Friday, 30 December 2011

My favourite albums of 2011

After watching loads of countdown and "2011" programmes on telly this christmas time, I fancied writing a blog with the same sort of concept. So here it is, these are some of the albums that jumped out at me the last few months. I've tried doing each month where a certain album touched me, but unfortunately there are some albums missing, not that I hadn't been listening to cool new stuff, but not much in those months really turned my ear on like the albums listed here.

Steve Lehman Octet - Travail, Transformation and Flow
I saw this band at the Vortex in Dalston in January, my main reason for going was to see Drew Gress live, but the band blew me away and I don't think I've ever really heard writing like Lehman's before. Straight after that I bought the album, a lot of incredible tracks and compositional things going on.

Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo
This is Gruff's third album, his records keep getting better and better. The difference with this album is that all the songs are in english, not like the previous record where there would be some welsh songs thrown in. This is well worth a listen, a lot of nice catchy tunes and a lot of things going on sonically.

Kit Downes - Quiet Tiger

This is Kit's follow up to the mercury nominated "Golden". This album is much darker and a lot more open musically. The trio is augmented by the addition of cello and saxophone on some tracks. Calum Gourlay's bass sound on this album is incredible and features his playing a lot more than the previous album. This record represents the band's live performance incredibly, check it out, keep british jazz alive!

Endangered Blood

FUCK! This has probably become one of my favourite albums of all time. It's Chris Speed's band, with him on tenor saxophone, Oscar Noriega on alto saxophone, Trevor Dunn on bass and Jim Black on drums. I'm so glad I found this album, Trevor Dunn is one of the main reason why I started playing double bass and so great to hear him on this album, great sound, feel and most of all great improvising. The vibe of the band is incredible, everyone gels so well, the tunes are fairly simple in terms of structure, but the improv by everyone is unreal. This is a great document of Chris Speed and Jim Black's musical relationship which has been going since they were 15. I think everyone should buy this album, it's available on itunes and on Chris's record label, skirl records.

Wu Tang Clan - Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers)
Classic rap album. I hadn't checked any rap out properly, so a friend of mine told me to get this, it's genius, great MC-ing and amazing flow.

Sonny Rollins - Way Out West
Over the summer just after I had moved to my new place, I found an independent record shop around the corner and found this there. I had been checking out a lot of west coast stuff at that point and this is by far the best. It's a trio with Sonny, Ray Brown on bass and Shelley Manne on drums. Amazing feel on the album, listening to Ray Brown is like education, fills up the sonic space beautifully and still keeps his amazing feel going.

Jim Black Trio - Somatic
This album's genius, the most 'jazz' I've heard Jim play drums ever. The trio consists of Elias Stemeseder on piano and Thomas Morgan on bass. I had met Elias in a summer school in Austria in the summer of 2008, at the time he was only 17, but sounded deadly, he's only 20 now and sounds even better, so much depth to what he plays. The tunes on this are incredible and the way these guys play together is really special. I hope they tour the in the UK soon, would love to see them live.

New Zion Trio - Fight Against Babylon
I only got this album through the post yesterday, but I've fallen in love with it already. The band is Jamie Saft on piano and rhodes, Larry Grenadier on bass and Craig Santiago on drums. Essentially this is a piano trio which plays live dub, very well. Craig Santiago's pocket is so deep, and Larry Grenadier's bass sound suits this music so well, it's amazing to hear a massive bass legend play the same groove for 7 minutes straight. This album is available through Jamie Saft's record label, veal records, I think everyone should buy this album, it's sonically genius.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Current musical happenings 3.333333

As I'm currently sitting around doing nothing, I thought this is a great chance to write another blog to catch up on what I've been doing in the past few months.
In the past few months I've been playing with a great North-Wales based poet Martin Daws, we've been doing gigs as a duo, where he recites the words and plays kalimba. We've been working on some new music with piano trio recently, hopefully get to record in the first half of 2012. Here's a video of us playing with a larger group in Edinburgh fringe festival in August 2011,

On December the 1st I had my ass kicked in dempseys. I was lucky enough to get a chance to play with straight ahead jazz guitar legend Dave Cliff in a quartet with Stuart Power also on guitar and Mark O'Connor on drums. We played some standards, some Wes Montgomery tunes along with other post bop classics. Dave's in his mid 60s, but sound absolutely immense, he also has a lot of funny stories from the years of being a travelling musician. It was Stuart Power who got the gig happening, a great guitar player who's based in Cardiff. If you ever get a chance to see him play, do it, he's spent a lot of time studying a lot of Lennie Tristano school and bebop language, so he sounds great over that music.

