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Sunday 14 October 2018 – Angie and Dave, Mighty Oak Tap Room, Maldon

If audience reaction is a measure of success this gig must rank in the top 10 of the year out of over 90 gigs so far. Although when I arrived to set up the bar was completely empty, it was pretty packed out by the middle of the first set. I must admit to recognising just about everyone there meaning we must have some sort of a following as most of them had seen us the last couple of times we played here. We performed a mixture of sing-along favourites (Three Little Birds, Delilah, Mustang Sally) and more earnest tunes (Life On Mars, What A Waste, People Are Strange) but it was Roadhouse Blues (The Doors) that got some people up and dancing. One of the great things about being a duo is that you are really flexible when it comes to things such as the number of choruses sung, stopping playing while the audience takes over, changing the rhythm style etc. I even had a go at getting people to clap on beats two and four rather than one and three and, with the exception of a couple of musicians in the audience, I’ve got to say it wasn’t very successful and I got a lot of bemused looks. By 6pm despite having played for over three hours they clamoured for more but we insisted on finishing after the seven minute long American Pie. It was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon and to cap it all we got a very healthy collection after the beer glass had been passed round.

Saturday 13 October 2018 – D’Ukes, White Hart, Grays

This was a return gig and interestingly, what seemed like a very small stage area the first time we played here, seemed quite adequate this time. The pub, by the landlord’s admission, wasn’t very busy tonight but we got a good reaction and plenty of people eagerly joined in with our routines such as the conga line during The Boots Are Made For Walking and the dancing during New York, New York. The landlord was happy and showed it by booking us in for three dates in 2019.

Friday 12 October 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

At the rehearsal (without John) we warmed up on Blues In The Closet and then worked on Nica’s Dream (Horace Silver), Well You Needn’t (Thelonius Monk) and Crisis (Freddie Hubbard) and then finished with Five Spot After Dark.

Thursday 11 October 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We made sure that Half The World Away, You Can’t Hurry Love and You Do Something To Me are ready for the gig on Saturday at the White Hart in Grays. Then we worked on new tunes, Minnie The Moocher, America and Nobody Does It Better (in the style of Chas and Dave?). Finally we thought about what Christmas songs we could play at the December gigs and came up with a short list of Last Christmas, White Christmas, Let It Snow and possibly All I Want For Christmas.

Wednesday 10 October 2018 – Jazz trio gig, HOFS Art Exhibition

What a warm, sunny day for October! I arrived in Hadleigh early and, wearing my black suit, black shirt and black shoes, went for lunch to a nearby cafe – veggie breakfast and a cup of tea for £5.20. Very nice too. The Open sign was up outside the exhbition and people were starting to wander in. Richard (drums), John (bass) and I set up our gear in front of a few paintings and sound checked first then had a cup of coffee and some cakes that were clearly bought from Morrisons over the road and provided by the kind people running this exhibition. We played for an hour, mostly jazz standards and a few Latin numbers, and I really enjoyed it. Being the only front line instrument I had plenty of freedom to play what I wanted and John and Richard seemed happy to provide a steady rhythm. During My Little Suede Shoes a couple of women started dancing which was nice and then an older chap started displaying his dancing footwork to Fly Me To The Moon. Dancing to our music is unusual enough but in an art gallery too! We finished with Have You Met Miss Jones and I must say I enjoyed this gig more than most this year (so far numbering about 85). It was partly due to the sense of personal achievement that I was not only no longer in the rhythm section, clearly in the front, but also that I performed the entire hour of music without any sheet music in front of me.

Later that day: at the DWJQ rehearsal we worked on a number of tunes that will be included either in the next gig set list or the one after that. We started with a funkier version of Freddie Freeloader and then worked on Cissy Strut making sure that everyone had the notes and timing. We then looked at Autumn Leaves, adding a 6 bar extension at the end of each chorus, Yesterdays, working out some counterpoint lines for the saxes to play behind my guitar, Unsquare Dance, getting the timing right, and I Wish I Knew which worked straight away with Tony playing the tune and Annette taking a solo. I also got everyone to try soloing over the Tenor Madness chords with the rest of the band clapping on beats 2 and 4. The rehearsal was so good that we finished early without anything more to do so Mick and I went for a drink at the local pub, the Black Bull.

Tuesday 9 October 2018 – Blues Experience, The Three Elms

I must say this was our best performance to date, and also the first date with Annette on saxophone. The pub wasn’t full but it was an enthusiastic crowd and we played a couple of hour-long sets including Sweet Home Chicago which I hadn’t even rehearsed with them before but it seemed to work well. The pub fed us with bowls of veggie chilli during the break and afterwards I had a nice pint of bitter as always before packing up and heading home. Here’s a short clip of us playing I Got My Mojo Working.

Monday 8 October 2018 – practice with Mick and Graham

We spent a good deal of time on three tunes, something which is always more satisfying than just jamming or busking through them quickly. The tunes were Fungii Mama (with stops at the beginning of the A sections), Serenade To A Cuckoo and Blue Moon. We then started on a new tune, Footprints, and I worked out a harmony line a perfect fifth below the melody which Graham was playing.

Later that day: the Monday Evening Guitar Group reconvened for the first time since July. After developing some ideas around the chord progression C Dm G Eb Dm (from Design For Life) we strummed through Natural Woman in tribute to Arethra Franklin who died earlier this year. We finished by practising soloing over a Cm blues. We’ll do more of this next week.

Sunday 7 October 2018 – rehearsal with Angie

We’re playing at The Maldon Tap next Sunday at 3pm so we ran through a few of the newer tunes such as Golden Brown and Paint It Black. We then had another run at Bohemian Rhapsody and successfully played it from start to finish for the first time. The rest of the evening was deciding on which Christmas tunes we’d like to play at our Christmas Lights gig in Grays in November and we plumped for Last Christmas (Wham) and I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day (Wizzard).

Saturday 6 October 2018 – D’Ukes, Mirren Studio, Basildon

For some reason I always have trouble finding the entrance to this theatre but today we managed to get into the car park at the first attempt. We weren’t allowed to set up till 6pm but we still had time to sound check and practise our big entrance to the music from Close Encounters as well as the start of set two where we walk on playing the opening bars to Angels. During Sit Down, as usual, I went into the audience and sat next to someone just as the chorus reached the phrase “Sit Down”. The ‘lucky’ recipient of my attention doesn’t always seem that interested in what I am doing or even realise why I am doing it but the two today seemed to enjoy it. As always we finished with New York, New York and then it was time to dash off to the car park to retrieve our cars before it was locked. Meanwhile here is a clip of us playing One Day Like This.

Thursday 4 October 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We started off by running through a few tunes that we’ll be playing at the Mirren Studion on Saturday including Torn (partly to get the speed right) and What A Wonderful World (to sort out the correct number of bars in the middle section). We then worked on some new tunes namely You Can’t Hurry Love, Half The World Away, You Do Something To Me and America.

Monday 1 October to 4 October 2018 – Malvern Hills

When I was 11 years old I found a copy of the 2nd Punch Annual in the bookshelf of a country cottage that I was staying in on holiday with my parents. I still remember some of the cartoons to this day, nearly 50 years later: “…and I warn America…!” spoken by a little old man on a soapbox to a small crowd, or the waitress bringing a pot of tea down a spiral staircase announcing to the customer: “you’ll find it’s already stirred, sir.” Well, what should I find today when browsing through the book section of a Barnados charity shop in Worcester? A copy of the very same annual. I bought it for 99p, said keep the change without thinking (I gave the assistant a pound coin) and I have been chuckling all the way over the Malvern Hills and along the Usk valley. Short video click here.

Sunday 30 September 2018 – Jazz Jam, The Herald, Harlow

Mick had come up with the idea of us hosting a jazz jam at the Herald and after much discussion and planning the day finally arrived. Not only was this a first for some of the players who had never experienced a jam session before, it was also a first for us putting one on. It was called Freddie Freeloader’s Jazz Jam and we arrived at about 3pm just hoping enough people would turn up with their instruments or voices to play – and they did. Eventually. Although I played on several of the songs my main role was to announce the songs, call up people to the stage, organise the soloing rota and get the audience to applaud at the end of each number. We started with a brief, funked up version of Freddie Freeloader and then launched into Autumn Leaves featuring alto players Nikki and Rita. On guitars we had Gary and Gil plus the mainstay rhythm section of John on bass and Mick on drums who, later on in the afternoon, successfully swapped roles on three songs led by Graham. Next up we played three songs led by Julia on tenor sax (St Thomas, Five Spot After Dark and Chitlins Con Carne) after which guitarist Gil played a few tunes. And so the afternoon progressed with tunes such as Cantaloupe Island, One Note Samba, Sonnymoon For Two and Beautiful Love. Other performers included Annette from the DWJQ on tenor sax, Graham on alto and singers Nicole and Gill. We eventually wrapped up the afternoon with Moondance, Watermelon Man and finally Night Train. One of the highlights was getting everyone on stage for Oye Como Va which I think got the biggest applause from the audience who, I should point out, all left after the jam session was over indicating that we were the reason they were there. From an organisational point of view (very important) it was a success and from a personal point view I enjoyed it enough to definitely want to do it again one day. 

