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Sat 21 Dec 2019 – John’s Big Band Workshop

Although I was in the rhythm section I got the chance to play a few solos. The hard bit was the sight reading required. We played through Nice And Easy, Havana, Perdido, Better Git In Your Sole and Let It Snow.

Wed 18 Dec 2019 – DWJQ, Leather Bottle, Pleshey

A good crowd turned up though some didn’t make it until the second set due to problems on the roads. The gig went very well and I did my best to keep the audience informed of what we were playing without the use of a microphone. I asked one member of the audience to ‘play’ my rain stick during The Gentle Rain and did a possibly confusing explanation of why the note C sounds different on a guitar, alto sax and tenor sax. After St Thomas I had forgotten we were going to play The Christmas Song so quickly got out the sheet music and we played through it before the ending the evening with a little bow.

Tue 17 Dec 2019 – TNG and Boomerang, The Curlew, SWF

I drove down to the Curlew pub in South Woodham Ferrers to watch two bands that I have been involved  with in coaching over the past few years. TNG played first and performed Bad Moon Rising and Yellow and sounded good though would have benefited with having their volumes turned up. Boomerang followed and played two songs very strongly including Hard To Handle. Seeing them playing made me want to come back on another date with my own pick-up band and I was pleased little hints of music that I have taught them.

Mon 16 Dec 2019 – session with Mick and Graham

Mick, Graham and I got together for the last time before Christmas. We played Midnight Voyage, So Danco Samba, Comin’ Home Baby, Angel Eyes, Doodlin’, My Little Suede Shoes, The Gentle Rain, Tangerine and All The Things You Are. I tried out a lick I learned from Freddie Hubbard’s solo on Open Sesame and made a note to myself to learn the head to Doodlin‘.

Later that day: nearly everyone turned up for the last Monday Guitar Group of the year. After tuning up we strummed an almost random sequence of chords (Am G Dm A7) and I asked them to play a sequence of target tones (e.g. C B F A). The A7 didn’t sound good so we changed it to C major. I then showed them the G major scale in the 7th position (similar to B phrygian) and we strummed the sequence G Em C D (including playing triads and barre chords). After the break we used these chords to play Last Christmas (Wham) and I showed them the melody line that crops up in the song. We played this till the end of the evening

Sat 14 Dec 2019 – D’Ukes, private party

We set up the gear on the dancefloor of Thorpe Hall Golf Club in time for guests arriving at about 7:30pm. The birthday girl was Leanne who, along with her parents had seen us at Priory Park last summer and booked us for the event. The first set was a shortish one while people chatted then we took a break as food was served. The second set started with us singing Happy Birthday as the cake came out and then we played Tender. A few people started dancing so I indicated to the band to play some dancier tunes starting with Leanne’s favourite, Mysterious Girl. It was the first time in a while we had left out Comfortably Numb. For the rest of the evening people danced and sang along and we finished at about 11:15pm with White Christmas. We packed up and headed home. It was raining hard – something that very rarely happens after gigs.

Fri 13 Dec 2019 – Session with Gil

We played through a load of tunes including Backlash, One Note Samba, Airegin, Here’s That Rainy Day, Oleo, On Green Dolphin Street, Well You Needn’t and Giant Steps. When I got home I started work on the arpeggios for the latter at about one third of the original tune’s tempo.

Thu 12 Dec 2019 – D’Ukes recording session

We continued working on the new CD with Jo singing lead vocals on Hound Dog and backing vocals on Losing My Religion, Runaway and Half The World Away.

Wed 11 Dec 2019 – HOFS session

We went through some of the tunes that the Southend Jazz Co-op are playing on Saturday evening and stopped for coffee and mince pies (thanks, Hugh!) half way through.

Later that day: Mark came round and we played through most of the tunes in the Kirsty Tyler Quartet repertoire including Night And Day, I Get A Kick Out Of You, Chitlins Con Carne and Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby.

Tue 10 Dec 2019 – DWJQ rehearsal

We all got together to rehearse for next Wednesday’s gig at the Leather Bottle. As we have quite a few regular punters I have changed at least six tunes in the set list. One new one – The Gentle Rain – and a few revived ones such as Just Friends, The Preacher and Watermelon Man.

Mon 9 Dec 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

After tuning up we reviewed last week’s G major pentatonic scale and then strummed Am D B Em using open, barre and power chords and triads (in a funky stylee). After the break we played through the whole of Harvest Moon (Neil Young).

Earlier that day: with Mick on bass we played So Danco Samba, Midnight Voyage, Fly Me To The Moon (in 3/4), Just Friends, Stella By Starlight, All The Things You Are and Sonnymoon For Two.

Sun 8 Dec 2019 – D’Ukes, Lavenham Christmas Market

On the second day at Lavenham we arrived at 11am and I found the same parking spot as yesterday which, considering the hundreds of people visiting the market, is fairly remarkable. Although it was much sunnier it was cold in the wind so I donned five layers of clothes and two hats – my very warm walking hat plus the D’Ukes beanie on top. It certainly made a difference.

Compared to yesterday we had no technical difficulties (apart from suffering a short power cut towards the end), set up in about 20 minutes after the previous act, and played through the set list exactly as planned, finishing at the designated time of 4pm. Mysterious Girl got its first airing today and went down very well – I commented to the others that for young people it was probably the only song we played that wasn’t a hit before their time.

After packing up I went off to get our payment cheque at which point I was asked if we would be happy to come back next year. I said if you’re happy then we’re happy and put 5th and 6th December 2020 in my diary.

Sat 7 Dec 2019 – D’Ukes, Lavenham Christmas Market

Off we go again to Lavenham. We arrived at 12pm to find that there was music until 15 minutes before we were due to start giving us 15 minutes to set up. We almost managed it but an electrical gremlin kept us waiting till near 2:30pm. The audience, standing in the stiff breeze, were very tolerant and gave us a big cheer when we finally started with Valerie. The rest of the afternoon went well. During the break I put on two extra layers clothes as I was starting to properly shiver. It covered up my Christmas jumper but the audience could still appreciate my D’Ukes Beanie. We finally finished with White Christmas and I went and bought myself an Americano with hot milk to try and warm myself up a bit.

Fri 6 Dec 2019 – JazzDuo, New Courthouse, Stanford-Le-Hope

Due to a serious accident on the A130 I was late picking up John and so late getting to the restaurant. We set up quickly in the bar (instead of the usual corner of the restaurant) and just played for a couple of hours – everything from blues to standards via made up tunes, Christmas songs and extended jams. There weren’t many people in the bar which gave us the freedom to experiment but as people later began leaving the restaurant we realised they had been listening to us and apparently enjoying it. I went home with some Georgian food from the kitchen and some home made bread which I nibbled on the way home.

Thu 5 Dec 2019 – John Seeley’s Big Band, Leigh-On-Sea

D’Ukes’ rehearsal had been cancelled so I drove down to Leigh-On-Sea to watch John Seeley’s big band perform at St Michael’s church. The room was full by the time they started with the tune Nice And Easy. Later in the first set, Let It Snow not only sounded Chrismassy, it had the sound of a Glen Miller swing tune with smooth, close harmonies. After the break they included a couple of tunes that DWJQ have performed – Cissy Strut and Moritat – and eventually they finished with the encore, a replaying of a much stronger sounding Nice And Easy. It was good to meet a lot of people that I know including Martin, Rita, Hugh, Val, Ron, John, Natalie and others. Tomorrow I am playing with John at a restaurant in Stanford Le Hope.

Tue 3 Dec 2019 – Dave O’Higgins, Bardswell, Brentwood

Whenever I have a Tuesday evening free I find out what is happening at Bardswell. Tonight Dave O’Higgins was playing so I scooted down the A12 to see him performing with Graham Harvey (piano), Jeremy Brown (bass) and Sebastiaan deKrom (drums). Dave was on mainstream form tonight, full of melodic lines linked by chromaticism, arepeggios and, most importantly, spaces. The one thing I could say about nearly all his solos – I was just getting into them when they finished. They weren’t short by any means but I wished they were longer. Highlights included Horace Silver tunes Virgo and Ecorah (when they announced it I wanted to shout out ‘play it backwards’), and the Wayne Shorter tune, Sweet ‘n’ Sour.

Mon 2 Dec 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

A full house tonight, in fact I had to get more chairs down from upstairs. After tuning up I got them strumming D Bm F#m G as barre chords and triads and then we looked at the relationship between the G major and E minor pentatonic scale. After the break, which included biscuits kindly provided by Yvette, Ray’s wife, we worked on Harvest Moon (Neil Young), a song suggested by Ray. We completed the learning of the intro and verse and next week we will look at the pre-chorus and chorus.

Sun 1 Dec 2019 – D’Ukes CD recording

Mike the sound engineer turned up at my house first and set up his recording gear in the lounge. The rest of the band turned up as I was recording my solo on Folsom Prison Blues. It was then Brian’s turn to record his solo on Rock And Roll. The rest of the afternoon was spent recording vocals on various songs such as Half The World Away and Losing My Religion, both lead and backing vocals, but just as we finished Mike discovered  my solo on Folsom Prison Blues hadn’t been saved so I did that again – in fact I did a couple of takes. I will listen to them another day in order to choose which I prefer.

Thu 28 Nov 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We listened to the rough mixes of 17 tracks that we recorded in the Black Bull last month and I typed out a list of overdubs, re-records and tweaks that we’re going to do on Sunday when we next get together. Some songs need very little attention whereas it was decided on some to entirely re-record the vocals and, in one instance, the ukuleles as well. The finished results will end up on our next CD, available in 2020.

Wed 27 Nov 2019 – DWJQ, Leather Bottle, Pleshey

Another decent sized crowd turned up for our third gig at this lovely pub in Pleshey. The fire was roaring and hot when we started with Tenor Madness but soon cooled down to nice embers. We use this song, perhaps unnecessarily,  to warm up on. After Java I explained my rule that band members should aim to look smarter than the audience, which didn’t go down well but I stuck to my guns and thanked the audience, tongue in cheek, for dressing down tonight. After the third song I had the same problem with my wireless system – either interference or a band connection – but decided to carry on rather than swapping to a cable. Overall the evening went well, some songs went down better than others, and from a playing point of view we played as well as, if not better than, ever before. We finished, as we started, with Tenor Madness (the short version). As people left we packed up and I had a pint of Adnams. I also took some photos of the band in front of the Christmas decorations so we can use them as part of publicity for the next one on 18th December.

Earlier that day: At HOFS we played mostly Monk and Parker tunes: Cool Blues, I Mean You, Well You Needn’t, In Walked Bud and ‘Round Midnight.

Mon 25 Nov 2019 – session with Mick and Graham

We played Tangerine, So Danco Samba, One Note Samba, Midnight Voyage and Caravan and then finished with High Heel Sneakers.

Sun 24 Nov 2019 – D’Ukes, Queens Theatre, Hot church

Another big day for D’Ukes. We arrived at 3pm while a trad jazz band were playing. Once they had finished and cleared away we set up and sound checked, playing Dancing In The Dark and Crazy Little Thing Called Love to test the sound system. People then started turning up for the workshops. I was hosting the more advanced one though I only managed to attract one person. She seemed very interested in what I had to offer (African picking style, single lines through chords, chucking) and the 45 minutes went quickly.

Afterwards it was time to retire to the green room, eat my sandwiches and warm up my ukulele playing fingers in readiness for the evening concert. We went on at 7:30pm and played to a pleased looking audience. Unfortunately my in-ear monitor stopped working in time for Comfortably Numb and when I played my solo it sounded to me like it was somebody playing in another room. The song still got a big cheer though. In fact the cheers after each song got gradually bigger as the evening progressed.

The rest of the set went very well and we were all buzzing but tired by the end. After chatting with various people afterwards I got stuck into the packing up and eventually got home before midnight.

Thu 21 Nov 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

After a long chat about future gig and song possibilities we settled down to rehearsing a few of the songs we’ll be playing at the Queens Theatre on Sunday evening. We also discussed the workshops we are running in the afternoon for absolute beginners, recent starters and the more advanced.

Tue 19 Nov 2019 – Pride Of Essex, Anglia Ruskin University gigs

I arrived at the university at 5pm, carried in my gear and sat playing guitar while waiting for John to arrive. To save carrying so much I had decided to play through my AER amplifier which turned out fine.

Once John was here we (JazzDuo) set up and played for about half an hour from 5:30pm as people gathered for the ceremony which would be later upstairs. We both played without music in front of us and did tunes such as On Green Dolphin Street, St Thomas, Summertime and various blues tunes. Here’s a brief video of the view from my position!

After a break we played a few more tunes as people walked upstairs. Rick Wakeman was in the audience and Ian, one of the organisers, gave him one of our business cards which he seemed keen to keep.

John then went home and it was the turn of DWJQ to play on the mezzanine. We were set up and ready by 7:45pm but it was another hour before they came out of the auditorium. As soon as they emerged we started playing Serenade To A Cuckoo.

The rest of the evening was spent playing through the set list to varying amounts of attention from the crowd of people who were mostly eating, drinking and chatting.

Interestingly, whenever anyone wanted their photograph taken with an award winner or minor celebrity they would all pose in front of the band, even when we were in mid-song.

We finished with Mandela only to find that students on the floor below had been dancing along. I said thank you over the microphone and got a small cheer from the remaining punters upstairs and the students below. A great fun evening of playing.

Mon 18 Nov 2019 – session with Mick and Graham

We got together and played through several tunes, one or two of which will no doubt end up in the set list of the next jazz jam session. We played High Heel Sneakers, Chameleon, So Danco Samba, Lucky Southern, Here’s That Rainy Day and Sweet Georgia Brown.

Sun 17 Nov 2019 – Jazz Jam Session

Seventeen tunes were performed today at the Black Bull and we finished at one minute after 7pm so I think we got the timing about right. We had a good turnout too, both musicians and audience members.

I played guitar on DWJQ’s opening number, High Heel Sneakers, and the verse to The Lady Is A Tramp (sung by Nicole).

Apart from playing drums on You Don’t Know What Love Is I stuck to my MC duties. The whole three hour session was good fun but the uptempo numbers were definitely the most popular, for example, Fungii Mama, Mandela, St Thomas and Blue Bossa. Looking forward to the next one on 19th January.

Sat 16 Nov 2019 – Tony Kofi Organisation, The Vortex, Dalston

I first heard about Tony when I met Marco Marconi, who sometimes performs with him, at Benslow music college, and when I saw he was playing at the reasonably-easy-to-get-to Vortex I thought it was definitely worth a trip. I recognised most of the tunes the band played including Full House (Wes Montgomery), Search For Peace (McCoy Tyner) and Cisco (Pat Martino).

People on the next table must have thought me rude as I was using my phone quite a bit but rather than checking messages I was writing notes about ideas I was getting from the gig that could one day be implemented with DWJQ. They finished with a great version of Ode To Billie Jo, then they waved goodbye (no encore) and it was time to catch the 149 bus back to Liverpool Street and home.

Earlier that evening: before seeing Tony Kofi we had the pleasure of watching the band Thelonious in the downstairs bar at the Vortex.

The quartet played entirely Monk tunes without the use of a keyboard – just alto, trombone, bass and drums. I only recognised one tune – Round Midnight – but enjoyed the evening of quirkiness.

Earlier that day: We all went down to Southend as D’Ukes were to play at the beginning of the afternoon of music leading up to the switching on of the Christmas Lights. We did this event last year and despite the short set (5 songs in 15 minutes) I felt it was enjoyable and worthwhile enough to do again. On the train from Leigh to Southend we managed to get some attention from fellow travellers by playing a few tunes – Must Be Santa and a small portion of White Christmas – before leaping off the train. After the gig we went into the nearest shopping centre and had our photos taken in front of a big Christmas tree. I had to get up to London so afterwards we just walked quickly back to the station and made our way home.

Fri 15 Nov 2019 – DWJQ trio rehearsal

John, Mick and I worked on rhythm section ideas for tunes we are playing at the forthcoming gigs: the jazz jam on Sunday, the Pride of Essex on Tuesday and the Leather Bottle a week on Wednesday.

Thur 14 Nov 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

It’s that time of the year when we have to learn Christmas songs. We played Must Be Santa (A), Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home (Bb), Mele Kalikamaka (D) with me playing the bass which was hanging round John’s neck at the time, and White Christmas (G). Then we worked on Congratulations (A), Mysterious Girl (G) and a short extract of the song Fame.

Wed 13 Nov 2019 – HOFS session

At HOFS we played four Monk tunes: In Walked Bud, I Mean You, Well You Needn’t and Round Midnight. We finished with Tenor Madness.

Later that day: DWJQ are busy in November so we went through some of the tunes that we’re going to be playing including Fly Me To The Moon which I have suggested we play in 3/4 time like the original version. It sounded nice with just me accompanying Annette for the first 16 bars before the rest of the band come in. We tightened up a few arrangements such as Tequila, I Dream Of Jeannie and You Don’t Know What Love Is and tried out the key changes in Mack The Knife. All in all, a good session and we’re now ready for the jazz jam session on Sunday, the Pride Of Essex gig on Tuesday and the Leather Bottle on Wednesday 27th November.

Tue 12 Nov 2019 – Tuesday Night Group

When I arrived they were playing Yellow and I suggested making sure they were punching out the song rather than just playing quietly (but turned up loud). I then introduced them to the song Kiss Me (Sixpence None The Richer) and by half way through the session they were playing it from start to finish including the melodic lines and bass riffs. After a tea break we started on Songbird (Eva Cassidy) even though Gemma the singer had just gone home early. Instead of playing the song we did some work on instrumental section which is in G major. I suggested the two guitarists play G major pentatonic when soloing over this section. To finish the evening’s session the band played Torn and then we decided on a Tuesday evening in December when we shall meet again.

Mon 11 Nov 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

Everyone started the evening chatting away to their neighbour as if they hadn’t met for a  couple of months. Eventually I called for order and we tuned up. I then explained the physical benefits of playing tremolo as fast as possible and described how the pick should be angled slightly downwards. I got them to tremolo for two minutes using an egg timer to time them. We then strummed D Em G A (open and barre chords followed by triads) and then changed key to G. I showed them a way of soloing using G major pentatonic where they would target the root note of the last chord. This worked quite well. After the break we started on Take It Easy and worked on the intro chords and guitar line and then started working on soloing using the technique I described earlier.

Earlier that day: Mick, Graham and I got together to run through some of the tunes from the forthcoming jazz jam session including Lucky Southern, Blue Bossa, You Don’t Know What Love Is and Love For Sale.

Sat 9 Nov 2019 – D’Ukes, Halstead Conservative Club

Like a lot of gigs tonight’s venue was very quiet just as we’re about to start and then people just start coming in, one after another, until it was standing room only. They really seem to like us at the club though this time we didn’t manage to get them all up and dancing as we have done before. During Sit Down, the first person in the audience that I sat next to during my solo looked up briefly but then went back to swiping the screen of his phone. The next person was a bit more engaged and her friends all wanted to strum my ukulele so they did as I held down the appropriate chords. My solos are the only time I get to play anything creative during a gig. I tried a few new ideas out during Comfortably Numb which I was pleased with but, to my ears, my solo during You Do Something To Me was more of the same rather than something different. New York, New York closed the evening as always with over half the audience getting up into a big circle at the front.

Thu 7 Nov 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

After discussing various issues concerning recent and upcoming gigs we decided on our Christmas song repertoire for the season: Must Be Santa (A), Christmas, Baby, Please Come Home (G), Mele Kalikamaka (D), White Christmas (G). Then we worked on Mysterious Girl and a short extract of Fame which we’ll be including in the set on Saturday.

Wed 6 Nov 2019 – session with Gil

Gil came round for a guitar duet session and we worked on tunes that will get performed at the next jazz jam session at the Black Bull on 17th November including I Didn’t Know What Time It Was, Straight, No Chaser and It’s Only A Paper Moon.

Tues 5 Nov 2019 – session with Mark

Mark came round and we ran through some of the tunes that we’re learning for the Kirsty Tyler Quartet such as The Man I Love, Cheesecake (including trying it in Bbm), ‘S Wonderful, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore and Whisper Not.

Mon 4 Nov 2019 – Ron Spack and Friends, Oakwood, Leigh On Sea

Altoist John Sharpe lead today’s gig and occasionally played violin and sang a bit too. I played guitar with Ron on double bass and Glyn on drums. Tunes included Misty (in C, not the usual Eb), There Will Never Be Another You, How High The Moon, High And Dandy, The Lady Is A Tramp (sung in C), Lester Leaps In, Triste, Fungii Mama, When I Fall In Love, This I Dig Of You and Satin Doll. It usually takes me a few tunes to warm up, and also I think I probably started too quietly. The solo I was most happy with was on Moanin‘ and it felt good having Glyn the drummer joining with me on some of the rhythmic phrases I was playing. We finished with Tenor Madness on which I played the head in unison with the alto. Always a fun tune to end on.

Sun 3 Nov 2019 – Angie and Dave, Mighty Oak Tap Room, Maldon

We were advertised to play from 4pm but we – and some members of the audience – had arrived ready to start at 3pm, so we did so, but managed to keep going to till nearly 7pm to cater for people who expected the later start time. In all we played 42 songs over the nearly 4 hours – I was amazed my fingers still worked by the end and that Angie’s voice had held up. The main reason we carried on was that the audience seemed to be having a great time singing along to our songs – in fact it was one of my most successful gigs ever in terms of audience reaction. One highlight was watching two members of the audience, Dave and Barry, miming to the words of American Pie – all seven verses of it running at over 7 minutes. It was so funny I couldn’t help laughing as I strummed the chords though Angie deliberately avoided watching them otherwise she would have stopped singing through laughing too much.

People even danced to some songs such as Sway after I had given it a Spanish sounding introduction employing my looper to play a Dm chord while I improvised over the top. I got the audience (rather unsuccessfully, actually) to click their fingers at the start of Fever, and people were so keen to sing along they even sang along to the arpeggios in I Feel Good. After the final song Delilah we had a huge cheer for an encore. Fortunately, we had more songs available and I remembered that we hadn’t included Angels in the set so we finished with that and finally bowed and terminated our marathon performance. I looked at my fingers – they were almost black with from the stain on the guitar’s neck. What a gig!

Sat 2 Nov 2019 – John’s Big Band Workshop

I went down to HOFS in Hadleigh to help out on guitar in the rhythm section. I arrived early so sat in the car and ate my sandwiches (homemade wholemeal bread with almond paste, and a pile of mixed nuts) the went into the hall where the previous workshop was just finishing up. It was good to meet up with several of the musicians while they packed up, most of whom weren’t involved in the big band workshop. Although I am in a support role it’s good for my sight reading which can always do with improvement. We did several tunes including Havana, Beatitudes, Nice And Easy and Cissy Strut.

Later that day: D’Ukes were back at the White Hart in Grays tonight. The pub was unusually quiet when we arrived though the manager told me later it was due to so many people being up and about (and possibly drinking) since the rugby world cup final began early in the morning. We had Colin depping for John on bass and so we played a similar set to the one we played with Colin in France plus a couple of new tunes, Dancing In The Dark and Crazy Little Thing Called Love. The set also included Smoke On The Water during which I played (as usual) a snippet from In The Hall Of The Mountain King in unison with Jo. Despite the smaller than usual crowd we still garnered cheers and calls for more at the end. After we had packed up I chatted with the manager and arranged for three dates for us to return in 2020

Thu 31 Oct 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

John is not available on Saturday so Colin is depping on bass and he came over to mine tonight to rehearse with the rest of the band. We worked our way through the set list leaving out tunes that Colin played the last time he gigged with us as I assumed he was familiar with them. The gig is at 8:30pm on Saturday at the White Hart in Grays.

