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Saturday 26 May 2018 – DW JazzTrio, Theydon Oak, Epping

When I stepped outside at about 1pm to load the car I hadn’t realised how warm the day was, and there I was wearing my black suit and white shirt ready for this gig, our second as a trio with John on bass. After driving through Epping Forest I found the pub and managed to find a parking space among the dozens of cars parked. We set up in the marquee on a small stage and at 3pm, after, watching a set performed by the organiser, Mike, we played a 45 minute set of jazz and blues tunes which went down well. I may have over compensated for not having a singer by chatting even more than usual between the songs but the audience seemed to like the banter so I carried on, even talking occasional during a tune if I was introducing a bass solo from John or a drum solo from Mick. We finished with, as usual, St Thomas and got a resounding round of applause. A few chaps sitting at a nearby table complimented me on my guitar playing. John and I had a gig to get to with D’Ukes so we packed up promptly and left.

Friday 25 May 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

Interplay haven’t had a permanent bass player until Mark joined recently and the aim of today’s rehearsal was to get him up to speed in readiness for our next gig which is on 13th June at the Railway Hotel, Southend. After a very nice lunch of various breads, various cheeses and coffee we played through a lot of our favourite tunes including Caravan, Blue Daniel and All The Things You Are (with the Dizzy Gillespie intro replacing the final note of the melody) but left A Night In Tunisia for next time.

Thursday 24 May 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

This was our first one all together for quite a while. We’ve had requests to learn and play specific songs at some upcoming private parties and to help bed them in we have decided to play them at this Saturday’s gig. I Gotta Feeling (Black Eyed Peas) will open the set and later on we will include Won’t Get Fooled Again (sung by Hazel) and a medley of Buddy Holly songs led by Jo.

Wednesday 23 May 2018 – DW JazzTrio rehearsal

The DWJT is not a new band, just the DWJQ minus Tony on sax. We’re playing at the Theydon Oak Beer Festival in Epping on Saturday at 3pm and this was our chance to run through the tunes. It was actually very enjoyable as the tunes were all fine and needed next to no adjusting. We’ve also got a nice variety of jazz and blues tunes and more than enough for the 45 minute set.

Later that day: at HOFS we played through some of the tunes that the other guys will be performing at the upcoming Southend Jazz Co-op bandstand gig including Tiny Capers, Sandu, Midnight Creeper and Fungii Mama. I keep meaning to introduce the latter tune to the DWJQ. Tony has played it many times.

Monday 21 May 2018 – Ron Spack and Friends, Oakwood, Southend

This evening I made another invited appearance with Ron Spack and fellow musicians at the regular Oakwood Monday evening gig. Malcolm Perry fronted the evening playing several well known tunes on his saxophones and flute and even sang a couple of them including The Days Of Wine And Roses. I got my chance to lead a few tunes including On Green Dolphin Street and So Danco Samba. Accompanying me was the excellent guitarist Mike Warner plus Ron on bass and Mike on drums. I felt more at home on the swingier tunes I had prepared such as Just Friends and overall the experience was a good one. Sometimes it was hard to hear myself as I was sitting between the bass and drums on a very small stage but I resisted the urge to turn up even louder. We finished with a rousing version of Four (Miles Davis) which I had been coincidentally playing with Gil earlier today.

Earlier that day: the DWJQ got together for a rehearsal in readiness for Bank Holiday Monday’s ‘hangover’ slot at the Three Elms beer festival starting at 2pm. 

Even earlier that day: Gil came round for a guitar session. We played through the usual tunes including Lyresto, Oleo, The Days Of Wine And Roses, Out Of Nowhere and Four.

Sunday 20 May 2018 – The Green Café, Little Canfield

We couldn’t have wished for a better finale for a hectic weekend; playing on a perfect summer’s afternoon, to a large audience in an immaculate, eco-friendly garden, studded with large shady trees, a beautiful pond, a pizza​ oven, a bar, lots of other tasty food, with plants and well-crafted bird boxes for sale. And we weren’t even dreaming! Jo organised our best audience ‘Selfie Spot’ yet (see the results on Facebook). And thank-you cáfe people for the welcoming coffees.

Saturday 19 May 2018 – Alzheimer’s Fund-Raiser, South Woodham Ferrers Village Hall

This is an annual event which gets together our very own Essex ukulele-playing contingent and raises money for a good cause at the same time. I say Essex but this meant bending the rules a bit and conferring honorary county status on the amazing player, Andrew Molina and his father Jay from Hawaii, who are touring the country and agreed to join the line-up, together with UnderFret, MUGS, and of course, us. The audience even joined in the now famous ‘D’Ukes Selfie Spot’, although it took some organising – getting to the front of the stage in time to secure a prime position. Dave had a new opponent for ‘Duelling Ukes’ when Andrew emerged from behind the curtain and joined in the call and response, before he and Jay joined the line-up for the leg-swinging finale of ‘New York, New York’. Thanks to Peter and his team for such great timing and our sound man Mike ‘Nobby’ Clarke, who worked his magic for all the bands.

Friday 18 May 2018 – Peggy Sue’s Music Bar, Leigh-on-Sea

The beginning of our ‘Three Gigs in Three Days and Very Nearly a Tour’ weekend! This was our second gig at Peggy Sue’s and we arrived on a sunny evening with this great little bar decked out in patriotic colours for the forth-coming royal festivities. We had no Jo with us tonight and she was sorely missed, what with Martin and I having to work that much harder! Luckily we had plenty of songs and the company of the charming Maria and her friends, who danced the night away in gay abandon. Thanks to the bar staff for looking after us and keeping us well stocked with drinks.

Sunday 20 May 2018 – D’Ukes, Green Cafe, Little Canfield

I always enjoy playing here, whichever band I am in, and today it was fortunately very sunny but not too hot. However, while putting up a speaker on its stand it slid down and landed on my thumb which made me swear in public and caused rather a lot of blood to issue forth. Once I was plastered up I found I was still able to play the ukulele although barre chords were a little bit painful. The outdoor cafe was pleasantly full by the time we were in the middle of our first set. We were playing well as a result of having a run of gigs recently and I was enjoying making up silly stories about how we used to be called the Firing Squad and the time I tried taking an armchair into Costa Coffee (you had to be there). During the break I dished out some postcards and got some nice comments back plus one young couple asking if we would consider playing at their wedding in Ireland next year. As the afternoon proceeded the sun came round to face us and some band members retreated under the awning to escape. We finished as always on Duelling Banjos and New York, New York and after packing up they very kindly made me a pizza to take home. 

Saturday 19 May 2018 – D’Ukes, Alzheimer’s Fund Raiser, SWF

As D’Ukes were providing the PA system for this mini ukulele festival we had to arrive early and set up all the gear before the people were let in at 6:30pm. The Barstools were unable to perform so Alan Rozee got up and sang a song to kick off the evening and then next up were ukulele sextet, Underfret. The MUGs followed them and bounced there way through there repertoire including a number of Status Quo songs. During the break I wandered around all the tables handing out our postcard to as many people as who would take one, saying to many of them “you probably won’t win the raffle so here is a postcard instead”. I spoke with a lot of people who knew me by name from playing in D’Ukes and occasionally I thought I ought to know their name too. After the interval, Hawaiian ukulele maestro Andrew Molinas in his backward facing baseball cap and his father Jay performed a set of highly melodic and skillful instrumental tunes that earned them three encores. Meanwhile I had gone backstage with the others to get changed into our stage outfits, tune the ukuleles and psyche ourselves up ready to follow Andrew’s performance. We walked onstage and I set up my pedals, plugged my ear piece in and switched on the microphone and I was ready. In fact that was one of the smoothest change overs we have had at a festival. We played for 45 minutes and got the audience singing along to all our favourite tunes. Earlier in the day, while mowing the lawn in fact, I had had the idea of getting Andrew back on stage to play with us during Duelling Banjos, and sure enough on he came after Brian and I had strummed the initial chords. He used his ears to pick out the melodies and the audience loved it and out came all the cameras and phones to take pictures and video the moment. We finished with New York New York and Andrew and his father were co-opted into dancing in line with the singers, Martin, Jo and Hazel. A great end to a great day. A couple of hours later I was in bed thinking that I had to get up in 7 hours and go to another gig on this 4 gig weekend.

Friday 18 May 2018 – D’Ukes, Peggy Sue’s Music Bar, Southend

It’s the start of a 4 gig weekend for me. We arrived at this tiny bar, helped clear away some chairs and tables and set ourselves up along the side of the room. Jo unfortunately couldn’t make it today so conversely we had more space than last time but we missed her musically and I expect some of the audience did too. Nevertheless by the end of the evening vast majority of the audience was up and dancing and we left them hugging each other with our final encore, We Have All The Time In The World. 

Thursday 17 May 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Only four of us today but lots to work on for upcoming gigs. We ran through (for a party in a couple of weeks’ time) I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (chorus only), Won’t Get Fooled Again (sung by Hazel) and I Gotta Feeling (intro and first chorus only) and Whiter Shade Of Pale. Then we played new ones Bang Bang, Runaway and What A Wonderful World followed by three Buddy Holly tunes that we are learning for another party, namely I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, Oh Boy and Peggy Sue. Finally we had a go at two new tunes, The One I Love (REM) and Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd).

