Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Return of the Burn out Mama band Day 3

We were to meet up there and head off to the Train station to catch a train to the venue in Malmitalo which is on the outskirt to the north of Helsinki, Leaving Reija free to drop off instruments and pick up various bits of backline equipment. Everything was going to plan when we got on the train then all of a sudden Ed got up from his seat in the train and started frantically rummaging through his bags and pockets going ”Wooh,Wooh,Shit,” when we asked what was up he calmly said "I think I have lost my passport" which met with silence.He looked through all his stuff a couple more times before we arrived at our stop with no luck. So now to add to Broken Saxophones, Lost Luggage, Unscheduled bus journeys! Now we also had a lost Passport in the mix as well! Ed checked his bags and pockets about 10 more times before saying! “Shit must of dropped it in the Internet cafe".

Mika had a phone number for the Ambar cafe in his phone but no one had seen or handed in anything when he called up!

When we walked into the Malmitalo venue Reija met us smiling saying "Oh great you all made it here in one piece! She noticed we were not smiling and asked "Hey! What’s going on" I replied “definitely not Marvin Gaye, Ed's lost his Passport”!

She nearly fainted at that" And said "What do you mean" “Yes Reija Ed’s lost his passport, and no we’re not joking”. Reija was understandably not smiling at all now as Ed explained what he thought might have happened while simultaneously going through his bags yet again! Meanwhile yet another Tenor Sax had arrived for Ed to use here in Helsinki so he immediately started speaking with the Saxophone player and trying the Sax out! Reija got on the phone to see what could be organised for the passport as Ed would need something to use to travel back to the UK. It was now quite late in the day and all offices were closed including the British Embassy where he might have been able to have emergency travel documents issued! Meanwhile a call from the Airport regarding my lost luggage came through! I had decided not to get the bag delivered at the B & B we were booked into in Helsinki but instead I would just collect it when I was leaving the next day at the Airport! Since I had managed without the bag so far”

Ed had now remembered that he had a copy of his passport details on a USB stick that he had with him. Fortunately it was all still there so he was able to get a photocopy made that would hopefully allow him to travel back to the UK which as it happens he was able to do the next morning.

The gig went really well after all of that with a reasonable size crowd showing their appreciation with some encouraging sounds and words afterwards backstage from some of them! The Saxophone player who had brought along a couple of Saxes for Ed to try out had then taken a look at Ed’d Tenor Sax and managed to carry out a good enough repair job that allowed Ed to use his own Sax until he had time to take it in to be fixed properly when he is back in London.

After the gig we headed back into town on the train and straight back to the Internet cafe just to see if Ed's passport had turned up in the meantime but unfortunately nothing turned up!

Next morning Ed flew back to Manchester for a gig and was able to use his photocopy and driving licence to get back to London, when I went to the Airport I had to first collect my Bag then immediately check it straight back in.I got speaking to the check in staff who had noticed a green Found tag on my bag they said "Your not by any change with the musician who flew out this morning Mr Jones”? When I said I was in the same band they cracked up laughing!

All in all it was a good few days spent in the company of some excellent musicians not an incident free weekend of gigs but certainly not boring! I am really looking forward to going back to Finland with the Burn Out Mama band, although we could do with a quieter time next time that’s for sure. Thanks to all at Turku Jazz Festival and the Malmitalo in Helsinki! Hope to visit and play them again one day.

Day 2 The return of Burn Out Mama

The next day we met up with Mika in the hotel foyer he was quite contrite and apologetic about the messy travel re-arrangements of the previous night.Mika had actually decided to stay in Helsinki overnight when he had finally arrived at the Airport and received the news that we had left on the bus for Turku. Getting up early the next day and taken the morning train to Turku.

We also now met up with Ed in the Hotel who had arrived early the day before and had travelled to Turku with Reija. That was when Ed announced that his Tenor Sax was broken and he needed to either find a Sax repairer quick or get hold of a good Tenor sax to play the show that night! Reija immediately got on the phone speaking to the Festival Promoter who luckily managed to locate a sax for Ed, A good Selmer Sax arrived at the venue for the Sound Check. Ed immediately started to try the Sax and broke out into the biggest smile beaming from ear to ear, happy that he wasn't going to do the gig with a paper and comb!!!

For my part the first thing that caught my eye when I stepped inside the club was a small Xylpohone? We always ask for good quality Marimba and Vibraphone on the Burn Out Mama gigs and luckily have always managed to have good quality instruments provided. However on this occasion a Xylophone had somehow been substituted for the Marimba. Not sure if they thought I wouldn’t notice or just had problems trying to get a Marimba! I headed over to the Xylophone and tried a set of mallets but they just sounded wrong as they were not Xylophone mallets plus the size of the notes were so thin that the heads of the mallets were way to big and looked like some kind of joke set had replaced the real ones. So I took the decision to play most of the show on the Musser vibes that they had managed to hook up for the gig! Meanwhile other news had reached us that the Bass Amp that Geoff's was to use plus the Electric piano for Mika to play on a couple of numbers in the Set would not be at the Soundcheck but would in fact arrive for the gig as they were being used by another band on the festival playing at the same time as our Sound Check! Which in this case meant keeping the audience waiting until the equipment arrived and was then rushed onto stage followed by the musicians making sure they were working properly!!!

