Thursday, 31 January 2013

Ray Gelato - Bloomsbury's Top Cat

Ray Gelato - Top Cat
Like the phoenix rising from the flames, Ray Gelato resurrected the newly revived Twickenham Jazz Club last Thursday (24/01/2013) with a stellar night of swinging tunes. It's no surprise that Lesley and Kelvin Christiane chose Ray to kick-start the Club, he is the totem of the current swing revival and resurgence of 1950's values & tastes.

 Although he's been nominated for Jazz's highest awards he has never been a member of the Jazz Elite preferring to rub shoulders with us mere mortals. In fact that is part of his charm and he has retained his youthful vigour and humour throughout the years and most reminds me of the loveable Top Cat from Hanna-Barbera's animation. With his witty alley-cat jokes and roguish tom-cat charisma he had us all purring with delight by the end of the evening.

Kelvin Christiane - Saxophone

Ray Gelato's repertoire was pure unashamedly old-school with tunes by Count Basie (Doggin' Around & Topsy), Nat King Cole (The Frim-Fram Sauce), Jesse Greer (Just You Just Me) and Coleman Hawkins (body and soul).

The dark-suited and dapper Kelvin Christiane joined Gelato on stage for 'Robbins' Nest' and Duke's 'Cotton Tail'. Richard Busiakiewicz was very much an unassuming figure visually on keyboards, but more than stole the show musically once given his chance. He has a trance like zombie playing style, perfected by Bill Evans, with chin hung against his chest whilst deep in concentration.

Richard Busiakiewic - keys
It was good to get a proper look at Julian Bury on bass. The last time I'd drawn him was at Pizza Express for the Burton Bradstock CD launch, where you have to avoid strategically placed pillars and tomblike lighting to produce a sketch.
This was my first view of Matt Fishwick  (drums), although I have drawn his twin-brother Steve before. He has a sit-up-and-beg style with a beautifully straight back, and is a musician I would like to see and hear again.

Julian Bury - Bass
Matt Fishwick - drums
The jazz cats weren't restricted to the stage either and I spotted some very cool ones in the audience too.
There was a group of ruddy cheeked dudes whose 'Boss Cat' was the sleek Lister Park, with Colin and Andrew either side.
Lister park - Dude

I'll look forward to seeing them all on Valentine's Day, not for a romantic rendezvous, but to see Nigel Price playing at the next instalment of the Twickenham Jazz Club.


Monday, 28 January 2013

Rainlore's online artist-in-residence

Rich Rainlore
I'm really chuffed to announce that I'll be working more closely with critic/observer Rich Rainlore over the coming year. I'll be his official artist-in-residence and 'live' sketcher at many of the gigs he'll be attending for his website Rainlore's World.

Rich is no stranger to the visual side of music after plying his trade for many years as a photographer, so he knows just how difficult it can be to produce the goods in challenging conditions. He is a sympathetic and knowledgeable collaborator who I know I'll enjoy working with over the next 12 months....and hopefully long into the future..

It is no surprise that since I've been working with Rich, I have gained confidence in my own writing.

I made this quick sketch of him at Joanna Strand's CD launch, The Forge, Camden in 2012. It was the first gig we worked on together and I haven't looked back since.


Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Aquarium / Sam Leak - Final Destination London

Final Destination London, calling at Marrakech, Pisa, Milan and Sam Leak's bedroom...please mind the closing doors.

 As I sat waiting for Aquarium to launch their second album 'Places' at Kings Place (12/01/2013) I was fully prepared for the journey ahead of me. I'd been lucky enough to be Aquarium's artist for their debut album creating an emotive charcoal driven portfolio of imagery to reflect Sam Leak's intense personal vision.
I was also fresh from listening to their most recent CD on Jellymould Jazz as Sam had pressed me into action to produce the album art (right) and an animation of 'Marrakech'. Just as my body had anchored me down into the sofa with the weight of mince pies I had to catapult myself into the sunshine and mystery of North Africa.

