November

What I’ve been up to

I started the month playing a gig with Cassie Kinoshi’s SEED Ensemble at the Jazz Cafe, an event put on by the magazine Gal-Dem to celebrate Black History Month. Cassie takes inspiration from black artists from across a range of mediums and genres (such as the sci-fi works of author Samuel R. Delany and poetry by Langston Hughes, as well as the obvious musical influences from jazz and blues). It was interesting to hear her thoughts on the idea of ‘Black History Month’. She believes that, although dedicating a month to highlight black history is a small positive step, British history is very much Black history and these two shouldn’t be separated in our history curriculum. Cassie’s point got me thinking about how relevant black history is to me (a white guy), not just as a musician who plays music from an African-American tradition, but as a human being living in the world.

Another highlight of last month was playing at Smitty’s Bar on Broadway Market with the Gorodi/Braysher Quartet (a band Sam Braysher and I co-run which features Tom Farmer on bass and David Ingamells on drums). I love playing with this band because it provides me with opportunities to carry on studying and playing music from the bebop tradition (while I focus on more contemporary music with my nonet). When I first started the band, I was mostly curious to delve into the music of Lennie Tristano, Lee Konitz and Warne Marsh. I love the way their language puts the melodic line through an intertwining rhythmic and harmonic process, culminating in melodic yet surprising music that challenges the norm. I’m still fascinated by this school of bebop, but more recently the band has included compositions by Coleman Hawkins, Art Pepper and Thelonious Monk, and it’s been great fun getting into all of that. I’m really looking forward to playing with this band more frequently next year.

The project that kept me most busy this month was with Sam Poppleton’s Zeitgeist Orchestra which, on top of several rehearsals, performed two concerts; one at All Saints Fulham and another at Kings Place. Sam picked a bold program of music that highlighted moments in history when composers demanded their music be taken seriously as works in their own right instead of as accompaniment for ceremony or dance. Included in the program were tunes from the Birth of Cool album (Miles Davis) and some Montiverdi, both of which Sam had rearranged for the unusual line-up. The program finished with a new composition called ‘I Will Wait, But Not as I Run’ by Effy Efthymiou. I’ve been checking out more and more contemporary classical music over the last few years and the “genre” (for want of a more helpful word) is an increasing influence on my own writing, so it was a really insightful challenge working on this piece. It was also a pleasure to play the Montiverdi as I haven’t played any music from the Baroque period since I left school (the other members of the orchestra were most helpful in providing stylistic guidance!) However, the highlight of the concerts for me was playing the tunes from Birth of the Cool. It was one of those rare opportunities to play Miles’ parts to one of my favorite albums. You can read a review of the concert here.

 

Coming up this month

18thNovember – I’m playing an afternoon set with monster musician Gareth Lockrane and his Big Band (ram packed with other monster musicians!) at the Spice of Life as part of the London Jazz Festival.

25thNovember – I’m really looking forward to playing my new arrangements of tunes made famous by Miles Davis with the Wandsworth Jazz Orchestra. This is a free event at the Southbank Centre’s Clore Ballroom as part of their ‘Next Generation Takes Over’ London Jazz Festival program.

 

Things I’ve been checking out

A friend recommended me the Headspace app and I’ve been getting really into it for just over a month now. It’s a guided meditation app with helpful animations and loads of different ‘packs’ so you can tailor your meditation practice.

The podcast that I’ve most enjoyed this past month has been ‘Intrigue: The Ratline’. Barrister/professor/writer Philippe Sands investigates the story of Otto von Wächter, a senior Nazi who escaped justice after the war (he was indicted for mass murder). Otto’s son plays a large part in the series, and it’s both interesting and heartbreaking to hear his determination to defend his father whom he loved so much. The podcast was an interesting compliment to the book I’m currently reading – If this is a Man / The Truceby Nobel Prize winning Primo Levi. This book (actually two books republished together) is an autobiographical account of Levi’s time in a concentration camp and the long and tumultuous journey back to his home in Italy after liberation.

October (New Monthly Posts)

I’ve spent the last couple of months writing some new arrangements for the Wandsworth Youth Jazz Orchestra.  We decided to use this as an opportunity to introduce the students to the music of Miles Davis so I’ve been having a great time delving deeper into his work. I’ll be playing the arrangements with the band for their EFG London Jazz Festival gig on the 25thof November at the Southbank’s Clore Ballroom (more info to follow).