I've been really busy on some of the pit band side of stuff as well. I did the college musical and my first panto last week. The college musical was 'Merrily we roll along', old school Sondheim thing, I only did a few shows, but good experience for playing with a conductor. The panto I've been doing is Aladdin in the Swansea Grand Theatre on bass guitar, also good experience at the conductor stuff, but a lot more stressful than the musical, had to be on stand by at all times due to all the sound effects we were doing. From both these shows I've realised a few things; conductor don't like to beat on the 2 and 4 when it comes to jazz, that I'm not the greatest at following a conductor and that i should practice following conductors.

I also had my own band play a few gigs over South Wales in October, as you can see from a previous post. I hope to be writing more for this band over the holidays and try hustling for some more gigs over the new year. I've got a soundcloud page with some of the tunes we played at dempseys, it'd be great if you had a listen here

Let's hope 2012 brings a lot of cool musical happenings!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Listener.

I've just been wondering about this tonight and thought it'd be a good idea to write it down. The listener these days in my opinion is so easily influenced by 3 mains things, they either check out what people they respect tell them to look into, listen to something that's familiar from when they were younger or associated with a certain memory, or even to go against both these and try and avoid what they've heard before and ignore their friends' recommendations.

I would categorise myself as the avant garde listener, as I usually avoid what people are checking during a musical phase, but also with a lot of the qualities of the nostalgic listener. In many circles of friends I have seen people getting into different movements of music. Very often some get very heavily into styles of music which contradict their backgrounds, of course there's nothing wrong with this, but a very interesting thing. The thing I usually find with music that people check out, name has a lot to do with it. Is it because the listener feels secure with names and usually get so involved with feeling safe listening to the same artist.

With these assumptions in mind I often wonder why I got into jazz and improvised music and what I would make of a completely unknown artist that's exactly to my taste who makes this music and listen to it with a completely unbiased view. 
Just a thought.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Huw Vs Williams 4tet @ Dempseys.

These are photos from my quartet's gig in Dempseys from 18th Oct. There are recordings which I'll put up here as soon as they're finished mixing.

"This is a Joe Webb presentation!"

Greg Sterland

Teddy Smith

Lloyd Haines

Action shot

Huw V Williams.
I'd like to thank Roger Warbuton for taking these photos. Roger also does a guide of all the local gigs and sends it around via email. If you want to get in touch with him about the goings on, his address  is

Monday, 24 October 2011

Roots in Tradition.

Something I've been thinking a lot about recently is how some great players have their own voice in improvised music, but still have that connection to some sort of musical tradition while others don't. While listening to some of my favourite musicians (e.i Larry Grenadier, Ethan Iverson, Drew Gress and so on) a lot of them seem to have the jazz tradition in their playing whilst keeping their own voice. On the other hand a lot of the NY down town scene musicians seem to take musical traditions from other genres, such as Jamie Saft, Trevor Dunn and others who arguably take a lot of their sound from rock music before the millennium and bring that energy to their brand of jazz/improvised music.
From reading further into this, Craig Taborn (pianist) talks about how he feels improvising freely with William Parker and Gerald Cleaver and how rooted they are to the tradition of jazz and makes the music their playing some what deeper with out making direct references to any stylistic genre within jazz. On the other hand I watched an interview with Mary Halvorson who discusses not taking direct influence from music and making it your own. She talks about when she studied guitar with Joe Morris and how he'd never touch a guitar in those lessons, so that she would sound only like herself and couldn't take any of his vocabulary. Wayne Krantz also takes this idea, but to a more extreme example. He doesn't listen to any music at all so he can't take any influence from it, therefore anything that he plays is completely unique.
I've also wondered wether there was a similar argument in the 1940s when the bebop movement was starting or in the 1970s when a lot of the ECM guys were trying to break away from more old school jazz approach. If some one were to try and strengthen their connection to the jazz tradition (musically and spiritually), how would some one go about that, or is it a natural thing someone is born with? A lot of people see it's essential that you could hear your connection to the jazz tradition, but can one turn their back on everything and try and create something completely original? As conclusion to this, I think different things work for different musicians; after all you gotta be really good to make a mark in this music anyway!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Current musical happenings 2.0

