A full compliment of toys!

One of the strange things about overseas touring is that I can only take a small section of my usual live rig with me. The lovely people at always take care of the Cabinet side of things, and I can always borrow a poweramp from or in this case, from Accugroove again, but there’s no way I can fly with my entire rack – three processors, two echoplexes and a Mackie desk. What I took with me for NAMM this time was two Echoplexes and one of the Lexicons.

I hadn’t really figured out what I was going to do about carrying it all around, and the day before NAMM started, and I went shopping for a soft rack bag to carry it all around in. Fortunately, I didn’t actually get one, as when I got to NAMM, Dale Titus sorted me out with a 3U soft rack case WITH WHEELS. Dale’s a very nice man. The case is a Warwick Rockbag, and seems pretty solid. It certainly saved the day when I suffered a (suspected) broken toe on the Friday morning of NAMM. Getting out the shower, I caught my toe on the top of the rail on the bath. cue much pain and screaming, to the bewilderment of Bob and Alison’s cats. Nail was ripped and bleeding, toe wasn’t moving. No point going to the doctor with a suspected broken toe as all they’ll do is what I did – splint it to the toe next to it. It obviously wasn’t so broken that it would set weird (was still toe-shaped), so I did that, hobbled for a few days, and waited for my toe-nail to fall off (it’s still there, just a bit blackened… ewww, TMI!)

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, not being able to take all my stuff to NAMM – so I was playing through the G2, with two outs into two EDPs, split most of the time into two separate amps! It sounded pretty odd, and didn’t really afford me much control over where things were going, or what the relative levels of the different layers and sounds were. It was useful in that it provided a new set of limitations within which to try and create something of substance (always tricky with 85db of background nastiness at NAMM), but now I’m home and have finally wired up my rack again, it feels great to have my main sound back in stereo, the loops separately pannable, and the option to post process everything again. This set up is so maleable. I need to work on a smaller version of this so I can do more of this on tour. The new rack bag will certainly help in Europe, but I still don’t think I can fly with much more than I’ve got here…

Anyway, I’m going to have fun getting reaquainted with my toys over the next few days… in the few minutes when I’m not teaching!

Soundtrack – Scritti Politti, ‘Cupid And Psyche’.

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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’.

American Tales pt 1

So I’m currently in Santa Cruz, having survived NAMM, and the drive north, and one gig with Michael Manring.

Got in last Tuesday, and was staying with the wonderful Doug, Vida and Dani for the first couple of days – it’s great to come out here and immediately feel at home. It just serves to reinforce my dislike of hotels.

Two days with the Lunns, then off down to NAMM. NAMM, for those new to the game, is a HUGE music equipment trade fair. The connection with the music industry means there are a fair few lovely people around. The commercial side of it means there are also a lot of losers on the make there. I tend to view NAMM as an archepelego (spelling, harv?) of lovely people in a sea of turd. you just run from one booth of nice people to the next, hoping not get hijacked by some moron trying to sell MIDI leiderhosen or the keyboard the doubles as a trouser press for musicians on the move…

All in all, it was a fab experience – I played at and compered the BassQuake event on Thursday night, which was much fun – Dan Elliot, the BassQuake founder, does an amazing job of putting together a great show every year.

On the show floor, I did one short set a day each for Modulus and AccuGroove, and spent lots of time just milling around catching up with people I rarely get to see. Some great friends where there – Anderson from Modulus, Mark and David from AccuGroove, Peter Murray, Michael Manring, Doug Lunn (again), Warren from Fodera, Wally and Lady Bo, Carl at Lakland, Eric Roche, Steve and Jill Azola, Rick and Jessica Turner, Dave Swift, Muriel Anderson, Sarita Stewart, John East, John Fearrante, Otiel Burbridge, Jeff Campatelli, Bill Walker, Bob Amstadt, Lowell, Dude. etc. etc. etc. loads and loads of great people, many of whom I only get to see once a year. Eating is a sacrament at NAMM – for me, I break bread with the Subway people every day – a foot long veggie delight, being my element of choice. Getting to eat with friends at NAMM is great, time away from the convention centre. Friday it was with Doug, Vida, Dani and Vinnie, Saturday with Peter Murray, Lunch was with Bob Amstadt on Saturday, and Tal Wilkenfeld on Sunday (fantastic young bassist from Australia working in NYC – you’re going to be hearing much more from her, I guarantee it).

So NAMM was lots of fun once again, and by not writing for a mag this year, I had a lot more time for just hanging out and enjoying the show.