The Burnout Mama music relies on some tightly organised grooves sampled and triggered through a Boss Rc50 Loop station controlled by Geoff's and he had done a fantastic job setting everything up in advance for us. The show went well and we had some very positive feedback with a few promoters present from other Festivals in Finland proposing some possible shows for the future.

Straight after the gig we went off to the obligatory festival Jam session where some excellent local musicians were playing! Mika and Ed got right up on stage and joined in immediately with Ed still able to use the same Tenor Sax that he had used earlier in the Burn Out Mama Gig! Reija also joined in and delivered some classy scat vocals with the Double bass chair taken over by the Promoter of the Pori Jazz festival. I must say it was a good night and featured some fine playing by all concerned at the Jam session.

Return of the Burn out Mama band Day 1

I was looking forward to travelling out to do some gigs with the Burn Out Mama band in Finland. The idea was to Fly into Helsinki then be driven to Turku for the first show. I was to meet up with Bassist Geoff Gascoigne at Heathrow and fly to Finland. When we landed at Helsinki Airport we headed for the baggage reclaim and waited for our luggage to come through expecting to sail through quickly and go off to do a bit of Internet surfing while waiting for Trumpet player Mika to meet up with us. Instead we waited and waited as my eyes desperately followed every bag that resembled my own as the luggage trundled around the Baggage carousel. The bag had all my clothes, Power supplies and cables some Cds that I had brought along to sell or network with plus some percussion bits and pieces. Once the last bag came off and was claimed there was the realisation that “My bag must still be in London

So I headed off to fill in a report about my lost bag not coming through at the desk when a phone call arrived from Vocalist Reija Laing with the unwelcome news that she had just spoken to Mika who had actually been in London as well doing some gigs back with Pianist Jonathon Gee and should have been now boarding a plane to Helsinki to meet up and drive us to Turku. Mika was still on his way but was now incapable of driving after having had a few too many drinks toasting the success of their gigs! So now that would put us in an awkward position where we had to make a choice whether to go and get a Coach to Turku instead of chancing it in a car for a two and a half hour journey through some serious snow unless of course one of us wanted to drive Mika’s car on roads and in weather we were not familiar with! Mmmm “Maybe not”!

Soon as the lost bag report was done, we went out to find a Coach going to Turku! Luckily there was a Turku coach one of the last heading there for the night, so we managed to squeeze into a couple of seats at the back of the bus, both not really sure where we were going, but fingers firmly crossed that we would eventually emerge at the bus station in Turku and be picked up by Reija! Geoff lugging his electric bass in a heavy duty flight case and both our luggage squashed in with us, given that we were one bag short it probably worked out better comfort wise than if the airline had not lost my bag. The bus journey involved a change of buses at one point as well, this was made all the more interesting by every one of the bus driver’s announcements obviously being made in Finnish with neither of us understanding a word, it made for some tense moments whenever the bus stopped at various points during the Journey.We really had no idea if we were going in the right direction or even about to enter some treacherous road conditions and needed to hold on to something! Added to that a digital Sign at the front of the bus was constantly flashing up messages showing the temperature inside and outside the bus, with the readings for the outside getting lower and lower as we headed down the motorway.It was 1:30am when we finally arrived in Turku! By now the temperature was at minus 10 so we were really relieved when we saw Reija’s car pull up beside the bus and we could get straight into a warm car. Yet even in that biting cold I was shocked to see some young people queuing outside various night clubs in the centre of Turku and just like in every city the world over dressed to impress rather than sensibly for the weather i.e young girls in Short skirts etc! Anti Freeze for blood anyone?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Henrdix the Coda, A Purple Haze!

So we have now arrived at the last concert of the tour and a great way to end things with the take no prisoners very loud Jimi Hendrix show!The Audience are greeted by a stage full of Marshalls, Vox, and Rivera amps. Clayton Doyle the Hammond specialist from Sydney was back on Hammond Organ and the young violinist Sonya was also back to join us on one of Nk's Electric Violins this time to again play some Bartok pieces that Bassist Adam who plays Electric Bass and Drummer Krzysztof on full drum kit surrounded by a battery of cymbals were invited to contribute some tasty Rhythm section embellishments to. Sonya also sat in on the Hendrix song "Drifting”. I again played the Mallet Kat Express with an extra octave through a Korg Motif ex Rack into a Mooger Fooger on the right side and a Roland Gt10 multi FX pedal board on the left and yet again the biggest Roland Keys amp I have ever seen controlled by a Yamaha stereo Volume pedal.Doug moves from Acoustic Guitar to Electric and a small array of Fx pedals to complete the transformation from the music of Bach/Ellington to arrangements of music by Jimi Hendrix!

We played for over Three and a half hours and as tired as we should have been the band after the night before we were seriously on form and "kicking A**" as they say,really sending out a wall of sound in true Hendrix style. Nigel threw us a curveball for the encore in the shape of the standard "Honeysuckle Rose" and the Hendrix classic "Hey Joe" to finish.