Wed 30 Oct 2019 – DWJQ, Leather Bottle, Pleshey

By the time we got started at 8pm the bar was busy but midway through the first set the place was so packed it was not only standing room only but the locals in the other bar were having difficulty finding their way through the crowd to get to the loos. We started with Filthy McNasty and I got the audience to sing the title at the appropriate moments – later on I persuaded them to do the same when we played Tequila. Our new tunes, You Don’t Know What Love Is and High Heel Sneakers, went fairly well though will need a bit more rehearsing before the next gig. All in all, a very good gig from a performance point of view but especially so from the audience’s. Afterwards I didn’t pack up my things until after the rest of the band had cleared up their stuff leaving me with plenty of room to do it. I then had a beer before hitting the road back home.

Tues 29 Oct 2019 – An Evening of Latin Jazz, Thorpe Hall Golf Club

This evening I drove almost 30 miles down to the far end of Southend, Thorpe Bay, to the golf club where each Tuesday it hosts Annie’s Jazz Club. Singer Natalia Farran led a top band comprising Ramon Farran (timbales), Phil Phillips (piano and vocals), José Canha (bass) and Marc Cecil (drums) through a selection of Spanish songs and other jazz standards (Quando Quando Quando, One Note Samba, A Foggy Day among others).

I suppose my main reason for going was to watch and support Kirsty who guested at the end of the first set and sang two songs, Cheesecake and On Dolphin Street, both being tunes we are including in the Kirsty Tyler Quartet repertoire. She did very well and certainly performed her own take on these two standards. But I also went partly to see the great Ramon playing probably my favourite South American instrument, the timbales, and highlights included when he and Marc locked rhythms on numbers such as Caravan.

A great evening of music and Natalia has a lovely voice though I think the song choice was a little predictable (Sway, Besame Mucho, Quizas Quizas Quizas) probably in order to suit the middle of the road audience attracted to this venue. Well worth the 60 mile round trip.

Mon 28 Oct 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

After tuning up, I showed everyone the A minor pentatonic scale in all five positions based on the notes ACDEG rather than using the pattern approach. The aim is to help learn the notes of the guitar as well as the scale itself. We then strummed and picked the chord sequence F#m D E C#m using barre chords, triads and diads. I based this exercise on the current number one, Monkey Dance by Tones and I. The rest of the evening was spent working on Stairway To Heaven, specifically the guitar solo at the end of the track. The are chords Am G F and I gave them advice on developing solos using A minor pentatonic scale. Everyone had a turn at playing a solo. Meanwhile, as I forgot to post it last time, click here for the tab to the intro.

Earlier that day: DWJQ rehearsed in readiness for Wednesday’s gig at the Leather Bottle. We went through all the heads and played all the new tunes (You Don’t Know What Love Is, Tequila and High Heel Sneakers) including some solos.

Even earlier that day: Graham, Mick and I got together for the first time in a while and played some of the songs that will be appearing at the next jam session including You Don’t Know What Love Is, Blue Daniel, I Get A Kick Out Of You and I Didn’t Know What Time It Was.

Sun 27 Oct 2019 – rehearsal with Angie

Angie and I are playing at the Mighty Oak Tap Room in Maldon next Sunday afternoon (3pm) so we got together tonight and had a good session working out some new songs to include, particularly as we have a lot of regulars who are likely to turn up next week hoping to hear something new. Angie suggested Take Your Mama (Scissor Sisters), Sweet Home Alabama (Lynyrd Skynrd) and Proud Mary (CCR) and then I started playing some random chords which she thought was Lola (The Kinks). It wasn’t meant to be but Lola is now in the set as a result.

We also rehearsed Dakota, Rotterdam, Waterloo Sunset and Weather With You, had a lager each and then wrapped up the session. I’ve now got to produce a set list and send it to Angie and we also need to do a bit of publicity on Facebook. Looking forward to the gig.

Fri 25 Oct 2019 – JazzDuo, Taksim Restaurant, Stanford Le Hope

John was unavailable today so Annette depped on tenor sax – her first time in JazzDuo. When we started there were only three people in the restaurant including her husband James but by the interval it was full and starting to get noisy.

We played about 16 tunes in all. The procedure for each song was roughly the same each time: Annette would play the head while I played and recorded the chords on my looper, then she would play a solo. When it was my turn to solo I’d press ‘play’ on my looper and solo over my own chords. We would then play ‘fours’ or maybe another solo each before Annette played the head out. Tunes included My Little Suede Shoes, Fly Me To The Moon and Black Orpheus.

I played my Gretsch through the Blues Junior with the bass turned up and treble off. It went very well and although nobody in the restaurant reacted (as is normally the case) the manageress said she really liked Annette’s playing. As always I left with a veggie meze which I ate when I got home. A good evening all round and good to know that Annette makes a fine dep if ever John is unavailable again.

Thu 24 Oct 2019 – D’Ukes, Black Bull, Chelmsford

We arrived at the pub and set up in readiness for what was to be a recording session for our forthcoming CD due out in 2020. Eventually a tiny invited audience turned up (including Andy our France promoter who had come all the way from London) and we started with three warm up tunes that won’t be appearing on the CD.

We worked our way through abut 15 songs, stopping and starting some of them if they got off on the wrong foot or someone forgot the words. I played a solo on You Do Something To Me although the volume of my uke was very low in my ears (in order to remove the risk of feedback) so until I hear the playback I won’t be able to tell if it was any good. It felt ok though. I didn’t bother playing my solo on Folsom Prison Blues as that would mean dropping out of the rhythm playing so I plan to overdub that later.

Rather than my usual on-stage attitude of playing, looking out at the audience and moving around a bit I mostly just stood there, head down, concentrating on getting it right. Oddly, when you think too much you end up forgetting what you normally play but overall I think I was happy with what I did – or it can be fixed in the mix including a couple of clangers in Tender where I played the wrong chord.

It was quite tiring playing in the fashion for two hours so we were pleased when we got to the end and I announced to the audience that we will not, therefore, be playing any encores. I look forward to hearing the recorded results and one day the actual CD itself.

Wed 23 Oct 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We got together today to rehearse the tunes we are going to record tomorrow at the Black Bull, Chelmsford, for the new CD which will come out next year. During the break I texted a few people who I thought might like to come along to the semi-public (only because it hasn’t been heavily advertisted) event at the local pub.

Earlier that day: a smaller group than usual (about 8) got together at HOFS to play through some Dudley Moore tunes from his trio period. We worked on Poova Nova, Waterloo and Strictly For The Birds. They were all relatively complicated tunes running to up to four pages of music. I was using my Kindle Fire to read the music and had to keep swiping the pages to keep up with music. Not ideal and it just goes to show how it is better to learn the music than read it, but it does save on all the printing. I was playing my new Gretsch Catseye as I tend to these days though I am finding, possibly due to its slightly shorter length, that I need to turn up the bass on the Fender Blues Junior amplifier.

Tue 22 Oct 2019 – Guitars Galore session

At this evening’s session Guitars Galore played me their arrangement of Leaving On A Jet Plane  including a key change from G to A. I went on to explain about plagal, perfect and interrupted cadences and how the V chord can be replaced by a 7th chord (e.g. D7 for D in the key of G). The rest of the session was spent working through Nights In White Satin and I showed them how to play it finger style. Next time I will give them some melodic lines to play during the tune.

Mon 21 Oct 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

To warm up I got them plucking a single note (from a C chord) on the beat (the metronome was set to 80 bpm) and then to play quavers, triplets and semiquavers. The aim of this exercise is to strengthen the right hand and improve timing. I suggested that they continue at home and gradually increase the bpm. We then strummed the chords to the intro to True (Spandau Ballet) for a few minutes (G Em Cadd9 Bm). Ginger Baker died recently so I showed them the riff to Sunshine Of Your Love which most of them remembered from before. We then played the 12 bar verse of the song. After the break we worked on the intro to Stairway To Heaven as suggested by Karen.

Earlier that day: I went down to altoist Graham’s cabin for a duo session. I am now almost exclusively playing my new Gretsch Catseye as suits most musical situations. We played several tunes including You Don’t Know What Love Is, The Days Of Wine and Roses, Have You Met Miss Jones, Stella By Starlight, How High The Moon and On Green Dolphin Street. While Graham played his alto sax I played mostly finger style bass lines and chords. During my solos (without using a looper) I sometimes resorted to plectrum but it was a very useful session for me as it concentrated my focus on playing without a rhythm section.

Fri 18 Oct 2019 – Kirsty Tyler Quartet rehearsal

We continued working through songs including The Man I Love, Whisper Not, I Thought About You, ‘S Wonderful, Blue Daniel and Poinciana.

Wed 16 Oct 2019 – JazzDuo, Chelmer Lodge

John and I had been invited to perform a couple of sets at this residential home in New London Road, Chelmsford. I had just time, after returning from Benslow, to eat some food, get changed, load the car and go out.

We set up in the corner of their lounge and by 7pm around 50 residents had taken their seats in front of us. We performed a number of jazz standards such as Night And Day, Petite Fleur, Autumn Leaves and Summertime and in the gap between songs I, and sometimes John, told stories either about the songs or about us. At one point in the evening I explained how my looper worked which I think some of them found interesting, and also the story of Fly Me To The Moon got its title – originally it was called In Other Words.

I doubt many of our audience members were big jazz fans but I think the chatting helped them connect with what we were playing. One lady said afterwards how much she liked Gershwin and Cole Porter and that she was learning some of their songs on the piano. Others said how much they enjoyed the evening and John’s mum said she had never heard me talk so much to an audience.

Mon 14 Oct 2019 – Beyond Jazz Guitar course, Benslow

I spent a couple of days and nights at Benslow, Hitchin on a jazz guitar course hosted by our tutor, Simone Gubbiotti, who is an excellent contemporary (not mainstream) guitarist and generally all round nice guy.

Interestingly, he is an ex-pro footballer who injured his knee and had to make a decision about what to do next – and decided on jazz guitar. He has reached an extremely high standard in a relatively short period of time. Over the two days I picked up a lot of tips on how to improve including practising repeated combinations of crotchets, quavers, triplets and semi-quavers (click here for a video of Simone playing the results of these exercises), playing sixteenth notes across the top two strings, playing louder (plucking harder), playing more confidently ‘outside’, not over playing – all to a metronome of course. His approach is very much of the arpeggio+enclosure style (to attempt to put it in a nutshell though this over simplifies his very sophisticated style of playing) but, more importantly, the timing of the notes is all important. Even in the evening concert on Monday, with Marco Marconi on piano, he occasionally played one note solos. Other tips included arpeggiating chords up to 13th, and plucking in the direction of travel e.g. down up down – down up down when playing three notes per string. I have had eureka moments with other tutors – Dave Cliff and Nigel Price both gave me tips which have changed the way I played – but Simone gave me three of four all of which are going to have a lasting affect on my abilities as a jazz guitarist.

For those reasons alone this course was extremely worthwhile. I left at about 3:30pm on Wednesday afternoon as I had to get back for a gig with John (sax) in Chelmsford.

Sat 12 Oct 2019 – D’Ukes, Blue Boar, Maldon

The original plan was to play outside the pub today but as it had been raining all day we set up in the function room upstairs. By the time we started I was a bit concerned as there were only about eight people present but it gradually filled up and by the interval it was standing room only. Before we played You Can’t Hurry Love I presented to the audience a short clapping workshop – how to clap along on beats 2 and 4 – which went down well. Mind you, nobody was brave enough to clap along to the following song Ain’t No Pleasin’ You. I got a huge cheer after my solo in Comfortably Numb, including one person jumping to his feet, so that seems to be still going down well.

After the interval we started to build things up to a crescendo. People started dancing and singing along from the second song onwards. One lady started clapping on beats 1 and 3 and I was in danger of publicly embarrassing her as I said over the microphone: “you clearly weren’t on the clapping workshop earlier, were you!” to some amusement. During These Boots Are Made For Walking we took them down the stairs, outside and up the other stairs and lots of people photographed me as I sat down during Sit Down. Here’s a clip of us and all the dancers.

We had started at 7:45pm and, with only one short break, finished at just before 11pm. I added in some extra songs towards the end bringing the overall total to 37 including an extended version of Duelling Banjos that we call Ukulele Hoedown. Another great night made special by the audience’s participation.

Fri 11 Oct 2019 – Interplay, The Alex

I arrived first at The Alex, parking in the big car park opposite, went upstairs to the bar area they call The Loft, set up my gear and then went outside to wait for the rest of the band. Graham J, a singer from Dublin, was on after us so once the rest of Interplay had arrived, set up and sound checked it wasn’t long before we began our set – with Blues In The Closet followed by On Green Dolphin Street. The ticket paying audience of about 30 showed their appreciation and so on we played. Both John and I performed without sheet music in front of us which was a first for this band. I was also debuting a new guitar strap for what it’s worth. I thought about playing my new Gretsch guitar but I’ll save that for maybe a gig with vocals one day. We finished with Jeanine and then packed up and sat around and watched Graham J for the rest of the evening.

Thur 10 Oct 2019 – D’Ukes, Mencap Gateway Club, Braintree

This is probably our eighth gig at the Gateway Club. As always it’s a very uplifting event. A lot of the members dance from the minute we start till the very end and even some of their carers lose their inhibitions and join in. One lady was very keen to have my set list, which I gave her as a souvenir, and she also bought a copy of our On Tour CD. We played mostly upbeat tunes and sing along songs and I did my utmost on the microphone to encourage them to join in – though they probably didn’t need encouraging. In the first set I instructed the band to skip Tender as it was a bit slow and we also left out Duelling Banjos during the encores. Great fun, there’s nothing like it.

Sat 5 Oct 2019 – D’Ukes, South Woodham Ferrers Beer Festival

We have played at the SWF village hall many times for many reasons but this was the first beer festival. The audience was divided between CAMRA members wandering around with their real ales and our followers sitting at the front watching us. It was a good night, Angie did well depping for Jo, and I enjoyed reading out the raffle ticket numbers during the interval though I was a bit confused about which bucket to put the tickets into once I had read them out, but help was on hand and we quickly got on with the second set. After we had performed You Can’t Hurry Love I did an impromptu explanation to the audience of how to clap along to a song. Firstly I asked the band to walk (a musical term) on an A chord and then got the audience to clap on beats 1 and 3, showing how plodding it sounded. Then I encouraged them to clap on beats 2 and 4, the idea being that it propelled the music along rather than holding it back. Perhaps next time I should include that segment before You Can’t Hurry Love rather than after. As it was the final evening of the beer festival any leftovers were going literally down the drain so I got myself a two pint takeaway bottle of a middling real ale and, along with all my gear, packed it in the car and headed home.

Earlier that day – John needed a guitarist for the rhythm section at his workshop this afternoon so I drove down to Hadleigh and set up along side the drums and bass and behind all the sax players. For me it was a bit of a sight reading exercise, not an easy one either, and we did tunes such as Havana, Lullaby Of Birdland, The Clan and Green Onions. During the latter tune I worked from the piano score and learned a thing or two about how pianos comp using triads which doesn’t tend to get taught to guitarists. Something for me to explore and making it a very useful session.

Fri 4 Oct 2019 – DWJQ trio session

John, Mick and I got together to sort out a few arrangement ideas of existing tunes and work on a couple of new ones. We started by tightening up the intro and coda of I Dream Of Jeannie and the coda of Fungii Mama, then worked on two new tunes, You Don’t Know What Love Is (in the style of Maria Schaffer’s version), and High Heel Sneakers (in the style of Craig Handy’s). We then made progress with Tequila and the intro to So What.

We then looked at the list of tunes that have been submitted for the next jazz jam session and decided which ones to include.

Thur 3 Oct 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Angie is playing with us on Saturday at the SWF beer festival so she came along and we ran through most of the songs in the set in readiness.

Wed 2 Oct 2019 – session with Mark

Mark (bass guitar) came round for a session and we continued working on Spain and then played through several tunes from the Kirsty Tyler Quartet repertoire including Here’s That Rainy Day, Cheesecake, Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, I Thought About You and It Could Happen To You. I was playing my Eastman jazz guitar but next week I will be getting a new guitar, a Gretsch Catseye. Watch this space.

Mon 30 Sept 2019 – session with Mick and Graham

It’s a while until the next jam session so we just played through some tunes including You Don’t Know What Love Is, Wave, No More Blues, How High The Moon, The Days Of Wine And Roses and Autumn Leaves. We briefly looked at High Heel Sneakers which we will have a go at next time.

Later that day: We warmed up by strumming Dm Bb C Gm and then I got them to play these chords as barre chords, power chords and triads, both strummed and arpeggiated. After the break we continued with Waterloo Sunset (click here for the chords to Waterloo Sunset) including how to play a guitar version of the ‘oohs’ that go over the chords in the verse.

Sat 28 Sept 2019 – North Downs Way

Martin, Rita and I continued our walk along the North Downs Way. This weekend we drove to Reigate, parked in a side street and walked up to the path. It was a sunny day and we walked about 13 miles, mostly in earshot of the M25 through a mixture of woods, fields and along residential roads of expensive detached Surrey houses, to Botley Hill. We then got a taxi back to the car and drove to our B&B in Westerham. Our evening meal was at a very noisy and busy Italian restaurant, the Napoli E, but the food was very good. The next morning we drove back up to Botley Hill, parked the car and walked 10 miles on a much damper day along more woods and fields via Knockholt (lunch found us sitting on a bench followed by coffee at a garden centre) to Dunton Green on the outskirts of Sevenoaks. We have crossed the M25 for the last time though we still have the M2 and M20 to contend with on the next leg of the journey. After a drink at the Rose and Crown pub we got a taxi back to the car at Botley Hill and drove home.

Fri 27 Sept 2019 – JazzDuo, Taksim Restaurant, Stanford Le Hope

The restaurant was a bit quieter than usual when we arrived but by the time we started at 8pm it was more or less full. We started with Ronnie’s Blues during which I added a harmony line to John’s tune, then played This Can’t Be Love. As usual I brought along some new tunes to play that John had never played before – good sight reading practice for him. Tonight’s newbies were Frenesi, You Don’t Know What Love Is and Perfidia. The first two were fine and I enjoyed playing them but I am not sure about the chords in Perfidia so will rethink that idea. During the break I heard some trancey electronic groove on the restaurant’s speakers and wondered if we could trying something like that and improvise over the top. Or I could set up a groove on my looper and then we both jam over it. Something to think about. After the break we played for another forty five minutes by which time the restaurant had emptied out. We packed up and took our meze takeaways home.

Thur 26 Sept 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We spent the first hour working on two new tunes (Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Dancing In The Dark). We’ll perform them at the Braintree Mencap gig on 10th October. The rest of the evening was spent looking at Mysterious Girl (Peter Andre) which we are learning for someone’s birthday party, and discussing what tracks to include on our 10th year anniversary CD which we are recording at the Black Bull on 24th October. As well as lots of current songs we’re planning to include a small number of old favourites which appeared on the 1st CD many years ago.

Wed 25 Sept 2019 – DWJQ, Leather Bottle, Pleshey

As the Three Elms has now closed down we have moved our monthly gig to the Leather Bottle in Pleshey. On the way to the new pub I drove past the Elms to see it in darkness though not yet shuttered; nor had they yet blocked the entrance to the car park with concrete but I am sure they will soon. The Leather Bottle is a smaller pub but Robert the publican made us very welcome and moved all the furniture out of the way to give us as much space as possible. The small bar was soon almost full as we kicked off the first set with My Little Suede Shoes. The audience was a mixture of friends, relatives and locals and they seemed to enjoy the music, as did the bar staff who took plenty of videos of us playing.

After the break during which sandwiches were served for everybody we started with Work Song and then played Filthy McNasty during which I persuaded the audience to sing the title of the song at the end of each chorus. They obviously enjoyed the participation which makes me think we need to get Tequila in the set next time.

The rest of the evening went very well and we’ve been asked to play once per month for the rest of the year, the next date being 30th October.

Tue 24 Sept 2019 – Tuesday Night Group

I arrived at 8pm to find the band rehearsing The Cranberries’ Zombie. Once I was set up I introduced them to the song Torn (Natalie Imbruglia) including an explanation of playing slide guitar for the solo at the end of the song. It’s quite an easy solo and once I had shown them it each of the guitarists (Karen, Chris and Amber) played it in turn. Eventually they had worked through all the parts of the song and Jo (bass player) recorded the band playing it from start to finish. I then showed them the chords to One Way Or Another (Blondie) and showed the guitarists how to play the lead bit in the verse. We didn’t have much time left so they did a quick recording of it which will give them an idea of what we did the next time they get together. I found a couple of mistakes with my chord sheet for this song (including calling One Day Or Another) so I promised I would check it and email a correct version in the next day or two.

Mon 23 Sept 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

We warmed up strumming the chords C G D Em (based on the Stevie Winwood song Higher Love) and I got everyone to play it firstly as open chords then barre chords, power chords, riads on top 3 strings, triads on the next string set and finally root position arpeggios. After the break we worked on George’s suggestion, Waterloo Sunset, and showed the group all the guitar and bass parts in the intro. It sounded very good and I will continue with the rest of the song next week. Click here for the chord sheet of Waterloo Sunset.

Sun 22 Sept 2019 – DWJQ Jazz Jam, Black Bull

I arrived at the Black Bull first and started to put up the PA system and arrange the tables and chairs. Soon, Mick, John and everyone else had turned up and with 20 minutes before the start time I was out at the front of the pub directing people to the free car park over the road as the pub car park was full. DWJQ opened up the proceedings with our ska version of Work Song and then it was time for the jammers to get up. Leaders included Angie, Gil, Val and Kirsty in the first set and Graham, Nicole, Nikki and Hugh in the second.

A special feature this time was our celebration of the 60th anniversary of the release of Kind Of Blue: we performed all of the tunes on side one namely So What, Freddie Freeloader and Blue In Green. As ever the afternoon ended with possibly the loudest version of Watermelon Man yet. Here’s a link to a video of the final few bars. I only played a brief guitar solo on Work Song at the start, plus the intro chords to So What. The rest of the time I was MC’ing, my biggest responsibilities being counting in the tunes and making sure everyone got a solo who wanted one. Shortly after 7pm we had finished and everyone was buzzing as they chatted and said their goodbyes.

Sat 21 Sept 2019 – D’Ukes, Stoke By Nayland party

We all arrived in the pretty village of Stoke By Nayland at about the same time and immediately went about setting up the gear on the small stage. It had a well polished, slightly sloping floor so there were plenty of jokes about risk assessments, appropriate footwear and insurance claims being bandied about. I then went out for a walk around the village which was by now in darkness but it was a lovely mild evening and there were lots of well lit living rooms to glance into as I walked the streets, taking in the equally well lit church as well. One large house had diners in every window but turned out to be a restaurant. I eventually returned to the village hall to find the band eating so I went and helped myself from the wide selection of buffet food available: couscous, beans, Italian salad, curried chick peas and more.

Full of food we eventually got up and played, this time with Angie depping for Martin, which is a bit unusual as that left us with three female singers, but it sounded fine and we went down well. Before the last song of the first set the birthday cake came out for Katie accompanied by us playing Happy Birthday in G. We then played Those Were The Days and stopped for a break and dessert during which I took a selfie when I realised the ‘queen’ was standing behind me.

