Quick post from Geneva…

Sorry for lack of blog-action over the last few days – been traveling a lot, sketchy web access, and on Saturday had a FANTASTIC gig in Brescia, Italy – I’ve played there before but this was my biggest gig there so far. In the Chiesa di San Cristo, a beautiful fresco covered building from (I think) the 13th century… Half my set was solo, half with Lobelia, who was, frankly, amazing – we did one of her songs (Happy – which we also did in Croydon the week before, and in NYC), an improv thing, and she added amazing vocal loopage to a version of Highway 1, which was definitely the best version of that I’ve done since the very first time I ever played with Theo Travis, back in 2002…

Anyway, great gig, lovely time in Brescia, as always, and more stuff to tell, but I’ve just arrived in Geneva, am knackered, and need a shower and some sleeps. g’night…

John Lester at the 606

Fine gig last night – John Lester was launching his new album, So Many Reasons, last night at the 606 in Chelsea. His band was him, Theo Travis on sax, flutes and marvellousness, Andy Hamill on bass and magicalness and Roy Dodds on drums, percussion and groove-based tremendousness. And then, in the second set, me for two tunes. No looping, no Ebow, no fretless, no big delays… just my 6 string fretted and some rather fun jazz guitar parts. I played on Union Street (which is one of my favourite songs of John’s – no mean feat in a set packed with favourite songs of mine) and Good Intentions, another great song off the new album.

Ever since I started playing solo I’ve wanted to be in a position to give other people a leg up. It’s what I want people to do for me, and in the spirit of ‘do unto others as you’d have them do unto you’ (what wise-ass came up with that? pretty simple formula for changing the world, huh?) I have always wanted to use whatever meagre platform I have to give other musicians a boost. And John is probably the best example of that, even though it was through a tour with Michael Manring that the push came about (and I always pull much bigger crowds when I tour with Michael, for some inexplicable reason… ;o) – anyway, John came out and opened for Michael and I on a bunch of gigs, and was quite frankly awesome. Awesometacular, if you will. He sold a shedload of CDs, won himself an army of new fans, and it helped to establish him in some way in London. Since then – with no help from me at all! – he’s been touring and playing bass for Gretchen Peters, where he plays in her band and opens the show, blowing away audiences night after night, and winning himself so many new fans along the way. He’s a great performer and great songwriter, and last night he had the cream of London’s musicians playing with him – Andy’s one of my favourite bassists in the world, Theo’s, well Theo, i don’t think he’s ever played a bit of music I didn’t think was outstanding, and Roy’s the perfect sensitive groovy player to be in that band. A magical evening all round.

So, now go and get John’s CD, from his website, or at least have a listen to some tracks on his myspace page.

Finally, a blog post that doesn’t feature a video from the 80s… hang on, gimme a minute here, I’ll find one for you…

Two Stevie-gigs this week.

OK, tomorrow night, I’m guesting at the 606 in Chelsea with John Lester – you all know who he is by now, and really ought to have bought his CDs, if my recommendation is worth anything to you at all. He’s fab. Tomorrow night is the official launch of his new album, ‘So Many Reasons’. Which is great. It’s fab. It’s magic. And I’m saying that without even playing on it, so it must be great.

We had a rehearsal today, which took all of 20 minutes. Theo Travis is on sax, Roy Dodds on drums, and basses covered me John, me on two tunes, and Andy Hamill – it’ll be great, don’t miss it. See the 606 website for more details – if you’re in the MU, you can get in free…

Then on Thursday, I’m playing a solo set at The Enterprise in Chalk Farm (opposite Chalk Farm tube station) – opening for BJ Cole and Emily Burridge. Which means it’s a gig I’d have been at even if I wasn’t playing, cos BJ and Emily are fantastic. And we’ll certainly do something together. Come on down! It’ll be great.

