Music Plans for 2010

2009 was a fairly easy-going year, music-wise for Lobelia and I. We played a load of US shows in January, and a handful of other shows across the year, but it was mainly pretty low-key stuff.

Gigs:

2010 is already shaping up to be a much more musically-focussed year. I’m in the process of booking some solo house-concerts for the end of March/Beginning of April – the open dates are

  • March 29th (near Birmingham),
  • 31st (near Exeter) and
  • April 1st (near Swindon) –
  • the 30th already has a gig booked in Southampton (more details ASAP).

If you want to host a house-gig on any of those dates, and are near (or between) those places, please drop me a line.

Then Lo and I are doing some duo shows at the beginning of May – on the 6th we’re in Leeds and the 8th in Surrey (more deets soon) – if you’re anywhere between those two, we’d be happy to come and play on the 7th, or either side of those dates. Do drop us a line.

And at the end of May we go out to the US, mainly to take Flapjack to meet the family, but we’ll be doing some house concerts and ‘house consulting’ as well – if you’re interested in hosting something (or putting us in touch with a music school/university) please drop us a line.

Recording:

It’s now nearly 4 years since I released Behind Every Word, and while it’s currently selling REALLY well thanks to Bandcamp’s wonderful download sales platform, it really is time for a new album. So I’ll be working on that very soon – just need to get the tech side worked out. Hopefully will have that available for the US shows.

In a couple of weeks time, I’m going into a studio for a day with Mike Outram – guitar-monkey extraordinaire. No idea what we’ll come up with, but if its releasable, that’ll be out sometime soonish as well.

And then there’s the archive – I’ve got a whole load of fascinating music languishing on hard-drives. There’s a duo album with Italian guitarist Luca Formentini, a strange-yet-beautiful experimental duo album with free improv trumpeter Jeff Kaiser, a quartet live recording with Jeff, saxophonist Andrew Pask and bassist Steuart Liebig. (that last one is really interesting cos I thought the gig had gone pretty badly, then listened to the recording and really liked it 🙂 )

And there’s also a double album’s worth of live stuff with Theo Travis, recorded on the tour we did after For The Love Of Open Spaces came out. That really needs to be heard. So maybe I should work on that first.

Suffice to say, there’ll be lots of cool music from me this year, if something else doesn’t get in the way.

For now, here’s the album with Theo Travis – have a listen, and then pay whatever you like for it if you want to download it.

Loop-Fests and non-music-specific music communities

It’s Loop Fest season again – firstly the daddy of them all, the Y2KLoopFest in Santa Cruz (Y2K7 this year). But this year, Andy Butler is doing a low-key thing in Norwich, which looks like fun. There have been others in Germany and other places in the states – generally smaller affairs, but seemingly most enjoyable.

Rick Walker, the organiser of the Santa Cruz fest, has done an amazing job of turning it into An Event – taking what was originally a way for he and I to do a show in Santa Cruz back in 2000 (with Michael Manring, Max Valentino, Scott Drengen and another guy who’s name completely escapes me, sadly…) and turning it into an annual event that this year has big name headliners in the form of Arild Andersen and Henry Kaiser.

A lot of the momentum for this came out of the rather-wonderful-and-at-times-all-too-serious Looper’s Delight community; a mailing list of people using looping in their music. Lots of great friendships have come from the list, and some fab collaborations (for me, I doubt I’d ever have played in California outside of the NAMM show if it wasn’t for the connection with Rick, and I also met the fabulous Luca Formentini on there too, with whom I’ve recorded a duet album that should be out some time next year).

I’ve always been a little uneasy about the idea that looping is its own genre – it clearly isn’t, any more than ‘repetitive music’ is a genre, or ‘german music’ or ‘music by freakishly tall people’. It has certain characteristics, but those are more to do with the limitations in the imagination of the user rather than any stylistic quality inbuilt in the technology. (though, thanks to the ever-wonderful Robert Fripp’s role as part-pioneer part-populariser of looping as a performance medium, a HUGE number of the loopers around are guitarists doing soundscapes, to varying degrees of success)

But that’s no bad thing – what Rick understood years ago is that audiences like a peg to hang their hat on – it doesn’t matter if it’s a loop fest or an acoustic music fest or a celebration of the music of italy or an electronic music fest – it gives the person marketing it an angle. My own hyper-sensitivity to being pigeonholed means that I bristle at the idea that what I do is defined by the technology, or that there’s some style attached to the instrument (as though solo bass is also a style or genre), but for the audience, it’s just an in road, an opening, a narrowing of focus that allows them engage with what we do, and crucially gives the media something to grab hold of.