The second set went well too although I had to tell the band to skip a few songs as we were short on time. We didn’t even play Duelling Banjos for an encore but as always New York, New York was a fitting finale to a fun birthday party.

Fri 20 Sept 2019 – DWJQ, The Norton beer festival

I arrived at 7pm to find Mick and John already set up. The afternoon drinkers were gradually leaving so that freed up some more space for us. By the time we got started it was a fairly noisy and boisterous crowd making it a little hard for me to communicate with other band members – even some of my count-ins weren’t heard. The first set had some good moments and some not so good ones. I don’t like stopping a song once it had started but this happened a couple of times; neither Softly As In A Morning Sunrise nor I Dream Of Jeannie got off to a good start but both were great once they had found their groove. It was my intention many months ago to get more upbeat Latin-esque tunes into the set in time for this gig and we managed it with these two plus Work Song, Mandela, The Sidewinder, Caravan and Oleo. During the first break we ordered food – I fancied an halloumi burger – and during the second break it was delivered to our table. During the third set there was a fair amount of grooving and dancing by punters at the bar and after the final tune, Tenor Madness, they called for encore. We obliged with Fungii Mama and left them wanting more. I am sure we will be back.

Thu 19 Sept 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Angie is depping for Martin at Saturday’s gig so she is having to sing his songs rather than the usual Jo songs. With Hazel that means we will have three female lead singers –  a first time for the band.

Wed 18 Sept 2019 – DWJQ rehearsal

We’ve got a three hour coming up at the Norton on Friday so in the two hour rehearsal today we worked our way through almost all of the 24 tunes. It sounded very good to my ears. Most of the arrangements are in place though one or two still get forgotten at the gigs.

Tuesday 17 September 2019 – Jim Mullen and Zoe Francis at Bardswell

I arrive at Bardswell in Brentwood at about 7:30pm, went up to the bar to buy a drink and find myself standing next to Jim Mullen standing in line behind me. When the bar assistant asks for my order I suggest that Mr Mullen’s need is more urgent to which he says thank you and orders a glass of wine and water. Afterwards, I thought I should have offered to buy him the round but instead I just buy myself a pint of South Wold bitter, pay my entrance fee and sit down in front of the stage. The main focus of the evening is singer Zoe Francis but my main interest is Jim’s guitar playing. Interestingly, probably because there is no drummer in the quartet, Jim strums mostly four to the bar when not soloing. His solos are classic Mullen style. He starts melodically and rhythmically before playing his signature runs and flourishes. The last time I saw him he seemed intent on frequently quoting other tunes during his solos but today it was only pianist Graham Hunter who slipped in a few familiar ditties.

Here’s a short extract of music from the evening.

The first set is over and I thought to myself that I only recognised one tune – The Surrey With A Fringe On Top – despite them all being standards from the shows. Later in the break the first raffle number is called and it’s one of mine. I step up to the stage accompanied by as much applause as received by most of Jim’s excellent solos, take my chosen prize, a bottle of Rioja, and select the next raffle ticket out of the hat – it was won by Colin, another guitarist in the audience who was here to see Jim Mullen. I am equally unaware of most of the songs in the second set but I am enjoying it and also taking mental notes of the band’s approach. This is with a view to incorporating some ideas into my playing as part of a new band, the Kirsty Tyler Quartet. Ideas include Jim’s interesting way of playing melodic introductions to tunes and also the way the band cleanly end songs rather than everyone playing cadenzas. I finish my beer as the band finish the final song. They are packing up as I leave with my bottle of red wine.

Monday 16 September 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

The guitar group turned up tonight for the start of a new season. To start with I got the group to warm by playing the chords to Perfect (Ed Sheeran), both strumming and fingerstyle. I then showed them Am natural scale in the fifth position and we then strummed a typical Am progression (Am G F E7). This developed into Runaway (Del Shannon) which we played for the rest of the evening. I have asked everyone in the group to suggest a song they would like to learn and I now have several suggestion which will keep us busy for the next few weeks. These include River Deep Mountain High, Highway Star, End Of The Line, Waterloo Sunset and Stairway To Heaven.

Earlier that day: John came round to run through some tunes for the jam session such as Misty and September In The Rain, and then we looked at a couple of DWJQ tunes in readiness for the rehearsal on Wednesday.

Friday 13 September 2019 – waking up in the New Forest

I had a good night’s sleep in the car and as I was beside a road filling up with morning traffic I took down the curtains, got into the driving seat and drove down a side road deep into the woods where I found a parking spot in a clearing. I had the place to myself apart from the squirrels and twittering birds. The sun was rising so I opened up the back of the car and made myself a cup of tea and porridge with banana. During my exploration of the area I found several good walking and cycling opportunities that I plan to return to one day. I also discovered the gorgeous Bolderwood Arboretum Ornamental Drive, a three mile long lane passing through woods of various trees including what look like Sequoia. Needless to say, being a very pretty route there were a fair few cyclists and cars taking in the scenery. I mooched around the New Forest for a few more hours before heading off to meet a friend of mine, Fi, at a campsite in Dorset. To be more specific it was near Wareham in the Isle (not really an island) of Purbeck.

Thursday 12 September 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

No John today but as there are no gigs with deps coming up so we worked on two new tunes: Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Dancing In The Dark. These are earmarked for the dancey part of set two so I didn’t feel it was necessary to play them anything other than straight ahead. As always Martin recorded us playing the songs on his phone and will send them out to both John the bass player and Colin the deputy bass player so that they can learn them in time for their next gigs with the band.

Later that day: shortly after the evening rehearsal had ended I switched everything off, picked up a few things and got into my car (which I had already loaded up) and headed for the New Forest. I have fixed up the Grand Picasso with a bed, curtains, some cooking facilities and even a Porta Potti so that I can sleep comfortably in it overnight. I arrived shortly after midnight, parked on a flat surface just off the B3078 and quickly got myself off to sleep. I have done this a few times now so I have figured out, for example, how to lock the car doors from the inside – not as straight forward as you might think in a modern car without setting the alarm off. I use an extended tent pole wrapped around the inside of the car as a curtain rail and peg black cotton sheets as curtains. The bed consists of a blow up mattress using a 12V air pump to inflate it, plus a sleeping bag and pillow. Next to the bed are three open boxes containing camping equipment, cooking equipment and food.

Wednesday 11 September 2019 – HOFS session

Mick depped on bass today for the first time. There were about eight front liners plus the rhythm section and we played through a number of tunes, mostly ones that he was familiar with. These included Here’s That Rainy Day, Blue Daniel, What Is This Thing Called, Tenor Madness, I Could Write A Book, On Green Dolphin Street, Blue Bossa, St. Thomas and Summertime. Beforehand, I accompanied Val playing Misty just to check the tempo and key as she will be playing it at the jam session later this month.

Later that day: Mark (bass) came round to work on some tunes, in particular Chick Corea’s Spain. It’s a complicated tune as jazz standards go but we got to a point where we were able to play through the whole piece including solos albeit at a slower tempo than the furious pace of the original. We also spent time on various other tunes that we’ll be performing in the near future such as Unit Seven and Oleo.

Tuesday 10 September 2019 – Guitars Galore session

I started off by listening to the Guitars Galore band of guitarists playing Can’t Buy Me Love and I showed them the opening three notes (B E G) of the melody so they could pitch their voices before struming. I chatted for some time about keys, equal temperament and Pythagoras and then asked them to play Leaving On A Jet Plane in G. I explained the idea of the Roman numerals system, e.g. I IV V for the chords G C D respectively, and then they played the song in the keys of A, C, D and E. Maybe next time we’ll consider why the V chord is sometimes a 7th chord.

Monday 9 September 2019 – Ron Spack band, Oakwood, Leigh On Sea

Ron’s band tonight had John on sax, me on guitar and Glyn on drums. I started off sitting down but after stepping away so I didn’t block the view of one of Glyn’s extended drum solos I remained standing. We played a dozen or more tunes including I Hear A Rhapsody, Ronnie’s Blues, Georgia, Stella By Starlight, Blues In The Closet, Oleo, Killer Joe, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Lester Leaps In, Out Of Nowhere, Our Day Will Come, Tenor Madness, This Can’t Be Love and Lady Bird.

Earlier that day: Mick and I went through several of the tunes being played at HOFS on Wednesday and also the three jazz jam tunes we are playing on: So What, Freddie Freeloader and Blue In Green.

Sunday 8 September 2019 – D’Ukes, Chelmsford City Centre

It was much nicer day than yesterday, the sun was warm, and after a couple of bands had performed, including the interesting Children Of The Fuzz, we mustered all our equipment and got up and played for an hour for an ever increasing audience as people drifted away from their shopping to sit and listen to us. This was a charity gig for Mencap and they seemed to enjoy it a lot. We had Colin depping for John on bass and he did well considering how few times he gets to play with us. During Sit Down I wandered through the audience and picked on people to sit next to including a little boy whom I encouraged to strum my ukulele while I held the chords down with my left hand. He was to be seen dancing along with his mum later on. We finished at 4pm, packed up and drifted off home, each with a cupcake given to us by the Mencap team.

Saturday 7 September 2019 – D’Ukes, Canewden Music Festival

After a surprisingly long drive into the Essex countryside we eventually arrived at the site of this mini music festival. It was great meeting an old friend, Lynne, that I hadn’t seen for a very long time – over 25 years. Lynne was one of the events organisers and was also keen to see D’Ukes in action. Once the band that were on when we arrived had finished we set about getting ready to go on. Everything was going well but the final link – getting our sound out of the speakers – didn’t seem to be working. Eventually we got on stage and started playing but it took several songs before everything was sounding good. We eventually started to win over the audience though it was dwindling due to the stiff breeze coming off the Crouch estuary. With much persuasion I got a lot of the audience to stand up for the final song, New York, New York, and we bowed out followed by a big cheer.

Friday 6 September 2019 – rehearsal with Kirsty’s band

This is a new band for me with Kirsty on vocals, Mark on bass and Richard on drums. We’re playing mostly familiar standards though often in different keys as tends to happen with vocalists. We worked through about a dozen tunes including Here’s That Rainy Day, Song For My Father, Whisper Not, What Is This Thing Called Love and Don’t Get Around Much Any More.

Monday 2 September 2019 – walk along the Wye Valley

Day 1 – Monmouth to Kerne Bridge (13 miles)

Phil and I set off along the River Wye from Monmouth and soon found ourselves in tranquil woods walking along the river bank. We crossed at Biblins – a youth camp site – using a narrow swing bridge and walked on the English side of the river via Symonds Yat and then back in Wales when we got closer to Lydbrook. We arrived at our destination, Kerne Bridge, at about 3pm and checked into our hotel.

Day 2 – Kerne Bridge to Fownhope (17 miles)

We had perfect weather conditions today but unlike yesterday’s stroll along the river we were soon climbing up through the woods. We reached Ross On Wye by lunchtime and then continued along the river eventually reaching the Green Man at Fownhope at 5pm after some diversions through woods.

Day 3 – Fownhope to Hereford (7 miles)

Again we started off in excellent weather and after an initial walk through the woods we ended up walking along the Wye, almost without stopping until we arrived at the bigger city of Hereford at lunchtime. After a coffee at a stall in the market square we caught the bus back to Monmouth where the car was parked.

Friday 31 August 2019 – JazzDuo, Taksim Restaurant, Stanford Le Hope

I always enjoy playing here. It’s an opportunity to play some nice tunes in a relaxed environment followed by a tasty meal of Turkish food. For a change I suggested we start at the end of our song list and work backwards rather than the usual direction. This meant we played songs that sometimes get overlooked such as Satin Doll. I also snuck in a new tune that John hadn’t played for many years – Spain – and I think we performed a very restaurant-friendly version of this tune. It has given me ideas for similar tunes when we next play here. We were also asked if we’d play Perfidia so I will make sure that is ready for the next gig which is at the end of September.

Thursday 29 August 2019 – session with Mick

Something I have always wanted to do is play Bill Evans’ intro to So What. I had already emailed Mick with the bass part so we started today’s session working our way slowly through it. By the end it was well on the way to being ready for the jam session in September. We then played through a few of the other jam session tunes such as September In The Rain, It Could Happen To You and Unit Seven.

Wednesday 28 August 2019 – Interplay, Railway Hotel, Southend

We started with the tune Jeanine – which I always struggle to solo over smoothly, probably because it’s the first tune and I haven’t warmed up properly – followed by Blues In The Closet; and then a member of the audience bravely came up to me and asked if I would turn up the volume of my guitar. I was pleased he did as my playing got more confident from then on. I played a few solos that I was happy with, for example Summertime and Tenor Madness, and a few that I wasn’t, for example If I Were A Bell. However I got more than my fair share of compliments afterwards so something must be going right. Afterwards an audience member likened me to a mixture of Jim Hall, Barnie Kessell and Gabor Szabo. I’ll go with that.

Monday 26 August 2019 – DWJQ, Three Elms Beer Festival

It has been a baking hot weekend and it was still over 30 degrees when I arrived at the festival at 4:15pm. The Blarneys were playing but were running late (as tends to happen at festivals) so we didn’t start setting up straight away, but instead sat and listened to the band. Eventually they finished and so we started to set up in front of them while they packed up (which probably annoyed them but we were keen to get going). I am pleased to say quite a few more people gradually made their way into the festival as we played. We didn’t take a break and instead went straight through for two hours. I was generally pleased how it went although I sometimes felt I was just talking too much on the microphone between songs – sometimes I cannot stop! But I think for some people who might not be jazz fans, this was something that kept them interested. We finished shortly after 7pm and after packing up, John, Mick and I sat and had a beer as the temperature finally cooled down. I got home and realised I had forgotten to take any photos!

Earlier that day: Interplay had a rehearsal and we ran through several of the tunes in readiness for Wednesday’s gig at the Railway Hotel. Afterwards we had lunch (bread, cheese, salad and nice coffee) before I headed off to the Three Elms for the gig with DWJQ.

Friday 23 August 2019 – walking the Stour Valley Path

Having completed the Essex Way earlier this year I am now making my way, on individual day trips, along the 60 mile Stour Valley Path which goes from Newmarket to Cattawade near the coast. I have already covered the section from Clare to Long Melford and today I started from the little car park opposite Kentwell Hall in Long Melford with the plan to walk to Bures. It was a hot day and I was eating and drinking my provisions much sooner than anticipated. Early on I walked through some lovely Suffolk meadows alongside the Stour and for a couple of miles followed a former railway line that once joined Melford and Sudbury. I stopped in Sudbury for a coffee in an air conditioned Costa and then continued past the Quay Theatre heading out towards Bures. This section of the walk was straight forward with an easy-to-follow wide path across the rolling countryside. One highlight was the grade 1 listed church at Lamarsh originally built in 1140, with its more recently built circular tower on which someone back in the 19th century plonked a so-called Essex spire. I arrived at the railway station at 3:12pm, looked up, saw the 3:13pm train pulling in, ran up to the platform and jumped on, telling the attendant that I hadn’t had time to buy a ticket. Even when I arrived in Sudbury there was the No. 716 bus waiting to take me back to my car. So I was back to the car in under 45 minutes having taken nearly five hours to complete the section.

Thursday 22 August 2019 – D’Ukes, Golden Lion, Romford

We played here several years ago at Grant’s engagement party but it looks very different now, probably because we are downstairs in the bar. They’ve only given us a small space and it’s a bit of a squeeze but we managed. before we started I chatted with a couple from Manchester down on business who were very intrigued about what we were about to do. After the walk-on music I counted in the wrong tune thinking we were starting with One Day Like This rather than Valerie. I had the wrong set list open in front of me. After that everything went smoothly. Being a Thursday the audience was quite small but they enjoyed it. I had to sit down on the sofa to play the bongos due to a lack of space to set them up on their stand. Not the most exciting of gigs but they have asked us back for a Saturday which should be much more fun.

Wednesday 21 August 2019 – session with Gil

This morning I had a guitar session with Gil and we played through Oleo, Unit Seven, Blue In Green, It Could Happen To You and Misty (played in double time feel).

Later that day: DWJQ played at the Three Elms, yet again. We introduced some new tunes most of which went well. A couple of arrangement ideas got forgotten but on the whole we played well. I played most of the gig without referring to any sheet music which was personally pleasing. The two I needed the paperwork for were the new tune, I Dream Of Jeannie, and Besame Mucho. It wouldn’t take long to internalise those two as well.

Monday 19 August 2019 – DWJQ rehearsal

We went through some new tunes we are introducing at the Three Elms on Wednesday namely I Dream Of Jeannie, Oleo (over a half time hip hop beat), Work Song (Ska style), Mandela (Township swing) and a Latin version of Softly As In A Morning Sunrise.

Sunday 18 August 2019 – D’Ukes, Blue Boar, Maldon

We arrived to find an almost empty car park and there was nobody in the pub garden where we were due to play. This was unusual as it is usually very busy when we arrive to play here but the good news is that once we had started playing the place started filling up to the point where it was standing room only. As always at this venue we had a great time, helped by a great audience, and by the end, everyone was involved, either singing or dancing. Angie did really well as dep for Jo and during the interval I got plenty of compliments for my Comfortably Numb solo. While mingling I picked up a couple of song requests for the second set which the band fulfilled – Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple) and Rock And Roll (Led Zeppelin). Meanwhile here is a very short clip of us playing I Wanna Be Like You.

Thursday 15 August 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Angie is depping for Jo on Sunday at the Blue Boar, Maldon so she came round and we ran through all the tunes she is singing the lead on.

Wednesday 14 August 2019 – HOFS session

I took my bass to HOFS today and quite enjoyed playing along to the Shelley Manne and Hank Mobley tunes that we covered. I certainly preferred it to playing my guitar through an octave divider and avoided using a plectrum too. We played Summertime, Our Delight, Poinciana, Blue Daniel, Uh Huh, The Best Things In Life Are Free and Workout.

Saturday 10 August 2019 – D’Ukes, Colchester Arts Centre

After unloading the car, I went and parked it over at the multi-story car park and then wandered back via a cafe where I bought myself an Americano. We had a few technical issues to sort out (buzzes in the ear monitors, no sound coming out of three mics) before we could properly sound check so I munched on my sandwiches (almond paste on homemade bread if you must know). The concert itself was great as it always seems to be when we play here. I came up with another corny quip to add to my list of on-stage quips. After playing Wish You Were Here I said over the mic, “nothing like a bit of Pink Floyd”, and then added: “and that was nothing like a…” and my voice trailed off. Seemed to get a bit of a laugh. Maybe next time I will get the audience to say it along with me. There was an excitable member of the audience to my left who seemed to really enjoy the concert to the point where he leapt up to his feet when I finished my solo in Comfortably Numb – which still seems to garner a bigger cheer at the end than most songs. After the last notes of New York, New York faded away we wandered down into the auditorium, stood by the exits and said goodbye as people filed out. Despite being an evening gig with all the rigmarole attached I was pleased to able to get home by midnight – for another sandwich of homemade bread, this time with tahini. Home comforts.

Friday 9 August 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We did some prep work and discussed the set list for tomorrow’s gig at the Colchester Arts Centre and then briefly worked on a few new tunes that might end up in the dancey section of set two, namely Crazy Little Thing Called Love and Dancing In The Dark.

Earlier that day: Richard, Mark and I rehearsed with singer Kirsty, working on a couple of songs that she will sing at the jazz jam session – Here’s That Rainy Day and Chitlins Con Carne – plus several others such as Love For Sale and On Green Dolphin Street.

Wednesday 7 August 2019 – Trio session with Steve and Mick

We got together to play some guitar/bass/drums tunes such as Evil Ways, Work Song, I Feel Good, Freddie Freeloader, Caravan and Three Little Birds.

Tuesday 6 August 2019 – Nat Steele, Bardswell, Brentwood

Tonight I travelled down to Brentwood to see Nat Steel (vibes), Colin Oxley (gtr), Adam King (bass) and Matt Home (drums). There were only about twenty in the audience but the band still played fast and furiously or slow and thoughtfully as required. It was interesting to hear lesser known tunes such as Charlie Parker’s blues number, Chi Chi, and a tune that was one of the first things I learned on the guitar, Theme For Ernie, though their version was somewhat quicker than the ballad version I heard by John Coltrane. I especially enjoyed their version of Denzil Best’s Move which originally featured on Birth Of The Cool, and Samba De Orfeu and you can hear the opening chorus by clicking below:


Monday 5 August 2019 – DWJQ trio session

John, Mick and I worked on some new tunes for DWJQ namely: Tequila, Work Song, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise, Oleo, I Dream Of Jeannie and Mandela. It wasn’t so much the melodies as the styles of each tune that we spent time on. For example, I suggested we play Work Song with a ska rhythm and employ a hip-hop drum beat on Oleo.

Sunday 4 August 2019 – DWJQ, Hylands Estate Open Day

We had been booked to play in front of Hylands House at 12:30pm while the public milled around the house, the park and the small craft fair taking place near the car park. I arrived to find that Mick had already unloaded his drums next to our gazebo. After dropping off my gear I parked the car and wandered back, set up my amplifer and then, with everyone in their black suits and white shirts, I asked James to take some photos of us in front of the house. I also did a few selfies of the band. We played for an hour in front of a small number of people we knew although a few other people had sat in front of us but decided after the first tune, My Little Suede Shoes, that this kind of music wasn’t for them. The sun was in and out all day and I was warm in my jacket and got through two bottles of water. I was pleased that I played the set without using any sheet music and overall we played well despite a couple of lapses in the arrangements – nobody else would have noticed. After we had finished Tenor Madness we said goodbye, packed up the gear into our cars and departed for home.

Saturday 3 August 2019 – D’Ukes, Southend Bandstand

We arrived at 1:30pm and quickly set up the gear. Martin was there early to make sure people arriving with their lawn chairs knew which side of the stage to sit. I asked the band members to make sure that they found out what the next song is while still playing the current song – this is to ensure that there is a swift changeover of songs and also to avoid the sight of band members finishing a song and then looking down at the ground to read their set lists. Overall this was a good performance in front of a huge crowd and we stuck closely to the idea of playing songs in groups of three before then chatting with the audience. I mingled with the audience during the break and people came up to me with a variety of questions, comments and compliments. One person tried to get me to sell a piece of equipment on his behalf and another asked about the possibility of us playing at a hostel. We finished at 5pm with most people in the park dancing and singing along to New York, New York. Here’s a short video.

Monday 29 July 2019 – visit to Marval, France

Ben (bass) and I flew to Limoges, France where we went to stay at saxman Dave’s house in the tiny village of Marval about 35 miles away from the city. Richard (flute) was already there. The enjoyable five days were spent walking, eating, drinking and playing jazz in equal measure. I slept in my tent in the garden to ease accommodation in the house and really enjoyed the outdoorsiness of it. A typical day was to wake up, have breakfast, go for a walk through the forests for a couple of hours with Dave’s dog, Mouldy. After lunch – taken either in the house or at the local plat-du-jour restaurant –  we would either play some music or snooze under the parasol in the garden. Dave usually made dinner then we’d play music till late. Very relaxing.

Saturday 27 July 2019 – D’Ukes, The Lamb, Romford

We arrived in the back streets of Romford, parked up and then I went round the front of the pub to find my way back to the where the car was, unlocking gates as I went. We were then able to load in the gear and set up at the end of the bar as usual. We had Angie depping for Jo for the first time, not including busking in Southend, and she did well, singing nearly half of the songs this evening. It meant D’Ukes, for the first time, performed I Feel Good, Mustang Sally and Three Little Birds and also revived Moondance and My Boy Lollipop. These are all Angie songs and she also sang some of our standards such as Creep and Don’t Look Back In Anger. We played for three hours and by the end a few people were dancing. After packing up the gear I went and drove the car round to the front to load up, then pay the band members their fair share of the fee and then depart for home.