Obviously the journey ahead of the audience last Saturday was through the new CD but also encountering geographic and personal landmarks. None could be more poignant than 'Catherine Grove' which detailed Sam's mugging at knife point in early 2012.

Sam Leak  piano
 'Clutter' was also a favourite with the audience, its theme being Sam Leak's unruly bedroom.
Sam introduced all the tunes in his own modest style, usually with a self deprecating 'I hope you like it?' footnote to every announcement.

James Allsopp - Sax
He is a delicate and careful player that has a manly gentleness about him with a mix of Mediterranean 5 o'clock shadow and British politeness. In fact, Sam told me a story about how he was saddled with an Aegean nickname,

"Someone came up with 'the 99 beautiful names for Sam Leak' which was basically a list of things that rhymed with Leak - Geek, Freek, has a beak, likes Dawson's Creek etc. It just so happened that one of the most popular ones was 'Sam the Greek' and one day I foolishy walked into school, post holiday, wearing a 'Greece' t-shirt - I didn't live that one down for a while!"

Calum Gourlay - Bass
Front centre stage was occupied by the handsome James Allsopp who's presence was gentle and assured. If I could over-stretch the actor analogy just a little further, he cut a figure like a clean-living Rob Lowe.

Back Centre was the domain of Calum Gourlay who quietly simmered behind his bass and a long bashful fringe.
To the right was a treat for any artist like myself. Usually drummers are hard to draw because of their constant movement especially their heads as they often bob and weave and shake uncontrollably. Some though like Aquarium's Joshua Blackmore (and Ed Richardson) possess an almost Egon Schiele like bone structure you can't help but get carried away with.

Joshua Blackmore - drums
The journey ended when the lambswool jumpered quartet transported us to 'Milan' with a final encore through the mind of the man who composed these beautiful tunes, the 'Shy' Sam Leak.


Monday, 14 January 2013

Alex Hutton - Subterranean Jazz at Nolias 11

Alex Hutton, Graeme Flowers, Henrik Jensen & Chris Nickolls
This was my third visit to Alex Hutton's residency at Nolias 11 since it started in September 2012. The subterranean room at Nolias 11 is one of my favourite venues to draw in. It has a wonderful ambience with its low lighting and brightly lit stage. In fact the contrast is so effective that I'm never quite sure who I'm sitting next to. This creates a wonderful sense of mystery for any one with an active imagination. Luckily I'd introduced myself to the gentlemen sitting next to me earlier in the evening. It turned out to be the 'Mr Fixit' of the popular publication/website Jazz in London, Mick Sexton. With his superior Jazz knowledge he was able to tell me about the two players I'd never drawn before, Trumpeter Graeme Flowers and Bassist Henrik Jensen. The other two members of the quartet are frequent contributors to my portfolio and I overheard them sing the praises of Nolias's music room too. Chris Nickolls complimented the acoustics and Alex Hutton said that without a designated bar in the room it feels like a concert.

Alex Hutton

Every Friday evening from 9-12pm Alex Hutton presents a new body of tunes, usually with an ever fresh selection of musicians. Of course he relies on some of his own powerful tunes that have made him popular on the London circuit too. Last Friday (11/01/2013)  it was themed around the music of Gil Evans and we were treated to tunes like 'The Duke' and 'My Ship'. Alex had a contented air about him and admitted as much as we briefly passed in the dark stairwell,
 'I'm having a bit of a problem concentrating tonight, Christmas was so good it's taking a while to get back in the mood'.

Of course he was being too tough on himself. I enjoyed Alex's delicate playing very much and it was interesting that he chose to forsake his signature tune 'JJ' even though the crowd we're shouting for it at the end of the evening. JJ is one of those tunes which has an intensity that make your pulse race and the temperature rise. We didn't need to tamper with the thermostat though, despite the inhospitably cold Waterloo streets outside, the room inside Nolias 11 was toasty. In fact as the evening continued and we all peeled off layers of clothing, Henrik Jensen resolutely still wore his Danish fisherman style wolly hat. It was mystery as he sweated and redenned, until he quickly checked underneath, and an unruly thatch sprung up and was hastily supressed once more.

