- Category: Blog
31st Oct 2013
I met up with some fellow Sax players last week to play through some quartet music. We had great fun trying some of the harder numbers. It takes a while to get used to playing in a quartet as the instrument is very demanding when played in this context. Your lip feels like it's going to drop off because you rarely get to take the sax out of your mouth. You also have to get used to counting in your head. It's no good taping your foot as loudly as possible hoping that everyone obeys your time. Can you imagine an orchestra doing this? Anyway on the above video is an arrangement I actually completed 6 years ago of a Bill Evans tune called 'Time Remembered'. The sax players are;
Soprano - Rob Hughes
Alto - Kit Mlynar
Tenor - Sean Freeman
Baritone - Jamie Michael Harris
I also had to include this video of David Sanborn it sums up how I feel about music.
- Category: Blog
Below is a clip from my gig last week at The Old Barge in Hertford. I normally try and capture something from each gig using my flip camera which only 3 years ago was the latest easy to use camera. Looking at the quality now I think it's time to upgrade. A friend showed me this camera the other day which has the most amazing quality the Hero3. Technology just seems to move forward so quickly now I feel old! Anyway I've played the Barge before and it's a classic jazz night in a pub event. Run brilliantly by John Williams for over 14 years the pub is a pleasure to play with a landlord that backs the jazz. I've been recently reading a blog by a fellow musician who was talking about making Jazz more accessible. I always feel a bit uncomfortable about this type of statement. In my opinion music has to be honest, played honestly. I think people know if it's not. If it's manipulated to be accessible then it instantly becomes 'functioning music'. This means music that is put together to please (to serve a function) but does not mean it is interesting to play or listen to. That's fine within some genres pop etc but if you are trying to explore music I think you have to be honest. Below's clips show us (hopefully) trying to explore each tune not worrying about wether it's 'pleasing'. This all being performd in a pub! However this is my point, music needs to push people as well as comfort them. We live in a time where music seems to be very devalued. No one wants to pay for it or be challenged by it. Of course not everyone because you are reading this so not you!
- Category: Blog
Below is a video taken from a concert I performed at with Randolph Matthews and Fergus Gerrand on Monday 19th August. It was the first time we had all performed together and unfortunately due to everyone being busy we only managed to get a short rehearsal that afternoon. The concert was at an interesting little theatre called the Colour House Theatre in a place called Abbey Mills in south London. Abbey Mills strikes me as an oasis of business and restaurants surrounded by the corporate world. (PIzza Hut, Cine World etc) However being a Monday night the oasis worked a bit too well, we ended up playing to a handful of people which was disappointing. After the rehearsal we ate in an Italian restaurant on the site of Abbey Mills which I had seen years ago featured rather unfortunately on a Gordon Ramsey show. You know the one where he turns up at a restaurant and makes everything better (oh the power of TV and massive programme budgets)? Well it wasn't better it had reverted back to it's original state. It's no ones fault in my opinion, people do as best as they think they can however it made me think that these tv shows just come along plough loads of money, expert knowledge and that confetti esc styling to a place and then move on. It makes good tv but does it help the people it's meant to help in the long term? The restaurant was massive and empty and didn't have much available from the menu. You don't need a TV show to understand that all of these points need looking at. I guess you could say the same about the low attendance of our concert then? I'd better call Gordon!
- Category: Blog
4th July 2013
I travelled over to San Francisco with ABC a couple of weeks ago to perform 3 concerts. It seemed like a long way to go just to perform 3 gigs however I love playing in the states so it's really more of a pleasure than 'work'. It's so encouraging to meet people that are as enthusiastic about music as the people out in the US seem to be. Of course they have amazing weather on the west coast which means they can hold great concerts outside without the fear of rain storms. How very un-british. Flying out was a day flight which I much prefer. I can't stand night flights where you get a couple of hours service and then all the lights are turned off and we are all expected to just sleep. I don't sleep and continue to pass the time by consuming too much on-board hospitality whilst at no point ever feeling like sleeping.
In the bottom right hand corner of the collage pic you can see the window view I had of us flying over far northern Canada heading over Augusta where it finally starts to get a little warmer. It's truly stunning to see a land that is hardly inhabited and so harsh! I went to the back of the plane sat on the jump seat and enjoyed staring out of the window. Only 7 hours to go...hmmm
We landed safely and I managed to get through homeland security without any problems. I recommend San Fran airport they seem very chilled out! Upon arriving at the hotel in Santa Cruz I decided to go to my room and chill whilst the others went out to a restaurant. At this point it was about 5pm US time and 9am UK time. Basically you have been up for 2 days at this point so I just had to make it through to about 9pm then I could sleep and hopefully that would see me through until the morning. Of course it didn't work out that way with , I awoke at 3.30am and ended up sending out emails until the day started properly. Below I have included a picture which I feel kind of sums up a lot of the music industry. Sitting in a vehicle....The following day we were met by our crew guy, tour manager and sound engineer. The first gig was on a beach in Santa Cruz. Upon arrival we were shown to the dressing room which was literally in the middle of the beach! As you can see below I soon realized I had some saxophone competition.
After the gig we returned to the hotel to chill and prepare for tomorrows 6 hour drive down to LA. This really isn't a sight seeing tour other than from the window of a van. Hence my many van pictures....obvious I know! The scenery on the drive from Santa Cruz to north LA was stunning. California is such a wealthy state due to having oil fields, wineries and good fertile agricultural land as well as huge industrial plants. In fact if Cali were a country it would be the 8th wealthiest in the world. Love facts like that, not really sure if it's 100% but it sounds good!
