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Goodbye Kathy Stobart

July 8, 2014

I was sad to hear yesterday of the death at 89 of tenor saxophonist Kathy Stobart who was my first sax teacher in the 1980s. I attended her classes at the City Lit Instutute in Soho where she taught a whole group of us together, altos on one side, tenors on the other, basic technique stuff and working through big band charts. I can still remember shaking like a leaf when it was my turn to stand up and play a G major scale! She could always pick out the one in a class of 30 who was playing the wrong note: “You dear.. yes you at the back C# not C dear!” Later I also went out to her house a couple of times in West London for private lessons. I can remember her introducing me to the concept of upper and lower neighbours to a chord note and telling me to go away and practise them. I didn’t do that very diligently because I was swept up with the idea made fashionable at the time by Jamey Aebersold that the way to learn to improvise was to learn the scale that went with every chord, something which I now believe is not really very helpful in comparison to knowing the actual chord arpeggios inside out and feeling free to decorate with just about any notes you fancy! Of course Kathy came from the big band era when soloing was based on decorating and embellishing the melody and chord tones. Anyway I have very fond memories of those classes at City Lit and feel very grateful to Kathy for firing my interest in jazz. London Jazz News pays tribute to Kathy here.

This Saturday I played in my second concert with the EMG Symphony Orchestra on double bass here in Exeter: a concert of Gabrieli, Vivaldi and Schubert along with a contemporary piece by local composer Stephen Perks.  I had a jazz gig at lunchtime so missed the dress rehearsal, and noticed it too! There was a certain amount of moving the bass around the orchestra as we split into 3 separate orchestras for one of the Gabrieli pieces, then came together as a bass section for the Vivaldi on the “wrong” side of the stage before finally assembling in the conventional position for the Schubert and Perks in the second half. I felt a little more settled for these pieces and thoroughly enjoyed playing them. We had a good audience too. Apart from a workshop this week on Elgar’s Cello Concerto, that is the end of EMG rehearsals for the summer so time to get down to some good old basic technique work.

The Bridge Jazz Club met last week and had a good turn out. The summer months can sometimes see audiences drop off a little so I’ve been working harder than usual at postering and promoting the club. I’d also only booked a trio for the house band: myself on sax with James Shipway on guitar and Jim Rintoul on double bass. Jim Newton had kindly agreed to bring drums for the jam session but ended up playing with us for the first set as well. As it happens, enough people came for me to be able to pay the whole quartet which was great. We had two trumpet players in the jam session: Andrew Vaccari and Andy Stark as well as Tansy singing, Godfrey Talbot playing tenor and Ronnie Jones playing drums. Ron will be back next month with his trio to join me as the house band on 6th Aug. Joss Kidd will be on guitar and David George will be on bass.

I’ve had a flurry of gigs recently and have two tomorrow: catch me with exciting young pianist Matt Johns and the excellent Marcus Vergette on double bass at lunchtime playing jazz in the South Piazza on Exeter University main campus. This is outside the Forum building assuming the weather allows. If it doesn’t we will be inside. Tomorrow evening the Pete Canter Quartet play Swing Unlimited Jazz Club in Bournemouth where I will be joined by piano wizard Jim Blomfield, Jim Rintoul on bass and the explosive Coach York on drums playing my originals and some choice standards. I will be on soprano and tenor saxes. On Friday I am at Bridport Arts Cwentre with Eclipse, a trio with Jesse Molins on guitar and Jim Rintoul on bass. Details of these and other gigs coming up are on my gig diary.

Scratch Orchestra Call for Scores

June 27, 2014

The Scratch Orchestra is back this autumn with a concert at Exeter Phoenix on Wed 26th November. The somewhat hyperbolic title of orchestra was first used back in March when a handful of five or six extra players were brought together with experimental free improv group Get Rich Quick for a concert of free and guided improvisations in the Exeter Vibraphonic Festival. I was really excited by the sound that the mixture of jazz and classical musicians made on that gig and felt the urge to compose for a similar ensemble. The plan for this next concert is to have a substantial part of the music fully scored, again inviting composers to submit scores. The ensemble has been slimmed down to a sextet and will  be made up of Ruth Molins (flutes), John Welton (bass clarinet), Pete Canter (saxes), Gill Baker (trumpet/flugelhorn), Carol Galton (cello), Marcus Vergette (double bass). All of the scores for guided improvisation came from members of Echoes, the local composers group which I belong to and hopefully members of that group will again submit scores. The call for scores is however open to composers anywhere and details can be found here . I have already started writing.