Nolia Devin

No evening would be complete without a song (Autumn Leaves) from the first lady herself, Nolia Devin. To add to the subterranean feel of the the venue, Madame Devin emerged from the dark looking every inch the charismatic jungle queen, clothed in a zebra/tiger print wrap.

My subterranean night ended with a late night crawl home across London. Still a spectator as I stared out at the bright lights along the Thames from my empty train carriage.


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Matt Gough Dectet & The Jazz Madhatter

Matt Gough - Trumpet
 Feeling like a old-skool art lecturer I was back at The Bull's Head this weekend (06/01/2013) to see how Matt Gough's Dectet had progressed in the last 12 months. This time last year as I busily prepared for my exhibition at The Bull I caught this crop of young musicians. Eventually featuring 4 paintings of the MGD in the subsequent show.

They are led by the trumpeter Matt Gough who's adventurous layered compositions are challenging for the listener in this Dectet format and bubble away with personal emotional content. He is undoubtably a thinker and facilitator, sheltering his group within his carefully woven music but giving them space to express.
Since graduating from Birmingham's Conservatoire he's now well into his second year full-time on the circuit and has outgrown his fledgling status,
Georgina Stalbow

" I like the balance of my life, apart from performing and composing it is the teaching which excites me most. I've had to formulate my ideas so that I can explain them to the students, it means I don't take my playing for granted. Recently I refreshed myself by taking a 3 months break, I just wasnt happy with what I was doing. I worked at the Two Brydges club and met some great creative people there........ I miss Birmingham...... I miss the routine and especially the people. It was amazing to get up everyday and just interact and play with some brilliant musicians". MG

It's no surprise then that he's engineered such a close knit group of musicians for us to hear. Amongst them was the saxophonist Chris Young who has developed a more powerful presence on stage. He captures the audience with a rye twinkle and a mouth that perpetually curls into a smile even while playing. He reminds you of a fair-haired mix of The Joker and Mad-Hatter, constantly on the balls of feet with a crackle of energy. An image that is reinforced with his permanent attachment to his baseball cap and a chuckling playing style that bounces his shoulders like he can't contain an excellent joke.
Chris Young - Sax

 He explained to me what the future held for him -
"I'm writing for my quartet and sextet, and heading towards a freer style. I'm heavily influenced by musicians I really admire like (vibraphonist) Mike Pinto. I think I'll stay in Birmingham another year. The scene..its so compact and alive. It will hard to leave"

Young was on top form as the Dectet eased comfortably into their first tune 'Consequences of the Result' from Gough's first album 'Resilience', followed by the excellently crafted 'Soundtrack to the work of an animal criminal mastermind'. My favourite of the first set was 'The forgotten fairground' which had a hint of John Lewis' 'The Carousel Incident' from Odds Against Tomorrow.
Toward the end of the second set my brain had reached overload with some of the complexities and I knew I could digest  no more. It is always a hazard when you're already doing two things at the same time (sketching and listening).

Richard Foote - Trombone
 One of my favourite musicians to draw is Richard Foote and he didn't dissapoint. He often reminds me of a Jazz triceratops, with his thick wispy black hair curling round like horns and his trombone charging right out towards you.
The Dectet worked well together under Gough's leadership and again impressed with Chris Gough's arrangment of  'I haven't got a brain' from the Wizard of Oz.
The big difference in a year for this excellent Dectet is a new lightness, and a greater sense of fun. Perhaps this has developed because they are more accomplished and confident performers or maybe because as a group they operate truly as a unit. The bus journey seemed a lonely Sunday night ride home after being in such a rich environment of togetherness.


Ben Kane - Drums

Tobie Carpenter - guitar

Percy Pursglove - Bass

John Fleming - Saxophone

Kieran Mcleod - Trombone

Chris Gough - French Horn/piano