Friday 28 September 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

Richard, Mark and I (no John) worked on tunes for the Taksim Restaurant gig in November (standards such as The Girl From Ipanema, Mack The Knife and Take Five) then started looking at some hard bop tunes including Crisis (Freddie Hubbard) and Nica’s Dream (Horace Silver). Mark suggested peddling the bass during the bridge of Autumn Leaves and also at the end of the head before the solos. This worked quite well – if we still remember it by the time we play it in November. Really enjoyed the rehearsal, partly because, without John there, it gave me a chance to play the heads to many of the tunes.

Thursday 27 September 2018 – practice with Mick and John

Every now and again we get together to try out new tunes which may or may not end up in DWJQ’s repertoire. I had chosen a few new tunes today to see if they had potential in particular Stone Flower (Antonio Carlos Jobim), I Wish I Knew (Harry Warren) and Unsquare Dance (Dave Brubeck). Stone Flower has a fairly long, complicated arrangement which we started work on and then left it for me to work out the next section. I Wish I Knew is a slow ballad which I had difficulty keeping my place in as I kept going into double time by mistake. Unsquare Dance is in 7/4 time and we had fun getting the first couple of sections to work. After that we went through three tunes we’ve played before which were in need of a bit of refreshing. These were Yesterdays, a straight forward swing tune, Cissy Strut, a funky 60s hit with a New Orleans drum pattern, and Freddie Freeloader which we gave a funkier rhythm too in order to bring it back to life. Very enjoyable session and I look forward to hearing what they sound like with the sax players as well.

Wednesday 26 September 2018 – practice for the jazz jam session

As we are going to be the house band rhythm section at the jam session on Sunday John, Mick and I got together to run through the tunes which have been chosen by the various musicians who will be performing. All the tunes went reasonably well, even when Mick and John swapped their instruments (drums and bass) for the three tunes that we’re doing with Graham on sax (Cantaloupe Island, Sonnymoon For Two and This Can’t Be Love). Afterwards I drove over to a car park near Little Hallingbury where there is an almost idyllic river walk into Bishops Stortford where I indulged in an enormous superfood salad with feta cheese at a cafe the name of which escapes me – but they make the best salad. 

Tuesday 25 September 2018  – Partisans, The Vortex Club

I had a lesson and some workshop tuition during a jazz summer school with guitarist Phil Robson back at the beginning of my jazz career (late 1990s) and so I was keen to see his band, Partisans, not only playing at the Vortex in London but recording their next CD. I arrived to find that ‘the band arrived late so we can’t let you in yet’ but eventually we all filed in and I took up my allotted table right in front of the stage by the drum kit. They are a very powerful quartet (sax, guitar, bass and drums) and play a particularly experimental form of jazz rock. For a short video clip, click here. Phil uses a fair number of pedals including distortion and wah and is a very quick and nimble player. It was a great gig and I can’t imagine how they could improve on it the following night (they are recording two nights and picking the best bits for the CD). I was far from bored but I happened to look out of the window at one point and noticed plenty of empty parking spaces in the free car park outside the club which made me think that it would probably be worth driving next time. It’s only an hour to this part of London. This time I had a train to catch and unfortunately I had to leave before the end due to their late start but the long trip was more than worthwhile.

(Partisans in one of their less experimental moments)

Monday 24 September 2018 – practice with Mick and Graham

We’ve got a public jam session coming up on Sunday in Harlow so we went through the three tunes that Graham is going to lead on, Cantaloupe Island, Sonnymoon For Two and This Can’t Be Love. Then we looked at some others, namely Serenade To A Cuckoo and Fungii Mama (I tried out a two bar Cuban guitar figure which I had been working on) and Blue Moon after which I packed up and walked into town for a salad lunch with coffee at a small cafe in Moulsham Street.

Later that day: in the evening I headed off down to Southend to play in Ron Spack’s pick-up band which included John Seeley on sax and Mike Warner on guitar. The idea was to perform in the approximate style of a hot club quartet with a four beat strumming style. Not all of the songs in John’s repertoire perhaps suited this approach but we gave it a go and some tunes were hits (Tenor Madness was probably the most successful) and some were less so (I Hear A Rhapsody in particular didn’t suit the Django approach). I played the heads on a couple of tunes (Have You Met Miss Jones and The Girl From Ipanema) while most of them were taken by John on the tenor sax. Next time, if there is a next time, we need to reposition the guitar amplifiers so that we can both hear each other and better compliment each other’s playing rather.

Saturday 21 September 2018 – DWJQ, Bandstand, Southend

I arrived at Priory Park to find it raining and no sign of clear skies heading our way from the north west (normally the clues are in the south west) so I asked in the cafe if they would be happy for us to play there instead. This was fine with them and might even boost their trade slightly, so we moved a few tables and set up. There were a couple of people having coffee on the sofa near where we were setting up but they soon left when Mick started warming up on the drums. Once all five of us had turned up and tuned up we performed 14 numbers to a small, friendly audience. The Latin tunes such as Oye Como Va and Fungii Mama seem to get the strongest response from the audience. At the interval a chap who comes to all the Priory Park gigs spoke to me and told me how he particularly likes both John’s sax playing in Interplay (he called it warm and passionate) and (in complete contrast) the entertainment value of D’Ukes. He asked me a number of questions about playing guitar and my answer to all of them seemed to be “practice, practice, practice”. Anyone would have thought he was asking how you get to Ronnie Scotts (old joke). The band finished as ever with a rousing version of St Thomas and said we goodbye. I wasn’t in a hurry to leave as I had three hours to kill before going to another gig but the staff were keen to close up the cafe so we packed up and headed off into the darkened skies.

Later that day: after leaving Priory Park and struggling to leave Southend in the busy traffic I eventually found a Costa Coffee where I grabbed a coffee (why do we ‘grab’ coffees?) and headed out to Laindon Hills where I parked the car looking down the hill and snacked on cooked Quorn sausages, pitta bread and banana (if you must know). Soon it was time to go and pick up John and head down to the Taksim restaurant in Stanford Le Hope where we (JazzDuo) were due play at 8pm. The restaurant wanted us to play in the bar rather than the dining area this time which pleased us (see reaction in photo) as there was more room and I would actually be able to hear myself above all the laughter and chatter that usually drowns us out. We played through more or less the same set as usual (Bags’ Groove, Take Five, Besame Mucho and others) with a short break in the middle. It’s always a very relaxing couple of hours. Rarely does anyone clap though one couple on a nearby table did seem to be paying close attention and asked for a business card at the end. We finished with a blues in Bb, packed up, confirmed with the managed when we were due to come back and said goodbye to Taksim Restaurant for another evening.

Thursday 20 September 2018 – practice with Mick

We got together to work on songs for the jam session coming up on 30th September. First up were the three we are playing with Graham, namely This Can’t Be Love, Sonnymoon For Two and Cantaloupe Island. We then worked on a couple of other tunes: Serenade To A Cuckoo and Wave.

Later that day: at the D’Ukes rehearsal, after warming up with the gentle Half The World Away we started working on a couple of new tunes namely You Do Something To Me (Paul Weller) and Minnie The Moocher (Cab Calloway).

Tuesday 18 September 2018 – DWJQ, The Three Elms

This was to be Annette’s first gig with the DWJQ after a couple of rehearsals. Although no longer a quartet we will sometimes go out as a foursome so perhaps we should call ourselves the DW Jazz Qu**t*t. I had reduced tonight’s set list to 14 tunes to compensate for the increased number of soloists and sure enough the gig came in at exactly 2 hours long which is what we need for Saturday’s gig on the Southend Bandstand (3pm to 5pm). We performed to a reasonable sized crowd in the pub who enthusiastically clapped after every tune and after every introduction to a band member. I think we all played well and apart from the ending to Rev Moses which went a bit pear shaped nothing went noticeably skewiff. After a few tunes I started to break up the pattern of ‘tune followed by three solos followed by tune and end’. One idea I tried a couple of times was introducing the next soloist by getting them to start off with fours with the previous soloist. We also played 4+8s in one of the blues tunes where the soloist plays four bars followed by an eight bar drum break. That worked well though I am not sure if everyone knew what we were doing as it was the first time we had tried it. In order to signal our way through these ideas I do need to have good visual contact with everyone. Being a small pub this wasn’t easy and I occasionally found myself waving at Mick the drummer through a gap between Annette’s arm and her music stand.

