More recycle bookings…

Been busy over the last couple of weeks lining up the musicians for the new few RC gigs – lots of the people have had on my wish-list for ages are now booked! Yay!

August 23rdSebastian Rochford, Andy Hamill and me. This is a bit of a dream line-up. Seb’s one of my favourite drummers I’ve ever played with. We did one gig together in Brighton a couple of years ago, and he listened so well to the loop stuff, and played beautifully. An immensely creative chap, and Mercury Prize nominee last year, no less! He’s in Polar Bear and Acoustic LadyLand and plays with lots of people in the F-IRE collective.

And Andy Hamill. As well as officially being of the nicest people in jazz ever, Andy’s also one of my favourite double bassists anywhere. If you’ve heard either of Theo’s last couple of albums, he’s the low end on there, but has also played with 4 Hero, Carleen Anderson, Shea Seger, Theo Travis, Mark Murphy, Nitin Sawhney, Chris Bowden, Boris Grebenshikov, Cara Dillon, Tracey Thorn, Kylie Minogue, Ben Castle, Ursula Rucker and Harry Hill!

I’ve been wanting to try a trio with drums and double bass for ages, and feel so lucky that the first time I get to try it is with two musicians of this kind of quality. Wow.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, on Sept 20th, we’ve got saxophonist Jason Yarde, one of the most celebrated young british jazzers of recent times. An outstanding performer, composer, improvisor – a really really interesting musician, who will add something completely new to the RC vibe, for sure. Another huge talent.

And with Jason and I, making a very welcome return, Leo Abrahams – currently out on the road playing guitar for Roxy Music, is also Brian Eno’s guitar monkey, and has worked with Imogen Heap, Nik Kershaw, Ed Harcourt, Paul Simon and a host of other great people. He was excellent last time, he’ll be just as great this time.

And at the moment, it looks like October is going to be BJ Cole and Ingrid Laubrock joining me. How lucky am I? Yay!

Paul Simon – Surprise

Just got this through today, and am on my second listen. Paul Simon is in that very tiny group of people who’ve never done a bad album (caveat, I’ve never heard ‘Capeman’, the soundtrack to his ill-fated musical) – most people of his era (Joni Mitchell, Jackson Brown, Neil Young etc.) mad some fairly duff albums in the 80s, but Paul, like Tom Waits and Bruce Cockburn, has remained pretty consistent all along. Which is why it always amazes me when this album is described as a return to form – his last album, ‘You’re The One’ is outstanding! It’s a really great record, with a couple of tracks that would be in my all time Paul Simon top 10, and not a duff track on it.

It was the same when James Taylor brought out ‘Hourglass’ – ‘return to form’ says the press. Huh? His previous two albums before that were ‘Live’ (possibly the greatest live album ever recorded) and ‘New Moon Shine’, a truly beautiful album.

The problem is that critics always want a hook to hang a story on. ‘It’s brilliant, like all his other albums’ isn’t as dramatic as stories about emerging from a creative wilderness or doing your best album for 15 years… maybe I should just pretend that everything else I’ve done has been completely eclipsed by my new album… :o) I mean, I do genuinely think it’s the best thing I’ve done (I wouldn’t release it if I didn’t…), but it doesn’t make Grace And Gratitude look like an amateurish work…

So, my review – the new Paul Simon album is magic. Full of great songs, great playing, and some fantastic sonic treatments from Brian Eno. For the bass geeks amongst you, Pino’s on it, Abe Laboriel Snr’s on it, Alex Al is on it and Leo Abrahams (from the RC gig before last) is on fretless bass on one tune! That’s the kind of calibre of player we get at the RC.

But every Paul Simon album is magic. You really ought to have the set. He’s got a way with phrasing a line that make it feel like a conversation. The melody never gets in the way of the words. Like Joni Mitchell and a handful of other singers, it’s as much story-telling as it is singing.

Some MySpace Props…

as they say in the hood.