Backstage was again packed with well wishers and musicians, some ended up back at the hotel including the members of the Aston Villa fan club who we had seen at the gigs in Sydney and Brisbane! To think at the same time as we were celebrating the Successful conclusion of the tour back at the suite top of the hotel the Australian Premier and the American Ambassador were also staying there just down the corridor.The night ended for me with an unscheduled trip outside the hotel! This came about because when I left the party I got in the lift put the keycard in pressed the button for my floor and nothing happened! I tried many more times pushing in and pulling out the Keycard followed by pressing the floor button with no result wiping it on my clothes then trying again with no luck,so instead I hit on the bright idea of trying another floor and bingo the lift went down to the 18th one floor lower than I needed to go but I thought if I could then find some stairs I could walk up to my floor. Anyway I ended up walking around the 18th until I found some stairs, I then went through the door into the stairwell and of course once the door shut behind me I realised it was a security lock and of course every floor would be the same, meaning its not going to open at all from the staircase side, so I then ran downstairs desperately trying to open the door onto each floor that I arrived on with no success until I gave up that idea and just kept walking down the stairs praying that there was a way out at the ground floor. When I finally arrived at the bottom luckily the door opened however onto the Street not into the hotel as i thought it would and at these stairs had brought me to the back of the building! I then had to walk around the block to the front of the hotel and into the lobby! The receptionist looked up then straight back down to whatever she was doing as I uttered the embarrassing words "Nigel Kennedy band, I am staying here and the lift didn't work" pointing towards the Lifts to which the Receptionist without looking up just replied "Of course you are" which made me feel even more Foolish! I chose a different lift this time and was relieved when i put the keycard in and this time the floor button lit up and that took me up to my floor with no fuss! I found out in the morning that quite a few of us had done exactly the same thing with the lift and followed up with the same trip downstairs and around the outside of the building into the front again ! They probably have us on CCTV and are watching it right now laughing their heads off each time another musician appears in the reception area.

Well that's the end of Australian tour never boring and as Gary our Sound Tech has said many a time” Welcome to the world of Kennedy".

Now on the way back to London with Doug and Gary. Nigel and the rest of the band all left Brisbane to go back to Sydney for a week’s holiday in Palm Beach! Mmmm! Lol...

Next stop on the Nigel Kennedy experience goes to Europe starting with St Moritz-Switzerland!...

Brisbane “Lets get ready to Rumble

Brisbane was going to be the second place on the tour that we where going to perform the Hendrix set as well as The Bach & Ellington music. The difference here was that whereas in Sydney we had played two nights with just the band at the Basement club doing the Hendrix Music, then performed the Bach/Ellington at the Opera house with the Orchestra. Instead we were now going to do both concerts in the same venue the huge Queensland Performing Arts Centre. This would provide some different issues for our sound team of Gary and Piotr.

When we arrived In Brisbane on entering the hotel Nigel exchanged greetings and shook hands with a friendly couple who had just checked in as well! It turned out following further discussion that they were booked in for the weekend to celebrate the Husband's Birthday and were on their way to have a special meal in one of the Hotels restaurants! So Nigel then invited them up to his suite for a birthday drink after their meal! I didn't think they would come up to the suite but they did pop in later willingly joining in with the banter and having a few drinks with the band. In fact it turned out that the gentleman was a dentist and in the true manner of the Australia tour and the increasing bizarre happenings around the tour, they hung out for hours and were totally comfortable with all the mucking about and ribbing that the band get up to! he even offered on hearing us joke about how Saxophonist Tomasz had got stitches in his Thumb to take the stitches out thus saving Tomasz a trip to the local Hospital the next day on condition that we had the hotel find some surgical scissors,Gloves e.t.c the Head of security who had dropped by the suite to see if Nk was ok and needed anything, was then sent off to find some sterile gloves and a pair of scissors which duly arrived and unfortunately or should that be fortunately an unsuccessful attempt was made to remove the Stitches.Turned out that the scissors were much too big thus saving Tomasz from the screams we were sure he was going to let out at any moment as the expression on his face was now changing rapidly to a bright Red crimson colour either from the effect of the Vodka he was taking to dull the pain or the thought of the actual event taking place,especially as we were all crowding around for a closer view!Needless to say the party went the way of all others on this tour fading out at sun up!

The day of the last Bach/Ellington had finally arrived this was sadly going to be our last date with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra Led by Concert Master Dene Olden they had swung the Ellington beautifully from the Opera house through to Canberra and In the process had really started to let their hair down and join in with the lighter moments on and off stage which to some extent is kind of unavoidable with Nk, we had become a tight unit and I for one will miss them! The Nigel Kennedy Experience that includes the Hilarious "lets get ready to rumble” Rallying cry that he shouted out Backstage as they were going on to the stage each night nearly always managing to catch everyone within earshot off guard!

The last night flew by with everyone playing out of their skins and the Scottish Jig at the end had the house up and on their Feet! He even managed to get in a small band version of the Jazz standard "Nights in Tunisia".