The final part of the evening followed a similar pattern to previous gigs: finish with St Thomas, slowly start packing up, have a beer and a chat with some of the people who had come along specially to see us, continue packing up, sit at the bar and chat with the staff till everyone else has gone home, then load up the car and head home for tahini on homemade bread and a cup of tea.

Monday 17 September 2018 – Practice with Mick and Graham

The day started like a lot of Mondays with a practice session with Mick and Graham. We’re playing at Freddie Freeloader’s Jam Session on 30th September so we made a point of deciding on what tunes to perform. We settled on Cantaloupe Island, Sonnymoon For Two and This Can’t Be Love. Serenade To A Cuckoo is another possibility but still needs some work. After spending most of the morning working on those tunes we finished with Blue Bossa after which I sat in the park, munched my sandwiches and a banana and then headed off for my next appointment.

Later that day: D’Ukes had a lunch time appointment on air at Phoenix FM in Brentwood on the Scott Ross show. It gave us a chance to chat about our forthcoming concert at the Mirren Studio in Basildon as well as our collaboration with Braintree Mencap on the recording of the song Sit Down. From our latest CD, On Tour, Scott played three tracks: Don;t Let Me Be Misundewrstood, Sit Down and Heroes.

Sunday 16 September 2018 – D’Ukes, The  Blue Boar, Maldon

It was a lovely, sunny afternoon and we set up in the pub’s garden. There were only half a dozen people to start with but soon the place was packed. It was another great gig after yesterday’s success in Colchester. I got the usual compliments about Comfortably Numb and questions about how I could possibly get such sounds out of an ordinary nylon strung Kala ukulele. 

Earlier that day: between last night’s Colchester Arts Centre gig and this afternoon’s gig at the Blue Boar and I managed to squeeze in a rehearsal with the Blues Experience. We went through a number of tunes, partly for the benefit of the new sax player, Annette, who needed to get up to speed before she plays her first gig with the band. It was a good rehearsal, enjoyable and very productive, and at 12pm I packed up, went and bought some lunch from Asda and then headed off towards the D’Ukes’ gig in Maldon.  

Saturday 15 September 2018 – D’Ukes, Colchester Arts Centre

The first thing I did when I arrived at the arts centre was to ask the box office how many tickets had been sold so far. The answer was a pleasing 101 with more expected on the door. Once we had unloaded the cars I went and parked mine in the multi-storey and bought myself a coffee in the nearby coffee shop whereupon someone recognised me as a member of the band but said “hello, Martin”. We had a couple of hours to set up and sound check including relaxing time (click here for a short video clip). Once we were on stage it turned out to be one of our best gigs, the audience were on our side from the start and some new innovations, such as how we walked on the at beginning of each set, worked well. I told my Brexit joke which got some laughs and when we played These Boots Are Made For Walking the entire audience got up and walked round the theatre behind us.

Thursday 13 September 2018 – practice with Mick

We normally go for an amble up to Hylands Park on a Thursday but without Steve to complete the Last Of The Summer Wine line up we opted to play some music instead. In each case we worked on the tune until we reached a point where we felt it would only improve with both of us going away and doing some homework. In no particular order we played Blue Moon, You Stepped Out Of A Dream, All The Things You Are, What Is This Thing Called Love, Fungii Mama and Wave.  Afterwards I walked through the park into town. I couldn’t resist the sunshine. Note to self: send Mick the sheet music in easier to read 4 bars per line format.

Later that day: after reminiscing about the trip to France D’Ukes began rehearsing several songs that we will be playing on Saturday (Colchester Arts Centre) and/or Sunday (Blue Boar, Maldon) – All The Young Dudes, You Can’t Hurry Love, Torn, Ukulele Hoedown, Those Were The (Match Of The) Days, Bang Bang, The One I Love and Half The World Away – just to make sure they are up to standard. I suggested that we have a think about ways in which we could start songs without me counting in.

Wednesday 12 September 2018 – busy day of music

The day started with Gil who came over for a duelling guitars session (without any Eccles cakes this time). After warming up by playing the Eb major scale in five neck positions, we played two tunes that we have both been working on, West Coast Blues and Ornithology. This was followed by a variety of standards that we took turns in playing the heads on such as Joy Spring, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Lyresto, Midnight Blue and finishing with Autumn Leaves. he very kindly gave me a copy of the Wes Montgomery Aebersold book and CD so I’m going to look through that for possible future tunes, e.g. Full House and D Natural Blues.

In the afternoon: I drove down to Hadleigh for the HOFS session. We played a few old tunes (Song For My Father, Jive Samba, Sack O’Woe) and a few I hadn’t played before (Workout, Smokin’). There weren’t so many sax players attending today so fortunately the number of choruses of solos was reduced to reasonable levels.

Tuesday 11 September 2018 – TNG Workshop

We started with Yellow which I recorded. I will send them any recordings I do so that they can practise along and it will also help them remember the song arrangements. Then I got them to play One Day Like This and I helped them break it down into the different sections. We then did Zombie (The Cranberries) and finally Black Magic Woman. I showed them some techniques for playing lead guitar such as how to put some emotion into a note and how to make musical phrases.

Saturday/Sunday 8/9 September 2018 – D’Ukes, France

I had been working on this for months – the travel details, making sure my car had all the right insurance and equipment, the set list, helping get Colin, the dep bass player, up to speed, dealing with accommodation and financial matters – and finally the day arrived to go to the little village of Cavron St Martin and perform at their theatre. Despite Essex’s congested roads’ best attempts to make us miss the ferry (big accidents on both the A12 and the road we diverted to, the A13) we eventually made it to Cavron St Martin in the middle of the afternoon. After a quick look around the fifty seater theatre we were due to play in that evening we set up all the gear on the stage and then settled down to some pizza and salad kindly provided by our hosts Debbie and Alex. Techie note: I have resorted to using my Boss multi-fx again instead of the separate effects pedals system because the output of my Kala ukulele is insufficient to overload the distortion pedal – plus it was easier to get in the car as I had five people plus all their gear! Later in the afternoon I wandered down to the river Planquette in the village and came across a board describing lots of walking trails around the forests in the region – should I ever return with my walking boots.

The concert went really well. Around fifty people turned up, mostly ex-pats, and we gave them one of our best performances. They sang along and danced and during These Boots Are Made For Walking we made them all follow us out of the theatre, walk around Martin’s car which was parked outside, and back in again while playing a much extended version of the song – because it took so long for them to all find their seats again. We had lots of nice compliments including the chap whose heart initially sank on hearing us begin Comfortably Numb but by the end he reckoned it was possibly the best version he had ever heard. Afterwards we hung around chatting and drinking for a while but then Colin and I departed for our lovely little cottage on the other side of the village. Here’s a video clip showing you around the cottage. Being a new moon it was very dark outside, but also absolutely silent too.

The next morning, after two coffees (Nescafe Intenso – quite liked it without milk) and two croissants, Colin and I ventured out and I suggested we walk down to the river and along it before emerging outside the theatre. On the walk we came across an old watermill which I have since seen featured in the village’s Wikipedia page. At the house we met up with everyone else, had a second breakfast of coffee and croissants, packed up all the gear, said goodbye to Debbie, Alex and Andy who had all been so friendly and helpful and without whom this weekend wouldn’t have happened, and then climbed in the cars and headed back for the ferry.

Friday 7 September 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

Without John we worked through the tunes we are going to perform at the Railway Hotel in Southend  on Wednesday evening.

Thursday 6 September 2018 – practice with Mick

We worked on Sonnymoon For Two, Fungii Mama, One Note Samba, You Stepped Out Of A Dream, Lady Bird and a new one for us, Blue Moon. We had a chat about the organising of the forthcoming jazz jam session at the Herald pub in Harlow. Here’s the poster.