During NAMM I was staying with Bob (QSC Bob from all the bass forums) and Alison – great people, who made me very welcome. The best thing about travelling is the people. The worst is missing the small person and the cats, but emailing whenever possible, and the occasional snatched phone call is having to do for now…

Sunday night after NAMM, Doug Lunn and I headed off the the Knitting Factory in LA to see Kaki King play – Kaki’s a killer guitarist, produced by the wonderful David Torn. She’s from that post-Hedges school, with a few twists of her own, and a great line in on-stage patter. A killer gig.

Tuesday was the long drive north, up here to Santa Cruz, staying with Rick and Jessica Turner. Rick and I could be stuck in a room together for months and not run out of things to talk about. They are both two of the most interesting and marvellous people I know, so coming here is my Northern California home, in the way that staying with the Lunns is in SoCal.

which brings us up to last night’s gig, back at the Espresso Garden in San Jose with Michael Manring. playing with Michael is, as you know from my raving after the UK gigs, the most enjoyable and fullfilling musical enviroment i’ve ever found myself in, and last night was great. Thanks to everyone who turned out.

And now I’m off out for lunch with Rick Walker, another great friend and fab percussionist.

more later…

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 alt.country 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.

Emotion before style.

I get given or sent an alarming number of CDs. Most weeks a couple will drop through the letter box, some with me having been emailed beforehand, others just sent to the p.o. box address on the website. Most of them because people think what they do is stylistically close to what I do, and I might dig it. Some just because people like what I do and assume (reasonably often correctly) that if they connect with my music, it might work the other way round. Some just because they feature loads of bass.

NAMM is the worst place for the ‘loads of bass’ CDs – ‘you love this, steve, it’s got tonnes of great bass playing on it’, or ‘it’s solo bass, you’ll love it’… etc. etc. Same with Cds featuring looping…

What this doesn’t take into consideration is that I’m rarely drawn to music because it stylistically gels with me. More often than not, it’s the emotional content and connection that overrides whatever style the person is working in, and I get the feeling that I’d love it whatever style they’d chosen as a vehicle for their muse.

I don’t like most of the solo bass music I’ve heard – there are some fairly obvious exceptions – Michael Manring, Trip Wamsley, John Lester, Arild Andersen, Jonas Hellborg and a handful of others are solo bassists that make music that really hits the spot for me. Most of it does nothing for me. Why? Because most music does nothing for me. Most music does nothing for you. The amount of music in any one style that any of us connect with is pretty small, even if we’re fanatical about metal/punk/electronica/folk/whatever. So the chances are that I’m not going to enjoy most of what people do on solo bass. The law of averages suggests that most of the music made by one person and a bass is going to miss me. Some of it I’ll enjoy on an athletic/cerebral level but still not get as ‘art’, others will just really annoy me.

I listen to very little solo bass music, other than my own (it’ll come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following my Audioscrobbler page that I listen to a lot of me – hey, I like it, I’m the target audience!) My CD collection gets some surprised looks once in a while – ‘I didn’t know you were into indie’, ‘I’m not, I just really like [insert indie band from cd collection here]’… I do have a dispensation towards certain musical styles – singer/songwriters tend to get a fair bit of airtime here, as do interesting instrumental soloists and duets (currently playing is the Cuong Vu trio – ‘Come Play With Me’, which is trumpet, bass and drums).

So, feel free to send or give me your CDs, but only on the understanding that I’ll listen to it as music, and may not even get round to that for quite a few months, and then probably won’t have time to write you a review (I still haven’t had the chance to listen to a lot of the stuff I was given at NAMM in January!) – I do still buy a fair few CDs, and get sent some hotly-anticipated stuff by friends, which often ends up getting a few spins in a row. The latest of those is the new album by The Low Country, ‘The Dark Road’ – they’re Rob Jackson’s band, and the CD is fantastic. You really ought to check it out, it’s just marvellous, engaging, emotive beautiful, mellow music.

Anyway, back to you sending me music – if I don’t get back to you, please don’t be offended – it may be that I’ve just been busy, or it got lost in the huge piles of CDs on my desk, or it may be that I don’t like it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like you. I’ve got plenty of friends who aren’t really into my music, and I don’t hold their appalling lack of aesthetic judgement against them. I just pity them. Pity me.

On a slightly different note, a huge thanks from both the small person and myself to everyone who’s sent messages about The Aged Feline – your well wishes and sympathy is massively appreciated and very comforting.

Soundtrack – Cuong Vu, ‘Come Play With Me’; Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Shiny Eyed Mr Zen’.

Back from Edinburgh…

Sorry for not blogging whilst away – I couldn’t remember my login details or the address where I need to go to to log in! doh!

Anyway, I’ve played nine gigs in the last two weeks, and had a whale of a time at the Edinburgh Festival.

