evolution, transformation and the element of surprise!

So, if you remember back before I went out to the States in December, I did a couple of days improv record with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds, genius guitarist/keyboardist and drummer, respectively. We had two days in a friend’s studio, where we just played and listened, the played some more. No written material, no overdubs, no retakes, just playing great music and seeing where it went. I was looping and layering a lot of different sounds, and played my 6 string fretted bass more than I have on any other project

When I left to to Stateside I took the rough mixes with me – Lo. and I spent a lot of time listening to the in our various rental cars, really enjoying the open sprawling freewheeling vibe of the sessions, but knowing that they’d have to be edited for any kind of release.

Before I left, we’d said that we’d have a listen and talk more when I got back. Then I get a excited call from Patrick this morning saying that he and Roy have done DAYS of work on the stuff, editing and adding some percussion AND overdubbed the genius that is Mark Lockheart, on soprano and tenor sax and bass clarinet on a few tunes. So I change all my plans for today (which were mainly admin-based and tidying) and head over to Patrick’s to hear what they’d done.

Wow, just, wow. The work that had gone into shaping what was there, adding minimally to it, taking out the bits that didn’t, and in one case splitting one massive improv into two separate tracks. Mark’s wind parts add so much to the overall mix (especially one passage where he and I are soloing at the same time that gets really euphoric!) – hearing the music evolve from the raw unedited unmixed state, and transform into what it now is was such a delight. It’s also hugely exciting to be working with musicians who are so excited about what we’re doing. Patrick and I commented on Roy’s unique approach to drums on so much of this, where he’s playing the kit like an improvised melodic line, but without it being a ‘solo’ per se, just so inventive, to which he replied that this was the one setting where he could do that, to feel so inspired.

Apparently Mark Lockheart rang Patrick after playing on the tracks, really excited about the sound of the stuff too!

So, from here we need to finish the mixes and get a rough master together for us to listen to, and to use to get some gigs – it really shouldn’t be difficult to do, with what we’ve got. We’ll hopefully be doing some trio shows and some others where we get Mark to come and play with us too. It’s really exciting, and I hope I can get a sneak preview of it for you before too long…

Watch this space!

busy busy busy

It’s all go here!

We’ll start with last weekend – two gigs, Saturday/Sunday.

Saturday’s was a gig with Lobelia in Brighton at the Sanctuary Cafe, opening for MAP – that’s and Peter Harris – both incredible acoustic guitarists, writers of sublime melodies and fantastic performers. Also on the bill before us was a marvellous singer/songwriter, Conrad Vingoe – as well as having one of the most rock ‘n’ roll names ever (not much chance of that domain name being taken), he writes great songs and has a gorgeous voice. All good. ‘Twas a small crowd, but the venue was intimate and sounded good, the people lovely and a fine time was had by all… I’ll put photos from it up on Flickr soon.

Sunday’s gig was back at Smollensky’s with Luca Sirianni, this time with Sophie Alloway on drums. The gig with Luca is becoming a fairly regular thing, and a whole lot of fun – the chance to play a lot of pop/latin/jazz tunes, do some interesting arrangements, get funky and get paid (a bit). Luca’s a fine guitarist, who does enough ‘dinner jazz’ gigs to know just the right kind of things to play, but also likes to stretch out, improvise and have some fun. It was the first time I’d played with Sophie, and she was a treat to play with – not having come the usual ‘3 years at music school’ route, she plays with the maturity of a player who’s been gigging twice as long as she has, because she learnt on gigs. One of my main gripes with so many drummers is the don’t listen well – they establish a beat and stick with it, instead of letting the grooves grow and expand. Sophie listened really well, and also – crucially – understood the space a drummer has to occupy in a trio. As usual, I hit my stride about half way through the second set, but that’s the price I pay for not playing with drummers often enough…