Wednesday 5 September 2018 – D’Ukes, The Three Elms

Before we played in Poland last year we warmed up at The Three Elms and today we were warming up for our trip to France. Colin was depping on bass and we had a tidy little audience mostly comprising people we knew, plus one guy who had travelled from Lichfield. I explained to the audience during the first set what we were doing so they fully understood when things went wrong (a couple of mics starting playing up). In the second set I told the story of us recording Sit Down with the guys from Mencap and we got a particularly big cheer when we finished playing the song, Sit Down. It was a good evening, everything went well – and if it didn’t we know how to fix it! After packing everything away and saying goodbye to the rest of the band I sat down with a pint of beer and chatted with some of the locals who had been enjoying the gig.

Tuesday 4 September 2018 – Identifying Trees

I walked into town in the late afternoon, through the park, and took photos of seven trees that I did not recognise. Using tree identification apps or books hasn’t helped me so if you know your trees please watch this short video and see if you can identify ANY of them!

Monday 3 September 2018 – Walk from Long Melford to Clare

After leaving my B&B I caught a bus to Long Melford (the number 236 at 9:45am from opposite the memorial in Clare) with the plan to walk back. It was a lovely day, ideal for walking, and, using the ordnance survey maps and GPS on my phone, the route took me past Melford Hall, Kentwell Hall, through the villages of Glemsford and Cavendish and finally to Clare. You can watch a two minute video by clicking here. The planned walk was ostensibly along the Stour Valley but I didn’t see much of the Stour itself. Most of the paths between the villages were alongside large fields of ploughed clay or stubble from the harvest. Leaving Glemsford I had the pleasure of a big dog in a garden barking at two smaller dogs who, in turn, were barking at me. A bit of a racket and the owner of the big dog came out to apologise. Much friendlier were the two donkeys who wandered over to see me in a field a mile further on. Cavendish offered the most choice for lunch so I stopped at a small cafe for a pot of tea and a sandwich. By 3pm I was walking into the eastern end of Clare and before long I had found my car and was swapping thick socks for thin ones and boots for shoes before driving home. 

Sunday 2 September 2018 – Tenor Madness, Bell Hotel, Clare

As I had a planned a walk in the area for the next day I took the opportunity to see some live jazz music at the Bell. Two saxes featured, plus a rhythm section, and when I arrived one of them seemed to be practising each of the tunes they were about to play. All tunes I liked (Maiden Voyage, Jody Grind, Fungii Mama) but less of a pleasant surprise when they actually performed them. I sat with my pint of Abbott ale and enjoyed nearly every minute of the two hours of music. I knew Simon the pianist from the Norwich Jazz Festival and also Haybergill and we had a brief chat beforehand. Larraine Odell sang a few songs to start the evening. She has a nice voice but suffered from a bass-heavy PA system making her words hard to pick out. Simon’s piano was also a bit quiet compared to Roger Odell’s pounding drumming, maybe due to me sitting on the other side of the room, but despite that it was great to hear these guys playing familiar jazz classics from the 50s and 60s. The band inevitably finished with Tenor Madness after which I bade farewell to Simon and departed into the cool evening of Clare.

Earlier that day: I arrived at the farm near Blackmore where D’Ukes were due to play to find that they had provided us with a large flat bed lorry for us to play on. We set up, played just three songs and then were asked to stop so that they could make some announcements about the dog show. Here is a short video. I wandered off for a coffee and sat close to the van in order to keep out of the sun which had been beating down all day. Some time later we were able to perform for half an hour before stopping again, this time for nearly two hours worth of dog show judging including Prettiest Bitch, Golden Oldie and Best Rescue. So I had another coffee, this time accompanied by a coconut cake. Eventually we managed to get back on stage and play some more songs by which time most people had gone home. Not the most successful of gigs but we showed we could operate comfortably as a five piece (no Jo) and it was also good practice for Colin our dep bass player. I had plans for the evening so I packed up quickly and headed off to Clare in Suffolk.

Friday 31 August 2018 – Interplay, Taksim Square Restaurant

The restaurant were having a grand opening of the new wing and wanted some lively jazz music while people ate. Usually John and I play here as JazzDuo but today we were accompanied by bass and drums – in other words the band Interplay. The music started off quietly but soon up to 100 people turned up and our music was competing with their excited chatter. Not many clapped but we had quite a few smiles from people and I got a friendly pat on the shoulder as someone walked past. At the end of the first set the local MP said a few words using our microphone and amplifier and then we took a break where I went and had a chat with a couple of people I knew who had come along to see us and try the lovely Turkish food. We then started the second set with Fungii Mama and continued until it was time to finish. We packed up as people starting drifting into the bar and disco in the new wing to see out the rest of the evening.

Thursday 30 August 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Colin, who is depping for John over the next three gigs, came round and we spent the entire evening going over the tunes we will be playing (over 30 in total). It all sounded fine although Colin said there were a couple he needed to tighten up on before the first gig which is on Sunday at the Blackmore Dog Show. 

Wednesday 29 August 2018 – Essex Way Day 4, Gt Waltham to White Notley

I almost bailed out of this walk. I got off the bus at Gt Waltham, the start of walk, only to find the rain was even heavier than earlier so I popped into the nearby cafe for an Americano and a very tasty vegan fruit and nut bar. When I emerged it was still chucking it down so I headed for the bus stop intending to go back to Chelmsford. However, the bus was late and the rain had almost stopped so I decided to go ahead and do the walk. I set off via the grounds of the big country house, Langleys and its famous pet cemetery, and plodded along the easy-to-follow route through Chatham Green and Little Leighs and across the fields and through the woods towards the village of Fuller Street where I had lunch at the Square And Compasses. Most of the walk was alongside arable fields, along green lanes, down tracks in woods and occasionally along minor roads, and even though it had stopped raining my feet were quite damp – I needed to find a way of making my fairly new walking boots more waterproof. In the afternoon the route roughly followed the river Ter and I walked past the village of Terling and the church at Fairstead (pictured). By 3pm I was close to White Notley and in earshot of a train that would have taken me back to Chelmsford, but I had just missed it so I sat in the sunshine on the platform and waited for the next one. 

Tuesday 28 August 2018 – practice with Colin

Colin, D’Ukes’ dep bass player, came round to run through all the songs we are going to perform in France next week. It went swimmingly so next he’ll be attending a full D’Ukes rehearsal followed by the Blackmore Dog Show gig on Sunday, a warm-up gig at the Three Elms next Wednesday and then the trip to France.

Later that day: talking of France I have just found some photos I took of a trip to Paris in 2014. All the shots bar one were taken looking downwards. They make an intriguing short video and watching it I have noticed things that I would have otherwise missed. Click here to watch it.

Monday 27 AUgust 2018 – practice with Mick

Today we worked on four tunes: Fungii Mama, One Note Samba, You Stepped Out Of A Dream and Lady Bird. I’m developing my ability to play these tunes in the chord/melody style while Mick is improving his bass playing in readiness for Easter Jazz next year.

Sunday 26 August 2018 – Fellowship Of Funk, The Bassment

It has been a few years since I last saw this band so thought it was a good opportunity as they were playing at The Bassment in town. We arrived shortly after 7pm, bought a drink and stood there waiting for the music to start. First of all, and unexpectedly, the young local bluesman Conner Selby performed a solo set of blues standards and his own compositions on acoustic guitar. He has a great voice and is a good guitarist, both with plectrum and finger style, but after half a dozen songs I was ready to hear something more up tempo and uplifting. I am not sure if it helped that he kept apologising for playing the kind of music most people probably hadn’t come to hear but it would be great to hear him with his band one day.

After over two hours standing, nursing one pint of Doombar, the five guys from the Fellowship Of Funk sauntered on one at a time (I wanted to shout out “finally!”) but they just fiddled with a few things and sauntered off again. Maybe these delays and displays of casual sauntering are part of their idea of building up excitement. I’ve seen it often enough with bands before – first the lights dim, then a roadie walks on to a cheer because people think he is a member of the band, then nothing happens for half an hour. Eventually these five guys returned and started playing. It was interesting to note that despite their coolness they actually wore a uniform – black t-shirts plus a choice of either long grey hair in a pony tail (the brothers Guthrie and Seth Govan) or shaved bald heads (the other three). The first set was a very tight and loud collection of jazz funk standards and own compositions. A lot of people had come to watch Guthrie Govan and his dazzling guitar technique, admittedly so had we, and they wouldn’t have been disappointed. I was more impressed with the drummer, Pete Riley, who managed to extract every possible rhythmic phrase from his repertoire and convert it musically into the tune he was performing with great firmness and rapidity. Here’s a video clip of Pete and Guthrie not playing their most spectacular licks by a long way, but interesting nevertheless. I recognised a few tunes including their own working of Work Song which started with Guthrie noodling around the main theme before punching it out in a more recognisable form. Guthrie’s playing throughout the evening was spectacular but also spectacularly loud without needing to be (bit of a journalistic cliche, I know). He rarely played without effects and it would be great one day to see him playing without ear bending distortion or mind bending time delays and pitch shifting. After a long mid-evening break they return to the stage area. I listened to one tune from the second set before feeling that 4 hours standing in one spot was long enough (a freshly baked loaf of bread I had made earlier was tempting me home) and I headed up the stairs into the Chelmsford night and drove back.

