Remi Harris at Malvern

I can’t remember being quite so enthralled for a very long time. With this new line-up Remi brought us music of astonishing virtuosity, versatility and (above all) musicality. It’s a great privilege to around musicians of their quality, and it’s amazing to think they are still at the start of their careers.Remi will be back with a different band later in the Spring. Be there or be square!

Recording News

I thought you might like to know that our friend and Spring Lane regular, John Ripper, recorded a CD at the end of last year, which is currently at the mixing stage and will hopefully be finished before too long. Many of you will be familiar with John’s baritone sax sound when he sits in with us from time to time. You’re less likely to know that he is a multi-instrumentalist, playing all the saxes and the flute.

John asked me to put a quartet together for his project. We got Rod Kelly (pno), Len Thwaites ( bs), Graham Smith (dms) and me together and PEK Sound recorded the band, featuring John across his range of instruments. The result is a selection of very listenable tunes from Latin to Blues, and we’ll keep you posted about when it will be available.

In connection with future recordings, you might want to put a couple of dates in your diary. On Good Friday (18th April) I will be making a CD with the singer Ruth Frith, at the Colwall Park hotel. Ruth is the singer with a John Everett’s band, but on this occasion I’m providing a quartet to back her in a selection that will combine Great American Songbook material with some belting blues. PEK will record us live, and admission will be free. So please come and be recorded, cheering and clapping!

The second date is earlier, Saturday the 22nd March, also at the Colwall Park hotel and will be a Jazz and Curry night, with Ruth and the same quartet entertaining. Price of admission not yet known, but we’ll let you know, when we know. It’s a long time since we had jazz at the CPH, and I would love to make it a regular occasion, perhaps three or four times a year. Come and support us, and see what you think.

After Spats got the new year off to a flying start, last night at Spring Lane took us back to a real old-style club night, led by the inimitable Arthur Brown with Martin Veasey and Roger Manwaring either side of him. With Pete Thwaites and Ken Freeman in the rhythm section, the band had a ball from start to end, as I trust was obvious! And you were, as ever, a lovely audience!

While you were listening to Spats and Co last time, I was working at a jazz weekend in the a Lake District, and on the long drive back, we were reflecting on how lucky we are as musicians ‘d’un certain age’ to be (a) still working, (b) still persuading people to listen to us and above all (c) having a good time doing it. The even better news is,as you must have noticed, that there is every sign that a new generation of jazz players is beginning to make itself felt. If you get half a chance, cock an ear to the new band Amy Roberts is in, the Magnificent Seven. They are stunning, and in my opinion, could be as good as the Alex Welsh band were, if they can get enough work to stay together. There is a real niche for them now that the big names of the 1960s are finally collecting their harps, and we wish them the success their talent deserves. I believe they’ll be at Pershore later this year.

Thanks for supporting us at Abbey Jazz and as a new year of fun gets going, please tell your friends about the club. It’s amazing how many people tell me they don’t know about us.

Matt Palmers Allstars -a great first visit

If you weren’t there, you missed a great night’s entertainment.

On this,their first visit as a band, the combination of five great musos with excellent material was a real winner. The engine room was John Fellows on bass and Graham Smith on drums. The front line was Matt Palmer on reeds and Kevin Grenfell on brass. Holding the whole thing together was the brilliant Simon Banks on piano.

We know that any band with Kevin in it is going to be organised and thoroughly on top of its material, and this new combo is no exception, especially given the huge experience of Matt as a band leader. We weren’t disappointed.

When we book them again, don’t miss them!

Front Line Fireworks

It was a ‘many happy returns’ session at Spring Lane last night. What a front line, led superbly by Tony Pipkin on trumpet, cornet and bar stool. On his left Kevin Grenfell (sludgepump AND trumpet) and on his right Mike Wills on various reeds played superbly. Big G drummed, while the notorious Ken Freeman (see below for explanation) tickled the ivories. Leonardo and I made up the rest of the defence and felt we’d kept a clean sheet by and large.

