Sunday, 27 November 2016

If you can't take a great photo, take a candid one

Hitchin's Jazz up! has always been delivered with a touch of humour and trombonist Dave Keech swigging a mug of tea between solos somehow sums it up.

Jazz if about people being themselves both as performers and audience and if that means swigging tea, then great.

Last night's gig also featured keyboard whizz Nikolaj Torp Larsen (The Specials, Adele, Sister Sledge etc etc), Aswad's Kenrick Rowe (who's just finished touring with PJ Harvey) on drums, bassist Neville Malcolm (Steve Williamson and Icognito among many others) and young sax supremo Tom Ridout.

This was a scratch band of people who know what they're doing. And do it well.

Standards sounded fresh and proved that if you put five talented musicians on stage with just a little rehearsal, they'll interpret tunes in their own way. There were backing stabs created by Keech/Ridout and Keech/Larsen to great effect and a genuine strong rhythm section feel between the experienced Rowe and Malcolm.

Club 85 and Dave Keech pull a few people together each month to perform and to organise Jazz Up!. What's great is the audience - who love what they're doing and are genuinely appreciative.

Jazz Up! takes a break in December but January promises a real treat with Laura Jurd appearing on 27/01/2017. I predict a sell-out.

Friday, 25 November 2016

The Shires - more than a little country

The Shires on stage are always more than just country. They're a very British band (and proud of it), taking influences from Nashville and adding some real ale and grey skies.

What Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes produce is a great show from their two albums - Brave and My Universe.

Earle and Rhodes are justifiably proud of their recent signing to Dot Records in America, but playing Bedford Corn Exchange to a packed house was obviously also a moment of pride.

The new band behind the duo are growing into their role - particularly with the addition of a new guitar. Country has never been my chosen music, but The Shires bring humour and honesty that's easy to like. And the songs are catchy, too.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A break - working hard


Don't be fooled by the gracious exterior - the interior of this hotel in Leamington Spa has been gutted and it's a standard conference centre now.

What I thought might be a relaxing overnight stay before a day's work became somewhat of an epic networking session. Very useful but exhausting.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Welcome back to the Southbank Centre

About a million years ago, I performed at the Royal Festival Hall with the Young Musicians' Symphony Orchestra. It was a horrible experience that made me realise how much I love playing jazz with jazz musicians.

It came about as I was playing with the Fairer Sax and the orchestra needed guest sax players. Heaven forbid (in the early 1980s) they should have performed musical regularly that needed saxophones.

So we were drafted in, rehearsed and performed. And went away again.

Somewhere, there's a photo of me in long black evening dress on the balcony overlooking the Thames. I even have the dress in the back of my wardrobe, kept in case I was asked back. Fortunately I was soon asked to play in a pop band that required me to look far more stylish.

Now, I'm back at the Royal Festival Hall - now better known as part of the Southbank Centre. It's all part of The Write Stuff, a learning programme for aspiring jazz journalists run by Serious Music and Jazzwise magazine. I'm definitely learning more than I did the first time I was in this building. More of use, anyway.

Today is the last day of both the course and the EFG London Festival 2016, bringing a new start for me.

Friday, 18 November 2016

New jazz. New names.

My eyes, ears and mind have been opened by the EFG London Jazz Festival 2016.

I knew nothing about jazz from Scandinavia until I heard Bugge Wesseltoft talk on Friday evening, followed by performances by Isabel Sorling's Farvel and then the marvellous Beady Belle.

Such an inspiration.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Discipline and technique

A truly inspirational day.

So much so that I want to write and write and never stop writing. That's rather the point of The Write Stuff, a collaboration between Jazzwise magazine, Serious and EFG London Jazz Festival. Eight of us are being given the chance to learn more about how to write about jazz.

Those we are learning from are experienced and erudite. After five hours of learning and debate, in which I learned once more that discipline is vital, I spent an hour and a half so far out of my comfort zone that was a mere speck in the distance. That's when I learned about technique from Lauren Kinsella and Kit Downes. Their music is not what I've ever chosen to listen to in the past, but I kept my mind open and found some beauty in the experience. Quite a lot of beauty.

More than anything, that final session taught me about technique. Honing your skills is vital alongside the discipline. So, lots to think about and more to follow tomorrow. I'm also looking forward to more foyer jazz in the breaks - today I heard the gorgeous Kandace Springs, who is as skilled a pianist as she is a vocalist. A nice treat.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Going back in time

Betty's tea rooms in Harrogate is a special place. There's no WiFi. Great green tea and delicious egg mayonnaise sandwiches. But no WiFi.

Typing up notes from a series of interviews was entertaining - I think some of hte customers were shocked that I had dared open my iPad on the tea room table.

To upload, I had to decamp to Starbucks, which was a whole different experience. With WiFi.