Recordings, recordings, recordings

I was reminded at the weekend that it’s been about 9 months since I updated here. But what better time to update than this week, when Sam Jackson’s Drawing Hands album that we recorded back in spring has finally seen the light of day in form of an release through a new Leeds-based jazz label (James Hamilton’s aptly-titled New Jazz Records). Sam writes really beautiful music and there’s a really nice vibe to the whole session (all recorded live in the crypt of Christ Church, Liversedge), so go and check it out here on Bandcamp, or at the bottom of this post, if I’ve managed to work out how to make the internet do things. Special mention to Benjamin Saville for the excellent artwork. I’ve never met him, but I really like it.

In other news, the People Poems EP that I’ve been promising people since January finally has a release date set next month (the 6th Nov, if you’re interested). That’ll be available, similarly to the Drawing Hands record, via Bandcamp for whatever price you’re willing to pay. The reason/s for the massive delay are sort of a long story, but are broadly to do with an abortive attempt to solve the problems with equal temperament, an experiment that predictably failed. I should have known – better men than I have been trying to find the most usable tuning system for hundreds of years, and equal temperament was what they arrived at. But what I learned was interesting, and maybe a fairly straight-forward anecdotal way of explaining the problem to others, so I might write a very geeky post about it sometime soon. But probably not, knowing me.

I had a great time towards the end of the summer playing as part of Balbir Singh’s Roundness of 12 project, a work initially commissioned as a celebration of the Tour de France, but equally interesting and enjoyable in it’s own right. It was a pleasure to work with MD Jesse Bannister, and a few other really lovely musicians, here’s hoping we all get the chance to take the work round some more venues.

Earlier this year Kassledown Quintet had a run of great gigs around the north, and are currently in hibernation ahead of an album recording in January, keep your eyes peeled for more on that.

I got my hands on the two Stranahan/Zaleski/Rosato records, which are just great, particularly Limitless. The compositions are lovely and Colin Stranahan’s drumming never fails to put a smile on my face, have a listen to those. I’d love to comment on the Blue debate, but I’m not sure there’s anything I could say that hasn’t already been said. I’ll just say that I really like that it exists, and I think it brings up some really interesting questions, most of which are alluded to in this interview with Moppa Elliott, have a read.

New Year, New Stuff

So the remainder of 2013 was lovely – I had a lot of fun playing a couple of gigs with Julie Dexter on the northern leg of her UK tour, at the Hoochie Coochie in Newcastle and the beautiful Zeffirellis in the equally beautiful Ambleside. I’ve had the first session rehearsing some great new tunes for Tom Maddison’s octet, as well as a couple of days spent hiding under the stage at the Opera House in York, making lots of noise whilst remaining out of sight. Very exciting. A particular highlight of the last few weeks has been taking a couple of days in the studio with Fran Wyburn to record the first part of her new mini-album, which we’ll be finishing up later this month. Lovely musicians, lovely songs, a lovely time!

But while we’re all waiting for that, now available is the footage from the LindyPop show at the Bridgehouse Theatre in Warwick, recorded for us by Gavin Birkett. The videos should be somewhere near the bottom, if everything works how I want it to.

As much as I’ve been enjoying all the sideman work, the last couple of months have been most exciting for me because I’ve been back in the Composition Cave, working on a couple of new projects. Firstly there’s something that at the moment I’m calling People Poems, which is a return to writing/performing music just for acoustic guitar + voice (which is how I spent a lot of my wasted teens). There’s a makeshift home studio being set up as we speak, and the fruits of that should be available in EP form in the next month or two. Secondly (and very, very excitingly), there’s the Kasseldown Quintet, a new band I’m leading playing all original compositions, featuring some of my favourite Leeds musicians – Declan Forde, Will Howard, Sam Vicary and Sam Gardner, to be specific. We’re in the studio rustling up some demos next week, and we’ve got the first few dates booked in for February/March, so keep an eye out for some new music in a grotty underground venue near you very soon. Check the new-fangled ‘Projects’ pages for more details on both of those. 10 points to anyone who gets which writer both of those band names are a reference to.

