Two nights at the vortex.

Been to two gigs at The Vortex in the last week – last Monday, I went to see the launch of Ingrid Laubrock and Liam Noble’s album ‘Let’s Call This…’ – I’ve heard Ingrid play before, in a quartet, but wasn’t familiar with Liam’s playing other than through MySpace. The music was exquisite, whether improvising or playing Monk tunes, the interplay between the two was gorgeous, with Ingrid switching between squeally extended range techniques and lovely lush full melodic stuff, with Liam providing entirely unpredictable but completely logic accompaniment – a really really interesting piano player.

The album is released – like so many great UK jazz albums – on Oliver Weindling’s Babel Label, home to such artists as Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Christine Tobin, Huw Warren… definitely worth investigating.

Then this saturday, Lianne Carrol was booked to play but fell ill, so the lovely and ever-so-slightly mad Estelle Kokot was booked to fill in, and did a fab job. It was also a rather nice London jazz hang, with JazzShark over from NYC, Orphy Robinson calling in, Huw Warren visiting from north west Wales, Christine Tobin nursing a nasty cut in her leg from a bike accident, and the aforementioned Oliver Weindling from Babel Label.

The Vortex is a lovely place to hang out – if you see something on their Programme that you’re going to, drop me a line and I might meet you there if I’m not playing myself.

Dalston feels like it’s a bit out of the way, but if you’re driving from north london it’s really easy to get to, and it’s just round the corner from Dalston Kingsland BR station… Go on, go out and support some homegrown jazz instead of wasting your time and money on an overpriced trip to Ronnie Scott’s.

Myspace gone??

My myspace page has vanished! As has the Recycle Collective one… I’m pretty sure it’s a technical problem with the site, not that I’ve actually been erased, as there are loads of people who’ve lost there’s including The Lovely Rev. G, Unknown Public and Pete Levin – too random a selection of lovelies for it to mean anything in terms of a deletion policy.

So I’m now waiting for it to reappear… come on!

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!

Um, er, just stuff…

Getting ready to head out to a gig in Petersfield tonight – last one on this trip with Ned.

Been a good week so far – great rehearsal with Julie on Tuesday – our Edinburgh set has got to the point where we’re dropping great material to make way for even more marvellous stuff, and also medley-ing some of the songs, to get even more surprise and delight into the show. Our myspace page is getting loads of great interest, and many favourable comments, which is nice…

Yesterday was a bit of a disappointment in that I headed into town with the aim of getting my Cds stocked in a few shops – the manager of Ray’s Jazz wasn’t there, the dude in the Jazz dept at Virgin gave me the number of head office, the dude in the Oxford Street HMV said they have a jazz buyer but he wasn’t in, and the dude in the Bond Street one said everything has to go through head office!

I did drop a copy in for John Lewis at Time Out, so hopefully he’ll enjoy it and write nice things in the mag.

What else? Ah yes, Wimbledon has started, Henman’s out (no major surprise there as he met Federer in the second round), Andy Murray’s doing well, and some unseeded bloke who’s never got beyond the first round of anything til now has just taken the first set of Raphael Nadal… this could be a HUGE upset if it goes the distance. No breaks of serve as yet, just the tie-breaker between them…

Maybe see you in Petersfield later, fair bloglings of Hampshire, x

Mammoth tour blog

Right, I said in the mini-post that it looked like things were going to be rough, but that was an understatement… please try to keep in mind as you read this that Ned and I aren’t Spinal Tap, and this shit actually happened…

So, the back story is that the promoter – Blooz Promoz, run by a guy called Nigel in Leeds – was someone that Ned had worked with last year, he’d organised a few gigs that had gone OK, so it seemed like a good idea to go there again. I’d not had any dealings with him, but as a proven entity, was more than happy to just let Ned take it from there. We had two gigs booked on a £250 promise for each gig, and a clinic at Sound Control in Leeds.

We drive to Wakefield, get to the gig, and the venue owner says he hasn’t heard from the promoter for weeks (at this point it’s worth pointing out that he was booked as ‘promoter’ not just ‘booking agent’…), but we assume he’ll be turning up.

