Monday, 29 July 2013

Melissa James - Gallery in a Gig

Melissa James
Life imitating art or vice versa, you take your pick. Either way this was an offer I couldn't refuse.
If you find yourself in an Art Gallery that served wine, surrounded by beautiful pictures of birds, musical script and amongst friends you're virtually guaranteed a good time. Add the potent ingredient of Melissa James and it could almost be a fool proof hit.

Ross Lorraine - Keys
We all have a self destruct button though. Last Thursday (24/07/2013) I was the guest of gig addicts Dr and Mrs Fizzy alongside their classy chaperone Sarah Hadland. Despite everything panning out perfectly in the sweet evening air of Bethnal Green that said button was pressed. Wine went flying, glass after glass hitting the Café floor but everything calmed with Melissa James' opening gambit. Aptly titled 'Don't You Keep Yourself Down' (Free download Here) it stopped our reckless behaviour and reduced the imbibing rate just in time.

Giorgos Paphitis - guitar
Supporting the charity Small Steps Project this was the first in a series of gigs in Galleries across London. A tour that suits two of my strongest passions but what impressed me most of was the lightness of sound and sentiment from Melissa James herself. It would be easily to overcook the theme particularly in this café environment too. Like her songs James has a beautiful lingering sound that lives with you well after the event itself. Connoisseur Dr Fizzy explained to me that James is his bedtime choice...' a voice that lifts me into the arms of Orpheus'.

Rowland Sutherland - Flute
Melissa James was joined on the warm lit stage of the Café Gallery by Giorgos Paphitis (Guitar), Ross Lorraine (Keys) and Rowland Sutherland (Flute). It was particularly the entry of the latter for 'Precious Time' that lifted our eyes to the skylight above. We saw the birds hanging high in London's hazy blue and we escaped the capital's clayed feet. Not for long! Enticing us back into her embrace we submersed ourselves in 'Old Mother London' once again. A haunting song, co-written with Tom Robinson, we hope they will perform it together for their final Gig in a Gallery event at The Queen of Hoxton on the 30th October 2013.

Kaz Simmons
London spilled in around us on this eve and our support singer, Kaz Simmons, danced barefoot with her too. Inspired by the radio station London 94.9, she treated us to the wonderful self penned 'For the Love of the Big L' and if by magic a siren from the Old Ford Road elbowed itself into the venue and joined in the celebration.  Adding a little Brazilian spice to the evening Simmons said her farewells with 'Teco-Teco' and we stopped ourselves from dancing amongst the cafe's tables with difficulty. There was a huge sigh of relief from the waitress though, not because of the sheer embarrassment of mine and Dr Fizzy's imminent gyrating but because she didn't want to mop up another bottle of wine from the floor.

Check out Melissa James' GIG IN A GALLERY tour here and her beautiful flowing songs at her website -


Sunday, 28 July 2013

TW12 Jazz Festival - Day Pass Believer

Janet McCunn - Singer
Way back in the Nineteen Nineties Hampton Hill was visited by the eminent critic Jonathan Meades, who wrote a review that waxed lyrical about this quiet town's Number 1 restaurant. He pompously assumed this corner of South West London and its inhabitants were not worthy of the classy eatery in its midst. Many before and after have made the same lazy assumption, with even the local politicians campaigning to wipe it off the map and encouraging its consumption by larger neighbour Hampton.

Angie Tabbiner - Singer
You would have to be made of brave stuff therefore to stick your head above the suburban parapet and organise a cultural event, plum in the centre of Hampton Hill. Against the odds Janet McCunn and Terence Collie were the two hardy souls that had both the heart and stamina to do just that. Last Sunday (28/07/2013) saw the birth of the inaugural TW12 Jazz Festival at the Hampton Hill Playhouse. It was a roaring success, supported by local culturalites and Jazz lovers from further afield.

Wendy Linsey - Singer

Split into two marathon sessions, there were three choices available to the audience, a daytime pass, a evening pass or an all-dayer! Decisions were necessary from yours truly and I plumped for the daylight hours at an attractive £10. I knew that I still wouldn't be able to sketch from 11.30am to 6.30am continuously so I had to make some hard choices.

RYJB - Ella Davies

Apologies first and foremost, I'm afraid that I didn't sketch Charles Alexander and Andy Robinson. Despite this brief tea break I sketched every other daytime performer (except Meredith White, who's hair shielded her face & Tansay Omar) and include all 26 here in this blog entry. Understandably you'll have to excuse the briefness and quality of some drawings because it really was an action packed session.