Monday 14 May 2018 – Practice with Trevor

Today’s three tunes that we concentrated on were Just Friends, Days Of Wine And Roses and On Green Dolphin Street starting with the latter which I soon realised I didn’t know as well as I thought I did. After briefly looking at All Blues we went back to All The Things You Are which we had played at the previous session.

Later that day: Time again for the Monday Guitar Group. After tuning up, I showed them an exercise for helping keep the fingers, particularly the little finger, close to frets. We then strummed the chords to Runaway (Dion) followed by playing the B minor pentatonic scale. We then strummed the chords to A Horse With No Name and I got them each soloing using the 3rd mode of the Bm pentatonic scale (starting on E) with a drone E string. After the break we learned each of the guitar parts to Mustang Sally (Wilson Picket) and played them along to a drum machine rhythm. It sounded pretty good and authentic.

Sunday 13 May 2018 – John Seeley’s Jazz Workshop, Colchester

Having a rare free Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity to go up to Colchester to watch John’s Thursday evening group perform on the bandstand which was sited near the castle. They performed a couple of sets although I had to leave before the end in order to get home in time for an evening rehearsal. It was good to meet some of the horn players that I had played with before including Stef, John, Malcolm, Rita, Hugh and Val. Tunes included Little Sunflower, Autumn Leaves (featuring a solo by Rita), C Jam Blues, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To and Stand By Me.

Later that day: Angie came round for a rehearsal for our gig at the Mighty Oak Tap Room on Sunday 27th May at 3pm. We went through the new sing-along tunes such as Angels, My Boy Lollipop and Delilah and then some of the other newer tunes. We’ll need about 32 songs for the gig so that means we’ll need about a dozen from the old set list. After we finished we had a couple of beers and then started playing through a few random songs which one day might become part of the set list such as Minnie The Moocher, Won’t Get Fooled Again and Rock Island Line.

Saturday 12 May 2018 – JazzDuo, Taksim Square restaurant, Stanford Le Hope

In the hundreds of gigs I’ve done in the last few years I can’t remember it raining and certainly not quite like it did this evening, which goes to show how actually dry this part of the world is. But once we were inside this Turkish restaurant with its exposed flaming grills we soon dried off. It was a busy night with three tables of eight people plus many others. The noise levels were high and occasionally I had difficulty hearing my rhythm playing when the looper was in use but overall I think we played much better this time and even illicited some brief clapping. After an hour of tunes such as Petite Fleur, Stranger On The Shore and Fly Me To The Moon we took a fifteen minute break. The second set went well and at the end I casually showed John a tune I had thought we could do one day (being in a Turkish restaurant) namely, Terk In Amerika. He went ahead and sight read it and played while strummed the chords. Although we didn’t play all of it it sound good and we’ll definitely include it next time.

Thursday 10 May 2018 – D’Ukes, Gateway Club, Braintree

We arrived nice and early at this club for people with learning difficulties. It was 17 months since we last played here I was informed by somebody who had obviously been waiting patiently for our return! We sound checked as always by playing Losing My Religion and then at 7pm club members started filtering in. We waited outside until it was 7:15pm when Mike played our intro music, the Theme From Captain Scarlet, and in we walked to applause. I counted in the first tune, Valerie, and off we went. People danced and sang along which I did my best to encourage by shouting out the usual cliched phrases such as “everybody, sing along!” and “now it’s your turn”. There’s not much originality in this but it does work and people do begin to join in. Unfortunately, during the break somebody had a seizure which paramedics came in to help with. This delayed the start but eventually we got back on stage and started the second set with Sit Down. I walked through the audience strumming away and then went to get Ivan who had sung on a recording of this tune earlier in the year. I brought him to the front and gave him a microphone so that he could sing the final choruses. Eventually it was time for people to go home so we finished with I Wanna Be Like You. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve played here, 8 or 9 perhaps, but it’s always good fun and nice to see the same people each year as well as new faces.

Wednesday 9 May 2018 – Blues Experience, The Three Elms

We all arrived in the correct order: drummer first then the guitarists and finally the horn section. This was in order to get ourselves set up in the limited space without tripping over each other’s bags and equipment. As I stand at the front and have the least to do (compared to Gil anyway) I tend to do the on-stage announcements while Gil, for example, is changing over guitars from normal to slide. I am now regularly playing the Les Paul though the Blues Junior using my wireless system. We performed 21 tunes in two sets including four instrumentals. A reasonable size audience for the pub stayed with us till the end which is a good sign. It wasn’t quite the rapturous crowd we had the previous time we played here but I think we actually played better and the new songs sounded good, partiuclarly Every Day I Have The Blues though we forgot the arrangement and were all surprised when it ended. I made the executive decision to finish the evening’s performance on Work Song rather than do a further two songs. I think the audience were ready to say good night and indeed they didn’t call for an encore although they clearly enjoyed it. After packing up I sat and enjoyed a nice pint of bitter.

Tuesday 8 May 2018 – TNG workshop

This evening saw my first coaching session with the band, TNG. We started with the song, Yellow (Coldplay) and then looked at Bad Moon Rising (CCR) and Comfortably Numb (Pink Floyd). The aim of the session (and all future sessions) is to offer advice on what to play, song arrangement ideas, how to solo and to cover performance techniques interspersed with a few bits of music theory. I started teaching them the solo to Comfortably Numb which we will continue next time. They would also like to play Iris (Goo Goo Dolls).

Sunday 6 May 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

Today was mainly about sorting out details about what the horn section will be playing on various new tunes especially the new ones, Every Day I Have The Blues, Drivin’ Wheel and How Come People Act Like That. I was expecting to be tired after the late finish the night before but I was feeling pleasantly alert!

Saturday 5 May 2018 – Brewer’s Arms, Brightlingsea

Compared to yesterday it was a nice drive up the A12 to this little coastal town on a warm evening. Very few people were in the pub when we arrived but eventually it filled out a bit. We started late for us, 9pm, and played till midnight. The landlords liked us and invited us back.

Friday 4 May 2018 – D’Ukes, Blue Boar beer festival, Maldon

This was the first of 28 gigs for me in May and June. Being a hot bank holiday weekend it took us ages to get here but we made it and set up outside under a big marquee opposite the beer tent. Lots of people had come out especially to see us and we went down a storm with raucous singing along and dancing. We even took some selfies. Afterwards I went up to the bar manager to sort out being paid. He said it had been a good night and paradoxically asked me if I had enjoyed myself which I thought was self explanatory if he had seen us but there again he was probably too busy serving beers. 

Thursday 3 May 2018 – practice with Trevor

Trevor (vibraphone player) came round for a session. We worked on three tunes, Summertime, Autumn Leaves and All The Things You Are. I’m not used to playing with another chord player other than guitarists so it was interesting to see how compatible we were. We’ll do it again one day and choose another two or three songs to study in depth rather than playing several.

Wednesday 2 May 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

We’re playing at the Three Elms next Wednesday and today it was time for the band minus the horn section who run through a few arrangements including the new tunes Every Day I Have The Blues, Driftin’ and Driftin’, Driving Wheel and How Come People Act Like That. We also played various old tunes just to remind ourselves how they went such as Pretty Woman, Work Song, Crossroads and Help Me. My Les Paul’s neck pick up was cutting out intermittently which was a bit worrying.

Later that day: only four of us at the D’Ukes rehearsal so we worked on the two new tunes for Friday’s gig at the Blue Boar: Bang Bang and Runaway. We also ran through other tunes we need to get up to speed including Forever Blowing Bubbles and Won’t Get Fooled Again.

Monday 30 April 2018 – DWJQ rehearsal

It’s not for a month yet but we’re playing at the Three Elms beer festival and with people going on holiday we needed to run through the set. I picked a dozen that I thought were worth playing including Gone With The Wind, Midnight Blue, Have You Met Miss Jones and a new one, Rev Moses by Lou Donaldson. 

Earlier that day: I went round Mick’s for a session with him on bass and me on guitar. We worked on Misty, Days Of Wine And Roses and What Is This Thing Called Love.

Later that day: Monday night is guitar group night. After everyone had settled down we tuned up and then strummed the chord sequence C E Am F for a few minutes to warm up. The scale of the day was C mixolydian. We started by playing C major scale and then I showed how, if you flatten the 7th (B to Bb), you get the mixolydian scale. The riff of the day was Stevie Wonder’s Superstition which we worked on up until the tea break. The rest of the evening was spent starting work on the multi-layered Mustang Sally with three guitar parts and a bass line. More of this tune next time. 

Sunday 29 April 2018 – Ron Spack Duo, Woodman’s Arms, Thundersley

It was a bit of a milestone for me today. Double bass player Ron had invited me to play guitar with him at this pub restaurant and it would necessitate me learning up to 30 jazz standards, playing the heads in a chord/melody style. I have occasionally done this with the DWJQ but not for an entire gig, and this one was due to be 3 hours long. It was exceptionally cold today and I arrived nice and early to discover the pub full of youngsters who looked like they had just been playing football watched by their parents. They soon left and so we set up in a corner of the pub by the door. We started playing at 1pm with Satin Doll followed by This Can’t Be Love. Some tunes, from my perspective, went better than others. You Stepped Out Of A Dream, The Days Of Wine And Roses and On Green Dolphin Street felt good to play while I faltered slightly on Softly As In A Morning Sunrise. Perhaps the latter would benefit from being swung rather than played straight. We had a break at about 2:30pm, sung happy birthday twice to people in the pub and finished off the afternoon with another set of songs, ending on Have You Met Miss Jones. An enjoyable gig and Ron must have been happy with how it went as he offered me some more gigs. 

