Tuesday 30 April 2013

Georgia Mancio - Jazz's popular vote

Georgia Mancio
The public voted with their feet last Thursday (25/04/2013) at Twickenham Jazz Club by standing on them and applauding without constraint. In my short time as TJC's in-house artist this was the most positive response I have seen for any group. Sometimes you keep it simple, a trio, purity of voice, skill and intensity, the stars collide and BANG!

The performance had started much earlier in the day with a hot topic on the online agenda. Just that morning Big Bear Music had announced the nominations for their annual 'mainstream' British Jazz Awards (including TJC's Henry Armburg Jennings, and the imminent Julian Stringle). Despite not being nominated, tonight's guitarist Nigel Price had urged his friends to vote, citing it as a popular poll where the public had a chance to show their appreciation for once. He wrote,
 "The less we vote the more likely it is for the whole "jobs for the boys" mentality or cronyism to creep in."

He was challenged on this point by Jazz royalty's free spirit Gabriel Garrick
"Don't believe the hype!!
Awards only serve to further any existing exclusivity within any given area. They only reinforce more of the same dumb behaviour: that of encouraging blind following."

Nigel Price - Guitar
Nigel is never one to sit on the fence and his reasoning that followed was well balanced but unfortunately too long to reproduce, so here's a snippet,
"...it's still a totally open vote and if we get enough people to cast theirs then it could turn into a true representation of who and what musicians and non musicians alike find most worth applauding on a national scale.
What's wrong with that?"

Both had a point of course, Big Bear had pre-selected or chosen the nominations, so its wasn't entirely a free vote and yet here was a chance for our voice to be heard. An opportunity I grasped with both hands, well, at least my two digits on my laptop keyboard.

To metaphorically 'live or die' in front of an audience, Nigel Price has laid down the gauntlet this evening. With just three performers on the stage, there was nowhere to hide, although the mood lighting meant they operated like cold war spies in a purple tungsten glow. This was the cleverest of performances, full of subtleties, the trio tonight played their hands with a deftness that teased the crowd in front of them.

Larry Bartley - Bass
Georgia Mancio sat well back from the stage's edge, as though succumbing to an intolerance of 'The limelight'. This only pulled the audience forward and many of us sat with elbows on knees. Earlier in the week I had sketched the multi-instrumental-voiced singer Jan Ponsford for Mr Rainlore and Mancio's voice felt gentle in comparison. First impressions can be deceiving, it seems her power isn't like a wave that crashes over you but that lapping Mediterranean kind which casts the mind adrift into playful daydreams.

Nigel Price is a hard man to read visually, particularly this evening, he was flanked by the tall figure of Larry Bartley and willowy Mancio. This made him look like a grumpy garden gnome who was fishing for imaginary carp, an image that was totally dispelled once he reeled in the audience on the end of his guitar hooks. He looked happy. Excelling on Latin intricacies, like the samba styled Coots tune 'You go to my head'. His solo on 'That old black magic' was granted a standing ovation from TJC dude Colin amongst others.

Zoran Matic
I've drawn Larry Bartley before at Alex Hutton's Friday Nolias residency and knew I was in the company of a fellow artist, so I hope my drawings will find his approval. Larry and I weren't the only artists in attendance and I managed to get a quick sketch of an intense Zoran Matic.

Kelvin Christiane - Sax
Twickenham Jazz Club favourite Kelvin Christiane joined the trio for a superb Stanley Turrentine finale on Soprano and then chaos ensued. Price had earlier urged the public to vote for their heroes and his plea hadn't fallen on deaf ears. They stood and kept applauding until an encore was granted, confusion reigned because of Mancio's imminent Stansted flight to Germany and the Jazzahead Festival/Conference. She sacrificed her precious sleeping time and gave the people what they wanted.

Later that night a bewildered Nigel Price commented
"The crowd literally went mental!
It was a bit disconcerting in a way.
Very odd."

Well you asked for the people's opinion.
They voted for you, Georgia and Larry.

We still stand up for what we believe in!


Tuesday 23 April 2013

Charlie Rose - State of Undress

Charlie Rose
Rich Rainlore's latest review of State Of Undress' Magical Gig At The Magic Garden, Battersea,
London SW11, Friday 29th March 2013 is now available.

 CLICK here to go straight to Rainlore's World website.


Friday 19 April 2013

Festival of Awfulness - Dan Redding

Dan Redding
We entered a parallel universe through a worm-hole in Kingston's Bus Garage last Saturday night (13/04/2013). Just like Harry Potter's legendary platform 9 and 3/4, I shut my eyes and hoped for the best, blinking my eyes and shaking the fugue from my brain I stared at the sight in front of me. The No.88 Bar was rammed full of off-duty Jazz musicians and aficionados of the dark art.