Saturday 25 August 2018 – D’Ukes, CarFest, Laverstock Farm, Hampshire

This big event has been looming up for months and finally the day arrived. We set off at 8am, getting to the large site before 10am. We parked up and a volunteer with a golf buggy came along to ferry us and all our gear to the Wigwam stage in the middle of the main site. While we were setting up there were a few people milling around in the marquee but when we eventually went on stage at 12:30pm there were hundreds stretching off into the distance in front of us. I was using my Kala uke with no effects apart from my new wireless system. This, plus Mike’s system for mixing us and providing a feed to the PA system, meant we could walk on stage and be playing live within a matter of minutes. We started with Valerie and I did my best from thereon in to get everyone to sing along with us. During Sit Down I did my usual antic of sitting down next to someone just as the band reached the chorus, singing “sit down next to me”. The first couple I sat next to didn’t seem especially interested but the little boy I sat next to during the second chorus seemed much more excited and his mum looked pleased. We went down really well and during the encore, New York, New York, I got everyone on their feet as Jo and the others got everyone to dance along by kicking out their legs. Here’s a clip to watch of the encore.

After our successful set on the Wigwam stage we packed up and walked over to the Buskstop Stage where Jo, with help from the other band members, hosted a ukulele workshop. Including my collection of cheap ukes we had about 15 in all which we handed out to everyone who came along for the session, but there as many again watching and singing along. My role was to check their fingers were on the right frets and to call out chords during the songs. A little girl who was strumming my green Mahalo ukulele told me she had written a couple of songs including one called I Don’t Know You featuring the chords G, Am, C and Dm. She must have only been about six years old. 

The only downside to the festival was the queuing for everything including the public loos, the coffee stand and the food stalls – so I avoided them. Luckily I had some snacks with me and the dressing room behind our stage provided coffee. And we had our own private loo. After we had finished our performance and workshop we were free to enjoy the festival. However, I wasn’t particularly interested in looking around the endless stalls and shops nor hanging around for the big bands which were playing in the evening (including Razorlight and Jools Holland) so we tracked down the man with the buggy to take us back to the car park at the end of  a great day. Hopefully they will ask us back.

Friday 24 August 2018 – rehearsal with Martin

We got together to run through all the tunes we are playing at the Taksim restaurant in Stanford Le Hope with Interplay next Friday evening. It went well and I was pleased that I was able to perform it all from memory except for My Favourite Things. So, that’s my homework.

Thursday 23 August 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

After chatting about the practicalities of playing at CarFest on Saturday (and deciding we’re going to have to set off at the crack of dawn) we worked on a number of tunes: All The Young Dudes (we have beefed it up by all coming in at the start), You Can’t Hurry Love (which is now ready to play at the Blue Boar in September) and Half The World Way (we strummed through it for the first time today and it sounded good right away). Jo suggested we also have a look at America (Razorlight) and Nobody Does It Better (Carly Simon) another time.

(Latest arrangement of All The Young Dudes)

(First play through Half The World Away)

Wednesday 22 August 2018 – practice with Gil

After doing some Bb mixolydian scale practice in different positions Gil (guitarist) and I played a number of tunes including: Road Song, Full House, Stella By Starlight, West Coast Blues and Ornithology. We finished with One Note Samba and I determined that I would learn Ornithology before the next session. 

Later that day: Annette came round for her first DWJQ rehearsal and we went through the heads of each of the 14 tunes that we’ll perform at the Three Elms and the Southend Bandstand in September. It went very well and we’ll have one more rehearsal on September before the two gigs. DWJQ now stands for Dave Warren Jazz Quintet!

Tuesday 21 August 2018 – TNG Workshop

We started off playing Yellow and One Day Like This and then spent the last hour on Zombie (The Cranberries) including dynamics. Lyle played drums which added an extra dynamic dimension to the music.

Monday 20 August 2018 – practice with Mick and Graham

We spent most of the morning working on Serenade To A Cuckoo including arpeggios over the solo chords, and then played This Can’t Be Love and One Note Samba to finish.

Later that day: went to Doug’s to give a lesson and also to sort out the Angie and Dave video which he had filmed in South Woodham Ferrers. After getting home I edited it down from 15 minutes, removing multiple verses, choruses and a couple of my solos, so it was just over two minutes long, a bit more suitable as a demo. Click here to watch it

Even later that day: arrived at the Oakwood pub in Leigh early and set up on the small stage ready to play with Ron Spack and friends who included John from Interplay. For a change I moved my chair from between the bass and drums and positioned myself on the floor so that I had eye contact with the sax player. This week I played my Eastman instead of the Peerless (and Les Paul last time) and it was fine. Despite its smaller body I am finding it okay for my long arms. We started off with This Can’t Be Love (Dm7b5 arpeggio sounds good over Bb7) and continued with the usual standards such as Autumn Leaves, Just Friends, Blue Bossa and so on. This time I didn’t even get a break, apart from the interval, which was fun but usually Ron asks me to sit out some tunes. We all finished on Now’s The Time by which time a lot of the audience had gone home (because the football on the telly had finished?), then it was time to pack up and go home.

Sunday 19 August 2018 – Interplay, Green Cafe, Lt Canfield

Today was the last “pizza and music” day at the Green Cafe for this year. John and I set up on the grass while Mark and Richard set up under the marquee. It was overcast but unlikely to rain – in fact the sun only came out for five seconds near the end of the afternoon so we were protected from the elements. We played three sets of about about 50 minutes each and we each managed to order and eat a whole pizza during the second break. Hopefully the Green Cafe will continue next year with its programme of summer weekend openings and monthly live music events.

Later that day: I copied the video clips I had made of the Blues Experience last week onto my laptop and edited them into a short video which could be used as a demo for getting gigs. I tried to include a bit of humour and, although it didn’t include our finest moments musically, I think it captures the essence of the band. Click here to watch it.

Friday 17 August 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

We got together to run through some of the tunes we’ll be playing at The Green Cafe on Sunday (1pm, free entrance, nice pizzas available). Tunes included One Note Samba, A Night In Tunisia, Fly Me To The Moon, On Green Dolphin Street and This Can’t Be Love.

Tuesday, Wednesday 14, 15 August 2018, walking  in the Peak District

On Monday I took a train journey up to Edale in the Peak District (just £16 which is amazing considering it was via London and Sheffield and included the tube) on a lovely warm, sunny day only to arrive in Edale in cloud and rain. By the time I had put my tent up in a small campsite the rain had stopped so I wandered up to the Nags’ Head for an evening meal, a couple of pints of beer and to read my book and recharge my phone battery (along with several other people fighting for tables near wall sockets).

The next day, Tuesday, I packed up the tent, sleeping bag, mat and every other essential I had brought with me (bottles of water, porridge, compass, map, GPS, fleece jacket and much more), into my rucksack and set off for Hathersage, a 14 mile walk across the hills starting with the popular peak of Mam Tor. Although I roughly knew where I was going I was starting to make up the route as I went along using a combination of GPS, map and compass. I bypassed the peak itself and continued on down to Castleton where I found a nice cafe and had a huge veggie breakfast with an excellent cup of coffee. I then walked back up on to the ridge past Losehill where I had beautiful clear views of the Hope Valley in the south and Edale (the valley) in the north. In an hour or two I arrived down at the village of Hope where I had a pot of tea and a piece of flapjack. I then made my way east past Bamford, along the Hope valley and roughly following the River Noe (this area should be called Noe Hope) and then headed north east up to a campsite two miles north of Hathersage where I pitched up for the night among the walkers, bikers, cyclists and families in their posh cars and campervans. It was a nice secluded camp site surrounded by trees but with only a few facilities so I walked the four mile round trip into Hathersage to have an evening meal and a couple of pints at the Scotsman pub.

