First greenbelt gigs…

Got here yesterday, set up our tent (tent??? what am I doing camping at my age!)

First gig went well – first half was me solo, doing Grace and Gratitude, Kindness Of Strangers and People Get Ready, then Jez joined me, and we did the audience participation improv from Edinburgh, and then a bunch of other improv stuff that seemed to go very well as well. Lots of fun.

I then got to see a bit of Iain Archer’s set on the mainstage, which was fab, as expected.

Then it was back into playing/compering mode for the late night ‘jazz lounge. First act was Jez on solo (I joined him for a version of Autumn Leaves. Then a singer/songwriter called Naomi, and finally my first live set with Duncan Senyatso, which went surprisingly well – playing those African rhythms without a drummer was a real challenge, and the tempos were moving around a bit, but all in, it was fine.

This morning was spent with TSP, my mum and niece just mucking around, and this afternoon we’ll take in a few seminars. Then it’s back to playing again tonight! all mad.

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not one but two Amy Kohn gigs in London

One of the best things about Edinburgh is meeting up with other performers. Sometimes it’s a fleeting yet encouraging chat outside a venue (I met Alan Carr outside the Assembly Rooms where he was performing, and had a lovely chat and swapped encouragement for the fest) and other times it’s people who become top chums and you stay in touch with.

Amy Kohn is a friend of JazzShark‘s, who was playing up at Edinburgh, and who stepped into the role of Echoplex footpedal on Fringe Sunday and jammed along on accordian, on Amo Amatis Amare. She was down in London this weekend playing a couple of gigs so we went along. First up she was at The 12 Bar – an acoustic venue in central London, playing at an accordion night (oh yes, it’s not just bassists who get together for a geek-out once in a while!). Obviously for this gig she was just playing accordion and singing, but was fab. She writes very quirky songs, with lots of really odd harmony in them, and it takes a while to get drawn into Amy-world, but when you catch up with her, it’s beguiling stuff.

Monday’s gig was at Ray’s Jazz in Foyles – just a half hour in-store. But they had a piano, so I went along to see what Amy was like with piano instead of accordion. Damn, she’s a fantastic piano player! Scary stuff indeed. The Accordion is a great live tool, in that it gives her freedom to move around, it’s pretty original for a left-field singer/songwriter and is just makes a nice change, but Amy’s piano playing is on a whole other level. There are nods towards Tori and Kate Bush, but that’s just a tiny part of what Amy does. She’s as much Charles Ives as she is Tori Amos, and her background in musical theatre definitely creeps in there too… I picked up copies of both her albums, and have listened to the brand new so-new-it’s-only-an-advance-copy one, which is marvellous. Really really original and lovely. Top stuff.

Today’s been a day of two halves – the first half was spent shopping in Enfield with my auntie Babs. Well, she’s actually my third cousin Babs, but has always been auntie Babs… (maternal grandmother’s cousin). Anyway, I think I’ve probably blogged about Babs before – she’s 80 (I think), but looks about 20 years younger, has a more active social life than most people half her age, a great sense of humour, and is much fun to go out for lunch with. Today she needed the batteries in her smoke alarms changing, so that was a fine excuse for us to go out for lunch before heroic me shimmying up a ladder to swap said batteries over.

And now I’m listening to and playing through the songs for Duncan’s greenbelt gig. Lucky me – what a charmed life. 🙂

and on a lighter note

Had a fun weekend, though not got as much work done as I should have.

Starting Friday lunch-time, it was yet another ‘last ever’ gig for the RFH Foyer as booked by JazzShark. It was a particularly fitting booking, as it was Rebecca Hollweg, a fabulous singer/songwriter, with a great lil’ quartet, featuring Andy Hamill on bass – one of my favourite bassists in the country. It was a lovely gig, with yet another ‘thanks, Sue!’ speech at the end, and a great rendition of ‘How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You’, with Winston Clifford changing the words to ‘How Sweet It Is To Be Booked By Sue’!

Friday night was a Soul Space meeting, planning the next service, which I won’t be at. They’re doing a Labyrinth service, which are always fun – see for more on what they are (and do the online version – it’s very chilled and lovely.)

Saturday started with teaching, and then in the afternoon it was Malcolm’s ordination at St Paul’s Cathedral. Malcolm (and his other half, Meryl) have been at St Luke’s for ages, and have had a pretty huge influence on the way the church looks, feels and thinks. Very lovely peoples. Malcolm has been at Vicar Hogwarts for a couple of years, and was ordained on Saturday. I got there 10 minutes before the service started and already all the seats were gone – seems there are lots of people in London who like the high-camp of some C of E pomp and ceremony on a Saturday afternoon. So I stood at the back, gave Malcolm a wave as he came in, and left after about half an hour, and headed over to The RFH, to go to the Patti Smith gig at Meltdown.