Friday 26 July 2019 – JazzDuo, Taksim Square Restaurant, Stanford Le Hope

Depsite the weather and the heat coming from the flaming grills it was bearable in the main restaurant. We played as usual for a couple of hours and tried out a couple of new tunes including I’m In The Mood For Love. To quench my thirst I had plenty to drink during the evening – two orange juices, a bottle of water and a very nice coffee – and afterwards Lia gave us each a veggie moussaka which we sat and ate before packing the gear into the car and going home.

Thursday 25 July 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

D’Ukes rehearsed with Angie tonight as she will be singing as dep for Jo on Saturday at The Lamb, Romford. We went through all the songs that Angie will be singing lead on plus Tender and New York, New York.

Wednesday 24 July 2019 – session with Gil

We played through several tunes: Valse Hot, Airegin, Ornithology, Blues For Alice, St Thomas and Oleo.

Later that day: at HOFS we started with Tenor Madness and then played a number of Charlie Parker tunes including Blues For Alice, Ornithology, Yardbird Suite and Scrapple From The Apple. Ornithology and Scrapple are contrafacts so I played the original tunes as part of my solos (How High The Moon and Honeysuckle Rose). It was so hot that after a few minutes of playing I took off my shoes and socks to help cool down.

Even later that day: I turned up at the Three Elms for the DWJQ gig to find it hotter indoors than outside. I set my gear and then went outside to play a bit of guitar – to warm up my fingers – but mainly just to cool down. Once we got started with the first tune, My Little Suede Shoes, we probably had as many people sitting outside listening as we did inside. Everything went well musically and we finished the second set dead on 10pm. Afterwards, I plugged in the microphone and gave a little speech in tribute to Alice who worked behind the bar and was leaving the pub today. This was followed by my customary pint of beer, this time Old Bob.

23 July 2019 – DWJQ rehearsal

We had a good rehearsal in the heat tonight. We’re playing at the Three Elms tomorrow so we ran through the heads of all 16 tunes in the set list and also checked that we remembered a few of the arrangements on such tunes as Java, Besame Mucho and St Thomas.

22 July 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

After the tune up I asked everyone to play a note from the C major scale so that, going round the room, they played an ascending C major scale for three octaves (they had to remember three notes in some cases). I then got them to play the sequence F Am Dm Bb and showed them alternative chord shapes plus a Bb lydian scale run over the Bb chord. After the break we strummed a C minor blues sequence and I got everyone to play a 12 bar solo and encouraged them to put a bit of emotion into the playing.

Earlier that day: Mick, Graham and I got together to work on our tunes for the next jazz jam session on 22nd September. We plumped for So What, Freddie Freeloader and Blue In Green, in other words side one of the album Kind Of Blue. We also played The Days Of Wine And Roses and Miles Davis’ Solar.

21 July 2019 – Jazz Jam Session, Black Bull, Chelmsford

After finishing early at the Interplay gig Mark and I arrived at the Black Bull and started to set up the PA system in readiness for this afternoon’s jazz jam session. Hopefully I haven’t missed anyone out but the following turned up to play or sing at some point: (guitars) Gil, Ian, Stefano, Steve, (drums) Richard, (bass) Mark, (vocals) Angie, Nicole, (piano) Seh, (horns) Nikki, Hugh, Richard, Val, Graham and John. That’s in addition to the house band members, Mick, John, Annette and me. I only played on two numbers, the opening warm-up Filthy McNasty and later on, Little Sunflower. I was happy to sit on my stool announcing the tunes, counting in the tunes, indicating who was to solo next and generally organising it so that songs didn’t fall apart, which they didn’t but they might have done on a couple of occasions. It was a very successful afternoon and I could tell from the way everyone was busy chatting afterwards that it was enjoyed by everyone.

Earlier that day: I gave Mark a lift to the Interplay gig at the classic car show in Langford and after a bit of wrangling over when we were due to play we went on just after 11am and played for 75 minutes or so. The audience gradually increased in size despite my earlier misgivings about having modern jazz at a classic car show when everyone else seemed to be more in tune with American cars, quiffs and bobby soxers. We went down well and someone came up to me afterwards and said how good they thought it was. Afterwards I went for a wander around and had a look at the cars as it was too soon to head on to the Black Bull for the jam session.

20 July 2019 – gig with John and Gil, Old Rectory, Purleigh

I arrived at this lovely big old house just as John arrived and we went into the garden to find lots of people sitting around enjoying cakes and drinks, and then into the house where we left all our gear before eventually setting up under a gazebo in the garden. With Gil on guitar, I was on bass guitar duties today and enjoyed playing without the aid of sheet music. We played for an hour, mostly our usual standards such as Summertime, Have You Met Miss Jones and Fungii Mama. I would like to have stayed and chatted with some of Gil’s friends that came along but I had to get back in order to get ready for this evening’s gig with D’Ukes.

Later that day: we made our way up to Chelsworth in Suffolk and arrived at this lovely country pub to find already quite a few people in the garden, many enjoying the barbecue. While setting up more people arrived and I helped some of them find some seats and a table to sit at including my cousins, Marion and Gillian and their partners and a friend. Considering the landlady, Nicola, who booked us had a few days earlier been panicking about nobody turning up, we had a very good sized audience. We played very well I thought during the first set, probably as a result of the attention we were getting from the audience. After a short break, because we were going to finish a bit earlier than planned, we played Comfortably Numb and then went into the dancier numbers and few sing-alongs such as Delilah and Angels. I did my best to encourage people to buy our On Tour CD and I think we sold about four copies. I also used a bit of persuasion over the microphone to get people dancing and a few did get up for the last few songs. After our usual first encore, Duelling Banjos, I got everyone to stand up in circles, which they did, and so began the final tune to a great evening, New York, New York. As soon as we finished Nicola came up to me and gave me a hug as thanks for a great evening. Of course, she gave everyone else a subsequent hug too. I am not sure about the various residents who had booked a room for the night at the pub but certainly everyone else seemed to really enjoy it.

16 July 2019 – walking across the Derbyshire Dales

Day 1 – Uttoxeter to Swinscoe (12 miles)

I took the train to Uttoxeter because it seemed the easiest place to get to that was just south of Derbyshire. When booking I opted for a £9 upgrade to 1st class which was very worthwhile as I must have consumed £9 worth of food and drink and had access to the 1st class lounge and the luxury of a carriage almost to myself being constantly waited on by several members of staff offering various refreshments. I arrived in Uttoxeter at 1pm and on a warm, sunny day, did my best to find and enjoy the route to the campsite at Swinscoe. The second half of the 12 mile walk, after Rocester, was the beginning of the Derbyshire dales and was certainly the more interesting as I followed the Limestone Way for some of the time. I was carrying a 10kg pack which, for me, is quite heavy especially uphill on a hot day. Eventually I found my campsite for the night near the village of Swinscoe. The evening meal in the Dog And Partridge near my campsite was very tasty but the posh surroundings clashed with my walking boots and weather gear.

Day 2 – Swinscoe to Hurdlow (17 miles)

I packed up the tent and set off without any breakfast towards Dovedale, nibbling snacks as I went along. While walking through a farmyard a lonely hound dog bounded out and followed my for a couple of miles but fortunately I managed to shoo him away before starting the walk along the river Dove. It’s undoubtedly one of the prettiest walks I have done and, with perfect timing, there was a small shop in Milldale selling coffees midway to my lunch stop, Hartington. Afterwards I headed off, mainly along farm roads, to connect with the High Peak Trail which eventually took me to my campsite. During my meal in the Duke of York I chatted with a couple from Manchester who were exploring the area and very interested in what I was doing.

Day 3 – Hurdlow to Castleton (17 miles)

I had the slightly unpleasant job of packing away a wet tent after the previous night’s downpour. I set off, again with no breakfast, through fields of wet grass which was a bit of a mistake as it left me with wet feet for the next few miles. When I reached Miller’s Dale I changed my socks which helped a bit. At this stage I had just walked under the Monsal Trail bringing back memories from my first ever walk in this part of the country. Using a combination of the Limestone Way, the Pennine Bridleway and various farm roads I eventually reached Tideswell for lunch and had a huge pot of tea and a large and very tasty cheese and salad roll. A couple were sitting next to me on the adjacent table outside the cafe and I said to them, while tapping my pack: “can I ask a favour?” and the young woman immediately said, “yes, I will help you put your pack on”. I replied: ” no no, can you just look after it while I nip to the loo?!” and she squealed with embarrassment. After lunch I set off along the northerly road out of Tideswell until I rejoined the Limestone Way and followed it for most of the way to the end of the walk at Castleton, passing the clifftop castle on the way. Here, I caught a bus to Hope and found a campsite. I was given a lovely little spot overlooking the river which I shared with eight ducks. My evening meal was at a pub in the village accompanied by a couple of pints of Two Hoots bitter.

Day 4 – homeward bound

Woke to rain so went into the village of Hope for breakfast before returning to the campsite, packing up the wet tent and heading to the station where I started my journey home.

Thoughts afterwards…

Camping in my little tent was a highlight, once I had found somewhere to pitch it. I think I showed I can fairly comfortably manage 17 miles per day with a 10kg pack though there were a few moments when I wondered why I was doing this – possibly when I had low energy levels. However, I did find, because of the weight of the backpack, that I often found myself walking with my head down. Not ideal in such lovely surroundings but as I get stronger and backpacking gets easier this will improve.

Not being able to charge my phone was a bit of a problem. In the end it lasted about three days – and that includes using an old phone for a lot of the map work – and I got quite adept at switching it off as soon as I thought I wouldn’t need it for some time. I did use the compass a few times, especially when I couldn’t find the route in the early stages.

Carrying lots of bananas, nuts and energy bars was a good idea and I always need to set off with three bottles of water unless I am confident I can replenish stocks along the way.

Next time I should bring some lightweight sandals or flip flops so I don’t have wear my walking boots when visiting the campsite toilet or shower. Otherwise I think I used almost everything I took and didn’t take too many superfluous items. And I didn’t take any photos or videos either which is a bit unusual for me – probably due to the dwindling battery levels.

14 July 2019 – D’Ukes, The Archer, South Ockenden

I didn’t really enjoy playing here to start with but the place and the people have grown on me and I now do. Provided the weather stays rain-free it’s a good gig and today it did. We had possibly our biggest audience to date in the garden and even though they gave nice ripples of applause after each song it wasn’t until the end of I Wanna Be Like You that they roared their approval and asked for more. The food was good too. At the interval I had a huge salad with a couple of veggie burgers on top followed strawberries and cream.

Saturday 13 July 2019 – Two gigs with D’Ukes

We set of for the Bures music festival at midday and arrived to find a few punters watching the early bands. I wandered off to buy a crepe and coffee with my free tokens and chatted with the stall holders, telling them to listen out for us when we played at 2:25pm. It took us 20 minutes to set up and then we started with One Day Like This. Gradually people started to listen and some walked into the big marquee. By the time we finished with Duelling Banjos we were getting a huge response. I had jumped down off the stage into the audience to play the final few bars of the tune and then waved goodbye and headed backstage to recover. Afterwards I got quite a few compliments from people as I wandered around the arena, and I chatted with the band members of Mengelmoes who played after us. I was curious about their influences as they were playing a funky style of prog rock at times mixed with Stevie Wonder and Jamiroqui.

Later that day: after Bures we got in our cars and drove down to Highwood near Writtle and arrived, admittedly a bit early, at Argents Nursery where we due to play at a 25th anniversary party. The hosts met us and made us a cup of tea before we got up and started loading in the gear and setting up. We started quietly enough but eventually a few people started to dance. During the break I decided to drop the opening tunes of the second set as we were running slightly over time. This meant not playing Comfortably Numb but I was thinking that people were itching to dance. I had a lovely bowl of Thai food during the break and a banana for a bit more energy and then we played the second set, almost all dance songs, and everyone got up and bopped along till the end. We really did get a massive response at the end and, as always, got them into a huge circle for the final song, New York, New York. Here’s a short video.

Thursday 11 July 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Apart from jamming on a couple of tunes such as Superstition we made some good progress on the Blur song, Tender.

Wednesday 10 July 2019 – Boomerang, The Three Elms

Kat, their lead singer, is leaving the band to get married and move up to Lincolnshire so they wanted to play a final (and only) gig with this line-up so I arranged for them to play at the Three Elms. A good sized audience of family and friends turned up on this warm evening and cheered every song from the opening Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood to the closing Royals. They employed their neat idea of playing songs in chronological order but it was the second set, entirely in the 2000s where the band was at its best; confident and tight. I managed to stretch a pint of beer across the entire evening and enjoyed myself simply chatting with all the people I knew and watching the band. A nice change from all the usual involvement with gigs.

Earlier that day: John, Gil and I went through the majority of the tunes for the jazz jam session coming up on 21st July.

Tuesday 9 July 2019 – Tuesday Night Group

The band warned up on Bad Moon Rising and I showed them a way of ending tightly. I then took them through the chord changes of Love Story (Taylor Swift) which I think they enjoyed once it started to take shape. The rest of the evening was spent working on Take Me Out (Franz Ferdinand).

Monday 8 July 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

After tuning up we strummed through Pride Of Man (Quicksilver Messenger Service) in tribute to Gary Duncan who recently died. I then taught the group a bossa nova strumming pattern based on the style played by Joao Gilberto who recently died. After the break we continued to work on Layla, the unplugged version by Eric Clapton.

Saturday 6 July 2019 – D’Ukes, Little Burstead village party

I think this is the seventh time we have played here in Ellis Field. We’re always very welcome and even though it rained throughout most of the evening we went down very well and I am sure they will ask us back next year as well. At one stage I called out over the microphone to everyone to come under the marquee and dance in front of the band – a few people did and really enjoyed it. After it was over I donned a cap and raincoat and set to putting away the gear. A bit wet but good fun.

Friday 5 July 2019 – JazzDuo, Taksim Square Restaurant

John and I got a short notice request to play tonight and fortunately we were both available. It was a hot evening so we didn’t wear jackets for the first time, but still wore our customer black trousers, white shirts and blue ties. It was hard to tell who was listening and who was just getting on with their meal but we got a nice round of applause from one table after playing a jazz blues during which we tried to cram in as many blues heads as possible (Tenor Madness, Bags Groove, Sonnymoon For Two etc). We were having fun and it showed. Although we mostly played American songbook standards we did play a duo version of Chameleon which worked well – I played the riff on the looper. After the playing was over Lia provided us with a very nice sit-down meal of Turkish food.

Thursday 4 July 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

D’Ukes got together for its first rehearsal since 30th May. We played through several of the tunes we are playing in Little Burstead on Saturday and the started working on a new tune, Tender by Blur. I hadn’t heard it before but it’s catchy, unusual and quite long. I am imagining it in the second set or even at the very end of a concert.

Earlier that day: Mick, Graham and I got together to run through most of the tunes that have been selected for the next jazz jam. I need to correct the Eb version of On Green Dolphin Street and also transcribe a clearer version of Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.

Wednesday 3 July 2019 – G2 session

Gil came round for a duelling guitar session (and brought Eccles cakes with him). We worked mostly on Valse Hot and Airegin, two tunes I would like to learn properly.

Tuesday 2 July 2019 – Angie and Dave, Railway Hotel

We turned up to find the pub fairly empty and little sign of the Southend Festival event we were expecting. Apparently the main band had not turned up and it was just us playing for 45 minutes. Before we got started I took a photo of us being photo bombed by Tony Hancock. What started off as a fairly glum affair turned into a gig I actually quite enjoyed playing. The few people who were listening, including the sound engineer, applauded enthusiastically and I think we played as well as we have done. We always have to remember that however few people are watching one person might be there checking us out for another gig, so we always play as well as possible and the treat all gigs as very important.

Monday 1 July 2019 – session with Mick

With Mick on bass we went through most of the tunes that are lined up for the next Jazz Jam session on 21st July. I used this session to practise sight reading of the melodies.

Later that day: I headed off to Southend at 6:15pm to play at the Oakwood with Ron Spack and friends. Today we had Mick on drums for the first time, Stef on trumpet and John leading the evening on tenor sax. There was quite a good crowd of regulars by the time we were well into the first set (we started at the earlier time of 8pm). My personal highlights were my solos on Stella By Starlight and All The Things You Are. I was particularly annoyed with my solo on I Got Rhythm, it never got off the ground, but that’s the way it goes in these situations when you are playing fairly unrehearsed and unprepared.

Thursday 27 June 2019 – Southend Jazz Co-op, Bumbles Cafe, Chelmsford

I turned up at 1pm to leave my amp and bass guitar (yes, playing bass today) in the cafe before going for a wander round town. The others (Richard, John and Gil) turned up at 2pm and I helped them get the gear up to cafe on the 1st floor of the former Co-op department store (now Quadrant). We started playing at 2:45pm as people started coming in for this small event which featured speakers talking about various aspects of co-operative working. Not everyone’s cup of tea, especially for those who had come just to hear the jazz, but they got a free cream tea out of it. I enjoyed playing bass for the first time in a while and I was pleased to say I played all 16 tunes without needing any sheet music in front of me. Tunes included Autumn Leaves, Have You Met Miss Jones, On Green Dolphin Street, One Note Samba and Caravan. One lady came up to John during One Note Samba and said we were playing it too slowly so John did his best to crank up the speed against some small resistance from the rhythm section. We arrived at a decent speed eventually. By 5pm we were packing up and going home.

Later that day: I went with Martin, Rita and Jeanette to Leigh On Sea to watch John Seeley’s workshop band perform their annual concert. Rita, Jeannette and others did fine solos and the arrangements of the tunes were very good, much more in the big band style than I have heard on previous occasions. Click here for a short video of them performing the Pink Panther theme. Having not eaten since the afternoon gig I managed to scoff quite a few crisps and cakes during the interval (too much salt and sugar!) and it was nice to have an evening watching music and not playing.

Wednesday 26 June 2019 – DWJQ, The Three Elms

This is our 42nd gig at the Elms and there was quite a crowd of diners and drinkers. We introduced three new tunes tonight: Java, The Sidewinder and Poinciana. Admittedly we used to play Poinciana but in a different key and style. Tonight’s version opened the second set and sounded very smooth to my ears. We also played Caravan in a more Cuban style and I think it went well.

Earlier that day: At HOFS we played through a number of the regular tunes such as I Could Write A Book, Summertime, Tenor Madness and Una Mas. I left before the last tune was called as I had to get back for the evening’s gig with DWJQ.

Even earlier that day: John, Gil, Richard and I rehearsed for tomorrow’s gig at the Quadrant cafe in Chelmsford High Street (3pm, cream teas are being served). The difference was that I played bass on the 16 or so songs. I managed to also play without referring to sheet music and will do so tomorrow as well. I enjoyed it even though I would rather have been playing guitar but this is a Southend Jazz Co-op event so Gil gets the option first.

Monday 24 June 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

After the tune up, I got them to play notes on the D string including notes from G major and E minor triads, and I also demonstrated diminished and augmented triads and gave examples of the shapes. We then strummed C Em Am G in various ways including picking out a bass line (C Em/B Am G/B), power chords and finger style. After the break we worked on the unplugged version of Layla (Eric Clapton) which we will continue next time.

Earlier that day: DWJQ got together to rehearse for Wednesday’s gig at the Three Elms. I’m looking forward to performing our new tunes which we rehearsed today including Caravan, Java, Night And Day, Besame Mucho and Poinciana.

Even earlier that day: Graham, Mick and I got together to rehearse for the jam session and played Little Sunflower, Cold Duck Time and Bags’ Groove and then we played Fascinating Rhythm which we might play at the jam session in September.

Sunday 16 June 2019 – Pennine Way, week two

Last year Martin, Rita and I walked from the start of the Pennine Way at Edale as far as Malham and the plan was to continue this year as far as Dufton in Cumbria. That would leave one final week to complete the walk in 2020. We drove from Chelmsford to our B&B in Airton near Malham and parked the car where we would leave it for the week.

Day 1 – Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale (click here for a short video)

After breakfast we got a taxi to the start of the walk in Malham and headed off along the Pennine Way. Within half an hour Martin, Rita and I were walking up to the top of Malham Cove. Then, after eventually finding the trail, we trekked across to Malham Tarn which we walked around before heading off towards Fountains Fell. We reached the top early in the afternoon and stopped for lunch. I had brought with me a banana, a scone, a tahini sandwich made of homemade bread, mixed nuts and a seed bar, in fact I had brought with me on this holiday enough food to cater for my lunches for all seven days. Our lunch spot had a good view of the slightly intimimdating Pen-y-ghent which we were due to climb in an hour or two. We eventually reached the start of the climb and I changed into suitable clothes because it was going to be warm. After half an hour of hiking and climbing across rocks we got near to the top but then the heavens opened and it was a mad scramble to get into our waterproofs. It was then a short walk to the top of Pen-y-ghent but it was raining hard so we immediately started the long descent to Horton. My left leg was now aching around the knee area, especially on the downward climb. It’s the first time I have leg problems for a long time – probably caused during the scramble up. We reached our hotel by about 5pm and later went out for a meal at the neighbouring Golden Lion pub.

Day 2 – Horton In Ribblesdale to Hawes (click here for a short video)

I woke to find my leg felt a lot better and there was no discomfort walking down to breakfast. Today’s walk had no specific visual highlights, just constantly wonderful views of the valleys below such Widdale and Wensleydale. We walked mostly along packhorse tracks and Roman roads but it was the late afternoon descent into Hawes that caused my left leg to start hurting again. Keeping it straight eased the pain but that meant I walked like someone with a wooden leg, swinging it outward to miss the ground. I kept up with the Martin and Rita though and eventually we reached Hawes and had tea and fruit cake with Wensleydale cheese at the creamery. The B&B was excellent with huge rooms and we ate that evening in the White Hart.

Day 3 – Hawes to Keld (click here for a short video)

During breakfast we chatted with Jack, an American, who was walking from Lands End to John O’Groats – quite inspiring and coincidentally I had only just downloaded a book, Walking With Plato, about someone who had walked the 1,200 miles, and I was reading it my spare moments. Today’s walk took us up to Great Shunner Fell, the highest point on our walk so far at over 700 metres. The weather was perfect. Breezy with sun and clouds. We lunched here before continuing on down to Thwaite where we stopped at the Kearton hotel for tea and scones. The final leg of the day took us via the remote village of Keld, which I had visited many times before, to Frith House, a remote B&B just off the Pennine Way, about a mile past Keld. We arrived at about 5pm and had a welcoming cup of tea. My room had a lovely view over the moor which I could see when sitting up in bed. The evening meal was prepared by the landlady and served on a big table in the dining room which we shared with another group of walkers. I think this B&B gets the prize for the best B&B on the walk.

Day 4 – Keld to Clove Lodge (click here for a short video)

We left Frith Lodge at 9:20am and set off along the Pennine Way up the valley north of Keld and arrived at the Tan Hill pub in time for a morning coffee. We met Jack on the way again, the Arizonian who was walking to John O’Groats, and he joined us for a coffee. Afterwards we headed towards the midway point of the Pennine Way, the A66, arriving early afternoon. We had now left Yorkshire and were heading across the bleak moors of Durham County towards the end of our walk at Clove Lodge. We were then picked up by the landlady of our accommodation, the Golden Lion in Cotherstone, and on the way drove past a cottage I remember staying in for a week eighteen years ago. We also had an evening meal at the pub.