But before Edinburgh, I had gigs in Glasgow and Berwick On Tweed. Both gigs were double-headers with Calamateur, aka Andrew Howie. Andrew got stuck in the highlands behind all the landslides on the day of the Glasgow gig, and ended up arriving at the venue half way through my set. The venue was a bar called Brel – a lovely place, with very helpful staff and a great ambience. A great place to play.

Thursday we went into Edinburgh, first to see Andrew’s mate Gareth (as featured in Danny Wallace’s book, Join Me), and then I went into to scope out the lie of the land for the festival. Never having been to the festival before, I had a wander round, and called in at the C Venues press office to find out who all the people were that I’d be talking to on the phone for weeks. Also picked up a few flyers and posters to dish out, but didn’t really get a handle on just how aggressively one has to flyer is Edinburgh is to work…

Friday was the Berwick gig – at The Barrels Ale House, which has changed a lot since I used to go in there when I was still at school and underage. It now has a lovely stage in the corner of the cellar, and loads of fantastic music on there each month. ‘Twas great fun to play a home town gig, and Andrew played another fantastic set – if you get a chance to see Calamateur live, take it, he’s marvellous.

Saturday was back to Edinburgh for a day’s flyering and sticking up posters. Still hadn’t realised at this point, that walking anywhere is a chance to give out flyers, so didn’t do as much promo as I should have. Still, I did get to meet up with Abe Laboriel – I usually meet up with Abe in LA each January during NAMM, so it was lovely to have him over here for a change, and get the chance for a nice long talk. His set, as part of the American Gospel Music fest was amazing – Paul Jackson Jnr on guitar was jaw droppingly good, and Abe was his usual inspirational self. Oh, and on Saturday afternoon, bumped into Dave Hunter, old friend from college that I’ve not seen for years. Very nice surprise.

Sunday, first gig day – more flyering, postering and badgering people to come to the gig. First gig went well, small but enthusiastic crowd, lovely venue. Didn’t set up a mic for chatting, so was probably not particularly audible.

Monday, The Small Person arrives in Edinburgh, but has to head off to meet up with old friends. No worries, I had a radio show to do anyway – had been booked for a couple of months to play on the BBC Radio Scotland ‘Arts Show’. The other guests on the day were Jenny Eclair, Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden promoing their show Men In Beige, Terrafolk, and the cast of one of the South African Shows (very good they were too…) Was most amusing to be sat in an artist’s booth at the side of the stage with Jenny, Barry and Ronnie, each with our ‘publicists’. The show went really well, and I arranged to go and see Men In Beige and Jenny’s show The Andy Warhol Syndrome. Monday gig another small crowd, but once again highly appreciative.

Tuesday Met up with Tom StreetTeam and Sarah-Jane for lunch-time curry – much fun it was too. Followed by much flyering. The Small Person proved to be a flyering genius, picking a great spot from which to get to lots of people. Went to see ‘Men In Beige’ which was fantastic – great jokes, marvellous songs, laughed til we cried. Tuesday gig major jump in attendance, and adding a mic to the set up meant the crap I was talking between tunes was much more audible, and the music/talking bollocks split was now about 60/40. It’s amazing what hanging out with funny people does for your ability to think of amusing things to say between tunes.

Wednesday was a very wet day… most days were very wet days, and when it’s pissing down with Rain, flyering becomes very difficult. But hey, there were press people coming in, so hopefully another good turnout…. bit of a drop in numbers, and the stress of trying to flyer people in the rain meant I wasn’t quite as sparky as the night before… still, playing very well by now, so all is good.

By now the days have a distinct pattern to them. Get up, drive from Berwick to Edinburgh, park car miles out of town to avoid insane parking charges, walk into town flyering all the way, head to strategic flyering points – me to The Royal Mile, small person to C main. food, catch a show, back out flyering – me to St George’s West, Small Person back to C Main. Another pretty good attendance, back to being more funny again.

Friday went to see Jenny Eclair’s show, which is fantastic – a one woman show as an ex-reality TV star – made it big on a docu-soap, did lots of ads, magazines, Richard and Judy etc. then fell from grace spectacularly. Fantastic bit of writing, well acted, lots of laughs and a few tears at the more poignant moments. Top stuff. Another good gig – audience figures steadily growing as word gets round.

Saturday last day. Flyering like mad, til we ran out of flyers. Biggest crowd of the week, just wish I had the spare time to extend the run. Proof that what I do works at Edinburgh. Marvellous reaction, loads of CDs sold, met lots of lovely people after the gig, then loaded up the car and back to Berwick. Job’s a good’un.

