Tag: jazz

Autumn Gig Dates Announced

Having started my Masters studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama this month, I have a raft of gig dates to announce in London and Cambridge. I’ll be performing alongside other post-graduate students in a pair of free concerts, as well as with the award-winning big band at the London Jazz Festival and the Vortex Jazz Club. I’ll also be appearing as a guest with EM and Vesperados will be returning to Hot Numbers in Cambridge for another evening of Latin Jazz.

06/10/14, 6pm, FREE – Guildhall Small Band Jazz Evening
17/10/14, 7.30pm, FREE – Guildhall Jazz Band, Milton Court
19/10/14, 3.00pm, £8 – London Jazz Orchestra/Guildhall Jazz Band @ Vortex
07/11/14, 7.30pm, FREE – EM, Cambridge
08/11/14, 11am, £10 – Cambridge Jazz Co-op
17/11/14, 6pm, FREE – Guildhall Small Band Jazz Evening
19/11/14, 7.30pm, £15/10 – Guildhall Jazz Band at the London Jazz Festival
05/12/14, 7.30pm, FREE – Vesperados, Cambridge

Guildhall Small Band Jazz Evening
Monday 6th October, 6pm
Monday 17th November, 6pm
Lecture Recital Room, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Silk Street, London
Performances from groups of postgraduate and final-year jazz students from the Guildhall. Three bands a night for nothing!

Guildhall Jazz Band
Friday 17th October, 7.30pm
Silk Street Music Hall, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Silk Street, London
The year’s first performance from the Guildhall’s award-winning big band.

Sunday 19th October, 3.00pm
Vortex Jazz Club, 11 Gillett Square, London
The Guildhall Jazz Band join top pro big band the London Jazz Orchestra for an afternoon of big band music.

Friday 7th November, 7.30pm
Hot Numbers Coffee, Gwydir Street, Cambridge
Led by pianist/accordionist/composer Dan Ecclestone, this Cambridge-based group plays original music bringing together rock and jazz in a groovy, infectious blend.

Cambridge Jazz Co-operative
Saturday 8th November, 11am-1.30pm
Meadows Community Centre, Cambridge
I will be returning for my third session with the co-op, leading a workshop for amateur jazz musicians exploring ideas and strategies for improvisation.
£10 (members); non members must pay an additional £10 for annual membership.

Guildhall Jazz Band at the London Jazz Festival
Wednesday 19th November, 7.30pm
Milton Court, Silk Street, London
The Guildhall’s big band performs as part of the world-class London Jazz Festival.

Vesperados at Hot Numbers
Friday 5th December, 7.30pm
Hot Numbers Coffee, Gwydir Street, Cambridge
My band Vesperados return to Hot Numbers in a new format for an evening of Latin-influenced music.

Vesperados Recording

Last Saturday, Vesperados headed down to the Performing Arts Technology Studios in Guildford to finally spend some time in the studio recording properly, nearly 18 months since we started playing together!  With plenty of recent gigs in the bag, the tunes we were sounding pretty tight and ready to put some of our original tunes on record.

I’d been to the studios before, to record Churchill Jazz Band in 2011, and had been really pleased with the results.  Click here to jump back and hear them again, including my arrangement of Chameleon.

Our engineer for the session was Joachim Fainberg, assisted ably by Will Gray.  Arriving on a sodden morning after battling through bank holiday M25 traffic, our lives were immediately made easier by their preparedness and smiling welcome.  With the mics already set up, we just needed to get our instruments in place and set a few levels before we could start cutting tracks.  Since Derek and George were a little behind Alex and myself in arriving, we managed to put a take of my duo arrangement of Billy Strayhorn’s beautiful ballad Lush Life in the can before they arrived – an added bonus.

We spent the period before lunch getting original swing tunes Dotty One [these links are to older live recordings] and Champion of the World down, followed after the break by the Latin- and Eastern-influenced Ave de Paso, Everywhere is East, and Mi Querido.  Mixing and mastering is taking place in June, so keep an eye out on the band’s Facebook page or Twitter feed for news and the release!