Day 5 – Clove Lodge to Middleton in Teesdale (click here for a short video)

The landlady of the pub drove us to Clove Lodge, where we finished walking yesterday, and we set off on today’s shorter hike. Unfortunately Rita slipped on an unstable stepping stone while crossing a small stream and tumbled badly. Nothing appears to be broken but she was a bit shaken. The bridge across a reservoir was closed due to filming taking place of a scene from 1917 (the same film we saw being shot on Salisbury Plain) so we got transported to the other side in a minibus. We continued for a couple of miles before stopping in a buttercup meadow for a snack. Middleton in Teesdale was only a couple more miles so we set off, arriving early in the afternoon. After lunch in a pub we made our way to our accommodation at Grove Lodge.

Day 6 – Middleton in Teesdale to Langdon Beck (click here for a short video)

This was the prettiest day on the Pennine Way so far, and one of the easiest. We set off at the usual time of 9:15am (breakfast as always was at 8pm) and spent most of the day walking along the south bank of the River Tees. Today’s highlights were the waterfalls, firstly Low Force, where we crossed the suspension bridge and sat on rocks for a snack, and later High Force shortly after which we stopped for lunch. I had cold porridge which was very nice, not much different to a bowl of muesli. We even came across yet another film set for the shooting of 1917, the Sam Mendes film due out at Christmas. The rest of the day was spent walking along the pretty upper Teesdale eventually reaching our accommodation, a remote pub, at the early time of 2:30pm. We had coffee downstairs before going up to our rooms to lie on the bed for a while. In the evening we were lucky enough to have some entertainment with our meal, a local folk group called Cream Tees.

Day 7 – Langdon Beck to Dufton (click here for a short video)

We set off along the River Tees, every now and again being overtaken by a fell runner. It was very pleasant and easy going to start with but soon we were clambering over boulders alongside the river bank. We reached Cauldron Snout, a huge multilevel waterfall, by midday and stopped for a break. We then walked over the fell for a couple of miles before stopping for lunch. In the afternoon we kept walking until we reached the astounding High Cup Nick where we stopped and stared into the huge natural chasm. Quite a lot of locals were walking up from Dufton, possibly to spend their Saturday evening at this beautiful spot and watch the sunset. The rest of the day was spent dropping in altitude until we reached the pretty village of Dufton and our accommodation on Brow farm. That descent would have been agony a couple of days ago but my knee seems to have more or less recovered. We’ve done it! Week two successfully completed and despite all the claims of the Pennine Way being the toughest of the national trails we found it quite straight forward – I think the hard bit might be to come next year.

Day 8 – heading home

Getting back from Dufton to Chelmsford was as follows: taxi from the Dufton B&B to Appleby station; caught the 10:07 train to Settle and sat on the left so we could see a lot of the countryside that we had walked over; took a taxi to Airton where we had left the car;had a chat with the B&B owners and thanked them for allowing us to park there all week; drove back to Chelmsford via Grantham.

Thursday 13 June 2019 – DWJQ trio session

DWJQ are next playing at the Three Elms on 26th June so we had a rhythm section session today. After going through several of the tunes in the set list, including new tunes Java, Caravan and Poinciana, we started working on Tequila and Mambo Inn.

Wednesday 12 June 2019 – Kalison Orquesta, Jazz Cafe

After HOFS I left the car in town and caught the train to London and made my way to the Jazz Cafe where the UK Cuban band Kalison Orquesta were due to play at 8:30pm. I stood near the stage on the left which gave a good side view of the ten piece band though I was too near to the bass amplifier to really enjoy it, however I enjoyed watching the footwork of the two singers as much as their singing, something people elsewhere in the Jazz Cafe wouldn’t be able to appreciate. I moved away after the break and stood further back in order to get a better balance of sound. They were very good and most pieces of music were dance oriented with a thumping tumbao bass throughout. I didn’t come back with any ideas, despite DWJQ starting to employ more Cuban rhythms but it did make me wish it was me up on that stage.

Earlier that day: at HOFS we went through some of the regular tunes including I Could Write A Book, Blue Bossa, Summertime and a new one which I would like to properly learn, Aerigin. We finished with St Thomas.

Monday 10 June 2019 – rehearsal with Graham and Mick

In preparation for our jazz jam session we worked on Little Sunflower, Cold Duck Time and Bags’ Groove. After making some progress on those tunes we played Fascinating Rhythm and Autumn Leaves.

Later that day: at the Oakwood in Leigh On Sea I played with Ron Spack and chums. Malcolm was on sax and we started off with I Hear A Rhapsody followed by Autumn Leaves and All The Things You Are. I was going to stand up and play but the high chairs in this pub are ideal for sitting on while the guitar is on a strap round my neck. I was wearing a black jacket, trousers and white shirt and although more than one person said I looked very smart, everyone else was in jeans and a shirt (and/or jacket) so I think I’ll do that next time. As usually happens at the end of this gig, Ron booked me in for some future gigs – 1st July and 9th September, both with John leading on sax, will be my next visits.

Sunday 9 June 2019 – Angie and Dave, Mighty Oak Tap Room, Maldon

This was our fifth visit. I got there first and set up in a completely empty bar although by the time got underway there was a goodly number of people there. I had rearranged the set list so that the sing-along tunes were a bit later in the afternoon. For the first time I employed a distortion pedal, with the distortion level set very low, in order to have the ability to turn up my guitar’s volume when soloing over the looper. I also used it on a few passages such as in I Feel Good when the single line can sound a bit weak. During the first break I chatted with Richard, a drummer I hadn’t spoken to in many years, who had been in local bands such as Joe Cool and Butcher’s Block. The afternoon went well, Delilah got everyone singing along as did many others (here’s a short video clip) and we finished with an encore, American Pie, which lasted probably about seven minutes with some people singing along throughout the entire tune.

Saturday 8 June 2019 – Angie and Dave, SWF Bandstand

It was a bit of a windy, damp day but we turned up to play at the bandstand behnd ASDA at 10:30am to find a small samba band playing by which time the sun was starting to peek out. We listened to them while sitting in the nearby Costa Coffee and then got up on the bandstand and played for half an hour. Most of the audience consisted of people from the other bands who were playing on this Alzheimer’s fund raising day. We started with I Feel Good and finished with Roadhouse Blues and after we had finished and got off the bandstand I stood and watched the next act, Yester’Ukes, followed by the first few songs by MUG.

Thursday 6 June 2019 – jam session with Mick and Steve

We get together to play once every six months or so on a Thursday morning when we’re not walking. Today we played five tunes as guitar instrumentals. I played my Fender Stratocaster through the Mesa Boogie DC-5 and made use of my collection of Boss pedals and Cry Baby wah wah. The tunes were Valerie, Three Little Birds, Stuck In The Middle, Tequila, Wish You Were Here and Superstition. I thought they sounded very good despite the three of us never having played them before together. I would say they are almost ready to perform in public, even though we’re not going to.

Later that day: D’Ukes worked on a set list for situations where a deputy is required when one of the singers cannot make it. In all we went through about eight songs and someone who was sitting in with us just listening commented that they didn’t realise how intricately arranged the tunes were.

Wednesday 5 June 2019 – Interplay, Railway Hotel

Here we are again for my 50th time with Interplay at the Railway Hotel. It was almost empty until someone at the bar said “just play and the music will draw people in”, and sure enough a small number of people crept in until there was a decent sized audience. I stood up, like the old days, rather than sitting on my Ikea chair and it felt much more comfortable – I was able to move around much more easily, especially with my wireless system. And we got an encore which is fairly rare for jazz groups.

Tuesday 4 June 2019  – DWJQ trio session

John, Mick and I got together to work on some Latin rhythm section ideas which I had been conjuring up recently. We started with running through Besame Mucho (which we’re playing in a kind of reggae style) including fours between the bass and drums, then played The Sidewinder (following the style of the original record) followed by spending some time working on a tumbao version of Caravan, including the bridge. Next up was our version of Poinciana – I suggested a kind of bolero drum under the intro and for John to play tenths on the bass. We then briefly work on a mambo rhythm for Mambo Inn and Tequila which, although not quite ready yet, was great fun to play. We didn’t get around to working on Tea For Two and Watermelon Man but will do next time. Also I will want to see what it is like with the bass continuing to play through the drum solo in Fungii Mama and My Little Suede Shoes. I recorded sections of the some of the tunes and put them on Dropbox for other band members to listen to and to help us remember what we actually did.

Monday 3 June 2019 – practice with Mick

We played through the jazz jam tunes (Little Sunflower, Bag’s Groove and Cold Duck Time) and then worked on a few others such as Secret Love, Fascinating Rhythm and Alfie’s Theme.

Later that day: I hosted the first Monday Guitar Group in a few weeks. After tuning up I asked everyone to find the note G on their guitars and continued until they could find no more (there are about 12 depending on the make and model). I then reintroduced the group to the riff to Livin’ On A Prayer. We then strummed the chords (G Em C D) to the current number one (I Don’t Care) playing open chords, barre chords and triads. After the tea break I gave them a pentatonic style riff to play and we performed a 12 bar blues in G and everyone took a solo,

Sunday 2 June 2019 – D’Ukes Brighton Marina

We set off at 8:30am and, being ahead of schedule, we stopped on the way at a service station for a coffee. By the time we had discovered where we were due to play it was past 11am. We set up in front of a Pizza Express on the Boardwalk and began our first set of four at 12pm, starting with Valerie, Brown Eyed Girl and Moondance, the latter being sung by Angie who was depping for Jo. I think we probably collected more money during the first set than the other three put together – can’t imagine why except it was during the nicest weather of the day and perhaps people hadn’t yet spent all their money. In all we played for four hours and had three breaks during which I ate my sandwiches, banana and nuts (Brazils and walnuts if you’re interested). I played through my Roland Cube amp (battery powered) and used my wireless system allowing me freedom to go and listen to us from a distance. It was a fun day except for the marathon drive home including the inevitable six mile queue at the Dartford Tunnel. Nevertheless I would do it again – and we in fact we are, on 25th August.

Saturday 1 June 2019 – DWJQ, Priory Park bandstand, Southend

It was a warm day and I arrived to find Mick had already finished setting up his drums. We faced up the park with the cafe on our left and by the time we started at 3pm a fair sized audience had turned up, many with their own chairs. For a change I had suggested we all wear Hawaiian shorts today instead of the usual black and white suits and I think band members appreciated it because of the temperature. Between the songs I spoke for a little longer than usual, giving a bit of background to the songs, in particular the format of jazz tunes and what the soloists are doing. During the interval I gave some advice to someone who was learning guitar to start working on his arpeggios. If I see him again in a year’s time I will check he has been doing this. A couple of people also came up to me with requests: Take Five and The Pink Panther theme. Maybe one day. I also took some photos of the band but unfortunately didn’t manage to get Tony in the shot. We got a lot of nice compliments today. The weather helps, a bit like alcohol does in a pub gig, but we did play well and finished at 3pm with St Thomas.

Friday 31 May 2019 – Interplay rehearsal

We’re playing at the Railway Hotel next Wednesday at 8:30pm so we ran through several of the tunes we will be performing including Crisis, Groovy Samba, I Mean You and On Green Dolphin Street.

Thursday 30 May 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

The session was spent going through a set list of about 36 songs that we will be performing in Brighton on Sunday (12pm to 4pm on the marina).

Wednesday 29 May 2019 – D’Ukes, RAF Association, Chingford

This was my seventh gig in six days. Needless to say I am still catching up on writing blogs, updating my databases on the songs we performed at each gig, paying band members and getting set lists ready for more gigs coming up. Expecting lots of traffic and getting none, we arrived very early at RBL Chingford. Eventually someone came to open it up for us and we set up on the stage in front of the dance floor. About 80 people had bought tickets and, with a few adjustments to accommodate the age range of the audience, we performed for a couple of hours and by the end a lot of people were up and dancing. During the break I was able to pinch some bread and cheese from the buffet and chatted with a few people who had come along especially to see us. Three different clubs spoke to me about the possibility of booking us in the future – it will be interesting to see how many actually do contact me. And as a bonus we came away with a 1,000 beer mats kindly produced by Andy who had sponsored the evening.

Tuesday 28 May 2019 – DWJQ rehearsal

The five of us squeezed into Mick’s front room for the rehearsal and I took the band through the few arrangement ideas I wanted us to be ready to play the Southend bandstand on Saturday afternoon. The extra bar in St Thomas was fine as was the ‘slow down’ during Tenor Madness. We also worked on some of the WIP tunes such as Java, The Sidewinder, Caravan and Besame Mucho. I have also got a few more tunes in mind for the band to learn over the next few weeks including Poinciana and Tequila which we have played before.

Monday 27 May 2019 – Three Elms, D’Ukes and Angie and Dave

Another busy day and a very good one too. I arrived at the Three Elms to find that the festival was running an hour late due to the first band not starting on time. To save some time D’Ukes offered the band before us the use of our PA system. This meant that we were able to start playing very quickly, in fact quicker than the time it took for the percussionist to take his equipment off stage, so I helped him. Even though the audience was naturally a bit quieter than the during last two nights, I thought our performance was actually better – tighter and with less mistakes. As soon as we finished I had to switch from D’Ukes mode to Angie and Dave. As well as changing from ukulele to guitar I also changed my shirt and took off my hat – but I think most people realised it was me! However, it gave me the chance to make some jokes about “that ukulele player in D’Ukes…”. I was a bit worried that D’Ukes would be a very hard act to follow for me and Angie but fortunately quite a few of her friends had come to watch and few D’Ukes members hung around, so we had a good crowd who sang along. Because of the lateness of the festival we were reduced to about an hour which was actually fine – quality not quantity – and we pulled out all the stops in getting the audience involved. We finished with Roadhouse Blues, which got a good cheer, and after packing away a huge amount of gear into my car in the pouring rain I went inside the pub for an hour or so, had a pint of Billericay Dickie ale and watched the last act of the festival. A great day all round.

Sunday 26 May 2019 – busy day

After giving a couple of guitar lessons in the morning I set off to the Theydon Oak pub near Epping where DWJQ due to play for 45 minutes in the marquee as part of their music and beer festival. We went on at 4pm and I think the crowd were pleasantly surprised by the danceable jazz, particularly My Little Suede Shoes and Fungii Mama, and the dark suits. We finished on a short version of Tenor Madness over which I announced the band members and then I had to pack up and leave straight away for another gig. Mike, the organiser, came up to me and thanked me and complimented my guitar playing profusely. I took the compliment though that does tend to be his manner which was nice. I drove back to Chelmsford stopping on the way to pick up a coffee and sat in a side road to eat my sandwiches. It was very relaxing in the countryside but then I noticed the time so went and picked up Brian and Hazel and headed for Shenfield Cricket Club where D’Ukes were playing that evening. This is always a mad night as far as the audience are concerned and tonight was no exception. As we played, people were cartwheeling, jumping over chairs or simply dancing and singing along. We played much longer than planned but had a great night performing over 40 songs including their anthem, Those Were The Days, twice. Here’s a short video clip.

Saturday 25 May 2019 – Interplay, Priory Park, Southend

Fortunately it was a warm day so a reasonable audience settled in front of the bandstand as we set up. I positioned myself on the drummer’s right and, to accommodate my hearing requirements I positioned my amp (the Blues Junior) on my right. At 3pm we started with the tune Jeanine and I realised what excellent acoustics this bandstand has, particularly compared to the Railway Hotel where Interplay often play. I felt we played well and being relaxed really helps. My guitar sound was the best I have managed to get it (using the Grant Green settings) and my fingers generally seemed to go where I wanted them, even at the speeds that John sometimes counted in the tunes. Most of the audience stayed to the end which is always a good sign, and we got applause after every tune, By 5pm we had finished the final song, Moanin‘, and were ready to pack up and go home. I wandered past the cafe and saw the poster advertising DWJQ for the following week.

Friday 24 May 2019 – D’Ukes, Blue Boar, Maldon

Another stonking gig! After battling through Friday afternoon traffic I arrived to find we were setting up in yet another location within the pub that we have played at several times before. This time at the top of the garden on a low stage. It was a warm evening with the sun going down and we played the first set to a busy crowd who seemed to enjoy it. There were quite a few people there that I knew (Jenny, Doug, Jan, Duncan, Rick, Jane, Julia and a few others that I knew by association) and I chatted with a few of them during the break after which I disappeared to the car park to eat my sandwiches and have a drink. During the second set, with the sun setting and the alcohol levels getting higher, things really started to take off. The garden was packed, people were singing along and dancing and my voice was getting hoarse from shouting encouragement over the microphone. Here’s a short clip of us performing Dance The Night Away.

Thursday 23 May 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We’ve got three gigs this weekend starting with the Blue Boar on Friday. We went through a few songs as a brush-up and we also played through a few random songs that I dug out of a song book such as I Feel Good, Mustang Sally and My Boy Lollipop.

Wednesday 22 May 2019 – HOFS session

Southend Jazz Co-op have a workshop on Saturday so we ran through some of the tunes they’re playing including Summertime, Our Delight, Smokin’ and Blue Daniel. They didn’t have a bass player today so I took my octave divider and played a bass line on my guitar. When it came to my solo I switched it to the normal setting but had to solo without much in the way of backing except drums and a few piano chords. Because of the processing involved I think there is a tiny delay between playing the ‘bass’ and hearing it. It made it difficult playing fast bass lines.

Later that day: I arrived at the Three Elms in time to see that Mick and John had already set up in readiness for this evening’s DWJQ gig. I am now so adept at setting up that from loading the car at home to being set up in the pub takes less than twenty minutes, including the drive to the pub. It was a good gig despite the band forgetting some of the new arrangement ideas. Our reggae version of Besame Mucho worked fine and Caravan was a bit rough but got a good response. After we finished I hung around afterwards and had a drink with some of the locals who had turned up during the second set.

Tuesday 21 May 2019 – TNG session

I listened to the band play through their repertoire (One Day Like This, Bad Moon Rising, Yellow and others) before working on Come Together with them, and showing them some of the guitar solo parts. I then led them through the main guitar parts of Take Me Out (Franz Ferdinand).

Friday 17 May 2019  – 4 day walk along the Wessex Ridgeway

This was a 50 mile walk that I undertook with Martin and Rita over the weekend. Click here for a short video. It went from Avebury to Hindon and joins up the gap between our Dorset Ridgeway walk (Hindon to Lime Regis) and the Ridgeway/Icknield Way that we have walked (not in one go) from Newmarket to Avebury. We need to extend eastward from Newmarket one day.

Day 1

We drove to Devizes, parked the car at the B&B, got a taxi to Avebury, had a cup of coffee in a cafe (I also had a cheese scone) and then walked the eleven miles back to Devizes. It was a fairly easy, uneventful journey along the Wessex Ridgeway passing various tumuli and  long barrows and through fields of wild flowers. We arrived back in Devizes late in the afternoon and had a coffee plus some free cakes (they were due to expire) in the Warren Bakery before heading back to the B&B. In the evening we walked into town for some Italian food. Unfortunately the authentic one was fully booked so we opted for Piazza Express which was actually very good – probably why it is still running while the likes the of Prezzo, Zizzi and Carlucci’s are closing rapidly.

Day 2

We left the Devizes B&B early and walked along the Avon and Kennet Canal for a mile before rejoining the Ridgeway. It was a bit warmer today and we stopped for coffee and cake at the community store in Urchfont, sitting on the bench outside the store to eat our purchases. Later we had lunch high up on the edge of Salisbury Plain, next to a military hut. This long stretch of walking eventually ended after 11 miles in West Lavington where we had a drink at a pub before catching the bus back to Devizes. That evening we had a meal in the Three Crowns. I had an halloumi burger which was very nice but the crowd on the next table were so noisy we left and had dessert and a coffee in the Castle Hotel.

Day 3

After another good breakfast in our B&B we got in the car, drove to West Lavington and then walked 17 miles to Warminster. On the way we stopped for elevenses near a film set which was making use of Salisbury Plain’s vast space (the film is 1917, due for release in December), and we lunched overlooking one of the many White Horses we have seen on this trip. l ate the tahini sandwiches I had made from the toast provided at breakfast. We eventually arrived in Warminster as it started to lightly drizzle. We had coffee in a small hotel, the Farmers Hotel, which involved listening to a voluble Italian chef for half an hour, before heading to the Weymouth Arms where we checked in for the night. We went back to the Farmers Hotel for our evening meal. I had insalata caprese and gnocchi followed by tirimasu accompanied by two glasses of very good red wine.

Day 4

Our final day of the walk took us 12 miles from Warminster to Hindon. We walked over and around several hills on the way, and had a drink at the Dove Inn in Corton before climbing up to the Great Ridge. We walked through the woods before making our way down to our final destination, the Lamb Inn at Hindon. Our final meal was also in the Lamb, the same hotel that we stayed at when we started the Dorset Ridgeway that took us to Lime Regis two years ago. The following morning after breakfast we got a taxi back to where we had left the car and drove home.

We have therefore walked from Newmarket to Lime Regis. A very interesting and enjoyable walk the whole way.

Thursday 16 May 2019 – practice session with Mick

We worked on six tunes: Bags’ Groove, Fascinating Rhythm, Cold Duck Time and Little Sunflower from the set we’re playing with Graham, and Besame Mucho and Night and Day from the DWJQ repertoire.

Wednesday 15 May 2019 – DWJQ rehearsals

John, Mick and I got together in the morning to work on some tunes in readiness for this evening’s full DWJQ rehearsal. I suggested we do a reggae version of a jazz standard and Besame Mucho seemed to work well. We also worked on Caravan, Java, The Sidewinder, Night and Day and Tea For Two. They’re all beginning to sound good. I also wanted to introduce Watermelon Man with a key change and a new bass riff but we didn’t have time.

Later that day: at the full DWJQ rehearsal we worked on the same six tunes as we did in the morning except Tea For Two (we will next time).  Besame Mucho, Caravan and Night And Day are now ready for gigging. I made some suggestions for Tenor Madness (half time speed on bars 9 and 10), St Thomas (extra single bars included for bass and drum break) and Triste (a stop on bar one for two bars) which everyone seemed to like.

Tuesday 14 May 2019 – Guitars Galore session

The session started with me listening to them performing Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen). I gave them a couple of tips about getting a good sound while finger picking and also how to incorporate single strums into a picking song. We covered some theory and I explained relative majors and minors and I also explained how you can work out what key a song is in and why sometimes G7 and G (for example) are interchangeable. The remainder of the session was spent learning Can’t Buy Me Love (The Beatles). I showed by example that the verse of the song is based on a 12 bar blues in C. I look forward to hearing them play it next time I visit.

Monday 13 May 2019 – Session with Mick and Graham

After our reasonably successful short set at the jam session yesterday we started looking at tunes for the next session on 21st July. We worked on four tunes, all of which are contenders: Bags’ Groove, Fascinating Rhythm, Cold Duck Time and Little Sunflower.

Later that day: After a few weeks off  it was time for another Monday Guitar Group. I started the session by getting the group to play the Em minor pentatonic scale in the 12th fret position and the open position and then I showed them the 4th scale position (on the 7th fret). We used this to solo over an E blues with everyone taking a 12 bar solo in turns. I thought Avicii had died recently (but it was actually last year!) so we strummed through Wake Me Up (Bm G D A) for a few minutes and then stopped for a break. After the break we worked on Livin’ On A Prayer (Bon Jovi). The hardest bit is the riff and I got everyone to play it slowly at first (80 bpm) and then gradually eased up the speed to 120 bpm. Finally we strummed the chords as far as the pre-chorus and will do the chorus next time.