It gets to gig time, still no promoter, punters start to show up, in small numbers, all via my mailouts and friends of those people. Not one from any contact with the promoter, and he wasn’t there to collect the money on the door, so WE DIDN’T GET PAID. Not a penny. The people that were there loved it, and we sold a lot of CDs and t-shirts etc, but still nowhere close to the £250, and anyway, merch money wasn’t in anyway factored into that figure.

So we head to where we’re staying (with Nicola from Greenbelt – thank God we weren’t in a hotel as well!) and crash.

Friday morning we head into Leeds for a wander around, and serendipitously Ned recognises in the market the area where Nigel promoter-monkey has his stall. We head down there, and some dodgy mate of his is looking after it, who clearly not knowing where we were playing, let it slip that the venue was ‘shite’ telling us that Nigel wasn’t booking there anymore… uh-huh.

Nigel eventually appears, and after some chasing around and half-made apologies, claims he’s been ill (an email or two telling us that if it was true would have gone a very long way) gives us £100 for the previous night’s gig (hmmm – £100? what happened to the other £150?) – I’m in a rather strange position at this point as I’ve had no contact with him up to this point, so can’t argue from any real knowledge of what has been said/agreed/emailed, but Ned does a sterling job, and Nigel assures us that the Oceans Eleven gig is going to be fine, and he’ll have someone there to meet us at 8ish, and we’re on at 9. We then say ‘so we’re all fine for Sound Control this afternoon then?’ – er, apparently not. That’s not going to happen. WTF? excuses blah blah bullshit blah blah fucking nonsense etc. etc. Cancelled. Not happening. Let’s face it, almost certainly not booked in the first place.

So we head off back into Leeds city centre in search of wifi, and notice that there is NO mention of the gig anywhere (remember, promoter not booking agent) – no posters up in the music shops, no nothing. The guys in one of the guitar shops haven’t even heard of the venue…

Out for a much needed and much appreciated curry, then down to the venue. Which is closed. And by ‘closed’ I mean closed as in ‘in receivership’. Notes on the door saying ‘this property has been purchased by ************, please phone *************** for details’. So our fuckwit promoter has added barefaced lies to his catalogue of fuck ups (remember, this is Blooz Promoz in Leeds).

So grand totals for Leeds area leg of the tour –

  • gigs ‘booked’ – 3
  • total guarantees agreed prior to this leg of the ‘tour’ – £600 (£250 for each gig, £100 for Sound Control – all of which are low figures anyway, but you figure when a promoter is planning to give the band £250, there’s going to be an audience, and therefor decent merch-ops, and the chance to make it all worthwhile…)
  • gigs played – 1
  • total income – £100
  • petrol costs – about £30
  • curries eaten – 2 (each)
  • venues no longer in existence – 1
  • effect of stench of bullshit from the catalogue of lies and misinformation – overwhelming.

Now, at this point we meet up with Greenbelt chum Steve Thackray – lovely bloke, very friendly and helpful, who in 10 minutes (10 minutes!!!), gets us closer to having a gig than Blooz promo buffoon does in four months. Given 24 hours, Steve could have given us a range of venues, and found us an audience. Next time I go to Leeds, I’m talking to Steve first – he’s a man with his finger on a pulse or two…

So Saturday we get up and head to Stockport for masterclass at Riffs Guitar School, which was much fun, but underpaid. But hey, it actually existed so we’re already ahead on Leeds, and we met lovely people, sold lots of CDs, had a great time, and we had a gig in the evening anyway, so all in a fab way to spend an afternoon.

We then head into Manchester to Iguana – it’s funny how after the nonsense of the previous two days, normal treatment suddenly feels luxurious. We get there, one of the bar men comes to help us with gear and there are lots of staff there to advice, provide drinks, and the venue has many posters up advertising the gig (OK, so their own adverts say that I’m an ex-member of King Crimson and Level 42, but you can’t get everything right).

Once set up, we head to the MEN Arena, where Ned’s buddy Curtis Stigers (yes he of the mullets and power ballads in the late 80s) is opening for George Benson, and we’ve got time to catch his set before we play. Yes, you read that right, I’ve got a free ticket for a George Benson gig, and I’m leaving before he comes on. I’m crying as I type this. No, really, it hurts. A lot. George frickin’ Benson – one of the greatest human beings ever to pick up a guitar. I’ve half a mind to blow our gig and stay to watch. But we don’t, we watch Curtis, who is actually not bad at all, perfect for the audience, does a rather cool little beatbox thing in one tune, and scats a hilarious and very impressive upright bass solo in another, and while not being world-class jazz singer material by any means, does a pretty fine job and was worth going to see.