14JulyA5flyerTalking of orchestras, I have my second concert coming up with the excellent EMG Symphony Orchestra on 5th July. The programme includes music from very different periods spanning Gabrieli, Vivaldi, the beautiful unfinished 8th Symphony by Schubert and an excellent contemporary nocturne by Somerset based composer Stephen Perks. I am playing double bass in the orchestra and the section is down to four players for this one so no hiding! I’m really enjoying my new bass. The new strings are settling down and I’ve adapted to the slightly shorter string length and feel of the instrument. Basses are incredibly sensitive to temperature and humidity and it really didn’t like the recent hot weather. Coaxing a good sound out of the lower strings was especially difficult. The cool down and the rain of the last day or two has made an incredible difference and the instrument is really singing again. I had another rehearsal with singer friend Julie Yount yesterday and we started experimenting with introducing some bowing to my accompaniment to her voice and piano playing. Julie sounds great and we plan to be out gigging before too long.

In terms of jazz, I have a handful of gigs coming up before I take a holiday: tonight I am at the City Gate Hotel with James Clemas on keys and Jim Rintoul on bass. My tenor has had an overhaul; it is playing great and sounds really sweet. All three of my horns have had Gill Baker work her magic on them during the last couple of years so I’m spoiled for choice, but I think I will be restricting myself to tenor and alto tonight. We start playing at 7.30pm in the conservatory and if it stops raining you can also listen from the garden. Well you can even if it doesn’t stop – plenty of shelter out there.



BJC poster low resThe Bridge Jazz Club next meets on Wed 2nd July when I will be joined in the house band by old friend James Shipway on guitar and Jim Rintoul on double bass. I am booking only a trio over the summer when numbers tend to drop off a little. Last month I played drums and James Clemas and Marcus Vergette gave me a bit of a roasting, giving me solos and fours and all sorts. The audience were very kind and hopefully I redeemed myself doing a couple of tunes on alto to end the set when Tom Wright took over on drums. On Wednesday, I’m hoping that someone will turn up with at least a snare. If anyone can manage that, they are welcome to sit in with the house band for the first set. Music kicks off at 8.30pm in the Voodoo Lounge at Exeter Phoenix and entry is just £6 on the door or £3 for jammers. It’s always a great night so do come along.

On Wed 9th July, my quartet will be at Swing Unlimited in Bournemouth. The band will be myself on saxes with the fantastic Jim Blomfield on piano, Jim Rintoul on double bass and the excellent Coach York on drums. We will be playing lots of my originals from my last two albums Lightflight and Ununbium, which have a big latin jazz vibe going on as well as hardbop and dramatic ballads.

Eclipse, my trio with fine guitarist Jesse Molins and excellent bassist Jim Rintoul will be at Bridport Arts on Friday 11th July, again playing some of my originals as well as a selection of choice standards on all theree saxes. It’s great to have Jesse back playing again after some RSI problems. Music starts there at 8pm and enry is £10.

Get Rich Quick at the Kingsbridge Inn

May 27, 2014

Had a very enjoyable gig with Get Rich Quick last week at the Kingsbridge Inn in Totnes. It was great to play with excellent young pianist Matt Johns in an utterly improvised context as I had only ever worked with him before on straight ahead jazz gigs. The pub has a very nice upright piano so that was even better. I was playing drums most of the time except for a few outburst on soprano sax. Tim Sayer, who organised the gig was on trumpet, flugelhorn and electronics and Marcus Vergette was on double bass. We were joined in the second half by local guitarist Nemo Jones. The audience was as they say “small but perfectly formed” as is sometimes the case for this type of challenging music. Nevertheless we hope to back in Totnes at some point soon. I’m planning more GRQ gigs in Exeter too and also have in mind a performance of a group similar to the larger GRQ ensemble which played the Vibraphonic Festival to include some written contemporary music scores alongside guided and/or free improvisation.