Saturday 21 April 2018 – Angie and Dave, South Woodham Ferrers

Peter Taylor had booked the town centre bandstand for the day in order to help raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society. We were due to play at 12pm so I arrived at the very convenient Asda car park which fortunately gives you four hours free parking. MUG were playing when I arrived and sounded in good voice, there must have been almost 20 of them onstage. In contrast there were only two of us. After MUG had finished and vacated the bandstand we got ready. I set up my looper (for use on Light My Fire and Superstition), Angie got the mics working with the help of the sound man and off we went. After initial confusion over which song we were staring with we settled down to playing a dozen or so songs including Breakfast In America, Wonderwall and I Feel Good, all of which sounded good to my ears. We received some nice applause from the small crowd sitting around in the sunshine and finished with the full length version of American Pie. Afterwards Angie got some nice compliments about her singing. Then, after eating an Asda cheese sandwich and watching Yester’Ukes performing a few their standards, it was time to say goodbye and wander off.

Friday 20 April – Interplay rehearsal

It seems ages since we had a rehearsal. After the usual coffee, bread and cheese lunch we played a few tunes with a potential new bass player which went well. Tunes included Groovy Samba, Jeanine, My Little Suede Shoes, Caravan and Love For Sale. 

Wednesday 18 April 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

No horn section today so we worked on potential new tunes, Driftin’ and Driftin’, Driving Wheel, Why Are People So Bad and Everyday I Have The Blues. We worked out the right key for Gil’s voice on each of the tunes and an approximate arrangement bearing in mind that the horns are going to eventually play along and add some interesting dynamics and possibly more solos. 

Tuesday 17 April – Angie and Dave rehearsal

Angie came round for a quick run through of the songs we will play on Saturday (12pm at the Bandstand in South Woodham Ferrers). 

Monday 16 April 2018 – Practice with Graham and Mick

This was our last session before holidays prevent us from meeting again for a few weeks. We played through Autumn Leaves, Misty and Corcovado plus new tunes (unseen for Graham and Mick) Days of Wine and Roses, Out Of Nowhere and What Is This Thing Called Love. 

Later that day: a good number turned up for the weekly Monday Guitar Group session. After the tune up I showed them the A natural minor scale in the 5th position which we played (eventually) at 120 bpm. Then we strummed Am Em G Dm and we worked out a simple solo using this scale and by picking out target notes from the chords. After the break I showed them the bass line and (off beat) chords to One More Heartache (Paul Butterfield Blues Band) and got them to solo over it using chord tones.

Sunday 15 April 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

We worked on a number of tunes, in particular the horn arrangements. Mostly they needed tightening up or tweaking but overall they sounded very good. Tunes we did included Stormy Monday, Hide Away, One More Heartache, Born Under A Bad Sign, Need Your Love So Bad, Killing Floor, Pretty Woman (sounded the best it has ever sounded) and Searchin’ For A Woman. 

Thursday 12 April 2018 – Easter Jazz day four

This was the final day of the course. The morning was spent with the guitarists chatting about various techniques and playing a hot club version of Sweet Georgia Brown which we planned to play in the evening. In the afternoon in the band tutored by Shanti we decided on the tunes we were going to perform in the evening. These were to be The Lady Is A Tramp with singer Choe and Chicken Strut which was to feature an extended solo by me as the sax players had worked some backings for me during the first chorus. We finished at 5pm and I packed all my gear into the car ready to drive down to Bardswell, the venue for this evening’s concert featuring all the bands on the course.

Later that evening: as usual with this annual course all the participants performed a couple of tunes in their bands on the stage at Bardswell in Brentwood. My band were the last on. The singer Chloe started singing the opening verse to The Lady Is A Tramp while I accompanied her on guitar although I had just noticed that bass player Geoff was still setting his amp up. Luckily he was ready just in time to start playing when the whole band came in on the chorus. After solos by the front line (Paul on trumpet, Claire on alto and John on baritone) Chloe did some scat singing and then sung the chorus out. It was then time for our second and final tune, Chicken Strut. Winston took charge of the start by counting us in and off we went. I was mostly playing a fast 16th note funky strum pattern but after the front liners had taken solos it was my turn and, on advice, I stuck to bluesy minor pentatonic scales and it turned out well. We finished to a big cheer. It was then time for all the course participants to perform St Thomas which was fun and I used my ear plugs for a bit of protection. A few people said how good they thought my solo in Chicken Strut was which was nice. People always seem to like the screaming type solos over the fiddly fast ones. More passion perhaps.  And then it was time to pack up, say goodbye and go home. 

Wednesday 11 April 2018 – Easter Jazz day three

On another very overcast day I arrived in time for the warm up which involved banging a tambourin in a rhythm suitable for accompanying the saxophonists playing St Thomas. The rest of the day was spent on a couple of tunes, Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing and Chicken Strut, the latter featuring Winston on drums as Bill was absent. It sounded amazing considering it was a tune I never thought we would play.

Tuesday 10 April 2018 – Easter Jazz day two

The warm up started at 9am, and all the non-horn players played samba rhythms led by Marc. This will lead to a massive version of St Thomas at the final gig. In the morning session we looked at Equinox and Song Of The Anvil. In the afternoon in our groups we played Midnight Voyage, Song Of The Anvil, Equinox and I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free. I was pleased with my solos particular in the latter tune.

Later that day: a large number of us on the course had a curry at Chutney Joe’s then went down to Bardswell to watch Alan Barnes and co performing a variety of tunes including Recordame, Emily, This I Dig Of You and The More I See You, and they finished with a tune I’d like to do with the quartet, Fungii Mama which features a calypso, or calapso as they called it, rhythm. During the day Alan Barnes came out with a number of humorous quips including the conga line one heading to the merch table, the one about jazz being five blokes enjoying themselves more than the audience and the one about the song with a foreign title which translates to his CDs are on sale at the front desk. Oh and I must not forget the one about hoping the bass player doesn’t go to the bar during his own solo, and the musician who said “I would play in time if the conductor would stop waving his ****ing arms around”.

Monday 9 April 2018 – Easter Jazz day one

I arrived at 9am and after the initial meeting, the morning was spent with Colin, Francis and Stefan, the other three guitarists on the course plus Tony the guitar tutor. We looked at Chameleon, Equinox, Have You Met Miss Jones and I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free. Interesting aspects of these included a chord melody arrangement of the latter (something to do later at home), the quartal and other chords played on Equinox in the style of McCoy Tyner and the two chords at the end of Chameleon. I attended Alan Barnes’ chat on harmony at 12pm and we spent the hour looking at rhythm changes. He said nice things about my solo which was really just an attempt to play through the basic triads. After lunch at Rossi in Brentwood High Street the afternoon was spent working with two different tutors, Mark and Dominic, on Chameleon (I found that Fm pentatonic sounds much better than Bb minor pentatonic in the solo) and with singer Chloe on Have You Met Miss Jones transposed to the key of Db. A bit of a challenge.

Sunday 8 April 2018 – Easter Jazz introductory day

It was a short afternoon, mainly based around a jam session with about a dozen of the students. I got stuck in and started the first tune (Blue Bossa) and eventually a few joined in. Other tunes we jammed on included So What, Fly Me To The Moon, Autumn Leaves, Footprints and St Thomas, probably the most successful in terms of cohesion and listenableness. 

Saturday 7 April 2018 – JazzDuo, Taksim Restaurant, Stanford-Le-Hope

I picked up John on the way and we arrived at this large restaurant about an hour early and set up in the corner by entrance. This was our first time playing here and we performed for a couple of hours including a break during which we were giving a delicious plate of Turkish vegetarian food to share. Lia, who booked us, seemed to really enjoy our music and has said she would ask us to come back again. I enjoyed playing there although I think I would set up my amplifier somewhere else so I could hear it properly. I used my looper on a few tunes but did sometimes wonder whether it would be easier just to play solo rather than accompany my own solos. It’s the nature of these kinds of gigs that nobody claps after songs but lots of people thanked us as they left. John enjoyed it and he played some nice quasi-oriental clarinet on a couple of tunes to create a suitable atmosphere for the restaurant. By 10pm we were packing up, loading up the car and heading home.

Thursday 5 April 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

No Jo today so we didn’t go through her new tunes (Peggy Sue, I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, I Gotta Feeling, Walking On The Moon) but instead continued working on Runaway and Bang Bang and then busked our way through I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles and Won’t Get Fooled Again. We finished with a humourous (because it was so bad) version of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds which, by the end of the evening, sounded pretty good and is very promising as a pub sing-along.

