Jul 8 2009

The “Sorry, It’s Been Ages” Mega-Blog…

Hello folks,

Sorry, It’s Been Ages…
I know. I haven’t posted anything for such a long time. But I haven’t forgotten about you all. I promise!
I have been meaning to tell you all about what I’ve been up to recently but keep getting side-tracked with various projects along the way. Those of you that follow my (deluge of) updates on Twitter or Facebook will no doubt be fully aware of all that’s been going on recently. I’ll try to keep it fairly succinct (yeah, right!)…

Where do I start? Well, at the beginning of June Katy and I ventured over to her hometown in Jersey to play five shows at the Blue Note Bar. We played as a trio and brought pianist Alex Hutton along with us from London. The Blue Note is a great little music venue right in the centre of St. Helier. We played two sets of mostly standards to packed audiences every night. In fact we had to turn away about thirty punters on the last night! The week was a resounding success and we’re looking at going back soon for a repeat performance. We had such a great time in Jersey and it was great to play five nights in the same venue. Big thanks are due to everyone who helped make the week such a success; Jack, Ronni & Dave, Noel and Thomas. We got some great photos too, I may well publish a few more in another post.
Keep an eye on my MySpace page for upcoming dates with Kate Eden in London…
A few months before the Jersey trip we went into the studio to record a five-track EP called Lean Baby. I’ve literally just started a page on Last.fm where you can now listen to the tracks. Once again, Kate’s band features Alex Hutton on piano, me on bass and drummer Josh Morrison. What are you waiting for? Go and have a listen…
The touring with Clare Teal and Lea DeLaria has been storming ahead over the last few months. I’m presuming you all saw the little video I posted here last time from the Queen Elizabeth Hall? If you didn’t, you can find it Here. I’ve been up and down the country with both bands (I wound up playing at the Hull Truck Theatre twice in one month!) and have done an awful lot of driving. This has once again taken it’s toll on the bass-mobile and another small fortune has been spent keeping the poor thing on the road…
Some highlights? Let me see… The last two ‘Wall To Wall’ shows with Lea at the Pizza Express Dean Street have been fantastic. In May we played the Gershwin songbook with Ian Shaw and a couple of weeks ago we did songs from the movies with Clare Martin. It was one of the best shows yet. Next month we’re reuniting The Dirty Martinis to play some serious 50’s lounge.. you’ve got to come along to this one. We’ve got Simon Allen and Gabriel Garrick in the band. Tuesday July 21st at the Pizza Express.. stick it in your diaries!
We’ve just got back from two gigs with Clare last week, in Stockton-on-Tees and Loughborough. The tour has been going great. We’re still promoting our new live album Clare Teal Live At Ebeneezer Chapel, which is now definitely available on Clare’s website Here. We’re off to play the Bansko International Jazz Festival in Bulgaria in August. So expect a little write-up afterwards on the blog…
The last couple of weeks have been rather exciting too. The wonderful new album from The Duckworth Lewis Method was released in the UK on Monday. Neil and Thomas asked me to come to play in the band alongside Tim Weller from TDC and guitarist Tosh Flood from Pugwash. The album has already caused quite a storm in the press and made album of the week on Absolute radio last week. We played the album launch show last night at The Oval. The whole event was sponsored by The Times, who gave away 150 pairs of tickets in an online competition. Plus we had all the journalists of course. Even the torrential rainstorm didn’t stop folks from turning out to see us play the entire album from start to finish (!), as well as a couple of old favourites in the encore. Had a great time.
We’ll be playing a little in-store show at Rough Trade East London on Monday 13th, and then we’re off to play Latitude next Friday. I’m not sure what’s going to happen after that, but do keep an eye on their website (and of course my MySpace page!) for any future dates. Who knows, there might even be a tour! Let’s hope so. In the meantime, go out and buy the album. It’s ever so good…
There’s also some gigs with Duke Special on the horizon. The seven-piece lineup from the Irish tour last year will be playing Peter’s DukeBox Festival in Belfast on 29th August and Greenbelt on the 30th. There should be a couple of other dates too in August/September (hopefully including something in London) so once again, keep your eyes peeled and you ears to the ground. I’m also going to be playing for Mother Courage and her Children at The National Theatre with the Duke boys in the autumn. Peter has been commissioned to write the score and is beavering away on the songs right now. There’s a little more info on the National Theatre’s website

Ah.. busy days! Pretty sure I’m meant to be learning some songs for somebody right now. Might have to leave you for now folks. Thanks once again to all of you subscribers out there…
See you soon I hope.

