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Tubes for Alto Flute & Bass Clarinet

March 22, 2016

Feeling good to have taken my new music piece Tubes all the way from the composition stage to performance in the Vibraphonic Festival earlier this month and also now to have made a pretty good recording of it in my home studio.

Tubes was written specifically for musicians Robert Stephenson and John Welton, both fellow musicians in the excellent EMG Symphony Orchestra in which I play double bass. I wrote it for them after they rejected my previous offering which was a bit towards the impossible end of things. Tubes came after careful consultation about playable ranges and sweet spots, particularly with respect to the alto flute played by Robert. In fact there are still a few very tricky passages including some leaps down the range for John on bass clarinet. I was happy for them to take the music away and work on it without my interference. It was great to hear it performed for the first time on the night.

At 9 minutes long and with both musicians wanting to see each other’s score as well as their own, playing was achieved by mounting the lengthy score on 3 sheets of cardboard across 3 music stands. This meant that John had to play standing with a sling, something he hadn’t ever done before. At the recording session he forgot the sling but we found that my sax harness did the job just as well.


Robert and John gave a good first performance of the piece at Exeter Phoenix sandwiched between more new tunes I’d written for cello and jazz trio. They also joined in the madness that was my guided improv piece Improv#49.
The recording was made in my studio with a single microphone, a Lewitt LCT640 large diaphragm condenser mic and proceeded very smoothly. Although essentially a mono recording, a duplication into a left and right channel achieved a sort of stereo recording. Here it is:

Exeter Vibraphonic Festival

March 4, 2016

That time of year again and I’m looking forward to unleashing some new music on an unsuspecting audience at my gig in the Vibraphonic Festival on Wed 9th March. I have 6 new or reworked tunes for fab cellist Lucy Welsman with a Jazz trio of myself on soprano sax, the wonderful Matt Johns on keys and excellent double bassist Valere Speranza. The music is Jazz with a distinct European flavour and something of a folk influence. Lucy will be doing some improvising as well as playing some melodies and even one unaccompanied intro and outro. Rehearsals have been great fun and I hope the music comes over as something a bit different to the usual Jazz gig fare.

On the same night classical musicians Robert Stephenson and John Welton will be giving the first performance of my new duet for alto flute and bass clarinet which lasts around 9 minutes. It’s fully scored and falls in the new music genre though inevitably some of the lines have a distinct Jazz tinge to them. Robert and John are both great musicians and they have taken the music away and rehearsed it without my input. It will be great to hear them play it and to see what they have done with my composition.

The evening will end with some improvised ensemble playing with all 6 musicians.

All this happens in the Top Studio at Exeter Phoenix 8.30pm Wed 9th March for a trifling £6 on the door.

Lightflight: Seriously Groovy Latin Jazz

February 15, 2016

IMG_1509My latin jazz quartet Lightflight has a couple of gigs coming up: this Saturday 20th Feb in Cossington Village Hall; and next Sat 27th Feb at Tuckers Jazz Club, Dalwood near Axminster. The band plays a mix of my latin jazz originals and standards with a few swing tunes thrown in for contrast. I will be playing soprano, alto and tenor saxes on these gigs as well as congas. The emphasis is on groovy, melodic and accessible music and the band always goes down well. Joining me for both gigs will be fantastic pianist Matt Johns and this Saturday in Cossington we will be joined by Valere Speranza on double bass and Jim Newton on drums. At Tuckers Jazz Club we will have Jim Rintoul on bass and Gary Evans on drums. Both line ups are great and I’m very much looking forward to these two gigs.

I am also out this Sunday afternoon with the Pete Canter Trio at the Royal Oak in Ashburton where I will again be joined by Matt Johns on keys and the extraordinary Ron Phelan on double bass. That gig is 2 -4pm and entry is free.