Was there very early, so was following the score in the Tennis. Murray was two sets to love up, looking good for another upset. Fell apart in the third, lost it 6-0. Was a break up in the fourth, all going v. well, but the length of the match got the better of him, and he still lost. It was a very odd experience just following the score – no news, no report, no audio. Just the score changing on my phone screen as I hit refresh… Very sad to see him lose.

Anyway, Juliet turned up, and we went in to see John Cale – who was on startling form. The opening tune was a spooky surreal monologue in the style of Velvet Underground’s ‘The Gift’, which some fantastic spacey noises.. and a very recogniseable bass sound… …which I soon recognised as being Flea from the Chili Peppers. I’m still not sure if I really dug what he was doing… it was a lot more pentatonic/obvious lick-based stuff than the rest of the band, but maybe in needed that to ground it… hmmm

Anyway, the rest of the set blended so many fantastic elements, from the spookiness of the opener, to some really straight ahead piano-playing singer-songwriter stuff through to full on Neil Young stylee guitar-rage in the last track. A sublime set. Always good to see the old guys rock out!

during the break, we realised we were sat next to Roy Harper, a genial chatty bloke, for sure, who amusingly kept throwing plastic cups at the losers in front of us who kept blocking our view by standing in stupid places.

Patti’s gig was very fine too – she played through the whole ‘Horses’ album, start to finish, and then did ‘My Generation’ as cover at the end, not wholly convincingly, with a ‘rise up and take the streets’ rant in the middle… A fine sentiment, but a tricky one to deliver in the middle of a song without looking like a raving polemicist. Discourse works better than shouting, methinks. Or am I just getting old?

Anyway, I was very pleasantly surprised by her set – most of Rock’s sacred cows have no place, in my humble opinion, being on the throne they are on, but she was entertaining, engaging, intelligent and captivating.

Sunday – church in the morning (sermon was way too long and I can’t can’t handle full-on exegesis on a Sunday morning…), followed by coffee in Highgate with Steve and Lorna, after which the three of us meet up with Harry, Karen and Juliet for more cakes. Too much cake.

And finally, last night, called round to Orphy’s to drop off a copy of Jazz Review (he does the blindfold test this month), and ended up helping him register and getting set up as well, so he’s now got a news page, and an atom feed – here.

Soundtrack – Ali Farka Toure and Ry Cooder, ‘Talking Timbuktu’.

Tim's out…

By and large, I’m not a sports person at all. Just don’t get the competitive side, don’t care about the teams, find it absurd when people talk in terms of ‘we won’ when they had nothing to do with the game etc.

However, I do have a soft spot for tennis. I don’t generally care who wins, I just enjoy watching it.

Having grown up in Wimbledon, the Wimbledon tennis tournament has more interest for me than any other sporting event. For one, it just looks nice – people in white running around against a green background, making graceful movements and playing strategically is just fun to watch, like a goldfish bowl or a really cool screen saver.

The more tennis I watch the more I can get drawn into the mythology of it, so I’m slightly sad that I’ve just watched Tim Henman get knocked out by Dmitry Tursunov in the second round. As those of you watching it or listening to it will know, this is the first time that Tim’s gone out of Wimbledon in the first week for 10 years – that’s a pretty impressive record! He has been the great hope of British tennis for all that time, and it would have been a lot of fun to see him watch it. Fortunately Tennis doesn’t seem to suffer from the same xenophobic rhetoric as many other sports that Brits compete in (I once wrote an article for Third Way magazine about football fundementalism), so supporting Henman seems more like a pro-Tim move than a pro-Brit move. I have very little desire to support the English in any of their sporting ventures…

Anyway, Tim’s out, but it was a fantastic match, hats off to Tursunov. Of the Brit contingent, Andrew Murray is the only one still in. Oh, and Raphael Nadal was knocked out today as well – lots of seeds disappearing!

SoundtrackVikki Clayton, ‘Looking And The Stars’ & ‘Live’ (singer/songwriter, who sings with Fairport Convention – lovely stuff)

The end of civilization as we know it?

So I’m sat here, having a conversation with myself about why Kris Delmhorst isn’t a superstar – I’m listening to her album, ‘Songs For A Hurricane’, loving it, and trying to imagine why she isn’t the biggest thing in the singer/songwriter world. So, this is going on in my head, and I flick over to the BBC entertainment newsfeed in Thunderbird, and see that the new UK #1 single is the Crazy Frog ringtone. What the hell is going on with the world? A ringtone at the top of the singles chart??? The singles chart has been largely irrelavent for many a year, but this is pretty much the nadir of its descent into a Dante-esque new level of hell.

