Had a good gig at Teignmouth Jazz Festival a week or so ago with my quartet. The band was myself on tenor and soprano sax, Matt Johns on keys who played like a demon, Jim Rintoul on double bass and Tom Wright on drums. We had done a couple of rehearsals covering my original tunes including a couple of new ones. These both went well and I had a couple of people from the audience ask me which of my albums one of them, “Sky”, was on. In fact it’s going on the next one so I had to disappoint them. Nevertheless several copies of Lightflight my most recent album were sold. We did two sets of entirely original music and held the attention of the audience too. I think this is very encouraging given the somewhat nostalgic approach that much jazz takes these days: tribute to this; tribute to that; what happened to having your own voice and doing something new?
This was followed a few days later by the Bridge Jazz Club which this month fell on bonfire night. Perhaps not surprisingly numbers were down a little but the house band of Jim Rintoul, Jesse Molins and Jim Newton did a great job. We discovered a fine new double bassist, Ron Phelan, during the jam session. Ron has recently moved to the Devon Somerset border so hopefully we will be hearing him again. The next club night is on Wed 3rd December when I will be joined in the house band by top pianist Philip Clouts, the charismatic Marcus Vergette on double bass and the superb drummer Coach Yorke. Usual jam session to follow our opening set. Please note this is the last club night when jammers will get in for £3. From January the door price will be £6 for listeners and £4 for jammers.
Rehearsals with the fantastic EMG Symphony Orchestra finished for the year last night with a run through of Cesar Franck’s Symphony in D minor. This was to get us in the mood for our programme of French music in the new year which will culminate in a concert at Exeter Cathedral on 11th April. Last night also marked the end of my first year of playing double bass with the orchestra. It’s been a very steep learning curve and also very enjoyable. The highlights for me were the Vaughan Williams pieces we performed in the cathedral this spring and last week’s performance of Elgar’s Cello Concerto with fantastic young soloist Laura van der Heijden.
Tonight I’m playing jazz again with my trio at the City Gate Hotel in Exeter from 7.30pm. James Clemas will be on keys and my old buddy Andy Tunbridge will be on double bass.
Finally, my quartet is playing Withycombe parish church in Exmouth next Friday 5th Dec 8pm and we will be joined by special guest James Shipway on guitar for an evening of standards and originals in the fantastic acoustics of the church. More details on my website.
I’m looking forward to my gig on Saturday at Teignmouth Jazz Festival. I have a new band this time around and as well as lots of original tunes from my last two albums Lightflight and Ununbium I also have a couple of brand new tunes to give their first public airing. One of these “Sky” opens with a folksy counterpoint between piano and double bass in 3/4 before a short interlude featuring the bass gives way to a soprano sax melody and solos. The other “Mountain” is a modal charge in 6/8 on soprano which releases into a 4/4 swing section. I like these nature based titles: naming tunes is always difficult but these suggest a whole album of tunes called River, Tree, Bird etc, job done! The band is myself in soprano and tenor saxes with the brilliant Matt Johns on keys, Jim Rintoul on double bass and Tom Wright on drums. We’ve had a couple of rehearsals and at this week’s the band was sounding great. We are in the United Reformed Church from 1pm Sat 15th Nov.
Talking of churches the quartet will be doing a concert in another on Fri 5th Dec, this time with special guest James Shipway on guitar. We will be in the parish church at Withycombe in Exmouth from 8pm. As well as a few atmospheric originals chosen to make the best of the church acoustics there will be some hard swinging standards, and some groovy latin Jazz. Entry is £7.50 on the door.
