The last three decades on the London jazz grapevine have been great, texts flying back and forth with venues and starting times. Lately, after setting up keyboard, amp and mics, playing, then dismantling, I started getting drowsy while driving home. So I resolved, no more gigs unless there's a piano there and I don't have to drive.
It turns out there is a venue in King’s Cross with a piano and a really friendly atmosphere, the King Chares I, 55-
Whoops.. There was a misundertanding. We are now going to be playing on Monday the 17 Dec contrary to previous announcement.
Singers can change key instantly without any effort leaving them to focus on bringing a song to life for the audience. Pianists on the other hand have to study for several years in order to play the jazz standards in any key required by the singer. The two roles are complementary. One of my specialities is helping singers find the ideal key for their voice and preparing charts suitable to put in front of musicians at one the many open mic clubs that London offers. Alongside the chart, singers find it useful to have a backing CD or mp3 to practice with and sometimes to use in performance in situations where there is no band.
It was a great pleasure to work on arrangements for Peter Matthews songs presented at the Pizza Express. Click here pick tunes from the programme. I even got to sing a duet with Canadian vocalist Michael DeMarco. We are joined by bassist Andy Hamill with Rod Youngs on drums. The video was shot by Dante Rendle Traynor
While Romy Summers and I were running our open-
Click here to see a clip from one of our last open mic sessions VivaVocals at Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec. It features C Dave who brings to life songs that have fallen by the wayside. Jerome Davies is on bass and Rod Yougs on drums.
When I got booted out of art college in after one year in 1965 I somehow landed on my feet by being invited to form an interval band at Annie Ross’s Covent Garden Club Annie’s Room. I played the club Hammond and my comusicians were Labi Siffre on voice and guitar and drummer Woody Martin. I sang a few songs and Annie told me to keep singing but at that time I was only interested in the chord changes of songs and the meaning of the lyrics just passed me by.
Only when I started to accompany singers some thirty years later that fragments of the songs started to float round in my mind and so I put a bit of effort into joining the fragments together. After the first song the process became addictive.
Labi Siffre went on to build a collection of classic songs. Out of the blue he contacted me with the possibility of being part of his show From Pause to Play on November 8 th 2015, which, as the title suggest, is a return to the performing after a period of semi-
A neighbour has an archive of material by the Islington jazz pianist Pat Smythe and asked me to take a look at his arrangement of Mercer Ellington’s Blue Serge. I have sketched a version of how it might sound for string and sax/voice. Click here to listen. The original manuscript can be seen here along with a translation into chromatic dialect for those whose eyes glaze over at the abundance of sharp and flats. More background on Pat can be found here.
Hopefully more of Pat’s original work from the archive will be available in the future.
I was browsing round for a choir arrangement of the Chanuka song Maoz Tsur. There must be lots but I couldn’t find one I was comfortable with so made this arrangement (click on the title). It is also on the Musescore library. If you download the Musescore program (free) you can also listen to a vocal sample version.
Directly opposite the east side exit of Kew Gardens is a unique little Cafe seating around 25 people. The proprietress Yukari loves piano music and has installed a beautiful Fazioli grand piano, Italy's answer to Steinway. Concerts in various styles take place place there. No amplification is allowed but who needs it in such a small place? You can just drink a tea or coffee or order from the Japanese orientated menu. No alcohol is served but you can bring your own or take your pick from the off-
While the program is jazz we both have an insterest in classical music. Chinara as a child was whisked from her native Kyrgystan to study violin at the Moscow Conservatoire. She pursued her passion for jazz at the Berklee College in the US before making London her base. I did things in reverse playing jazz Hammond before studying classical music in Glasgow, later playing piano for the Rambert School when it was based in Richmond.