The party back at the hotel had most of the Orchestra in attendance and was one huge sing song with Bass player Adam playing The Piano and Stan the Polish violinist in the Orchestra and a real warm funny character playing some jaw dropping stuff folk and Gypsy music on the Violin. We also had the sight of some Orchestra members who will remain nameless draping themselves on top of the piano and really letting the hair down. I think the last Orchestra Member to leave the party went around 6: oo am to get their early morning flight back to Sydney!

Love to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and crew!Thanks for making us so welcome!

"Proper top sh** Geezer"

"Proper top sh** Geezer"

Finally we have arrived at the last stop on the Australian tour the cool city of Brisbane. Canberra had its moments the Convention Centre where the concert was held is a typical large event space the type that you find in most big cities now, all new and looking like blocks of Lego! Which was a bit of a shock to the system after the cosiness of The Sydney Opera House and the Hamer Hall in Melbourne, which of course are both dedicated world class Arts venues. Canberra itself well, what can I say about Canberra? My first impression of Canberra was that it had a cold calculated designed by committee look about it and did not for me have any redeeming features that can give you a sense of history or just warmth that you get from Sydney and Melbourne or even the feeling that people actually live there! Everything just looks too clean, too new, too corporate!No size to the place as well, I mean you could go around the whole place in ten minutes and then not even notice that you had. Canberra being a new town seems to also have that annoying preponderance of Road signs and too many rules i.e No left turn, no Right Turn, Oh look there’s yet another Roundabout sign every 10 feet, so it gives you the impression that you can see where you want to go to but you have to do a Snakes and ladders course to get there! It reminded me of somewhere like Milton Keynes in the U.K. Nearly everyone I spoke to leading up to the Canberra show had all said “why are you going there, there is nothing there? and my personal favourite “Man that place is the Ug in Ugly”! Still it was a good turnout and the music was well received by a highly appreciative audience.

For the musicians the concert went very well and some friendly faces back stage at the after party meant that as usual everything went with a bang! Even better back stage various young Violinist were turning up and playing Solo pieces to Nigel. Of course the party then continued back in Nigel’s suite at the Hotel and that of course went into the late hours of the next morning, Guitarist Doug ended up with an unplanned new Haircut that looked quite scary, while Gary had fallen asleep on a sofa and then awoke to find a mountain of furniture stacked neatly to the ceiling with items placed strategically on top of him by the partygoers led by certain culprits in the band. That and various fruit were also placed on top of him while he slept, when he finally woke and tried to get up of course it all came crashing down!!

That morning as we were leaving the hotel, It was absolutely chucking it down with rain at the same time as the band were checking out of the hotel, Meeting in the foyer area the band looked like they had been ten rounds with boxers Mike Tyson and the Valyuev with Gary’s new haircut taking the top spot for “Weird Happenings in the night”!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bye Bye Sydney

The last night of Sydney at the Opera house was as they say off the hook!Having a day off was great and it was good to have a small rest after 3 nights of concerts, just to recharge our batteries and get focused again for the last concert there.The night flew by and was probably the smoothest on the tour so before we knew it we were once again in the hospitality lounge courtesy of Verve Clicquot!!! Monday night was another one of those full houses were the audience are seated right around the Opera House so for the musicians it's a bit strange because you are very aware that there are people watching you from behind and at the side of you not just in front! Backstage everyone was celebrating but at the same time we were getting ready to rush off to the Basement club for a Jam session that Nigel and the Quintet would kick off with keys player Alan Zavvod Ex Zappa/Luc Ponty fame who had flown in from Melbourne! The session started about 12;30 and yet again a well deserved round of applause for the Basement delivering the unbelievable sight of a packed Jazz club on a Monday night. The Basement was packed and buzzing as always.I bumped into good friend Trombonist Trevor Myles & other musicians from the U.K who are on a 9 month tour with Tom Jones,Trevor actually got up on stage and blew some warm melodic lines with the band at one stage that excited the crowd no end!
A big downer was the constant blocking of sight lines to the stage by two huge video camera carrying pals of one of the musicians who were acting as if they were intent on making a video out of the whole night,who knows? but it got very annoying trying to see around them!
A couple of the musicians from the band that had been playing in the Pizzeria earlier that week also turned up and sat in with Nigel which for me was the best part of the night playing some eastern european songs! I was slowing down drastically so I made my excuses and went back to the hotel after that.I understand surprise surprise a party broke out after that at the Basement and at the Hotel!
Next day was another day off for packing and generally just chillin before travelling to Canberra.
Had a last meal at a restaurant overlooking the harbour looking over at the always impressive sight of the Harbour bridge and mentally said good bye to Sydney! a great place and one that I hope it's not so long before I visit again.Now for Canberra and Brisbane.
Below is a review of the last night from the Sydney Herald.

Monday, March 01, 2010

First three nights down only one more to go!

