Here’s a clip of York piano player Karl Mullen playing some boogie-woogie. I’ve played at the Phoenix jam in York a few times with him and he’s great — really clever and inventive language in a jazz setting. This is something else completely though, and even includes a bit of Bohemian Rhapsody at the end. Quality busking.

Highlight is the camerawoman suggesting they give Karl some money to buy his lunch — I think he’s doing alright in this respect thankfully. At some point I need to find and re-post an article I once wrote about the conflation of busking with begging and destitution.

I came across something really cool this morning. It’s a ‘build thread’ (i.e. a forum thread detailing the process of building a bass) by an Israeli builder named Gil Yaron, who hand-builds replicas of what he calls ‘Golden Era’ guitars and basses. I hadn’t seen one of these threads before so it was pretty interesting, and the guy’s attention to detail is just astounding, both as a builder and as a photo-documentarian. On page 5 he even provides a nice interlude detailing the ‘building’ of his breakfast, having just finished hand-winding a pair of pickups. 

The end result looks pretty great, but the main value of this is the microscopic level of detail that goes into the building process. Amazing. Here’s the thread.

Great weekend — a day after my lesson with Geoff Chalmers, I went for one with another Leeds-based player, Scott Devine who by all accounts is one of the very best electric bassists in the UK. His website and free video lessons are extremely popular, so when I found out he was based in Leeds I had to go for a lesson in person. We focused on building a consistent technique, listened to a lot of cool stuff and went over some soloing approaches and a few clever tricks. Most of all, it was great to meet someone with so much experience who is still head over heels in love with playing and talking about bass.

The important thing about Scott and Geoff is that neither of them have a dogmatic approach to either technique or theory, so there was no prospect of any overloading or confusion despite having the two lessons back to back. It’s very true that, (paraphrasing George Millard), ‘there are some things you have to be able to do and that’s how it is’, but my two teachers were well aware that the details of how you approach doing those things can vary dramatically to suit each person.

Whether you prefer to think of a G altered scale or an Ab harmonic minor, they’re both good ways to pull off wicked-cool altered licks and impress your friends. It’s important to be able to get the fat, punchy sound that Geoff in particular emphasised to me, but whether you descend by raking or strict finger alternation is down to comfort. Both Geoff and Scott had rock solid technique and focused on giving me ways to develop my own, rather than sticking religiously to the particular details of their techniques. These two are highly recommended!

Recital season at Leeds University is just finishing, and I played on a couple of the jazz ones: George Millard‘s and James Kelsall‘s. Good fun. They all get recorded on one of those handheld recorders, so I’ve grabbed the audio and done a bit of tape-simulated mastering as best I can.

I’ll be putting some more up on my media page soon, but for now here’s a couple from George’s. He put together a septet with Steve Hanley (drums), Aron Kyne (piano), me (bass), Matt Yardley (trumpet), Ben Lowman (bari) and his teacher, Jim Corry (tenor). All of them were great and very generous with their time, and the recital just seemed like a really nice gig. Blues for CT is a Parker blues from Jim Corry’s Tribute to Atlantic Jazz project, and Clinicology is a Phil Woods head over Cherokee, with a Nigel Hitchcock intro stuck on the beginning. Enjoy:

[All the original recital recordings are up at: http://www.personal.leeds.ac.uk/~lecdrhg/final_recitals_summer_2012/]

Here’s a quick video of what I’m mostly practising at the moment. It’s from Nigel Hitchcock’s ‘Snakeranch Sessions’ album (on which Laurence Cottle plays), which is downloadable here, and if you listen carefully you can hear that it’s an introduction to Cherokee. The album is full of very fast bass and alto sax unison lines, which is a sound I really like — the poppy attack of bass gives a bit more definition and the smoother, fuller notes on sax sort of make sure that you can actually hear what the note is at that speed. Really good.

Anyway, George Millard has transcribed (and pretty much nailed) this introduction for his recital, which is at 5pm on the 31st of May at Leeds University’s School of Music, and features Steve Hanley, Aron Kyne, Ben Lowman and Matt Yardley, and me. Possibly someone else too.

Here’s a video of practice in progress — I’m not sure if I’ll actually play the unison line next week but in any case it’s been horrible and annoying to practice, which is probably a good thing. Below that, there’s a clip of Laurence Cottle and Nigel Hitchcock playing it even faster than they do on the CD. Madness.

There’s a new-ish and really good jam night on nowadays at Sela Bar in Leeds. It’s probably my favourite venue for jazz here, very cosy and dark, with surprisingly brilliant pizza and posh beer. The jam features a different house band each week, mostly made up of students, graduates, or tutors from Leeds College of Music, and it goes on really late — sometimes you actually feel like there’s a sense of what it was like in certain places and times in the past when jazz was the night-time thing that everyone did. Go and have a look!

