I have no idea where this year is going but it's nearly time for the Gateshead International Jazz Festival again. This year I have the privilege of playing two sets at the festival. On the friday (15th) I will be playing a 10pm set with The Strictly Smokin' Big Band and on the Saturday afternoon with the Northern Monkey Brass Band. We can now announce that this set will be recorded for the new BBC Radio 3 Jazz show. Hope to see some of you there for another great festival!
It certainly can't be said that it's a quite life being a musician. With so many varied things going on this week it's hard to remember which way is up!
Last weekend I had the pleasure of being involved with a GCSE/A Level composition residential course. The aim was to get the GCSE students to start and complete a piece for their coursework portfolio in the 3 days whilst giving the A Level students some focused time to work on their pieces as well. The Saturday was spent at Newcastle University, with two of their composition lectures who gave some great presentations and helped get the kids started thinking about different ways of writing. We then all headed off to a retreat where we grafted hard and laughed even harder. They were a great bunch of talented students to work with and by the end of the trip had all produced and impressive amount of work.
Tuesday saw me removing my teachers hat for a day whilst I started a placement as part of my Masters programme. I am working at a small arts company called Flo-Culture, based in Gateshead, as their Community engagement manager for a project called Found Sound. It is a Youth Music funded project that has seen them develop a toolkit and resources for Early Years teachers to use music and songs as a means to develop social and leadership skills in young children. Im excited to see how this project develops and it makes a nice change to standing in front of a class for a while.
Wednesday I was back in school but we also had a Not Now Charlie rehearsal. It was a productive couple of hours spent getting our drummer up to speed with one old chart as well as rehearsing the newest tracks and trying out a few new ideas.
Our regular Thursday night rehearsal with Strictly Smokin' Big Band had a latin flavour to it again as we continue to work on the charts for our latin set, complete with guest percussionist Paco. Looking forward to performing this for you soon.
Anyway, I think thats about it for this week. I'm off to play a wedding gig in York tonight, rehearse with Juggernaut Love Band on Sunday and then it'll be another week over. Roll on half term!
Well I've made it through to week two, hurrah!
We had a great rehearsal for 'Not Now Charlie' mid-week in which we managed to get two new tunes pretty much finished. That gives us quite a healthy stock of original material now and I still have two more at the draft stages. Although to gig seriously we need to double our existing set so I'm hoping inspiration will strike sometime soon.
Apart from that it was mostly just teaching and getting some students ready for their upcoming grade examinations. Why is it that teachers feel mush more stressed about theses than the students do....?
I had some free time at the weekend to do some practise and managed to spend some time going through the 'New Real Book' and checking out some of the tunes I never play. I discovered a few that are pretty good and will be going in my set from now on. This great Kenny Barron tune for one:
Until next week
It has come to my attention that I am pretty useless when it comes to writing a blog! I often get so caught up in the day to day madness of gigging, teaching, composing, studying, practicing, organising, rehearsing and all the other household and business related chores that I never have time to reflect on what has been happening. I want to try and rectify this in 2015 and have challenged myself to post a blog once a week. It might be a general update on what is going on, a gig review, teaching idea, cool video, album review or whatever else comes to mind (you get the idea though?).
So I'll start off by giving you an overview of January so far. After the relatively quite couple of weeks around christmas that I spent with my family in Portsmouth, it was straight back to business when I returned to Newcastle. 'Not Now Charlie' managed to secure a gig at the Cluny 2 supporting our good friends 'The Slowlight Quartet', which went amazingly well and we received many compliments. This has refocused me on writing more charts for the band so that we can start gigging seriously this year. Next up was a three day mini tour with 'The Juggernaut Love Band' to Manchester (Matt and Phreds), Leeds (Duck and Drake) and Harrogate (The Blues Bar). Although it was an exhausting weekend away every gig was fantastic and the audiences were really up for our disco/funk/rock/soul tunes. I play keyboards for the JLB which always makes for a nice change and was made even nicer by the fact our singers dad was acting as roadie for the trip so I hardly had to lift my gear at all. Bonus :).
January's gigs finish with a Strictly Smoking Big Band gig for the good folks at QDOS productions. The run many pantos across the country but Newcastle is their flagship show apparently. We have been lucky enough to play for their cast and crew party for the last 4 years now and it's always good fun, although a 22.30 start time straight after a 2 hour rehearsal tends to test the mind and body on a friday morning.
Hurrah, week one complete. Stay tuned to see if I can get past week two!
As is the case with bands that are full of busy musicians it is a nightmare to organise being in the same room at the same time! Fortunately none of us had anything better to do on sunday between 7pm and 1.30am so we managed to get a rehearsal together for our upcoming gig at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival next weekend. Fate was on our side as our studio of choice was available so we managed to record or session and will hopefully be giving you a taster of what to expect from this new band over the next week or so.
Now you never have to miss a lesson because of rush hour traffic or being away from home. Although it is never quite the same as being there in person, I think that certain subjects such as music theory, improvisation, performance skills or composition can just as easily be taught over a video call. If you would like more details on how to set up a video lesson then email me
It's finally time for my new project to be aired to the public :)
After a lot of scheduling problems we have finally secured our performance for April 5th at 17.30. If you are around and would like to hear my original charts then please come down. Any support appreciated at this point.
keep up to date with goings on at:
It is with great pleasure I can inform you that the 'Northern Monkey Brass Band' have been asked to open next years GIJF at The Sage Gateshead. I know it's a way off yet and you're busy thinking about what to buy granny for Christmas but pencil in 18.30 Friday 4th April 2014.
Sunday 20th October saw the latest monthly residency of the Strictly Smokin' Big Band at Newcastle's premier Funk, Soul and Jazz venue Hoochie Coochie.
Yet again we had a packed audience in for a late afternoon pint and to enjoy some free live entertainment. This month we decided to up our game and after the two sets from the big band we had a small band jam session, which was great fun! It made me wonder what it must have been like for the working big bands of yesteryear where residencies were common place at hotels, bars and nightclubs across the land. It really is a shame those days are gone. There is always a fear amongst jazz musicians, promoters and venue owners that audiences thirst for quality live music is dying out, but when you play regular gigs like these it's hard to accept that that is true. Is not that the market is undersaturated with cheap quality live gigs rather than too many musicians looking to earn a living? Isn't it rather that the general public these days just aren't exposed to enough live music to fully appreciate it? Then when a quality act does come around the high door prices drive away all but the hardcore followers of that artist. Whilst I'm not suggesting that as musicians we take every gig for free as I know this is our profession and we have studied long and hard to achieve what we have today but how about every so often we do a gig for beer money just for the sake of doing what we love - making music with others and entertaining a crowd.
After many years being intrigued by the strange device that is the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) I finally have one in my possession. After a week of playing it, I think I'm starting to get the hang of the slightly different finger technique, nine octaves and the mindset required to make it sound half decent! I think it might be a while longer before I feel ready to subject anyone to hearing me play it but until then here is someone that can!
Michael Brecker - In A Sentimental Mood EWI