The best way to keep the cold out is to keep moving. So, very much keeping in this spirit, there has been plenty going on this winter!
The ECHO tour is picking up momentum and we now have 3 concerts under our belts. Back in November we got the ball rolling at the Milton Court Hall, part of the Barbican complex in London. Fortune saw to it that the gig fell right in the middle of the London Jazz Festival, although this might have been something of a mixed blessing. We three are all fairly regular contributors to the capital’s jazz scene so we don’t provide much in the way of a novelty factor and there were several other gigs that night. That said, an audience of 80+ definitely set the tone for the gigs to come.
The following week we were in Baden-Baden. What this little town lacks in watering holes it certainly makes up for in jazz enthusiasts! The gig was in the Festspielhaus, a converted railway station that now functions as a concert venue and educational facility. The ‘music dungeon’ here was filled with odd instruments and interactive musical games. It took some considerable effort to drag ourselves away in time for the gig!
This performance was the first that featured a pre-concert interview/talk. This is something that is common in classical concerts but that doesn’t often occur in a jazz setting. I am a big fan of this setup and think the chance to verbally introduce myself and my music is a great way of creating more of an engagement with the audience. Certainly the feedback was very positive so I’ll be trying to do this style of talk whenever possible.
We then had to negotiate Christmas before the first gig of the year, a non-ECHO date in the Con Cellar Bar in Camden, London. This must be one of the very best venues in the UK to play, a typical downstairs jazz club with one of the friendliest, most knowledgeable audiences going. I’d highly recommend getting down to one of the monthly sessions if at all possible.
Then was Hamburg. I had never been but had been told many positive things so was particularly looking forward to it. We arrived a day before the concert to do a workshop with some local student bands. All of the students were great, but special mention must go to the 11-year old trumpet and piano duo. I have to admit to being completely knocked out by the feeling these two had!
The concert itself took place in the Laeiszhalle, one of the best acoustics I’ve ever played in. We were lucky enough to have some friends in for this one so the atmosphere was very special. As promised, I have been composing pieces inspired by all of the cities we visit. Below is a video of ‘London’ as performed in Hamburg.
The last January gig was a double-header with Jeff’s own band at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham and, it being my hometown there was many a friendly face. Of course the support this gives is always great, but I also think that an audience that is familiar with your work is a good barometer too. People who have heard me play regularly will know when I’m up to scratch and making good music. This certainly helps to keep me focussed as a musician, both in terms of giving a good performance on the night and of long-term creative development. Two such audience members are also writers, and you can read their thoughts here and here.
Next up is a mini-tour of Andalucía before the ECHO Barcelona gig. Watch this space…..