The following morning, Wednesday, I again packed up my tent and set off back to Hathersage for breakfast and then walked along the Derwent river for a few miles to Bamford where I found a cafe for lunch. The waitress suggested I walk up Win Hill so after a cheese sandwich and pot of tea I set off in that general direction and found myself on a disused railway line. After a couple of miles of walking in a gradually ascending straight line I found the signpost point for Win Hill. From an altitude of 160 metres it was an extremely steep, wooded path to the top causing me to stop more than once to get my breath back. Eventually it levelled out and and I made my way to the summit of Win Hill at 460 metres where I found families with children who had clearly walked up an easier route from a car park. The view was a full 360 degrees from Mam Tor in the west right round to Mam Tor in the west again. From then on it was a case of making up a route across moorland but mostly downhill that would eventually get me back to my destination camp site at Edale. Finding a clearing in the heather with a beautiful view west of Losehill I stopped to eat my cheese scone that I had bought from the Bamford cafe. I arrived at about 5pm, put up my tent and wandered up the road to the Nag’s Head for an evening mile and a couple of pints of beer.

The next morning, in the rain, I took down the tent for the final time, packed my rucksack and headed for the train station for the journey home. Click here for a short video of the above journey made up of random photos and video clips, a commentary and some music – we cannot live without background music can we!

Sunday 12 August 2018 – Blues Experience, Three Elms Beer Festival

We have played at The Three Elms a few times but this time, being the summer beer festival, we were playing in the marquee at the end of the garden. For a complete change I played my Stratocaster through the Mesa Boogie amp rather than the usual Les Paul/Blues Junior combination, partly because the Les Paul neck pick up has been unreliable recently. We started at 2:30pm and by the time we were into our second tune (Chitlins Con Carne) quite a few people had arrived and were sitting at the tables and chairs in front of us – the weather stayed dry and warm, in fact perfect conditions for an outdoor gig. We are currently a sextet since our baritone player recently left the band but we are still able to do all the usual tunes such as Driftin’ And Driftin’, Pretty Woman and Further On Up The Road (which I dedicated to Mashbury) and we were getting some good cheers at the end of each tune. We started the second set with the rousing Every Day I Have The Blues and ended it with the instrumental Work Song but despite the audience staying for the entire gig (always a good sign) there was insufficient applause for me to wheedle out an encore from them so we wrapped it up and said goodbye. Here’s a clip of us (well, not me as I was holding the camera) playing Searchin’ For A Woman.

Saturday 11 August 2018 – D’Ukes, Luna, Leytonstone

I always have a good time at the Luna and tonight was no exception. The traffic coming in was surprisingly absent, as that is one of the drawbacks of playing in London, and I found my usual parking spot outside the bar. After a getting a coffee from the cafe round the corner where I had elevenses on my recent Epping Forest walk (always very good coffee though it takes them a while to make it), I set up my gear and waited for the 9pm start. When we started playing there were only a handful of people in the room but soon the place was packed and by the second set everyone was singing along – here’s a clip I filmed during What’s Up. We finished with Ukulele Hoedown and New York, New York (with everyone dancing in a huge circle and singing their hearts out) but they wouldn’t let us finish, chanting “One More Song” over and over – frankly the place was going a little bonkers. I was having to protect my pedals on the floor as people were starting to jump up and down. We did I Saw Her Standing There and What A Wonderful World (to calm things down a bit) and then finished and said goodbye. I received quite a few thanks, hand shakes and compliments afterwards before packing up and heading home. Funny to think that I walked home from here a little while ago!

Friday 10 August 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

No John today so the three of us worked on tunes that Mark won’t have played before including St Thomas, This Can’t Be Love, Fungii Mama, One Note Samba, Fly Me To The Moon, Mack The Knife, Cantaloupe Island and finally, a longer term project, Nica’s Dream. I was pleased that I was able to play the heads on all of them except Nica’s Dream which still needs a bit of work.

Thursday 9 August 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Most of tonight’s rehearsal was about getting ready for the Luna gig in Leytonstone on Saturday. We started with a new tune, All The Young Dudes (click here for a short clip) and then we worked on Ukulele Hoedown as it will replace Duelling Banjos as the first encore. We then arranged for the Match Of The Day theme to appear in the middle of Those Were The Days. The intro to Bang Bang was sorted out and we ran through two newish tunes, Torn and The One I Love, to make sure we hadn’t forgotten them. Also, the boss of the Luna always asks us to perform Dakota so we had a run through of that too. Finally, we played through You Can’t Hurry Love. Below is a recording from an earlier rehearsal.

(An earlier recording of You Can’t Hurry Love)

Wednesday 8 August 2018 – Practice with John

We’ve got some new tunes lined up to play at the next DWJQ gig so John came round to run through them. These included Serenade To A Cuckoo, Beautiful Love and Five Spot After Dark. I also suggested we look at So What and Four On Six next time.

Later that day: in the afternoon I went down to Hadleigh Old Fire Station (HOFS) for a session with the regulars. We played a few tunes by Roland Kirk (including Serenade To A Cuckoo and Bright Moments) and by Horace Silver (Filthy McNasty and Song For My Father) but unfortunately we didn’t have a bass player so it meant more work for me on the guitar interspersing my chords and solos with bass lines.

Even later that day: this evening Angie and I played at The Three Elms to a select but very appreciative audience. There were a few indoors, most of whom we knew, and several out in the garden having their evening meals and then during the second set a few cyclists turned up. We played about twenty songs finishing with American Pie and then someone asked us for an encore so we performed I Feel Good. After packing up the gear I went over to the bar for a very nice beer, brewed by the Pennine Brewery Company of all things. 

Tuesday 7 August 2018 – Road Trip To Africa

It’s several years ago now but chatting with someone the other day brought back to mind the book that I wrote and published on Amazon about my trip down to The Gambia. Lead by a very resourceful chap called Peter Borkshik, four of us drove two vehicles, a Land Cruiser and a converted cola delivery lorry, 3,600 miles from Chelmsford to The Gambia via the Sahara desert in order to deliver musical equipment (mainly PA gear) to the Kartong music festival which Peter was setting up. My account of the no-exactly-smooth journey across France, Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia is available on Kindle. I have just re-plugged this on Facebook today and getting quite a few likes and maybe one or two purchases. Click here to see it on Amazon (and maybe download a copy!)

Monday 6 August 2018 – practice with Mick and Graham

As a group we are obviously improving as we’re now playing through tunes more or less without hesitation or train crashes. Tunes today included Sonnymoon For Two, Cantaloupe Island, So What, Just Friends, Song For My Father, Blue Bossa and All The Things You Are. We will have a look at This Can’t Be Love and Serenade To A Cuckoo next time.

Later that day: Ron Spack had booked me to play with him (double bass), Richard (drums) and Malcolm (sax) at the Oakwood in Leigh On Sea tonight. I decided to stand up tonight and play the Les Paul. Malcolm provided the music and we started with All Blues followed by I Hear A Rhapsody. It was very warm on the small stage and there was an audience of twenty or so dotted around the large lounge bar. After a few more tunes I sat down to let fellow guitarist Mike and a tenor sax player, John, play a few tunes (here is a brief clip of them playing Polkadots And Moonbeams). After a break and several more jazz standards the evening ended with everyone getting on stage to play a short version of Now’s The Time.

Sunday 5 August 2018 – rehearsal with Angie

We’re playing at The Three Elms on Wednesday so we practised a couple of new tunes which both worked more or less straight away – Golden Brown and Paint It Black. We then spent a while working on our longer term project, Bohemian Rhapsody. Angie can already sing it but I am having to spend some time working out how to play it, especially as we’re now in the key of G (instead of Bb). After a bit of time we successfully got through the operatic section (part 2) as well as the ballad at the beginning (part 1). That leaves the rock section (part 3) for next time. After sharing a beer we worked out a set list for Wednesday and called it a night.

Saturday 4 August 2018 – JazzDuo, Taksim Square Restaurant

We arrived and set up in the corner by the entrance as always and played for an hour before taking a short break at 9pm. It’s a successful business and most tables are full when we’re performing, even outside. As usual we got very little applause but we enjoyed ourselves and played more than the usual amount of Latin tunes today. Afterwards the manageress gave us a lovely platter of Turkish food to tuck into and then showed us the room where we are going to play next time when we will bring a drummer and bass player with us. 