Back to the venue and lots of lovely friends have arrived – students of mine, web buddies, greenbelt friends, and people from MySpace. A proper gig with a proper audience that actually know where the gig is, and a venue that’s real, open, and has a cheque waiting for us when we finish.

We play well, sell CDs, chat to all the lovely people (special treat to see L1z there – yay!), and eventually head off home at about 12.30. Without the cheque. It’s made out to Ned. Doh! It will be sorted, no problem. Iguana’s a lovely place, and I really hope to play there again.

And we drive home through the night. Laughing about the fuck-ups of the last few days, glad to have had the last fine gig, and wondering what on earth can be done to get the dismal promoter to pay up. Believe me, if he does, I’ll amend this blog so it’s less likely to be the top hit on Google should you go looking for info on Blooz Promoz in Leeds. But right now, they’re on my black-list, shit-list and every other list that says don’t even think about working with them in a million years. We’re down £500 on a tour, Ned’s had to fly from Boise Idaho for this!!!

Next on the tour list is either Saucy Jack or Jazz Odyssey.

What’s wrong with being Sexy?

The New Standard…

The New Standard – that’s the name of the show that Julie McKee and I are doing at Edinburgh this year – it’s a show over unlikely cover-versions, where we take songs from all over the musical map, and treat them as though they were ‘standards’ – ie, we just take the melody, words and chord progression and do what we want with them.

We’ve ended up with songs by Stevie Wonder and Slipknot, Curtis Mayfield and The Cure, Green Day, Kate Bush, Gorillaz… etc. etc. It’s a great set, and we’ve done top notch arrangements. If you head over to you’ll find yourself on our myspace page, which has four tunes on it for you to have a listen to. They’re just demo live recordings, in my studio while we were rehearsing and working out arrangements. Hope you enjoy them!

While I’m here, here are the dates for this week’s gigs – hope to see some of you there –

Tuesday 20th June – CB2, Cambridge. Doors 7.30pm, tickets £6
Wednesday 21st June – Recycle Collective at Darbucka, with Special guests BJ Cole and Emily Burridge. Doors 7pm, Tickets £6.
Thursday 22nd – Escobar, Market Street, Wakefield, Yorkshire – 01924 332000
Friday 23rd – Oceans Eleven, 1-2 Church Walk Leeds, 07906 140 294
Saturday 24th – (2pm) Riffs Guitar School, Stockport, 0161 484 5208
Saturday 24th (8pm) Iguana, Manchester,0161 881 9338 tickets £3 adv. £5 on the door.
Thursday 29th – Traders, Petersfield, 01730 233 022 £5 adv/£6 door.

Tim Bowness/Steven Wilson live in Norwich

Norwich is an awful long way to go to watch a gig. Norwich is an awful long way from anywhere. Which would be fine if it was a stinking hole, but it’s a lovely city, and someone should pick it up, drag it 50 miles west and join it up with Cambridge – Camwich would be a really really lovely city.

But I digress. It’s a long way, but I went anyway. on the main bill were Tim Bowness with his band, and Steven Wilson. Tim was the singer I gigged with last Friday. This time he had a whole band with him, featuring the truly marvellous Andrew Booker on drums (the last time I saw Andrew play drums with Tim, Brian Eno was at the gig, and wanted his phone number… did he ever get it? I don’t think so… a miss opportunity methinks).

The show was opened by Andy Butler – a looping guitarist, using multiple echoplexes. Sadly, because the gig started earlier than advertised, we (by ‘we’ I mean me, Dweez and Mrs Dweez, who all went for food, planning to be back in time for advertised start) missed all but the last few minutes of Andy’s set.

