Sunday, 22 July 2012

Neon Lights

I don't know why, but sometimes I get musical ideas in my head which just won't go away, and this is one. I am a huge fan of both Kraftwerk and Guided By Voices, and sometime back I had the crazy idea to put together "A Salty Salute" and "Neon Lights," and so here it is. I really like it.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A Love Supreme

I stumbled across this the other day, while searching for another Branford Marsalis link to email to a friend. How I managed to avoid seeing it all these years is anyone's guess. I once had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Marsalis in a trio configuration (with Jeff "Tain' Watts, also featured here, though his piano player, Kenny Kirkland, was away touring with Sting) at the University of Memphis Field House (a glorified gymnasium) with my dad, very shortly after arriving back from Japan in 1990. The acoustics were terrible, and the audience was mostly comprised of over-excited young African-American students, who had clearly come to hear the theme from the Spike Lee film "Mo' Better Blues," which was immensely popular at the time. In contrast, here was the intellectual, musicologically-minded Branford, intent on doing his thing, with a piano-less trio. I recall a particularly challenging 15-minute rendition of Ornette Coleman's "Garden of Souls," which left the audience fidgeting and chatting loudly. After a few numbers, punctuated by incessant requests for the hit song, Branford finally lost his cool, albeit in a very cool manner. I recall him saying to the restless audience, in a clearly frustrated, but very measured, way, "We're going to play what you want to hear, but first we're going to play what we like, because this music is important, and you need to hear it."

This is an audacious and stunningly heartfelt interpretation of perhaps the jazz cannon's most intense and deepest work. As all worthy interpretations should, this one takes a lot of liberties, while remaining unwaveringly true to the spirit of the original. It is 17 minutes longer than the original album, and in some ways is more intense. The musicianship throughout is impeccable all around, though for my money, the real stand-out is Jeff "Tain" Watts, who is, in technical musicological parlance, "a motherfucker."

Nunhead American Radio

This is a podcast of my second appearance on the irrepressible Lewis Schaffer's "Nunhead American Radio" program on Resonance FM, 25th June, 2012. The only thing missing was co-host, the beautiful Lisa Moyle - otherwise, it was a very fine program. I got to play some Linda Heck music, Lewis blew my mind with his knowledge of Memphiana, and I met the lovely Matt Roper, Anna Crockett and Richard Guard. We all went for a drink afterward, and the latter two, from the legendary East Dulwich Ukulele Club, very kindly gave me a lift home, and we had a very good laugh along the way. More salutary lessons in keeping one's head out of one's ass.



Half -Life

I had the great pleasure of seeing these guys a couple of weeks back, thanks to my good friend Gazza, the only other person I know as a committed guitar freak with a day job in telecom. The gig was an album release party at the very atmospheric St. Pancras Old Church. This song sounds like a hit to me, and I think we will be hearing a lot more from them in the near future.


Thank Goodstock

Four weeks ago tomorrow, I played my first-ever proper UK gig, at my younger daughter's school fundraiser, branded "Goodstock" (the school is called Goodrich, so the pun was really screaming to be used, though interestingly no one had landed upon this idea until recently).

I opened the evening with a 30-minute set on electric guitar and vocals, accompanied by the astonishingly talented Steve Watts on upright bass. He didn't know any of my songs, and we only had a half-hour sound check to get to know each other musically. We played a tastefully-selected set of eight covers, and he was an absolute trooper, a real joy to play with. The audience, probably somewhat baffled by the opening number, listened attentively, and smiled on occasion. After all was said and done, there was a genuine warmth and appreciation from them, and a number of people have since given me some very kind appraisals of the set.


Photo by Julia Hamilton

Photo by Julia Hamilton

In the next set, I played drums with The Graduates, featuring my friend and neighbour Paul Betts, who recorded my guitar parts for the Linda Heck album at his place, and the lovely Jim McAllister of The Popes. It was great fun, and people liked it a lot. 




The third band, Dad Company, were great enough to let me use their drum kit, and I have since gotten to know a few in their ranks as well. Great guys, and I'm a at a complete loss to understand why I've never encountered them before.

Which all begs the uncomfortable question, "Why have I had my head up my musical ass for the past 17 years?" My beloved East Dulwich is chock-full of talented people looking for interesting things to do, and I have quite a few in mind. A couple of them have indicated an interest in getting something together on the back of this event, with the aim of having fun and kicking ass - both noble pursuits. If there is a lesson from all of this, it's that interesting people have a much easier time finding you if you make yourself visible, and remain open to new possibilities. 

And so tomorrow, I jet with my girls to Memphis, where I will, in a couple of weeks' time, play this awesome gig - a gig which almost wasn't. Maybe it's just the looming arrival of a certain key birthday, but I feel more appreciative of my friends (old and new), my family, and of life itself, than ever.


Friday, 6 July 2012

Shocker in Gloomtown

Even if you're not a fan, this early edit of what later became "Watch Me Jumpstart" will still be interesting and entertaining, due to the personalities and wit of the band, and the highly unusual story of how it came to be known outside of its small circle, or how it almost didn't. Mitch Mitchell's grandmother anecdote at 7:30 alone is worth the price of admission. As an added bonus to Memphibians everywhere, I'm 99.999% sure that in the opening seconds of the film, Bob Pollard is wearing an Easley-McCain Recording t-shirt. I used to have one too - now added to the list of Things I Won't Keep/Sad if I Lost It.

Scenes from London life