What I’ve been up to
The last couple of months have been have been really busy! November was dominated by the London Jazz Festival, but the month started for me with a really fun gig at Kansas Smitty’s bar on Broadway Market in East London. If you haven’t checked this place out before, it’s a really fun little club that’s putting on live jazz several nights a week. My first festival gig was at the Spice of Life with Gareth Lockrane’s Big Band. It’s always a pleasure to play in that band which is full of amazing musicians, plus Gareth’s charts are great fun (even if they’re rock hard!). My last gig of the festival was with Wandsworth Jazz Orchestra. The music service had commissioned me to write a few new big band arrangements celebrating Miles Davis. I had transcribed a load the first quintet’s rhythm section backings and a couple of Miles’ solos and scored them out for the whole band, and it was great to hear these young musicians getting to grips with this difficult material.
December was really full on with album and tour admin, but I had a great gig at Ronnie Scott’s with Patrick Boyle, Chelsea Carmichael and Dan Casimir playing the music of Andrew Hill. His music is really challenging; I often find myself wondering if he’s purposefully made bits of his compositions extremely difficult to force improvisers out of their comfort zone and stimulate more spontaneity. In contrast, I had the good fortune of being asked to step in last minute for Calum Gourlay’s Big Band gig at the Vortex playing a set of David Bowie tunes followed by a set of Christmas tunes suitably jazzed up by various members of the band. They has a monthly slot at the Vortex and features some of my favourite musicians (I’d actually checked out their gig a couple of months earlier to get some inspiration for the big band charts I was writing for Wandsworth).
Coming up this month
8thJanuary – BBC radio 3 broadcast recording with SEED
25thJanuary – The two small bands I’ve been coaching at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama will be performing material they’ve been working on.
31stJanuary – I’m really happy to be joining the Wandsworth Jazz Orchestra again for their gig at the Hideaway in Streatham.
Things I’ve been checking out
One of my favourite podcasts over the years has been Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History. I’m not the biggest history nut ever (I didn’t get very far with my A-level anyway) but Carlin is so enthusiastic, and each episode is extensively researched (not to mention extremely thorough and therefore very long) so it’s hard not to be enthralled. His second episode on the Asia-Pacific War of 1937-1945 has just been released. I’m also making my way through Graham Lock’s Forces In Motion: The Music And Thoughts of Anthony Braxton.