Friday 3 August 2018 – Essex Way Day 3, Ongar to Gt Waltham

The bus to Ongar in the morning conveniently left from near where I live and when I arrived at the start point I bought myself a coffee and set off on the 17 mile route to Gt Waltham. It was mainly (and surprisingly) along very pleasant green lanes, plus the usual corn fields and a few small roads. It was very hot and I quickly got through the three bottles of water that I had taken but fortunately the Leather Bottle was open at Pleshey for a beer and a refill of the bottles. I managed to slip down a large rabbit hole at one point which grazed my shin but other than that the walk was incident free and I met absolutely nobody apart from a cyclist who once whizzed by. Unfortunately the scheduled bus didn’t arrive at the finish point in Gt Waltham and as taxis were all booked up for the Friday evening I made the decision to walk home, another 4 miles on top of the 17 already but it was much pleasanter in the cooler evening air.

Thursday 2 August 2018 – practice with Mick

We went through a host of tunes including This Can’t Be Love, Fungii Mama, So What, Just Friends, Song For My Father, Five Spot After Dark and Autumn Leaves.

Later that day: at D’Ukes’ rehearsal we started by strumming and singing through a new song, Mott The Hoople’s All The Young Dudes (click below to listen) and as always Martin recorded it so we can remember the arrangement ideas we came up with, as well as making it easier to practise and learn. Afterwards I suggested we play through all the instrumentals we knew and we had quite a bit of fun recalling Ukulele Hoedown, Ode To Joy, Match Of The Day, Misirlou and Hava Nagila. Finally, at the end of the rehearsal I suggested we have a go at Half The World Away (Oasis) and Martin reckoned it would be a good song for him to sing. It was an interesting and (as always) productive rehearsal partly because we had no specific agenda and so could try out a few ideas.

(our first ever rehearsal version of All The Young Dudes)

Monday 30 July 2018 – Essex Way Days 1 & 2 – Manor Park to Ongar

It has been in my mind for many years to walk the Essex Way so I decided to do it in one or two day chunks starting, as my guide book recommended, 17 miles before the official start so that the route included Epping Forest. I started from the railway station at Manor Park (conveniently on the Chelmsford to Liverpool Street line) and then spent the first day dodging rain showers as I weaved my way through the forest from Wanstead Flats to the camp site at Debden. Along the way I diverted from the forest into the city and walked passed the Luna Lounge in Leytonstone (where D’Ukes often play) on my way to a cafe for elevenses (a lovely cup of Americano and hot milk, one of the best I’ve had, plus a Greek salad). Lunch was had on a bench in the grounds of Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge. The rest of the time was spent walking through the forest itself at times getting lost and wishing I had a compass. Eventually I arrived at the camp site, put up my tent and had something to eat (a very nice pasta carbonara made by Adventure Foods, basically a dehydrated meal, just add hot water and wait 8 minutes). The next morning I woke up during a thunderstorm. Once the rain had cleared I packed up and moved on, walking to Ongar via Epping itself (stopping for a cup of coffee and an almond tart) and through countryside more typical of Essex – country lanes, farm land and along the occasional river. For lunch I dug out the stove, boiled some water and made myself some porridge to at with the remaining banana. I eventually arrived in Ongar in the afternoon (to huge fanfares – not really) and caught the 46 bus back to Chelmsford. Mileages (with an 18 lb pack on my back) were 13 on day 1 and 11 on day 2 plus a couple of miles walking to the station at the start of day 1.

Sunday 29 July 2018 – Interplay, Southend Priory Park

After weeks of hot weather today was still warm but wet so the decision was made to play inside the little cafe in the park rather than on the bandstand. About a dozen or so people squeezed in to watch us and it was actually a very enjoyable alternative to playing outside on what would have been a damp and very blustery bandstand. I made a sudden decision to play my Les Paul instead of the usual Peerless guitar, just to see if it worked in a jazz situation. It is certainly quicker to play, with lighter strings, but not so comfortable for my current sitting down style. Sound-wise it was fine, I don’t think anyone noticed, and I was generally happy with my soloing today. A good gig in the end and here’s a clip of John in mid-flight during Moanin’

Earlier that day: the Blues Experienced rehearsed (without horns) and we went through a few tunes and, importantly, I made a note of some of the endings because they are one of our weaker points.

Later that day: Ben came round for a lesson and brought his Mann ukulele with him. He demonstrated the instrument in these two videos: playing C F C G chords and playing an extract from Mandaya by Sammy Masamba.

Saturday 28 July 2018 – D’Ukes, The Albion, Rowhedge

When I arrived at this little riverside village I realised I been here before, in a little boat skippered by Steve, that puttered up the River Colne from its home a little further down river. After parking the car what seemed like a mile away we set up on a small stage and by the time we started quite a few people had wandered into the little pub. Within a couple of numbers they were cheering us along (click here to watch a few smiling faces) and by the end of the night most people were up and dancing.

Friday 27 July 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

We’re playing on the Southend Bandstand on Sunday at 3pm so we went through most of the tunes today. It was a very warm rehearsal but on the way home the heavens opened up with our first proper rain for several weeks and it cooled down considerably.

Thursday 26 July 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We started off by refining our version of You Can’t Hurry Love (click below to listen) and then worked our way through some of the tunes that we played at our last gig, suggesting small alterations to the arrangements to keep them fresh.


Meanwhile, here is another little video, this time of me playing a version of Brahms’ Lullaby on my Ohana concert ukulele.

Wednesday 25 July 2018 – Blues Experience rehearsal

We started off by working on a couple of Robert Cray songs. Right Next Door (probably more recognisable as Because Of Me) worked well once we had worked out the chords and riffs. The simpler Smoking Gun (Am) wasn’t quite so interesting but might develop. After that we sorted out a few intros and endings for tunes that didn’t work so well at the beer festival gig earlier this month namely Driftin’ And Drftin’ (half bar drum intro then a four intro from the band), Road Block (we’ve decided to now use the more interesting chords I had worked out), Hoochie Coochie Man (tidying up the main riff) and Why Are People Like That (the ending is very different from the rest of the song).

Later that day: after the blues rehearsal I jumped in the car and drove down to HOFS in Hadleigh for this afternoon’s session. We started with Song For My Father (I seemed to have forgotten the guitar harmony parts) and then played Nica’s Dream, Serenade To A Cuckoo, Chitlins Con Carne and the very similar Midnight Creeper. I was pleased with my solos on all of them, maybe something to do with having chords behind me when playing unlike other situations when I only have bass and drums.

Tuesday 24 July 2018 – TNG Workshop

The evening started off with the guys playing Yellow (Coldplay) and we then, after listening to the original to clarify the chords, worked on the last part of the song. Next up was One Day Like This (Elbow) and I showed them the melody for the opening part as well as the octaves used during the breaks. After a short break we looked at Iris (Goo Goo Dolls) which is a tricky song, particularly the interlude. More investigation by me is required. I gave them the music for High And Dry (Radiohead) to look at and we had a quick strum through it. Finally we finished off the evening with a quick version of Linger (The Cranberries).

Monday 23 July 2018 – practice with Mick

No Graham today so we worked on a couple of recent additions to the DWJQ set list namely Fungii Mama and Five Spot After Dark. Then we reverted to the standards that I am learning chord melody arrangements to. These included The Days Of Wine And Roses, Just Friends, One Note Samba and Softly As In A Morning Sunrise. A useful session. 

Later that day: tonight was the last Monday Guitar Group get together until we reconvene on 10th September. After the usual tune up we strummed a 1564 progression in C major namely C G Am F and then I got everyone to work out a melodic line using notes from each chord. We then played Shape Of You (Ed Sheeran) and I got them to play the various melodies and chords. After the break we finished with a very appropriate song considering the current temperatures, Heat Wave by Martha Reeves And The Vandellas although we played it in the same key (G) as the version from 1970s by The Jam.