Lots of lovely new things to listen to lately! Aaron Parks’ new improvised solo piano CD on ECM, Arborescence (which I think means ‘like a tree’), is just ridiculously beautiful. Also quite dark in places. But very, very good, definitely worth a tenner. Really inspiring, especially in terms of the spontaneity of it all. I’ve also caught up with the Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden and Paul Motian record that came out a couple of years ago, also on ECM. Both records are great examples of playing that balances parts that are very beautiful, and parts that are reasonably sinister. On a side note: ECM come out with probably the second hippest record packaging in the business, behind the Winter & Winter stuff that I’ve seen. That shouldn’t really matter, except I think taking care over that is a strong step towards persuading people to buy something so they can have it in their hand/on their shelf, rather than just downloading (legally or illegally) – the Winter & Winter stuff especially, because it’s impossible to capture quite what it’s like in a 2D image on a laptop screen, let alone a thumbnail on your iPod.

I finally got my hands on a Colin Stranahan record, having been blown away the couple of times that I’ve seen him live. It’s Transformation from 2006, and Stranahan kills it, but the highlight for me is probably Greg Gisbert’s trumpet playing. I have to admit I’d never heard of him, but he sounds ridiculous, I’m looking forward to hearing more of his stuff. Also hoping to check out the Stranahan/Zaleski/Rosato stuff sometime soon, I’ve heard/read really good things. Rounding out my new year’s listening is Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, what a lovely album! As much as I love Five Leaves Left, I’m glad he left out the strings n’ things for this one. I appreciate it when a singer-songwriter has the balls to put out something with little-to-no orchestration/production on it. All lovely stuff, all worth checking out.

And here are some silly videos of pop tunes done jazz.

Solo Soundtracking

At the weekend I had a lovely time recording some short solo pieces for Lauren, the elder half of the creative powerhouse that the history books will surely eventually refer to as ‘The Orme Siblings’. The brief was pretty open-ended – between 1.30 and 3 mins long, and suitable as a soundtrack for a short animation. So I set up a mic in front of my amp, played whatever came to mind and then tried to pick out stuff that wasn’t rubbish afterwards. It was a nice challenge to try and create something short that would set up a strong atmosphere, but wouldn’t be too obtrusive or detract from the animation as the main feature.

Have Heart and Dissent are short solo versions of my own tunes – Have Heart has existed for a while, Dissent is still in the process of being fully worked out. The Caprice by Carcassi is a classical study I’ve been using to work on my pick technique. It’s meant to be played fingerstlye, on a nylon string acoustic, in a strict tempo. I ended up playing it rubato, on a steel string electric, with a plectrum. Sorry about that. The two improvisations are improvisations.

Apologies also for the abuse of reverse-delay.

15 months later

So it’s been over a year since I last posted here, but hopefully this will be the start of me keeping this site regularly updated with what I’m up to, along with what I’ve been listening to, the transcriptions/studies I’m working on and other standard music blog fare.

The last year’s been a busy one, and has mostly been taken up with me dragging myself out of the music college cave into the blinding light of day. Among other things, I’ve debuted my own trio and quintet projects, performed with groups led by fellow graduates Tom Hawthorn and Tom Maddison, and composed a suite of music based on the poetry of Seamus Heaney (who recently passed away – a massively loss to literature both in Britain and across the world). I’m currently re-editing the suite (due to my inability to leave it alone even after almost a year of work) and hopefully some recordings should emerge before I’m 40. I’ve also been lucky to see some really mind blowing gigs – Wayne Shorter, Brad Mehldau, Fred Hersch, Will Vinson, Jonathan Kreisberg and Troyka spring to mind.

Looking back over the year, though, one thing stands out – in September I was given the opportunity to work with Iain Dixon and Mike Walker and perform an evening of Mike’s music onstage with the two of them, along with some other great players from college. Rehearsing the hardest music I’d ever played with a musician of Iain’s caliber every week for 5 months should have been a daunting prospect, and I’m sure it was at first, but I struggle to remember that feeling at this point. Iain’s wonderful insights into playing and practicing, combined with his inexhaustible love of music and the inspiring experience of working with him, turned what might have just been a roast into my most valued and exciting experience at LCoM. Though I did still get roasted most weeks.