Apr 14 2009

Back On The Road With Clare Teal!

Hello folks,

Well it’s been a pretty busy period out there on the road with Clare Teal. We’ve done twelve shows over the last few weeks and we’ve all clocked up over two thousand miles as we travelled up and down the country. I was intending on posting a mid-tour blog to let you all know how it was going, but there proved to be insufficient time once I actually got home! It’s amazing how your one day off at home suddenly erodes away amongst a big pile of washing and unanswered emails when you’ve been out touring… I figured that my constant updates on Twitter would have to suffice for the time being. And once again, a little apology is probably in order for those of you who sent me @replies via Twitter whilst I was away; I still have yet to figure out a method of replying to your messages once I’m out on the road. I’m still waiting for Vodafone to sort me out with a new sparkly phone with which I can fully engage with the online world once I step out the front door!
The Teal Tour started out with four nights at Ronnie Scotts. This was a pretty tall order as we were trying out a brand new show at one of the country’s most prestigious jazz venues. Less than ideal (nobody wants to peak too early now, do they?!), but after a couple of days rehearsal we were pretty confident that the new show was going to be a hit. And it was.
We were out promoting our new album Clare Teal Live At Ebenezer Chapel. Unfortunately the album was so new that it wasn’t actually ready for the shows at Ronnies (artwork, artwork, artwork… the bane of all album production!). When we did finally get the CD’s for the Falmouth show, we were all over the moon with the results. The music sounds great and the artwork is beautiful. We recorded the album in front of a small audience in January. There’s a fantastic atmosphere to the live recording; you can really feel the energy in the room. The new album is now available on Clare’s website. During the tour they were only available at the live shows so needless to say, they were selling like the proverbial hotcakes. We’re all very proud.
The Ronnie’s shows were a big hit. We had a full house for three out of the four nights and the audience loved the new material. Our new MD Grant Windsor has produced some stunning new arrangements (he also did a lot of the arrangements for the live album), and the band is sounding better than ever. Colin and AD have become an integral part of the live sound with a far greater emphasis on close harmony backings and the addition of guitar, trumpet and percussion. We’ve even got Chris Dagley playing bongos for one number. O yes…. A personal favourite number in the new set. I shan’t give too much away, you’ll just have to come along and see the show for yourselves. Let’s just say that it has to be seen to be believed…
I even managed to survive what can only be described as an act of sabotage on our opening night at the hands of the bassist playing with the support band. After I rather stupidly agreed to lend him my bass for the first set, he took it upon himself to completely change the action on my bass; handing it back to me just before our first set, remarking nonchalantly “You might want to check the tuning..”. I was not impressed. Especially as I’d just had the bass professionally set up and it was sounding better than ever.
Anyway… I’m over it now.
Our first out of town gig was in Falmouth. Possibly the longest drive of them all at five hours (eerghh..), we played the Princess Pavilion. It’s a lovely little theatre down by the sea (Or is it a river? Not sure..). The audience were a little quiet, but the show was good. By this point we’d already started rearranging the set and adding in a couple of old favourites. You can’t have a Clare Teal show without Messin’ With Fire, after all!
The following day we moved on to one of Clare’s favourite venues, the Brewhouse Theatre in the ‘Big Apple’ (Taunton). This really is a lovely venue and a great little town. It’s always good to have a little time during the day to have a walk around when your on the road. Grant and I went out for some lunch and coffee before the show. We’ve played the Brewhouse a number of times in the past; we’re always met with a great reception and the staff really looked after us yet again. A really good day.
On the 24th, we moved on to play St. Georges in Bristol, another regular venue for Clare. I’ve played there at least three times before with Clare and once with Lea Delaria. It’s a wonderful space for performing and has a great atmosphere… as long as you can get the acoustic under control. It’s pretty cavernous and getting the balance right on stage can be a bit of a challenge.
We had the local BBC come down in the afternoon to interview Clare and film her, Grant and I performing our blisteringly fast version of Tea For Two (Which incidentally features on the live album.. come on now folks!). Great fun… Really hoping that one turns up on YouTube at some point. It’s funny how you never really get to see these things back…
I did another one of those classic moves whilst in Bristol. The old ‘forgetting to call your mates when playing in their town’ trick. It never fails to come back and bite you on the arse. I have one good friend in Bristol, a girl I went to college with and haven’t seen for a while. Although I had it in the back of my mind to call her the next time I was in town, I totally forgot. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but, rather typically, I ran into her in the street during the afternoon. This always happens! It happened the last time I was in Dublin recording with TDC with the one person I know there too. Mortifyingly embarrassing. Felt awful. But it was nice to see her, if incredibly briefly!
After Bristol we had a well-deserved day off at home. When I intended on writing this blog. Obviously I didn’t get around to it… sorry folks.
On the 26th we all schlepped up to South Shields. Yet another five hour slog in the car. We arrived in the freezing cold and wind at the venue which is situated right on the Tyne. I really thought the weather was starting to get warmer by now, rather wishfully discarding both hat and scarf by this stage; but this happy thought was soon put to bed as I attempted to move my gear into the venue and virtually took off like a windsurfer as soon as I put my bass on my back…
After a great show we excitedly set off for our hotel like a bunch of school kids off to Summer camp. We were staying in the gorgeous Lumley Castle Hotel about thirty miles down the road. If you’re ever up in that area I’d seriously recommend this place. Dating back to the 1300s, it is truly breath-taking. Very rarely do we get to stay in such luxury whilst on the road. Clare and Muddy did well to find this little gem! Here’s a little photo so you can get the general idea…
Mmm.. lovely stuff! The following morning we travelled 150 miles down the road to play the Albert Halls in Bolton. Due to the nature of the high stage we were unable to use their piano, so Grant was stuck playing a keyboard again. It’s amazing how this can affect the gig and the sound on stage. It really was a bit of a struggle to hear exactly what was going on and the overly long soundcheck meant that we also missed dinner; not a great start to the evening but the show itself went really well.
We moved on to Huddersfield on the Saturday to play the fabulous Lawrence Batley Theatre. Once again, Grant and I got there early to have a wander round the town and check out the venue. Grant was instantly taken with the piano (in fact at one stage I thought I might be lunching alone…) and the technical crew were really great. This was the closest we got to a hometown gig for Clare on this tour and the show was sold out with around 500 people coming. In many ways it was a shame that this show (and the previous two shows on the Northern run) featured just the trio, but it did allow us to vary the set across the tour a little more and try out some different material. In fact we are working on creating a completely different show for the trio in the near future for these occasions… watch this space.

