DIY, but quickly

A band I play in, The Eclipse Trio, has been trying to record an album for the last few years. Things keep getting in the way and recently there's been a feeling that we've lost our momentum. In a chat with the singer/guitarist this weekend a new idea emerged. Make a fresh, new album of songs that relate to a book he's published. We had performed many of them at a gig last year which had been called with very little rehearsal time. We responded to the challenge by pulling it all together and playing well.
This new idea got a boost when we decided to just get on a record it in a rough and ready way (16 track machine, home studio, several songs at a time) in a very limited time frame. Bingo! The momentum was back.

In other news, I need to let the world know that I've completed a DIY task which only took four years. Of course what that really means is three years and several hundred days of putting it off followed by a burst of enthusiasm almost matched by ability. I was on such a roll I did another DIY job straight after then made a modification on one of my basses which also involved a drill, some matchsticks and a small block of ebony.

The other thing I learned from all this much put off DIY business is that... I'm not very good at DIY. Check back in a few years to see what I do next.


Happy Birthday Dad!

Today is my dad’s 85th birthday. Although we’re very different in lots of ways (and I’ve resisted turning into him) I have learned a huge amount from him. He likes to celebrate with cake, alcohol, good company  and stories… which means we’re not that different at all.


Under the Floorboards

We went out, as a family, to Oxford and saw a production called ‘Under the Floorboards’ by Ballet Lorent. It’s a show for the under 5’s and certainly had a magical effect on Jude (not yet two) who, overtired, had been crying for the last half hour or more. The instant the show began he was transfixed.

Dancers, as toys, appeared as if from nowhere, music played and a story told without being too precious or heavy handed. What made it even better was that the children in the audience were allowed to mingle with the action on stage. At the very end, when the dancers had vanished and the main character was left holding dolls that represented them it felt as if we’d all been under a spell.


Ideas strangest the have kids

While this may be old news to proof-readers I’ve recently discovered the joys of reading a text backwards. A poem that I’ve got to know from repeated readings gives up more information, repetitions become more obvious and subtle word choices shine out more. This process of defamiliarisation reminded me of Rob Pope’s theories of textual intervention which produced playful and exciting ways of seeing what a text could offer. This may sound like pompous rubbish to you (as it would have to me once upon a time) but in poetry, where so much of what’s said is revealed over time, these technique can be highly rewarding.

And where did I get this idea? From my four year old daughter, who wanted me to read a bedtime story backwards, just for fun.


Jazzing it up (again)

Much like the wider issue of artistic crop rotation I find musical taste moves in circles.

Having listened to a lot of jazz (in concert and on record) I've slowly moved away from it over the last ten years. Maybe it's because I've been taking my playing more seriously and I just can't play jazz well.

Recently, thanks to some superb releases from the ECM label, Branford Marsalis and others I've found myself getting more in touch with that strange genre that covers so much ground. I love it more than ever now. The ECM albums I've got fond of are:

Sunrise: Masabumi Kikuchi Trio
The Well: Tord Gustavsen Quartet
Vespers: Iro Haarla Quintet

Branford Marsalis's album of duets with Joey Calderazzo, Songs of Mirth and Melancholy is well worth your time too.



Had a chance to talk to my parents today. Being English we talked about the weather, but in this case I quizzed them about the great freeze of 1947. My dad remembered the barriers erected to stop snow drifting in to the roads in Kent. My mum remembered coming down stairs and not being able to get out of the front door, because of the snow blocking it. As the conversation continued I was once again amazed at my mum's ability to remember every word of poetry she was taught (or discovered) in her formative days in North Yorkshire.

When my folks talk about hardships and difficulties overcome it's always in a matter of fact way that doesn't call for anything other than respect (at least it does from me). My dad was born in a comfortable part of London but turned 12 as his city was being bombed from the air. By the time he was 18 he was serving on a Royal Navy ship. His brother, my uncle, spent his early teens putting out incendiary bombs in the streets close to where he lived and eventually, after becoming a commando, helped liberate Holland. My mum and her family left Yorkshire after suffering religious persecution.

All these things shaped the people who brought me up and I'm grateful for every detail.