…Though that’s not the case right now – I’m in the middle of a really fun recording session with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds – if you saw the last Recycle gig, you’ll know this is a pretty special trio… We spent most of yesterday setting up, but got about 20 minutes of amazing music recorded last night, and will spend much of today on it as well… except the time that I’m teaching – thanks to my going away for Christmas and January to the US, I’m having to fit in as much teaching as possible before I go, partly because lots of students want lessons before I go and partly because I need to earn as much as I can in order to be able to pay my rent, and renew my car tax in january…

in between all that, I’m booking things to do in the US (masterclasses and gigs in California), sorting out my tax return (spending a lot of time buried under piles of receipts) and somewhere this week, I need to fit in a few hours to record some tracks for an italian electronica project that I’ve been meaning to record some stuff for for over a year, and HAVE to have done before Christmas…

Add to that regular trips to the post office to send off CD orders for the new EP and people ordering other stuff as christmas presents, and you’ve got yourself one seriously overworked Stevie.

Roll on Ohio…

Recycle Collective gig, Tuesday 30th…

(this is cross-posted from my mailing list – thanks to the lap-top problems I’ve been really slow to send out info about tomorrow night’s Recycle Collective gig, so am putting the word around as much as I can today, giving you the chance to make a last minute decision to come and spend the evening listening to marvellous music in the gorgeous surroundings of Darbucka…)

Sorry for lack of communication over recent gigs (if you have a look at www.stevelawson.net/gigdiary.shtml you might see some stuff that you’ve missed) – broken laptop has messed up my web-life all round… all the more reason to subscribe to the gig RSS Feed on that page… :o)

But anyway, this is really a reminder about tomorrow night’s Recycle Collective gig at Darbucka in Clerkenwell, London – www.darbucka.com is their website.

The line-up is me on bass and loopage, Patrick Wood on keys and Roy Dodds on drums. This is a bit of a dream line-up for me, as I’ve been a fan of Roy’s drumming since his days with Fairground Attraction (yup, that was him on ‘Perfect’) through to his beautiful playing on Theo Travis‘ new ‘Double Talk’ album. And Patrick is a regular at Recycle gigs, having played with us at Greenbelt this year, and is never less than amazing – melodic, funky, inventive; the ideal improvised music collaborator! :o)

So PLEASE come down – it’s only £6 to get in, and Darbucka does fabulous food either upstairs in the restaurant beforehand, or while you’re sitting listening to gorgeous music!

Music starts at 8pm – www.stevelawson.net/gigdiary.shtml – head there for a link to a map for where Darbucka is. The address is 182 St John Street, London EC1V 4JZ and the nearest tube is Farringdon, and we’ll aim to finish in time for you to get the last tube home! Music starts at 8pm.

thanks – please check out the gig calendar for more dates and my blog for more on what I’ve been up to. Hope to see you soon,

take care

Steve
www.stevelawson.net
www.recyclecollective.com
steve.anthropiccollective.org
www.last.fm/music/Steve+Lawson

Four gigs coming up in the London area…

After a bit of a barren time gig-wise, I’ve got four London shows coming up – a couple more half hour sets at the Freedom of Expression nights in Croydon and Marylebone, a return gig at a church event in West London called The Waiting, and the much later on in the month, the Recycle Collective is back at Darbucka, this time featuring the genius talents of Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds.

Patrick’s done lots of Recycle gigs before, and always brings a whole load of beauty, funkiness and melodic magic to the gigs. His playing at this year’s Greenbelt Recycle gig was some of the finest Rhodes playing I’ve ever witnessed, especially in an improv setting. So I’m really looking forward to that!

Roy is an amazing drummer that I first heard playing in Estelle Kokot’s trio, then played with him in John Lester’s band at the 606, and recently heard him playing with Theo Travis’ new project Doubletalk at the Vortex. But I’ve been listening to him play for 20 years, as he was the drummer in Fairground Attraction, and has played with Eddi Reader ever since. I’ve found over the years with the RC that the musicians who are primarily ‘song’ players tend to improvise the most coherently; players who are as happy supporting what’s going on as they are leading. and both Patrick and Roy have that quality by the bucket-load. They’re both fantastic versatile musicians, and I’m really excited about it…

So for more details see the gigs page on my website, or the event page at last.fm, or the event page on facebook.