Sky Vibraphonic 2016 lo resFitting in around these gigs there are rehearsals for my gig in the Exeter Vibraphonic Festival on 9th March. That gig is at Exeter Phoenix and will be showcasing new and re-arranged original tunes of mine for cellist Lucy Welsman and jazz trio as well as the the first performance of Tubes, a contemporary music duet for alto flute and bass clarinet to be played by Robert Stephenson and John Welton. The jazz trio is myself on soprano sax along with Matt and Valere on keys and double bass respectively. The jazz music has a distinct folk influence, strong melodies and the tunes include one dark moody ballad. A couple of the tunes are in 5/4 so despite the relatively simple harmony, that makes soloing interesting. Door entry is £6 in the Top Studio and we start at 8.30pm.

2016 begins

January 21, 2016

Like many other musicians at this time of year the gig diary is a bit sparse with only a few dates in January. Looking ahead however there is plenty to look forward to: regular monthly gigs continuing here in Exeter at the ever popular Bridge Jazz Club and at my very enjoyable residency at the City Gate Hotel; bookings at several other local venues including Artigiano, the Oak in Ashburton and the Bay Horse in Totnes; jazz club dates at Tuckers in Axminster, CIC in Taunton and Swing Unlimited in Bournemouth; as well as dates in the Exeter Vibraphonic Festival and the promise of a slot in this year’s Teignmouth Jazz Festival.

These are of course my dates as a jazz saxophonist. I also have quite a few things coming up on the double bass playing front: Britten’s War Requiem with EMG Symphony Orchestra in Exeter Cathedral this April; a performance with the Bristol Bass Club in February; a solo performance of my own short bass piece Koivu ja Kataja at Teppo Fest in May; further concerts with EMG and the possibility of playing with the Devon Fiddlers Orchestra at Sidmouth Folk Festival in July, although this depends on the exact timing of the slot as I also have  a wedding gig on sax in Torquay that day.

With all this ahead I’m glad I got down to it over Xmas and the start of the new year and did all the composing for the Vibraphonic gig:  new music for cello and jazz trio and “Tubes” a 9 minute piece for alto flute & bass clarinet. That gig takes place at Exeter Phoenix on 9th March. Full details of this and the other gigs I’ve mentioned at

Sky & Tubes

December 31, 2015

Sky Vibraphonic 2016 lo resJust finished composing some new tunes and arranging a couple of my existing originals for cello and jazz trio. These will be performed in the Exeter Vibraphonic Festival at Exeter Phoenix on 9th March under the title “Sky” along with the first performance of a new piece I have written for alto flute and bass clarinet called “Tubes”.

The musicians will be Lucy Welsman on violoncello, Matt Johns on piano, Valere Speranza on double bass and myself on soprano sax. The duet will be played by Robert Stephenson on alto flute and John Welton on bass clarinet. The evening will also include a guided improvisation involving the larger group of musicians. Just as with my previous works in the area of guided improv, “Improvisation #49” explores the tension between total freedom, constraints and form.

The pieces for cello and jazz trio bring together elements of jazz, classical and folk music. I am pleased to be feeling the influences of the diverse music I have been involved with over the last 2-3 years. Much of this has come as a double bass player playing in a classical orchestra and with folk ensembles alongside my main work as a jazz saxophonist.

Putting together an evening of new music for the Vibraphonic Festival has become an annual event for me. Previous events have featured large improvising ensembles, free jazz and contemporary music influences. This year’s music is more jazz influenced, more structured with strong tunes and clear chord sequences but realises my aspiration to continue composing and presenting fresh new music.

The last tune was completed today on the last day of 2015 which feels good: we have a couple of months to do some rehearsing before the Vibraphonic gig, and I’m ready to take on the New Year’s busy schedule of jazz gigs, rehearsals, hussling  gigs and promoting events like this one. The plan is to perform this set at other venues later in the year including at the Bridge Jazz Club in Exeter. It also occurs to me that this burst of creative activity has left me with enough material to record a new album, something at the top of my agenda for 2016.

