Check back here regularly to find out what's going on.
A film that I recorded some sax for has won some awards for 'Best Music' at the EVCOM screen awards 2015!
Watch it here! http://www.khaki.tv/ourwork/brighter-business
Dom at Jellymould Jazz has made us this lovely new promo video. Enjoy!
Time has been flying and more and more deadlines have been looming leading up to the June release...hence the two-month gap between blog entries....oops!
Since I was last on here there have been many fantastic developments. Ed Blunt has done a brilliant job at designing the artwork for the upcoming release, more gigs have been confirmed for the Quintet and there's talk of magazine features to promote the album!
Even though the album has not yet been officially released, it's received a rave review already (though from a source that you may not expect!) I suggested to one of my young clarinet pupils that a review of the album from a child's perspective could be really interested. Being the wonderfully fun and go-for-it kinda guy he is, I received a review almost straightaway!
Check it out here http://maxflorez.com . My favourite quotes have to be 'This isn’t beige music...' and 'It wasn’t bland and it wasn’t crazy'...
The Quintet had a great gig at Kings College School in March. We gave the boys a workshop based around the great Dexter Gordon tune 'Soy Califa' as well as providing a live backing band to some brave soloists. As well as performing with the boys, we played material from 'The Crux' in the second half which went down so well that we ended up signing copies of the album for some of the boys! It was terrific fun, and great to play to an audience that may not have neccesarily chosen to go to a jazz gig otherwise.
Things I've Enjoyed recently:
Dream Theater live @ Wembley - One of the most important bands of my teenage years. I never fail to see them when they play in London. It's their mix of prog rock and metal that provides inspiration for much of the heavier sections in tracks from 'The Crux'.
Al Jarreau live @ Ronnie Scott's - I couldn't belive it when my friend Tom Walsh told me that Al was teaming up with London's elite musicians to perform his seminal album 'Jarreau' in its entirity. It's in my top ten albums of all time and was so glad to see this gig with my parents, who played me Al Jarreau when I was a kid. Very special.
Andy Cave lecture and Screening of 'Distilled' at the Royal Geographical Society - If you know me, or have trawled through my website, you'll notice my passion for climbing. Andy Cave is one of my mountain heroes, starting life down in the mines before finding his escape in rock climbing and mountineering. It's an inspiring story from darkness into the light, and a great metaphor for following your dreams against any odds. It was sponsored by Glenfiddich, and with Whisky being my favourite tipple, this was a fantastic evening! I highly recommend his books 'Learning to Breathe' and 'The Thin White Line'. He's also a thoroughly lovely bloke.
Transatlantic live @ The Forum - Another great prog influence from my teenage years. Much less of a metal influence here, instead looking back to the epic prog bands like Yes and Genesis as well as The Beatles. Long Songs, elaborate stories, extended solos and a great mix of European quirkyness with American brashness! Lovely to see Mike Portnoy play again after his split with Dream Theater, he provided most of my drumming inspiration as a kid.
Alec Harper live @ Jazz Nursery - Alec is a good friend of mine, and one of my favourite tenor players currently in London. It was lovely to see him play a fully improvised gig with some of his biggest idols. Very proud!
Moving to Walton-on-Thames has been one of the biggest and best decisions of my life. I'm enjoying the easy escape into greener areas (the photo above is only a 10 minute run from the house) and the extra space to think. I'm looking forward to writing new material here, and wonder whether being in a more relaxed situation will influence the music. We can only wait and see!
2014 is a year of many new things! It's looking like it will hold a lot of excitement for me, with my first ever house purchase, the release of my first album and the first tour under my own name with the quintet. It's also proving to be hugely busy, and have only found time to get the alto out for some practise once this year, today!
Please check out the GIGS page to see my schedule. The album launch tour for my debut album is starting to come together, with gigs in London, Hampshire, Dorset and my new home town Walton-on-Thames. More gigs are in the planning stage for June/July and November/December with the Tommy Andrews Quintet and we are getting excited about playing together regularly again. It's a lot of work (my tour email folder has around 299 emails in it so far!) trying to plan all the gigs in a strategic and logical fashion, but I hope that the many (many many many) hours I've spent emailing people will pay off soon!