Gigs over the next few days

Tomorrow night (Thursday) is this month’s Recycle Collective gig, featuring me with BJ Cole and Theo Travis – this is going to be a fantastic night for me, given that they are two of my favourite musicians to both listen to and play with. Theo, as you know, I’ve been playing with for years, and you’ve probably already got For The Love Of Open Spaces (if you haven’t, click the link to order it! :o) ) – he’s effortlessly inventive and melodic, and just gets better and better every time I hear him.

BJ is the most regular recycle guest, and keeps coming back cos he’s so much fun to play with! There’s something so unique about playing alongside pedal steel guitar, as harmony seems to work in a very different way on it to guitar, or a keyboard harmony instrument, so when BJ is laying down chords, the effect is to create a completely different kind of harmonic backdrop to what’s going on that you’d get anywhere else. He’s a fabulously creative musician, a lovely bloke, and well worth you coming out to listen to!

So that’s Thursday. Then on Saturday, I’ve got a rare ‘side man’ gig, playing for Estelle Kokot – fab piano playing jazz singer and songwriter, and ever so slightly nuts, in a good way. It’ll be a trio with her and Richard Spaven on drums, at The Octave in Covent Garden, and music starts at 9. I think it’s a fiver to get in. The songs are great, and it’ll of course be one of those rare chances to hear me playing normal bass, though I get a few solos in the set too, just no looping.

So go on, come to both, I dare you.

click here for the full details (venue address, ticket deets etc.) for Thursday’s Recycle gig.

More recycle bookings…

Been busy over the last couple of weeks lining up the musicians for the new few RC gigs – lots of the people have had on my wish-list for ages are now booked! Yay!

August 23rdSebastian Rochford, Andy Hamill and me. This is a bit of a dream line-up. Seb’s one of my favourite drummers I’ve ever played with. We did one gig together in Brighton a couple of years ago, and he listened so well to the loop stuff, and played beautifully. An immensely creative chap, and Mercury Prize nominee last year, no less! He’s in Polar Bear and Acoustic LadyLand and plays with lots of people in the F-IRE collective.

And Andy Hamill. As well as officially being of the nicest people in jazz ever, Andy’s also one of my favourite double bassists anywhere. If you’ve heard either of Theo’s last couple of albums, he’s the low end on there, but has also played with 4 Hero, Carleen Anderson, Shea Seger, Theo Travis, Mark Murphy, Nitin Sawhney, Chris Bowden, Boris Grebenshikov, Cara Dillon, Tracey Thorn, Kylie Minogue, Ben Castle, Ursula Rucker and Harry Hill!

I’ve been wanting to try a trio with drums and double bass for ages, and feel so lucky that the first time I get to try it is with two musicians of this kind of quality. Wow.

And then, as if that wasn’t enough, on Sept 20th, we’ve got saxophonist Jason Yarde, one of the most celebrated young british jazzers of recent times. An outstanding performer, composer, improvisor – a really really interesting musician, who will add something completely new to the RC vibe, for sure. Another huge talent.

And with Jason and I, making a very welcome return, Leo Abrahams – currently out on the road playing guitar for Roxy Music, is also Brian Eno’s guitar monkey, and has worked with Imogen Heap, Nik Kershaw, Ed Harcourt, Paul Simon and a host of other great people. He was excellent last time, he’ll be just as great this time.

And at the moment, it looks like October is going to be BJ Cole and Ingrid Laubrock joining me. How lucky am I? Yay!

Some MySpace Props…

as they say in the hood.

A few MySpace links to various coconspirators –

BJ Cole – genius of the pedal steel, plays on one track on my new album.
Cleveland Watkiss – Recycle Collective regular, one of the greatest singers I’ve ever heard, let alone worked with.
Calamateur – Scottish singer/songwriter and found-sound experimentalist. Writes really beautiful songs, and we’ve got a duet album coming out some time in the next few months.
Theo Travis – Saxophonist… you know who Theo is by now, right?
Leo Abrahams – guitarist at the last Recycle Collective gig. Bloomin’ marvellous.
Orphy Robinson – vibes/percussion/trumpet/weirdness. An amazing musician and composer.
Trip Wamsley – solo bassist, composer, player and writer of gorgeous music. New album coming out soon.
Jeff Taylor – played at the first Recycle Collective gig. Great singer/songwriter.