Rick has managed to get press coverage for some pretty esoteric music, and even get the clearly-mad-mayor-of-Santa-Cruz to declare each festival day as ‘international live looping day’ (I have a mayoral proclamation hanging on my wall from the inaugural one, that most people think is some kind of weird ironic home-made christmas present. :o)

The point being, these are good things. The role of the curator is to make sure that whatever weird set of assumptions people come to these events with, the music they hear is great. There’s no such style as ‘loop music’ but that doesn’t mean that you can’t put together a coherent program of excellent music featuring looping musicians. The line up at Rick’s fests has gone from being a bunch of bassists who loop at the first one, though a period when it was largely about loopists getting together to ogle each other’s gear, to a place where he’s booking internationally known musicians (albeit from pretty esoteric scenes) for a festival of quality music. Hat’s off to his tenacity, long may it continue.

As I said a couple of weeks ago here looping is no longer a gimmick that will cover the lameness of your music but it can still work as a hook to get people through the door to hear great music.

BTW, It’s also Bass-fest season, though thus far, for the first time in years, I’ve not been invited to play at any of them… we’ll see if that changes, but it might make a nice change to be doing normal gigs at this time of year rather than playing to rooms full of bassists… They are generally enjoyable events, though meeting the people involved is mostly more interesting that listening to a lot of the music…

my own lil' iPod revolution.

Three things have happened since i got my iPod (I don’t mean ‘in the world’ – lots more than three things have happened in the world. I don’t even mean in my life – I’ve done lots of things, I just mean things specific to me owning an iPod)

Firstly, I’ve had a load more time for listening to music, obviously, which has meant that I’ve been catching up on a lot of the more obscure stuff and things I’ve owned for a while but haven’t really listened to much, which translates into me becoming completely obsessed with The Blue Nile – I’ve had three of their albums for a while, but had only listened to them on laptop speakers, which doesn’t do their music justice at all. Stick it on on headphones, and all of a sudden, it’s genius. Going to be lots of Blue Nile influence on my next album, for sure… I’ve also had a listen to Hattler (eponymous band of german bassist Helmut Hattler – rather nice modern electronic soulful dance stuff, not at all what I expected and rather good), Jorane (Canadian singing cellist – lovely stuff) and Mogwai (who I’m going to see tomorrow night at Somerset House – hurrah!).

secondly, it’s made my emusic subscription all the more important – great new music to listen to on the go – so far from them I’ve had albums by Kris Delmhorst, Erin McKeown, Nik Kershaw, God Speed! You Black Emperor,Jennifer Kimball, Rosie Thomas and Petra Haden & Bill Frisell. All fantastic!

thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it’s given me lots of time to go back and listen to all the projects I’ve recorded with various people that haven’t been released yet – the forthcoming album with Calamateur is spectacular; his songs are outstanding, as is his singing and playing, and it is, I think the first album ever to feature any of my drum programming, on what is definitely the most mental piece of music I’ve ever been a part of. The duet album with Luca Formentini, which I think will be coming out some time next year, is a glorious slice of slightly twisted ambient improv – Luca’s guitar playing and sonic ideas are a really good contrast to what I do – through most of the record it’s pretty clear who’s playing what, as his sound set is quit distinct from mine, but the mix of the two is potent stuff.