Wednesday 4 April 2018 – Angie and Dave, Tony Fisher Show, BBC Essex

We are playing on the SWF Bandstand on Saturday 21 April with a few other bands and to help promote this event we got booked to appear on Tony’s show at 3pm. Angie and I arrived at the studios half an hour before we were duo on air so we sat and chatted and then did a quick run through of the tunes we had planned to perform, American Pie and I Feel Good, while an architect wandered around the foyer measuring up the room for some reason we’ll never know. The show’s producer, Robyn, eventually fetched us and took us into the studio and sat us down opposite Tony. Soon we were on air and he was asking us about the alzheimer’s fund raiser we were playing at interspersed with questions about ukuleles and guitars. Eventually it was time for us to perform so we did American Pie, cut down from 8 minutes to a generous 4 minutes. A slice of Pie as Tony quipped. I was pleased with how it went. We chatted some more and then Tony announced that we had run out of time so we were unable to perform I Feel Good. After a quick photo shoot, Robyn took us out to the foyer where we picked up our things and left the studios. It had been a successful session and it felt good, to paraphrase James Brown.

Earlier that day: Gil came round for a jazz guitar duetting session. After running through some scale and triad exercises we played through a number tunes including Days Of Wine And Roses, Bye Bye Blackbird, Lyresto, All The Things You Are, Airegin, Oleo and Joy Spring. 

Monday 2 April 2018 – Blues Experience, The Three Elms

Out of the 90 or so gigs I do each year I very rarely have to set off in the rain but this whole weekend has been a bit wet. The pub looked disappointingly empty when I arrived at about 2pm, especially as a beer festival was supposed to be in full swing but by the time we had set up and were about to play it was packed, the busiest I have ever seen it. We played two sets of an hour each, the first time with the full line-up, and it was sounding better than ever. The horn section adds a lot of dynamics and excitement to the sound and clearly got the audience’s attention, we just have to make sure the rhythm section don’t get too loud and drown them out. I did my best to get the audience involved with silly jokes and getting them to sing along to Got My Mojo Working. After our rousing last tune, Work Song, we played our encore, Route 66, and left everyone wanting more. I had to pack up quickly because I had another gig to go to, this time in Southend.

Later that day: I rushed home from the blues gig, made an evening meal, packed and set off for Southend where I was due to play as a guest guitarist with Ron Spack and friends at the Oakwood in Eastwood, Southend. I was met at the back door by a punter who kindly helped to carry my gear for me, and I have just remembered that I didn’t properly thank him. I had prepared a number of jazz standards that I would play the tune on and we (Ron on bass and Chris on piano) started with Sonnymoon For Two then This Can’t Be Love and Yesterdays. These went down reasonably well and bearing in mind this was a very new set up for me I was reasonably pleased. Pat, a singer, got up next followed by Jeff, a sax player and guitarist Mike. At the interval Ron asked me if I would be interested in doing some more gigs with him so he must have thought I was ok. The second set went quickly as I played my favourites All The Things You Are and Autumn Leaves. By 11:15pm I was packing up, saying goodbye and thanks to everyone except the helpful punter and wending my way back to Chelmsford. By the end of this Easter weekend I worked out that I had played on 75 different tunes in the course of the four gigs.

Sunday 1 April 2018 – DWJQ, Ria and Bob’s party

I arrive at the house in Hatfield Peveral at about 3:30pm to find that the whole event was on a much grander scale than I was expecting. We were to play in a large marquee on a stage. Mick was already set up and it didn’t take the rest of long to get ready. We played a set while people arrived at the party followed by a second one after the food had been served. I indulged in some nice pizza and chatted with Rick and Jane whom I hadn’t seen for some time. I thought musically we were at our best partly because we were so relaxed (Rick said he liked our ‘smooth’ jazz!). It got even better towards the end when people started clapping after songs and we started to feel more appreciated – that always helps one’s playing too.

Earlier that day: the Blues Experience met to rehearse early this morning. After fresh coffee and a hot cross bun we went through about a dozen tunes in readiness for Monday’s gig at the Three Elms at 3pm. The horn section are getting tighter and tighter and at times it is sounding very good indeed.

Saturday 31 March 2018 – D’Ukes, Luna, Leytonstone

It’s always good fun at the Luna Lounge so despite not going on till 9:30pm we arrived at 7pm partly in order to blag a parking space outside. Before we could properly set up a very talented young guitar and drums duo, Jack and Henry, performed some Prince inspired tunes. While they were playing John and I had a good chat outside in the street about upcoming gigs as we were both playing three this weekend – in the same bands, D’Ukes, DWJQ and the Blues Experience – and I had a fourth on Monday evening. The Luna was gradually filling up with people who had come to see us and we had about 30 minutes in which to set up before starting at about 9:30pm. I told a few bad jokes beforehand while testing the microphone and saw that there were plenty of familiar faces in the audience. As soon as we started we got big cheers and it just got better and better from then on. We took a short break at 10:30pm (during which I ate a nutritious sesame seed snack) and continued afterwards with all our favourites including Delilah during which I videoed a short clip. In Sit Down, while I walked out into the audience (as I always do during this tune) I got mobbed by a bunch of young woman, one of whom sat down next to me (as directed by the song) and gave me a nice big kiss. By midnight they were still clamouring for more but we had to call it a day after our final tune, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. I was keen to get home as I had an early start the next day with a rehearsal and a gig.  

Thursday 29 March 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We started off by working on two tunes which are almost ready to gig, Runaway and Bang Bang, and then worked out the keys for a number of tunes which have been requested by people who have booked us for their parties. The songs are I Gotta Feeling (C), Won’t Get Fooled Again (A), I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (F), Peggy Sue (C) and I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Any More (C).

Wednesday 28 March 2018 – DWJQ, The Three Elms

This was our first gig with the current line-up at The Three Elms and the music got off to a good start with Alligator Boogaloo, a Lou Donaldson tune based around a simple three chord blues progression in C. As is traditional we all took solos in this one including the bass and fours with the drums. After that we settled into various standards (Gone With The Wind, Autumn Leaves) and classic jazz tunes (Equinox). The second set started with our strongest version to date of Chameleon and ended with a rousing, as always, St Thomas. The tables in the pub were fairly well occupied and we went down well. As always though I had to remind myself afterwards that all that lovely stuff I have been working on in the practice room isn’t going to magically appear under my fingers at the next gig. It will take time, weeks, months and sometimes years.

Earlier that day: We still haven’t found a regular bass player for the HOFS session so I played bass today. To make it worth while so that I would come away feeling like I had learned something I deliberately played finger style rather than with a plectrum. We started with True Blues, practising fours, and then played Chitlins Con Carne, Mambo Koyama, Patricia and finally, as a request, a speeded up version of Mambo Koyama.

Even earlier that day: in the morning we had our first Blues Experience rehearsal with all seven members present which was quite an achievement, especially on a weekday. The time was spent on tidying up a few tunes (Born Under A Bad Sign was sounding much better) and working on a couple of new tunes including Searching For A Woman. We’ve got a new arrangement for Night Train which Mark has worked out the horn parts for and we’ve reintroduced Need Your Love So Bad.

Monday 26 March 2018 – DWJQ rehearsal

We’re back at The Three Elms on Wednesday and Tony is with us again. Today we played through the heads of all the tunes including a couple of new ones for the band, Gone With The Wind and This Can’t Be Love.

Earlier that day: Mick, Graham, John and I got together and went through each of the tunes that we will be studying on the Easter Jazz course coming up soon. Song Of The Anvil sounded good with my guitar and Graham’s sax playing the harmony and melody a fourth apart. We didn’t bother even attempting Chicken Strut or the coda to Chameleon so we’ll leave those for the tutors to teach us on the course itself.

Later that day: another good turn out for the Monday Evening Guitar Group. After tuning up we strummed the chord sequence G C Em C playing it as open chords, barre chords and then triads. The sequence is used in I Gotta Feeling (Black Eyed Peas) so I showed them how to play the diad based tune of the chorus. After the break we continued with the blues licks that we had started working on last week and I got them to play the licks as part of a 12 bar blues in A. The licks are easy to play but easy to forget too so I have made a little YouTube video which can be seen by clicking here.

Sunday 25 March 2018 – Angie and Dave rehearsal

We’re appearing on the Tony Fisher show on BBC Essex on 4th April at 3pm so we decided on a couple of songs to sing, I Feel Good and American Pie, and played them to make sure we had good arrangements. Even when we did a shortened version of American Pie it came out at over 6 minutes long so we dropped another verse. We then started work on Bohemian Rhapsody which I think will be a achievable despite its complexity. We’ve changed the key from the record to suit Angie’s voice and coincidentally some of the chords are easier as a result. The rest of the session was spent going through our new list of sing-along songs (including The Piano Man, Wonderwall, Mustang Sally) which we’re getting ready in time for the next Mighty Oak Tap Room gig in May.

Saturday 24 March 2018 – D’Ukes, Cramphorn Studio

As always we arrived at about 4pm and spent the first hour setting up and then sound checking and rehearsing a few tunes just to get them up to scratch. We also practised our walk-on routines for both the beginning of the concert (during which we swap hats and jackets) and after the interval (when we come on one at a time at the start of Angels). By 6:30pm we were ready so I retired to the dressing room to eat my sandwiches of homemade bread, artichoke pate and tomato. The concert as always was sold out and I think it was one of our best performances both musically and from an entertainment point of view. Sometimes theatre concerts can be a little stilted especially if the audience is some distance away but today it all seemed to get nicely. During Sit Down I was looking for a seat to plonk myself down in, as I usually do during that tune, and a man happened to get up so I nipped in and sat on his. He was going to ask me question about ukuleles despite the song being in full flow. Afterwards lots of people come up and said nice things and one chap in particular said I was a star! By 11:30pm we were all packed up and hitting the road back home. It had been a very successful evening and we also managed to sell some new CDs and tea towels.

