Monday, December 28, 2009

And the rest bye bye 2009!

The end of the year has seen me being invited to cover a gig for Steve Williamson in Oxford at the Spin where I appeared with Pat Thomas on piano a wonderful night and the Spin is always one of my favourite places to play so I always look forward to a journey up to Oxford!We had a lovely unexpected review in the Oxford Times which documents the night perfectly.I will put a link to that below:
Did a very productive session with Alexander Hawkins and the sextet for BBC Radio 3 session that should see the light of day next year,we will also do a tour in year to promote the album "No now is so"really looking forward to that as I always enjoy meeting up and playing Alex's music he is one talented guy!
Finished the year on a Beggar & Co gig at the 100 club.I hadn't been in the 100 club since the early 1990s so I had thought it would of changed a bit but instead it was exactly the same decor which really doesnt work now,just looks a bit tacky!Anyway gig was slamming as they always are with Beggar & Co playing a mixture of originals and Jazz funk anthems,One interesting feature of this gig was that The drummer was double booked playing for US Soul Singer Alexander O'Neal at the Docklands O2 centre so we had to wait until he had played there and been driven across town just about getting to the 100 club and sitting in before the audience got to restless,I started off the gig sent out as a peace offereing to play solo vibes for 10 minutes,this is normally not the type of crowd to play free improv to but they listened and were actually responding in the right places.All in all a different end to the year of gigging for me.No Christmas gigs but i intend to rectify that next year by relaunching the Xmas files project i put out in 2002.Been listening to some recordings made of those gigs and would definitely like to do a revisit!
Next year starts with me performing and recording in the Jason Yarde's LSO concert with Acoutastic Bombastic followed by appearing with the London Improvisors Orchestra in the Bimhuis,Nigel Kennedy world tour and recording,Alexander Hawkins tour,Burnout Mama in Helsinki,Byron Wallen's new album release,Curating a new Percussion festival.Maybe a couple of my own recordings might be out after a 15 year break!
Can't wait for 2009 to end they will be a lot of changes for me next year hopefully for the best,so roll on 2010.

Cleveland Watkiss 50th Birthday concert

Cleveland held his 50th birthday concert during the London Jazz festival at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the south bank.An absolutely brilliant night of music where he revisited a lot of the music and experiences he has had during a musical career that has criss-crossed through many genres!
Listening to Cleveland Watkiss in concert the listener quickly understands why he is such a complete musician and performer. The turnout of musicians involved in his 50th Birthday concert was unbelievable plus the many who had made the trip down to the south bank to watch the concert just goes to show how much genuine feeling there is for Cleveland.
I had the honour of being one of the invited musicians to perform on the day. I performed in The Jazz Warriors segment with some of the musicians who have been an integral part of the Warriors story!Adrian Reid-Piano,Jason Yarde-Alto Sax,Brian Edwards-Alto Sax,Gary Crosby-Double Bass,Mark Mondesir-Drums,Byron Wallen-Trumpet to name some of those in attendance.It was very interesting to hear the feedback from some of those who witnessed the return of the original Jazz Warriors sound!Mmm-Anyway watch this space for some exciting news in the new year.Here is a review from Paul Bradshaw Editor of celebrated journal Straight no Chaser magazine:
Cleveland happily shared his birthday honours with be-bop veteran and fellow singer, 82 year old Sheila Jordan and then, after an intermission, proceeded to confound the audience appearing onstage dressed a la 17th Century. It was left to the piano vituoso Julian Joseph to explain that
the attire and the nature of this character resided in Bridgetower - an opera he’d written and in which Cleveland had performed.Aside from the jazz circuit Cleveland has constantly engaged in London’s ever evolving clubland. He was a regular at Talking Loud & Saying Something/ Dingwalls and was a fully fledged member of Goldie’s Metalheadz crew. His Project 23, with Marque Gilmore and DJ La Rouge (guesting on turntables at Cleveland 50!), highlighted his commitment to putting his own stamp on the drum ‘n’ bass scene. It was through the Warriors and through the club, Anohka, that he developed a working relationship with young, master percussionist Talvin Singh. This relationship was beautifully conveyed at the QEH through a trio setting where the singer engaged with Talvin’s rippling tabla riffs and the sublime, pristine
rhythms and melodies of Tunde Jegede’s kora. It was down to the spoken word of Vayu Naydu to lift this trio to brand new heights.Spoken world also found its way into the set via playwright and novelist Bonnie Greer and then it was down to beat boxer Schlomo, who joined Cleveland, trumpeter Byron Wallen and drummer Shaney Forbes, to articulate a whole other approach to rhythm and sound. The impact of these performances along with those of stellar pianists Jason Rebello, Alex Wilson (you are b-a-a-ad!) and Nicky Yeoh (beautiful duets) will resonate with me for time to come.The spirit of exchange is an elemental force in this music and Cleveland Watkiss – Jazzman, Junglist… Outer-nationalist! – reflects his roots 100%. Hackney was in the house at the QEH, Believe! A refusal to be boxed into any one genre underpinned the whole session. As we drew to a close the slightly twisted Cuba-Brasil collision on ‘Torch of Freedom’ had Cleveland
and Heidi Vogel enjoying a freewheeling lyrical exchange over a sweet montuno. It provided the perfect place to call it day and sent us off happy into a windswept November night.
Paul Bradshaw – Straight No Chaser-November 2009