The community has a musical bent and its beating heart is Richmond Music Trust so it was fitting that the festival kicked off with a set by the Richmond Youth Jazz Band in the theatre's foyer bar.
RYJB - Gavin Sandford
Notable solos from Ella Davies & William Jackson on 'Honeysuckle Rose', David Bustos on a grooving 'Mercy Mercy Mercy'. We were treated to a gutsy solo from Gavin Sandford on 'Lady is a tramp'. Unfortunately I couldn't see the quality bass work on their finale 'I'm feeling good' but I sure heard it loud and clear.

RYJB - William Jackson
The venue was a delight throughout with tight technical sound by Surrey Audio Solutions' Leo Appleyard and Jonathan Bird (of Big Band fame). The acoustics and lighting in the theatre were spot on and we enjoyed  a clear and uninterrupted view of the performers. Throughout the morning session the stalls ebbed from 50% to 90% full, and then overflowing with the arrival of the Max Luthert fan club for Partikel's set.

Paul Cavaciuti - drums
Our first taste of original music was from the Meredith White Trio with the shy White on piano, Paul Cavaciuti seated at the prominent drums and standing beneath the blue backdrop Dave Jones on Bass.

Dave Jones - Bass
It was pleasure to launch straight into White's 'Dunedin' and later to be propelled along by her 'Schwinger', the later being my favourite of the set. It was a brief introduction to the trio and those who were tardy only caught the final tune, Carole King's 'It's too late'. There was a healthy amount of toing and froing over the sessions and the audience quickly decided whether each group would get their emperorised thumb.

Gary Bartlett - Singer
A healthy band of vociferous vocal acolytes invaded the auditorium for the next set, for it was the Queen Bee who took to the stage. Janet McCunn is one of the doers of the local scene, buzzing around with limitless energy and charm. Here she fronted a showcase for 4 local singers, Gary Bartlett, Wendy Linsey, Angie Tabbiner and Mark Nesbitt.

Maureen Hardman - Saxophone
Janet started proceeding amongst a skilful quartet of musicians. Nick Cooper excelled
on piano whilst Maureen Hardman kept us upbeat as her sneakered toes jumped to the rhythm. From the shadows emerged Marianne Windham (Bass) and Dan Allsopp (drums) to support the more inexperienced vocalisers.

Dan Allsopp - drums
Allsopp was fascinating to watch, in repose he cuts a quiet and still figure, but once in motion he vibrates from head to toe like a runaway pneumatic drill.

Marriane Windham
- Bass
Gary Bartlett sang 'But not for me' ably but felt more comfortable in the swagger of 'I keep going back to Joe's' where his manliness gave him a presence beyond his mesmeric hair.

Wendy Linsey was smooth and strong when she took her turn in the TW12 spotlight. This is not the first time I have seen her in action (see Festival Of Awfulness)  and once again she impressed with 'Devil May Care'. Her svelte appearance belying a much large voice and a talent with longevity.

Mark Nesbitt - Singer
Mark Nesbitt let nerves run away with him a little and I bet he had more beneath his belt than we saw from this prowling lion. Despite being in perpetual motion I still enjoyed his rendition of 'Love Me or Leave Me' with its superb support by Nick Cooper on piano.

Robin Banerjee - Guitar
The toast of this showcase went to the magnetic Angie Tabbiner and her big voice. With flaming locks I wanted to be burned by this woman and her first tune 'Caravan' suited my desires. Forgetting I was in possession of a day pass I lay on the desert sands with her and gazed at her hypnotic stars.

Jean Berthon - Bass
I needed some air after this performance and took time out but returned in full fitness for the Motif Quartet's set. I was glad to have had a breather because this was the liveliest part of the day's offerings. The exuberant Robin Banerjee headed the funky foursome, kicking off with a ripping 'Sunny' proceeded by the poignant 'Ode to Amy'. A song dedicated to his friend, Amy Winehouse, who died so tragically in 2011.

Marta Capponi
The tunes composed by the bassist Jean Berthon were the high points of their set with equal impressive solos and support by Dom Pipkin on keys. Two tunes, two crackers!