Thursday 22 March 2018 – D’Ukes, Gosfield Lake Golf Club

We arrived early and set up in the bar area but before we had finished quite a few people had turned up. I commented over the PA that if they’d like to come and see us setting up again we’ll be at the Maldon Blue Boar on 4th May. We started playing at about 8:15pm but after a few songs Jo had to leave suddenly to sort something out at home so we continued without her. We made it through the first set, borrowing some songs from the second with Martin doing most of the singing, and then during the break I cobbled together a set list for the second part of the evening. The audience were totally on our side and knew that we were doing our best in the circumstances. I thought we actually sounded pretty good considering and we got a big cheer and calls for encores at the end.

Wednesday 21 March 2018 – ukulele workshop in Mistley

At short notice I was asked if I could deputise for Jo who was unable to run her monthly workshop at the T room in Mistley. I had done a few similar workshops before, mostly in Clacton and Chelmsford, so I was familiar with the routine. I arrived to find assistant Alan setting up the room, making the coffees and generally being useful. It’s a nice, quirky little cafe over looking the estuary at Mistley. Four people turned up for the first half hour beginners session where it was my job to teach them the basic C, F and G chords, and then another 11 arrived for the main session. I covered basic strumming patterns and chord progressions (such as C F C G7) before the break (of coffee and sandwiches) and then we had a strum and singalong for the last 30 minutes including What’s Up, Leaving On A Jet Plane, In The Summertime and Rockin’ All Over The World.

Earlier that day: John came round for a session working on some of the tunes we’re due to play at the next DWJQ gig which is on Wednesday at the Three Elms. 

Monday 19 March 2018 – practice with Graham and Mick

We started off as promised with Summertime and then two Jobim tunes from the Aebersold book, Corcovado and Triste. The rest of the morning was spent on Satin Doll and Autumn Leaves.

Thursday 15 March 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We started by playing What A Wonderful World to a metronome set to 70 bpm. We then chatted about the set list for the Cramphorn Studio gig which is coming up soon (all sold out, folks) and then ran through The Intro And The Outro (I had to play the bass through a looper as John wasn’t here), Angels (80 bpm), Ruby and Hound Dog. For the last part of the evening we worked on new tunes Runaway and Bang Bang.

Wednesday 14 March 2018 – Practice with Gil

Gil came over for a guitar dueting session and we played The Days Of Wine And Roses, Lyresto, Gone With The Wind, Muezzin, East Of The Sun, It Could Happen To You, Joy Spring and then we played, without sheet music, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, Scrapple From The Apple and Stella By Starlight.

Later that day: I jumped in the car back down to HOFS for another Wednesday afternoon session. We warmed up on True Blues (Art Pepper) and then worked on Mambo Koyama, Muezzin (a new one for me). We finished with Chitlins Con Carne.

Monday 12 March 2018 – practice with Graham and Mick

Today was a matter of running through some current and old tunes – pretty much like most weeks actually. I suggested we aim for a gig one day, maybe in a year’s time – March 2019! We’ll need a drummer too. The tunes we played were Summertime, Triste, Corcovado, Sonnymoon For Two, Satin Doll and, after the extended coffee break (extra time being allowed for the coffee to brew nicely), Autumn Leaves. I was deliberately playing some cliched bebop licks which are easy enough to play out of a book but harder to incorporate into my playing. When they work they sound fine but I wouldn’t want to play endless bebop licks during a solo (heaven forbid).

Later that day: After tuning up (using Alexa’s Easy Tuner skill) we warmed up on the D major scale, playing it in several positions, and then played and listened to the intervals in the D major scale (major 2nd, major 3rd, perfect 4th etc). The rest of the evening was spent learning to play the solo from Angels (Robbie Williams) including playing it an octave higher and with distortion. We finished with a 12 bar blues in G based on Further On Up The Road.

Saturday 10 March 2018 – Blues Experience, the Bassment, Chelmsford

While getting ready to leave for the gig this afternoon I picked up the bass in its gig bag and it fell out and landed on my foot. That was painful! Only five of us were available today, no Stef on trumpet or John on bass, so I was on bass duties again. We were the 12th band of 17 to play today at this Essex Delta Blues Festival. I had arrived with my little Polytone amp but fortunately someone loaned me his Mark bass set up which was strong and punchy. We performed ten tunes to a good amount of applause and Nick the organiser commented positively on our horn section. A couple of tunes started off a little roughly but otherwise I was pleased with our playing.

Friday 9 March 2018 – Recording session

I went up to Mike’s recording studio in the morning to do some final touches to the new CD. After a bit of technical hitch we were able to record my overdubs, just a couple of solos and some arpeggios and chords that I was unable to record on the initial session as I was playing something else at the time. We also implemented the comments made by the band members at last night’s rehearsal. Once Mike has finished the next mix down it will be a case of listening to it one more time before then sending off the audio tracks for CD duplication.

Thursday 8 March 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Today’s rehearsal was spent listening to the rough mixes of our next CD. There are 14 tracks and we sat listening to each one while I made notes in readiness for meeting up with Mike tomorrow where we will put the finishing touches to the mix of each track. I am very pleased with the recordings and I reckon even the rough mixes are better than a lot of what we have done before so it should be our best CD to date. The plan is to have it duplicated and ready in time for the Cramphorn Studio concert.

Tuesday 6 March 2018 – appearance on the Sadie Nine Show, BBC Essex

I had a phone call a few days ago asking if I would appear on Sadie Nine’s morning show and teach her to play the ukulele on air as part of her bucket list challenge. I arrived at the studio with my two ukuleles, one for her to play, and was escorted into the studio by show producer Amy and seated opposite Sadie. I quietly unpacked my ukes while she was talking to a caller and then after a minute or so she introduced me and off we went. She had played guitar before which made the job easier and she could sing too. The whole time I was teaching Sadie, Amy was videoing it and streaming it live on Facebook – you can view it by clicking this link. Eventually we had covered enough in order to play a song together and so we sang You Are My Sunshine. She also got me to play, totally out of the blue, Duelling Banjos, which caught me out but I managed to get through it, perhaps not as elegantly as I would have liked to. Eventually, after some more chat about forthcoming D’Ukes gigs, we wrapped it up and I emerged into the sunshine with my two ukes.

Monday 5 March 2018 – practice with Mick and Graham

After warming up on Doxy we continued our foray into Bossa Nova standards and played Corcovado and Triste. Then it was time for some swing so we played All The Things You Are and finally Summertime which we will start with next time. Most of the bebop phrases and triad ideas I have been working on at home recently, as always in these situations, failed to make it into my playing today but they will eventually of course. 

Later that day: After the tune up we warmed up by strumming G Bm Em Am as open chords, barre chords and then triads, both strummed and as arpeggios. After the break we concentrated on soloing over the chords in Comfortably Numb, namely D A C G, and I showed them how, by learning the triad positions, you can then use triads as chord tones to be targetted in the solo. Each person in the group had a go at soloing while the rest of us strummed the chords.

Sunday 4 March 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

No John today but we’ve got two gigs next week so I played bass through my Polytone amplifier. We went through about 16 tunes and I think we’re ready. The horn section is sounding good and I think is going to be what sets us apart from the rest of the bands at next Saturday’s festival at the Bassment. 

Later that day: Angie came round for a rehearsal. We had decided to include some more audience-participation songs so I came up with a list and we went through them to see which we liked and if so what keys would suit Angie. We ended up with about a dozen including The Piano Man, Sweet Caroline, Wonderwall and a particular song which is going to take a lot of preparation but if it works will make us stand out from the pack – Bohemian Rhapsody. The original is in Bb but we worked out that Angie would find it better in G so my next job is to rewrite the chord sheet in G. That’s my homework.

Thursday 1 March 2018 – Trio practice

This was the first get together for Steve, Mick and me since June last year. I arrived after spending about 20 minutes clearing my car of snow and hefted my Mesa Boogie DC-3 plus Les Paul into the practice room. We played through a number of tunes including Time Is Tight, Night Train, Back At The Chicken Shack, Watermelon Man, Comfortably Numb, Summertime and Superstition.  

Tuesday 27 February 2018 – DWJQ, The Three Elms

Unfortunately our regular sax player, Tony, and also his deputy, Malcolm, couldn’t make tonight’s gig (illness and snow being the respective reasons) so we played as a trio, just guitar bass and drums. I set off from home half expecting the pub to be deserted but in fact it was one our busiest gigs yet. The poker players were in one corner, some locals in another and a small crowd turned up after a few tunes to fill the main table in the middle of the pub. My natural concern was that two hours of the sound of me on guitar might be a bit too much – the sax certainly adds variety and also allows me to play chords more often – but we went down well enough and fortunately I knew all the heads so that I could play them in Tony’s absence. We left out one tune, Moon and Sand, as we had never played that together properly but otherwise it was a complete couple of sets of essentially guitar instrumentals. For that reason I was very pleased. I also recorded it and it will be an invaluable practising tool for John when he wants to play along with it, and for me to be self critical and see if any of the ideas I have been working on recently are finding their way into my playing. I rounded off the evening with a pint of fine beer from the Colchester Brewery, packed up my gear and headed off into the sub-zero temperatures of the night.