Sunday 22 July 2018 – D’Ukes, The Archer, South Ockendon

We arrived on a hot afternoon with no breeze and set up alongside the back wall of this large pub garden with no shelter from the elements. Fortunately it was cloudy so we didn’t have direct sunlight to deal with. This was my second gig using the new effects pedal set up and I am quite enjoying it, it is much more organic as each unit (wah, distortion, chorus and echo) has it’s own personality rather than the characterless Boss multi-effects unit. Having said that I haven’t yet got the right amount of distortion for my solo in Comfortably Numb so I found myself playing a bluesier solo. At the break I helped myself to two plates of the buffet and veggie burgers despite having had a proper lunch only a few hours earlier. During the second set I gave my long explanation of how we recorded the Sit Down CD with the guys from Mencap. The audience seemed to be listening carefully. We had a good crowd today who obviously liked us a lot and after the first encore, Duelling Banjos, I found myself in the middle of them and so encouraged them to get into a huge circle ready for Jo to get them to dance to New York, New York, our final encore. You can see a video clip here – by the time I had filmed it I was feeling fairly dizzy

Saturday 21 July 2018 – D’Ukes, Ellis Field, Lt Burstead

We have played this annual event for several years now and today we arrived on the balmy evening to find the usual array of marquees and gazebos in the field near the village of Little Burstead. For the first time in years I brought along my flight case containing my guitar effects pedals (Boss echo, chorus etc and Cry Baby Wah Wah) rather than the usual set up (Boss multi-effects). This meant setting up was much quicker – I simply took the lid off the flight case and plugged it in – so it will be much better using it at festivals when set up time is critical. We eventually started after a few technical issues had been resolved and played through our opening set as people fired up their barbecues and opened their cans of beers and bottles of wine. During the break a young singer called Ella sang a few songs, some to the backing of her guitar playing and some to pre-recorded tracks on her phone. We then continued with our second set which included mainly sing-along songs (click here to see a brief clip of Sweet Caroline) and dance tracks to which lots of people got up to dance. We had to finish at 10:30pm as the power supply for the whole field was coming from a wall socket in a neighbour’s kitchen and he wanted to go to bed. So we finished with New York, New York and cajoled everyone in to getting up and in readiness for the final dance of the night.

Thursday 19 July 2018 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We refreshed our memories of a few dancey tunes in case we need to keep people dancing on Saturday night at Little Burstead. These included I Saw Her Standing There and Fat Bottomed Girls. After practising Angels, Won’t Get Fooled Again and Space Oddity (keep forgetting certain chords!) we worked on our current list of new tunes, Torn, The One I Love and You Can’t Hurry Love.

Wednesday 18 July 2018 – DWJQ, The Three Elms

A sunny, warm evening and we’re back at the Three Elms. A small crowd of people we know sat at the front listening (I like to think) to every note we played. We performed a few tunes for the first time tonight namely Just Friends, Five Spot After Dark, On Green Dolphin Street and Fungii Mama with varying degrees of success. They sounded on the whole fine but there are a few details that perhaps would go unnoticed by the audience that we need to sort out. Mick played a soca rhythm during Fungii Mama which sounded good. We finished as always with a resounding version of St Thomas.

Tuesday 17 July 2018 – Greg Abate, Bardswell

It has been a while since I have been to see some live jazz music at Bardswell and I enjoyed the performance by Greg tonight, accompanied by the John Pearce trio. The first set did seem a little flat but it all perked up after the interval (during which my raffle ticket won me a box of Roses chocolates) when they played On Green Dolphin Street (click here to view a video clip), a tune we are debuting with the DWJQ tomorrow. Other tunes included Airegin, Bluesette and Alone Together.

Monday 16 July 2018 – DWJQ rehearsal

We’re getting ready for a return to the Three Elms on Wednesday. We didn’t go through every tune in the set list, just those that needed a little tweaking or arranging, however one tune, On Green Dolphin Street, probably needed a bit more than the others but I am confident it will be alright on the night.

Earlier that day: Mick, Graham and I got together for another session. Tunes we covered included The Days Of Wine And Roses, Out Of Nowhere, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, One Note Samba and Just Friends.

Later that day: after a few weeks’ break it was the return of the Monday Guitar Group and after the usual tuning up session we warmed up on strumming the chords Em D D6 Cmaj7. These are the chords to Black Horse and the Cherry Tree by K.T. Tunstall which we completed with the chucking guitar and verse chords (Em B7). After the break and a cup of tea we played a few old songs for fun: These Boots Are Made For Walking (click here to view a clip), I’m Walkin’ and My Boy Lollipop.

Sunday 15 July 2018 – Angie and Dave, Green Cafe, Little Canfield

We arrived on this very hot day and set up under the awning as usual but noticed there were fewer people than usual, no doubt on account of the Wimbledon Men’s Final and the World Cup Final on TV this afternoon. Nevertheless we played three sets of songs and after a quiet start managed to elicit clapping and cheers from those that stayed for the afternoon. When crowds are smaller the cafe tends not to run out of pizza dough so I was offered a pizza during the second break. It was a very hot and very nice too but it meant we were a little late starting the third set as I struggled to eat it all. As the volunteers looked keen to start packing everything away we finished the afternoon with a shortened version of American Pie and then it was our turn to pack up and leave for home. 

Saturday 14 July 2018 – Blues Experience, Chelmsford Beer Festival

I arrived at about 2pm, the same time as some of the other guys, and parked in the official area just behind the band tent. It was a very hot day and we set up on the stage which had been all set up in readiness for us with microphones and monitors in position based on the stage layout I had sent them a couple of weeks ago. I was playing my Les Paul Standard through the Blues Junior amp using my new wi-fi wireless system. There were hundreds of people at the festival and a good number in the band tent. After being introduced we got on stage and played through our first set. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, blues and beer go well together, and they sung along to I Got My Mojo Working with a bit of encouragement from me. One or two people kept calling out my name but I’m not sure who they were. I did my best to keep them entertained and informed while we occasionally stopped for guitar changes and tune ups. After a short break we got back on stage and I informed the audience that we were happy that nobody appeared to have left during the interval. Always a good sign. The second set went well although we had to drop a few songs as we were running out of time. During Midnight Creeper, which I don’t play much on, I went out into the crowd and took photos of the band plus a couple of selfies on stage. Eventually it was time for our last song, Work Song, during which I got the audience to applaud each soloist at the end of their solo. We finished to a good cheer and at first it looked like we weren’t going to get an encore as the sound engineers had turned off the sound, but the audience start calling out for more and eventually we were able to launch into Route 66, a bit of rock and roll as a change from all the blues. Mark and Stef even walked into the audience playing their horns, so I followed them and we danced with the little children at the front. Then it was all over and the next band were chomping at the bit to get on stage. A number of kids and their parents came up to me wanting to have their kids photographed with my guitar (not with me!). After we had packed up some of us went out into the festival field with a beer and some food (paid for by white and blue tokens respectively that we had been given in addition to actually being paid) and had a chat about our performance – the usual post mortem bands have after gigs. We were all very pleased with it though I think some of the band members were quite surprised by the sheer scale of the event. One by one each of the band members left the festival so I finished my beer and decided to have one last walk around the field to see if I could see anyone I knew that I could hand my left over beer tokens too. Not finding anyone I decided to leave but just then this young woman asked me if I had a cigarette. I told her no but if you fancy some beer tokens help yourself and I gave her a handful of them much to the delight of her and her two girl friends. They each gave me a high-five and I left the festival.

Friday 13 July 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

Just me, Richard and Mark today. We ran through a dozen or so tunes. I enjoy it when John isn’t there as I get to play more of the heads and solos. I also enjoy it when he is there of course!

Wednesday 11 July 2018 – HOFS session

Back to HOFS for the first session in a while. We started with a Roland Kirk tune, Serenade For A Cuckoo and then played Kirk’s Bright Moments, Three For A Festival and the standard, Out Of Nowhere which I was pleased to discover is firmly in my list of properly learned songs.

Tuesday 10 July 2018 – Angie and Dave, Chelmsford Beer Festival

We were the first act of the beer festival and so had plenty of time to sound check and get ready. It was a very sunny day so most people chose to sit outside but we did get quite a few people coming into the band tent to watch us, including a crowd of people normally to be seen at the Three Elms, and we went down well. We took a break after an hour which meant a few people drifted off but on the whole I was very pleased with our performance and the audience’s reaction. Afterwards I spent my tokens on a half of beer and a meal of fried halloumi and salad but the temperature soon dropped beyond the point at which I was comfortable standing there so I bade farewell to some friends who came to see us and left.

Monday 2 July to Sunday 8 July 2018 – Walking the Pennine Way

A great walk but very challenging. We did 90 out of 270 miles under the hottest conditions possible in this part of the country – and there was virtually no shade the entire week. Although we had accommodation booked at the end of each day it wasn’t until day 4 that we came across an actual village during the walks and  a shop. I’ve compiled my photos into seven YouTube videos:

Day 1, Edale to Torside:
Day 2, Torside to Standedge:
Day 3, Standedge to Calder Valley:
Day 4, Calder Valley to Ponden:
Day 5, Ponden to Thornton In Craven:
Day 6, Thornton In Craven to Malham:
Day 7, Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale:

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