tHE SPonTANeoUS COsMic RAwXtra

19th October 2009 saw the debut concert of my new Ensemble TSCR at new uber venue The Kings Place in londons Kings Cross.TSCR brings together musicians of the calibre of Cleveland Watkiss-Vocals,
Hkb Finn -Spoken Word, Shabaka Hutchens-Clarinets,Rowland Sutherland-Flutes, Brian Edwards - Tenor Sax, Ntshuks Bonga-Alto Sax, Corey Mwamba - Vibraphone, Pat Thomas-Piano, Camelle Hinds-Bass, Otto Fischer-Guitar, and Steve Noble - Drums for its Debut public performance. Using music and soundscapes inspired by Fela Kuti, Sunra,Duke Ellington, John Colrane,Eric Dolphy,George Clinton,Lee Scratch Perry and the Art Ensemble of Chicago as a starting point. This ensemble aims to explore and create its own unique focus on some of the great improvisors from the African diaspora. This concert was also filmed by the Open University and a live multi track audio recording was made as well. A Multi-media installation was kindly provided by brilliant Visual Artists SDNA. I will put up a short taster of the OU film on the net shortly.Here is a link to a review of the debut concert! Scroll down to the 30th October Space is the place entry:

Nigel Kennedy catches a vibe!

10th September saw me appearing with Nigel Kennedy at the Tower of London Festival.I had meet Nigel when I was signed to Blue Note records and we had got on really well.We had spoke about one day working together but Unfortunately a possible earlier chance to perform in his Hendrix Project about 10 years ago didn't work out because of my schedule.We hadn't seen each other since that time so when I bumped into Nigel in the street one day in the summer it turned out that he was about to embark on a project that he thought would be ideal for us to perform together.This turned out to be his Bach/Ellington project for small band and Orchestra.So some rehearsals were hooked up leading to me performing with Nigel's own small ensemble plus the Philharmonic orchestra at the Tower.I had a really good time hanging with his regular Jazz band hailing from Poland who are some excellent musicians and good people. plus English guitarist Doug Boyle. The concert was well received and has now led to a world tour starting early next year. I will be touring in some pretty cool locations and a possible recording is also in the pipeline! Let you know nearer the time where I will be!

Spitalfields festival summer brew 2009

Mark Holub cool drummer from band "Led bib " Who Curates the Succesful Summer stew Festival in Spitalfields had kindly invited me to play in the festival this year.The festival is one that happens each year at the end of the summer break in September.The band was a new line up that I had wanted to play with for a while.Steve Noble on Drums,Ntchuks Bonga on Alto Sax and on bass Camelle hinds the mainstay of grounbreaking 80s Britfunk band "Central Line,Paul Weller and his own solo projects" who I have played with in funk bands like the Beggar & Co band. This was Camelle's first excursion into free improv and he really played some fantastic music as did the other guys.The audience were very appreciative and there has also been some positive write ups about the band.I hope in 2010 to do some more work with this band provisionally called "The Lovely Dubley band". Here is a review from the Londonjazz.Blogspot:
"I arrived just in time for the second band of the day, Orphy Robinson’s quartet. Robinson was playing marimba. He created a set of powerful jazz improvisation with a funk-rock edge. And in the process he created a lot of excitement too. Playing a continuous set without pausing between sections, drummer Steve Noble and bassist Camelle Hinds pushed the band along energetically, working quite a groove behind Robinson and altoist Ntshuks Bonga ’s solos. This was fusion of a kind, but behind the drive it was subtle, engaging music".

Bristol Sax Massive

I have worked on the Andy Sheppard Sax Massive projects for the last couple of years and they have been performed in Norway,Central London and Opened the London Jazz Festival.
These Sax Massives have all been a lot of fun!This Time round it was a massive organised for the re-openning of the Colston Hall venue in Bristol.This meant trips up to Bristol through August into Sptember.
I must say that Bristol delivered well both in organising and in the level of musicianship displayed by Sax players like James Morton and Mobo Award winner Yolanda Brown who also came up to Bristol for each rehearsal.The massive can have up to 200 sax players at one time performing in its ranks.
On the performance day there were also a lot of other large ensembles involved these included Adrian Utley's 'Music for Massed Guitars', The Emerald Ensemble, Richard Barnard, Cirque Bijou, Charles Hazlewood, Sheelanagig plus female Beat Boxer Bella trix.
I had a really enjoyable time in Bristol hung out with some cool musicians that I will stay in touch with in the future!