Monday 26 February 2018 – practice with John and Mick

The purpose of today’s get together was to do a little more prep work on the songs that have been put forward for the Easter Jazz course in April. We started with a funky version of Sweet Georgia Brown which worked well and the we played Song Of The Anvil which turned out to be more straight forward than we expected. Stevie Wonder’s Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing was next and it isn’t an easy tune rhythmically though what we did was reasonable considering. However the last two were much trickier and we had a go at parts of them but will probably leave it until the course itself to find out how best to play them. These were Chicken Strut and the coda to Chameleon.

Later that day: Despite the snow flurries most of the regulars turned up for the weekly guitar group. After tuning up we strummed C Am7 Dm7 G7sus4 based on chords from You to Me Are Everything (The Real Thing) in tribute to Eddy Amoo who recently died. We also practised soloing over it using C major scale. After the break we finished off with the chorus to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds.

Sunday 25 February 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

Two missing today but I am not sure we have ever had a rehearsal with everyone present. This was John’s first as the new bass player so we spent most of the time on the three tunes that require the most preparation and practice namely Born Under A Bad Sign, One More Heartache (known sometimes as One More Headache) and Pretty Woman (not the Roy Orbison song!). 

Wednesday 21 February 2018 – Practice with John

John has joined The Blues Experience as our new bass player and as we have two gigs in early March it is important for him to quickly get up to speed. He has two rehearsals with the band coming up but today he came over to run through each of the songs in the set list with me, learning the basic song arrangements and any specific riffs. We got through all 16 tunes in a couple of hours. The tunes needing the most time were Born Under A Bad Sign, Pretty Woman and One More Heartache. 

Monday 19 February 2018 – DWJQ rehearsal

Just me, John and Mick so we scooted though the tunes for our first gig of 2018 which is next Tuesday at the Three Elms. I had forgotten to bring most of the sheet music with me so it forced me to play with out bits of paper and for the most part it was fine. Somebody in the audience yesterday pointed out that I had music in front of me which I made excuses for. What I should have pointed out is that I perform about 260 different songs over the course of a year and cannot be expected to memorise all of the them. Or can I?

Earlier that day: Mick, Graham and I got together for a practice session and warmed up on Cantaloupe Island and Bags’ Groove. We then tackled a couple of tougher Jobim songs, Corcovado and Triste. Learning the melody to Triste involved working our way through the 32 bar tune 4 bars at a time then piecing it all together. We finished with Killer Joe.

Later that day: Monday evening means the guitar group comes round. Today we looked at the G major pentatonic scale and the 1645 sequence G Em C D including learning the bass line and chords to Stand By Me (Ben E. King). I then got them to play the 3rds and then the 5ths of the chords and finally how to play them at the same time (diads) on the top two strings. I think we should continue with this idea next week. We finished by strumming through songs from the Monday Song Book, namely  I Wanna Be Like You, Why Does It Always Rain On Me, American Pie and Half The World Away.

Sunday 18 February 2018 – Angie and Dave, The Mighty Tap Room, Maldon

I arrived at this small bar in Maldon High Street with Angie and quickly set up as all we had was an AER amplifier, a microphone and my guitar. We started at 3pm with about six people in the bar but by the peak it was very busy indeed with people singing along and shaking shakers. I wasn’t plugged in so I had to strum very hard for three hours but my fingers fortunately feel okay afterwards. The guitar playing on a couple of songs including America by Razor Light were just a bit too soft to be heard properly. It was a very successful gig. Dave Hawkes performed a few self-penned songs in our breaks and Angie’s friend Barry took some decent looking photos which we can use for publicity. The venue have asked us back on 27th May. Looking forward to it but I will take a Yamaha semi-acoustic rather than my Simon and Patrick acoustic guitar and plug it in, maybe through my looper.

Saturday 17 February 2017 – HOFS jazz co-op

There is a bit of a shortage of bass players in the area at the moment so I was asked to play bass for the 20 strong jazz co-operative as they worked their way through a list of tunes under the tutelage of sax player John. We started with a quick tune, Boogie Stop Shuffle by Charles Mingus. Fortunately I had worked out the bass part beforehand otherwise I wouldn’t have kept up with the eighth note bass line.  We then did Filthy McNasty, in particular the intro, before getting stuck into some Art Pepper tunes. First up was True Blues, a 12 bar piece with a 12 bar tag between solos. Mambo Koyama followed and again I had looked at the written bass part beforehand so had a chance of playing it in time with the saxes. We finished with short renditions of the ballad Patricia and up tempo Chili Pepper followed by a long version of Sonnymoon For Two in which everyone, including me, got a chance to solo. 

Later that day: D’Ukes were back at the White Hart, Grays. We squeezed into the usual small corner and performed our 30 song set to an audience that gradually got our side and genuinely seemed to love it by the end. It was a mild evening for a February and we will be back on 13th October.

Thursday 15 February 2018 – practice with Gil

Gil of G2 fame came round for a practice. We warmed up by practicing playing all major scales going round the circle of fifths in the 4th position starting on either G or G#/Ab. We then played through a number of tunes including Billie’s Bounce, Scrapple From The Apple, Stella By Starlight, Midnight Blue and Gone With The Wind.

Later that day: D’Ukes are in the process of recording a new CD and to make sure that we have enough good live recordings to choose tracks from we went to the Three Elms tonight and recorded ourselves performing a set. I arrived first and helped Peter the landlord move tables out of the way. Mike arrived next and we set up the speakers and other gear in readiness. Once everyone had turned up, plus a small audience of friends and locals, we set about playing the songs. Some were fine straight away but one or two required re-takes such as Angels and You Know I’m No Good. I messed up a couple of things including my solo in Duelling Banjos but nothing that cannot be fixed during the mixing process or re-recording. I think everyone made a few mistakes that will need correcting but on the whole I was very pleased with the end result. By 10:30pm we had finished recording and after packing up and everyone else had gone home I hung around and had a beer with the landlord. 

Wednesday 14 February 2018 – HOFS jazz session

Four front liners plus myself, John on bass and Richard on drums turned up for today’s session at HOFS. We warmed up on Sandu and then tackled Art Pepper’s Mambo Koyama which is simple on the face of it but took a while to get right. It is certainly improving my sight reading doing tunes like this. ‘For fun’ we then did Midnight Blue into which I threw some of my recently gleaned Kenny Burrell licks, not that anyone noticed I expect. Nowadays I am spending more of my practice time at home transcribing solos off records especially Kenny Burrell tunes. We finished with another Art Pepper tune, Chili Pepper, which is a contrafact of Tea For Two. It was ok. Just. 

Later that day: I headed back down the A130 for the second time today, this time to play with Interplay at the Railway Hotel. This was Martin’s last gig on bass and for whatever reason it turned out to be one of our better ones. Mistakes (the sort the audience probably wouldn’t notice) were fairly absent and the sound of the band seemed better than usual. I always try and place my amplifier behind me on the right hand side so that I can hear it with my good ear – the left ear is almost completely deaf –  but in this venue, because of the stage position, I have to place it in front of one of the entrance doors. Fortunately nobody tried using it. I was pleased to be getting some ideas into my solos that I had been working on including playing shorter phrases, following guide tones during Autumn Leaves (an idea taken from Jim Mullen), some blues licks courtesy of Kenny Burrell, various enclosures and playing upper triads (e.g. Cm triad over an Am7b5 chord). I came away from the gig much happier than I often do. Even My Funny Valentine went well – it has had a tendency to go wrong in the past for some reason. A much better gig and the audience seemed to appreciate us – we were even getting some decent yelps by the end of the final tune, Caravan.

Tuesday 13 February 2018 – Guitars Galore

I went round to their practice room for another session. Last time I gave them Imagine (John Lennon) to work on and they performed that for me to listen to. After giving them some advice on strumming patterns and getting them to practise the tricky chord changes in the pre-chorus (C Cmaj7 E E7 all in one bar for example) we moved on to some rock and roll. The plan was to teach them Route 66 but instead we spent the rest of the session working on the rock and roll shuffle beat played on the lower strings using the Johnny B. Goode chords in the key of A as a template.

Monday 12 February 2018 – practice with Graham and Mick

This is the first session for nearly a couple of months. We started with Misty, Sweet Georgia Brown and Stella By Starlight and then The Girl From Ipanema and Cantaloupe Island. The latter didn’t go so well on the first attempt so we stopped for a break of coffee and biscuits. This seemed to do the trick as the next attempt was much better. We finished the morning with Once I Have Loved (I need to work on the melody of the bridge) and Autumn Leaves during which I tried out a few Jim Mullen licks that I had learned at his recent gig.

Later that day: Ted came round for a lesson and showed me his new resonator ukulele which he had made himself, including the body, the neck and the fretboard which he had measured and fitted with frets made from welding wire. It played very nicely and sounded great. He’s a clever chap!