The biggest surprise was a live recording from LA in 2006 with Steuart Liebig, Jeff Kaiser and Andrew Pask – a gig that at the time I wasn’t all that happy with; it wasn’t rubbish, just didn’t feel like we’d really created a sound-space that was particularly special. Listening back to the recording, I was very wrong indeed. There are some amazing moments on it. I’ll talk to the players concerned and see if they are interested in making it available somehow – for those of you with an interest in free improv and noise squeaky electronic stuff, it should prove interesting and enjoyable…

And not only that, but I’ve just subscribed to a teach yourself italian podcast, so I’ll hopefully finally get my italian into some sort of loosely conversational shape…

Mixing new music

Today, I’ve been mixing some of the duets I recorded with Luca Formentini in Italy back in July. Luca’s a fantastically creative guitar player, and our two sound-worlds meld together really well. I’ve done preliminary mixes/edits on three tracks so far and all are really lovely. I’ll set up a MySpace page for them as soon as I can, so that there’s some stuff out there to listen to for y’all, and hopefully it’ll be released on CD before too long…

back from Italy

Back from a fantastic trip to Italy – a hugely enjoyable and creative time with Luca Formentini – a fabulous guitarist, and a great friend.

The trip started with a gig in Brescia, playing a soundtrack to a silent film, ‘The Unknown’ by Todd Browning. I’m not much of a silent/old film buff (I’ve seen Dodgeball more times that I care to remember but had never heard of Todd Browning before, and have never even seen Citizen Kane), but I really enjoyed this film. For the soundtrack I was joined by an Italian guitarist, who did a good job (though the circumstances surrounding him playing in the first place were a little more murky – I’ll save that blog-story ’til an email or two have been sent), and the whole thing was well received.

the plan for the weekend was to record a load of duo stuff with Luca – we’d recorded together before, and one of the tracks has ended up on a compilation of Italian electronica artists (Stefano Lawsoni? perhaps…) – the last time we recorded was certainly interesting enough to warrant a repeat session. With both of us being loopers, it always takes a few sessions to settle into roles and what to do with all the shared sonic space.

However, before that, we had a total nightmare with getting soundcards sorted out – Luca had ordered a new RME card, which wasn’t available in time, so his local music shop (the remarkable Musical Box in Verona) were lending us a card. First up, we took a MOTU 828, which just wouldn’t work at all. No good. Not happy running with Audition on a PC.

Back to Musical Box, and swap it for a PreSonus FirePod. Once again, not happy with the PC set up. Which eventually led to Luca swapping over his looping laptop with the Pc, so he did all his loopage on the desktop and we recorded onto the laptop, finally using Cubase LE.

Much stress and lack of sleep was the result for Luca, so it took us another half a day to settle into playing, but from there on, we got a lot of great music recorded. Whereas the first session was predominantly dark ambient, this time we were more melodically driven with more groove oriented stuff. I’m really looking forward to mixing these tracks…

So lots of recording lovely music was punctuated by regular swims in the pool, great food, much inspiring conversation, cuddling the cats, and generally having a totally wonderful time in Italy…

those of you of a sports-fan persuasion will already have worked out that I was there for the football final on Sunday night, when we decamped to a local restaurant to eat great food and watch the game. Penalties are officially a really shit way to end a football match. I reckon widening the goals by a foot every 10 minutes, and tying one of the goalies hands behind his back to speed up the chance of a goal would be better… I was really glad Italy won, though Zidane’s headbutt aside, the French played MUCH better football in the second half and in extra time…

Tuesday morning I got the train back to Musical Box to talk with the owner about playing at EuroBassDay in October, which is booked now, and to show him and the rest of the guys who work in the shop the looperlative, which naturally they all thought was amazing (because it is).

Then Tuesday afternoon I was special guest at a week-long intensive english language camp for teenagers, playing some tunes and having them interview me about what I do, about live in england and generally allowing them to try their english and stretch them in trying to understand me. A hugely enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, which I hope to get to do again.

And Tuesday night, as if all this wasn’t enough, Luca, Gio and I had dinner with Roberto Zorzi – a fantastic improv guitarist and fascinating bloke all round. Another magical Italy evening.

Got back Wednesday night, and poor TSP drove to Gatwick to pick me up in an overheating car. Need to get that fixed ASAP.