Greenbelt round-up…

So Greenbelt – another fab weekend. This year’s them was ‘Heaven In Ordinary’ – I didn’t like it when they suggested it last year, but it’s what Greenbelt is, an ordinary world full of heavenly loveliness. At least, it is for those of us who’ve been going there for years and know a million people (bit tougher for those peeps who are there for the first time and spend the weekend meeting a million new peoples…)

Anyway, we got there thursday evening, set up the tent.

Friday was spent catching up with friends and getting ready for the first gig of the weekend that both Lo. and I were playing at – a mainstage set with Sarah Masen. The first nice surprise was how well bands are looked after on mainstage – lots of lovely roadies and stage managers sorting everything out. Good peoples. The set went really well – was a whole lot of fun, and the crowd was HUGE for a first-band-on. Sarah sang beautifully. All good nothing bad.

The best thing about that was that we then had the rest of the night off, and were able to see a bit of Over The Rhine, and then all of Billy Bragg’s set. He was, as expected, outstanding. Funny, engaging, moving, all good things. Couple of great new songs, fab versions of old songs. He just confirmed why he’s one of my favourite live acts in the whole world, and one of my favourite guitarists too.

Onto Saturday, which started as Friday ended, with Billy Bragg, doing a talk about the campaign for a British Bill of Rights. Interesting stuff, if not without some unanswered questions (especially his attachment to the notion of a new inclusive english national pride to replace the cynical racist nastiness of the BN/P et al.)

Anyway, that was great, fascinating stuff. Following that was The Rising – Martyn Joseph’s songwriters in the round session that he does every year – fascinating stuff as usual, with BB, Amy Wadge and the bloke from Willard Grant…

After that much mellowness ensued, hanging with friends, eating lovely food, until it was time to get ready for a busy evening, firstly my gig with Ric Hordinski and then the Recycle Collective. Always a highlight of Greenbelt for me, the RC gig was a blinder, featuring me, Lo, Ric, Andrea Hazell and Patrick Wood. Much lovely music followed, and Patrick in particular was on incredible form. A real triumph.

Sunday was meant to be my mellow day, but after the previous night’s gig, Ric asked if I’d play with him again in the Performance Cafe, and I’m v. glad I did, as it was probably the best gig we did – we rocked! Great reaction from the Performance Cafe crowd too.

After that I was supposed to be compering but managed to delegate and get some time off for buying fairtrade shoes and hanging out with lovelies again. Got to see Sarah Masen play solo in the Perf. Cafe (aside from a couple of song with the lovely lady vocalistes) and she sounded great, as did Emily Barker who was on before her.

Late nights at GB are spent in the Organic Beer Tent – friendships are made, beer is drunk and the world is put right.

Monday was back to more gigs – I was compering in the Perf. Cafe, and got to introduce one of my highlights of the weekend – Nizar Al-Issa (though I got his name wrong on the intro – sorry, Nizar!) – he’s a singer and oud player, and a really great musician. Beautiful haunting music.

After him was Lo and I doing our main duo gig, playing to a nice full tent of peoples, and we played pretty well. Lo’s piano songs being especially great.

after that I got to see another one of my highlights – Beth Rowley, a fantastic singer with an amazing band (it helps that her guitarist and drummer, paul and phil wilkinson are two of my favouritest musicians anywhere). Really great stuff.

the evening was spent watching first Iain Archer, then Duke Special on the mainstage – both long time faves of mine, and both on fine form, playing to a huge crowd who loved them muchly. The headliners on the night were of no interest to me, so we headed for the beer tent. After being there an hour, Lo and I got a call asking us to go and play the late night cabaret (playing to about 1500 people)… after 2 pints… hmmm, we did it, and pulled it off. ‘Twas a little ragged, but fine.

And thus ended another great greenbelt. Now it’s time to buy a load of the talks I missed as downloads.

See you there next year!

Gig booking frenzy…

All kinds of exciting gig booking news today – first up, on August 22nd, I’ll be back playing at Darbucka for the first time this year, in my duo with Lobelia and also with Monk aka Ric Hordinski – Ric is a stunning guitarist, a former member of Over The Rhine, has produced records for people like Phil Keaggy and David Wilcox and made a stack of amazing records under the Monk moniker.