Even later that day: The Monday Evening Guitar Group guys came round for another session. Before tuning up we had a chat about why they come along to the sessions. There were interesting answers ranging from the obvious learning aims to the more personal reasons. We started the musical side of the evening by looking at the interval of a major 6th. I demonstrated it using the intro to the Sam and Dave song, Soul Man, (as played by Steve Cropper). We reviewed the F major pentatonic scale from last week and then strummed F Dm Gm C7 (a “1625”) and soloed over it using the F major pentatonic scale. To avoid it sounded disconnected from the music I suggested some chord tones such as A F G C and F A D G to use as ‘waymarkers’ through the chord sequence. We listened to Hugh Masekela’s Grazing In The Grass (same chords) and strummed along using a little harmony line that I had picked out from the record.

Sunday 11 February 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

All here except John and Mark. We carried on working on the set list. Born Under A Bad Sign is now in A and the intro is no longer of a fixed length. Down At The Chicken Shack, Work Song, Key To The Highway and Help Me all sounded good. The intro to Pretty Woman still needs some work as it is one of the trickier parts of the repertoire. Hopefully will have some new gigs to announce in the near future.

Saturday 10 February 2018 – D’Ukes, The Norton Pub, Cold Norton

I’ve lost track of how many times we have played here but it’s always this time of the year. For a change we played at the other end of the pub which was better from an audience point of view though less space for us. It was a smaller audience than we usually get here but by the end they were shouting for more.

Friday 9 February 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

All present today for the first time since before Christmas. We went though some of the tunes we are playing at the Railway Hotel on Valentine’s Day next week. John suggested a less busy strum pattern for Groovy Samba (something like |D–U–D-|D—–D-|) which worked well. The Sidewinder, Stablemates and Bemsha Swing were fine but Eye Of The Hurricane still needs work and will be dropped for now. Blue Daniel is tricky for soloists as it’s 14 bar sequence doesn’t naturally end and there is a danger of either the soloist never stopping or crashing into the next soloist’s chorus. Of course we are going to play My Funny Valentine and that sounded fine in 6/8 time.

Thursday 8 February 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

No Martin today so we worked on tunes he is not heavily involved in. Having said that we strummed through What A Wonderful World which he sings and then played Hound Dog, Ruby, Runaway and Walking On The Moon. Finally, we listened to three songs on Spotify that we are considering working on next: Torn (Natalie Imbruglia), You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth (Meat Loaf) and Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics).

Wednesday 7 February 2018 – DWJQ rehearsal

First rehearsal of 2018 prior to our regular gig at the Three Elms later in the month and we’ve now got John officially on bass. Most of the tunes sounded absolutely fine and ‘ready to gig’ except the following that need some work: Midnight Blue (establishing the actual melody line accurately), I Hear A Rhapsody (getting the tempo up), Equinox (firming up the timing) and Have You Met Miss Jones (getting it swinging nicely). The other 12 all sounded great and ready to be performed and these four are very close to being ready. With a bit effort I could gig without song sheets in front of me. I Hear A Rhapsody is the one causing me (and everyone else I think) the most difficulty. A good start to the year for the DWJQ.

Later that day: Angie came round for a rehearsal prior to our gig at the Mighty Oak Tap Room in Maldon on Sunday afternoon, 18th February. We have a set list of about 36 songs though we have performed most of them before. Today we went through the dozen or so new ones. I’ve still got a little work to do on America (Razor Light) but other than that I think I am pretty much ready to go. We will be unamplified on the day so I’ll be playing my Simon & Patrick acoustic guitar and Angie will be singing without even a microphone. 

Tuesday 6 February 2018 – Matt Watts, Bardswell, Brentwood

I make a point of going to the Bardswell jazz club on Tuesday evenings if I am not doing anything else. Tonight it was the turn of Matt Watts and his quartet to entertain me and they certainly did. Dave Chamberlain was like a thumping machine on the double bass, very quick and precise and I liked Matt’s phrasing during his solos. Leon Greening was playing like he came from another planet on the piano and Matt Fishwick provided the spark on drums. They performed great versions of This I Dig Of You and Star Eyes plus several compositions I didn’t recognise including some of Matt’s. It was a small audience so I figured that I would stand a better chance than usual if bought more raffle tickets than usual. I didn’t win anything.

Monday 5 February 2018 – practice with Graham, John and Mick

Another Essex Easter Jazz practice session. This time Graham was effectively being supported by the DWJQ rhythm section! We went through the tunes from last week and added two new ones, Chameleon and The Lady Is A Tramp. That’s seven out of the ten so far and most of them worked more or less straight away as we had all obviously put in some practice beforehand. We still need to do Don’t You Worry About A Thing, Song Of The Anvil and Chicken Strut. And not forgetting the coda of Chameleon.

Later that day: as always I host the Monday Guitar Group session on Monday evenings and today after the usual tune up we warmed up by playing the G major scale in various positions on the neck. Today’s “interval”was a minor 3rd (Smoke On The Water, Goodbye Farewell) so I got them to hear and memorise the sound and then tested them by mixing it in with other intervals. The warm up strum was on the chords to My Girl (Temptations) and the major pentatonic riff in tribute to Dennis Edwards who died recently. After the tea break we looked at the bass riff to Papa Was A Rolling Stone and in particular the timing of it and then finished the evening by jamming on blues in A and then E.

Sunday 4 February 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

Good rehearsal today with everyone except the bass player, Martin. We warmed up on Born In Chicago (with stops after first verse and at the end of tag ending) and Pretty Woman (I must remember that the solos are over 12 bar progressions!). We then spent some time working on Born Under A Bad Sign (which will feature a baritone solo), Hoochie Coochie Man and One More Heartache (now in Em with a switch to percussion after my solo). We made a start on Stormy Monday but quickly realised that the chords to Freddie King’s version are very different to the jazzier Allman Brothers version. I’ll go home and work them out.

Friday 2 February 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

No John to day so we went through a few of the tunes we are performing at our first gig of 2018, at the Railway Hotel on 14th Feb. These included Eye Of The Hurricane (I need to work out the Fm voicing I should play), Little Rootie Tootie (again there is a chord I need to find a voicing for, difficult when it is a Thelonious Monk piano chord), Blue Daniel, Filthy McNasty (there’s a new intro), Groovy Samba (Richard emplying a shaker) and The Sidewinder.

Thursday 1 February 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

After a long chat about various upcoming gigs in the summer we rehearsed What A Wonderful World (which is ready to gig), Bang Bang (which I’ve suggested different chords for), Hound Dog (which now has stops at either end of my solo), Runaway (which has been a bit more arranged) and Walking On The Moon (which is coming together gradually).

Wednesday 31 January 2018 – practice with John

John came round to run through all the tunes for the first DWJQ gig of the year. Sixteen in all as usual – some went smoothly, others needed a bit of attention but on the whole they are all on the way to being ready soon. The last one we did was St Thomas and John was wondering if we always perform this tune – we’ve done 42 gigs and indeed St Thomas is the most played tune, but only 25 times. Looking forward to the first gig with John as our official bass player.

Monday 29 January 2018 – Monday Guitar Group

After a tune up we warmed up by playing the C major starting on different strings and also looked at the 3 fingers per fret approach. We then continued looking at intervals, this time the major 3rd (e.g. the opening notes of While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks). I played them various intervals on the guitar and asked them to say which ones were major thirds. The warm up strum was based on the Cranberries song, Linger (D A6 C, G), and after the break we made a start on Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds by learning the intro which was originally played on a celeste I think.

Sunday 28 January 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

My first rehearsal for six weeks and we warmed up on Callin’ On My Darlin’, Hideaway Chitlins Con Carne and Walkin’ Blues. We then spent more time on Pretty Woman, Born Under A Bad Sign and One More Heartache. 

Later that day: I went to see the Jim Mullen Trio at the Royal Tiger and got there to find in the audience a dozen other (mostly) sax players I know who go to the same workshops as I do. After our buffet style meal of Indian food the band came on and played through a set of standards, all easy going stuff with no outlandish soloing or quirky riffs. I liked Jim’s endlessly fluid soloing full of melodic ideas which made it very accessible and threw in several musical quotes to keep you guessing. He might have slightly overdone this latter idea as I heard Stranger In Paradise quoted in two separate solos. Nevertheless, it was a great evening’s guitar playing and I had a perfect view of his fretboard and fingers. Two ideas came to me as a result of watching him play: isolate and learn the 16 3rds/7ths that navigate through the Autumn Leaves melody and use them as a basis for soloing, and find a way of running up and down arpeggios (rather than scales) diagonally, maybe using triads and enclosures to achieve this (to be explored).

Meanwhile, Gil handed over an excellent painting he had done of me which I proudly showed to the others. The aim was to capture me in dramatic lighting while playing guitar which he certainly achieved.

Saturday 27 January 2018 – D’Ukes, Blue Boar Beer Festival

I got a phone call in the afternoon to say the weather was drying and warming up this evening so we were going to be playing outside, which meant more layers of clothing and fingerless gloves for me. We played for three hours with only a couple of short breaks and went down very well. Even our version of Hound Dog was a winner, a song we had only rehearsed a couple of times on Thursday. Modesty as always prevents me from saying that possibly (not definitely) the biggest cheer of the night was at the end of Comfortably Numb and I was particularly pleased with my solo which started off a little stiffly because of my cold fingers but eventually got going and ended up being significantly longer than usual with extra ideas thrown in. We’ll be back for the much bigger beer festival on 4th May.