Steven Wilson set was really enjoyable – I didn’t know any of the songs (for some reason, despite liking all the stuff I’ve heard of theirs, I don’t own a single Porcupine Tree album… must rectify that), no, I lie, he covered ‘Thankyou’ by Alanis Morrisette, and that I knew. Anyway, most of it was just electric guitar and voice – something that I’m always amazed more people don’t do. Billy Bragg is the absolute master of that format, but i’ve heard others do it well (Iain Archer is another that plays brilliantly with just a elec. guitar and no band). I had a brief chat with Steven afterwards (we’ve got a fair few mutual friends, not least of all Theo who has played on Porcupine Tree things and opened for them at Shepherd’s Bush).

So all in a great night, and what’s more I got to meet up with Myspace chums Jeffrey and Samantha, here from New York. Much fun.

MySpace controversy

there’s been a lot of forum activity across the entire internet created by the terms and conditions, with lots of musicians protesting that MySpace are going to be stealing our songs and photos and using them all over the place, selling them on etc.

This is the offending section in the T&Cs –

  • Proprietary Rights in Content on
    • By displaying or publishing (“posting”) any Content, messages, text, files, images, photos, video, sounds, profiles, works of authorship, or any other materials (collectively, “Content”) on or through the Services, you hereby grant to, a non-exclusive, fully-paid and royalty-free, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense through unlimited levels of sublicensees) to use, copy, modify, adapt, translate, publicly perform, publicly display, store, reproduce, transmit, and distribute such Content on and through the Services. This license will terminate at the time you remove such Content from the Services. You represent and warrant that: (i) you own the Content posted by you on or through the Services or otherwise have the right to grant the license set forth in this section, and (ii) the posting of your Content on or through the Services does not violate the privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, contract rights or any other rights of any person. You agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owing any person by reason of any Content posted by you to or through the Services.

(Italics added by me).

The purpose of this bit is to stop anyone from suing them for having their songs played on someone else’s myspace page. It also leaves them free to have streaming audio on the site for ‘artist of the day’ type deals, or even myspace online radio using the tracks that have been posted. Without this clause, they could be hit with royalty claims by God-knows how many shitty indie bands whose mates have put their tracks on their page… It’s an arse-covering clause, not a rights-thieving one.

Think about it – MySpace is currently one of the top three biggest sites on the entire internet. It’s huge, it’s a phenomenon. They really can’t afford to piss people off. They have huge name musicians on there, with incredibly adept legal teams who would fry them alive if they decided to start using MySpace music clips on TV shows or whatever. If they stole some of my music or nicked photos of my site, I’d be onto the papers quicker than you can say ‘any publicity is bad publicity’, it’d be front page news and the site would start haemorrhaging users at lightning speed. Their ad revenue would disappear and the site would implode.

Now, I like most people think that Murdoch is a despicable odious louse on the pubic hair of society. He’s filth and scum of the worst kind. He’s also a business genius. A rancid amoral business genius, but one who really knows what’s going on. MySpace is his latest acquisition and he’s not about to let it fall apart over the licencing of a few tunes. The cost of paying a band to use their music on a compilation album or tv advert or whatever is tiny compared to the legal costs of being sued by Madonna for trying to claim that they have the right to use her tunes anywhere.

So, please, stop fretting about the MySpace T and Cs. Them doing what people say they are going to do would result in such a HUGE own goal for the site and for News Corps on mass, that it’s really not going to happen.

Panic over.

Debut gig – much fun!

Julie and I got through our first gig together unscathed! What fun! The set list, as I said, was a mixture of jazz stuff such as ‘Like Someone In Love’ and ‘What A Wonderful World’ coupled with a load of less likely candidates from The Cure, Slipknot, Green Day, The Police etc.

There were a couple of expected loop gremlins (first gig going without a hitch? yeah, right.) but nothing that spoilt the gig, and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. A great first outing, methinks. (if you were there, feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section.)

And in other music news, Cd sales are going really well – thanks so much to all those of you who’ve already bought it. The feedback on ‘Lessons Learned Pt III’ is great too, which bodes well for the CD of ‘Behind Every Word’ arriving. (you can post reviews of LL Pt III in the new shop, if you want… or, for that matter, of any of the other CDs – I wasn’t able to copy the reviews over from the old shop database, sadly.

Anyway, keep telling your friends about the new stuff, point them to the MySpace page to hear some tracks from it, and then send them to the shop. :o)

SoundtrackJeff Taylor, ‘Demo 2005’; James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, ‘Live, 1971’.

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