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.
Here are some more recordings from my quartet gig a few weeks ago in Leeds, all together in one post for convenience. Videos: It’s You by Lee Konitz, the standard Just Friends, and Bud Powell’s I’ll Keep Loving You. Then, some audio: Subconscious Lee (Konitz), and the Love Theme and Memories of Green, from the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis.
In other news, I’m now an endorsing artist for Nordstrand, a great company in California that made my basses and is especially famous for their excellent pickups. Thanks to Carey and everyone else there.
A week ago I took a quartet to Inkwell Arts in Leeds to perform some of my favourite standard and less-standard tunes, along with some arrangements from Vangelis’ wonderful jazz-noir soundtrack to Blade Runner. Ex-Leeds saxophonist Matt Anderson and Leeds-based smashers Martin Longhawn (keys) and Steve (‘Chief’) Hanley (drums) joined me. It’s quite a privilege to have these great musicians and old friends play your charts and seem to enjoy doing so :-).
Anyway, we were fortunate to have Chris Milnes there taking a few videos and sound recordings, so I’ll be uploading some over the coming weeks. Here’ s an extract from Lee Konitz’s line It’s You (over It’s You or No-One). The full video link is at the bottom.
In Washington DC I had the pleasure to meet and play with lots of amazing people. Perhaps the highest joy was meeting Brad Linde and Billy Wolfe at a big band gig in my first few weeks, and joining their avant-garde/americana project along with super-hip New York cats Aaron Quinn and Deric Dickens. (I also eventually joined the wonderful Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, which Brad leads with Joe Herrera.) We’ve released our second album and I just got round to making this trailer with a few extracts.
I tried to be representative, so there’s a bit of Haskell’s beautiful Starlight, Billy’s quasi-Konitzian original Turkey, Deric’s lilting and folky Pickett Fence, the standard Meet Me Tonight In Dreamland, and Aaron’s terrifying (which can be oiled in different patterns for different techniques). Finally, the video ends how the album begins, with Brad counting off a free blow named Gotta Blast!
Check out more and buy it here.
Here’s a rough transcription of Steve Swallow, one my favourite bassists, playing on the album Three Guys with Lee Konitz and Paul Motian. (Dreamy band or what?). It’s a Konitz composition over It’s You Or No One. So far, I can’t find it online (a tiny sample in this article) but I’m reliably informed it exists on somewhere on youtube.
Anyway, here is the unison line that ends the tune:
It’s You unison line transcription
It’s You unison line (Eb)
And here it is played in somewhat Swallow-y style — very light roundwounds with a pick and loads of tone rolled off:
Connoisseurs will know that the pick should really be copper, and the bass a semi-acoustic with a piezo somewhere, strung E-C, etc.
A few weeks ago I did my second-to-last gig in the UK, for a change leading a project and so being able to choose some tunes I’d always wanted to play but hadn’t. It was lovely to have some great friends in the audience, and in the band. George Millard kindly came up from London, and he and Ben brought some nice songs along too. There were lots of contrafacts, lots of bop and a few lovely ballads. I’ve uploaded a selection to a Soundcloud set and am making the PDFs available too. I just zipped up the folder containing the charts but it’s pretty easy to see how they fit together. Hopefully they’ll save people having to transcribe some of the less well-known ones themselves. Do tell me if you end up using them, it’d be nice to know.
I’ll shortly be moving away from Leeds (more about that in another post). It’s been a great place to spend the last 4 years in so many ways, none more so than in the wonderful people I’ve played music with here. It all started with the Leeds University Union Big Band, then local jam nights bumping into students and alumni of Leeds College of Music, and countless weekends driving between the weddings of people I don’t know, accompanied by the best musicians and nicest people I could hope to meet. Lots of love to everyone involved.
My last “public” gig in Leeds for quite a while is coming up this Saturday at the HEART venue in Headingley. It’s a project I’ve put together for a couple of one-off gigs. That gives me as a bassist the rare chance to choose and arrange a lot of the tunes, bringing back fond memories of leading the considerably bigger but no less enjoyable Uni Big Band. The band features some great friends and top players:
— Steve Hanley (drums)
— Martin Longhawn (piano)
— Ben Lowman (sax)
— George Millard (sax)
We’ll be doing a selection broadly covering west coast, bop, hard bop, beautiful ballads and a few odds and ends. The idea is to focus on great melodies, in tunes that might even be reasonably well-known but for whatever reason aren’t performed very often. It’s involved lots of transcribing and lots of trying to recall the names of half-remembered lines. Konitz, Nelson, Powell, Corea, Vangelis, etc etc. It’s going to be great fun, pretty accessible and hopefully provide a lot of interest and variety for jazzers in the audience too. Tickets are available through HEART.
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.
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