This is a clip of Hugh Laurie playing Turkish Mambo by Lennie Tristano. I guess the Tristano school way of learning music is getting more popular by the day.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Wilbur Ware

From listening to a lot of different types of music, Wilbur Ware is one of these musicians I keep coming back to. To put it simply, he is fucked up (in a good way that is). I've always tried looking him up, but never really found much out, only that he never owned a bass due to his heroin addiction and lost his place in monk's quartet with coltrane because he left the soundcheck to get a sandwich but never returned.
He only recorded one album as a leader, Chicago Sound featuring Johnny Griffin which was released in late 1957. There are some incredible bass solos on this record, not flash at all, just simple melodies, amazing feel and great musicality. This record was a great feature for him as a soloist, where he'd have solo bass spots on a few tracks, definitely one for bass players to check out, not all about good technique, just incredible feel.

His bass lines are crazy. From transcribing different bits of his walking lines, I've realised he didn't follow the harmony too closely, where a lot of the time he threw in a lot of substitutions, but in a way that would lead the music forward. 
Check him out if you have a chance, he's on the Sonny Rollins Live at Vanguard record, Grant Green Standards and Johnny Griffin Sextet, all amazing listening.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Food and vibe

As I was sorting out the Photos on my laptop, I realised that i have a load of pictures of food that I had uploaded since last summer, so I thought I'd put them up here to share my culinary tastes.

This was an odd hotpot I cooked with my housemate last summer, a sort of chilli con carne thing, we ran out of food in the house so scrapped this together with what we were able to find.

This is something cooked this with my girlfriend around January, scallops cooked with chilli and garlic, fried leek, sweet pepper, couchette and egg fried rice........ a lot of frying

This was also cooked by the same personnel, around february, I grabbed inspiration for this from Jamie Oliver's fish fight, curried coley, chickpea saag and a lot of cous cous.

This is a breakfast with home made hash brown, garlic mushrooms, cabbage and onion slop, beans, poached egg and some posh bread to make it look nice.

Gig food from the Open Hearth in Torfaen when i did a gig there, big ass fish.

Doesn't look that nice, but I though because it looked so green it needed a mention.

Home made coley fish fingers with tomato salsa and home made chips, made at home.

Pepper board.

Prawn and tomato linguine, with water cress leaves kicking around.

As concludes, i love food, maybe a bit too much.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

30 day song challenge.... what a load of shite

I've seen this recently on facebook, basically you have a different song for each day and you have to say what they are and why. It's a nice idea, but i realised i don't actually know that many real mainstream songs (even though I'm a music student) and I really don't see myself having the patience to find the songs or updating it (since there's nothing worse than people doing too many facebook updates). So I've decided to put my weird list of tunes up. Here are the rules........

"day 01 - your favorite song
day 02 - your least favorite song
day 03 - a song that makes you happy 
day 04 - a song that makes you sad
day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone
day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere
day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event 
day 08 - a song that you know all the words to
day 09 - a song that you can dance to
day 10 - a song that makes you fall asleep 
day 11 - a song from your favorite band 
day 12 - a song from a band you hate 
day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasure 
day 14 - a song that no one would expect you to love 
day 15 - a song that describes you 
day 16 - a song that you used to love but now hate 
day 17 - a song that you hear often on the radio
day 18 - a song that you wish you heard on the radio
day 19 - a song from your favorite album
day 20 - a song that you listen to when you’re angry 
day 21 - a song that you listen to when you’re happy
day 22 - a song that you listen to when you’re sad
day 23 - a song that you want to play at your wedding
day 24 - a song that you want to play at your funeral
day 25 - a song that makes you laugh
day 26 - a song that you can play on an instrument
day 27 - a song that you wish you could play
day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty
day 29 - a song from your childhood 
day 30 - your favorite song at this time last year"