Max Luthert
Now some of these characters aren't exactly bronzed specimens, spending a large chunk of daylight hours sitting in their pants with the curtains drawn but tonight they looked an even paler bunch than normal. It was like walking onto the film set of a zombie movie, each of these once composed and talented Jazz glitterati wore a sheen of cold sweat and twitched uncontrollably. The most relaxed group we're setting up their kit just by the entrance, Holley Gray (Bass), Luke Harris (drums) and Ross Ewart (guitar) were all smugly chuckling to themselves.

Sam Leak
Tonight was a special night for two reasons, firstly that it marked 31 years on this earth of the No.1 guitarist in Kingston, Dan Redding, and secondly this was the inaugural night of the Festival of Awfulness.

Paul Jordanous
Now we are bombarded with excellent US sitcoms in we which endless cheery characters spout morally cumbersome platitudes at us and the ubiquitous AWESOME is uttered every third minute. Here in Britain we certainly like a good party but we're uncomfortable when our trumpets are blown by ourselves and others. So here was a new festival that celebrated our national sport of self-deprecation.

Before me were some of the most brilliant minds and fingers of the modern jazz age, so what could be so awful about that? Well apart from the house band so ably led by Tenor Godfather Bob McKay and organ funkster Bill Mudge everyone else was going to be singing.
These musicians whose careers had been built on years of fine-tuned performances would be leaving with reputations in tatters but huge smiles on their faces.

Piers Green
As you'd imagine the only way to conquer the nerves was to drink huge amounts of alcohol and calm the pumping heart. What happened next was the most inevitable and enjoyable train-wreck of talent you'll ever be lucky enough to witness

Rob Streetley
The night kicked off with Dan Redding who sledgehammered his way through Peter Gabriel's song of the same name. Like the professional he is, and in true character actor fashion Max Luthert was up next with bouffant hair and facial fluff just like his hero Phil Lynott with 'The boys are back in town'. The charming Wendy Linsey brought some decorum to the night with 'Tragedy' and her rendition definitely wasn't one.

I had several blips during the night, a mixture of wine, an energetic burbling crowd and being poleaxed by laughter meant I missed Duncan Eagles brave version of Lionel Ritchie 'Hello', although I heard the lady next to me say, "I wished he'd fucking say Goodbye..."

Michael Kew
Apologies to all the people I missed with my sketches, it was a fantastic night and I was equally swept up in the celebrations.

Sam (& Jenna)
We had our first genuinely surprising light emerge from a bushel when a languid Sam Leak of Aquarium fame stepped up to the microphone. With glass of full bodied red in hand he shared Carly Simon's 'Know-body does it better' revealing why he is gaining a reputation as a matinee idol amongst ladies of a certain age.

Holley Gray gave a rousing 'Eye of the Tiger' followed by the heavily fringed Michael Kew whose hands shook so much he placed them firmly in his back pockets as he sang Ronan Keating's 'Life is a Rollercoaster'. A spirited 'Gangster Paradise' by Kingston homey Ant was received well by the swelling crowd.

George Trebar
Once again the likeable Paul Jordanous kept us on our toes by doing exactly the opposite. His post-modern wit was not lost on cerebral onlookers like local brainbox Roger Perrin as he sat down at the keys and played Elton John's 'I'm still standing'.

Becky Scarrott
The fuse of the second set was lit up by one of my favourites of the night 'Careless Whisper'. The massive chasm between the band's crisp talent (Bob McKay solo) and the singing of Piers Green was of Grand Canyon proportions......until..... I heard the next man to take the stage..... Rob Streetley.
Just like Marlon Brando he sweated sex-appeal but also inherited his mumbling diction and we all worried one of us would wake up with a horse's head on our pillow in the morning.

The best three dancers of the night came next. Sam and Jenna (Particularly the former) were scintillating with their moves on 'No Diggity'. While George Trebar's camp version of 'Abracadabra' would have brought the house down at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. Becky Scarrott, dramatic 'Year 2000' was a real thriller never to be destined for the pulp fiction shelves.

Chris Southwell

Another George Michael pretender (Chris Southwell) came to the stage but this time with his Andrew Ridgely (Matthew Cox) and we were woken up before the drink took its toll.