Sunday 12 May 2019 – Freddie Freeloader’s Jazz Jam

I arrived at about 3pm and started setting up the PA system (the pub keep it stored in the loft) and other bits and bobs in readiness for our latest jam session. Angie helped to wire up the speakers and stick the cables down to the floor with gaffa tape and by the time everyone was in place we were ready to start at 4pm. After a short rendition of Filthy McNasty by DWJQ the jam session proper got under way with Nicole singing Night and Day. I was on MC duties as always but also got a chance to play a few guitar solos, particularly during Graham’s set of three songs in the second half: Satin Doll, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise and Doxy. We had Seh on piano for the first time and Gil on guitar supplementing the rhythm section. The sax players were Nikki, Graham, Hugh, Val, Richard, Jan, Tony and Annette, and in the second half, Clare. Kirsty also got up and sang a couple of songs including All Of Me. Despite being in competition with the sunny weather and the final match in the Champions League we had a good turn out. It’s a long day – I start packing at about 2:30m and don’t get home until 8pm – but like all these things it’s a pleasure to be playing with such a nice bunch of people and the time goes quickly.

Saturday 11 May 2019 – Remi Harris, The Fold

It made a change for me to go out and watch a gig rather than play one although it was at The Fold in Billericay where D’Ukes have played a couple of times. Remi is an extremely talented and entertaining guitarist who, with his accompanying bass player Tom Moore, played a range of styles of music on a range of guitars that he had brought with him to the venue. It was like watching a teenager in his bedroom playing all his favourite guitars. Unfortunately we were told not to take photos but I had already managed to get a picture of the stage littered with his guitars. He began the first set playing Pennies For Heaven on his signature Fylde gypsy jazz guitar (based on a Selmer as played by Django) and during the course of the two hour performance he also played a green and yellow sunburst Les Paul (in the style of Peter Green), a baritone ukulele that he tuned like a tenor, a Hohner jazz guitar that he had been given, a 1958 Fender Stratocaster (Hendrix’s Little Wing) and a bright orange archtop jazz guitar, the make of which I didn’t catch. The whole performance was rooted around the musical conversation he had with his bass player whom he stared at intently for most of the evening, particularly when they were swapping licks and trading ideas. Tunes they covered included Skylark, There Will Never Be Another You, Hide Away, Sweet Georgia Brown, Nature Boy, Need Your Love So Bad, Can’t Buy Me Love and as an encore, Bye Bye Blackbird,  It was an inspiring evening of guitar playing for someone like me

Friday 10 May 2019 – Angie and Dave, Maldon Little Ship Club

We got this gig while performing at the Mighty Oak Tap Room. I managed to find a parking spot right outside the club but being too early I first went for a stroll through the boatyard. Once Angie had turned up we took all the gear into the club and set up in front of the fairy lights. We started at 8pm playing to just two people but by the time we were into the second set the place was pretty busy and, with some encouragement, they were singing along and even dancing to some tunes such as I Feel Good. I was occasionally using my looper and also had set up the mic on a stand so I found myself even singing along times. To keep going we dug out some tunes from my folder such as Sweet Caroline, Wonderwall and Why Does It Always Rain On Me. We were just about to finish when the organiser bribed us to play for another half an hour taking it to a total of three and a half hours including two short breaks – over 40 songs. We ended up repeating a couple but didn’t get as far as playing our usual encore, American Pie. It was a great night and we are finding our niche – playing sing-along songs on a Friday or Saturday evening to people who are having a good time. There were quite a few familiar faces in the club – I think we are getting a bit of a following in Maldon and we will probably see them again when we play at the Mighty Oak Tap Room on 9th June.

Thursday 9 May 2019 – new bass guitar

In the late afternoon I went over to a friend’s house to pick up a bass that he no longer wanted. It’s an Ashbury GR5648 fretless acoustic bass which looks and sounds nice though unfortunately has had a broken neck. John had a go at repairing it and it seems to be a strong mend but it means it can’t really be sold on. I said I would give it a new home.

Wednesday 8 May 2019 – Angie and Dave, The Three Elms

It’s over a year since we played here and a small but select audience turned up to see us including Jan, Duncan, Steve, Mick, Kevin and Peter. We played a couple of 50 minute long sets including some of our sing-along songs which people joined in with (including Mustang Sally, Don’t Look Back In Anger, Angels). We performed American Pie as an encore but once we had finished most people went home so I didn’t hang around for my usual beer. We’re back at the Three Elms beer festival on Monday 27th May at 6pm.

Earlier that day: at HOFS we played a number of tunes including Una Mas, Our Delight, Poinciana and Smokin’.

Monday 6 May 2019 – Essex Way, final stage

After starting in Manor Park back in July last year I have finally reached the final stage of the 90+ mile Essex Way. I parked at Manningtree railway station and continued walking from where I left off last time. It was cold for May and overcast but at least it didn’t rain. Within a couple of miles I found a nice looking cafe in Manningtree – in fact, I had a choice of three – and couldn’t resist dropping in for a coffee and a granola compote (not that I had gone in intending to order one, but it looked inviting).  The next few miles were uneventful, often following the shoreline of the river Stour. I stopped in a windy bird hide to start eating the food I had brought with me (almond butter on homemade wholemeal bread – to die for) but it was too cold to hang around and there were no birds to be seen outside. After missing a turning in Wrabness (the signage isn’t great on this section) I found myself walking past the railway station and down a lane which took me past Grayson Perry’s elaborately designed house (see pic). I strode on, stopping for more eats in some woods where the temperature was a bit milder and a bit less windy. Eventually, by the afternoon I had crossed the peninsular to the Naze side and, walking along the sea wall, eventually arrived in Dovercourt. A couple more miles later I reached the inland lighthouse in Harwich which is considered to be the end of the 81 mile Essex Way. This part of Harwich is not the most inviting, and it was still fairly cold, so I jumped on a conveniently waiting train and headed back to the car in Manningtree. A low key end to a great walk with some lovely moments. I would recommend this anyone who likes walking, even those who don’t live in Essex!

Sunday 5 May 2019 – DWJQ, Norton Beer Festival

I was slightly apprehensive about playing jazz in front of a crowd of drinkers but I shouldn’t have been because from the beginning of Tenor Madness they were nodding, they were tapping their feet and some were even wiggling their bums. I was standing up to play and so found it easy to point to the next soloist or shout instructions at Mick or John, and also to get involved with the audience – I was very close to them, and to the bar. We got a big cheer after each tune, especially the more exciting Latin tunes, and at the first break we received quite a few compliments. Somebody even asked if we played The Sidewinder and indeed we will next time and it is in our current to-do list. Some people had been drinking since about 1pm and were starting to drift off during the second set leaving a small crowd of people who had come especially to see us, and they stayed until the end. Before we played Thieves In The Temple in the second set we signalled to the chef to start cooking our food in readiness for the second break. I munched my way through a very nice halloumi burger (very similar to the one I had on Friday evening) and felt perhaps a little too full to continue playing the third set. One makes less mistakes when the crowd is cheering you on. I am sure there is a explanation, possibly even an evolutionary one, but it is worth getting the audience on your side, and I have often spent my time during a song’s performance thinking about what I am going to say when it finishes. We ended with a short version of Tenor Madness during which I announced all the band members’ names to big cheers. A cracking gig.

Saturday 4 May 2019 – John Seeley’s Big Band Workshop

I drove down to Hadleigh to participate in this workshop which concentrated on big band arrangements of tunes rather than the usual lead sheet approach. Most of the people there were from John’s Thursday evening group but I was invited to take the guitarist’s chair. It required some sight reading which was fortunately just within my grasp. Knowing the melody in my head to Birdland (Weather Report), for example, helped me to play from the dots. Other tunes required more chordal work such as The Clan and Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Being big band charts there weren’t many opportunities to solo but it is sight reading that I probably need to give the most attention to in my studies.

Later that day: D’Ukes (without Jo) played The Lamb in Romford. We all turned up within a few minutes of each other in the car park out the back and walked in the pub’s rear entrance passing some of the customers who must have been intrigued by these hat wearing, black clothed people filing past. We set up in the same spot as before and played through a set I had devised which didn’t rely on the vocals of the absent Jo. As always the first set was nicely received but the second set went down very well and there people dancing and singing along. In fact, it turned out to be a much better gig than the previous time and made me look forward to the next visit. I did my usual ‘on stage’ antics such as sitting down next to a punter during Sit Down and slowly walking around the bar during Space Oddity and Comfortably Numb got a big cheer. At the previous rehearsal we had been discussing contingencies in case things go wrong, for example are we taking sufficient spares, and while tuning my uke during the interval the low G string snapped. I hadn’t checked beforehand but fortunately I did have a spare string which, despite going out of tune for the rest of the evening, saved the day.

Friday 3 May 2019 – Angie and Dave, The Norton Beer Festival

It was a busy night in the pub and the chatter levels were very high making it actually difficult to hear my guitar but we gradually got them involved and singing along to tunes such as Handbags and the Gladrags and Mustang Sally. It was a three hour gig and I realised by the start of the third set that we were going to run short of songs despite having a 36 strong set list so I opened my song book on the music stand in front of us, flipped through the pages and we sung a random selection of sing-along songs that went down very well. These included Wonderwall, Sweet Caroline, I’m On My Way and Why Does It Always Rain On Me. We finished around 11pm and there were calls for an encore. I had been munching a very nice halloumi burger which I had been served at the beginning of the third set, taking mouthfuls between each song, but I put that to one side as we sung through our final song, American Pie, the full seven minutes.

Thursday 2 May 2019 – DWJQ trio work out

John, Mick and I got together to work on some rhythm section ideas for the DWJQ set list, and also start work on some new tunes. We looked at Tenor Madness as an outro, the solo sections of My Favourite Things and Afro Blue, the intro to Oye Como Va, and the hits in Filthy McNasty and Silver’s Serenade. We started work on two new tunes (Caravan and Java) and also made some progress with The Sidewinder.

Later that day: at the D’Ukes rehearsal, after a long discussion about some of upcoming gigs, we tightened up Wish You Were Here and Livin’ Thing and did a bit of work on Mysterious Girl (Peter Andre) which we have been asked to learn for a party in December. Plenty of time then!

Wednesday 1 May 2019 – session with Gil

Gil came round and we looked through the notes I had made during the sessions we had with Nigel Price and played some of the ideas such as soloing with melodic minor scales over Db7 C7 Fm. We then played his jazz jam tunes (Blues For Alice and Impressions).

Later that day: DWJQ are playing at the Norton on Sunday at 7pm so at our evening rehearsal we went through the tunes that we haven’t played for some time such as Serenade To A Cuckoo, Moondance, Midnight Creeper and This Can’t Be Love. I suggested some horn backings for Moondance which I think sounded good. However my Fender Blues Junior amplifier managed to crackle to a halt. One of the output valves was sparking and flashing like a discotheque so I will have to change it when I get home. Fortunately Mick had a Fender guitar amp I borrowed for the rehearsal which sounded fine.

Monday 29 April 2019 – rehearsal with Graham, Mick and John

We started off by playing a few tunes ‘for fun’ and then concentrated on the jazz jam tunes that we are playing with John on drums: Satin Doll, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise and Doxy. Then, with John on bass, we played through the tunes that other people will be leading on at the jam session next week.

Sunday 28 April 2019 – African drumming session

I have been meaning to do this at the next available opportunity. I packed my car with my djembe, snacks and a bottle of water and headed down to Hadleigh park where, in a replica iron-age roundhouse, the drumming session takes place every two months. I arrived early and met Pete and Jo who run the sessions. The roundhouse was dark as I walked in but a big log fire in the middle lit the faces of the few people who had so far arrived. Eventually about 20 people turned up with their African drums and we played for a couple of hours. Pete taught us various rhythms including one called fanga. I played my djembe all morning but I must admit to a yearning to have a go on the dundun which I remember playing once about 15 years ago. We finished at 1pm and, with clothes ponging from wood smoke, I paid my £15 and headed off home.

Saturday 27 April 2019 – D’Ukes, Halstead Conservative Club

It’s about 6 years since we last played here and recorded our first CD, live on stage. We arrived and set up in record time but then discovered something was amiss with Jo’s ukulele. But we were ready to go at 8:30pm by which time the place was standing room only. It went well, including the new tunes such as Wish You Were Here and Everyone Hurts. We started after the break with Comfortably Numb but John was having monitor problems. Fortunately, they wanted to hold the raffle so that was a convenient time for us to stop and sort it out. By the end of the evening we had lots of people dancing and afterwards we received countless very nice compliments and an invitation to come back in November.

Friday 26 April 2019 – Interplay rehearsal

We worked on various tunes in readiness for our Priory Park gig on 25th May including Jeanine, I Mean You, Prince Albert, If I Were A Bell, Crisis, The Chant and Groovy Samba.

Thursday 25 April 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We worked on our version of Wish You Were Here which is now ready for Saturday’s gig in Halstead, and then we brushed up on a few tunes we hadn’t played for a while.

Wednesday 24 April 2019 – DWJQ, The Three Elms

DWJQ have returned to the redecorated pub for a second time. Not as many people there this time and I didn’t see any food being served but a few of our followers turned up and a good evening was had by all (I think). I stood up this time so that I could more easily signal to band members. We were a little short of space and need to perhaps sort out the tables next time. The latin tunes went down very well with the audience (Fungii Mama and Black Orpheus in particular) as did the ballad My Foolish Heart. We finished with St Thomas followed by a short version of Tenor Madness over which I made the final announcements.

Earlier that day: at HOFS we played through some Kenny Dorham tunes (Philly Twist, Blue Bossa and Prince Albert) and some standards (including On Green Dolphin Street). The trickiest one as the first tune: Una Mas. I’m still not quite sure what I am doing when I solo over it but I think my solo sounded ok.

Tuesday 23 April 2019 – TNG session

Today we had guitarists Chris, Karen and Stuart, Jo on bass and Gemma on vocals. Most of the session was spent working on Come Together (The Beatles). I showed them the bass riff, the guitar parts, the piano solo (as would be played by guitar) and some of the main guitar solo. I also video myself playing the various parts and they are going to pass the video round so everyone can remind themselves of what we did tonight. As a break from playing Come Together I got them to play a 12 bar blues in the key of A and encouraged them each to take a solo. After that they played a few tunes to round off the evening including One Day Like This, Yellow and Bad Moon Rising.

Monday 22 April 2019 – Essex Way, Wakes Colne to Manningtree

This must undoubtedly be one of the best walks I have undertaken and showed off Essex at its best. I started early, rising with the wildlife as well as the sun. The walk started from the railway viaduct in Wakes Colne, where I had parked, and took me via Ford Street, West Bergholt, Great Horkesley, Dedham and finally to Manningtree where I was able to catch a couple of trains back to the start. Constable Country is a feature of the walk although it wasn’t able to route me via Flatford Mill and the haywain as East (not West) Bergholt is actually in Suffolk. Other features included the winding River Colne which was never far away; bluebells in the woods and by the side of the road; and lambs, lambs, lambs everywhere. Despite the walk being 21 miles long I finished comfortably at 4pm. Having said that the walking conditions were perfect: warm and dry, no mud, good, wide paths and few hills. Click here for a short video. I met more walkers than I usually do on the Essex Way, being as it was a bank holiday, and was allowed to take a rest at the West Bergholt Allotment where I was provided with a comfortable chair to sit on. The only other break I took was in a noisy Dedham which was crowded with tourists and altogether a disappointment after the lovely Essex countryside that I had been strolling through. That just leaves me with one more leg of the Essex Way: Manningtree to Harwich, a relatively easy 11 miles.

Sunday 21 April 2019 – Angie and Dave, Wheatsheaf, Writtle

It’s a pub I often walk to for lunch on a Thursday but I have only recently got around to asking if they would like us to perform there. We arrived to find the pub already quite busy despite being Easter Sunday. We set up in the bar and as part of my sound check I looped some guitar playing and walked around checking that I could hear it everywhere. We started at 2pm by which time there were people outside as it was such a nice, sunny day, as well as in both bars. We worked heard at getting people to join in to the sing-along songs such as Don’t Look Back In Anger and Angels, and eventually, by the second and third sets, a few were starting to sing along. When we played Delilah everyone was singing and I even stopped playing to let them get on with it. We finished with Roadhouse Blues, packed up and said goodbye to Terry, the landlord, and the others who had come down to see us,

Saturday 20 April 2019 – Southend Jazz Co-op

The Southend Jazz Co-op lacked a guitarist this morning so I was invited to play with the them at their weekly session. We played a number of Kenny Dorham tunes as well as standards such as I Could Write A Book (click here for a short video) and If I Were A Bell. It was a good session, I was pleased with my playing, and I felt that some of the studying I had done at the Easter Jazz course was paying off.

Friday 19 April 2019 – Angie and Dave rehearsal

Angie came round for a rehearsal of the newer tunes in the set that we’re playing at the Wheatsheaf in Writtle on Sunday at 2pm. These included Opportunities, Look Of Love and Reward.

Thursday 18 April 2019 – Essex Easter Jazz Day 4

After a final rehearsal of Thing Of Gold (I had a 3 page score to follow of mostly chords) we spent the morning with the guitar tutor Nigel Price looking at various topics including 2516 arpeggios in the 5th position, adding b9 to dominant 7th arpeggios, triads and 11th chords. The rest of the day (until we broke for an evening meal) was spent with the band and we rehearsed our two tunes for the concert, namely On Green Dolphin Street and Thieves In The Temple.

Later that day: Mick, Angie, Jo, Ben and I went to Prezzo for dinner after which we strolled down the street to Bardswell and got ready for the evening concert. My band were scheduled to play last (before the Thing Of Gold finale) so I had plenty of time to watch the other acts and get ready. Our band played the intricate arrangements of our two tunes very well. I was pleased with my solo in On Green Dolphin Street bearing in mind a few years ago I would refuse to solo on this song at Interplay gigs – but less so with my solo on Thieves In The Temple which didn’t end quite like I had planned. I also MC’d for our band and I think I was one of the very few people that evening not reading the music from a piece of paper. All the students then performed Thing Of Gold, deafening both ourselves and the audience in the process. It was a great end to a great jazz course.

Wednesday 17 April 2019 – Essex Easter Jazz Day 3

The day again started with an ensemble rehearsal of Snarky Puppy’s Thing Of Gold in which this time I played guitar, following a three page score. I followed the bass line on some sections and played some chords. The morning’s session with Nigel covered modes of the melodic minor, picking techniques such as ‘inside’ and economy picking. I recorded him playing an arpeggio example based on a ii-V-I-VI using what he called a 2 up 2 down approach (referring to notes plucked on each string). Click below to hear it. In the afternoon the band played through Song For My Father (including lydian b7 over the Db7 chord), On Green Dolphin Street and Mo’s Better Blues and we had Angie on vocals.

Tuesday 16 April 2019 – Essex Easter Jazz Day 2

The day started with an ensemble rehearsal of Snarky Puppy’s Thing Of Gold in which I played go-go bells. The morning’s session with Nigel covered phrasing, timing (playing ahead and behind the beat) and… In the afternoon our band played through Thieves In The Temple, How Sweet It Is and Always There.

Later that day: after an evening meal at Prezzo in Brentwood High Street a few us went down to Bardswell to watch some of the tutors playing. Marc (drums), Dominic (bass) and Alan (sax) were later joined by Nigel on guitar who had been playing earlier at Ronnie Scott’s. They also had a pianist, Gunter, who unfortunately was positioned with his back to me and obscuring my view of the guitarist. Nevertheless it was a very good gig and they finished with a very quick version of Billie’s Bounce. Click below to hear it. I reckon it finished at about 300 bpm.

Monday 15 April 2019 – Essex Easter Jazz Day 1

In the morning all the guitarists got together with tutor Nigel Price and we spent a couple of hours looking at… At lunchtime John, Ben, Mick and I went down to Rossi in Brentwood High Street for lunch. In the afternoon I joined our group where we played through Honeysuckle Rose (or Honey Suck My Nose as Nigel calls it), You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To and Scrapple From The Apple. In my group are Claire, Elliot and Robert on saxes, John on bass and Bill on drums.

Sunday 14 April 2019 – Essex Easter Jazz Day introductory day

Today was a short one at the Brentwood School. After registering and meeting lots of people I know from various bands (including Rita, Angie, Jo, John, Mick, Gil, Annette, James, Richard, Jan, Hugh, Ben and Graham) I went into a large music room with approximately half the other students and proceeded to jam on a number of different tunes. As there were three guitarists we took it in turns. After quickly scoffing a peanut butter sandwich I borrowed a bass and played on the first tune, Freddie Freeloader, and then over the next hour or two played guitar (I had my Gibson 335 with me) on a few other tunes including Doxy, Fly Me To The Moon, Oleo and Sway. At one point I popped into the other music room and discovered that the group in there was jamming on Blue Bossa at the same time as we were in our room. Click here for a brief video. The afternoon was a good warm up for what was to come in the following few days and it was good to meet so many familiar, friendly faces including Tony and Marc who organised the event.

Friday 12 April 2019 – Interplay rehearsal

Other than practising various tunes from the set list we worked on one new tune: I mean You (Thelonious Monk). I played the tune though in the final version, John will play the tune and I will play the opening four bar intro.

Thursday 11 April 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Tonight’s guest on Desert Island Discs was our sound engineer, Mike. Altough most of his tunes were pop and rock songs the piece of music he would rescue was Beethoven’s Wellington’s Victory. We didn’t do much else apart from practise Wish You Were Here with Martin playing the melody in response to mine.

Wednesday 10 April 2019 – DWJQ Rehearsal

We had a good rehearsal working on a few things that didn’t go as well as hoped at the previous gig. We then worked on three new tunes which all sounded go though will not all make it into the next set list. These were The Sidewinder, Filthy McNasty and Triste. The next gig at The Three Elms is on Wednesday 24th April.

Earlier that day: Gil came round for a practise and we worked on his jam tunes (Impressions, Blues For Alice and One Note Samba)and also a few from the Easter Jazz course (Scrapple From The Apple and You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To)

Monday 8 April 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

After tuning up I showed everyone how to practise finger rolls (playing consecutive notes on adjacent strings) and then we strummed C E7 Am G as a warm up. We did this as open chords, barre chords and triads. Before the break I showed them how to play the riff from Bad Guy (the current no. 2 in the charts by Billie Eilish) and also the melody which appears half way through the record. We finished the evening playing the intro and verse chords of You Do Something To Me (Paul Weller), and they each played a solo over the chords.

Earlier that day: at Mick’s we went through the three jazz jam tunes we are going to perform (Doxy, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise and Satin Doll) and then played once through each of the Easter Jazz tunes.

Friday 5 April 2019 – Benslow Music, Release Your Voice course

I’ve been to Benslow many times to attend music courses but this was the first time on a vocal course. The tutor Barbara Alden has some interesting approaches to singing, in some cases refuting the traditional but also sticking to classical style. I certainly gained a much greater understanding of breathing and articulation as well as techniques for practising at home. Here’s a short video of me doing my best not to move my chin. When I get a chance I will sit at my piano, play some arpeggios and see if I can push my range gradually higher (and lower) – but only after warming up with a few zee-zee-zee-va-va-va type vocal utterances.

