Sunday 23 December 2012

Ollie Howell: Safe in Derek Nash's hands

Derek Nash, Mark Perry, Matt Robinson, Ollie Howell, Max Luthert & Duncan Eagles
Before the quintet arrived on Day 2, I spent some time with Derek Nash as he ate his porridge and prepared for the day ahead. We all know him from Jools Holland's Rhthym and Blues Orchestra, and as the front man in Sax Appeal and Protect the Beat but I hadn't known of his early days as a sound engineer at the BBC. This made perfect sense as the Quintet arrived and Derek patiently honed the recording. He unselfishly contributed his ideas and shared his knowledge with the assembled band, but never dominated Ollie Howell's overall concept.

Much of day 2 was spent listening and discussing how the music was developing. Even though Howell had a handful of charts for everyone there was a healthy jousting for interpretation.
As they prepared to record Angry Skies a conversation unfolded -
MP - Lets talk concepts
DE - lets do 8 bars each then I'll hint at the tune & then play the tune
MP - Who's going first
DE - I like those chords
MP - We can probably mess it up
DE - I can do 8, you can do 16, I do 16, then we'll not know what's going on!
MP - I come in whenever I want to come in!
DE - Are you angry?
MP - I'm going to go mental on the D Free!!!!!!!

I don't want to give the impression that all discussions we're about serious music concerns. One of the hot topics was Christmas food and we were treated to Giles Coren style dissection of Sainsbury's Boxing Day Lunch Sandwich by Matt Robinson. A little research reveals he is one of the team behind the popular Christmas Sandwich Review Website.

Before leaving for the day I sketched the recording of 19th Day, a tune Howell had penned on his 19th Day in his hospital bed and dedicated to the trumpeter Sam Palmer.

The music has now arrived in my inbox and I'll be getting some images together for the CD so keep an eye out in 2013 for The Ollie Howell Quintet and the album that will be 'Sutures and Stitches'.


Saturday 22 December 2012

Ollie Howell Quintet debut - Day1

Ollie Howell - drums
Just a few short days after Ollie Howell won the Peter Whittingham Development Award I was lucky enough to find myself at Clown Pocket's Studio with his quintet. I'd only sketched Ollie once before (Hideaway's Monday Jam) and to my embarrassment knew nothing of his tunes. As Ollie started to warm-up he explained to me why I'd been kept in the dark.
Since meeting his mentor, Quincy Jones, in 2010 his life has been punctuated with several operations, lengthy hospital stays and periods of recuperation. To my surprise he was remarkably positive about the experience -

" I found new inspiration for my compositions, and was writing in a very different way to how I previously had done. Now the compositions mean much more to me than just notes and chords. Many of the tunes that will be on the CD were actually written in my hospital bed!
The music chronicles a really life-changing point in my life, but it is also a statement about how positivity and determination can overcome anything."

Matt Robinson

Max Luthert
 It is one of the perks of an artist's job that I can attend these recording sessions and familiarise myself with the music and the musicians. Derek Nash's excellent studio is split into 3 main rooms/booths and so I worked my way through them listening and sketching. Another member of the quintet I'd never heard before was Matt Robinson. He was crammed behind Derek's Steinway which was bizarrely covered in a Zebra skin style rug. His style was laid back and understated but as the intensity increased he asserted himself on the compositions and his tongue flicked out of his mouth like a rudder in a stormy sea.
On Bass, Saxophone and Trumpet were Max Luthert, Duncan Eagles and Mark Perry who have become regular collaborators in recent years.
 In fact Mr Luthert and I are showing our first film together at the British Shorts Exhibition in Berlin (Sputnik Kino) this January.

Mark Perry
Under the dramatic studio lighting Luthert came alive as the first tune of the day, World Apart, kicked into life. I was sealed into the booth and could hear through the triple glazed glass as Mark Perry cried "I'm going to go mental at the end of my solo". And he did.

I then ventured into Eagles and Perry's lair. Perry has a perpetual twinkle in his eye and with Eagles maintained a constant double act throughout the next hour. He joked (or declared) " I play the first 8 bars of what Ollie's written and then ignore the rhythm and the chords and play whatever I want."

Duncan Eagles
 Duncan Eagles, was physically under the weather but I knew he was on top musical form when his left shoulder bucked into life like a kicking mule. A great indicater of his dedication and commitment to the music.
We then spent many hours as Derek Nash masterfully carressed the quintet recording. Day 1 resulted in 7 tunes - World apart, So close so far, Later on, They, Dear old Stockholm, Hollow Victory and Beyond.

I'll be writing up Day 2 tomorrow.


Friday 14 December 2012

Twickenham's Bloomsbury Set

Lesley Christiane
The locals in the 'King of Portugal' area of Twickenham we're given a glimpse of the future last night (13/12/2012) with the coronation of a new Queen for the vacant throne of Jazz. The Bloomsbury Pub hosted a night of swinging tunes and baritone madness with Lesley and Kelvin Christiane very much the jazz royalty in residence.
Typical of Lesley Christiane (left), she drew the packed audience into her warm embrace, and we all had a fantastic night. She answered our Christmas wishes with the news that she'll be running a regular Jazz night at the Bloomsbury pub in 2013.
Kicking off with Ray Gelato on the 24th January 2013.
She delivered an early Christmas present for me too with her version of 'Dindi', a Jobim favourite.

Kelvin Christiane played flute, clarinet and plenty of sax, especially on 'Bernie's Tune' which resulted in a moment of Baritone frenzy. Alex Hutton was at his best (as usual) - inventive, passionate and intense! 'Lines for Lyons' was a real standout. This was the first time drawing Richard Sadler but I've spotted Noel Joyce before POSK jazz cafe in Hammersmith.

Come and say hello if your coming down on the 24th Jan, I'll be there sketching away

Kelvin Christiane
The Bloomsbury
209 Staines Road

Richard Sadler
Alex Hutton
Noel Joyce