Don’t forget that the Pete Canter Trio will be playing at the City Gate Hotel in Exeter this Friday 30th May from 7.30pm. Also known as “Pete and the Jims” the line up will feature James Clemas on keys and James Rintoul on double bass. We might also see talented young drummer Tom Wright sitting in on snare. My tenor sax is in for a major overhaul and repad and I’m not sure yet if I will have it back for the gig. No worries if not: I’m happy to play soprano and alto for the night. The Bridge Jazz Club meets the following Wednesday on 4th June in Exeter Phoenix. I will be on drums in the first set with James Clemas on keys and Marcus Vergette on bass, This will be followed by the usual jam session. Music from 8.30pm and door entry is just £5 or £3 for jammers including a free raffle. The price goes up from July to £6/£3.

As mentioned in my last post, I have upgraded my double bass. The new instrument has a slightly shorter string length so I’m having to relearn my left hand positions. It also has slightly heavier strings than my old bass so the bowing is different too but I’m persisting with this for a while so see how I get on. I did keep the lighter Evah Pirazzi Weichs from my old bass when I sold it so can always go back to them if I want to. The old bass has gone to start a new life playing bluegrass with a local musician from Devon. I’m also selling a French style fibreglass double bass bow if anyone is interested (£50). It hasn’t had much use as I quite quickly switched to German bow after taking up the bass just over a year ago.


Get Rich Quick in Totnes next week

May 15, 2014

kingsbridge22ndMay2014v2Free improv group Get Rich Quick are playing the Kingsbridge Inn in Totnes next Thursday 22nd May. The line up will be Tim Sayer on trumpet, flugelhorn and electronics, Marcus Vergette on double bass, newbie Matt Johns on keys and myself on drums and sax along with special guest Nemo Jones on guitar. GRQ continues it’s exploratory approach towards its performances by arranging sets with new players, new players that most of the band haven’t even met before let alone, played with before. This follows on from the highly successful GRQ + Festival Scratch Orchestra gig in the Exeter Vibraphonic Festival back in March when GRQ was beefed up by more string and woodwind players to a dectet playing guided improvisations. Tim Sayer is organising this next one and I’ve no idea what to expect which is a good thing! Music starts at 8.30pm and the door price is £6.

I will be getting another opportunity to play drums at the Bridge Jazz Club on Wed 4th June when I will be joined by James Clemas on keys and Marcus Vergette on double bass for the first set. The jam session will follow as usual and I might just have stashed one of my saxes behind the drum kit so that I can join in. The club is looking for more sponsors to join the existing Friends of the BJC: jazz lovers who make small, regular contributions towards keeping the club solvent. Do talk to me if you think you would like to help that way or by donating raffle prizes. The club nights start at 8.30pm at Exeter Phoenix and the door price is £5 or £3 for jammers including a free raffle. Please note that prices go up to £6/3 from July onwards as we have been running a bit close to the wind.

Before that my trio with James Clemas on keys and Jim Rintoul on bass will be back at the City Gate Hotel on Fri 30th May from 7.30pm. I will be on saxes and if we are lucky might have talented young drummer Tom Wright sitting in with us on snare.

My bass playing adventure continues. Rehearsals have resumed with the EMG Symphony Orchestra and we are getting stuck into some Schubert which so far I’m finding a lot easier than the Vaughan Williams music we played for our last concert. I’ve also taken the plunge and committed to buying a new instrument, a serious upgrade compared to my existing double bass, an entry level Chinese job. More news on that when I’ve collected it. Meanwhile if anyone is interested in buying my existing bass details are here.

New Website Live and Bass Playing Birthday

April 30, 2014

With the help and encouragement of friend and IT expert Ian Navran, I’ve built a whizz bang new website using WordPress software. This was launched yesterday: . Please have a look and tell me if you find any glitches. Much of the content is similar to the old website but the styling and navigation is much more slick. It should also work better on mobile devices. Thanks Ian for pushing me to do it!