For starters, who the hell is buying it? OK, I know, it’s lil’ kids, downloading it, not thinking about the cost etc. etc. It’s still a nightmare. The charts have always been subject to the occasional hijack by things that have nothing to do with its normal constiuency – like every time Cliff has a hit, or when Robson and Jerome suddenly became one of the biggest selling acts of the decade with a couple of shitty karaoke versions of great songs just cos old ladies in their millions dashed out to buy their lame band-in-a-box-plus-drunk-pub-singer drivel.

But, ringtones?????????.

I now know why Kris isn’t a huge star, and I’m far less bothered by it than I was 10 minutes ago. I’ve not paid any attention to the singles chart for a decade, and I guess no-one else is really.

Chart-wise, the audioscrobbler charts are a much more interesting indication of what people are actually listening to, given that they log actual plays of actual songs on real people’s computers. So it’s a geek-chart, but a real chart nonetheless.

But the lesson is surely to give up listening to charts and mainstream radio for music suggestions, and go on recommendations and networks, and random links and of course, solo bassists.

SoundtrackKris Delmhorst, ‘Songs For A Hurricane’.

One busy day in the studio!

Had a really fun studio session today. It was with Andrew Buckton, a singer/songwriter who lives in Bath. I’ve played with Buck for years, and been on his last two albums. We did Greenbelt together last year.

This was his first recording project for about 4 years, and was designed to be very low maintainance – one day to record everything, just him, me, Jez on piano/keys and Tom Hooper on drums.

So we set up in Jez’ home studio this morning and got to work. We’d not heard any of the songs ahead of time, so the form with each track was for Buck to play it, or at least a bit of the verse and chorus, we chat about possible arrangement ideas, sometimes try out a few bars of a particular idea, then hit record and go. Lots of the tunes were first take, one take jobs, which is particularly satisfying. Only one actually had an edit in the middle – we re-did the instrumental playout on one song to change the chord progression we were playing to. On most of them, there’ll be the occasional bar of bass/guitar or keys that needs cutting ‘n’ copying from elsewhere in the song just to tidy up the timing, but for the most part it was all done there and then – solos were recorded live, Any track that needed bass note and chords from me was played that way in real time with no looping – i just came up with ways of voice the chords to be able to play both. It was a very fun challenge.

Bass-wise I used all three Moduluses, and just for fun wedged a bit of foam under the strings near the bridge on the four string – it sounded amazing! I’m definitely going to keep the foam in my bag for studio sessions in future. Made the bass feel very different to play, and the sound was fantastic – much more old-school sound.

A couple of the tracks had fun slidey fretless lines, one had a really incessant fast 16th not octave pattern (which was the first time I got to try out recording this thumb-down, thumb-up, index finger, middle finger sequence on someone else’s music, using it to play two notes on the low note then two on the octave, playing 16s at about 120bpm, which was harder than if we’d been doing it at 180, as it’s a technique that lends itself most readily to daft-fast playing.)

I took my whole live rig with me – loopers, mixing desk ‘n’ all. Didn’t use any of the loopage, but did need the mixing desk to set up monitoring for myself and buck, and used a couple of the channels on the desk as preamps for acoustic guitar and keyboard. The moral of the story is TAKE EVERYTHING to a studio session. I always take whatever I might possibly in my wildest imagination need. If you don’t use it, it’s good exercise carrying it to and from the car anyway. Be prepared – I was a cub-scout, and a crap one, but I do try and stick to that bit of the motto…

The arranging side of the session was as much fun as the playing – Buck, like most singer/songwriters, tends to favour certain kinds of feels and guitar strumming patterns, so the challenge is finding ways to subvert that into another style that a) suits his voice and the melody and b) says something about the subject matter. Buck’s songs are often pretty bleak, sometimes with a redemptive twist at the end. Others are more devotional spiritual songs. Lovely stuff that requires and deserves sensitive arrangements. I think today we did the best job we’ve done on any of his albums. Tom Hooper played beautifully on drums, and was a delight to play with – very relaxed feel, fantastic timimg and a great sound. And he’s a nice bloke – what more could one want from a drummer??

So now it’s down to jez to do the mixing – tidy up the audio files, get the levels sorted, add reverb, compression, EQ and any other processing that might need doing, and probably add a keyboard overdub or two. I’m really looking forward to hearing the finished product, and of course, I’ll let you know when it’s available!

