. Perfectly played, though I do miss Julie’s fantastic srawling rambling guitar playing – if you’ve ever seen her live, you’ll know what an original sounding guitarist she is and sadly there’s not much of her playing on here, but if you’re going to replace her with anyone, it might as well be Colin Linden! A gorgeous CD.

Pierce Pettis – Great Big World. Another long term fave chez Stevie, and someone else I’ve played with in the past. One of Nashville’s finest and most respected songwriters, and a stunning singer and virtuoso guitarist to boot. Pierce was on Windham Hill back in the 80s, and has more recently released a string of fabulous CDs on Compass. This one’s as good as the others, with the added bonus for bass-heads of Danny Thompson appearing on a few tracks on upright. Particularly on the song ‘Leonardo’, the pairing of Pettis and Thompson is inspired.

A Marble Calm – Surfacing. A Marble Calm is a project assemled and revolving around Peter Chilvers, gentlemanly bassist and piano/keyboards whiz from Norwich, and part of the Burning Shed family of artists. Peter and I have duetted a Norwich looping/improv gig and he opened for Rob Jackson and I in Cambridge recently with a lovely ambient piano ‘n’ sampled strings looped improv thingie. This album is in a similar vein, only with some fantastic special guests adding to Pete’s own ambient wash – Rob Jackson, Theo Travis, Tim Bowness and Sandra O’Neil all make fabulous contributions to this haunting and engaging ambient singer/songwriter CD.

Todd Johnson/Kristin Korb Trio – Get Happy. Todd’s been one of my favourite bassists ever since I first saw him playing with Jimmy Haslip in a two basses + drums trio at NAMM a few years ago. Gifted with a remarkable chordal vocabulary and a technical facility that allows him to simultaneously comp chords and play swinging bass lines on his six string bass, he’s worth at least two players to any band he’s in. And this is him in a trio with double bassist/vocalist Kristin Korb, and drummer Kendal Kaye. How Kristin manages to sing and swing at the same time, I’ll never know – her vocal phrasing is amazing, and she plays walking lines like Ray Brown. The CD is a collection of a great vocal standards, with a couple of originals thrown in. Lovely lovely stuff.

So there you go, get shopping!

Soundtrack – all of the above.

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