Marta Capponi added some spice and feminine zeal with her appearance and we drunk deeply from her enthusiasm on 'Honeysuckle Rose' and pogoing 'Summertime'. Bouncing uncontrollably we sated our physical appetite before the main course of the daytime buffet, Partikel.

Max Luther - Bass
The cerebral trio, Partikel, have featured on several occasions recently in this blog. So I will not go over old ground, turning over the clods of their fertile talent. It seemed that Luthert once again lit the blue touch paper in front of a large fan club and was cheered during 'Assam' and its decent into 'Midnight Mass'.

Eric Ford - Drums
Eric Ford, hidden behind his drums, enjoyed himself. Not content with his new percussive toys he even beat his chest on the intro to 'The Landing', while Luthert's discord set up Duncan Eagles' emotive saxophone, fast paced, it hurtled toward its destination. Luckily the twinkling lights in Eagles cockpit brough him to his senses and we calmly cruised to a stop.

Duncan Eagles -
Soprano Sax
Eagles work on the Soprano Saxophone stood proud on one of the Trio's signature tunes 'Market Place'. Now a distant memory it harks back to the callers and barrowmen they once lived amongst. I was exhausted by the time I packed up my stall, knowing I wouldn't last the evening session I bid my farewells. It will not be a goodbye to the TW12 Jazz Festival though, I suspect under Janet McCunn and Terence Collie guidance there will be many more to come.

The reports of the evening session with Jason Rebello were very favourable and a with a packed house we must be optimistic about the future for Jazz in TW12. The discerning burghers of Hampton Hill don't need a critic to tell them what's worth experiencing, they know a good thing when they hear it!


Dom Pipkin - Keys

Nick Cooper - piano

RYJB - Matthew Cook

Roger Perrin - Keys

RYJB - David Bustos

RYJB - Connor Lynch

RYJB - Charlie Hayles

Monday, 22 July 2013

Liz Fletcher - Sultry Nights and Day

Liz Fletcher
We have topical gigs, concerts which capture the pain of mass uprising through protests and those that are quite simply the zeitgeist. Last Thursday (18/07/2013) at Twickenham Jazz Club we experienced the voice that unequivocally represents the meteorological spirit of the summer of 2013.

Twickenham, despite been surrounded by lush parks and rivers is still very much a suburb and like all sprawling conurbations simmers like a pressure cooker on these hot days. We are of course in the middle of a heat wave and we have our techniques for cooling down. Some dip their toes in paddling pools or frolic under garden hoses to take the edge of the rising temperatures. The last place you would think of going would be a Jazz Club, and to our organiser's, owner's and performer's credit, this is exactly where a packed crowd congregated on this evening.

As Liz Fletcher took to the stage, the sleek lines of her dress raised a few eyebrows as did her opening statement "I'm coming out of my top!" but it was her singing that enriched our evening. From toe to top, from beginning to end, her performance didn't pazazz us with vocal or gestural gymnastics but with a classic case of luring and exploiting her rapport with the audience. Even so it took us a few tunes to settle down and to let the cool breeze from far off Crane Park to waft past the ankles of the Twickenham Jazz Club minders Terry and Neil, who guarded The Bloomsbury's open doors.

Jim Mullen - Guitar
The TJC is at its most vociferous when blessed with both quality singers and guitarists and tonight the audience weren't disappointed. As an in-demand musician worldwide it was privilege to see Jim Mullen in our corner of South West London once again. Just returned from a Japanese tour with Incognito he regaled us with stories of working with the charming Terry Callier and his most recent gig in a Dining Tram that hurtled through the streets of Rome. Here, as in Italy, there were plenty of late night eaters and drinkers but I have never heard the kitchens and staff so quiet. The most pin-droppable moment being the trios' 'My Funny Valentine' which featured the bowing of Ben Hazelton on bass. Let us not gloss over the presence of Mullen too quickly because he was on magnificent form, excelling on Romberg and Hammerstein's 'Softly as in a Morning Sunrise'.

On a professional basis I was fully briefed on tonight's bassist, Ben Hazelton. Recently I have been working on the artwork for Bethany Jameson's Cabaret Verite and Hazelton is an essential ingredient of their joie de vivre. Maybe it is this that makes you think Hazelton has miraculously appeared from another era. I often imagine that he has just stepped forth from Edward Hopper's 1942 painting Nighthawks, with his hat and lean stubbled cheeks, he cuts quite a figure.
Both a pleasure to draw and listen too, especially on the afore mentioned Rogers and Hart tune.