There you go, I’ll add some more soon. Click on those, have a listen, if you’re on myspace already then leave a comment, buy the CDs of the stuff you like, and check out their gig lists!

Two gigs and a soul-space service…

lots of gig-goings-on this weekend.

Saturday was a two-gig-day, with Theo and I playing twice in the foyer of the National Theatre. It’s a nice little gig, that we’ve done before during the week, but this was the first time we’ve done it on a Saturday. They were also the last gigs of our little tour, and we were recording them for possible inclusion on the forthcoming live album…

…which made it all the more stupid that I forgot to take my foot controller along! Yes, the main midi controller that I do all the Looperlative-loveliness with, was languishing on the floor of my office at home, while my feet wafted around in the empty space where said pedals should have been, feeling decidedly underused.

As it was, the set went fine, not many people would have noticed any change at all, it was just a little more floaty than usual, and we didn’t do the heavily rhythmic tunes like Uncle Bernie.

Between the two sets, I drove home to get the foot controller, and as the Shark was in town for the weekend, and Catster was in for both gigs two, they both came along for the ride, a good chat and a catch up on everything.

Re-inspired by having buttons under my feet to push, the second set was one of the best sets of music that Theo and I have ever played. I haven’t listened to the minidisc yet – I can’t find my minidisc player – but if it’s not peaking and distorting, we’ve got ourselves another very releasable gig. Lots of new directions in the improv, some amazing playing from Theo – his melody playing had me grinning from ear to ear for most of the gig.

After a quick clear-up, I drove home, dropped off the music gear, and headed to St Luke’s for an overnight shift in the night-shelter.

Sunday was a lovely day, with my cute lil God-son, his big sister and mum and dad all coming over for lunch and then a lovely walk in Trent Park.

Sadly, I had to leave mid evening, as I was playing at a Soul Space service at St Luke’s last night – another lovely mellow ambient chilled hour of candles and peace and some marvellous ambient noises courtesy of me. :o)

This week is a week of teaching, mainly, and getting some more new things recorded for the new album…

Soundtrack – Mark Isham, ‘Tibet’.

talk yourself better

Had a lovely afternoon with Cleveland Watkiss. Cleveland came round to check out the Looperlative, but as I couldn’t find my microphone, after a demo of what it can do, we spent a couple of hours talking about the process of making music, approaches to looping, performance ideas, influences, collaborations, all kinds of marvellous conceptual stuff about the process of creating music, of soundtracking the inside of your head, telling your story, absorbing influence and utilising technology.

It was one of the most useful and enjoyable conversations I’ve had about music for a long time, and left me very inspired to both play, and develop the Recycle Collective further. Cleveland is an outstanding musician, with a great pedigree in jazz music and beyond, but is a tireless experimenter, always looking for new ways to channel his creative muse. We’re going to record some more stuff next week.

And now I’m listening to last night’s gig with Theo Travis, having dumped the wav files onto my PC, normalised them, and chopped them up into tracks. It’s sounding great – there are a few blips and glitches here and there on the audio, but nothing that can’t be either sorted out or lived with. Methinks this gig will make up a large part of the live album.

Now, off you go and find someone interesting and open-minded to talk to about whatever it is that drives you creatively – report back here on what you learn!

nice news

this morning I got an email from not-at-all-evil Dan, saying that ‘For the Love Of Open Spaces’, my duet CD with Theo Travis, is included in the new edition of the Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD.

Surely not? Aha, Amazon has a searchable book feature, so I head over there. Do a text search on me, and sure enough there’s an entry for it. Can I read it? Er no, for some reason Amazon tells me I’m not allowed to. So It’s over to The Cheat and his wikkid skillz to get a copy.