A few MySpace links to various coconspirators –

BJ Cole – genius of the pedal steel, plays on one track on my new album.
Cleveland Watkiss – Recycle Collective regular, one of the greatest singers I’ve ever heard, let alone worked with.
Calamateur – Scottish singer/songwriter and found-sound experimentalist. Writes really beautiful songs, and we’ve got a duet album coming out some time in the next few months.
Theo Travis – Saxophonist… you know who Theo is by now, right?
Leo Abrahams – guitarist at the last Recycle Collective gig. Bloomin’ marvellous.
Orphy Robinson – vibes/percussion/trumpet/weirdness. An amazing musician and composer.
Trip Wamsley – solo bassist, composer, player and writer of gorgeous music. New album coming out soon.
Jeff Taylor – played at the first Recycle Collective gig. Great singer/songwriter.

There you go, I’ll add some more soon. Click on those, have a listen, if you’re on myspace already then leave a comment, buy the CDs of the stuff you like, and check out their gig lists!

Recycle Collective gig 5

Another fine ‘n’ fun Recycle gig last night. The run up to it wasn’t good at all – thanks to Arsenal playing at home, we got there 45 minutes later than we needed to, and even then I’d left my laptop at home which I’d planned to set up and record it.

Eventually got set up, but didn’t do a proper soundcheck, so it wasn’t til I started playing that I realised something was wrong somewhere in the system – the problem being that when I’m recording, I use all 6 of the Mic channels on my desk ‘cos those are the ones with insert/sends. When I’m doing a gig like this, I need to free up the mic channels for other things (like mics), and somewhere in the process, I’d managed to unplug one channel of the Looperlative from the back of the machine.

Much sonic struggling ensued through my first couple of tunes – the combination of trying out new tunes and malfunctioning gear was a tricky one – but the improvs with Cleveland and then the trio section went really well, so no worries there.

Leo Abrahams was up next, and play three amazing solo tunes (one called Slippery Jack was particularly amazing). we then did ‘My Song Is Love Unknown’ together, which was fine, but would’ve been better if I’d worked out what that weird minor chord was in the middle (!), and then onto the trio, which was really interesting. Leo introduced it as one of his own tunes, and played the progression from the tune (with a beautiful delay and filter guitar sound that I want to steal!), Cleveland and I responded to it in the way we would any improv, and it soon morphed away from whatever Leo had initially intended, as his first loop faded out, and we transitioned into some amazing space. Cleveland is quite possible the most intuitive musician I’ve ever performed with – his instinct for reacting so clearly to whatever is going on, and taking it to new heights is remarkable.

Third set was Cleveland solo to start – he’s got some new Echoplex tricks up his sleeve, and really knows his Lexicon processor now and put on a really great show. Followed by an equally marvellous duo set with Leo, that went to some very strange places in a beautiful and beguiling way.

The last of the trio sets comprised two beatbox-related tracks, with similar grooves but very different textures, the second of which ended up with some crazy double-time swing section that really ended the gig on a high.

All-in, much fun. ‘Twas nice to try out a couple of the new tunes in front of a friendly audience – need to get them down a lot tighter before next week.

For those of you asking for recordings, i’ve got some of it on the laptop, but it crashed three times (my guess is that trying to run a firewire powered soundcard and the laptop itself off the same battery is a bit much for the machine) – so I’ve got a few bits, and I’ll fire it up later to find out what. But the distraction of faffing with it reminded me that if we are going to record these things, I really need to a) get there a lot earlier (like we’d planned to without the Arsenal traffice) and b) DELEGATE.

Next RC gig is May 18th – see you there!

Not only a good write up…

…but a ‘Critics Choice’ listing as well!

Says much the same thing –

‘Improvising jazz and soul vocalist explores loops and sampling with Brian Eno sidekick Leo Abrahams and bassist Steve Lawson.’

Now I’m a v. happy bunny. :o)

Imogen Heap gig

This is one I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while. I first saw Imogen Heap play at the Kashmir Klub about 6 years ago, at a ModernWood Management showcase gig, along with Nik Kershaw (who also had Leo Abrahams on guitar, to be featured at the next Recycle Collective gig) and the Dum Dums. I then bought her debut album in the US for some tiny amount of money, and it very quickly became one of the favourite CDs in this house. It’s great.

Last night she was playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire – a pretty huge venue for someone who this time last year was just finishing up recording a self-produced CD. However, between then and now, the track Hide And Seek from that CD, ended up being featured at some critical moment on The OC (I’ve never watched The O.C. – I’ve been to Orange County, and if the TV show is accurate, I can’t imagine in being very interesting, and if it isn’t, I’d just get annoyed with it). It was a huge radio hit all over the place, Radio 1 played it a lot here, and Imogen was right there in the spotlight where she belongs. The album’s lovely, BTW.