George Bone

The biggest surprise of the evening was a man who had morphed into not one man, but five visions of Adonis. He oozed the strutting confidence of Robbie, the musical prowess of Gary, the unbridled sex appeal of Jason, the enigmatic subtlety of Howard and the sensitive caress of Mark.
Take that No.88 Bar he sang, 'Could this be magic?', for me it was. Just like the mild mannered janitor, George 'Badass' Bone, had turned into the Hong Kong Phooey of the Festival of Awfulness.

Leo Appleyard

The Ballon Merde of the Festival must go to Leo Appleyard because of the shear awfulness he brought to his Toploader tune. The hours of practice he must have put in and to unselfishly sacrifice his ample talents for his friend Dan were admirable. It wasn't all his fault though. The crowd had been baying his name like a pack of hunting hounds with a whiff of blood in their nostrils since the start of the evening.

Karen Straw
I was just able to hear the buoyantly bunched Karen Straw before I tried to find my way back into the real world.
Stumbling back through Kingston's bus garage and into a half-consumed can of super strength lager I knew I had arrived.

What will next year's Festival of Awfulness bring us I wonder.
All I know is Dan Redding will be a year older and everyone will be waking up the next morning with sore ribs from laughing (and possibly drinking) too much.

Happy Birthday Dan!


Wednesday 17 April 2013

Nibble on Paul 'Jazzmouse' Fawcus

Paul Jazzmouse Fawcus
Even in my brief spell writing for this blog my descriptive words veer toward the hard edged and combative. Likening trumpets to guns and the musicians themselves to duelling heroes. I am not the first and I'm sure I wont be the last. Last Thursday though the audience at Twickenham Jazz Club (The Bloomsbury, 11/04/2013) saw a different type of performance. This was crisp, understated and very much grown up Jazz.

Ken McCarthy - piano
The Seven musicians on stage were led by the headmaster figure of Ken McCarthy on piano/keys who kept his charges on their toes. In fact he had a surprise test for his boys, the first tune 'Blues for an old new age' was executed in near darkness, they had to remember their lines or it would be five lashes from the Bloomsbury audience. Luckily the light switch was found and like the second tune, Dave Grusin's 'Summer Sketches' electric sunshine radiated out towards us.

Andy Rogers - Trombone
Through out the evening I was particularly captured by one man who defied definition although he was a dream to draw. He had an air both of wildness and domesticity. His nickname is very apt, he is to my knowledge the one and only Jazzmouse in existence, a rare species indeed. Now as you may know Jazz monikers often suggest innuendo or macho connotations, just to Paul's left was a good example, Andy 'Rapid Tongue' Rogers. Jazzmouse is every inch his name, diminutive and scrurrying on his saxophone, you could even see a bright warm face behind the whiskers. He has the greatest stage presence for a rodent since the emergence of Roland Rat in the 1980's and much more musical talent.

Henry Armburg Jennings - Trumpet
It felt more like a Dr Dolittle's menagerie at one point with an excellent version of Herbie Hancock's 'Dolphin Dance' featuring a superb solo by the very human Henry Armburg Jennings. A likeable figure from the exterior he expresses a relaxed air with his sneakered attire and playing.

Elliot Henshaw - drums
Even though Elliot Henshaw was doing his best to be hidden behind a mass of charts his influence was strong on the evening. Crisp and dynamic, it made tunes like Joe Henderson's 'Inner Urge' resonate and propelled the McCarthy penned tune 'Zugzwang' to its inevitable dramatic Check-Mate.

Healthy and educated applause rippled regularly for local favourite Kelvin Christiane despite the crowd being under strength. This made my drawing much easier so I spent some of time drawing the audience. If you ever make it to the club you'll know of two gentlemen who regularly man the door and collect the raffle money at half-time. This Abbot and Costello duo, or Neil and Terry as I learned later, have long been a fixture at the club and it was pleasure to be able to capture them in my sketchbook.

Next I turned my attention to another familiar face. I couldn't quite put my finger on where or when I'd seen him before. He had a remarkable resemblance to a young blonde Leonid Brezhnev so I gave him a friendly Zdravstvuj and hoped for the best. It transpired Max is the go-to extra on London's film circuit, you will have seen him most recently in 'Dancing on the Edge', 'Anna Karenina', 'The Look of Love' and yes, you guessed it he was Brezhnev in 'X-Men First Class'. Na zdorovje!

Lesley Christiane
A crowd sketch wouldn't be complete without two of Twickenham Jazz Club's biggest supporters Lesley Christiane's father and Peter, The Bloomsbury's landlord/Swing Jazz Supremo.

It was a great relief to hear Lesley Christiane back on form with her performance of 'Let there be Love'. For it is Lesley who will be hosting our Jazz Art Exhibition, Concert and Barbeque on Saturday 25th May (2-5pm).
Tasty fare for any Jazzmice out there, Culture, Music and Nibbles.