Earlier that day: there must have been well over 20 people in attendance at Dominic Ashworth’s morning workshop at HOFS. There were four guitarists plus all the usual saxes and other instruments, and the reason I attended was because the focus was on Kenny Burrell. We spent the first half on Chitlins Con Carne which I must admit I was fairly familiar with but I liked Dominic’s way of breaking down the C7#9 arpeggio. We then spent a short period of time on Lyresto, Midnight Blue and All Night Long. He pointed out some interesting alternative chords for the solos during Midnight Blue which I hadn’t appreciated though I knew something was different. It was good to see lots of friendly faces including John from Interplay who gave me my Christmas present (finally!) and John from D’Ukes on bass.

Friday 26 January 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

No John today but we started resurrecting some old tunes for possible inclusion at gigs in 2018. These included Blue Daniel, Eye Of The Hurricane, Little Rootie Tootie, Bemsha Swing and The Sidewinder. Bobby Broom does a good version of Bemsha Swing on his Plays For Monk CD. 

Thursday 25 January 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We’re in the middle of recording a live CD at various venues so tonight we rehearsed some of the tunes we will be recording on Saturday. In fact we played them so well we wished we had recorded them tonight! The remainder of the evening was spent on new tunes, in particular, Hound Dog (in D minor and then D major) and What A Wonderful World. Other tunes we need to work on next time include Bang Bang, Runaway and Walking On The Moon.

Wednesday 24 January 2018 – practice with John

The two of us worked our way through the four Kenny Burrell tunes that will be featured at the Dominic Ashworth workshop on Saturday. We then had a run through a couple of EEJ tunes, Sweet Georgia Brown and Midnight Voyage.

Later that day: I went down to Hadleigh to play some jazz tunes with the HOFS group. Again we ran through the four Kenny Burrell tunes plus a mixture of others including Daahoud, Sandu and the Spin.

Monday 22 January 2018 – practice with Graham and John

Essex Easter Jazz course is coming up in a few weeks so the three of us started looking at the tunes that will be studied. Today we made a start on five of the ten, namely Midnight Voyage, Have You Met Miss Jones, Equinox, Sweet Georgia Brown and I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.

Later that day: I had a good session with the Monday Guitar Group. We finally completed the learning and playing of Time Is Tight. Before that we looked at our second interval, the perfect 4th, and then in tribute to the recently deceased Jim Rodford we played Hold Your Head Up (Argent) featuring his iconic bass riff.

Saturday 20 January 2018 – Pegasus, Bar 21, Southend

Pegasus is a sextet comprising Interplay’s four members plus Stef (trumpet) and Kirsty (vocals). We were booked to play at a gathering after a gallery of Stef’s father’s art work which was opening in Southend. I arrived and unloaded my gear and already people were starting to wander in. Eventually there were well over 100 people crammed into this sea front bar. We started off with Bags’ Groove instrumentally and then proceeded through several Interplay standards but with vocal choruses added by Kirsty. I started really getting into it during the second set and was pleased to get a few new ideas into my Autumn Leaves solo. We finished with an energetic version of Caravan.

Friday 19 January 2018 – D’Ukes, Peggy Sue’s Music Bar

I always have a slight feeling of trepidation when we play a venue for the first time, usually because I am concerned that nobody will turn up having convinced the manager to book us based on our large following. We arrived to find the venue deserted, small and cold so we set up in what little space there was. After a quiet start, by 9pm the place was almost full. Every song was concluded by a large cheer which was fortunate because we were recording this for our next album, a live one. For this reason I think we were all playing a little hesitantly at first, not that the audience would have noticed, and one or two mistakes crept in, but they can be corrected later. By the end of the evening the whole bar was singing along and some were dancing. It was a raucous night and the bar manager and owner were both very pleased and keen to book us back.

Earlier that day: On Saturday I will be playing at Pier 21 in Southend with a band comprising Interplay band members augmented by Stef on trumpet and Kirsty on vocals. This afternoon we rehearsed the ten or so tunes we will be playing including Caravan, The Lady Is A Tramp, Midnight Voyage, It Ain’t Necessarily So and Bags’ Groove.

Thursday 18 January 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We’re playing at Peggy Sue’s tomorrow, our first gig of the year, so we went to The Three Elms to rehearse and ran through the entire set which of course took more than a couple of hours. But it was worth it and I for one felt much more confident about performing the songs, especially as we will also be recording it for a possible new CD.

Wednesday 17 January 2018 – practice with John

We’re both playing at a forthcoming workshop featuring the music of Kenny Burrell so we started the morning working on four tunes: All Night Long, Midnight Blue, Chitlins Con Carne and Lyresto. After spending a brief amount of time on Clifford Brown’s Sandu and Daahoud we spent the rest of the session playing a couple of slower tunes, Moonlight In Vermont and Darn That Dream which might work with the new look DWJQ which is due to have its first outing in February.

Later that day: Angie came round for our first rehearsal of the year which mainly involved running through the dozen or so new songs we are learning for the next gig. We finished by playing through some riffy rock songs such as Black Night which might find its way into the set one day.

Tuesday 16 January 2018 – Tenor Madness, Bardswell, Brentwood

I went to Bardswell with a few other jazzer friends to see a great sextet, Tenor Madness, re-enacting the music of Spike Robinson’s band of the 1990s, today featuring three of the top tenor players in the country, Alan Barnes, Derek Nash and Vasilis Xenopolous. They were all on top form as they ripped through tunes such as Tickle Toe, The Note and Tenor Madness itself. It was one of the few gigs I have been to where not only did I want them to play longer, I wished each of their solos were longer. They were so full of exciting ideas but having three players meant their solos were necessarily shorter than usual. Great fun from the front line supported by an excellent rhythm section including Bobby Worth on drums.

Monday 15 January 2018 – Monday Guitar Group

After tuning up we warmed up our fingers playing the C major scale, up/down and down/up over two octaves. This led to a look at the intervals involved in a major scale. I played them the interval of a perfect 5th and gave them examples of tunes that begin with that interval: My Favourite Things and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I then played them a variety of intervals and asked them to identify which one was the perfect 5th. We then strummed the chords Bm G E A and worked out some single and double lines through the chords. After the break we spent the rest of the session continuing to work on Time Is Tight, notably the riff and main melody.

Thursday 11 January 2018 – Practice with Gil

It has been a while but it’s always good to play with Gil as a jazz guitar duo. We started with the relatively straight forward Blue Monk and then moved on to some more challenging stuff namely Recordame, Recorda Bossa Nova, Lyresto and Joy Spring. The first two tunes were performed by Mick Foster’s quartet on Tuesday and another tune we played today, Tea For Two, was also in their set list. We finished with Stella By Starlight.

Wednesday 10 January 2018 – HOFS rehearsal

Ten people turned up for today’s HOFS session, 6 front liners and 4 in the rhythm section. We warmed up with Richard’s suggestion of Sandu (Clifford Brown) which is an Eb blues then played The Spin (Josh Kemp) and I Remember Clifford, a tune I’d like to learn properly. We finished the afternoon with one of my suggestions, Midnight Blue (Kenny Burrell) and I had a couple of nice comments about my solo.

Tuesday 9 January 2018 – Guitars Galore

Back for the first session of the year we went back over The Lion Sleeps Tonight and then I introduced them to Imagine (John Lennon) which they are going to work on between now and the next session.

Later that day: having seen guitarist Colin Oxley at the 606 Club in London last year I was pleased to see that he was playing at Bardswell as part of the Mick Foster Quartet tonight. So along I went and what a treat. His fluid lines were a perfect counterpoint to Mick’s melodic sax playing. He was playing a Gibson L5 (I thought it was a Super 400 at first) though I couldn’t see what the amp was. Next week, Bardswell is hosting three of the top sax players in the country, Derek Nash, Vas Xenopolous and Alan Barnes. Looks like I’ll be going to that too.

Monday 8 January 2018 – Monday Guitar Group

After tuning up we warmed up playing the A major scale at increasing speeds and then played ascending 4 note cells based on this scale. There is a copyright news item around at the moment: Radiohead lawyers are suing Lana Del Ray for copying Creep on her song Get Free so we listened to that followed by The Air That I Breathe and Dock Of The Bay – other tunes that are similar. After strumming through Creep and employing 6th note diads in the style of Steve Cropper I showed them the riffs and arpeggios in Time Is Tight (Booker T and the MGs) which we will complete next week.

Friday 5 January 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

We’ve got a gig with Stef (trumpet) and Kirsty (vocals) coming up soon so we ran through some of the tunes including Cheese Cake, My Little Suede Shoes, Caravan and Love For Sale. Stef wasn’t at the rehearsal but Kirsty sang most of the tunes using words she had either written or gleaned off the web.

Thursday 4 January 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Only four of us were available for tonight’s rehearsal but we managed to still make some progress on new tunes Bang Bang, Runaway and What A Wonderful World. Bang Bang has some light and shade reminiscent of our version of Deliliah and also employs a guitar rhythm in the choruses along the lines of the riff in Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Martin also suggested Key To The Highway as another blues tune and we jammed on it for a few minutes.


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