David Byrne installation

So one of the interesting sessions I had this year was at the Roundhouse in Camden town a huge venue that puts on some varied & interesting programmes of events throughout the year.
I was invited to be a part of the David Byrne (Talking Heads) installation titled "Playing the Building" The public were able to walk around the Roundhouse and interact with the space, primarily through a special organ keyboard that turns pipes into flutes and walls into drums.that had taken over the main space for the summer!
These sessions were really well attended with long queues forming all day in order for people to experience and in the case of some invited musicians to play along with the installation.
This involved an organ rigged up to play everything from the metal beams to water pipes resonating, vibrating, oscillating noise-making with various tensioned wires connected to the Roundhouse building each making a unique sound and ultimately turning the building into a giant instrument!
I was invited to bring along a vibraphone and to introduce a metallic soundscape as an interlude or a duet element into the proceddings followed by me encouraging the people who had come along to experience the installation to join in either with their own instruments or a selection of pitched and unpitched percussive instruments that I brought along for the purpose!It was a great experience and led to some interesting discussions about what is sound? and what is music? I also had someone adamently trying to get us all to play something from the Jimi Henrix catalogue has hendrix had apparently performed there in the Roundhouse in the 1970s. Anyway we finished up with a long queue of people wanting to play my vibraphone after someone had asked to play a couple of notes and that led to loads more curious and eager to have a try. It really was a lot of fun and the totally unexpected and warm feedback from those who attended really rounded up the whole experience on a high note.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Nuff tings happened this year

So finally 2009 is coming to an end and 2010 will start! I for one can't wait as I have come stuff coming up that I am really looking forward to! Before that I will do a recap on some of the stuff that I have been up to since I last blogged!
Well I used to ask myself how come I have never done a musical,finally I got the call to be involved in one.But what a mistake that turned out to be.Death by music I'm afraid.Seriously Stabbed in the back by a so called fellow musician!Where do I start?Who cares?It definitely wasnt for me and I finally escaped the second night with another 86 performances to go!
Still I needed to know why I had never been involved in one of these!It's a whole other world to what I am used to dealing with,Politics,loyalties are not the same as in other areas of music.Egos!!!!! Wow! Anyway got out and headed back to London where the first gig I did was an improv one that just brought me right back down to earth and made me really appreciate just how lucky I am to know and work with so many fantastic musicians and people.This was quickly followed by the Beggar & Co funk gig at Summer Soltice that I have written about in an earlier blog!!
Saying all of that, I was asked to appear 3 months later in "Misterioso" A musical about the life of Thelonious Monk Written by celebrated Italian Writter Stefano Benni and adapted and directed by Filomena Campus the Sardinian Director and Musician of note! Awesome music from a band that swung hard,Tony Kofi on Alto,Winston Clifford on Drums,Pat Thomas on Piano and David Leahy on Bass.The whole cast and Crew Delivering a piece of theatre that I could genuinely relate to and pay money to see! Help to Restore some of my faith in the medium called Musical theatre, as I saw first hand that you could combine great Multi-media curtuosy of the best in the business (SDNA), Actors,Musicians,crew and a Director with great ideas to make something that not only told a worthwhile story but moved away from the tired formulaic why of expressing musical theatre that is the norm in the West End of London and Broadway!!Reviews were fantastic and the run at the Riverside theatre in Hammersmith was very successful for Filomena Campus and her team.
Here is a review from Arts Website KultureFlash:
London-based collective Theatralia inject Stefano Benni's play Misterioso with a dose of beatnik heroin. Misterioso explores the relationship of legendary pianist Thelonius Monk with aristocratic arts patron Baroness Rothschild (Pannonica). Jazz aficionados will by thrilled by the ensemble of seasoned musicians, who will transport them to an NYC Jazz club in McCarthy-era America. Tony Kofi blows away the cobwebs with his sax, Orphy Robinson competes with a projection of a '50s cartoon character on vibes, and Pat Thomas' subtle piano invokes the presence of the late Monk, who spent the last seven years of his life in silence. Magical music and audience toe-tapping is given a menacing undertone with Pannonica's tragic anecdote, about a cop hitting Monk's hands with a baton after he asks for refreshment in a whites-only hotel. Misterioso culminates with a projection of Monk rotating like a whirling dervish, a metaphor for
mounting racial tension. Sympathetic direction and uplifting vocals by Filomena Campus, evoke the feel of the Beat Generation's Big Apple Ex-drum and bass MC Cleveland Watkiss brings Monk's narrative to life with his booming voiceover, whilst Thomas is the physical embodiment of the silent Thelonius, chiaroscuro highlighting him like a Zurbaran painting, giving
gravitas to the myth of a musical legend.