Art House Trio Demo

December 2, 2015

I have recently finished mixing a DIY demo recording of the Art House Trio featuring James Clemas on keys & vocals, myself on tenor saxophone and Jim Rintoul on double bass. The trio plays swing, bebop and Latin Jazz and has been going down really well at our recent gigs at Artigiano here in Exeter. As well as exciting sax & vox bebop heads, the trio goes in for superimposing different heads on the same changes so for example How High the Moon becomes Ornithology and Four on Six morphs into Summertime. James has a great voice and he sounds rather like Chet Baker. He also impresses greatly when he sings along to his own keyboard solos note for note.

We recorded three tracks in my home studio and they have all come out really well. Listen to them on Soundcloud:

We are playing the first set at the Bridge Jazz Club at Exeter Phoenix on Wed 3rd Feb when we will be joined by top drummer Gary Evans. The Art House Trio will also be at other local venues so do watch out for us.

The Art House Trio can also be booked for private functions.

Double Bass Adventures

November 26, 2015

I’ve had an interesting couple of weeks playing double bass. This started with an evening at the Bristol Bass Club which is run by top double bass soloist, educater and music publisher David Heyes and Bristol based bassist Ben Groenvelt. I was one of about 14 double bass players at various levels of playing ability going through a pretty full on session of technique developing exercises and playing several pieces for massed bass ensemble. These included the “Last Poppy” written by David. The evening finished with a short concert in which a couple of players presented pieces: Jim Rintoul who I had travelled with played a movement from a Frank Proto piece “1963” which he is working on for his diploma; Alex played a Teppo Hauta-aho composition and the evening finished with a fantastic odd time signature duet by David and Ben. The group meets about once a month and the low annual subscription makes it very reasonable value for a regular 3 hours of expert instruction and inspiration. David is passionate about teaching double bass and about developing and promoting the repertoire. The group is planning a performance sometime in February in Bristol which hopefully I will be able to take part in.

Nov 2015 posterThis was followed last weekend by final rehearsals and concert with the EMG Symphony Orchestra in Exeter Cathedral. We were playing a challenging programme of Russian music: Rachmaninov’s 2nd Symphony, Shostakovich’s 2nd piano concerto with brilliant Romanian soloist Alexandra Dariescu and Kabalevsky’s Colas Breugnon Overture. The lead up to this concert had been somewhat unusual in that some of the earlier rehearsals had been lead by new associate conductor Tony Hindley and in fact Tony conducted the Kabalevsky at the concert. Regular musical director Marion Wood was back for the last few rehearsals but it seemed to come down to the final rehearsals on the Friday evening and Saturday morning of concert day itself before things really started to fall into place. Those last two rehearsals were in the cathedral and it was distinctly chilly as it was for the concert itself so I was glad of a thermal vest and several members of the orchestra had cleverly added fleeces to their concert gProgCoverA5forWEB-211x300arb. One of the double bassists was wearing fingerless gloves and I would have liked a pair myself. Another member of the bass section was taken ill before the concert so we were down to four in the section for the final performance and at one point I thought I might have to switch last minute from bottom to top part in the divisi sections. In the end the powers that be decided it was more important to have a beefy bottom part and one of our stronger players was left to take the top part by herself. The cathedral was packed out (though no warmer) and the performance went really well. There are some very enjoyable sections in the Rachmaninov for the bass section: passages of long bowed notes which compared to other sections are relatively easy as long as you can hear yourself to play in tune. With the woodwind on a platform directly behind us and the barrel of several of the instruments quite close to the back of my head this isn’t guaranteed! Nevertheless, by placing my ear on the edge of the fretboard I was able to hear (or was it feel?) the pitch sufficiently well. The bass section ended up getting a mention in dispatches so we seem to have managed OK. Our next concert is Britten’s War Requiem in April, again in the cathedral and this will be our last concert under the direction of exceptionally talented musical director Marion Wood.

The last thing was sitting in with the East Devon Folk Orchestra, a 40 or so strong group of strings woodwind, guitars and accordians playing traditional English tunes. The tunes were all in one of a couple of easy keys and quite short but I can’t say I’m really used to playing in time signatures like 9/8 and I was glad that there was another double bass player there who has been playing the repertoire for the last 15 years! Definitely good for my pizzicato playing and for my reading skills so I may well be back there again in the new year.


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