The first three nights with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra were a riot of full houses and audience participation by the bucket load,Of course helped by a hysterical volley of knockabout Humour from Nigel as usual that seemed to help to relax the Orchestra members quickly into their stride and swinging the Ellington music just right each night!
Two of the three nights ended with the Scottish jigs that he plays sometimes at the end of shows the first thing you notice is the sheer panic on Orchestra members faces when he just announces out of the blue "lets do a jig", As he simultaneously launches into the jig! The first time was at a really furious pace that threw everyone off guard and we were all trying desperately to catch up and keep up with Nigel! However the 2nd time their bows were working furiously as we were all on top of the music and big smiles all around the stage accompanied the audiences enthusiastic response! Two of the nights the band also got to stretch out on an impromptu "Caravan"that works as a nice contrast to the rest of the evenings programme!Followed by generous amounts of After party fare in the Green Room!
The rest of the time as you can imagine from my earlier blogs about the tour are normally spent in a kind of Spinal tap type band scenario, highlights include Tomas the Sax Player sawing into a finger while cutting some bread backstage and needing to be rushed off to hospital to have 4 stitches inserted then arriving back at the hotel at 5;30 in the morning,which is actually an early night for the group!Adam the Bass player needing a serious session done on his back by a Professional Masseur!
Nigel told an hilarious story on stage about nearly being thrown out of the hotel by security for throwing bars of soap at a tennis player one morning who was playing on the Tennis courts in front of the hotel! Apparently when Nigel was questioned as to why he had decided to pelt the Tennis player with Soap,Nigel replied "Because he was crap and wearing a Red shirt" maybe something to do with the upcoming League Cup Final opponents!
I was really humbled to meet and speak briefly with the Legendary violinist Wanda Wilkomirska from Poland who attended the 2nd nights performance and paid us a visit backstage as well.
Tonight we have the last performance at the Opera house,Yesterday Sunday was a welcome day off,So I managed to finally take a boat trip on one of the harbour ferries choosing an area known as "Watson's Bay" on strong recommendation from friends Amanda & Dinilo who also advised having Fish & Chips from Doyle's restaurant and eating on the sandy beach,It had looked like the boat trip might have to be cancelled as the early morning news lead story was about the earthquake in Chile and a Tsunami that was now heading through the Pacific so the authorities were advising everyone not to go to beaches etc as the tsunami aftermath was heading this way,however by mid morning the warning had been scaled down and it was possible to go out!I Took a lot of photos of some Beautiful views of the harbour and the various stops along the way,that I will remember for a long time!
Meanwhile on our day off the Opera house was being used for a photo shoot by famous nude photographer Spencer Tunick, who is known for his nude group photos in public spaces and on this occasion had managed to fill the the large steps leading to the Opera house with 5200 Naked bodies!!"It was difficult to get the straight participants to embrace the gay participants and vice versa," Tunick said. "So I was very happy that the last set up finally got done and everyone came together (in a) united, friendly kiss, a loving kiss in front of this great structure."
I Also witnessed a a monorail crash at Darling Harbour where one Monorail went into the back of another leading to passengers climbing through safety hatches in the carriages and then onto the station platform to safety!Tv cameras descended really quickly to film,fortunately no one was hurt but it made quite a dramatic picture!
I Had breakfast this morning in the hotel sitting on the next table to Madeline Allbright!
Believe me you couldn't make this stuff up, this tour never has a dull moment!!
Now for the last concert here followed by a jam session at the Basement club tonight to which Alan Zavvod has arrived in Sydney from Melbourne!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sydney Bach Ellington rehearsals

So we have now done the first two days of rehearsals with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and look to be on schedule for Thursdays opening night concert at the Opera House! Nigel treated everyone to a meal tonight including some friends of mine who have recently emigrated to Australia. The restaurant was called "Love Supreme" a Pizzeria with a Serbian/Macedonian band called Black Trane lead by a trumpet player by the name of Stole.
The musicians were awesome and very tight,the night ended with Nigel Jamming with them and then afterwards with about 5 other string players who had showed up with violins and Cellos in tow!My friends Amanda and Danilo who I missed when they moved back to London from Italy last year and have funnily enough managed to bump into abroad twice in Rome over the years,The first time was when I was with Cleveland Watkiss and the 2nd time with Tony Kofi and his Monk Liberation Front project,the ensemble that does the whole catalogue of the music of Thelonious Monk which takes up over 6 hours in concert.I also bumped into Amanda in Sydney,Australia when I was there in 1987 with Courtney Pine,anyway they have decided to come and see the last show in Sydney on Monday and hang out afterwards wherever the after party might end up!Tomorrow is the last day of practice before Thursday so we will all have to be up to speed and on the ball from now on!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sydney at last!