Ben Hazelton - Bass
The night's mistress was Liz Fletcher, and despite the degrees descending a little as we headed closer to midnight she kept the audience piqued with her sultry voice. Taking a request from TJC favourite Max Macson, Fletcher sang Cole Porter's 'Night and Day' with a latin twist. The raised beats of our hearts coincided with a thumping rhythm as Hazelton pumped the body of his bass.

It goes without saying that Liz Fletcher represents the heat of the night rather than that of the day. On such a hot and memorable night we wondered how we could abate our boiling passions and excitement without it ending in either embarrassment or exhaustion. A brief thought of skinny-dipping in the Crane River passed through my mind on the way home but luckily sanity returned just in time.


Although that is the last in this summer's Twickenham Jazz Club reviews please keep an eye out for the FORCE open day in Kneller Gardens on the 15th September with a Jazz/Soul Band from Kingston University performing.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Jazz Art Review - Tasting my own medecine

Twickenham Jazz Club
As this blog revolves around a subjective response to music rather than an objective one you may well be sick of my patter. Though in this case my artwork has a legitimate footing to be clinging to these cultural online pages. On 25th May I was lucky enough to exhibit my work at the Twickenham Jazz Club and here is a review of it from Mr Rich Rainlore from Rainlore's World.

Read the review here.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Duckworth Lewis Method & Billy Cooper

Neil Hannon
My dear old thing.

On a blue sky day, while the tiny urn is being used as a Lilliputian prop by the captains of England (& Wales) and Australia to motivate their Ashes heroes the unfortunate troops at Trent Bridge today will be missing their musical talisman.
Billy Cooper, the Barmy Army's trumpeter,  has been banned by officials at the Nottinghamshire ground and the terraces will be silent.

Billy Cooper
Fear not. Between the superior ramblings of our beloved Test Match Special pundits you can still hear Cooper's motivational call in your headphones by listening to Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh's latest album 'Sticky Wickets' whilst on the terraces today. Without any chance of rain across the country this will be the only Duckworth Lewis Method in operation and one with much more cheek than the dry but essential system of deciding curtailed cricket matches.

Simon Little - Bass
Just two nights ago (08/07/2013) I was lucky enough to sketch this caricaturistic 6 piece outfit in all their finery, complete with moustachioed groupies at Lords Cricket Ground. A chance to sample their new material and a few favourites from their debut album at the home of cricket. Now you must know Duckworth Lewis Method's material is heavy influenced by the gentleman's game and like the game itself a mixture of tradition and charming intricacies.

Thomas Walsh
Lyricist Neil Hannon looked every bit at home in these surrounding, potted palms cast striped shadows across his attire. The only blots on the colonial landscape being the giant photos of Michael Atherton and Alec Stewart peeping through the foliage. Hannon is a Tufnellesque figure, the slim physique, the slight redness around the lower lid of the eye and penchant for good living.

Tosh Flood
Thomas Walsh is the perfect partner to Hannon with an air of Bumble about him. No, not David 'Bumble' Lloyd who appears on the second album but the Dickensian poorhouse beadle from Oliver Twist. An impressive figure who actually carries the audiences' focus and humour on his sturdy shoulders whilst Hannon is squirreled away at his keyboard.

It is easy to be swept away by the lyrics of this intelligent group but it was the musicality and undercurrents of sentiment that caught me at deep-backward-square rather than tickle my silly-mid-off. Tosh Flood played beautifully on 'The Nightwatchman', a lament for the last man standing, and they play it as though we watched a man on the battlements rather than at the crease. 'Out in the middle' tugs your heart with its floating 1970's melodies and 'Line and Length' were both 'jaffers', the latter was a chance for Hannon to rise above us once again on guitar.

DLM fans Lol and Emma Dyer
I was taken aback that it was the music rather than the lyrics that effected me most, even though I am a man who is eagerly lapping up every word of Aggers, Maxwell, Vaughan and Blowers on the radio this very day on TMS. I know it is this wordplay that attracts many in the crowd to support the Duckworth Lewis Method, they love that cricket has complex rules, idiosyncrasies and complexities, it makes them feel members of the club more than an any 'egg and bacon' tie. Don't forget the music though, it's got the Trent Bridge officials running scared, why else would they ban the innocent trumpet from England's green and pleasant land.


