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EFG London Jazz Festival
OSO Jazz Jam
Rose Theatre
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Last Tuesday was Jazz@Retro for October and I was delighted to have an old friend and musical colleague Robin Banerjee as our monthly guest. Pete Billington returned on electric bass and Chris Draper was on drums. Great playing by all and Robin chose all the material we played. It was a great mixture of mainly standards with a nod to Amy Winehouse with "Monkey Man" and "Cherry", songs that she and Robin used to perform together. Something different this month was that the instrumental sets were broken up with host and vocalist Janet McCunn singing one song in each set. It seemed to work really well tonight. 

It was really good to see the music room full again and this month's audience were very enthusiastic and there was a lovely atmosphere. A table of four right near the front by the stage was occupied by an adult student of mine with her husband and their neighbours. He especially enjoyed it and was front row to experience the full "Burnin' Bobby B" at full throttle! Robin plays with such gusto and loves to play double time phrases that have such energy. It was also good to play with Pete again. He is a great musician and I'm convinced he can handle any musical situation. A newish member of the Retro family is Chris Draper. He recently moved to nearby Kew and Janet heard him playing at Cadogan Hall, Chelsea in the summer and asked if he'd be interested in playing at Retro. This was Chris's second time playing here with his first gig in August playing with Bobby Wellins. Hopefully he'll be doing quite a few more. He takes some great solos! 


So apart from all the music I'm doing - gigs and the teaching etc - I've signed up to run a Half Marathon on 22 March 2015, so over the next 20 weeks I'm going to have to seriously do some training for it. I'm really looking forward to getting super fit! On Sunday morning I found the courage to go out and run in the cold rain in nearby Bushy Park! It was hard but also invigorating and life affirming at the same time. I quite enjoyed it.
Please visit my Charity Run page and sponsor me if you can! 
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Had a great night on Friday at Jazz CafĂ© Posk in Hammersmith. It was the second 'Janet's Jazz Night' that I co-run with Janet McCunn and I enjoyed the whole night.

In this month's trio were Paul Michael on bass and Rha Stranges on drums with our special guests tenor saxophonist Brandon Allen and vocalist Tracey O'Connor. It was great to play with Brandon again, he choose some tricky little tunes to play but it was challenging and fun. He's a brilliant player and a really nice guy too.You can hear him most weeks at the 'Late Show' at Ronnie Scott's. It was my first time playing with Rha but he was great, and the band played great! 


The sound on stage and out front wasn't quite as good as the previous gig we did there, it's a shame as the vocalists had to struggle but still two great vocal sets from Janet and Tracey. The sound issues didn't dampen a great evening. Great attendance too!
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It was great to get together with Aisling Stephenson yesterday to carry on writing songs. We started collaborating last year and it's great to work with Aisling as she is prolifically creative and quickly comes up with great melodies and words. Not only is she a fantastic singer who sings with great soul, she's original but is always listening to out for new music as well as knowing loads of standards! We've already got a handful of songs. We are going to keep on writing and then pick the best ones and put an album together. Watch this space!

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Had a gig at the Haverhill Arts Centre on Friday with tenor and baritone saxophonist Hannah Horton's Quartet. The band had Cambridge based Nick France on drums and Nick Lenner-Webster (who came up from London with me) on bass. It was my first time playing at this venue with Hannah but it's great to see her putting on these concerts here. This was the first she has done with just her quartet, she usually invites a special guest to join her band so it was good to see the event really well attended. She has been asked to do another three next year which is great! 


The venue had a big stage and good sound engineers so I had a really good "on-stage" sound. After the sound check and before the gig, Hannah had ordered the band some fish and chips from a nearby takeaway. The cool thing was mine were gluten free. Good to see the gluten free options on the rise!


Hannah had put a couple of really well thought out sets together, mostly of standards plus two of her original compositions. The band played with some great energy and dynamism. Lots of great solos by all. 


A very enjoyable night only slightly dampened by the ridiculously long diversion on the drive home for road works!

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On Tuesday at this month's Jazz At Retro, we played to a full music room. All the tables taken and very busy in the other room too. Nice to see it busy! 


This month's gig was a little different to any of the others we've done before. It was the first time we've had a vibes player as our monthly guest - Orphy Robinson (actually midi controller vibes triggering sounds from a computer). The music was a lot 'freer' too. The melodies or heads not played or barely stated and the choice of tunes were mostly very simple chord progressions and more groove orientated. Great energy from Orphy in his solos and well supported by Dave Jones on bass and Jamie Trowell on drums. Dave nearly didn't make it as he wasn't feeling to good earlier in the day. 


The food in the break was delicious as always. We had risotto this week and it went down well with a meagre drop of wine and interesting conversation and stories from Blue Note Records to lazy teenage children. 


After the break it was a pleasant contrast when Janet then got up to sing a couple of songs. It was nice to hear the melodies sung and she picked tunes that have great chord changes. (Actually I think I helped her pick them haha)


Looking forward to playing next month with my old friend Robin Banerjee! 

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On Saturday I paid my first visit to the historic market town of Berkhamsted that lies on the western edge of Hertfordshire (this is the place were the Anglo-Saxons formally surrendered to the Normans after the Battle of Hastings). I was there to perform with former local boy, Gabriel Garrick's new quintet (Gabriel on trumpet, Dominic Ashworth on guitar, Dave Jones on bass and Paul Cavaciuti on drums) at the Berkhamsted Jazz Club in the town's Civic Centre. 


The concerts are performed in a huge sparse hall with the tables and chairs all laid out in rows with the large stage at the back of the room that's chest high. My first impression when I arrived for the sound check was that I was at a local town meeting and there was going to be a vote with a showing of hands. Joking aside, it's a lovely gig, great sound, great stage. When the stage lights are on and the audience are in it does turn into a lovely concert hall environment. It was nice to be greeted with a Yamaha C5 grand piano. The action was slightly heavier compared to other Yamahas I'd played recently which made it a bit more challenging. 


The rehearsal we had really did make a difference and this gig was so much better then our last one. It's really nice to play with such great players especially with Dave and Dominic coming in and nailing the music and bringing something extra to the band.

 
The material we played was an interesting mix and well thought out by Gabriel. Four compositions by his late father Michael Garrick, a tune by Gabriel and the rest were jazz classics or standards. There was also a nod to New Orleans with 'St. James' Infirmary' going into 'Way Down Yonder...'. We played an arrangement of 'Indiana' with some group improvising with a strong marching beat feel that then goes straight into a hard swinging 'Donna Lee' and bebop.

 
A good evening with a good turnout in a friendly place that's not too far from London. Worth checking out as a punter if you fancy a nice Saturday night out of town. Look forward to playing there again in the future hopefully. 

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Last night was the second of our monthly "Janet's Jazz Thursdays" at Rise 46 in Battersea Rise. There was a great vibe in this small 1920s styled cocktail bar. Lovely songs by Janet and this month's guest Marimba Arihi. It's always a pleasure to play with Nick Lenner-Webster who was on bass. Hope this night keeps building as it has huge potential. Stephan O'Goodson was there last night supporting Marimba and we've asked him to be the guest at next month's gig. I'm a firm believer in giving back opportunities to those who also support us. It's the same with the jazz festival and the other gigs I put on. If you support it as a punter I'm more inclined to book you as an artist too. 

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