As of a couple of days ago I’ve been learning to play the double bass for a year. I’ve recently taken off my “training wheels”: two tiny pieces of tape stuck to the edge of the fingerboard at the minor 3rd and the fifth which I was using to get my shifting into shape. I felt a bit lost at first without them but now, after a couple of weeks chosen to coincide with a break in EMG Orchestra rehearsals, I’m not really missing them. Rehearsals start up again this week so I will soon know if I’m playing horribly out of tune with the rest of the section. I really enjoyed playing the EMG Vaughan Williams concert in Exeter Cathedral a few weeks ago. That was certainly a step up from the Christmas Concert I did in December with the Exmouth Light Orchestra even if I couldn’t play everything in front of me. The bass is certainly taking me in new musical directions and this morning it took me in yet another one: a rehearsal of some covers with old friend, singer & pianist Julie Yount who has a great voice for this sort of material. Despite my old studio piano needing a bit of a tune, we managed to make things sound pretty good for a first rehearsal: Suzanne Vega, Ani DiFranco, Radiohead etc so we will definitely be getting together again and getting out there looking for gigs.





There are a few jazzy gigs coming up in May: the month kicks off with the Bridge Jazz Club on Wed 7th May when the house band will be myself on sax with a great rhythm section of Matt Johns on keys, Jim Rintoul on bass and Gary Evans on drums. Opening set to be followed by a jam session as usual. The following night the Pete Canter Quartet is at the Creative Innovation Centre in Taunton where I will be playing loads of my originals with a high octane rhythm section of Jim Blomfield piano,  Jim Rintoul on bass and Gary Evans on drums. I will be on soprano and tenor saxes for that one. Later in the month on 22nd May, free improv group Get Rich Quick are playing down in Totnes at the Kingsbridge Inn. We will be a quartet with myself on drums and sax, Tim Sayer on trumpet and elctronics, Marcus Vergette on bass and Matt Johns on piano. This is the first time Matt has played with GRQ and I’m expecting fireworks. We will also be joined by local guitar hero Nemo Jones in the second half. At the end of the month on 30th May my trio with James Clemas on keys and Jim Rintoul on bass will be back at the City Gate Hotel in Exeter. Good news is that my residency there continues throughout the year. Dates for these and other gigs are on my gig diary. Hope to see you at one of the gigs soon

Double bass playing – all at sea

April 6, 2014

Today I’m trying to recResReaderover from four consecutive days of playing double bass in rehearsals and last night’s Vaughan Williams concert with EMG Symphony Orchestra in Exeter Cathedral. We rehearsed on both Thursday and Friday evenings and most of yesterday afternoon too with just a couple of hours break before the evening performance so now I’m feeling shattered. The programme was the gorgeous Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis played by the string orchestra followed by A Sea Symphony played by the full orchestra, a large choir and two soloists. We have been working on the two pieces since the start of the year and as a double bass player of only about nine months standing when I started with EMG, it has certainly been a challenge for me: as well as dealing with the instrument itself and the new skills of bowing, pitching and sound production, I have also been trying to read the music, come to terms with the nuances of orchestral string parts, bowing with the rest of the bass section, following the constantly changing tempos dictated by conductor Marion Wood and also keeping an eye on the section leader. Well anyway, somehow I got through it, even played some sections quite well, bluffed and fudged a bit …..well maybe quite a lot actually but really enjoyed it and there were even some times where I seemed to be playing along with the section on some sort of strange auto-pilot where I didn’t really feel like I was in charge of what I was doing. IMG_1132
There was a good deal of uncertainty about exactly where the basses would be located in the Cathedral because of problems with pillars, eye lines to the conductor and where to place the two soloists and it was only when we arrived in the evening, dickie bowed up and facing a totally packed cathedral, that we found out that for the Fantasia, three of us were to be on narrow raised platforms allowing us to see the conductor over the top of the soloists. Two of our number were in the smaller, separate second orchestra specified by Williams for this piece.  This left me feeling somewhat exposed being on full view but I did feel more confident with this piece than the other. It sounded great to me and I found it very moving: the music is beautiful and it felt like a great privilege to be part of such a large group of excellent musicians working together to make it happen. I can’t deny feeling a bit relieved to be able to slip into the back row of the basses along with Jim Rintoul when the section reassembled in full for the the Symphony. Much longer and more difficult to play, there were some sections I just had to let go by as beyond me but even at this late stage there were others I found myself being able to play correctly for the first time.