Last Week’s gig at the City Gate Hotel turned out to be a really good one. Booked as a trio with excellent Cornwall based keys player Matt Johns and his road pal Tim Greenhalgh on double bass, we were joined by talented young drummer Tom Wright sitting in on snare and brushes. Right from the first tune “Blues for Bill”, an original of mine on my quartet album Ununbium, the band settled into a great groove: up tempo, in the pocket clean and crystal clear. The night just got better and better and as usual Matt and I had a blast frequently venturing outside the harmony while Tim and Tom held steady. Gigs at the City Gate in Exeter continue on the last Friday each month and the next is on Fri 28th Nov when I will be with James Clemas on keys and an old buddy of mine on bass: Andy Tunbridge who goes right back to my playing days in London in the 1980s. With luck Tom will sit in again. There’s great beer down there too so do check us out.
I’ve been taking advantage of a quiet October on the gig front and the mild weather to do some alterations to my music studio: basically adding a storage room and enlarged covered entrance. It’s taking a while and all the bending, lifting, sawing and hammering is starting to register. However it will all be worth it to get some stuff out of the main studio and have things like cases and stands ready to hand instead of spread all over the house, bike shed, porch etc etc. By the way anyone near Exeter getting rid of a uPVC door?
The Bridge Jazz Club was good again at the start of October with a house band of myself on tenor, Matt Johns on keys, Tim Greenhalgh on bass and Tom Wright on drums. There were 14 jammers including some welcome new faces from the University Jazz Orchestra. On bonfire night 5th Nov I will be joined by top guitarist Jesse Molins, double bassist Jim Rintoul and drummer Jim Newton for this month’s club night. This is essentially the trio Eclipse with drums as an added bonus so I’m thinking of doing a few of my originals. Music starts at 8.30 at Exeter Phoenix. While on the subject of the Bridge JC I am announcing an increase in the entry price for jammers in the new year to £4 to help offset the increase in room rent that the club has to pay from January. The club is nearly 4 years old and the jammers charge has been at £3 since its inception. The regular door price for other listeners will stay at £6.
I did make the long drive down to Falmouth earlier in October to play with Claudia Colmer and Friends at the Star & Garter. This must be one of Britain’s longest running jazz nights: 26 years so far. It was great to play with Claudia again along with excellent pianist Max Turnbull and also drummer Pip Harbon, someone I hadn’t heard before who impressed me with his chops and ability to play sensitively in a small room.
Tonight I am at the City Gate Hotel in Exeter with my trio from 7.30pm. This is my regular last Friday of the month gig there moved to avoid Halloween. I will be joined by Matt Johns and Tim Greenalgh and may with luck also have Tom Wright sitting in on snare and brushes. Do come along. The beer is good and so is the Jazz.
My quartet is playing Teignmouth Jazz Festival on 15th Nov and we have a couple of new originals to try out. One of these features an opening tune for double bass and piano. We are in the United Reformed Church from 1pm and the band is Matt Johns on keys, Jim Rintoul on bass and Tom Wright on drums. I will be playing soprano and tenor saxes.
The following week, Sat 22nd Nov, sees me back with the fantastic EMG Symphony Orchestra doing a concert in the Great Hall at Exeter Uni. The programme includes Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Britten’s Young Person’s Guide and Smythe’s Wreckers Overture all pretty tricky for the double bass section where I will be hiding. So it’s about time I got over my Bob the Builder phase and get back to some serious practice.
Quite a busy time for the remainder of September and also some gigs which couldn’t be more different from each other.
This weekend kicks off with a civilised jazz trio gig on sax playing for a wedding anniversary on a boat trip out of Exmouth. We dock at 6.30pm giving me exactly one hour to retrieve the car from whatever side street I’ve left it in, drive a couple of miles to Withycombe parish church where I am playing double bass with the EMG Symphony Orchestra. I’m having to miss the afternoon rehearsal but will have already left my bass and stool there. What could possibly go wrong?
On Sunday I’m with my trio again this time playing the Bay Horse in Totnes from 8.30pm. This will not be so civilised and with the excellent Matt Johns on keys and Jim Rintoul on bass we will be tackling some of my originals and some choice standards. This is followed by a couple of days of private saxophone teaching which kicks off bright and early on Monday morning with 3 solid hours from 9am.