I played a show with Ric in LA a few years ago that was a whole lot of fun, and a whole lot of great music, and I tracked some fun noises for his new instrumental record when I was in Cincinnati on this last tour in the US.

The duo with Lobelia is one of the most exciting and fun musical projects I’ve had in ages, and you can hear some of what that sounds like on my myspace page and on her myspace page too.

So that’s gig #1.

Also this evening I’ve booked Patrick Wood and Andrea Hazell to come and play with the Recycle Collective at Greenbelt – both are Recycle regulars, stunning improvisors and just all-round amazing musicians.

AND, as if that wasn’t enough, I’ve booked Andrea, and am just waiting for confirmation from Cleveland Watkiss for the Recycle gig on the 6th September at The Vortex – how exciting!

Lots of great gig news fo’ sho’. :o)

Go and put them in your diaries now, you lovely london peoples.

Recycle collective one year on…

Fab gig last night. Got there nice and early to set up, so was v. relaxed. Just as well, as i’m not well at all, so couldn’t have dealt with getting there late and rushing to set up.

Catster turned up to do the door (TSP taking a well-earned night off), Cleveland and Huw sauntered in not long after 7, got set up, all good nothing bad.

And people started arriving. Lovely people, just the kind of people I wanted to see. Greenbelt people, forum people, Danes, students, poets, singers, guitarists, Orphys (what is Orphy? Clearly ‘percussionist’ is way too limiting for what he gets up to these days… :o) )… A really lovely attentive friendly audience.

I started, as is customary. First tune was a cover of a lovely song by a fantastic Canadian singer called Lobelia, who I’m going to be recording with v. soon (the wonders of MySpace) – a lovely song called Happy that while I was playing along with it to get a feel for how she plays, revealed itself to be perfect solo-version fodder. Bit of a looperlative glitch, but I know it well enough to get round those things now. Followed that with Scott Peck, then got Cleveland up, then Huw. The middle piece with Cleveland and Huw is one of the loveliest bits of improvised music I’ve ever played. Started out with a bit ambient mush thing from me drifting through loads of clashing tonalities, before settling in one place, Huw joined in, and Cleveland improvised an exquisite lyric. Food for the soul.

Onto Huw’s set, which started with a John Dowland piece, on Nord Electra… which worked. Beautifully. Another solo set of African variations from Huw, then he and I played a particularly dark electronic spikey piece (and fell about laughing at just how twisted it all got), before Cleveland joined us again for more trio fun.

Set three began with two tunes by the wonderful Gary Dunne – a great singer/songwriter/looper/house-concert-legend. Perfect Recycle material. He’s great, go and check him out.

Then onto Cleveland’s set. His Echoplex had died, but I’d brought mine as a spare so we plugged that up and away he went, including his amazing solo voice arrangement of a Chopin Prelude. Wow. Cleveland and Huw’s duo section was really lovely, with Cleveland singing walking bass and beatboxing at the same time through much of it. Really great stuff.

And onto the final act of this birthday celeb. A huge mega piece which started with Huw, Cleveland and I, with me looping both of them, then we were joined by Roger Goula, then Patrick Wood, then Orphy Robinson, then Andrea Hazell – the two guitars and trumpet were woven into this huge busy sound, which as Andrea joined me, I cross faded back into just the ambience of her unbelieveable voice and my massive reverb and delay bass part. A perfect touchdown. Particularly nice to have Patrick and Andrea there, as they were part of the first ever unofficial RC gig, before it was the RC at Greenbelt 2005.

So that’s it, year one of the RC over. A year of remarkable music, some great audiences (some small but perfectly formed audiences) a whole shitload of credibility that hasn’t as yet turned into sold out shows at the QEH, but will. :o) I’ve spent the year calling my favourite musicians in the world, and asking them to play for next to no money, and they’ve all said yes. Lucky Lucky me. Most blessed me. Thanks to everyone who’s been to the shows, who’s played at the shows – particularly TSP who did the door and helped out at all of them, BJ and Cleveland who have been involved with loads of them between then, and of course to Ahmad and Darbucka for letting us use the venue – we’re happy to have introduced so many people the delight that is Darbucka :o)