The orchestra played brilliantly and the performance along with that of the choir and soloists seem to go down very well indeed with the audience. I’m a definite convert to orchestral playing and hope that I’ll be getting the opportunity to do more in the future. I’m also totally impressed with the musicianship, humour and energy of conductor Marion Wood. The fantastic photo of me was taken at a rehearsal by Nigel Chffers-Heard.

Bridge Jazz Club – going solo

April 6, 2014

Max Claudia CoachWe had another good turnout at the Bridge Jazz Club this week (2nd April), something I was very relieved about because I am now running the club alone and have to make sure that there is enough money each month to pay the house band and pay the room hire at Exeter Phoenix. With the help of donations from a small group of Friends of the BJC and the continuing support of Exeter Phoenix, we just about broke even this month. It was also the third birthday of the club, making it my longest running jazz venture outliving the Jolly Porter Jazz Club my previous monthly event in Exeter, by sixth months.

The house band featured the excellent Max Turnbull on piano, someone I haven’t played with since about 2005. Max had travelled up from Falmouth with fine double bassist Claudia Colmer, veteran of the famous all female Ivy Benson Band. The rhythm section was completed by top drummer Coach York. We played a couple of my originals in the opening set: Bicycle from my most recent album Lightflight and The Ride from the previous album Ununbium. Despite the apparent semantic link between the two titles, the tunes have very little in common: Bicycle is a slow and dramatic ballad built upon melodic minor harmony while The Ride is an up tempo swing passing through several modal harmonies including  phrygian. We also played Wayne Shorter’s Witch Hunt, MJQ’s Afternoon in Paris, Horace Silver’s Summer in Central Park and Duke Jordan’s Jordu (a tongue twister to be attempted only when sober).

Being short of a chord player apart from Max, I set off the jam session without one: setting keen young bloods Andrew Richards on double bassist and Matt Evans on drums the job of backing tenor sax veteran Godfrey Talbot for a blues which came off very well indeed. The jam proceeded in its usual meandering and highly entertaining way with more excellent contributions from Godfrey and Sam Windsor on tenor sax, Tansy on vocals, a rendition of Loving You from a pair of young singers who refused to use a microphone, a blues from John on alto sax and top trumpeteering from Andy Stark. We ended with a mass rendition of Coltrane’s Blue Train including scatting from a couple of the vocalists present and a final blast of Blue Bossa.

The next club night is on Wed 7th May when the house band will be myself on some species of saxophone, incredible drummer Gary Evans, home briefly from his cruise ship work, the excellent Jim Rintoul on bass and a pianist yet to be confirmed. For the following month on 4th June I am going to risk playing the drums again at the club: the house band will be Remo in an attempt to finally do the gig we intended for last December when the lurgee struck among the ranks of the frontline. Remo is a good time jazz quintet from the funky and latin jazz end of the spectrum featuring Tony Kaye on tenor sax and Gill Baker on flugelhorn. The highly rhythmic and musical James Clemas will be on keys and the band will be completed by Remo’s original bass player Jon Wilson who we haven’t seen for a couple of years.

Hope all the regulars and more new faces will find their way to the Bridge Jazz Club for these and many more great nights of jazz in the future. Something else I’m thinking of trying out at the club is a short 10-15 minute poetry slot between the two sets so that the house band gets a proper break before the jam session starts. If anyone knows any poets able to bring  snappy, jazzy, maybe funny wordsmithing to bear please ask them to get in touch. No money on offer unfortunately but a good receptive audience.


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