Lawson/Dodds/Wood Album Available On Bandcamp.com

I’ve got loads of End of year/start of a new decade type blogging to do over the next week, but for now, here’s the Lawson/Dodds/Wood album, freshly uploaded to Bandcamp.com, for download sale, pay-what-you-like. 🙂

<a href="http://lawsondoddswood.bandcamp.com/album/numbers">Number Five by Lawson/Dodds/Wood</a>

If you weren’t around here when it came out, feel free to watch the documentary on the making of the album that’s on Youtube – I’ll embed part 1 below, then click through the links. (the sound on the first one’s a bit rough, but it gets much better as they go on!)

Lawson/Dodds/Wood – Numbers: Available to order and download NOW!

Lawson/Dodds/Wood - Numbers, album sleeve imageHurrah! Finally! It’s up.

Yes, I know it took me flippin ages, but it’s there now, in the shop – Click here to go to the store and buy it!

Q – OK, so what do you get for your money?

A – an immediate digital download of the album – encoded at 256kbps (VBR*), beautifully and lovingly mixed, mastered and sounding amazing. PLUS an extra 45 minutes (give or take 2) of extra material: There are 3 of the raw improv tracks that Roy, Patrick and I recorded in the studio, exactly as we recorded them before they got mixed and mastered, and one completely exclusive track from the improv sessions, that’s not on the album (I’ll talk about that in a video later on today).

AND, of course, you get the CD, including world-wide postage, which will be sent out on or before November 24th 2008. It’ll be in the usual Pillow Mountain Records deluxe gatefold all-cardboard packaging, designed by the genius that is Kenny Laurenson

Q – and how much will all this cost me
A – £12.00 (as I said, including postage)
Right, so why should you order it now? Well, obviously, it’s not available anywhere else yet, so if you’re dying to hear it, this is the only place you’ll be able to get it for now – it won’t be up on iTunes/eMusic/whichever other digital store you usually use for months. Srsly. And the extras aren’t available anywhere. And won’t be for a very long time. Certainly not for ‘free’.

But more than that, it’s about future investment. If you order it now, we can cover the cost of pressing the CDs before we even put the record out. No debts, no loans, just sending the music to the people who want to hear it without any record companies or distribution companies getting in the way. We get to make the music we love, you get to hear the music we make, and no-one has to go without food to make it happen.

Think of it as arts patronage if you like, only you’re not giving ‘a donation’, you’re just buying direct from the artist to make your arts-money go further.

We’re also happy to sign any advance order CDs that you want signing, so feel free to indicate that in with your order (once the CDs out, it’ll be much harder for us to make sure we’re in a position to do that, given that we don’t live in some Monkees-esque fun-palace of gorgeous improv. We do lead normal lives… so consider it another added bonus)

Thanks so much! We’re REALLY excited about the album, as it seems is pretty much everyone who’s heard it.

And don’t forget that I will be carrying a digital copy with me, so should you have any kind of laptop or whatever with you, I can drag a copy onto your computer if you want to buy it there and then, and I’ll take your address and send you the CD when it comes out, same as if you ordered it online.

Lawson/Dodds/Wood Pt 6 – an interview with Roy Dodds

And the 6th video (the last of the ones recorded in Patrick’s Studio on Sept 18th), is an interview with Roy Dodds. Roy’s main drumming world is playing with singer/songwriters, but he’s always been in demand in the jazz world as well, thanks to his effortless musicality, something he brings from playing with people like Eddi Reader and Boo Hewerdine. So when he improvises, he’s always thinking ‘song’ rather than ‘jam’. A vital distinction if you want the music to go anywhere…

Here’s the video –

Feel free to share it, stumble it, post it to facebook, etc. etc.

Lawson/Dodds/Wood – the making of 'Numbers' Pt 1

The download release/CD preorder for the Lawson/Dodds/Wood album ‘Numbers’ is only a day or so away from happening, so last Thursday the three of us got together to record some videos – (gawd bless the Nokia N95!) – talking about the making of the album.

The first of them was an 18 minute chat about the album, which I’ll put up in its entirety on Vimeo at some point, but here’s the first chunk of it on youtube, which is largely me talking about the genesis of the project…

More videos coming very soon…

Tuesday night gig in London: don't miss it!

OK, this is VERY last minute news of a gig tomorrow night at Darbucka!

It’ll feature Lobelia and I playing our duo stuff (see Youtube for more on that!), my new trio with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds (see Reverb Nation to listen to a track from our forthcoming album!), and will also feature Yolanda Charles and Miles Bould (oh yes, unbridled funkiness from two of the most amazing musicians I know) and Lloyd Davis (one man and a ukulele – he’s fab!)

It’s a celebration, which you’ll know all about if you’ve been following Twitter over the weekend, and we’d love for you to be there – So much so that it’s only £3 for you to get in if you say you read about it on the blog when you ge there… Normal tickets are £6.

