I’m pleased to say I’ve just started a Masters in jazz at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Looking forward to:
— shed the double bass a lot, on which I’m a bit of newcomer compared to electric
— have many, many more one-to-one lessons than ever before
— experience structured jazz education for the first time, especially about composition and arranging
Thanks a lot to RAM’s scholarship fund and Help Musicians UK for helping to make it possible. It’s only been a week so far and I’ve already learned some amazing stuff.
I’ve just published an article for the Incorporated Society of Musicians, introducing the world of online real-time music (ORM) software. Strangely, this field has hidden in plain sight for decades, as a somewhat niche occupation of internet hobbyists and academic researchers. The COVID-19 lockdown has precipitated a wave of new interest, with professional musicians quickly realising that Zoom and Skype wouldn’t cut it and looking for something more suitable.
The article is based on extensive interviews with some key players, and my own forays into ORM. We all want to get back to playing in real life as soon as possible, but it’s likely that being able to rehearse, livestream and record remotely in real time will remain useful going forward. The pandemic could prompt a rapid ‘professionalisation’ of the field, and ORM may become a standard tool of jobbing musicians alongside home recording, remote lessons, etc.
Check it out and please share the article if you find it interesting. Most people still do not know that online real-time music is actually possible.
In due course I might upload a slightly longer version to this blog, but the essentials are pretty completely covered in the ISM’s version — thanks to them for their editorial flexibility in allowing me to retain the hybrid news/advice tone I was going for.
I’m really pleased to make an appearance on a tune from this new album by Wilma Archer — ‘A Western Circular’ on Domino/Weird World. Difficult to describe, really musical and creative and varied, and great fun to record! Go and check it out.
There’s also some great double bass playing from John Pope (who I’ve never met but I think is up in Newcastle, not far from where I was born) and extensive use of Dom Pusey‘s saxophone playing. Lovely stuff!
I had reason to write out this nice tune recently, so here is a chart in piano trio format. It’s the jazz standard “Broadway” in a nice, sparse and very swinging arrangement. The source is an album by Hans Ulrik that I got into while hunting down Steve Swallow material. Here’s the track. Here’s the score. Below I’ll discuss briefly what attracted me to it.
Things I enjoyed:
- Begins with a very well-sold deceptive half-feel drum fill, straight into full-speed-ahead blowing.
- Tasteful use of power chords in the hits.
- The walking bass lines…
There are lots of characteristic Swallow tricks in the uptempo walking, including a walked solo section that makes them really easy to spot. Look out for:
- Slurs (hammer-ons, pull-offs and both) within the quarter note lines. These are used much more extensively than you’d normally hear on a double bass, and it works well because the electric bass does not lose much of the note during the hammer-on/pull-off process. Also, the plucked notes have less attack than on a double. These factors combined mean that the plucked and slurred notes sound rather more similar to one another than they could on the double bass, so they don’t “upset” the flow of the walking line as much. On the contrary, this technique and the fuzzy bass tone give a liquidy, synth-y vibe that is as much reminiscent of the organ as of the double bass.
- Swallow is unafraid to occasionally shorten his quarter notes, often out of technical necessity (repositioning the hand, string skipping, etc.), which breaks up and adds contrast to the extensive legato lines.
- Not many repeated quarter notes at all, but many examples of chromatic stepping or enclosure around a target note, sometimes repeated twice or three times in succession. This adds a lot of motion to the line for minimal technical outlay, which is handy for such uptempo walking.
- A very striking example of the above occurs around 1:07. A simple chromatic up-and-down is repeated three times, over a transition from the second A section to the B. The repetitious chromatic “see-sawing” here is wonderfully disorienting — to me it sounds like a computer malfunction, in keeping with the synth-like tone of Swallow’s bass. The repetition creates a glitchy sort of tension, which is resolved as we enter the B section, the glitch corrected, and the walking flowing freely again.
A nice arrangement of a great tune and it swings like mad, in my opinion. Enjoy!
I have reorganised the site to split up the Music and Audio and Video pages.
At the top of the latter (or right here) you can download a folder containing five tunes recorded at 2018’s gig at Inkwell Arts, in Leeds. The set was a combination of standards, Lee Konitz repertoire, and arrangements of music from the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis.
Take a listen!
At Inkwell, Leeds
Matt Anderson — Saxes
Martin Longhawn — Piano and Synths
John J. Williamson — Electric Bass and Fretless Bass
Steve Hanley — Drums
Recorded and Mixed by Chris Milnes
On Friday 11th October, Sam Leak and I will be among the speakers at the Crick Institute Music Symposium. I usually encounter Sam at mutual gigs with Morgan Brothers Big Band or Trevor Mires, or at Sam’s handy Wednesday night at Oliver’s — so this will be a nice change. Sam will present his PhD researching into learning absolute pitch (mega interesting) and I’ll talk about experiences of working in science and music. Check out the poster below for a list of the other talks on offer.
We are top-and-tailing the program before playing a short duo set on double bass and the Crick’s posh grand piano.
To attend the afternoon talks: REGISTER FOR FREE ON EVENTBRITE
To attend the evening music: contact me directly to be registered… jjw (at) fastmail (dot) c o m
I did some more recording with Will Archer recently, and discovered that some of the last batch has now been released as the final track (“Ugly Thoughts”) of Celeste’s “Lately” EP, on Polydor. It’s lovely to appear alongside such a great voice!
You there! Want to learn about the electric bass?
Grab a lesson with me if you like. I have lots of experience, communication skills and have spent time approaching the bass from a lot of different angles so I can find what works for you. Especially if you are an electric bassist wanting to learn how to play jazz on it, you will very likely benefit from speaking to me. Get in touch!
Read more here.
This version of So in Love from Dave King‘s trio has been my favourite thing to listen to for a few months. Floaty, beautiful piano playing, lightly rolling brushed drums and not a walking bassline in sight. Here’s a chart that follows Bill Carrothers’ realisation of the head.
So in Love
This week I’ve been playing bass for the UK development workshop production of a new musical called Mob Wife, written by Michael Mott and Corey Skaggs. It’s on at the Cockpit Theatre until Saturday 26th Jan. Lots of fun, some great music, and it’s been unusual and fun to witness the early stages of a new show. Cheers to MD Dan Tomkinson for getting me involved.