The Huddersfield show was definitely a highlight for me. We had such a great time at the Lawrence Batley Theatre. The audience were brilliant and it really is a very special venue. I’m definitely looking forward to going back there to play again soon.
The tour finished with two additional one-off shows the following week. The first was up at the Pacific Road Arts Centre in Birkenhead (over seven hours there and back!). This is a really interesting venue which I’d played a couple of years ago with Lea Delaria’s Dirty Martinis. It’s situated in a converted railway depot and puts on a wide range of music from jazz to full-on rock gigs. Acoustically it’s a bit of a cavern, plus there’s no piano, but this is one of my favourite venues to play up North. It has such a great atmosphere and the staff are brilliant. Really worth checking out.
The last venue of the tour was The Stables in Wavendon (and thankfully, not too far from home this time!). We always have a fantastic time there. I’ve played there with Clare at least three times before and we have a fabulous time on every visit. Founded by John Dankworth and Cleo Lane, it really is one of the best jazz venues in the country and well worth a visit if you’re in the area. We were back with the full band this time and had a fantastic show to round off the tour.
But of course the fun doesn’t stop here folks! We’ve still got a load of forthcoming shows for you if you haven’t managed to catch us thus far. We’ll be at the Hull Truck Theatre on the 26th, Pizza Express Maidstone on the 2nd May and the Bath Pavilion on the 3rd. You can find all Clare’s dates (as well as all the other dates I’m playing with other artists) on my MySpace page, as well as on Clare’s official website. And don’t forget to order your copy of Clare Teal Live at Ebenezer Chapel from the Online Shop, where you can also get hold of our last album Get Happy. Enjoy!
ps. Those of you waiting with bated breath for news of my forthcoming solo album (or should that be ‘both of you’?!), fear not. Work is very much in progress, but that is another post entirely. This one is already far too long… until next time!