All in a marvellous week in Italy. It’s such a great country, the people are generous and positive to a fault, and the climate is just amazing. Love it.

adventures in multimedia

yesterday I downloaded the 30 day trial version of Adobe Audition – a bit of multitrack recording software, that used to be called Cool Edit Pro. I used the Cool Edit version at Luca‘s house in Italy earlier in the year and really liked it, so in prep for doing this new album, I thought I’d get it, but I’m just trying out this download version first before spending the cash on buying it.

So I’ve been recording some new tracks, with the direct bass signal and the loops on separate tracks. I still need to get a new Soundcard, as the one I’ve got only has four inputs, and I need at least two more in order to record the post-processed signal as well as the other stuff, and could do with 8 in order to record other people as well. So I’m probably going to get another M-Audio Delta 44, which is what I’ve already got – the software will happily managed multiple cards, and it’ll be cheaper tha replacing it.

on top of that, I’ve been taking more web-cam photos, so here’s a few moody Black and White ones…

SoundtrackCalamateur, ‘the old fox of ’45’; Eric Roche, ‘With These Hands’; some new recordings that Luca Formentini and I made back in March that he’s just sent to me, and rather fine they are too!

uplateupdate

So I was just getting over my jetlag from LA when I did a shift at the St Luke’s homeless shelter overnight on Saturday, got to bed just before 4, slept til gone 3 on Sunday afternoon, and couldn’t sleep last night til 4am… sod it, back to square one.

Well, the latest on Paul is that I saw him on thursday in hospital, and he’s doing really really well considering what he’s been through. Amazing really.

I’m back teaching again now, after leaving a few days blank when I got back in order to get over the jetlag. I really miss teaching when I’m away (it was great to do the masterclass in San Jose as a chance to do some teaching while in the US). And the promo for the gig with Michael Manring are in full swing – emailing radio and magazines, doing up flyers and posters to stick up and handout… all good fun.

i’m also working on getting some gigs for/with Muriel Anderson – wonderful guitarist, and lovely person, that I saw play in London last year, and who is back here in May – so been talking to promotion people about that too, hoping that we can get some stuff together. And then there’s the ongoing work of getting solo gigs and duo gigs with Theo! It never stops. Fortunately I’ve not got a couple of promoters who are helping out – Iain at Stiff Promotions is doing a marvellous job, and Richard Ravenhill who is putting on the Brighton gig is a superstar too!

Got an email at the weekend saying that my AccuGroove cabinets should be shipped out to me this week – I’m rather excited about getting them, having played through them in the States for the tour, and loving the sound. We still don’t know if these ones will be the prototypes of my signature powered cabs, or just passive ones, requiring a poweramp separately for now, but either way, the sound is the nutz, and I’m rather excited! :o)

The combination of my new bass, new cabs, and some groovy new sounds on my Lexicon MPX-G2 has given me a great renewed impetus for writing – as soon as it all arrives, I’m going to start work on the next solo album. I’ve got lots of ideas and concepts to work on, and am finding the right kind of music for the fretted 6 string. It won’t be out til the end of the summer at the earliest, and depending on what happens with distribution deals, I may have to repress ‘And Nothing But The Bass’ before then (as it’s just about sold out), but I’m really looking foward to working on it!

There are also plans to head back out to Italy soon, and do some more recording with Luca Formentini – Luca’s new solo album, ‘Subterranea’ is out now, and is excellent – a really inspired collage of guitar-originated sounds that for the most part sound very little like a guitar, along with some found-sound samples and lots of processing. CDs like that stand or fall on the ambience, and Luca’s Cd is beautifully recorded and put together, and has been spinning a lot in my CD player over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to making some more music with him.