I’m not going to become a singer in the near future but I have always felt that connecting what you hear with your voice helps when improvising on one’s instrument. I will also listen to singers differently from now on. I met plenty of other people on the course (and on other courses taking place this weekend) and they all had their own reasons for being here. There was even a jazz group weekend led by Jeffery Wilson – I was sorely tempted to go and watch them or even join in if possible but I decided to remain focused on the vocal techniques. I did tend to look at the clock more often than I usually do on courses possibly because I wasn’t so interested in the choral singing aspect. Having said that, it has shown me that my vocal sight reading is not great and that it would benefit from me joining a choir. If only I had another spare evening during the week. The session ended on Sunday afternoon after an hour of singing a variety of tunes such as a Zulu folk song, a Purcell composition and a Russian slave song.

Thursday 4 April 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

No Jo today and no gigs for a couple of weeks so we relaxed and chatted about a few things including the process by which songs are chosen for the band to arrange and perform. We then strummed through Wish You Were Here in a slowish reggae style to finish off the evening.

Monday 1 April 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

We warmed up on the D major scale and then I mentioned how a major scale is made up of two tetrachords (Lydian tetrachords) and that it can make it easier to play across the fretboard. We then played the intro to The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore in tribute to Scott Walker who died recently. We changed its key to G and harmonised the melody. I mentioned how it is based on the thirds of the chords. After the break we started on a new tune, You Do Something To Me (Paul Weller) and worked out the intro and verse and I gave everyone a chance to solo over the verse chords using the E minor pentatonic scale.

Earlier that day: Mick, Graham and I went through the three tunes we have chosen for the next jam session namely Doxy, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise and Satin Doll. We then resumed work on Easter Jazz tunes including On Green Dolphin Street and How Sweet It Is.

Sunday 31 March 2019 – Essex Easter Jazz session

Annette, James, John and Rita came round for a run through some of the Easter Jazz tunes. We started with two we hadn’t done before (Song For My Father and Always There) and then the rest of the tunes except Thing Of Gold. These were Scrapple From The Apple, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Mo Better Blues, On Green Dolphin Street, Honeysuckle Rose, Thieves In The Temple and How Sweet It Is.

Saturday 30 March 2019 – D’Ukes, White Hart, Grays

We play here three times per year and this had to be the most raucous of the lot. The first set mainly gave us a chance to play newly introduced tunes such as Everybody Hurts, Ginny Come Lately, Livin’ Thing and The Scientist. However it was the second set that got everyone up and dancing and singing along – here is a short video of us playing Angels. We had lots of compliments afterwards, some saying it was absolutely fantastic and the one of the best gigs they had ever been to.

Friday 29 March 2019 – Interplay rehearsal

No gig in the near future so we just ran through tunes from the set we played at the recent Railway Hotel gig. We also concentrated on The Chant (Victor Feldman) which definitely needs a bit more work before it is gig-ready.

Thursday 28 March 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We started the evening with Desert Island Discs and this time I was the guest. Each band member in turn asked me a question and I think most of the session was spent dwelling on my childhood, love of music and interest in electronics. Eventually it touched on my later music career and ended with my choices for a luxury item (a Gibson L5-CES guitar), a book (Encyclopedia Britannica) and the record that I would rescue (Survival by Osibisa). On Saturday we’re playing at the White Hart, Grays, so we rehearsed three tunes that we will include in the set for the first time: Margaritaville, Everybody Hurts and Son of a Preacher Man. We then worked on Black Horse and the Cherry Tree for the rest of the evening.

Wednesday 27 March 2019 – busy day

Gil came round for a guitar duo session in the morning. We played through Impressions, Blues For Alice, One Note Samba, The Right Time, Body and Soul and Giant Steps.

In the afternoon: I drove down to Southend for the fortnightly HOFS session. We played four Kenny Dorham tunes (Prince Albert, Blue Bossa, Straight Ahead and Una Mas), plus I Could Write A Book and Stella By Starlight as a bossa. As I was at the end of a long line of sax players I was the last person to solo on each tune (before the rhythm section) and had plenty of time to figure out some ideas as to what to play. I was actually very pleased with what I played this afternoon – much more than usual!

In the evening: It was the first evening with food on offer and, under new management, the Three Elms managed to attract quite a few people tonight and we (DWJQ) also dragged a few friends along. We had a bit less room in the performance area than usual due to the additional furniture which made it a bit harder for me to signal to the others when I felt like it. We managed to get through the set with only a couple of shakey moments, mainly due to lack of a recent rehearsal, and overall we went down well. The pub is happy to have us back on a regular basis and might be able to offer us one or two beer festivals gigs as well. It was good to see so many people enjoying the music, the food and the newly refurbished toilets.

Tuesday 26 March 2019 – session with Guitars Galore

After performing Angels (by Robbie Williams), the song that I had asked the all female Guitars Galore to learn at the previous session, I did my best to explain how to play off-beat rhythm guitar (involving ‘chucking’) that would be suitable for strumming songs such as The Tide Is High and Red, Red Wine. The trickier method involved relaxing the chord playing fingers of the left hand and dampening the strings with the right hand (to create the chucking sound) followed by an upstrum on the offbeat. The easier version used just the right hand to dampen and strum the strings. The rest of the evening was spent showing them how to play Hallelujah using a pimama picking technique.

Monday 25 March 2019 – practice with Mick and Graham

We went through a few Easter Jazz tunes including On Green Dolphin Street, Always There, Scrapple From The Apple and Mo’s Better Blues.

Later that day: I scooted down the A130 to Southend in the evening to play with Ron Spack and his band. Malcolm was on sax, Ron on bass (acoustic guitar bass this time) and John (whom I hadn’t played with before) was the drummer. Because the football was on in the main bar we played in the restaurant but due to the table arrangement we had to play in a straight line along the wall, namely drums, guitar, sax, bass. A bit of a strange order but it worked ok and the sound was good because of the deader atmosphere of the room compared to the lively bar. The room was quite busy with punters and the music was appreciated with each solo getting a round of applause. We started with You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To and finished with a tune I hadn’t played before called The Goof And I, a tune based on rhythm changes normally performed by big bands.

Saturday 23 March 2019 – Walk on the South Downs

I met up with a friend, Fiona, in Lewes and we went for a walk over the Sussex downs. We walked out of the town, up past the golf club and onto the downs. The steepest section was across Mount Caburn, site of an iron age hillfort, and then down to Glyndebourne, home to the well known opera concerts. We continued along the road to the village of Glynde passing Glynde Place where the jazz festival, A Love Supreme, is held each year. We had a look around the unusually square shaped parish church of St Mary the Virgin, built in the Palladian style, before heading to the tea shop. Fortunately it was still open so we had a pot of tea and some Bakewell tarts before walking back to Lewes via Mount Caburn.

Thursday 21 March 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We started with John’s Deset Island Discs and then worked on the following tunes: Livin’ Thing (the intro), The Scientist, You Can’t Hurry Love (the break), Margaritaville, Everybody Hurts, Son of a Preacher Man, Wish You Were Here, Black Horse and the Cherry Tree and Break My Stride.

Tuesday 19 March 2019 – TNG Session

The band are looking at some new tunes so I came along to help them work out and learn the guitar parts to Linger (The Cranberries) and Wherever You Will Go (The Calling). They started with Bad Moon Rising (CCR) and I showed them a couple of ways of playing the basic chords differently.

Monday 18 March 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

We warmed up on the chords C G Am F (based on Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi) and played a two note arpeggio line over it. Then, in tribute to Dick Dale who died recently, I showed them the hijaz kar scale in E how to play his version of Miserlou (only the opening melody). After the break we chatted about songs we have been working on recently and then we had a strum through I Hear You Knocking (Dave Edmunds).

Earlier that day: DWJQ got together to play through some tunes (just for the fun of it) such as Stompin’ At The Savoy, Triste and On Green Dolphin Street. We also worked a bit more on Silver’s Serenade which we are planning to play at the next gig.

Even earlier that day: Graham, Mick and I got together to work on some of the Easter Jazz tunes including On Green Dolphin Street, Always There and Thieves In The Temple.

Sunday 17 March 2019 – Jazz Jam Session, Black Bull, Chelmsford

I arrived an hour or so ahead of time in order to set up the PA system and my guitar and amplifier. I placed the flipchart against the wall – on it I had written out the list of 18 tunes, the leader of each song and a space for everyone to put their name down if they wanted to jam on a particular song. By 4pm the place was busy with musicians and people who had just come along to watch and listen. DWJQ started with a short version of Tenor Madness and then we began the jam session with This Can’t Be Love led by Tony. I was on M.C. duties again and introduced each song, announced who was leading on it and who was going to take solo; and if there was a delay while people were setting up I would make a silly or informative comment depending on my mood (“the fire door is on the right but if there is a fire could you let the band get out of the building first please”). As well as DWJQ members there were two guitarists (Ian and Gil), several alto players (Nikki, Graham, Mick, Stephanie), a few tenor players (Richard, Hugh, Val), a soprano sax (Jan) and two singers (Angie and Nicole). There were no bass players or drummers apart from John and Mick in the house band so they got to play for the entire afternoon with only one break. I played guitar on a few tunes (Triste, Cantaloupe Island, Honeysuckle Rose) but as I was concentrating on the M.C. job and conducting the soloists I left most of the guitar playing to Gil and Ian. Maybe I will play more next time. The event ended just after 7pm with a rousing version of Watermelon Man followed by the usual clearing up operation and home by 8pm.

Saturday 16 March 2019 – D’Ukes, White Swan, Pimlico

We arrived after a reasonably quick journey across London to find the rugby on the pub’s TV system and about a hundred people shouting at it whenever tries were scored. Eventually things calmed down and we were able to set up. The audiences in London pubs are so much more cosmopolitan than Essex ones and enjoyed us from the start. I did quite a bit of wandering around the audience as I played, much to their amusement, and the smartphones came out to take videos that they will never look at again. Comfortably Numb got a huge cheer at the end as did many of the later songs as we gradually whipped up the audience into a state of not-quite-frenzy. I stated over the mic that the challenge was to get people up and dancing and eventually a couple of guys from Bedford did, and we succeeded in persuading a couple of dozen people to follow us as we walked out of one door, down the street and back in the other door while play These Boots Are Made For Walking. As alkways we finished with Duelling Banjos, which they loved, and New York, New York to which almost the entire pub got up, formed a circle and kicked their legs out in time to the music. I did so much shouting and singing along that night that my voice was hoarse on the way home.

Friday 15 March 2019 – D’Ukes, Book Reading, Wivenhoe

We had been invited to perform briefly at a book reading event at the British Legion. Finding the place was the first challenge but once we had managed to locate it and park outside we took the gear in and set up on a small stage in front of rows and rows of tables and chairs. Fairly soon it started filling up and I chatted with audience, explaining that we were just sound checking before the first poetry reading. We didn’t have our usual PA system with us so I was just playing and talking through my AER amplifier. The first poet didn’t turn up so we went on first and played for just half an hour. The audience seemed to really enjoy it although there were a couple at the front who perhaps wanted to put their fingers in the ears. Once we had finished we went and stood at the back of the room while Alex Toms read poems and extracts from her books and then during the break we packed up quickly and went home.

Thursday 14 March 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We started with another episode of Desert Island Discs: today I interviewed Jo and listened to her choice of eight tunes and a brief summary of her life story. Tunes rehearsed today included Sorrow, The Scientist, Margaritaville, Everybody Hurts, and Son Of A Preacher Man. We didn’t play Wish You Were Here but I will remember to suggest it next week.

Wednesday 13 March 2019 – Interplay, Railway Hotel, Southend

I’ve lost count of the number of times we have played here – probably over 50 – but I was pleased to see a lot more people here than there have been at recent gigs. They had even placed some tables and chairs in front of us in a jazz club style and these started to fill up. We went down well and I enjoyed it more than usual, probably because I was happier with what I was playing – but is a musician ever truly happy with their performance. Happier perhaps, happy perhaps not. I received a few nice compliments afterwards including one chap who was convinced I was ‘having a bit of fun’ during Summertime when I played a flamenco style lick.

Sunday 10 March 2019 – walking trip, Yorkshire

Every now and again I book a small cottage in Yorkshire, take my guitar, walking gear and plenty of food and wine and generally indulge myself. This time I picked a converted barn a few miles south of Masham and found myself driving through a snow storm to get here while crossing Ilkley Moor. The barn is in the grounds of a large house owned by a couple who beforehand had warned me that their band rehearses on Sunday afternoons. When I arrived I popped my head in to the rehearsal room to say sorry for disturbing you but I am here. They didn’t seem especially interested in the fact that I was a guitarist and to be frank, the basic one-bar riffing rock music they were playing wouldn’t have interested me for too long. The following day it was clear and sunny, if a little windy, and I hiked along the river Ure to Masham where I had lunch at probably my favourite cafe in Yorkshire, Johnny Baghdad’s. The walk back took me past Swinton Hall and through Azerley Park, with a brief stop for a cup of tea in Grewelthorpe, and finally back to my little barn where I was greeted back by a dozen of the owner’s chickens.

Saturday 9 March 2019 – Southend Jazz Co-operative, Leigh On Sea

I have played with these guys on occasion including at HOFS so it was nice to be able to sit in the audience and listen for a change. John conducted and filled in for the ailing trumpet player, Graham, on a couple of tunes. During the interval I went into their green room had a chat with a few of them. They hadn’t realised I was in the audience (sometimes that’s a good thing) and were pleased to see me. I mentioned the jazz jam session coming up on Sunday week and a few of them seemed very interested in coming along. They finished the evening with Caravan and everyone went home, I presume, reasonably happy.

Friday 8 March 2019 – Interplay rehearsal

All four of us were present today so we went through all the heads of tunes we are going to play at the Railway Hotel next Wednesday.

Thursday 7 March 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

As a warm up we played and sung through Wish You Were Here in a reggae style then, as part of our own Desert Island Discs series, I interviewed Martin about his life and choice of music. We then worked on a few tunes that didn’t go quite as planned at the last gig (including One Day Like This, Sorrow, The Scientist, Brown Eyed Girl and Livin’ Thing) and then we worked on new tunes (Margaritaville, Everybody Hurts and Son Of A Preacher Man).

Wednesday 6 March 2019 – Jazz Jam practice session

Most of today was spent working on tunes we are playing either at the jazz jam or on the Easter Jazz course. In the morning, with Mick and John, we went through all the jazz jam tunes as a rhythm section. Gil came round in the afternoon to run through his tunes as well as to play a few others such as Ornithology and Oleo, and in the evening Angie came round and we played through her two jazz jam songs and some of those on the Easter Jazz course.

Monday 4 March 2019 – practice with Graham and Mick

We went through our three jazz jam tunes (Cantaloupe Island, Triste and Honeysuckle Rose) and then played a couple of Easter Jazz tunes (On Green Dolphin Street and Mo Better Blues)

Later that day: We started by discussing the recent death of Keith Flint. In conneection with this I demoed my Moog Prodigy synthesiser after which his band was named. Once everyone was ready to play some guitar we warmed up on the A major scale (5th position) and then played B to B, C to C etc and I explained how these were the modes (Dorian, Phrygian etc). We then strummed C G Dm Am followed by the opening triad chords of New Born (Muse). I then showed them the intro to Substitute (The Who) which is another example of triads. After the break we started on Live Forever (Oasis) and I showed them the triads over the chorus chords.

Sunday 3 March 2019 – Essex Easter Jazz session

Annette, James, John and Rita came round for a run through some of the Easter Jazz tunes. We started with the four from the previous session (Scrapple From The Apple, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Mo Better Blues and On Green Dolphin Street) and then looked at Honeysuckle Rose, Thieves In The Temple and How Sweet It Is.

Saturday 2 March 2019 – D’Ukes, The Lamb, Romford

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to this gig simply because the parking and loading in might be difficult but in the end, using John’s directions, we successfully parked in a back road and found a walking route into the rear of the pub. We set up in a corner of the pub, the barmaid switched on a swirling disco light and away we went. I must admit to hitting an inordinate number of wrong chords during the first set – all because I didn’t bother to practise through the songs in the afternoon to refresh my memory (let that be a lesson) – but I was pleased with my solos on both You Do Something To Me and Comfortably Numb. Quite a few people danced to songs in the second set and sang along with gusto and I quoted Alan Barnes’s joke: if I thought we’d be this good I would have asked for more money. We finished with the usual circle of punters, kicking their legs to New York, New York. To help with loading up the car I drove it round to the front of the pub, and parked in the large market place in front of the pub. We’ll be back on Star Wars day, May the fourth.

Friday 1 March 2019 – Interplay rehearsal

Getting ready for forthcoming gig at the Railway Hotel we worked through some of the tougher tunes such as Crisis and The Chant but also included Groovy Samba, Workout, Blues In The Closet and, to finish with, a new one: I Could Write A Book.

Thursday 28 February 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We worked on new tunes Ginny Come LatelyMargaritaville, SorrowThe Scientist and Everybody Hurts and the guest tonight on our Desert Island Discs was Brian.

Wednesday 27 February 2019 – HOFS session

About ten of us got together at Hadleigh Old Fire Station to play through some tunes including Smokin‘, Summertime, On Green Dolphin Street and finally a very slow version of Stella By Starlight.

Later that day: four of us from DWJQ got together for a rehearsal and worked on dynamics in Afro Blue, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To and Silver’s Serenade, and then to finish the evening off we played So Danco Samba and Fungii Mama.

Tuesday 26 February 2019 – Great Guitars, Brentwood

I went with fellow guitarist to watch a modest re-enactment of the Great Guitars concerts that took place in the 70’s and 80’s originally featuring Charlie Byrd, Barney Kessell and Herb Ellis. Tonight’s guitarists were Dominic Ashworth, Andy Watson and Simon Hurley, all fine musicians in their own right. They sat in front of a rhythm section (bass and drums) and performed about nine tunes including Seven Come Eleven, Scrapple From The Apple (click below to hear an extract), Benny’s Bugle, Body and Soul and Topsy. Plenty of heads played in harmony, some excellent solos and trading licks, but maybe too many bass solos and too much talking between tunes. They finished with Tenor Madness.

Monday 25 February 2019 – practice with Graham and Mick

We worked through a few tunes from Essex Easter Jazz namely: You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, How Sweet It Is and Thieves In The Temple. We then considered what tunes to play at March’s jam session. We plumped for Triste, Cantaloupe Island and Honeysuckle Rose. We played through Triste and Honeysuckle Rose (in F) before calling it a day.

Later that day: The Monday Guitar Group warmed up on the chromatic scale and then played The Monkees Theme in tribute to Peter Tork who died recently. The rest of the evening was spent working on I Feel Good (James Brown), both the bass and guitar (horn) parts.

Sunday 24 February 2019 – D’Ukes, Wheatsheaf, Bishops Stortford

When we arrived the football was showing on the pub telly we so stood outside in the unusually warm February sunshine and waited for it to finish before loading in the gear and setting up. The first set went down well though was very long, over 90 minutes, and included three new songs: Sorrow, The Scientist and Ginny Come Lately. Sorrow needed a bit of sorting out but the other two were fine. There were several people in the other bar watching football, but listening to us, so I got the whole band to walk into the their bar and perform Space Oddity, which they appreciated. Meanwhile some of the the audience in the main bar got behind the mics and mimed to us while played in the other bar. A tribute act!

During the break a punter, Barry, asked us to play Comfortably Numb, which of course we did as it was the first on the set list- but he didn’t know that. We got a huge cheer after our last song and so proceeded to play our usual two encores, Duelling Banjos and New York, New York, ending with an even bigger cheer. Afterwards Barry said our version of Comfortably Numb was so good he was going to go home and put on Pink Floyd’s version. I hope he is not disappointed.

Friday 22 February 2019 – Practice with Gil

With Gil on guitar we played several tunes including You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, West Coast Blues, Four On Six, Honeysuckle Rose and The Right Time, a Dave Cliff tune which I vowed to learn properly before we next meet up.

Thursday 21 February 2019 – DWJQ rhythm section rehearsal

John, Mick and I got together and worked on some rhythm section stuff including dynamics behind solos, fours, threes, twos, and rhythmic displacement of phrases, and we also worked on the rhythmic hits in Silver’s Serenade and the A section of George Benson’s version of On Green Dolphin Street.

Later that day: at the D’Ukes rehearsal we started by practising our new arrangement of Sorrow and then we broke for a new feature: Desert Island Discs. I interviewed Hazel about her life and the records she had chosen and played snippets from them. We then quickly learned and recorded a version of Ginny Come Lately that Jo wanted to send to her dad to play on the radio. Then it was time to return to working on new songs. Tonight we honed the arrangements of MargaritavilleThe Scientist and Everybody Hurts, and started work on Son Of A Preacher Man.

Wednesday 20 February 2019 – DWJQ rehearsal

Our gig on 27th February has been cancelled as the Three Elms is being refurbished so we had a relaxed rehearsal trying out some ideas based around fours and twos and we event took it down to quarter notes with Annette and I alternately playing chord tones. We spent a bit of time working on the arrangement of Silver’s Serenade which has several hits in the head. The solo section is quite modal too despite having several chords.

Tuesday 19 February 2019 – Guitars Galore

It is almost a year since I last did a session with Guitars Galore so it was good to be back. As I arrived they were singing Jolene, and then after a chat I did my best to explain how to use a capo to make a song with difficult chords easier to play. I then showed them the chords to Hound Dog (Elvis Presley), taught them the words by getting them to sing each line back to me, and then we played through it, first of all at a slow tempo and then at roughly the tempo of the original. The rest of the evening was spent working on Angels (Robbie Williams). Eventually we were in a position to play through it a couple of times and next time I will come back and show them how to play the solo over the bridge.

Monday 18 February 2019 – practice with Mick

We played through tunes from the Essex Easter Jazz list including: Mo Better BluesScrapple From The Apple, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To, Honeysuckle Rose (in two different keys) and the bass riff from Thieves In The Temple.

Later that day: We started the evening by warming up on the G major scale. Then we strummed the chords of Dock Of The Bay and investigated various ways of playing the chords, for example just playing the root and 3rd and, for the bass, the root and tenth. After the break we learned the final parts to In The Midnight Hour and then played a couple of times to end the evening.

Sunday 17 February 2019 – Angie and Dave, Mighty Oak Tap Room, Maldon

We arrived at about 2:30pm to set up after which I wandered down the road to the Blue Boar to see if there was anyone playing there this afternoon – there was no competition. When we started (with the song Breakfast At Tiffany’s) there were perhaps half a dozen people in the Mighty Oak but by the time we were in full swing the place was standing room only and full of people we recognised from previous visits. Does this mean we have a following? As always with our singalong tunes we got a lot of people joining in. The first tune that I was able to stop strumming for while they sang the chorus was Don’t Look Back In Anger but there were many more such as Three Little Birds, Delilah and American Pie. We did three sets with a couple of breaks during which I sampled the locally brewed Maldon Gold. I used my looper of half a dozen tunes so that I could play a solo and even got a round of applause after a couple of them, one of which was Moondance. At the end of what was a raucous afternoon (my voice was a little hoarse afterwards) a chap in the audience stated loudly: “you started bang on 3 o’clock and you finished bang on 6 o’clock. Well done!” Hopefully we will be back in a few months’ time.

Later that day: Annette, James and John came round for our first session looking at material from the Essex Easter Jazz course. We worked on Mo Better Blues, Scrapple From The Apple, You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To and On Green Dolphin Street.