Feb 9 2009

What’s Going On..

Hello folks, long time no see!

First of all, a little apology for the inordinate amount of time since my last post. I must admit that it has been relatively quiet here since the Duke Special tour but there have recently been a few little developments that I thought I might let you all in on…
As many of you will no doubt already be aware of, there is a new Divine Comedy album in production as we speak. Tim and I flew out to Dublin about a month ago to lay down the bass and drum tracks with Neil and our engineer Fergal. 

Neil has written some fantastic new songs and we had a great time working on the rhythm tracks. Obviously I can’t say too much at this stage as it’s not finished. I’m expecting an Autumn release. Judging by the work done so far it’s going to be a fantastic record and definitely one to look out for later this year. I wound up playing my Warwick FNA Jazzman V for virtually the whole album this time. I might do a mini-post on this soon for the guitar geeks and gear-heads among you as it gives me no end of pleasure when I’m finally allowed to play all my favourite instruments on the record whist I’m often banned from using them live because of the way they look! I’m hoping we’ll be out touring again sometime later this year… fingers crossed!
Two weeks ago I had the great honour of being asked to play a last minute show with the wonderful Carleen Anderson at the new Kommedia in Bath. I’ve been a fan of Carleen since her days with The Young Disciples. It’s always so exciting when you get to play one of your favourite tunes with the artist that wrote it and made it famous (playing Brick with Ben Folds is still one of the highlights of my career). Playing Apparently Nothin’ and Mama Said with Carleen was a real joy. There was a lot of tunes to learn in a very short space of time (ie; a couple of days to learn the whole set) which was a bit of a scramble but it was so worth the effort. I really do love playing that kind of music and very rarely get the chance. 
Carleen and her band really made me feel welcome and were incredibly supportive. Big thanks to Mark Edwards (yes, The Invisible Birdman!) for getting me in. Really hoping we get to play some more shows together sometime soon.
More recently, I’ve been over in Box recording a live album with Clare Teal. We spent a couple of days rehearsing some new tunes and arrangements for the session.  Led by our new musical director Grant Windsor, the recording also featured Clare’s regular touring band of Chris Dagley on drums with Colin and AD on backing vocals. 
Our carefully laid plans very nearly came unstuck on Friday morning when we all woke up to some incredibly heavy snowfall from the previous night. It took all morning for Clare and Grant to get over to Box from Bath because of the snow and we also had a very long wait with the piano tuner coming over from Bristol later on. Luckily things came together just as the audience started to arrive, although we missed a few key audience members due to the weather. 
The show went really well and the recording sounds great. We’re hoping the live album will be ready for Clare’s tour which starts in March with four nights at Ronnie Scotts. You can see the full list of shows on my MySpace page.
I’m going to be out touring with both Clare and Lea Delaria through March and April. This does unfortunately mean that I won’t be out with Duke Special for his UK dates at the end of April, but I’m hoping to play some more dates with him later on in the year. I went to see Pete and Chip play at the Proud Gallery in Camden a few weeks ago and had such a great time. It never ceases to amaze me how two musicians can create such a massive and varied sound. I was blown away by the show; truly inspirational. Pete will be out touring with a four-piece band the last week in April and I seriously recommend you get yourselves down to at least one of his shows.
Until next time x