Right! Here's my list
Song 1 - Changes daily but at the moment it's "August 5th 2006" by the Claudia Quintet.
Song 2 - Anything by Coldplay
Song 3 - Paul Simon, You can call me Al.
Song 4 - Unexpectedly hearing Coldplay.
Song 5 - Hanging out with Howard Marks, Super Furry Animals.
Song 6 - Demons by Super Furry Animals.
Song 7 - The Battle of Evermore, Led Zeppelin
Song 8 - The tune from Eraser head about heaven.
Song 9 - Nothing that Coldplay wrote.
Song 10 - Anything by Coldplay.
Song 11 - ....... the question's too generic
Song 12 - Anything by Coldplay
Song 13 - ....... the question's also too generic
Song 14 - GZA, living in the world today 
Song 15 - Jazz Snob: Eat Shit by Naked City
Song 16 - Most of weather report's repertoire.
Song 17 - I don't really listen to the radio
Song 18 - Anything from my CD collection
Song 19 - Serpent's Tooth from Arrival of Victor Feldman
Song 20 - The whole of Trevor Dunn's Sister Phantom Owl Fish
Song 21 - The whole of Trevor Dunn's Sister Phantom Owl Fish
Song 22 - The whole of Trevor Dunn's Sister Phantom Owl Fish
Song 23 - Jazz Snob: Eat Shit by Naked City
Song 24 - Anything that's not Coldplay
Song 25 - Anything by Coldplay
Song 26 - ...........
Song 27 - Everything I have on my itunes.
Song 28 - I shot the sherif, Huw Williams ..... Shit! I mean Bob Marley!
Song 29 - Paul Simon, You can call me Al.
Song 30 - John Cage 4'33

I'm sure this blog has shown you a small fraction of my musical taste, that I didn't actually shoot any sherifs and the fact I dislike Coldplay (I mean, really dislike). Hopefully next time I'll have something a little more interesting to say....... cheers.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Current musical happenings

I haven't posted a blog for a while, so I felt like I should put one up and discuss some random shit!

I had a gig last night at Torfaen Jazz club in Sebastopol with Huw Warren and his son Zoot. Crazy place full of wonderful characters, they have a really great programme on there, Tony Kofi's on there next friday, which should be unreal. Ceri Williams, the club's promoter also does live streaming of the gigs on Ustream every friday, we had a guy from France checking it out. If you get a chance catch the gigs they put on and please support this lovely little club, unfortunately it's at that period with jazz where success lies in the survival of the music.

I've also been really busy recently with Rachel K Collier's band, who I heavily mentioned in the last blog post, (not really mentioned, but posted a load of links). We recorded her second EP last weekend in Cardiff, which was a lot of fun, 4 of her new tracks (which are all brilliant songs). We have a few gigs coming up with the band in the next few weeks;
17/03 Vulcan Lounge (Cardiff)
18/03 North Star (Cardiff)
20/03 Coal Exchange (Cardiff)
27/03 Surface Festival, Great Portland Street (London)
08/04 Spice of Life Soho (London)
We have more booked for the future, but there are some I'm sure I've forgotten to put in my diary (oops). Other than playing funny music, twittering and blogging I've been messing about with Imovie and made a little documentary about Rachel's band...........

Monday, 7 February 2011

Go go go

Hey guys, I'm playing tonight with Rachel K Collier's band at Proud, Camden. This will be our second gig in London with this band, we have a few more booked over the next few months, give us a listen.

Here's some of the sounds and the shows we have coming up in the near future,

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Anders Christensen transcription.

Here's a rough approximation of a short Anders Christensen solo over Nuages from Jakob Dinesen's record "Everything will be alright" .......... enjoy

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Travail, Transformation and almost certainly flowing......

Recently I got the chance to see Steve Lehman's octet at the vortex in London, not only that, they gave us the seats right in the front! The band that played on the night was the same as on Lehman's recent record "Travail, Transformation and Flow", except Jose Davila was replaced by Dan Peck on Tuba. I was incredibly excited to be attending this gig, as it was my first visit to the legendary vortex in Dalston (as well as Steve Lehman) and also I was about to see one of my bass heroes, Drew Gress (I was so excited, I was by the doors about half an hour before they opened). All in all, this gig was insane, especially Tyshawn Sorey's drumming, so many gospel chops. Check out this link to Josselin CarrĂ©'s film on Lehman's octet ........ 

I've been really fascinated by blogs for a while, but I've only been brave enough to start one now. Anyways, here are some of the blogs I've been checking out..... This is the blog of Ethan Iverson, New York piano player and member of the bad plus. It's absoloutley insane, so many things on there for anyone who's interested in jazz, tonnes of interviews with some of the living jazz legends, well worth checking out. Is a blog from London based musician, Kit Downes (another ridiculously talented piano player). As well as interesting things about music he's posted a lot of odd but wonderful animations and things about quantum physics (always a good laugh). This blog is incredible for some jazz resources and general saxophone things. It's ran by an american sax player called David Valdez, he's got a load of great jazz robot videos up there as well, amazing tristano-ite ones there as well.