Saturday, 6 July 2013

Tommaso Starace - Tender is the Night

Tommaso Starace -
Alto Saxophone
With an intense screwed up face Tomasso Starace wooed us with his tenderness last Thursday (04/07/2013) at the Twickenham Jazz Club. After waiting months to shed Spring's dark clouds the night felt plump and heavy with latent promise. On the eve of the Wimbledon finals and with the smell of cut grass after the first summer sheerings you could quite accurately say we were waiting for something to happen. Yet we teetered on the edge of indifference.

Kelvin Christiane -
Maybe we were the worst sort of audience, a little understrength and occupied with the sensual night outside on the suburban streets. To his credit despite a shaky start, Tommaso Starace didn't despair or cast us aside as lost causes. Lets face it he wasn't going to get in our knickers like Gilad Atzmon the week before, his was a more subtle approach, like the suitor who charms you by having tea with you granny. It is always underrated how far you can get with the power of politeness and attentiveness. Well if you didn't already know you can go straight to the heart.

Chris Nickolls - drums
I don't want you to think Starace is an exponent of limp wristed attrition, his playing was direct not dominating, and fluid not fervent. Again I undersell this charming man, and I have to admit that not only did I underestimate him but his band too. None more so than Chris Nickolls his drummer who I have drawn for many years now. Over this period it has taken some time to appreciate his art but I do believe this is not all my fault. Despite our paths crossing regularly he remains a intensely private man and what little titbits of information he feeds me I gobble up with enthusiasm.

Andy Rock - Jazz Advisor
I do know Nickolls has been working tirelessly with both TJ Johnson and Ola Onabule recently. He's got those deep dark eyes on The Ealing Jazz Festival later this month and The London Jazz Festival further afield. He's part of the mysterious Mark Perry Experiment that has had such a long gestation period for their debut album that the baby, once born, will be a giant! Their CD, Road Ahead, will see its first outing at the LJF itself, featuring no less talents than Gareth Lockrane, Ola Onabule, Sam Leak, Duncan Eagles and Max Luthert. While I was fussing and knotting my brow over our drummer, Andy Rock, our PRS representative simply said " Sharp, driven and propulsive!" Here's a man I listen to, he has better ears than me, in fact he's in the process of applying to be the Jazz Advisor to the PRS Foundation no less.

Roger Beaujolais -
It wasn't just Starace that was courting us this evening but it was he who made the first assault.  His renditions of Michel Petrucciani's 'Looking Up' and 'Brazillian Like' were fast and airy. When he blows hard it is his knees that are the barometer, all musicians have their idiosyncrasies, and it is his 'biscuits' that weave from side to side like a slalom skiers when he's in the flow, or knock one another like two flints eager to ignite. His spark did in fact catch in our unreceptive tinder and we caught alight.

Shane Alessio - Bass
The man who added the oxygen to the night's fire was Roger Beaujolais whose light melodies and rhythm only added to the air of Mediterranean freedom. I must admit when an audience member, who shall remain nameless, shouted "It's Mr Pastry" I was a total blank. I've since found out who Mr Pastry was and I can confirm that Beaujolais has little in common with the bumbling comic. His movement and dexterity was a joy to watch and I wasn't the only person spellbound with his physicality during Horace Silver's 'Nica's Dream'.

Tommaso (left) and Christiane (right)
A new bassist to me, Shane Alessio more than played his part, he was inventive on 'In A Sentimental Mood', throwing in edgy abrasive and distress strokes amongst his fluent swoops. A spicy mix. Lesley Christiane introduced the second set with 'The More I See You' in customary style and her husband Kelvin shone when he took to the stage. His girdle has made all the difference and he was comfortable and expressive on 'Donna Lee' and 'Some Day My Prince Will Come'. 

It was an exchange on the later tune that strongly affected my mood and I believe epitomises the spirit of the evening. Christiane upon finishing his solo took a breather and the hand of Tommaso reached out to him, a sign of affection and admiration, the younger man touched his shoulder. You rarely see Jazzmen touch each other, maybe it is not the done thing, but this sign of tenderness made my knees buckle like the afore mentioned slalomer.  

I was obviously not the only one swept away by the performance of Tommaso Starace and his group, the crowd at the Twickenham Jazz Club stood on their feet and applauded unreservedly upon the finale. We reached out to him in our humble way because his music had touched us with its tender grasp.