Vesperados March Gigs


VesperadosYou’ve got not one, not two but three chances to see my band Vesperados perform in Cambridge this month, all for next to nothing!  Here are the details:

Sun 2nd March, 13:15-14:00, Fitzwilliam Museum – free, but limited spaces so arrive early

Saturday 8th March, c.21:00-22:30, Clare Cellars (Clare Jazz) – £3 before 21:30; £4 thereafter (music likely to actually start c.21:30)

Friday 21st March, 19:30-22:00, Hot Numbers, Gwydir Street – pay what you want, but limited spaces so arrive early

Vesperados is an acoustic jazz quartet fusing inspirations from the sophisticated Cool jazz of the 1950s, classical chamber music and a strong Latin American vibe.  All our material is composed or arranged by members of the group, with the majority coming from me.  We’re not your average jazz quartet playing standards!  If you haven’t heard the group already, why not check out the samples on our Soundcloud page?  Keep up to date with all Vesperados performances at our Reverbnation page too!

Gig with Liane Carroll

Wow.  That was amazing.  Last Friday (31st January 2014) I had the privilege to lead Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra (CUJO) in a performance with multi award-winning jazz vocalist Liane Carroll at West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge.  The house was packed, Liane was incredible and we got a standing ovation!

Credit: Johannes Hjorth.
Credit: Johannes Hjorth.

My co-director Chris McMurran and I had first thought to invite Liane to guest with us back in August of 2013, as we prepared for a new year of CUJO.  Every year, CUJO works with one top UK jazz musician for a special gig at West Road in January/February.  Previously we’ve had the likes of bassist Laurence Cottle (see previous posts here and here), Stan Sulzmann (sax), Gareth Lockrane (flute) and Steve Waterman (trumpet), so inviting a vocalist was a departure for us, but one which really paid off!  As well as her immense abilities as a vocal performer and improviser, Liane brought her skill as an entertainer, her sense of humour and her great energy, to everyone’s great delight, not least the band!  We were also able to perform pieces written by her, or in versions she has recorded, arranged for big band by Malcolm Edmonstone, Jorg Achim Keller, myself and Chris.

Credit: Johannes Hjorth
Credit: Johannes Hjorth

The gig was packed with memorable moments, from the funny to the tender.  Highlights for me included hearing my brand new arrangement of Liane’s beautiful composition “Dublin Morning” performed live for the first time, witnessing a concert hall full of people sing Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” and playing an impromptu duet version of “My Funny Valentine” with Liane.  Not to mention Ben Jones’ (alto sax) comedy entrance, Liane’s jokes and taking pictures on stage, some fantastic soloing from members of CUJO…  All in all it’s an experience that will linger long in my memory.

So thanks to everyone who came to see the concert (especially as the weather was horrible), to CUJO for playing their hearts out and to Liane for being an inspiration and a pleasure to work with.  I’ll leave you with a few more excellent shots by Johannes Hjorth.



Performing with Liane Carroll this Friday

Liane Carroll with Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra
Friday 31st January, 7.30pm
West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge CB3 9DP

Tickets £14 (full) / £6 (students, with ID, and under 18s) available from ADC Ticketing: http://www.adcticketing.com/whats-on/concert/liane-carroll-cambridge-university-jazz-orchestra or 01223 300085.

This Friday I will be directing CUJO in a performance with multiple award-winning jazz vocalist Liane Carroll.  We’ll be playing mainly songs she has written or covered on one of her many albums, plus a few classics old and new from our repertoire.  There’ll be two brand new arrangements by me, including this beautiful composition by Liane:

Other charts have come from my co-director Chris McMurran, the BBC Big Band, and Malcolm Edmonstone (pianist and arranger for the Strictly Come Dancing band for three series)!

Of course the main attraction will be Liane, who has won not one but two BBC Jazz Awards, the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Award, two Parlimentary Jazz Awards and the Marston Pedigree Best Vocalist Award.  She has been recording and releasing albums since 1990 and along the way has garned high praise such as:

“Deeply soulful, wonderfully honest” The Times

“Some musicians are talented, some brilliant and a few just seem to be made out of music. Liane Carroll is one of these.” Dave Gelly, The Guardian

“The real thing.” Sholto Byrnes, Independent on Sunday

“Utterly brilliant.” Time Out

If all of that still hasn’t convinced you, check out this duet version of Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend with Ian Shaw from the 2006 Brecon Jazz Festival:

Tickets have been selling well but there should be some left on the door, but arrive early so as not to miss out!  Here are all the details of the concert including how to book:

Liane Carroll with Cambridge University Jazz Orchestra
Friday 31st January, 7.30pm
West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge CB3 9DP

Tickets £14 (full) / £6 (students, with ID, and under 18s) available from ADC Ticketing: http://www.adcticketing.com/whats-on/concert/liane-carroll-cambridge-university-jazz-orchestra or 01223 300085.