Come and join us!


Nick Pugh - Bass

Lesley's Father

Friday 12 April 2013

Jonathan Bird - Big Band Bandits

Frankie Connelly
The Grey Horse in Kingston, London is close to many of our hearts but not even the most loving fan could say it was the epicentre of the Jazz world. Last Tuesday (09/04/2013) though it was chosen to be the launching pad for an epic adventure by the Jonathan Bird Big Band.

They waded into murky waters as they cast off their moorings with a strangely faltering tune, the trombones of Jonathan Bird, David Horden, Alison Henry and Edward March working against the tide, desperate to clear the harbour walls and avoid the under-tow.

Tuesday nights at the Grey Horse is a regular hang-out for musicians who are addicted to the Big Band drug. Often the players are thrown together at the last minute, receiving the jazz equivalent of a pirate's black spot, a phone call to deputise. I spoke to Frank Uhl the drummer for the evening, a German raider arriving via Paris' Dante Agostini Drum School, who had been similarly press-ganged. "I got the call last night", he told me "I haven't been in Big Band action for a while. I can't wait to immerse myself once more in the big sound."

Frank Uhl -Drums
Of course there is a regular skeleton crew, these are battle weary individuals, scarred from years of Jonathan Bird voyages. I recognised both strongmen Giles Straw and James Lowe who fired regular trumpet broadsides throughout the evening, peppering the band and audience with their jokes and crisp audio volleys.

Giles Straw - Trumpet
Things got a bit brighter as Richard Luck (keys) and Bob Mckay (Saxophone)steered us clear of the breakwater and into latin waters, taking us on a course through Chick Corea's La Fiesta!

Tonight they had a stowaway aboard, who to everyone's surprise revealed his presence for the third, fourth and Fifth tune of the evening. Frankie Connelly was the vocal interlude that put the wind into the Big Band's sails, raising the speed and enjoyment of the evening.
Cee Lo Green's 'Forget You' was a particularly strong gust!

Jonathan Bird - Trombone
Jonathan Bird took regular visits to the Grey Horse's quarterdeck to direct his charges. New tunes had been arranged and he kept a careful eye on some new recruits, like Daniel Grussell on saxophone.

Bob McKay - Saxophone
There was of course some old salty sea dogs, veterans of the big band genre, like Bob McKay who has the taint of a swashbuckling Captain Birdseye in appearance. He didn't rock the boat in the slightest, even with his TV credentials. The last time I saw McKay was on BBC's Songs Of Praise no less.

The Big Band is like a ship's crew, everyone is an equal, no room for prima donnas here. I spotted the multi-talented Holley Gray in a corner, cramped for room but still dedicated to the cause. Gray's ample eyebrows bobbed up and down as though in rough seas, desperately trying to keep pace with his sight-reading.
Holley Gray - Bass
Again he had cast off his new found celebrity to be here, not only a recent appearance on ITV's This Morning under his belt but an excellent score for the recently aired gritty British urban drama, Zebra Crossing.

Aaron Liddard - Alto
Every pirate crew needs some fancy cutlass action and the saxophones of Aaron Liddard and Piers Green didn't disappoint. To be honest, neither has ever disappointed me when I've seen them live. Green was particularly fluent on Bill Chase's 'Get it On' and unlike his recent appearance at the London Jazz Festival (Bill Mudge Quartet) he kept his muscles firmly under wraps, much to the disappointment of the ladies in the audience.

Piers Green - alto
The fillies were seriously under the spell though of the long lashed Leo Appleyard. I'm sure many a damsels ship has run aground on his shores. Recently I saw a poster on Facebook that warned female attendees at a wedding to watch out for his mesmeric charms.

Leo Appleyard - Guitar
Even though the night came to an end with raucous rendition of the 'Family Guy' theme, this was not the end of the journey. Much of the night's work was in preparation for their imminent voyage to New Delhi where Jonathan Bird will be unleashing his Big Band for the first time on India's shores.

It was hard to imagine some of these pasty individuals transported from the black hole of Kingston to the rampant heat of New Delhi but Bob McKay gave everyone a glimpse into the future. Rising to his feet he announced that this time next week he would be sitting beside the pool in his Speedos with cool drink in hand. The mental image of Captain Birdseye in his budgie smugglers haunted me for my journey home. Let just hope that India is ready for this latest colonial invasion.

Richard Luck - Keys

James Lowe - Trumpet

Andy Gibson - Trumpet

Daniel Grussell - Saxophone

David Horden - Trombone

Graham Minstram - Bari

Edward March - Trombone