Luckily, with a busy playing schedule, the need for practise to keep my 'chops' in good nick is rare. However, being busy does reduce the chances of learning new skills and exploring new concepts. It can be possible to experiment with new approaches on certain gigs, but only to a degree and with potential risks involved!
I thus often find myself doing a lot of 'mental practice' whilst travelling/lying in bed/waiting around, especially if I have been inspired by listening to something. Melodic, rhythmic and harmonic concepts can be fairly easy to practice in this way through visualising them on paper, drumming them, singing them repeatedly, performing the sax fingerings or doing all at the same time! When it comes to things like tone colour, extended techniques and postural work with the instrument it does become a lot harder to get a sense of momentum, however. Due to this, I often find myself practising far simpler things now that time is scarce.
Dick Oatts, who inspires me greatly, offered this fantastic idea during a workshop of going back to the fundamental nature of why we play instruments in the first place, thus always beginning a practice session with relaxed and non-pressured creativity. I really enjoy this way of warming-up, playing whatever comes into my head at the time with no agenda, and exploring all the elements of the instrument that are impossible through mental practice (colour/texture/breath control/embouchure/articulation/false fingerings etc.) It also helps to make a practice session always feel fresh, as I'm starting each session with something new that will never be repeated (unless I record the session for self-analysis.) It also helps me listen to myself more intently, as I am far more engaged than when playing scales and exercises. Even if I have to practice the same things as the last session after warming up, it doesn't quite have the same repetative nature.
With the aforementioned lack of practice time, it's important that my instrument set-up presents no challenges. Since leaving college in 2010, the gig/teaching to practice ratio has (thank god!) increased in favour of the former. This has led me to soften my set-up gradually through the years as I don't have time to keep my chops in shape for playing a hard set-up. An increase in Alexander Technique awareness and study with James Allsopp has also completely changed the way I play, with an aim to achieve effortlessness and starting the resonance from myself rather than the instrument. My harder set-ups did not allow this as I was always putting so much effort and tension into the production of the sound. The set-up I used to record the 'The Crux' last year no longer seems to be the right one for me to produce a sound I am happy with, and I have found myself not enjoying picking up the sax as much over the last few months. This was until I found The Aizen SO Mouthpiece!
Often whilst I'm waiting around before gigs in town, I'll head into Sax.co.uk to get a coffee and try out various shiny new toys! I was trying out some mouthpieces in the shop last Wednesday and stumbled upon the Aizen. It blew effortlessly across the whole instrument, and I felt completely liberated on the instrument. It brought the fun back into my sax! On a very risky whim, I purchased it that evening, knowing that it would be perfect for anything I threw at it. That evening I used it on lead alto with the London City Big Band, and it coped well with the edgy demands of a huge bluesy shred solo as well as a delicate Marshall Royal ballad. It projected beautifully and felt so enjoyable to play!
The SR Tech (on the left) was my go-to piece for the last 5 years. It was hugely powerful and edgy, but required quite a bit of effort on my part to keep it under control! I used it on 'The Crux' and I'm glad that its sound was documented. I felt a loss of enjoyment playing it recently, however, and felt that it was quite a high maintenance relationship! The Meyer (on the right) is a real 'Jazz' mouthpiece in the classic NY style. It's a brilliant mouthpiece, with a smooth sound across the sax and an immediate response. It's very niche though, and impossible to project on pop gigs and big band lead playing (those trombones just trample it down!)
The Aizen SO paired the presence and power of the SR Tech, with the ability to play pure and delicately over the whole range of the alto too. I was amazed! The SO is modelled on a vintage Selmer Soloist mouthpiece. My 1937 Selmer Balanced Action Alto would have originally come with this kind of mouthpiece, and my sax seemed to feel overjoyed at being paired with what was acting as the original combo! It had an insane projection when pushed (the wailing top D's in 'Young and Beautiful') with the sound filling the Spice of Life on Wednesday's gig. The responsiveness was similar to the Meyer though, needing only the smallest amount of air to get going, unlike the SR, which required either brute force or a compensation in technique (embouchure tightening/throat strain!)
Like most new things, it will need some work, but it already felt like an extension of me instead of a barrier between myself and the saxophone. I can't wait to use it on all my gigs this year! It's a real all-rounder, and I'll be testing it with jazz gigs, musical theatre, pop gigs, big band lead playing and a classical sax concerto. Should be interesting to see how it fares!