University of the 3rd Age: live jazz demonstration

L-R Simon, Derek, Joel and James
L-R Simon, Derek, Joel and James (that’d be me)

Today I had the pleasure of giving a live demonstration of small band jazz to the jazz appreciation class of the Cambridge branch of the University of the 3rd Age.  For those of you who aren’t aware of it, U3A is a nationwide organisation in which groups of retired and semi-retired people get together for the purpose of learning for learning’s sake – what a wonderful thing!  I was invited by Alan from the Cambridge branch after he came to Vesperados’ Hot Numbers gig back in April 2013 and although the V chaps were not all able to make it, Derek Scurll (drums) was, and I also invited Joel Humann (bass) and Simon Warder (sax) to join me.  We were welcomed by a group of about 40 people eager and waiting to hear some live jazz.


I decided that the best thing we could do for the group was to present a whistle-stop tour through the standards repertoire, trying to cover as much jazz history as we could squeeze into an hour and a quarter.  Picking this list was tricky, as I had to leave out many periods, composers and styles I would otherwise liked to have included.  However I eventually settled on the following tunes:

  • Four (Miles Davis) – as an introduction.
  • All The Things You Are (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II) – as an example of a Tin Pan Alley song which forms the backbone of the standards repertoire.
  • Anthropology (Charlie Parker/Dizzy Gillespie) – as an example of a ‘rhythm changes’ tune (one written on the chord sequence of Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm) and as an example of bebop.
  • Now’s The Time (Charlie Parker) – as an example of the blues in jazz.
  • Chelsea Bridge (Billy Strayhorn) – as an example of Ellingtonia (the music associated with Duke Ellington) and an example of a jazz ballad.
  • I Mean You (Thelonius Monk) – as an example of the characteristic music of Monk.
  • I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (Billy Taylor) – as an example of Soul Jazz and the gospel influence in jazz in the 1960s.
  • Meditation (Antonio Carlos Jobim and Newton Mendonça) – as an example of Latin jazz/the bossa nova craze.
  • Adam’s Apple (Wayne Shorter) – as an example of the compositions of Wayne Shorter and of stripped-down, modal-influenced jazz.
  • 500 Miles High (Chick Corea) – as a (very small!) example of jazz-fusion.
  • Strasbourg/St. Denis (Roy Hargrove) – as an example of a modern-day standard.
Real Books Galore
Real Books Galore

Of course this list is wholly inadequate as a real overview of jazz history – for one thing it’s almost completely America-centric, and only contains two tunes written after 1970.  Talking with Simon after the demonstration, I reflected that what this list really is is a survey of the (Hal Leonard) Real Book, which leans very heavily towards both America and pre-1970s tunes.  I wondered how much this has and continues to shape our view of jazz history and ‘standard’ repertoire.  Surely as perhaps the majority of budding jazz musicians these days use books like these to get into and play the repertoire they are very influential in the kind of tunes, composers and styles that these musicians check out?  It was necessary due to time/instrumentation/rehearsal restraints (i.e. no rehearsal!) for this gig to stick to the basic shared repertoire but I’d be interested to try and produce an ‘overview’ list some time which was not constrained to Real Book tunes.  I wonder what else would make it in?

Simon Cookin'
Simon Cookin’

Anyway, I certainly enjoyed the session and I hope the U3A group did as well.  Alan was kind enough to take the photos which I’ve shared through this post.  For anyone reading this interested in finding out more about the U3A and its work, I suggest you try their website.

Off Centre Collective: a new night for creative jazz in Cambridge

OCC PosterSome months back my friend Dan Ecclestone, frustrated by the lack of opportunities for local jazz musicians to play original music (as opposed to standards and old repertoire) outside of a couple of good but infrequent student-led nights, came up with the concept of the Off Centre Collective, a group of local creative jazz-based bands who could perform on a semi-regular basis in Cambridge.  Fast forward to today and we’re eagerly anticipating the first OCC event which is taking place next Wednesday 6 November with my quartet Vesperados and Dan’s band EM.