Soundtrack – right now, Prefab Sprout, ‘Life Of Surprises’ (am in a Prefab Sprout obsessional phase at the moment). before that, The Ben Taylor Band, ‘Famous Among The Barns’; Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranea’; Kofi Bakerk, ‘Karisma’; John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Daft Punk, ‘Homework’; and Vida Vierra, ‘Woman Of The Waters’ – Vida – along with her husband Doug and daughter Dani – is one of my favourite people in the world, and is a marvellous singer/songwriter, dancer, choreographer and activist. Most of my favourite memories of this most recent trip to California aren’t of gigs (though the gigs were great), but are of spending time with Vida Doug and Dani, and with Rick and Jessica Turner – lovely people one and all.

the dark side of being away…

Remember a few weeks back I blogged about being Godfather to Angus? Angus, who had had a heart defect at birth, was rushed into hospital and operated on in his first few days of being alive, and then his mum and dad, Paul and Rachel, had a sort of dedication/service of thanksgiving thingie for him and his sister Jasmine? Well, while I was away, I got a text message on my phone saying that Paul was in ICU, on life support, and could I pray for him… at this point, as per all good film scripts my phone runs out, dead battery, and being as how it will only charge off a USB port on a computer (no wall-socket charger with me – won’t make that mistake again), I was unable to charge it. The next day I try phoning round friends, but all the numbers I need to call people are in my dead phone. So I have to wait til I get home.

This is the dark side – email, cell-phones, fax etc. all makes for an amazing web of communication, but we grow to expect it and when if fails, we don’t have contingency plans…

As it is, Paul is out of ICU, doing really well, all things considered. It turns out he was hit by a bus on his way home… not really what anyone needs. Please pray for him, and Rachel, and their tiny people.

Soundtrack – Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranea’, Cuong Vu, ‘Come Play With Me’.

Road Tales Pt 1.

As you may be able to tell by the time this is posted, I’m jetlagged. very jetlagged. Two hours sleep, then wide awake. It’s 4.38am, and I’m trying to think of things to do, listening to Muriel Anderson’s ‘A Journey Through Time’ (Muriel’s great, and will hopefully be coming to the UK in April…), and chatting to Trip on MSN.

So California stories – flew in on Sat 10th, and got the SuperShuttle to Anaheim, where I was recording a record with Kofi Baker and Ned Evett. Got set up and crashed out.

The next three days were a mix of hanging with Ned while Kofi taught, and then recording all evening – as late as my jetlag going that way would allow us. the material was largely improvs, most of which we then played again in some sort of structured way to see what came out. It’s now all in the editing – some great material was certainly recorded, but the wheat and chaff need separating! Kofi and Ned are both marvellous musicians, so it was a lot of fun to do, and a bit of a challenge to be back playing complex rythmic twiddly stuff after lots of ambient noodling…

then, NAMM – huge trade show in Anaheim, music gear manufacturers, dealers, distributors, journos and players descend on the convention centre, in a desparate attempt to do business. the makers are trying to hawk their wares – some by just making good stuff, others by getting porn stars to stand around on their booths, or lame 80s has-been rock stars doing signings… normally means the product isn’t worth looking at.

I was playing for Modulus and AccuGroove, and doing a show report for Bass Guitar Magazine, and catching up with lots of old friends – it’s one of the downsides of being a bassist is that there are rarely more than one of us on a gig, so we only meet up in airports and at NAMM… Also got to meet up with lots of friends from talkbass, the dudepit, churchbass, TBL, the lowdown, and my street-team! the now annual tradition of dinner with David Torn, Doug Lunn and Vida Vierra was as marvellous as ever, and playing at the Bass Bash was a blast, as was my gig in the lobby of the Marriott next to the show (ah yes, solo bass goes loung-core…)

NAMM ended sunday, on monday trip and I drove to Costa Mesa for a coffee house gig lined up for us by Bob Lee – nice little coffee shop, played outside, Seth Horan turned up and did a couple of tunes and was wonderful. Trip’s set was marvellous too, and his ‘did I suck?’ question at the end was so laughable it almost warranted a kick in the plums. Lots of friendly faces turned up, including Fred Hodson from Talkbass (thanks Fred!), Kerry Getz and Jason Feddy. Crashed at Kerry’s house, and on Tuesday morning Bob Lee showed Trip and I round QSC, and they lent me a poweramp for the tour (the AccuGroove powered cabs weren’t finished in time for the tour, so I took a pair of passive ones, and used the QSC amp, which sounded great.