Soundtrack – Lucy Kaplansky, ‘Ten Year Night’.

Some Listening Stats.

These are all taken from my Audioscrobbler top 50 artists playlist for the last 10 months or so.

  • number of artists that I know personally – 22/50
  • number I’ve played bass with – 9/50
  • number of bass-fronted acts – 5/50
  • number of singer/songwriters – 22/50
  • number of instrumental artists – 12/50
  • number I’ve seen live – 27/50

I wonder how that stacks up alongside your listening habits? If you’re a musician, do you listen to music by people you know, or people who play your instrument? do you buy many CDs at gigs, or do gigs inspire you to buy CDs?

Soundtrack – Joe Pass and NHOP, ‘Chops’.

Beware Of The Dog

No, we haven’t just got a Dog (the fairly aged felines are particularly glad about that) – it’s the title of the new album from The Works, who used to be known as Woodworks, and are the brainchild of keyboard/guitar genius, Patrick Wood. Pat and I have played together a fair bit – it was fun getting him into my method of ‘spontaneous composition’ and we ended up with some fab stuff recorded, that still needs to be mixed and edited properly.

Anyway, this is his quartet, with Mark Lockheart on sax, Neville Malcom on bass and Nic France on drums – all major players on the London jazz scene – and it is, almost without doubt, the best album I’ve heard come out of that scene for ages. Actually, it’s on a par with Theo’s last couple of albums – which are equally amazing.

The compositions are quite Zawinul/Shorter-ish in places, but with a really strong singer/songwriter sensibility to them, which obviously connects well with me. It’s beautifully recorded, perfectly crafted, and has all four players playing right at the top of their game.

If anyone ever suggests that BritJazz is somehow inferior to US jazz, this is the album to play them to prove them wrong. If Patrick was from New York, this’d be selling tens of thousands of copies.

It’s fab, and you really need to get it. I’m going to talk to Pat about stocking it in my online shop.

Talking of which, I’ll have John Lester’s CD up there before too long.

SoundtrackThe Works, ‘Beware Of The Dog’.

Two gigs – one played one watched

A two gig day, but I only played at the first one.

It was the lunchtime gig at the RFH Foyer, with the mighty , and it went very well. Well, I wasn’t in the PA for the first couple of tunes, due to me plugging the DIs into the wrong outputs on my mixer (doh!), but with my rig, it didn’t really matter… :o) After that, we sounded marvellous! This duo just keeps getting better and better, and one of the improv/goo things we did today will no doubt end up as a new Travis/Lawson tune. Good stuff.

Here’s a piccie, taken by Jude on her phone cam thingie –

Then tonights gig, which began with a lovely surprise – I was going to see and anyway, but I walked down the stairs at the Borderline to the unmistakeable sound of ‘s pedal steel guitar! He was playing in a duo with a singer/songwriter called Laura Stark, and doing a mighty fine job of it too!

After that was Duke Special – Pete’s a great performer, and a truly delightful person. If you ever the chance to go and see him, please take it.

And Juliet, she just keeps getting better and better. Her voice was on top form tonight, the new songs she was playing sounded fantastic, Brian and the-keyboardist-whose-name-I-didn’t-catch were both playing and singing marvellously, and Brian Kennedy made a guest appearance. A truly wonderful night out. They are coming to the end of the tour, but if you’re in Gloucester tomorrow night, or Swindon on Saturday, please go and see Duke and Julie do their respective thangs – gig dates here.

Things to Do In London When You're… In London

A couple of events that deserve a heads up, not involving me (more of those coming in the next day or so…)

Firstly, Jenny Eclair is doing a one-woman show at The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, called The Andy Warhol Syndrome. It’s a play in which Jenny plays a former reality TV star, and it’s fab. I’ve seen it twice. It’s great, funny, moving etc. Go see it.

Click here for the details. There a couple of cheap ticket offers that look good value…

The second one is that one of my favourite singer/songwriters is finally coming to London! has a whole run of gigs coming up in London in tiny venues. If there’s any justice in the world, she’ll be playing the Brixton Academy in 6 months, so go and see her now while you can – the dates are on the tour dates page on her website – she’s playing the Bedford in Balham, The Betsy Trotwood in Farringdon and the 12 bar in the west end. I’ll be going to as many of the gigs as I possibly can. She’s a genius, up there with Joni Mitchell, , etc. in my list of faves. Truly marvellous. Take friends with you – you’ll thank me, and they’ll thank you.

Both of these shows are not to be missed. Great stuff. Go on, go and book tickets now, I dare you.

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