It's all very quiet. I've finally stopped jogging up and down to London: the stream of gigs has ceased; and now the preparation for January begins, albeit slowly.
I can't really complain about the autumn though, it's the busiest I've ever been. If I think back to September with the Argentum gig at Wirksworth... this was a tough one. I'm not sure everyone had time to learn the new stuff, but we created a lovely sound on the night, with my buddy Josh Blackmore playing some seriously cool stuff. He's sounding so good right now. The audience were lovely and we got treated extremely well!
I think some other things happened [including the filming for the Sony ad], but I next remember doing a gig and workshop with Orphy in Wotton-under-Edge. Katie Elliott and Martin Harvey have a great educational project running there, encouraging children and adults to branch out into the wide world of music. Orphy and I ran an improv/conducting workshop, then after a lovely meal we did the duo, this time using a piano and a drum kit as well as the car-load of stuff. I took the dulcimer and the Old Unreliable, and nothing went wrong.
The week after that I was performing at the Stratford–Upon-Avon Music Festival, with Luis D'Agostino. Roy's done a great job of keeping jazz at the White Swan after the passing of Pete Rouse, and the fact that there has been jazz running there for so long, all paid for by raffle with a solid, committed and listening audience is amazing [but something completely overlooked by, say, JazzUK]. I was slightly disgruntled that the management had removed real ale from its roster of drinks, but was serviced quite happily with the wine. It was packed and as usual there, I had a great time. With any luck, it won't be another four years until I play there again!
There was a moment of silence and calm: and then My New Year started with the London trips. All sorts of things transpired that meant I missed rehearsals for pretty much everything I was in for the London Jazz Festival, and I decided to head back home after each gig.
The first thing was the first performance of Orphy's Routes Through Roots piece, in Enfield. It had been a long time since I'd seen Pat Thomas and we quickly caught up; then we all started. HKB FiNN's words were entirely on point and beautifully delivered, and Richard Anthony Davis' voice was glorious. Pat, Orphy and I were all over everything sound-wise. We had a ball and produced a powerful, concentrated statement on the "celebration of the abolition" for the audience to dwell on...
We then did it all again, but louder at the new South Bank Ballroom. It's not a great space to play in, especially for a piece like that where there are all sorts of messages to take in; but we still got our points across. I think it helped that someone thought that programming a hip-hop dance group before a full-on improv set would be a good idea...
That was Friday. Saturday was a strangely-organised workshop at the Barbican [about which I really can't say more than that; it was that strange], and the Argentum set on the Free Stage. Orphy had kindly lent me his vibes so there was no lugging of stuff this time. Robert, Deborah and I were joined this time by Shaney Forbes on drums and Steve Lawson on bass and samples. There were lovely moments and the audience seemed to get really involved in the set. I hung out for a while [lots of lovely Derby people!] and caught as much as I could of Phil Robson's lovely group with string quartet: chatted to Harry Beckett and Graham Collier: and generally had a good time.
That was Saturday. Sunday was the Monk onslaught. I arrived on time: Orphy again had lent me his instrument: Tony Kofi was there. We waited as sound engineers busied about. Everyone else came in; more running around and setting of sound. I find I'm not in as much of the gig as I thought, so I'm able to head out and see other gigs in the Festival. Great! There was some improv stuff with Dave Kane, Tom Arthurs, Pat and Steve Williamson that I really fancied seeing; and the Freeness lot were doing stuff in the Ballroom.
The first set, I wasn't so sure about. I came on, and I thought the audience weren't really into me so much. But I played the tunes [I had Skippy, Eronel, Little Rootie Tootie, Let's Call This, Off Minor, Two Timer and Bemsha Swing] the way I felt them, so I was happy with myself and had no self-doubt [which I get quite a lot]. But after the set I went outside to hang out, and signed autographs! It was a complete shock, people coming up and saying how much they'd enjoyed what I did. More proof that you never can tell...
Seb Rochford was about, and we went to catch Ayanna Witter–Johnson's set at the Ballroom—great vocalist, lovely compositions, all hashed by poor sound engineering. I was called back to do a very short Jackie-ing with Cleveland Watkiss [and wow! was he on form. Some of the bass stuff he was doing was out of this world]. Then the third set happened. I came on and the audience was much warmer. Winston Clifford and I did Hackensack and rocked out; I then did Locomotive, waved goodbye and went to catch my train, to lovely home and bed.
I woke to some lovely e-mails from people the next day—I really appreciate it!—and felt quite good about myself. So the set I did with the Mitchell on the Wednesday was justifiably a bit of a blinder for me. It was at the Vortex, and it was raining, so a quiet crowd; but Robert was [as per] in good form and I felt pretty relaxed.
The next day, I got burgled and I lost my Replacement Girlfriend. It wasn't even charged, and they left all the attachments to charge it or connect it to anything. And because it's useless, they'll have probably binned it. It's one of the most irritating things ever to happen to me; even more irritating than that computer virus I got a few years back. It had all the new Argentum stuff and lots of sound samples... but at the end of it all, it's only stuff. I'm just glad to be still, quiet and resting. It'll be my first Christmas in the new house: and the starting of a new family tradition. My life and year has been good on the whole.
Happy holidays, whoever reads this.