Whilst on the subject of new things, and as a firm believer in small business/local produce, I was glad to stumble upon Tring Brewery! I've got a run of rehearsals and gigs in Tring over the coming weeks and drive past the brewery on the way (what a shame.) I was very early for a morning rehearsal this week and decided to pay a visit to the Brewery shop for a nose around and to get myself a treat for when I got home.
The Tea Kettle Stout was wonderfully rich, with a nice malty flavour and good bitter after-taste. It was a perfect accompaniment to a roaring open fire in the evening. I think I'll have tried a few more after the shows are over!
Happy new year all! It's been a mighty jolly holiday, with three seperate Christmas dinners, endless left-overs and far too many late nights. The result, as always, has been the return of the 'food coma', a state in which the only option is to stay in a perpetual cycle of scoffing and then moaning about the scoffing and the paunch that inevitably comes with it. I'm definitely creating larger shadows, and it's definitely not just the low-level of the winter sun!
There was a great deal of flooding across the U.K. Fordingbridge (my parent's home town) got affected to some extent, cutting my grandparents off from leaving their house. That's what we thought anyway until my Granny managed to clamber through a barbed wire fence and trudge through a muddy field round the back of her garden. She is fitter than a lot of people I know that are a quarter of her age!!!
This aside, 2014 is set to be an absolutely manic year. As you may know, the album is set for release in June, with an Album Launch gig now confirmed at The Forge for June 17th. I will post ticket information as soon as possible. The Forge is one of my favourite London venues at the moment and I can't wait to pack it out with friends, family and hopefully some new pairs of ears too! Nick Costley-White, the guitar player in my quintet, has just started a weekly gig/jam session at the Forge on Mondays along with the fantastic trombonist Tom Green. Please go along if you can to support the night (click here for the weekly listings), you'll be able to see a set from some of London's most exciting musicians and a jam session afterwards. There is no entry fee, and thus no excuse not to check it out!
My favourite function band Pandora's Jukebox have been releasing some footage from a recent performance in London. We had a great time playing for a packed Guildhall School of Music and Drama audience and managed to get some great footage of the night.
I've spent this afternoon mainly packing up music and reeds. I was shocked to truly see the extent of the reed collection that Kim and I had built up over the years......
I did manage some nice time off, and finally got some walking in. Only short walks, mind you, though any time spent outdoors placing one foot in front of the other is one of the best methods for rejuvenation. In London and without London I saw some beautiful British views and spent some lovely moments both in solitude and in the company of friends and loved ones.
I hope that 2014 promises to be exciting for you too! Don't forget to stay creative, and have fun!
It's always a full-on task trying to promote one's own product (as a self-employed musician, that's me!), especially now that Social Media and Online presence play such an important role. All musicians have to do it nowadays! I'm spending hours every day emailing scores upon scores of venues and promoters to set up a tour for next year, updating websites and social media pages, keeping the band members aware of potential gig dates, planning the album artwork and keeping in touch with the label. That's all before doing the stuff that pays the rent: gigs, teaching, workshops which also comes with heaps of admin/computer time. Being the outdoor-type, I find this all very hard, not to mention it being stressful on the posture and body condition being static for so long.
It's all for the greater good though, and I'm happy to announce that we are starting to see the gigs trickling in for next year's album tour. We have an Album launch gig in June at the excellent Forge venue (date TBC) in the planning stages. I'll post details for this as soon as possible. I'll need to start booking up the press attendance and begin the promo (press releases/magazine and online interviews/posters etc.) in the new-year. We are also starting to look at touring London and the South around June/July with the addition of some festival dates, then hitting the South-West/North/far away places from September-December. I'd be lying if I was to say I was of the super-organised type, but this process has certainly seen my skills 'level-up' a few times (I probably should have listened to my mother a bit more)!
Last week brought about some fantastic experiences for me. For a very very long time now (being a big-band music obsessive), one of my main ambitions as a sax player has been to play with the BBC Big Band. This band is right at the very top of the U.K. big band scene, and contains both some friends and also many heroes of mine. Last Thursday, I was thrilled to play with them up in Nottingham, and just as thrilled to see a large and enthusiastic audience there too. The band contains some of the most revered musicians in the U.K., but my nerves were quickly dispersed by the warm welcome I received from them all. It was a dream-come-true. I really hope that the band's future is in safe hands even now that they have lost their regular radio broadcast. They are a great British institution and form an important figure in the nation's struggling arts scene.
