end of year roundup top 5s

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

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

top 5 albums from this year –

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

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

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

Top 5 musical collaborators this year –

Theo Travis
Orphy Robinson
Patrick Wood
Luca Formentini
BJ Cole

Top 5 fave gigs I went to –

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

Top 5 fave gigs played –

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

Top 5 International Destinations –

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

Heroes –

Tony Benn
John Pilger
Michael Moore
Michael Franti
Scott Peck

Villains –

Richard Desmond
Max Clifford

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

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

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

try again

OK, so this is my second attempt at writing this, having written a very long post earlier before my computer crashed nearing the end. Bugger…

anyway, here’s the bullet point version (I’m sure much to evil harv’s delight) –

on Saturday I went to a memorial service for a friend whose life was tragically cut short by cancer a couple of weeks ago. She was 29, had a baby and a husband – everything to live for, but the cancer had other ideas. The service was moving and beautiful, but nothing could hide the deep, painful merciless injustice of someone being cut down that early in life. I’ve no idea what her poor hubby is going through – he’s someone I’ve looked up to hugely for years, and I just hope that I can somehow be there for him now. The pain must be inconceivable.

Friday I got a new computer… well, some bits with which to construct a new computer having picked at the bones of my old one for whatever morsels could be rescued. the new chimera is pretty good, and The Captain was invaluable in building it for me – I’d have no idea how to put the damn thing together – software, I’m fine, hardware, forget it.

So the last few days have involved lots of installing of software, lots of trying to find email archives and diary archives etc. All great fun… but at least is all runs a bit quicker, and I’ve not got an extra external drive so I can back everything up. Some friends of mine were burgled this last week, and aside from the electronic stuff the had taken, they also lost a load of photos and film that was in the camera and camcorder, as well as a load of work that was on the PC – that’s terrible! I’m going to try and keep backups of everything so it can’t be stolen or lost or have my harddrive crash again… It’s such a pain as the actual stuff is hardly worth anything, but the work on it is very hard to replace…

anyway, today was a teaching day, and posting out of CD orders (yup, still getting orders for the older albums too! :o) this week I need to get the extra disc pressed up and sorted, so that it’s already to be sent out to all of you who’ve advanced ordered it by next week…

On the gig front, Italy this coming weekend is confirmed, but Stoke Newington on Nov 9th has been cancelled… comings and goings, hellos and goodbyes, bookings and cancellations. Thunder and Rainbows from the same sky. Friends dying, babies being born. All part of the cycle of life, but that doesn’t make the tragedy of death any easier to bear, the joy of birth any less marvellous. On that note, congrats to Johnny and Rosie, Geoff and Sarah and maybe to Steve and Linda by now, who knows… St Luke’s is awash with babies, with more on the way!

Soundtrack – Keith Jarrett trio, ‘Tokyo 96’; Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires, ‘Second Sight’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Hejira’; Charlie Haden & Hank Jones, ‘Steal Away’; recordings of me with BJ Cole and Orphy Robison, and with Luca Formentini, Moreno and Gianni in Italy.

Musical Friends…

…are keeping me happy…

so sang Bruce Cockburn in 1970, and indeed it’s true in my life too.

The latest installment in musical friendship began on Friday when I went to see Lifehouse play at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. What a fantastic band!! I’ve got both their albums, but the live experience is even better, and the new guitarist is amazing. I met Sergio, Rick and Jason a couple of years ago in LA, and have seen Sergio a few times since (he came to one of my gigs in LA), so had to go see them play when they were here. Great to hear them, great to get to hang out here in London rather than in LA this time!

part 2 of musical friends was Julian’s wedding on Saturday – Julian’s a former student of mine from Drumtech, who’s now doing big business on the session scene, and deservedly so, he’s a truly brilliant drummer (he was when I was teaching him too, so I’m not taking any of the credit for that!) – anyway, his wedding was naturally full of musos, lots of whom I hadn’t seen for ages, so it was great not only to see my friend get married, but to catch up with so many old aquaintances. Add to that the full on gospel choir hymns/worship section of the service, and some fantastic food at the reception, and you’ve got a magical day.

part 3 – meeting up for a beer on Sunday afternoon with Steve McEwan and Nick Paton. I’d not met Nick before, but he was in Friends First’ – one of the bands I’ve listened to most in my whole life (their album ‘We See A New Africa’ soundtracked about three years of my life in my mid teens). It was great to meet him, and be able to give some advice on indie promotion to someone whose music has meant so much in my life.

part 4 – Denison Witmer is a singer/songwriter from Philly who played at Greenbelt this year, and was fantastic. We chatted a bit at the festival and swapped CDs, and he was playing in Brixton on Sunday night, so The Cheat and I went down to hear another stunning gig from the man. Also gave me a chance to buy his other CDs, and go for a curry with Denison and The Cheat.