Tuesday afternoon was the gig at CalArts with Andre LaFosse, which went well, and included a marvellous duo version of MMFSOG. Then off to see Vida and Dani for a few days. I’ve probably spent 3 months total in California now over the last 5 years, and this was the first time I’ve been to the beach! Took a walk along Venice beach, wandered around book shops and record shops, and soaked up the atmosphere. Also took a walk round the Yogananda peace garden in Santa Monica which is a beautiful inspiring place, where I’d be spending a lot of time were I living nearby…

Wednesday night went to see Abe Laboriel playing with 3 Prime at the Baked Potato – a trip to LA wouldn’t be complete without either seeing Abe or going to the BP, and as always the band were amazing.

Friday started with breakfast with Jimmy Haslip, and was followed by the long drive to Santa Cruz, which was even longer due to it taking two hours to get out of LA! But got to Rick and Jessica Turner’s place late evening, and talked for hours. Some tours are all about heavy gig schedules and travellings. Others are all about the people you meet. This was a people tour – the gigs were great, but it was the friendships, talking long into the night, eating lovely food, plotting world domination that made this trip special. I travel half way round the world and get treated like family, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Saturday (24th Jan we’re up to), was dudepit clinic day, at Bob Streetteam’s house – 11 guys, lots of a basses, and a day of talking and thinking about music, and playing some stuff to demonstrate a few concepts which will hopefully keep the guys going til next year. Bob did a sterling job of organising and hosting the event – well above and beyond any expected level of support from a street-teamer. I’m constantly amazed at people’s generousity. There’s plenty of dark stuff going on in the world, and while governments are going about their f-ed up evil business, nice people are running counter to it, demostrating friendship and grace that makes you smile at the world, and gives you hope.

Sunday was KPIG day – Michael Manring and I playing solo and duo on this most wonderful of radio stations.

Next couple of days are spent shuttling backwards and forwards between AccuGroove world HQ (Mark’s house) in Cupertino, and Santa Cruz, catching up with more old friends and hanging out with the Turners and Muriel Anderson.

Then the ‘big’ gigs – three dates with Michael Manring and Trip Wamsley. All three gigs went really really well – loads of friends turned up, Trip and Michael both played really really well, we all sold CDs, had a blast, played some very cool trios and a tasty cover of Bruce Cockburn’s ‘Pacing The Cage’ each night. Each gig afforded us more time to see friends – staying with Bob Streetteam, and Mike Roe was great – and to play lots of fine music to lovely people. The Espresso Garden show was sold out, with lots of people unable to get in (fortunately they were able to stand by the door and listen, but still…)

Then, the long drive back to LA, introducing Trip to the delights of Prefab Sprout on the way, back to see Doug, Vida and Dani, out for Doug’s birthday, a trip round socal delivering gear back to its rightful owners, and a deep sleep.

Sunday, departure day, started with a dance class – no, I didn’t dance, much as I’d have liked to – I was part of the percussion section, which was more fun than one should have on a sunday morning. Doug dropped me at the airport, and after 74 levels of security checking, got on the plane, and fortunately sat next to a fascinating woman called Gael, and chatted for most of the way home, pausing to watch ‘Whale Rider’ and ‘School Of Rock’.

A great trip – possibly my fave trip so far to the states. some great gigs, new family, catching up with old friends, fun at NAMM, great contacts for the future, and a sense that all is not lost with the world despite the crapness of so many things from Dubya to the Dean Girls.

Doug, Vida, Dani, Rick, Jessica, Elias, Trip, Michael, Kelly M, Dan, Wally, Mark, Suzy, Bob A Kelly A, Mike, Kofi, Ned, Kerry, Bob L, DT, Seth, Becca, Jimmy, Anderson, Gael, Keith, Muriel and any others who’ve slipped my mind momentarily – many marvellous friends old and new, thankyou all. (good lord, three weeks in LA and I’ve come back an unreconstructed hippie…!)

And now it’s 5.23am, I need sleep. badly.

more on Tuesday’s gig with Theo soon…

Soundtrack – Muriel Anderson, ‘A Journey Through Time’, Mike Roe, ‘Say Your Prayers’, Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranean’ – three lovely friends with three lovely albums.

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’;