So bring your friends and come on down. The gig is at Darbucka, on St John’s Street in Clerkenwell, doors are at 7, music starts around 8 and it’s wise to plan to eat there as the food is amazing, either in the restaurant upstairs, or downstairs in the venue. It’s all marvellous.

For more info, if you’re on Facebook, you can check out the facebook event page.

See you there!

Getting the ingredients right: thoughts on Improvisation

Sunday’s gig with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds went very well – thanks to those of you who came along. The venue, The Brickhouse on Brick Lane in East London, was suitably strange – on three levels (ground floor and two balconies, the top one had beds on it!) and amazing food, and we had to get them to move the stage away so we’d have room to set up all our toys.

For those of you just catching up, the Dodds/Lawson/Wood trio is a project spawned by my Recycle Collective venture – when it’s running, it’s a monthly music night, featuring amazing improvising musicians spontaneously composing in different combinations. Quite a few of the combinations I assembled for it are planned to become ‘bands’ of one sort or another, but many of the musicians involved are so busy that it’ll be years before it happens.

However, the trio with Roy and Patrick is one that was so good we’ve all made it our priority. I’ve been playing with Patrick for years (he played at the first ever ‘proto-recycle’ improv gig at Greenbelt in 2005), and have been listening to Roy play with other people for just as long, particularly in Theo Travis’ band.

We did a Recycle gig at Darbucka in October last year, and then went into the studio in early December to record in the same way – just set up and start playing. Since then we’ve been mixing and editing the improvs (which has been interesting for me, as I usually don’t edit) and have come up with a record that we’re all really proud of (more news on that ASAP).

So Sunday was only the third time we’ve all played together, but the musical chemistry is amazing.

And that, for me, is what improv is all about – the ‘composition’ part is just choosing the right players. At its best it’s about getting musicians together who respect each other so much that they never feel like going with someone else’s idea is a bad thing. Musician who listen more than they shred, whose default position is deferential. It means that the music tends to evolve slowly as each new ingredient is added and the the others react to it.

So I may start with a groove, or some spacey ambience, or patrick may lay out some kind of harmonic territory on guitar or keys, and then the others react to it and the initial idea is modified, developed, morphed into a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.

Every time I sit down at the start of an all improv gig I wonder if we’ll have run out of ideas, if we’ll get 20 mins into the gig and just start playing a 12-bar blues or something.

One of the things on Sunday that triggered these thoughts was when the DJ who was hosting the day said he’d play a few more record and then we could ‘get up and jam’ – I was really taken aback, as I’ve never thought of this as ‘jamming’ at all.. it’s a whole other headspace to the ‘lowest common denominator’ approach that defines most ‘jamming’. It’s spontaneous composition, acknowledging that each of us as an acutely refined sense of what’s ‘good’ even when nothing is laid down to define what’s ‘right’. It’s not about finding some simple changes we can stumble through to make ourselves feel better, it’s about exploring our shared music worlds to find music that otherwise wouldn’t exisit, about listening, reacting and trying to add to what the others are bringing. This is 300% music – it’s 100% Patrick, 100% Roy and 100% me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt, playing with these guys, that my own musical vision is in anyway compromised or stunted, but I frequently feel my own playing elevated by the genius, sensitivity and creativity of the other two. We never have to ask the others to do something specific, as we each recognise that we are the masters or our own musical discipline – I know what ‘steve lawson music’ should sound like better than anyone else on the planet, and likewise Roy and Patrick. If I start telling Patrick what to play, it assumes that I know more about what he does that he knows. That’s insane.

There is, however, a deeply psychological streak running through all this, in that it takes a while to develop that kind of deep trust, to develop the ‘abandonment to the moment’ and to foster to confidence required to take the music where YOU feel it should go. With Patrick, this is part of a 6 or 7 year improvising relationship – when we first got together to play, he was rather puzzled by the idea that I didn’t want to play written songs, that I didn’t want to discuss keys and stuff, but just wanted to play. But the fruits of it is where we are now, exploring this unique shared musical space that the three of us occupy.

I’m really excited about the future of this trio, and the record release. With this, my solo stuff, the duo with Lobelia and Open Sky, I feel like I’ve got such a rich portfolio of music to work on, and feel really blessed to have the opportunity to explore the respective styles and approaches of the projects.

Exclusive track on Reverb Nation + gig news…

I’ve FINALLY got round to adding the latest bunch of gigs to Reverb Nation. The first of which is this sunday, at the Brickhouse, on Brick Lane in London (deets below in the gig cal widget).

The gig’s with my new trio with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds – two of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever had the privilege to play with. I’ve just added a fan-exclusive track to the Reverb Nation page, which you can play from from the widget below if you’re already on the mailing list, or you can just sign up! Enjoy…


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Video of Theo Travis' Double Talk live…

The very marvellous Theo Travis has just posted a couple of videos of his ‘Double Talk’ quartet on youtube – here’s one, and the second one is the top related link on there if you want to check it out. It’s great stuff and features the fabulous Roy Dodds on drums, and lots of lovely sax and flute loopage…

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…