Then today, met one of my occasional students, Nick, for a coffee, and had a marvellous afternoon chatting about life, music, politics and everything in between.

So, music friends have indeed been making me happy, which got me thinking, and I came up with the notion of the Pillow Mountain Records extended family – a list of artists who are good friends, and whose music I endorse wholeheartedly, and will encourage as many people as possible to check out. So anyway, so you don’t have to go rummaging through the PMR site for the list, here are the links for you to peruse. All these peoples are amazing artists, and lovely people worthy of your patronage.

www.altruistmusic.com – Andre LaFosse
(turntablist guitar)
www.petermurray.ca – Peter Murray
www.denisonwitmer.com – Denison Witmer
www.kerry-getz.com – Kerry Getz
www.manthing.com – Michael Manring
(solo bassist)
www.johnlestermusic.com – John Lester
(solo bass singer/songwriter!)
www.nedevett.com – Ned Evett
(fretless guitarist)
www.tripwamsley.com – Trip Wamsley
(solo bassist)
www.unguitar.com – Luca Formentini
www.calamateur.co.uk – Calamateur aka Andrew Howie
www.julielee.org – Julie Lee

there you go – check ’em out!

soundtrack – right now, Julie Lee (see above), ‘Made From Scratch’; before that, Denison Witmer (ditto), ‘Safe Away’ & ‘Philadelphia Songs’; The Choir, ‘Wide Eyed Wonder’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘World Of Wonders’; Nik Kershaw, ’15 Minutes’; John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’.

You Call That Hot???

….London’s heatwave, described below, suddenly didn’t seem quite so amazing when I stepped off the ‘plane at Verona Brescia airport, and into a furnace. Now THAT’S hot!

What a marvellous time I’ve had for the last few days – great music, great people, great food, great weather.

The solo gig was at the Rivolta Art Restaurant (or something like that – not sure what the official name was) – a marvellous place in Rivotella, on the banks of Garda Lake. The gig was outside the front of the restaurant, so I had people who’d come just to listen, people who’d come to eat at the restaurant and people who were just walking by (which kind of reflects the healthy attitude to the arts that seems to be pretty widespread in that part of Italy, but that may just be the very groovy people I was spending my time with) – anyway, the gig went really well, despite a bizarre introduction from a slightly crap clowning troupe who decided to do a 10 minute show about 20 feet from where I was playing! Time to take a break… sold a pile of CDs, and paved the way for quite a few more shows in that part of Italy.

The next three days involved lots of recording – duo with fab guitar user/abuser, Luca Formentini, quartet with Luca and a rhythm section of Gianni Sabbioni and Frank Moreno, and trio with Luca and Moreno. The duo and Quartet were very good, Trio was good, but I think due to the kind of sound we’d go with the quartet, we slipped all too easily into trying the same thing, and in the quartet lineup I’d not been playing much in the way off basslines, leaving that to Gianni, so the trio was a little empty sounding when attempting the same thing…

Anyway, it was all good, got tonnes of stuff recorded.

Sunday night was spent at a marvellous Italian family birthday celebration, and due to my total lack of Italian linguistic skills (Ciao, Gracia, and a bunch of musical terms is about as far as it go at the moment, but I’ll be learning more soon… ;o) I ended up talking in French to a marvellous Italian artist called Albano Morandi. All in all, a great way to spend a Sunday night in Italy.

So I’m home now, glad to be back with the small person and aged feline. Time to get ready for Greenbelt next weekend, and to get back into finishing the work off on the album with Theo…

Soundtrack – now it’s Janis Joplin, ‘I Got Dem Ole Kosmic Blues Again Mama’, before that Sigur Ros, ‘Agaetis Byrium’; David Bowie, ‘Heathen’; in Italy, Bruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’; Mark Knopfler, ‘The Ragpickers Dream’; Fripp/Sylvian, ‘Damage’; The Cure, ‘Disintigration’; The The, ‘The Naked Self’; David Sylvian, ‘Gone To Earth’; Bill Withers, ‘Best Of’.

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