The subject of jokes, mostly appalling, did raise its head once or twice during the evening, didn’t it. Now your actual Grenfell has a particular style and repertoire of them which we might characterise as ‘ascerbic’ and which if aimed at the wrong targets in the audience might well lead in due course to the modification of his embouchure. But that’s only the bit which you, the audience, can see from the paying seats. Less overt, but even more appalling, are the jokes vouchsafed to members of the band by that nice Mr Freeman. Each time he visits Malvern, and no doubt after assiduous research, Ken makes it his business to share with his colleagues one or more awful jokes. Where he gets them from we can only speculate. He waits carefully until a colleague is deeply engrossed in setting up the most complicated bit of his gear. Then, while the said colleague is suitably trapped, and has his hands full, the said Freeman imparts the said awful jokes, normally without anaesthetic. The effect can only be imagined! This, I dare say, is what is know as suffering for ones art.

Ah well, the music was good though,

Commercial break….

…but don’t rush off and put the kettle on. Just wanted to draw a few hits to my new personal website in case you haven’t looked at it. I’ve spent some cash on a new site this year in order to see if I can drum up a little business on my own account.

My marketing manager and promoter (aka Mrs P) decided I might get home earlier on cold winters nights if I got more work in the Midlands. Though I quickly realised she meant that earlier home-times would reduce what she has described as “the cold knees problem” (whatever can she mean?), I also figured she was right.

Hence we made a Jazzmates CD earlier in the year, got the website done and are promoting Jazzmates as a jazz-based function band.

Check out the sound samples if you’ve not listened to them.

JB made the party go with a swing!

Many, many thanks to my smashing new mates in John Beckingham’s band for being the perfect end to a great party. And many thanks to everyone who joined us both in the afternoon and the evening. Looking round, we could see that we had a pretty-well perfect split between musician friends, village friends and rellies (though I hasten to add that these categories certainly overlap!

The memsahib and I still have to pinch ourselves over the luck we have had in meeting each other, then falling for each other, and in finding we had acquired each others friends to add to our own!

Special thanks to the Rugby Club for their great hospitality and especially to Jayne!

See you next time.

Return of the Batemen!

Cor lummee, missus! Wot larks!

It was definitely one of them nights at Spring Lane. Alan and Ian made it clear in the best possible way why they are at the top of our profession. It’ been a while since we last hosted them at Malvern and they both continue to sound better every time. And of course we had the Brothers Karamasov (aka Thwaites) to underline the fact that last night’s gig was a family festival!

Roger Manwaring and I had both been out with John Beckingham’s band at lunchtime in Coventry and I confess I was feeling a bit knackered before the session started last night. But once we kicked off, the energy started to flow. I can tell you, a day with both JB and the Batemans calls for a restorative glass or two when one reaches the comfort of ones arm chair!

It was also a real treat to have two terrific sitters-in in the shape of John Day on bass and Ambrose Emberson on keyboard courtesy of that nice Mr Freeman. Altogether a great night. Thanks for being there.

And I thought the guitarist was particularly good……

The Frenchmen Street Jazz Band, led by Chris Pearce, made their first visit to Spring Lane last night, and were delighted with the reception we got from a capacity house. We’ve been very fortunate to have the services of Dave Leithead on trumpet while Tony Pipkin is incapacitated, and last night showed why that is. In fact I think the entire front line were definitely on a high last night, and I’m also quite sure that was because there was so much great feedback from the audience side of the microphones. It has taken a while, quite naturally, for what is still quite a new band to develop a distinctive sound and groove, but I think we can be quietly confident that it’s happened this year. We enjoyed entertaining you and look forward to seeing you again.

You can catch the band on the first Friday of the Pershore Festival, and that reminds me to remind you that discounted tickets are available up to the end of this month only!

Dave Moorwood’s Rascals of Rhythm – A Bijou Performance

A new band for Spring Lane, Dave Moorwood brought us a fascinating blend of musicianship, entertainment and outstanding swing. I loved it. The arrangements were ingenious and satisfying, with Tony Blincowe and Mike Wills working together with elegance and style. A great night delivered with the added complication for the band’s regular members of Len T having to step in at the last moment for their regular bass man. I could see Len was enjoying himself immensely. Many thanks to five very talented guys.