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! www.myspace.com/savanna_uk 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!