Thursday 14 February 2019 – 14 mile walk along Essex Way from White Notley to Wakes Colne

Last summer I walked from Epping Forest to White Notley along the Essex Way over a period of time as well as an initial 12 mile leg from Manor Park to the starting point in Epping Forest. Today, I continued my mission to finish it by the end of this summer. I parked the car near White Notley railway station and picked up the nearby trail, walking swiftly alongside the fields and hedges. The morning had been very foggy so there wasn’t much to do but stride ahead though I did come across a field full of alpaca. Only one of them seemed remotely interested in me so I took a photo of him/her. Before reaching the first settlement, Coggeshall, I saw what was probably the most impressive of the many barns I had seen to day – Grange Barn. I had a very nice coffee and scone in the only cafe I could find in Coggeshall and as I emerged from the cafe the sun was now shining on what was possibly the nicest day in February I can remember. Although the walk through the small town was interesting for its architecture, the Essex Way itself was less so as it zig zagged around fields of grass and mud so I just kept walking. Unfortunately, there was an unpleasant amount of rubbish whenever the footpath reached a road that I hadn’t noticed on earlier legs of the Essex Way. I kept walking and surprised myself by arriving at the day’s destination, Wakes Colne railway station at just 1:15pm. Despite the less interesting scenery today I actually really enjoyed the walk, partly for the lovely weather but also because I felt so full of beans as my dad would have said – probably on a ccount fo this being the first proper walk since the winter. I caught a sequence of three trains back to White Notley, found my car and drove home. That leaves just two more days of the Essex Way: Wakes Colne to Dedham next time and then onward to Harwich for the final leg. Easy peasy.

Wednesday 13 February 2019 – HOFS jazz session

About ten of us turned up for today’s session. We started with If I Were A Bell and continued with a few tunes by Jimmy Van Heusen (Here’s That Rainy Day, It Could Happen To You) and Hank Mobley (Workout, Smokin) and also played on Green Dolphin Street.

Later that day: at the D’Ukes rehearsal we continued working on new tunes, in particular: Sorrow, The Scientist, Margaritaville and Son Of A Preacher Man.

Monday 11 February 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

We warmed up on the A natural minor scale and I demonstrated how it becomes the harmonic minor scale when the G (7th degree) is raised to G#. We then strummed chords to the current number one song, 7 Rings by Ariana Grande: Am F Dm E & E7. Her version is in C#m (relative minor of E) so we transposed it up to this key and also played the opening melody which is predominantly in octaves. I pointed out the raised 7th in the melody in line with the harmonic minor I spoke of earlier. After some nice fruit cake provided one of the group members during the tea break we spent the rest of the evening working on In The Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett).

Friday 8 February 2019 – Interplay rehearsal

Mark, Richard and I got together to run through some of the tunes we will play at the Railway Hotel on 13th March including one we haven’t played for many years: The Chant (Victor Feldman).

A bit of news: last week I resigned from the Blues Experience and within a few days others had also decided to leave. The net result is that the band is no more.

Thursday 7 February 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

No gig for a couple of weeks so we just worked on three new tunes: Sorrow, The Scientist and Everybody Hurts. To avoid the playing the well known picking pattern on Everybody Hurts I suggested a different pattern which worked quite well and certainly helps make our version our own.

Wednesday 6 February 2019 – rehearsal with Angie

We’ve got a gig at the Mighty Oak Tap Room in Maldon at 3pm on 17th February so we played through the new songs in the set including Reward, Living On The Ceiling and Look Of Love – all from the 1980s. After a beer, and just for fun, we played The Bonzo’s Intro and the Outro. Sounded quite good actually. Angie took a video of me playing my percussive frog and will use it as part of the promotion for the gig.

Tuesday 5 February 2019 – Session with TNG

There has been a long absence but we are back. When I arrived they were warming up on Yellow (Coldplay) and then we started the session proper by running through Zombie (The Cranberries). Fortunately I had kept detailed notes of the arrangement from several months ago so I was able to conduct the band through the different sections. We then briefly looked at Seven Nation Army (White Stripes) which I will prepare properly for another time, and then followed that with a look at all the guitar parts in Dakota (Stereophonics). At the next session I will help them with Linger (The Cranberries) and Dakota.

Monday 4 February 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

Tonight’s session was an evening in the key of E. I started by showing them the chords to the chorus of Just Like A Woman (Bob Dylan) and then we did the E major scale starting on the 7th fret followed by the much trickier alternative – the open position. The rest of the session, after the break, was spent working on In The Midnight Hour (Wilson Pickett) starting of with the bass riff (E and A arpeggios) and finishing with the intro. We will complete the song next week.

Thursday 31 Jan to Sunday 3 Feb 2019 – visit to Malta

Day 1

I emerged into the arrivals hall of Malta’s main airport to be greeted by a huge Costa sign. Alongside chain cafés, this country can count speaking English and driving on the left, three pin main sockets and red phone boxes as traits in common with the UK. I bought a pass for unlimited bus travel and caught the X3 which was heading to Bugibba but dropped me off in Rabat. I quickly found my hotel, Point De Vue, and checked in. The room was fine but the hotel is being restored to its former glory and you wouldn’t pick it if you were cruising by looking for a room.

I went for a walk around Mdina, the adjacent medieval town for an hour or so and stopped for coffee in a small bar. Here, I had the chance to overhear someone from Essex asking the bar tender a string of quite interesting questions about the country. I stopped reading Wikipedia’s Malta entry to listen to the answers.

After a quick visit to my hotel I set off for another exploration; this time of Rabat itself. During my wanderings I came across Rabat’s St Paul’s Cathedral and café serving large date pies. I ordered one, plus an Americano, and settled down to while away a few minutes. The temperature is a little too cool to relax outdoors so I appreciate these occasional vists to bars and cafes.

In the evening I had a meal in the hotel restaurant despite all the alternatives in town. Marrow soup and vegetarian pizza with a pint of local Cisk beer was choice.

Day 2

I woke up after a solid eight hour sleep and went into the restaurant to have breakfast – full English minus the meat. After a quick walk around Mdina in the morning sunshine I took the X3 bus to Bugibba and then walked along the coast. I passed a couple of miles of concrete blocks of flats until I reached the terryberry tearooms where I had a coffee and scone with all the extras.

I continued walking around the bay until I spotted a sign for a road that I recalled, from my research, led to a cross country trail. Within ten minutes I was walking along a rocky track that in time took me up and over a hill, passing small plots of farmland demarcated by heavy stone walls made out of the local limestone. I eventually reached a country lane which took me into the outskirts of a small town. Once I had reached the centre and had a look around, I caught a bus to the Gozo ferry terminal and caught the next boat to Gozo. Arriving thirty minutes later, I caught a bus into Victoria, the capital, and located my very smart hotel on the fourth floor above a modern shopping mall.

Later that afternoon I had a walk around the old town which is mostly taken up by the citadel. The experience was similar to Mdina and there was plenty of evidence of EU funding. Every alleyway, wall, pathway and building was neatly preserved and clean enough to eat off. I wandered around until sunset and then walked into town to get some food.

Day 3

I awoke in this quiet, business-style hotel, went down to breakfast and found it packed with tourists who clearly had either stayed elsewhere or were on their best behaviour during the night. It was a buffet style meal with a huge range of choices including little snacks I expect to see during canapes. Anchovy and tomato, feta on a little square of toast. Totally fed up, including three glasses of orange juice and two coffees to rehydrate me, I went back to my room, packed, checked out and headed off on the bus to Zebbug, a small hilltop village a few miles north. From there I walked for a hour or so down to the coast and along towards the small seaside resort of Marsalforn. After sitting for twenty minutes looking out into the bay I took a bus back to Victoria and then another one to Mgarr where I caught the ferry with two minutes to spare. I bought a cheese and tomato baguette on board which was so big it took me the entire journey to finish.

Back in Malta I caught a bus to Sliema, and then walked around the bay as far as Floriana where I stumbled upon Gunlayer Street. Was this the street mum and dad used to live in during dad’s national service days in the early 1950’s? I found number 12, the address that mum had vaguely recalled, and it fitted her description of being just an upstairs flat, although they have since built a couple of floors on top. At the end of the street was also the view of the harbour that mum had described. I continued on my way, located St Paul’s street and walked down to number 236. What I found couldn’t possibly be my hotel; it was a scruffy, old (very old) four storey town house with paint peeling wherever possible. But there was a small placque announcing the name – Princess Elena. I pushed the door open and my heart sank. Considering I was paying the same amount as the previous two hotels put together, this was a disappointment. But things improved gradually. Walter, behind the desk, offered me orange juice and biscuits, and took me up to my room on the top floor. This place was old in a very good way. Over five hundred years old in fact. The room had fruit, interesting artwork, a balcony, and even a circular bed. The wardrobe contained the kettle and the WiFi worked perfectly. I kicked off my shoes and dozed for ten minutes.

In the evening I wandered around the enormous fortications surrounding Valetta and spotted a flaming sunrise above one of the many cathedrals. It must be 5:29pm, I thought to myself. I was right. After failing to be tempted by countless outdoor restaurants I had a simple veggie wrap in a café, with another pint of the local beer, Cisk. At the table I tried writing my blog but was put off by endlessly screaming children, mostly teenage girls I think. I’ve no idea what was causing their reactions. Eventually, during a lull, I wrote these last few paragraphs. Tomorrow, I have one more day of exploration followed by the flight home.

Day 4

After breakfast I checked out of what turned out to be a disappointing guest house, the mould on the cake and the hairs on the bathroom floor weren’t my favourite features, and headed out into the sunshine for a Sunday morning walk around Valletta. After taking a few photos of places I probably photographed in the dark the previous evening I decided to hop on a bus to Zurrieq. The guidebook promised that this southern portion of Malta was full of things to do. Thirty minutes later (nothing takes long in this country) I arrived in a very quiet town. I couldn’t find anywhere open for lunch so I walked down to the coast, the location of the famous Blue Grotto. Sure enough, it was busy and there were several restaurants, but instead, I bought a cheese baguette and went and sat down on some rocks looking out to sea. People were photographing the cliff below me – it must be the location of the blue grotto.

A while later I did the same and then caught a bus to Hagar Qim, an ancient free standing temple, one of the oldest in the world. After watching a 4D video production of it’s history and wandering around the site for a while, I went to the restaurant for a coffee to discover a very loud guitarist performing Shadows-style versions of old songs to backing tracks. An odd form of entertainment at an ancient archeological site. It turns out he was miming. By the middle of the afternoon I called it a day and caught the bus to the airport for the flight home.

Monday 28 January 2019 – Ron Spack and friends, Oakwood, Leigh On Sea

Despite being at a standstill for twenty minutes in traffic on the A130 I still managed to arrive before almost everyone else. John of JazzDuo was playing sax this evening and we were backed by Ron on bass and Glyn on drums. After starting with Ronnie’s Blues we played a variety of standards including There Will Never Be Another You, I Hear A Rhapsody and You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To. I sat at the front next to John but my amplifier was on stage between the bass and drums, connected by my wi-fi link. We played quite a bit quieter than on previous gigs and it sounded fine. After a cup of coffee during the break, courtesy of Val, we started the second set with a blues followed by All The Things You Are. The rest of the evening went well and it was good to see a lot of familiar faces in the audience.

Sunday 27 January 2019 – D’Ukes, Queens Theatre, Hornchurch

It was a tight schedule today as we had to arrive at 4pm, set up, perform a workshop, have a break and then perform at 7:30pm. Once we had sound checked I got ready to run my session on ‘moveable chords’. Jo started her workshop in the bar area and announced that for anyone who was already familiar with the basic chords, C F G, they could go upstairs and attend my session instead. About ten people came along and I sat them down in three rows of seats in front of me. Rather than just teach some common chord shapes I explained, with the help of the chromatic scale, how simple chords, such as C, F and Am, could be converted into moveable chords and played anywhere up the neck of the ukulele.  The session lasted about 45 minutes and went well, judging by the questions, though whether they will remember the theory behind it when they get home is another thing.

After an hour’s break during which I munched on my sandwiches and banana, we were ready to go on stage. About one hundred or so were in the audience and we got a good cheer as we strolled into the theatre area. Unfortunately, there was a technical hitch and none of our instruments or voices could be heard for the first minute or so. Eventually we got going and the rest of the set was performed in our usual fashion. I did my best to engage the audience despite my croaky voice and we finished the first set with Those Were The Days. During What’s Up Brian wasn’t getting any sounds out of his ukulele and Jo indicated to me to play a solo instead. I did what I thought was a great solo but unfortunately that didn’t come out of the speakers either, but by the end of the second set the crowd were loving every minute of it and we got almost everyone standing and dancing to New York, New York, our second encore. Afterwards, we milled around the auditorium and I received a few compliments from various people including a young lad who loved my slide playing.

Saturday 26 January 2019 – D’Ukes, private party at the Blue Boar

We’ve played several times at this pub and this is the fifth location we’ve performed in: the front bar, the courtyard, two different outdoor marquees and finally, today’s private party which was up in the very nicely done out function room. It was a long gig (four hours with two breaks) and I spent a lot of my time, even when playing, trying to calculate how many songs we need to play in order to finish at the required time. Fortunately we had a request to repeat two songs which helped – Valerie and Don’t Look Back In Anger – and we also slipped in a new one, Livin’ Thing. We finished the evening with almost everyone on their feet singing and dancing to New York, New York, which of course meant they went home with a smile on their face.

Friday 25 January 2019 – practice with Gil

Gil came round for a guitar session. We played through the tunes from last Sunday’s jam session, namely: Ornithology, West Coast Blues and Cherokee and then played a few more tunes including Oleo and Blue Monk. For a change we used Band In A Box occasionally to provide the rhythm section.

Wednesday 23 January 2019 – DWJQ, The Three Elms

On a dry but freezing evening I arrived at the pub to find John and Mick already setting up. As I walked in, Gill the landlady stopped me to say that the pub is being taken off their hands so this could be our last gig here. After playing here almost every month since March 2015 that will take some getting used to. We also had some special gigs booked, such as at the blues festival, that will also probably get cancelled. It depends on whether the next landlords are interested in live music, and when they take over. Meanwhile, we have a gig to perform to a small audience, and I, for the first time in a long time, am playing my black Gibson ES335. New tunes My Favourite Things and My Foolish Heart worked well, while Afro Blue, although sounding great when it was grooving along, needs attention paying to the overall form. A simple fix at the next rehearsal. As always we finished with St Thomas, packed away the gear and I had a beer, this time from the Colchester Brewery.

Tuesday 22 January 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

After running through some of the tunes we are playing at a private party on Saturday we did some more work on Livin’ Thing to the point where we thought we might as well play it on Saturday, otherwise it won’t get aired for a few weeks. It’s sounding good!

Monday 21 January 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

We started the evening with a warm up strum around four chords (Am C G Em) which, when looking at the circle of fifths, form a neat little circular pattern at the top. This meant it was easy, using the circle, to change the key to, for example, Em – which we did. Then, in tribute to Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues who died last year, I showed the group the chords to the song, Go Now, which featured several slash chords and a D augmented chord (XX0332). The rest of the evening was spent working on the guitar harmony line in Brown Eyed Girl.

Earlier that day: Graham, Mick and I got together to have a chat about last night’s jam session and then we started playing some possibilities for inclusion in the next one on 17th March. Tunes we played today included Desafinado, Bags’ Groove, All The Things You Are and Cantaloupe Island.

Sunday 20 January 2019 – Jazz Jam Session, Black Bull, Chelmsford

After dashing back home (within the speed limits) from my gig with the Ron Spack Trio in Southend I had three things to do: change into more suitable clothes; load the car with even more gear; and cook myself a dinner in the space of ten minutes even though it was about 4pm. I arrived at the pub to find Mick already setting up his drum kit. I set my own gear up plus the PA system by which time jammers for the jam session were starting to arrive. It was a three hour session and I really enjoyed my role of counting in tunes, signalling soloists, making announcements and occasionally playing guitar when required. To cut a long story short, in the end we had about nine sax players, two guitarists, a bass player, two drummers and a harmonica player, in addition to members of DWJQ.

I positioned myself at the front with my microphone, for stage announcements and for corralling the musicians. I had the flip chart ready to write down names of whoever wanted to jam on whatever song; and my guitar for playing on the occasional tune. After DWJQ started off proceedings with a quick version of Tenor Madness, Hugh played Midnight Creeper and My Little Suede Shoes and then it was Nicole’s turn to sing three songs including Wave. The rest of the first set was taken up by Graham’s three tunes which included one I played on: The Days Of Wine And Roses. Most tunes had two or three additional soloists and we managed to get to the break by about 7:15pm.

Pretty soon I was getting everyone on stage to start the second set with Moondance, sung by Angie. It also featured Mike on sax and Reniaro on drums. Angie did a couple more songs, including Summertime featuring Michael on harmonica, and then Gil did three tunes including Cherokee which I counted in at quite a high tempo; about 220 BPM. Richard and Jan played the final set of three tunes, plus assorted soloists, before we finished the evening with almost everyone playing on Blue Bossa and, finally, Watermelon Man with me conducting the band through the final few bars. It was a very successful jam session – the best so far – and we managed to get through twenty tunes while only overrunning by about 15 minutes.

Earlier that day: before the busy jazz jam session that was to follow in the evening, I had a gig in Southend at the British Legion with the Ron Spack Trio. Unfortunately, there was no car park so I had to drive around to find a space. The club was a very old fashioned looking place with fruit machines and a long bar. Malcolm was on sax today and also sang a few songs; and Ron was on bass as always. We played a number of standards to a small number of people but it was very relaxed and I enjoyed it. We finished at 3:15pm and I then had to quickly pack up, find my car which was in another street, and head back home to get ready for the jam session.

Saturday 19 January 2019 – D’Ukes, The Norton Pub, Cold Norton

I think this must be our seventh visit here and it means we always start our year with a bang. Within a few moments of arriving the pub was starting to get very busy with people who had come to see us. As pub gigs go it was very straight forward and throughout the evening we built up the excitement to the point where almost everyone was singing along or dancing at the end. Just for a change I did a solo on The One I Love using distortion which I think worked well though I was getting quite a bit of feedback – a combination of the effects pedal’s compression and the acoustic nature of my tenor uke. That reminds me – I did my ukulele joke after my solo in You Do Something To Me: “it’s a cheap one; just a tenor!”

Friday 18 January 2018 – Interplay rehearsal

No John today so we ran through the current set of tunes we are working on including Nica’s Dream, Crisis, On Green Dolphin Street, Love For Sale, Serenade To A Cuckoo and East Of The Village. We also started on a new tune, Workout by Hank Mobley. I’ve probably said before that the reason I enjoy John’s absence is solely because it gives me a chance to play the heads (normally he does) and practise my sight reading too.

Thursday 17 January 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

We went through some songs in readiness for Saturday’s gig at the Norton and spent a bit of time working on our arrangement of Livin’ Thing.

Wednesday 16 January 2019 – DWJQ rehearsal

With Tony back in action the five of us went through the set list for next Wednesday’s gig at The Three Elms, including three new tunes: Afro Blue, My Favourite Things and My Foolish Heart.

Tuesday 15 January 2019 – rehearsal with Angie

Angie and Dave have a gig at the Mighty Oak Tap Room in Maldon on 17th February at 3pm so we got together tonight to rehearse some new songs as well as sharing a beer. The new songs are Reward, Opportunities, Back In The USSR, Give Me One Reason, Look Of Love and Living On Ceiling. The final task was to look at the last set list and take out some songs so we can insert the new ones. Once we had done this we spent a short while just strumming through some songs and ended up playing Minnie The Moocher which worked so well that we decided to include it in the set list as well.

Monday 14 January 2019 – rehearsal for jam session

DWJQ are hosting a jam session at the Black Bull on Sunday at 6pm so today we had a bit of a marathon session running through some of the tunes we’ll be playing on as a rhythm section. We started with three tunes that are being led by Graham, namely The Days Of Wine and Roses, Song for my Father and Fungii Mama and then, after a lunch break of bread and varieties of cheese kindly provided by Mick, we continued with the tunes John is playing bass on. These included Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Cherokee (in which gradually edged the speed up to 200 bpm), Ornithology, West Coast Blues, Good Morning Heartache, Black Orpheus, Blue Bossa, Fly Me To The Moon, Midnight Creeper and finally the bossa nova standard, Wave, which we are doing in the key of F for Nicole the singer. That was the longest rehearsal I have had in a while and it was nice afterwards to walk through the park into town and have a pot of tea and some cake at a cafe in the local bookshop.

Later that day: It was the second session of the year and we warmed up by playing a two octave A major scale, and then Bb, B, C, C#, D and finally D# major scale. To warm up our strumming faculties I gave them the chords to Key To The Highway (Derek and the Dominos) and I showed them some typical blues voicings of 7th chords. The basic chords are A E D D A E A E. Before the break, we strummed the chords to Killing Me Softly (With His Song) in deference to the lyricist, Norman Gimbel, who died recently. After the break we discussed the circle of fifths (looking at my new clock) noticing how many songs follow it in an anti-clockwise direction. Finally (for fun!) we strummed Brown Eyed Girl and I started to show them the harmony guitar line played by Eric Gale on the original which we will finish next week.

Sunday 13 January 2019 – Blues Experience rehearsal

We’ve got a gig coming up soon at the Three Elms as part of their Winter Blues Festival so we spent the morning running through the first set and deciding which ones to drop. We also need to learn some more commercial tunes, maybe from the Blues Brothers films, so had a think about what would be good to include. These will be performed at a gig in Basildon next April.

Friday 11 January 2019 – D’Ukes, Colchester Mencap Gateway Club

We set off extra early and sure enough the Friday evening traffic ensured we spent nearly an hour and a half on the A12. Despite that it was a good evening playing to about seventy people in the canteen of the adult learning centre. I did my best to encourage people to sing along to tunes such as What’s Up and Delilah, and during Sit Down, as always, I selected a couple of people to sit next to as the song reached the chorus. Good fun and I daresay we might go back one day.

Thursday 10 January 2019 – D’Ukes rehearsal

Dep bassist, Colin, is playing with us at tomorrow’s gig so he came over instead of John to rehearse the set which was essentially the same as the last one he played with us in France in September. It was useful for the rest of us too as we haven’t played since before Christmas and tomorrow is our first gig of 2019.

Wednesday 9 January 2019 – gigs for 2019

I’ve just sorted out and uploaded my gig list for the year. Click here to have a look. There are so far  45 booked gigs plus some private ones not listed.

Monday 7 January 2019 – Monday Guitar Group

This was the first session of the new year but the 436rd of all time. Everyone turned up and we started by warming up on the chromatic scale followed by practising the A major scale. The chords we strummed as part of the strummy warm up were taken from the current number one record by Max Ava called Sweet But Psycho – F C G Am G. I showed them some 1st inversion triad voicings on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th strings that we haven’t used before. After the tea break we played Have I The Right by the Honeycombs in tribute to drummer Honey Lantree who recently died.

Earlier that day: Mick, Graham and I got together to rehearse the tunes we are playing at the jazz jam session namely: Song For My Father, The Days Of Wine And Roses and Fungii Mama. They went well considering we haven’t played together for a few weeks. We also played through a few of the other tunes that will be at the jam session including Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.

Friday 4 January 2019 – Practice with Gil

We went through the tunes Gil is performing at the jam session on 20th January at the Black Bull, namely: Cherokee, West Coast Blues and Ornithology, aand then we played a few other tunes suchas Beautiful Love, Scrapple From The Apple and Lyresto.

Later that day: Richard, Mark and I got together to work on Interplay tunes; Crisis, Nica’s Dream, Groovey Samba, Well You Needn’t, Love For Sale, On Green Dolphn Street and Blues In The Closet.

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