Melbourne went very well and there has been good reviews etc in the press! The last night of Melbourne was complete mayhem with the guys out on the town making the most of it all!I was out on my feet tired and fighting the last traces of Jetlag and the time difference so I turned in early missing the last night party completely.We did however meet and hangout with some great people in Melbourne and the Orchestra was full of some fantastic musicians and lovely warm people.
Anyway now for Sydney leg of the tour! Some of the band are staying in a house in the area known as Palm Beach with Nigel further down the coast.They have true to form also had a few scrapes already, starting with a couple of the Polish musicians struggling to swim ashore after getting into difficulties with local currents,These included Krzysztof shouting for help to a lifeguard who obviously couldn't hear him at all!He should of waved his arms to attract his attention,Fortunately both he and Tomasz made it back ok and have both decided to stay out of the water ever since,Coincidently at the same time on another beach nearby the Bass Player Adam was also swimming and managed to get into difficulties as well with the currents he ended up crashed on to rocks were he waited to get his breath and strength back and then swam like mad to the shore, sustaining a cut to his leg in the process on the rocks! he has also wisely decided to keep out of the sea for the rest of his stay there.
The guys have also managed to get themselves seriously sunburnt enough to make them look like red Michelin men in the first couple of days!Oh yes and Krzysztof and Piotr the sound monitors technician were bitten and scratched by bracken,brush,bush and insects lurking in their garden while looking for a mobile phone thrown away in anger by Krzysztof one night that manage to bounce off a chair out of a window and straight into the overgrown bit of the garden. Apparently Gary our sound Engineer was repeatedly shouting out helpful things like "Watch out for the Tarantulas they're the size of rats here" that made them even more panicked while frantically using the light from another mobile phone to illuminate the ground around them to see! So now they are finally understanding why everyone has been advising that they use sun cream when you go outside all the time plus we have been enjoying slapping them on the shoulder when ever they walk past just to hear some lovely Polish swear words of which there are many.
Back in Sydney the rest of us are luckily staying in a hotel and doing a lot of sightseeing,taking in the Harbour bridge,The Opera house,the Botanical Gardens and a visit to Darling Harbour on the monorail.loads of huge shopping areas as well.
Rehearsals of the Hendrix Music!
This happened in the gymnasium of a high school based outside Sydney called "Pittwater High".Steve was finding it a challenge getting us into a regular rehearsal space for a late night rehearsal so this worked out perfectly.We also met up for the first time with local Organist Clayton Doley who has a nice style that works well on the Hammond organ he is a good player.Rehearsals were full on didn't sound as if we had only just met.
Opening night at the Basement club was a full house and the venue being one of the best if not the best in Australia for live music never fails to disappoint with a great atmosphere and a hell of a lot of good Jazz memorabilia on the walls,ceiling etc. I saw some posters of a young looking Steve Williamson and Courtney Pine that brought back happy memories.In fact I was last at the Basement in 1987 with Courtney before going on to do shows in Mebourne,Adelaide,Perth followed by a trip to Japan for shows in Tokyo.Although this was in the original Basement club based in another zone back then but I could still feel the same fantastic atmosphere as then and it was real pleasure speaking with Basement owner Chris who remembered me from that tour.
The 1st set we played consisted of "3rd Stone" "Little Wing" followed by "Fire" to close.
The 2nd set consisted of "Drifting,." "In 1983 ( A Merman I should turn to be)" ending the night with "Purple Haze"all pieces were written and arranged by Nigel as extended compositions featuring various musicians at particular moments.Some serious kick ass solos from all the musicians including some blistering Guitar work from Doug Boyle bringing the house down made the backstage area the place to be after the gig,The guest back stage included "Leo Sayer"who told me that he has now settled in Australia.
Our drummer Krzysztof working through the pain barrier of some serious cramp in his right leg at the end of the first set that had us a little worried but fortunately he managed to do a lot of stretching exercises with Piotr working on him that calmed any concerns we might of had about him playing the next set.In fact he played a huge solo on the "In 1983" piece that also received an ecstatic response from the audience.Nigel was on form and even walked through the crowd at one stage letting people use the bow on his violin while he played!I was using the new lightweight model of the Mallet Kat pro as a Midi controller with a Yamaha Motif xs rack for sounds going through a GT 10 guitar processor, a Mooger Fooger pedal and a stereo volume pedal all going through a Roland Keyboard amp and cab of immense proportions, that still could only just about be heard amongst the mix of ,Marshall,Vox,Rivera and various other huge amps and cabs on stage.The Hendrix stage set up is huge and of course its some great music.I can't wait for the second instalment tonight.Let you know how that goes later!