He then furnishes me with a JPG of said review, which reads thusly –

***(*) For The Love Of Open Spaces
Pillow Mountain PMR 0014 Travis; Steve Lawson (b). 7/03.

Lusciously beautiful without descending into New Age clap-trap, the music here walks an awkward line with great confidence. Both musicians make extensive use of loop technology (although, as they proudly say, no synths or midi-triggered sounds), and the result is a series of mood poems crafted with skill and a capacious melodic bent. Lawson gets a bit rocky here and there and maybe a couple of the pieces stat around a little too long, but in what is often a threadbare genre they’ve done very well.

How nice is that? ‘Luciously Beautiful’ is a fab quote for posters etc. and 3 1/2 stars is v. good for the Guide (they are, quite rightly, very precious about 4 and 5 star reviews).

And it times very nicely with the recycle collective gig that we’ve got coming up on Nov 16th – all the more reason for you to book that baby-sitter now and come along to the gig!

A very fine Big Idea

never let it be said that Britain doesn’t have a vibrant and burgeoning jazz scene.

Mark Lockheart is one of the busiest and most respected sax players in the country, and for his current tour he’s assembled a fantastic group featuring four marvellous saxophonists with a killer rhythm section. It’s pretty rare to see four sax players in a contemporary jazz setting in the UK – it’s not often that anyone can afford to take that kind of project on the road, but Mark has managed it.

Due to my having a gig on the same night, I won’t be able to make it to the London gig next thursday, so last night, Orphy and I headed out to Oxford to see ‘Mark Lockheart’s Big Idea’ play at The Spin, a weekly jazz gig at The Wheatsheaf in Oxford. I’d heard a lot about the gig from friends who’d played there, so was looking forward to checking out the venue too.

The gig was fantastic – playing mainly music from Mark’s latest album Moving Air, with Mark, Julian Siegel , Steve Buckley and Rob Townsend on saxes and bass clarinets, Martin France on drums John Parricelli on guitar and Dudley Phillips on bass.

Mark has a very distinctive writing style, that can be traced all the way back to the tunes he wrote for seminal british jazz outfit, Loose Tubes in the mid 80s. The horn arrangements are stunningly beautiful, and he made full use of the dynamic possibilities of having four horns on stage. Parricelli was on rare form, playing beautifully and blending with the sound of the horns magnificently.

Fortunately, the room was packed, and the audience were hugely appreciative. It’d be mad to suggest that Britain was in any way deficient in the jazz world – I guess the problem, as it is in most parts of the world, is a lack of places to play anything other than standards. The main jazz gigs in London are restaurant gigs, with venues like The New Vortex and Ronnie Scott’s doing their bit to promote interesting vibrant music. It’s still tough to find a gig, moreso now that the foyer gigs are the Festival Hall are on hold while the renovate the building.

So, in the spirit of last night’s gig, I’m going to offer you a beginner’s guide to the British Jazz scene – a handful of essential CDs that prove our place alongside the Americans and Scandinavians, while still all sounding uniquely British…

– The obvious place to start is with Theo Travis – his last two quartet CDs, Heart Of The Sun and Earth To Ether are both outstanding.
– Next up would be Ben Castle – his last album Blah Street is marvellous – clever, funny and intelligent in all the right ways.
– Of course Mark Lockheart who inspired this list in the first place – his latest, Moving Air is fabulous.
– And then there’s Mo Foster – any of his records are worth getting, but particularly Time To Think is gorgeous.
– Another one featuring Mark Lockheart, the Works is Patrick Wood’s amazing quartet – what Weather Report would have sounded like if they’d grown up in London. Beware Of The Dog is one of my favourite instrumental albums from any part of the world, not just the UK.

If you were to buy that lot (and I think you should), you’d have a pretty decent representation of why I’m excited about the future of British music, rather than wallowing in the despair that would ensue from burying yourself in the world of X-Factor, Pop Idol and the lame faecal mountain that is the pop charts.

Soundtrack – some tracks that I’ve been recording over the last three days with american fretless guitarist, Ned Evett – some really really cool stuff (to add to the stockpiles of other really really cool stuff that are sitting here waiting to be released!) – hopefully I’ll have an MP3 taster or two for you soon from this lot…