The event will be at St Philip’s Church on Mill Road, which has recently been completely refurbished with a quality PA system, video projection and more put in.  As a result, it looks like being a cracking medium-sized music venue (i.e. not a drafty pew-filled church).Doors are at 19:00 with the Vesperados kicking off at 19:30, followed by a short break then EM to close the night, finishing at about 22:00.  Entry is £5 on the door and we’re having a BYOB policy.  There’s a lovely cafe area in which to have a drink and a nibble in the break and we’re happy for people to sip through the music too.

Both our groups will be showcasing our original material.  For Vesperados that means a heady mix of Latin American rhythms, cool, sophisticated dialogue between trumpet and sax and plaintive melodies.  EM will be bringing their brand of film soundtrack-influenced prog-jazz and are packing a string section to boot.

For the Facebook-types among you, see here for the event page.  Hope to see a good crowd in as the future of the night depends on this being a success!

Guildhall Advanced Jazz Summer School

GSMD Jazz Summer School
Proud ownership!

I’ve just attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s intensive two-day Advanced Jazz course .  Along with about 25 others, I benefited from tutoring with GSMD jazz professors Carlos Lopez-Real, Malcolm Edmonstone and Malcolm Miles, learning a great deal along the way.  At £195 it had the potential to be a rather expensive jam but I really felt like I got a lot of value from the experience and the feeling of the other musicians (who ranged from relatively green teenagers to fairly experienced adult amateurs and semi-pros) seemed to be the same and we all had a great time playing together.  Each day began at 10am and didn’t end until 10pm, so I really felt like I was getting my money’s worth!

After an initial blow over some blues as a whole group, we were split into 3 combos based on ability, and we then worked in these combos for the rest of the course.  My combo was tutored by Carlos Lopez-Real, an alto saxophonist and head of the Contemporary Jazz course at the Guildhall. Carlos introduced us to some great tunes which were mostly unknown to the group but likely to find their way into some set lists soon!  These were:

El Gaucho – Wayne Shorter

Falling Grace – Steve Swallow

Wights Waits for Weights – Steve Coleman

Song for Bilbao – Pat Metheney

Joy – Bheki Mseleku

Friday Night at the Cadillac Club – Bob Berg

Other groups looked at other tunes and after an informal jam on the first night (including a killing rendition of What is this thing called love? from Malcolm Edmonstone, Carlos and GSMD students Gili and David) we all performed our sets for one another and an audience of friends and guests on the final night in the music room of Sundial Court, which appears to be the main student bar of the GSMD.

Interspersed with the combo sessions were ‘skills sessions’, one with each tutor.  Carlos really stretched us with rhythmic challenges (something I had a lot of trouble with!), Malcolm Miles took us through about nine different ways to play over a one-chord vamp and Malcolm Edmonstone gave us an amazing insight into using pairs of triads as a basis for improvisation, laying it all out in by far the clearest way I’ve ever encountered.  I feel like in two days I’ve learned about enough things to practice for months or even years to come!  There were a couple of current or former GSMD students filling out gaps in rhythm sections (one per combo) and from talking to them it appeared that the content of our course was not that dissimilar from actual classes at the conservatoire.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this course to anyone who’s gained a basic grasp of jazz improvisation and harmony (especially that you’re confident in your major and minor modes, can read most changes and follow forms).  For those still relatively new to jazz the GSMD also do a week-long introductory course earlier in the summer.

Vesperados public debut coming soon!

(c) Sarah Allbrook
(c) Sarah Allbrook

Vesperados, my newish jazz quartet (listen here), will make its public debut this month at Hot Numbers Coffee in Cambridge, and entry is free!  Although we’ve played several private engagements so far, including one attended by HRH Prince Charles, we’ve yet to perform in public.  The intimate but relaxed atmosphere of Hot Numbers should give us a chance to test out our material and get instant reaction from a hopefully appreciative audience.  There might not be too many more chances to see us for free so do come along to listen!  The coffee is also superb (really superb), but if you fancy a tipple that’ll also be available.

You can find details of the gig on the Hot Numbers website, but if you plan on coming down do show your support by clicking ‘attend’ on our Facebook event.

One last thing – a basket will get passed around at some point during the evening.  Should you be moved to drop something in, that’ll go straight to the band – there’s no venue cut!