Friday, February 12, 2010

First night performance in Melbourne Nigel Kennedy Australia tour 2010

My day started with a good swim in the hotel pool,I also managed to get in a visit at one of the local music shops and managed to negotiate a sizeable discount on a piece of kit as well,One because of being cheeky made the assistant laugh for the first discount then when he found out that Tomasz the Sax player who was with me came from Poland he took off another fifty dollars because it turned out his father originally came from Krakow then by the time it came to pay at the till I managed to haggle yet another 20 dollars off by promising him a guest ticket for the show.Making a total discount of 100 dollars,man was glad I made that trip to the store.Anyway we got back to the hotel just in time to leave for the venue..It was only when I was walking to the stage to put the mallets and music on the stands that I realised I had forgotten something yep"MUSIC SCORES" and in that moment I could clearly see them still in my room at the hotel in my Laptop bag.This was the first day that I hadn't taken my Laptop out of the hotel with me so it was an easy mistake to make.Fortunately the hotel was 5 minutes away so I managed to get a lift and get back before the Soundcheck had started!Sound check was short and sweet running through a couple of Ellington pieces and a couple of Bach movements as well,followed by the first proper run through of Nigel's number "Ssshh".Then it was off to eat dinner.It was only while trying to get a good phone signal as we are two floors under the ground in our dressing room and there are no signals happening there that I decided to venture outside of the theatre but as I opened the door I was greeted by a full scale thunderstorm!Yep lightening, thunder the works absolutely chucking it down out there!
What then happened was flash floods and chaos on the roads that led to major traffic jams all over Melbourne.Needless to say that this affected people trying to get home from work and those trying to get to the show,so we ended up delaying the start of the show by about 25 minutes later than the scheduled start.
When we finally did go on stage it was to a warm reception from a full to the rafters Hamer Hall.The music seriously worked and the whole ensemble were absolutely on top of everything.Nigel was beaming from ear to ear and as always had some hysterical rapport with the audience.
He threw in a couple of numbers that we hadnt rehearsed as well with just the inner band playing they were "Perdido" and "Caravan" that gave a nice contrast to the large Ellington pieces.He ended the concert by kicking a football into the Balcony area!
A great first Concert and reception from the Melbourne audience on the opening leg of the Australian tour and Backstage was definitely a very happy place to be last night.The assistant from the Music store did come along and claim his tickets plus I also fixed it for him to get backstage as well and he had a good laugh and a few drinks with the guys.I wonder how many of them will be down to his shop for discounts on gear before we leave for Sydney?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rehearsals are over Nigel In Australia

So we have finally finished rehearsals for the Opening night of the Australian tour.Nigel K has worked us hard in not only learning and polishing the Duke Ellington and Bach material but he has also added some new pieces to the set we performed at The Tower of London festival last year.One a piece from Nigel's new album titled "Ssshhh" and the rest are all movements taken from the Bach repertoire.
We the inner band as I will call us all had some serious homework last night checking out how best to not get in the way of the Orchestra during the Bach as in my case their are no written Marimba parts as such,so a combination of chords and different melodic or harmonic lines taken from various sections of the Orchestral score are what I have to use to enhance and embellish the movements with a little improv put in for good measure! Doug on guitar adds some subtle twist with some wonderful understated chord work,Adam on Bass uses some of the written Contrabass parts and other Ostinato ideas throughout, plus some extra subtle rhythmic figures played with mallets on to a small Tom covered by a towel and laid down elegantly by Krzysztof on his cocktail set of drums finalises our contribution to the proceedings. It was quite funny watching the shocked faces of the Viola section members when Krzysztof first started up on the drums during the Bach though!
The combined sound of the group and the Orchestra has taken time to settle in but its paid off and by the time we left the stage last night,The Ensemble sounded really tight and ready for the Opening show tonight.
I had my second set of vibes start acting up yesterday and they actually collapsed during one of my solos on the Ellington number "Cottontail",which Nigel found absolutely hilarious!
The problem with the first set of Vibes was that the Motor packed up and was just getting hot but not turning for love nor money,a shame as it was a Concert Grand model from Musser and sounded like a dream plus looked like a million dollars,however within the hour the Tech staff had arranged and brought in another set of Vibes to replace the broken one,this time a set of Vibes called a Traveller set, still a Musser sounded great at first however the problem with this new set was the damper,let me explain what the Damper does.Now the damper on a set of vibes is operated normally by pressing the sustain pedal down you release the full resonance of the sound of the note that has been struck and by taking your feet off the pedal normally a felt material that lies underneath the notes and helps to dampen the sound so that notes do not ring and sustain.The damper on this new set of vibes was seriously uneven both at the top octave end and the bottom octave end,so the instrument was just doing its own thing and sustaining notes without me engaging the pedal at all,really annoying and producing some embarrassing moments in the context of the harmony within the music.Anyway that has now been sorted by the tech staff producing a quick patch work of extra bits of felt placed in the strategic places to make the whole thing even.So huge thanks to the tech guys for that..
The plan last night was to go and see some Live music and have dinner together but not sure how that's gone as I didn't make it out of the hotel myself, So I will have to find out from the Polish Delegation!I am still dealing with the time difference and Jetlag so as soon as I sit down for what seems like a few seconds in the hotel! that's it, out for the count!the result is waking up around 4am and struggling to go back to sleep,So I end up watching rubbish on T.V or rolling news items,Then realising the time back in the U.K and dealing with admin or surfing the internet!Just saw some Live English premiership football at 6 in the morning on the Television how weird its Aston Villa v Manchester United at least it was a 1-1 draw!It's a later start today we are only doing a Soundcheck then its down to the business of Music!

