Well, it's taken me a long time to post anything long and of note here, but things are going to change I think.
The reasons why it's taken me so long are simple: in the effort to make things easier for myself, I've had to do a string of complicated things, most of them involving interfacing this site with the rest of the world [i.e. Facebook and some other things that are "social" but not necessarily "sociable"]. Since this is a site that is made by one person from scratch [and as—unfortunately—that responsibility falls on me], it's required me to spend inordinate amounts of time sat at the laptop staring at the PHP reference pages in an effort to learn something.
This learning of course has to be applied; and then it has to actually work, and this has been the main stumbling block as I really relish the challenge and at some points have not wanted to solve the problem. Although some will say that doing all this coding isn't very creative, I can assure you that working through a problem is the most creative thing anyone can do; I have always enjoyed the pace of research and dialogue through reading. I'm a quiet type.
The process hasn't finished yet—and I warn you now, the site will be getting a new look. Yes, again. And I have left it almost a year, which is good going for me.
Speaking of going, it was looking a bit quiet on the gig front but it seems to have picked up after Germany with Arun.
Germany itself was very interesting indeed. The vibes and I had a very relaxing ten-hour journey from London to Munich. It was my first trip on the Eurostar and I'm completely in love with it! I managed to fit the vibes in a luggage rack, which was a first; but once I hit Germany, it wasn't the last time.
Can I talk about German trains for a bit? I don't think I've ever travelled on anything better. The seats were wide and comfortable: there was ample space to put luggage [and vibes]: the food was reasonably-priced; and above all, if a train was running late, the driver would speed up. Apparently, some of the workers were on strike whilst we were there—not that you would have noticed. It was an eye-opener.
We took in some beautiful places on the tour: I managed to get a walk around some of the places before the gigs, and met some wonderful people too. Most, if not all the people I met were very friendly, and it's a shame that the scheduling of the tour [travel to place; get to hotel for thirty minutes; set up; eat; play; bed; get up and repeat] did not allow more time.
I think we took some time to warm up through the tour, but in the end we sounded very tight, and the audiences were enthusiastic about the music. I was smitten with Karlsruhe which, apart from a near altercation with an angry drunk man, had a peaceful air. We took in Linz [where we caught up with Julian Siegel's quartet] and Innsbruck in Austria too; and the people were just as warm. We lost Liran at Innsbruck [he had a Led Bib album launch] but his dep, Dragan [from Macedonia!] was excellent; he had our jaws on the floor with his feel on the bass and the way he just got into the music.
My return journey was marred by an incident on the line on the way to Cologne from Frankfurt. But I was lucky and helped out by a lovely German lady who asked Deutsche Bahn all sorts of questions for me [I can understand and read, but not speak German], and then met up with another set of people in the same predicament, with all of them having been born in Germany and speaking fluent German. There was no way we were travelling home that day;but of course, Deutsche Bahn had a procedure in place, and to apologise they put us up in a four-star hotel and gave us food coupons. They also gave us travel passes which got me back from Cologne to Derby. It quite simply wouldn't happen here.
Still, I was glad to get back; although I'd enjoyed the travel, it wasn't the most relaxing of tours, and I spent a couple of weeks finding my centre of calm, to prepare for the gig with Dave and lyrical guitarist Otto Fischer. I really needed that gig—there's a certain freedom/openness/lyricism/musicality that I can only seem to achieve playing in a totally improvised context, and I had missed it.
It was great to see Dave again of course; since Josh couldn't do the gig and I don't like deputising, I decided a switch of instrument was in order and that Otto would be the one for it. And I was right; he created gorgeous washes and then would play sumptuous lines that locked in perfectly. Dave and Otto had never met before so I was doubly glad that two friends could be united in music.
After that I was off up to Settle in Yorkshire. I had been invited to play with Dales Jam, a fantastic educational project that has kids from ages seven[!!] to seventeen playing jazz. Nothing interesting there you say, but you probably haven't heard them. They're playing arrangements of ZORN charts from Masada. They've got John McLaughlin arrangements. They're doing improvised music, funk, ska, reggae—the lot! And you can tell they're having a mass of fun. The leader of the sessions, Richard Ormrod, was explaining that they'd grown out of something that ex-Loose Tubes bassist Steve Berry had started up, and he'd continued it, putting in some serious hours with the arrangements and making sure the group didn't steer towards the predictable. There was an adults group too called the Ram Jam; and the two joined forces for an annual concert. Did I need to be there?? There was great interplay between all the musicians, acting like a band and not just a large group of musicians with scores in front of them: and great solos too. It felt more like a festival! When you see and hear educational projects like that, it gives you hope in the course of modern creative music and jazz. It's not over yet, at least not in this country. Unlike some places, apparently.