The second gig went well at a cool club called the Canyon Club in North LA. A really interesting venue with loads of carpets, comfy sofas and cool decor. I thought 'what an interesting and individual club' - only then to be told they are a chain across the US all laid out and decorated in the same way in every club...it is truly a corporate world. It's so hard to stay 'up' for the gig because I was still on UK time which is 8 hours ahead so at 9pm as you're about to go on your body is telling you it's 5am.
Here's a bit of Matt Backer sound checking his intro in for the tune Datestamp by ABC.
After the gig the cold reality of a very busy town is you can"t always book the hotels you want. A hotel booking at the last minute became apparent. We managed to find ourselves a very, very creepy motel. The weird thing about motels is (if you have seen them on TV they don't look that inviting anyway) to actually close your very flimsy door to the outside world then turning and seeing your bed is a strange feeling. It doesn't make you feel like you have any privacy or safety. On the upside....
Here's an ABC song we performed at the Canyon Club in the Agoura Hills.
Anyway I survived (obviously) however to top off the experience my diet for the day started with a breakfast of choice cooked by Mr Donald or another equally fast food establishment. I've noticed in the states on the food front you can get really good food but you have to hunt. Our tour manger who was fab but was obviously trying to keep 'all the kittens in the basket' as he put it didn't give us an opportunity to find the healthier side. Hence my picture of the Inferno sauce at the top of this blog. We had a shorter drive today down to south LA to play another club this time with genuine character the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano. Now this place was definitly not a chain. It's been around since 1982 and looks amazing inside. I love playing venues with character and history, just something very humbling about it. If you look hard enough at the below right hand picture you can see all the pictures on the wall signed by the artists that have played in the club. Also at the back of the pic the venue has cute little boxes you can pre pay and watch from. It's nothing new but to have that in a hot and sweaty club is a great idea, you could bring your nan!
So honestly do I have much else to show for my trip...no. I have to confess it was great fun but I got to see very little. The nature of gigging sometimes. Anyway I am heading back there with ABC in September so I hope to be slightly (don't want to over do it!) more cultured. I will leave you with a glorious pic of my departing plane and then not such a glorious pic of the plane's toilets! What a classy way to end.
- Category: Blog
I played with ABC in Norwich recently at a really cool venue called Open. The venue used to be a bank's head quarters. I'm blogging about it as I highly recommend you have a look at it the next time you are in the land of Mr Partridge (sorry, I'm sure the people of Norwich don't appreciate said character being affiliated with their town). Anyway here's someone's YouTube from the night with us performing the track 'Datestamp'.
- Category: Blog
A friend of mine Theo Travis ( a great Sax and Flute player) is currently on a world tour with Porcupine Tree member Steven Wilson. I don't know much about prog rock but having checked out Steven's album I have to say I think I could be a fan. Have a listen to this fabulous track 'The Watchmaker'
If you like this then they are performing at the Albert Hall on Sunday 20th Oct 2013. I'm intend to go and check out the gig. What a great band!
- Category: Blog
1st June 2013
It's taken me an embarrassingly long time to get around to writing this. In March I travelled Bangkok in Thailand to perform a concert with various artists. It was a long way to travel to play one concert and therefore hard work. However I did get a morning free where I took a river boat to the floating market in Bangkok. A lot of the river boats are thin vessels with shallow bottoms and very powerful ex Vietnam war, American jeep engines. All this resulted in a very interesting journey to say the least. These things are seriously over powered.
I didn't expect Bangkok to have so many small water ways within the city. I did have to be careful not to swallow the very dodgy looking river water however! I'm pretty sure EVERYTHING gets dumped into the river. We were being taken to a floating market away from the main river. The market was surrounded by overhead roads and railways which looked like something out of a Mad Max film. It was in a fascinating area which you can see on the video below. Although it did dawn on me at this point that we were not the only tourists that get brought here. The place was busy!
Once on "dry land" I found the floating market fascinating; the below video shows a traditional Thai music club which seemed to me to be there to entertain the workers in the market as well as us tourists. They didn't really seem interested in being tipped (at least I think not). I have no idea as to the name of the instrument the chap in the video is playing but I liked it (I think I liked it).
Every nook and cranny was filled with a floating restaurant; no room for anyone to sit on the tiny food prep boats so the meals were passed up onto a larger restaurant style area. Very well put together I thought. Anyway all of this didn't last long and sadly we had to return to the hotel to prepare to fly home. Below is a little clip of what I was up to at the gig the night before. On this gig I play some keyboards, sax and back up vocals which is enjoyable as it's very different from playing sax all the way through a concert.
- Category: Blog
Recently flew over to Dubai to play a concert which was a short but much needed relief from the British weather. This winter in the UK has definitely been one of the longest, wettest and coldest. It's really started to get me down. So 3 days in Dubai ought to fix it? I have to confess I have never had a strong desire to visit Dubai due to the massive amount of money spent on a city that really hasn't been thought out. The place has had so much money invested into it and yet is so characterless because of it. The amount of fuel based energy used per person in Dubai is larger than any person in any other city in the world. Lots of air con basically! I did see a very interesting programme on my return to the UK which was about a smaller town outside of Dubai which has been designed in a more Eco friendly way. The buildings and apartments were built so that each floor shadowed the floor below to block out the sun. The streets were narrow so that the sun light could not glare down onto you, also air vents were feeding fresh air mixed with water spray (not air con) down from the top of the buildings to street level to keep the streets cool. Dubai as you may have guessed has not gone for this. Everything is indoors and air conned to death. Anyways the concert went well and I returned to a cold London town, I now understand why people go there for short trips to recharge their vit D count. The pic below is from the concert.