Monday, February 08, 2010

The return of Brit Funk bands Savanna & Atmosfear

The band that I started way back when in the late 70s Savanna with Sammy Jacobs and Jeffrey Durrant will be reforming and have been invited to be on the bill of this years Summer Soulstice 2010 on 19th June.I was at the festival last year with Beggar & Co and we had a great time. The audience are a full on Funk audience who know every tune the Djs Play. After the festival last year it was thought that doing something with more Brit funk bands this year would be a great way of offering an alternative weekend festival to others out there! So we were approached about being apart of this years event! I then spoke with Ray of Atmosfear about the possibility of them reforming and doing a double header with us at the Soulstice. On Sunday the news was finally up on the Soulstice site and various Social media sites,Where there is already a lot of activity happening with a huge amount of interest from people wanting tickets. There will be in both bands some heavyweight musicians and Vocalist and I can't wait for 19th June to come around!I will post all news,views and info on the Savanna band here! is the web home of Savanna.The Summer Soulstice raises funds for a Cancer Charity every year and is a really worthwhile cause with many volunteers giving above and beyond the call of duty their time and hard work..So come down to Barnet North London if you like your funk fresh!

early February update from the other side of the world

So I did rehearsals with the "Burn out Mama" band before heading out to Melbourne for the start of the Nigel Kennedy Australian Tour. The Burn out Mama Rehearsals where pretty intense as we hadn't played any of the music since recording the album in May last year.
The main thing that had us working extra hard was to recreate some of the digital editing and fx laden sound that we have on the album in a live context,not an easy task as we used Protools to the max on there! However Geoff Gascoigne,Mika and Ed Jones had all put in some good pre rehearsal work and it did payoff with getting that stuff together intelligently. Everyone played their asses off and we managed to quickly get ahead of our schedule and give ourselves every chance to do some kicking shows at the festivals in Finland at Turku and Helsinki in mid March!
Really looking forward to those.Reija has put in a serious amount of work getting the band in to those festivals! Congrats to Reija!
Now to the Nigel Kennedy Duke Ellington/Bach/Hendrix tour, starting with the usual long haul flights that take it out of you and leave you trying to deal with the Jetlag for days if not weeks throwing out your internal clock like crazy.I mean I am writing this at 4am when I should really be sleeping! Anyway we got here on Friday having travelled for 20 hours on the flights and fortunately we have had 3 days off to recover,which has helped a lot,When I was last in Australia in 1987 with Courtney Pine we flew in and immediately had a show not the best prep for the full on Coltrane blowouts we used to do on that gig,we also on the return to london flew in to Heathrow and were driven straight to Camden to do a Dingwalls Sunday lunchtime gig,with us all barely able to stand let alone play. The other thing I remember about that episode was that Tokyo had an earth tremor just as we checked in at the Airport that delayed the flights and scared the hell out of us at the same time,we couldn't wait to get out of there. We were able to finally leave there were people saying useful things like "look the ground is still moving" and"it might all start up again as soon as we move along the Runway, so we might not make it out of here!" Very Bloody Helpful!! This time round coming to Australia has meant a more carefully thought out schedule with Steve Cox working in time for us to recover,Although this also meant leaving the brilliant Polish Musicians Adam,Tomas,Christof and Piotr the sound engineer with a lot of time to sample the liquid delights of the Mini bars in their rooms,Happily emptying those each day and I really mean EMPTYING the mini bar!In fact it probably started from them with their first flight from Krakow off to Frankfurt followed by a Frankfurt to Dubai flight which was where they met up with Doug Boyle,Gary Falkenthal and myself. They were all quite merry by this time with Tomas in particular good spirits! They had 30 hours all together in the air so you can't blame them for doing something with the time!!!
It's been hilarious watching them come down to breakfast each morning,That is if they have made it to breakfast! Sometimes wearing the darkest sunglasses I have ever seen.
However when it comes to the business of playing they are seriously on the ball! Yesterday was the first rehearsal with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra who were swinging their asses off on the Duke Ellington scores! We started with probably one of the most intricate numbers "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" which they nailed immediately eating up the dots like a game of Pacman. The whole Ellington set features some great arranging by Nigel K that just brings out the richness in the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn writing.The day continued in the same vein with the Orchestra slaying all the dragons.Talking about Dragons the Crown Towers where we are staying in Melbourne has a Huge Chinese Dragon presentation in one of its many foyers that starts up every hour for 15 minutes and is the loudest thing you can imagine with lights flashing and smoke billowing out of the Dragon,quite a sight first thing in the morning or at any time really..
The orchestra finished up with playing through the Bach pieces with Nigel K,ready for today when we step in and work with the arrangements that Nigel has in store for us!
Let you know how that goes hopefully later today!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bombastic times at the LS.O St luke centre

Had my first gig of the year this week and a real pleasure it was too with Jason Yarde and his Acoutastic Bombastic Ensemble.All the music was written by Jason Yarde so you know its going to be good. Rehearsals were tough but fun with excellent players all doubling or trebling up on various instruments! The line up Was Jason Yarde on saxes and percussion, Julian Siegel on Saxes,Double bass,Percussion,Andrew McCormack Piano,Percussion, Sebastian Rochford Drums,Guitar,Vocals,Marcina Arnold Vocals, Guitar,Percussion. Paul Jayasinha Trumpet,Cello. Emma Smith Violin,Vocals,Sax. Neil Charles Percussion. Ellen Blair Viola,Vocals.Harry Brown Trombone,Horn.I played,Soprano Sax,Tuned Percussion,Steel pans.The concert was at the L.S.O St Lukes building in Holborn and the turnout was a packed house.