I also had fun playing a very last-minute gig with McFly on Friday. The horn section were whisked up to Glasgow, where we found out that the tunes we'd be playing were the tunes that had no established horn parts. We thus had to write and learn the parts at the venue before the gig! Turned out fine though, and we travelled back to London that evening on the tour bus. Lots of travelling for a small amount of playing but still a good laugh!
As for the cricket down-under, the only comment I have is: AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!
Over and out,
It's been a great month!
The quintet had a nice gig at Hundred Crows Rising as part of the fantastic LUME night that runs every Thursday. We hadn't played the album material since recording it so it was nice to clear the cobwebs and play again!
I also, more importantly, had a meeting with an old friend of mine. Dominic Sales runs the wonderful JellyMould Jazz record label which is an independent, boutique label, and Dom runs it with a huge amount of passion. As with all important musical and historical meetings, we met in a pub (The Harp near Trafalgar square, fantastic ales!) and discussed releasing my album through his label. It was decided that working together would indeed be a fantastic idea, and thus I'll be releasing the quintet album through JellyMould. This is really exciting, not only because it is a fantastic label, but also because some of my favourite releases of late have also come from JellyMould, including the beautiful 'Places' by Sam Leak's 'Aquarium'.
The next stage will be sorting out the artwork, pressing the CD's and sorting out a national tour for 2014.
To top-off a lovely month, managed a short trip to the mountains with my dad and my Scottish friend Bill. We met in the Cairngorms and spent 3 days/nights out in the hills getting closer to nature (50mph winds/torrential rain/snow/quagmires) and enjoying time away from the ties of modern life (admin!).
November and December will be busy, playing some great gigs with my favourite musicians and best friends. I'm very excited, and will post some details in the gigs section when I can find the time!
On Monday, I took the album tracks for mastering at Technologyworks with the masterful wizardry of Pete Beckmann on hand to bring out the best in the music. Listening back now, the tracks have come so far in clarity and finesse from how they were sounding in July, yet still keeping the essence and raw energy that played such a big part in our single-room studio set-up.
Now, we are just waiting for reponses from potential record labels before we start booking up a 2014 tour and thinking about the artwork for the finished product! It's a bit like waiting for a green light at a junction, except much more nerve-wracking!
It's been a fantastic Summer! It all started off with the recording sessions at the Fish Factory for my quintet's debut album, an absolute dream come true! I then got to spend a few weeks in Peru, trekking in the Andes, exploring the jungle and getting engaged! Upon our return, it was all hands on deck for two weeks of Music Makers at Forres Sandle Manor School.
The latest developments with the album have been really exciting. I took the tracks to Alex Bonney for some mixing and editing earlier this week, and after spending the day playing around with the tracks, it is really starting to take shape! I'll be heading back to see him on Saturday to finish the mixing process. Seeing and hearing the music take shape is absolutely exhillarating, and I can't wait for the next steps in the process.
Next, I'll be concentrating on mastering the album, settling on a record label, designing the artwork, booking the tour, printing the CD's, sorting the album launch, the list goes on and on and on!!!
On the 8th and 9th of July, we recorded all of the material that will eventually end up on the album! The days were long and tiring, but we managed to get it all down. I'll be taking the files to Alex Bonney at the end of August to start the mixing and editing process. Can't wait to hear it!!!
Yesterday we had our final rehearsal before the recording session on Monday and Tuesday. It was a tiring day, playing from 10-4 in a very hot room, but we managed to really solidify the material, and also refine our approach to the shape of the tunes. I've been listening back to a rough recording of the reherasal, and I can't wait to hear the finished product in the studio! I've got a fairly quiet weekend (though last night I got home at 2.45am!) so I'll be relaxing and trying to keep myself occupied enough so as to prevent the inevitable nerves! Time to sort some reeds out....
The finest party band in these fair Isles, Pandora's Jukebox, have unleashed their latest demonstration of pop prowess upon the internet. Please enjoy, then spread the word, perhaps even think about booking us for your next big event!!!