I’ve added a couple of rough recordings from last week, when me and George Millard went along. Thanks Luke Reddin-Williams (who’s drumming on these ones) for recording it. Probably next time I’ll take some videos/photos as well and put them up here — very highly recommended.

EDIT — Here’s next week’s event: Jami Sheriff Trio

Some background info and assorted media (further down) from Tour 2012.

Band/Tour

Leeds University Union Big (formerly Dance) Band, which I play bass for and used to MD, just got back from the annual tour of France. This involves going to the same campsite near Bergerac every year, which is nice because it means the gigs we play around the area are always sold out.

Matt Yardley and George Millard are MD-ing from lead trumpet and lead alto respectively this year and have taken this year’s talented group of musicians further than I imagined the band would ever go musically, so well done them. Recordings featuring them are further down this post.

What has been most fortunate though is that this happened to coincide with the presidency of James Kelsall who has done more, and done it better, than any performance-group-leader I’ve ever met. At last year’s AGM, dressed up in period drama costumes on tour, he had two ambitious aims: record a studio album, go and play at the North Sea Jazz Festival. The CD, ‘Swingin[g] from the Treehouse’ is now becoming available, and in July we’re going to play at North Sea. Along the way we’ve also recorded music and video for ITV’s upcoming drama Mrs Biggs and on 12th May we’re bringing the very famous Liane Carroll to Leeds for a gig. It’s all pretty amazing and makes me very glad to have happened to be studying at Leeds this year. Well done JK!

Recordings

Here are some bootleg recordings from my phone and a few videos from tour.

Concerto for cootie — matt yardley, trumpet

Lovely Ellington chart, very very carefully arranged and excellently played. 2:39 onwards is pretty cry-y.

bei mir bist du schon — george millard, clarinet

Funny sort of dance hall style chart, the kind where on the video all the musicians’ bodies and smiling faces are perfectly stationary apart from e.g. drummer’s arm or conductor’s hands.

Samantha — George Millard, alto sax

(Featuring George on his main instrument.) Eyeshadow is even more fitting on this tune for some reason.

BBC Grandstand — arr. jj williamson

An arrangement I did a while ago to test out Sibelius 7 Sounds, finally finding use as a way to provide nostalgia for British ex-pats.

Under the sea — arr. jj williamson

I arranged this as a special request for a sea themed ball we did. Jamie Lambert’s vocals manage to be completely authentic without being racist at all.

Almost like being in love

Arrangement as done by Natalie Cole, and one of my favourite songs ever. Vocals from Loucin Moskofian.

At last

Power ballad time. Corine Sheratte singing, George Millard on sax again.

Cheese and carrots

Brilliant band chart. George Millard on alto again (my dad seems to prefer videoing tunes with him soloing), and Ciaran Diston on trumpet. Hugely appropriate tritone substitution at the end, well done me. Also featuring my dad and little sister arguing about who has the dubious privilege of holding the iPad.

Spinodal gas-liquid separation in a square well fluid, proceeding clockwise from top-left. The initially homogeneous fluid separates into a dense liquid and a less dense gas.

I recently had reason to do one of the most fun parts of any PhD, which is to make pictures.  This one is of phase separation into gas and liquid regions, in a fluid made of solid particles surrounded by short range attractions. Just by moving around at random (Brownian motion) the particles collectively ‘realise’ that they can lower their free energy by splitting off into two distinct phases, so they do.

Often, gas bubbles form within a fluid by ‘nucleation’ — the formation and subsequent growth of a nucleus of gas of some critical size that gets bigger and bigger until, perhaps, it bubbles away because it’s less dense than the liquid. This process often involves the bubble initially forming on some kind of nucleation seed (e.g. a tiny imperfection on the inside of a champagne glass).

In other cases, the initial fluid might be so supersaturated that phase separation is possible no matter how small the amount of the new phase that is formed. In that case, gas-liquid separation happens everywhere throughout the fluid, you get spinodal decomposition, and observe a complex interlocking pattern of the two phases, which gradually coarsens, as seen clockwise from top-left in the above picture.

My science page has more, a Windows demo of some code for simulating crystal formation, and pretty soon should have quite a bit of new stuff — things are busy at the moment.

Since recently discovering that my phone is resistant to water and very loud, I’ve taken to listening to music in the shower. Not owning a purpose-built bathroom audio appliance, the only other option is to open the door through to the kitchen and use that whole room as a sort of giant speaker.

Now, songs are different lengths, and so are showertimes…. so:

I’m aware that even by the standards of a blog where the first proper post was a picture of some pasta, this is kind of inane.