So, anyway, the gig – Shepherd’s Bush Empire – a v. large and pretty prestigious gig, though not the friendliest for the musicians or the audience. I’ve ranted here before about venues owned by Carling, and SBE is one of them with the corresponding focus on beer, leading to people talking. At times it was impossible to hear what Imogen was saying between songs, and during the two supports there was a bit of chatter coming from the main floor.

Ah yes, the support – first support was Zoe Keating – someone I’ve had a fair bit of email contact with as she’s a looping cellist, and was, I think the third owner in the world of a Looperlative, after me and Rick Walker. Her solo set was lovely, featuring unprocessed looped Cello (and the best live amplified Cello sound I’ve ever heard – apparently it’s an AKG contact mic, will get the details for any geeks wanting to know). Very lovely stuff.

Second support I didn’t get to hear much of… We arrived just before 8 so we could see Zoe play, and thanks to the craziness of guest-list goings-on, I had a ticket, but TSP’s hadn’t arrived yet ( we were meant to be going with TAFKASB, but she had to go to some punk gig instead…) so I went in to see Zoe’s set (not fair on TSP at all, but as my ticket was on Zoe’s guestlist, it would have been pretty dreadful to miss her solo set), then came out again to find TSP and sort out tickets. Which was all during second support.

Sadly, while my first ticket was seated upstairs, second tickets were standing downstairs only. We’re too old for that, but we did anyway, found a place by the stairs where TSP could see the stage and settled in for an evening of chronic backache.

Imogen came on and did her first number just solo, looping her voice with a Repeater (she so needs a looperlative!) – it was one of the most musical, clever, groovy and entertaining loop performances I’ve ever seen. It’s interesting that often the best loop-based performers are those that don’t make a big deal out of it, but that’s by the by. The rest of the night was a gorgeous mix of solo loopy stuff, solo piano stuff and was the first time she’d showcased the full band, with Zoe being marvellous on cello, plus drums, tuned percussion and a second keyboard player (the second support bloke), augmented by a few things on laptop.

Imogen’s stage presence was somewhat akin to an amiable old-school TV chef, like a glammed up Fanny Craddock cooking up the perfect gig; ‘now we’re going to add some Cello – would that be lovely?’ – sadly the constant chatter of audience members lubed up on nasty overpriced lager from the venue owners meant that a lot of the between song asides were lost, but the whole vibe of just chatting to the audience instead of trying to whoop them into some frenzy was right up my street.

All in all, musically and performance-wise one of the finest gigs I’ve seen in a long time, some of the most sophisticated looping and a whole slew of stunning songs (including one of the duets she did with Urban Species years ago, just her, the rapper from the band and piano – lovely stuff!). I just can’t wait to see her play the Barbican or Festival Hall, or the Albert Hall – somewhere with seats and an audience encourages to STFU during the whole gig.

The After-show party was a bit of a long wait – I really wanted to meet Zoe, so we stuck around for about 45 minutes til she showed up. Well worth the wait, as it’s always lovely to meet online-chums face to face. Also got to say hi to Imogen, who I’ve met on a few occasions before, but she couldn’t remember where. :o)

If she plays near you, DON’T MISS IT.

Third musician for the April Recycle Collective!

Well, it’s been an enouraging couple of weeks. I’ve been asking lots of lovely musicians to take part in the Recycle Collective, with a very very positive response. Those who’ve said they want to take part in the future include Seb Rochford, Byron Wallen, Andy Hamill, Rebecca Hollweg and Oroh Angiama. Lots of fantastic musicians, all lovely people too!

And what’s more, the third musician that’s playing with Cleveland Watkiss and I on April 29th is Leo Abrahams, an amazing guitarist and looper that I first saw live playing with Imogen Heap and Nik Kershaw at the Kashmir Klub about 5 years ago, and who played after me at Greenbelt last year. He’s hugely in demand, working recently with Brian Eno, Ed Harcourt, Stairstailor, David Holmes and others, and having worked in the past with Paul Simon and Nick Cave amongst others. I’m so excited about both hearing Leo’s solo set, and what he Cleveland and I will come up with as a trio!

Head over to Leo’s myspace page to hear some of his lovely solo music.

All this means that the Recycle Collective continues to be unmissable.