I was also fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours sitting around at Mike’s house in Manchester, doing a bit of playing but mostly just talking about music, a conversation which has shaped the way that I work ever since. Playing Mike’s tunes alongside him onstage, again, should have been terrifying (mention his name to any jazz guitarist in the country and watch them run out of superlatives), but his joy in music is absolutely infectious – it’s impossible to have a bad time when he’s got a guitar in his hand and you’re in the vicinity. I miss that band most days.

While one thing ends, another begins – back in March I was accepted onto the Live Music Now scheme as part of the Steppin’ Out quintet, working with Andy Cox, Simon Dennis and the two aforementioned Toms. This looks to be a significant feature of the next part of our careers, with work involving not only performance gigs but also participatory concerts, one day workshops and residencies in different parts of the community (details of all of which can be found on the LMN website).

The last month has also seen the debut of two other ongoing projects, one being the Richards/Orme Quartet, featuring Eliot Richards on tenor sax and Angus Milne and Matt McGraw on rhythm section duties, born out of mine and Eliot’s love of standards and a desire to dig back into some those older tunes (think I’ve Found A New Baby, Indiana, After You’ve Gone, etc). The other has been playing as part of Fran Wyburn’s new band – she’s already established as a singer-songwriter, but last week was the debut of her full-band show, which I’m excited to be part of (you can hear the first recording featuring the new line up here). Over the summer I also started my tenure as the guitarist for pop-turned-dixie band Lindy Pop. Keep an eye out for those. Go on.

So that’s about it. 15 months in 6 paragraphs, if anyone was interested. In other news, I’ve been having a great time listening to Jazz Guitar, Jim Hall’s first record. Carl Perkins is definitely someone I need to check out more! There’s some Jim Hall transcription underway, which hopefully I’ll put up here before long. I’ve been listening to the first of the Bach cello suites, which is breaking my heart because no matter how well I ever learnt to play it on guitar it would never be as beautiful as on cello. The opening of the Sarabande! It’s too good. And last but not least, I’ve finally got the new Karnivool record, which has taken me straight back to my 17-year-old self. Lovely stuff, all worth checking out.

Upton 2012 and more

I’ve had a great week playing and watching some lovely gigs around and about Leeds and the Midlands. On the 22nd and 23rd of June I played two nights at the Upton Jazz festival with the Evesham-based Second Line, playing everything from trad-jazz to Herbie Hancock compositions. We had a great time playing the Best of Young Jazz tent on the Saturday night, but the highlight for me was being part of the house band on the Upton Jazz Cruises travelling along the Severn on the Friday – lots of people there, and they weren’t afraid to let us know when they were enjoying the tunes! After we’d finished playing it was cool to get the chance to catch some of the other young jazz musicians from the area as well – which included a chance sighting of fellow LCoM student (graduate as of this month!) Tom Riviere playing in Tessa Smith’s band.

A couple of days later I was on the train back up to Leeds in time to catch Joe Montague’s quartet at Sela Bar, featuring Jiannis Pavilidis, Matt Anderson and Max Sterling. It was back to Sela the next night as well to hear Simon King on guitar, accompanied by Tony Bianco and Garry Jackson.

Anyone Leeds gig-goers who aren’t aware of the venue Heart in headingley are missing out – last night I was lucky to see Sam Watts’ quartet with Dave Walsh, Mike Fletcher and Alex Davis. The whole band sounded great, and it’s always motivating to hear an LCoM graduate as absolutely killing as Sam. Check out his soundcloud – you won’t be dissapointed.


So, here we are. This is my new website/blog. It’s pretty bare at the moment, but hopefully before long there should be some posts up with my thoughts about what I’m working on, transcribing, and listening to at the moment, as well as all the usual stuff like recordings and gig dates. When I’ve got some recordings. Or gigs.

But never fear! In the meantime, read my fairly limited bio here.