All being well, it’ll be back in February for more improvised gorgeousness. Watch this space. x

Coupla gigs this week (seen not played)

Been to a couple of great gigs this week. Firstly on Tuesday I went to see Patrick Wood’s band The Works – who, long term bloglings will remember, released one of my favourite ever British Jazz records a year or so ago, called Beware Of The Dog (get it, it’s great). They were playing at the 606 in Chelsea – a bitch of a place to find, but with a lovely policy of letting MU members in for free. Thanks to teaching, I only got there for the second send of The Works, but they were fantastic, and have two special guests augmenting the usual quartet – Bosco D’Olivera on percussion and voice, and Mick Hutton on steel pan. Mick’s pan playing was a revelation – Mick’s much better known as having been one of the finest double bassists in the country for years, but some major trouble with his hands has stopped him playing that altogether – a major loss to bass playing, but bass’s loss is steel pan’s gain. He’s a great musician, and fitted in perfectly with The Works.

So their set ended, and I thought people would start leaving, but another band were setting up. 11pm? another band? WTF? Now a dilemma – should I stay or go, the band featured some amazing musicians (Dudley Philips on bass, Julian Seigel on sax and Winston Clifford on drums), but I had an hour’s drive home, was utterly knackered, and really couldn’t sit through a whole other set. Which is a shame, cos I’m sure the whole gig was marvellous.

And then, last night I went to Koko for an album launch gig by Alexander’s Annexe – an intriguing trio of Sarah Nicholls on piano, Mira Calix on laptop and noises, and David Sheppard processing and manipulating the acoustic piano. The music was amazing – proper spikey weirdness, but with a strange beauty to it. Sarah’s a brilliant pianist, and thus gave David a whole range of lovely stuff to work with.

the big problem was the venue – Koko is a pretty big space, and they had it laid out with tables and chairs downstairs. The lack of a compere, and the drift from one musical act into another meant that the audience didn’t really stop talking when the music was on, which with this kind of thing was pretty ruinous. Next time you do a gig like that, David, gimme a mic and I’ll tell people to shut the fuck up before you start playing… ;o)

Anyway, the other fantastic revelation of the night was an ‘act’ called ‘Mr Hopkinson’s Computer’ – a laptop doing covers of 80s and 90s indie tracks that was just heartbreaking. Here’s are three myspace pages with examples – the first one has his versions of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ and ‘Where Is My Mind?’ on it. I rang a coupla friends while it was on who I knew would dig it, and they did! Jyoti, you so need to check this stuff out if you haven’t already…

Anyway – MySpace Page 1, MySpace Page 2 and MySpace page 3. go there, it’s beautiful.

Was supposed to be going to Paul Simon at Wembley tonight, but it doesn’t look like my ticket-spy has been able to secure the moychendyz. Ah well, I’m exhausted so could do with a night in.

Sad news

Just received a very sad and shocking phone-call from a friend in Edinburgh to let me know that Duncan Senyatso died last week. Duncan, you may remember, was the Botswanan guitarist and singer that I played with at Greenbelt last year – a fantastic musician and a very generous and patient man, putting up with me taking ages to get my head around the rhythms of his songs, laughing and joking, and being very generous with his praise when I finally got the songs right. He also played a vital creative part in what was one of the best gigs I’ve ever done – my ‘global footprint’ improv piece at Greenbelt, along with Jez Carr, Patrick Wood and Andrea Hazell. He sang and played guitar beautifully, miles outside of his musical comfort zone, but he fell into the a-rhythmic improv setting like a natural.

We’d talked at some length last summer about the possibility of getting British Council funding and taking the same project out to Botswana to tour with it, to do workshops in schools on improvising and music technology, and see how the marriage of the two musical worlds would work. Yet more regrets, to go along with the regret that the Global Footprint gig wasn’t recorded.

Simon, who rang me, was the mandolin player in the band last year, and has known Duncan for more than 15 years, and is flying out to the funeral.

if you click the link above, you’ll see just how highly regarded he was in Botswana. A big loss to the music world in that part of Africa, and a musical partner I shall be sad not to see again.

That’s Duncan on the left, with Rise Kagona in the middle.