Wednesday is relatively relaxed with only one thing in the diary, a rehearsal on bass with singer Jules Yount. I’ve really been enjoying working with her on a repertoire of covers, basically pop music, but stuff which Jules sounds great on singing and playing keys. We hope to do a gig or two before too long.
At the end of the week I’m playing local composer Emma Welton’s “Damage Limitation” for improvising ensemble. I will be part of two performances of the piece in Exeter at The Bike Shed Theatre: on Thursday on double bass before shooting off to an orchestra rehearsal and on Friday on sax before going on to my regular last Friday of the month gig at the City Gate Hotel just around the corner. Damage Limitation draws a parallel between the amount of carbon the world can burn to limit global warming and the number of notes that the ensemble of 10 players can play in 5 minutes. We also have a couple of minutes to decide how we are allocating the notes. For the gig at the City Gate I will be joined by James Clemas on keys and Mike Thorn on bass and we play in the conservatory from 7.30pm.
After more sax teaching on Saturday morning, I have a late gig in the evening at a Plymouth night club, playing sax with a DJ. This is something I did a year or so ago and ended up being deaf for a week so this time I’ve organised a small mixer for the microphone which will allow me to wear a big pair of isolating headphones. Hopefully this will reduce the ridiculously loud room sound from the DJ and at the same time allow me to hear myself on alto. It was certainly a bizarre gig last time and there were some sights!
I will survive!
All packed up ready to travel down to Brixham where my Latin jazz band Lighflight is playing this afternoon. Expecting parking problems and issues getting in and out if the festival site, I’m travelling light: tenor sax plus a small rucksack, no music stand; no sax stand; just charts for the band, a few CDs to sell (always optimistic!) and some spare reeds. I’m trusting that the sound engineers will have everything together monitor wise and for the one tune I’m not sure I have completely down, I’ve got a large print version to blu-tac to the stage floor.
Joining me on the gig are Matt Johns on keys, Jim Rintoul on bass and Ron Jones on drums and percussion. We are on the main stage from 2.30pm. Expect some seriously groovy Latin jazz. The festival features lots of bands, loads of seafood, cookery classes etc all for £5.
I’ve had my double bass tweaked this week by top luthier Martin Penning. The main job was to fit a Realist pick up but while I was up at his workshop in Frome I also got Martin to lower the string heights and adjust the sound post. This work and my recent change to lighter strings has made the bass easier to play especially up in thumb position. The sound post adjustment has also improved the sound giving the bass a lovely singing quality – the thing that first drew me to this bass when I tried it in the Martin workshop back in June. It sounds particularly good played pizzicato so I’m finding it hard to pick up the bow and have been enjoying playing melodies to jazz standards: Stella, My Romance, Autumn Leaves, Come Sunday etc. just need to work out how to play walking lines now …. Might take a while!
Good news for regulars at Exeter’s popular monthly jazz club at Exeter Phoenix: the club will continue in the same venue on the first Wednesday each month throughout 2015. Despite a moderate hike in room hire charges for the new year I’m hopeful that we will continue be able to balance the books and pay the house band properly each month. Numbers have been good for the last two club nights and hopefully this will continue into the autumn and new year.
The September club night was a great success with a house band of Matt Carter, Mike Isaac and Ric Byer accompanying me on tenor sax. As is often the case I was struggling to accommodate everyone who wanted to play in the jam session. At the start if the jam it looked like the people who had signed up to play could all play two tunes but a couple of slow tunes in and some long solos and the schedule was completely blown! Note to self: one tune per person then go around again if there’s time. Thanks to Ric, Matt and Mike plus all the great jammers: Andy S and Andy V on trumpet, singers Tansy & Crystal, Matt and Neil on guitar, Jade & Godfrey on sax and Ronnie on drums. Next club night is Wed 1st Oct when the house band will include piano maestro Matt Johns.