So all in all a fantastic week. I know so many people whose first Edinburgh Fringe experience was to lose thousands, so to have the chance to play a low risk gig like this was marvellous. And a great chance to get to know how Ediburgh works. I really want to do the whole run next year ( though will have to find someway of getting away in time for Greenbelt!) Augusts will never be the same again!

Now I’m back and sorting out stuff for Greenbelt, and for my gigs in Sept/Oct/Nov. It never stops, thank God.

CD round-up…

Been listening to Cipher a fair bit recently – Cipher is Theo Travis’ other duo with a bassist, this time the bassist in question is Dave Sturt. Most of the gigs they do are providing soundtracks to silent movies, but their last CD, ‘One Who Whispers’ was conceived as such, as far as I know.

Anyway, however it came together, it’s fantastic – you really ought to get it. If you enjoyed ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ (which you really ought to have by now…), then you’re love the Cipher CD – lots of very fine bass playing, lovely ambient textural stuff, and Theo’s marvellous sax playing over the top. All available from the Cipher website.

I’ve also been listening to Ben Castle‘s new album, Blah Street, which is fantastic. Ben’s quartet features some of the finest musicians around – Tim Harries on bass, Mark Edwards on keys and Winston Clifford on drums, and the new record is stellar. Also worth of note is the ‘Bop Idol’ game that you can play on Ben’s website. very bizarre… Anyway, his CD is out now, and you can get it from usual places, like Amazon.

Another album I’ve listened to a bit recently is ‘Adventures in Hammered Dulcimer’ by Scott Brannon – one of the many many CDs I was given at NAMM this year (I’m about a third of the way through listening to them). To be honest, this almost didn’t get listened to, cos the artwork really doesn’t say ‘Play Me’ to me – it’s in the same ballpark artistically as the Ragatal sleeve was (which, you’ll know if you’ve seen it, is pretty dreadful). Anyway, I gave it a listen and really enjoyed it! Folky Jazzy instrumental stuff, with some proggy elements, and the rather refreshing sound of hammered dulcimer thoughout. Recommended, if you can stomach the artwork…

So there you go, a few things for you to buy this month!

And how about another webcam photo? here’s me about 40 seconds ago…

Quick update…

My mum is staying at the moment, which is yet another great excuse to do not much for a few days. Today we went to the Tate Modern, a huge art gallery in London. Apart from the walk through Southwark to get there, through what looked like some sort of post-apocalyptic hellhole, it was a wonderful experience – the art was largely marvellous (especially the collection of stuff that had been found in the Thames, and Bill Viola’s 5 angels of the millenium piece, which is incredible and I’m going to have to go and see again very very soon…) – the video loop of the naked guy punching himself in the face and the plums wasn’t quite so inspiring, and some of the explainations seemed to read far too much into the symbolism of some of the art, but all in all, an amazing day out.

On another note, the NAMM show (big trade fair thingie I was at in LA in January) has two types of people at it – those I have to talk to out of obligation to the mag that I’m doing the show report for (largely, this group is made up of flunkies from companies like Ibanez and Behringer, telling me how great it is that they can release their chinese made lame-o rubbish at such a low price, and then get all edgy when I suggest fair trade might be a good path to take…), and then there are the lovely people. And there are lots of lovely people. It’s not without coincidence that most of the lovely people are also the talented ones, who are there because they make amazing instruments. Some of the lovely people are people I just know a bit from chatting at NAMM shows. Others I meet up with some are Email buddies. Jill Azola, from Azola basses is an email buddy – sharing as we do a love of gorgeous instruments (her husband Steve is the genius behind the basses), and a love of cats (Steve and Jill were commuting daily from San Diego to NAMM because one of their cats was ill and needed daily TLC – see, my kind of peoplez), and it’s always a pleasure to drop by the Azola booth, fuel my desire for one of their basses, and chat about lots of non-NAMM related stuff with Jill and Steve.

Anyway, Jill just sent me this pic, taken at the show, of me with LA session dude and nice chap, Bob Lee – (I know two Bob Lees in the LA area – the other one is my amazing friend who works for QSC, knows everything about amps, and is a top bloke. this one is session bassist and Jamerson fanatic Bob Lee…) Steve Azola is the guy stood between us with his back to the camera –

so, a fun NAMM moment, with good people, toying around with marvellous instruments. Check out the Azolas if you’re into getting an electric upright – I’m saving up for one!

Soundtrack – ah, the new Jonatha Brooke CD arived today – Back In The Circus is, on first listen, as wonderful as anything else that Jonatha has done. She’s a genius, and a very consistently geniusish genius at that. She good! Highly recommended.

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.

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