Whilst working on these big band arrangements, it was really informative to play some of Kenny Wheeler’s music with the London Jazz Orchestra at the Vortex a few weeks back (which featured Henry Lowther who sounded as beautiful as ever). Kenny’s music has been a huge influence on me, especially whilst I was studying at Guildhall, and it’s always a pleasure to play his charts. If you’ve never heard Kenny’s music, my favourite albums are ‘Gnu High’ and ‘Song for Someone’, and if you want more, check out ‘Windmill Tilter’, ‘Music For Large & Small Ensembles’ and ‘Flutter By, Butterfly’ for a healthy introduction to Kenny Wheeler (but don’t stop there!)

Another gig I really enjoyed playing last month was with Ralph Wyld’s Mosaic at the Lancaster Jazz Festival where we played some of Ralph’s new music inspired by works by the artist Paul Klee.

On the subject of art, I’m in the process finalising the artwork and cover design for my nonet’s album. Artist Richard Keys spent a few weeks listening and responding to the mixes, and has come up with an image that beautifully entangles the themes of the music. I’m really excited to share some more information on the release of the album very soon.

Coming up:

2ndOctober – I’m looking forward playing with SEED Ensemble (led by composer and saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi) at the Jazz Cafe in Camden.

9thOctober – Myself and Sam Braysher are taking our quartet to Kansas Smitty’s (I’m writing some fun new lines for this).

13thand 20thOctober – I’m playing two gigs with the Zeitgeist Chamber Orchestra at All Saint’s Fulham and Kings Place which will be really interesting. The project is called ‘Birth of the Cool – Improv from Monteverdi to Miles Davis’. Having spent so much time listening to the seminal Miles album over the last couple of months it will be really fun to actually play it, whilst also giving my (very well-rested) Baroque chops a run out! The program also features a premier of composer Effy Efthymiou’s new commission.

31stOctober – I’m seeing the month out by spending the whole day at The Spice of Life, playing an afternoon gig with Graham Hughes’ ‘Sunshine Kings’ followed by an evening gig with the London City Big Band.

I want to conclude these monthly posts by recommending a few things I’ve been checking out recently. I’m a bit of a podcast binger and one of my new favourites is The Blindboy Podcast. The episodes mostly consist of monologues rich in humor and integrity, covering topics such as mental health, history, art, music, psychology, sociology, and hilarious “hot takes”. Thanks to Alex Bonney who recommended this to me whilst we were mixing the album!

Nonet Recording

Im very excited to announce that I’ll be recording with my nonet at the start of April . I’ve been working on the material for a few years now, so I’m really happy to have this opportunity to finally get it recorded, and to do so with such an amazing team. Jim Hart will be producing, and Alex Bonney will be engineering the session. Both are exceptional musicians who I’m really looking forward to working with.

The band features Gareth LockraneMike ChillingworthGeorge Crowley, Kieran McLeod, Ray Hearne, Ralph Wyld, Conor Chaplin, and Dave Hamblett. All are virtuosic instrumentalists and some of London’s most exciting jazz musicians who compose for and lead their own projects. If you’re not aware of them I strongly recommend you check them out!

Finally, I’d like to mention that this recording wouldn’t have been possible without the help of City Music Foundation. Check out their website to read more about how they’ve been helping musicians develop their careers.

I’ll post updates on the album soon! Until then, thanks for reading.

Migs

New Website

I’ll start (hopefully not as I mean to go on) with a disclaimer: It’s not quite finished yet! But I’ve decided it’s finished enough for the time being. In the near future there will also be some educational resources in the form of transcriptions, analysis and various musical and technical exercises that I hope will be of interest and use to students and teachers alike. I’ll also post updates about upcoming gigs, recordings and album releases etc.

For now, my news is that I’m going to New York tomorrow, where I’ll be checking out gigs, catching up with old friends, and taking on all the food and coffee recommendations. Gigs already on the list to see while I’m out there include Tom Harrell, Scott Colley Quartet, Miles Okazaki Quartet, Linda Oh, the Vanguard Orchestra, and the Kevin Eubanks Quartet. I’m also hoping to have a few lessons while I’m out there. I’m sure I’ll have something interesting to share when I get back!

Until then, thanks for taking the time to look at my website.

Migs