Very busy with Jason Kester and the Believers party band at the moment, one recent gig was for a head teachers convention at Carden Park hotel in Shropshire. We managed to fill the backstage area with the usual musical debris
but it was soon assembled onstage, here is John the guitarist and bandleader Jason relaxing while we waited to go on
Maybe it’s having to keep order all week, but teachers certainly know how to party, we had a full dance floor all night, got a couple of snaps from the stage to give you a musicians-eye view
a bit blurry but it catches the atmosphere.
Later in the week we were at Goldstone Hall for a wedding, a nice country house venue. I think the bridesmaids may have taken in a bit too much sugar, this was the scene during the speeches
Looking forward to more party nights with the lads in November
My first gig with the Dhol Drillerz Indian drummers this weekend, a very colourful occasion at the Nawaab restaurant in Stockport. We welcomed the bride and groom and led them upstairs to the function suite, no mean feat as there was a full banqueting room and another wedding on the premises, but we all made it to the correct place and paraded across rose petals with the bridal party. No pictures as I was busy playing, but you can see the boys here
A Bar Mitzvah in Hertfordshire was the occasion this evening, working with vocalist Lucy Sian and The Believers party band
The Bar mitzvah boy was a magic fan so all the tables were named after favourite magicians
As well as our usual party repertoire, we played some traditional Jewish tunes for dancing which gave me a welcome chance to use my soprano sax, perfect for klezmer
Back at Denton Golf Club again, always nice to see Diane and the crew. Tonight was a bridal evening for couples to come and see the venue and wedding suppliers. Here’s duo partner Lucy Barlow
and our retro table of wares
Photographer Kyle Hassall was also on hand to take some professional shots of the evening which you can see here
A real mix of music tonight, Pop to Swing to Soul for a wedding evening at Denton Golf Club. Jane and Kim had been to the Vegas to get wed, so this was party night for the home crowd and duo buddy Lucy and I had a fantastic response from the guests, completely cleaned us out of CDs too. Here we are in our finery before the madness began.
A riotous evening at the Cinnamon Club tonight. I often have the pleasure of working in a duo with Jazz singer Lucy Barlow, but tonight we turned out with our band the Jazz Jam Jukebox. The Cinnamon is renowned for having a discerning audience and it was great to see folk hitting the dance-floor to our mix of Jazz and Swing numbers, some fantastic dancing from members of the resident Jive club too.
Here’s the lady herself in the spotlight
I attended a wedding fair at Denton Golf Club this evening, it’s a very well-run venue just off the M60 in North Manchester. The function room is upstairs, and Diane the manager would be delighted to advise on music/DJs, menus and table settings
There were also many outside suppliers attending, perfect wedding attire from Dream Dress Bridal
Fabulous flowers from Bloomin Lovely 0161 624 2414
Stunning cakes from Ann Paxton of Slices 07977 610 094
Somewhere for all those cards by Kelly’s Wedding Post Boxes
And a very impressive portfolio from photographer Mark Whittaker 07968 607 886
Another live radio session with my duo partner Lucy Barlow, an acoustic spot for Preston FM with guitarist Gabriel Amick. Here they are at rehearsal
We had a two-hour session in the studio on a very warm day, chatting to the DJ and playing Jazz standards, including Girl From Ipanema and Autumn Leaves. As soon as the tracks go up on the station website I will post a link for your listening pleasure.
I got a couple of nice shots of my fellow superstars in action
As regular readers will know, I occasionally sit in with the house band for the Junction Hotel jam night in Moss Side. This time I had the great pleasure of seeing two of my students get up and play some Blues with a rousing chorus of Kansas city, well done to Chris and Keith
A fun day at Abbey Leys farmer’s market, very hard to concentrate on the music with all this great food surrounding me
even gourmet dog treats for the canine clients!
The market also has a good selection of craft stalls so you can pick up gifts while you get your groceries in
All this and live music too, what more could you ask?
back with the Believers again at The Upper House, Barlaston, a lovely hotel in Staffordshire where we have played several times before. The band specialise in classic party songs with a repertoire stretching from the 50s to present day hits, so keeping a wedding party on the dance floor is never a problem. Here’s singer Lucy Sian relaxing before a hard night’s work
Another Summer wedding with Jason Kester and the Believers, this time at The Parks, a very pleasant restaurant in Staffordshire.
We were joined on stage by old mate Adrian Burns who DJs and plays percussion, seen here posing behind his congas
Another addition to the usual line up was Jerome standing in on drums, nice to catch up with him too. Here he is with our bandleader Jason getting ready for the all-important first dance
Candi Staton being the choice tonight, followed by Pop classics old and new .
Back at the Trafford Centre in Manchester today with the wonderful Jazz artist Lucy Barlow, we were in our beach gear as you can see
performing a mix of Summer hits.
From our spot on the bandstand we have a good view of the crowd and were treated to some very entertaining dancing, notably from a group of youngsters who did an impeccable routine to Jessie J. My favourite thing about the stage is that we are in direct line with the cake stand, very inspiring
The first Sunday of the month means it’s time for Abbey Leys Farmer’s Market again, always a fun gig and a chance to do my shopping as well.
There was a fine display of fruit and veg as usual
including the organic shed. Here’s Patrick from Bryn Cocyn Farm in Wales, a regular at the market
It’s not just food though, there are crafts stalls including beautiful jewellery from That Silver Touch
Another warm day, leading to a queue at the smoothie van
The next market is September the first, please come down and say hello
Yorkshire folk are not renowned for being romantic, but this year must have been an exception as I headed to Halifax for yet another wedding.
This time the venue was The Fleece, an attractive modern pub with fantastic views from the terrace where I was playing for the drinks reception
Things were looking very smart in the dining room too with Yorkshire Venue Dressing doing a lovely job
I played mostly contemporary numbers today, including a bit of Coldplay at the Bride’s request. Here’s the audience taking a break for photos
before heading in to eat.
I think Beyonce would have approved of the cake
The second gig of the day was with the Believers at Wolstanton Golf Club, a regular gig for the band, this evening playing for the captain’s dinner.
I was going to post a shot of the lovely grounds but just as I was setting up we were invaded by ducklings
Even cuter than the band!
The evening went very well with a set of laid-back tunes after dinner and some party numbers for the dancing later on. A great evening and we look forward to being back there soon
Two gigs today, the first being a wedding in Yorkshire at Wentbridge House. The sunny weather has meant the chance to play in some beautiful settings
this day also featuring an ice cream bike, nice touch!
Although I think the guests might have appreciated this even more
I played Jazz and Pop tunes while the champagne was being disposed of, here are the guests posing for the group shot
Every now and then I sit in with the house band for jam night at the Junction Hotel in Moss Side. It’s always a lively night with people of all levels of ability dropping in, this evening we had a West African band with some fantastic drumming and vocals
Have to say though there are sometimes…. lets just say enough guitarists turning up
Back with Jason kester and the Believers in Staffordshire today, the Cricket Club at Abbotts Bromley hosting a Summer wedding. It was perfect weather, the mood was more like a festival than a wedding as you can see
A word of warning to all sax players though, don’t leave the stage to take photos, your space will be encroached on!
Jason and the boys are experts at keeping a dance floor full and the party carried on into the small hours. If you would like to find out more about the band, please visit our website here
Abbey Leys farmers market was the venue for my gig today, always a fun setting with all the colourful stalls, not just food but craft and refreshments too
I was playing opposite the smoothie man who was doing great business in the sunshine
but managed to save a Very Berry special for the sax player.
A special mention for the egg supply team
who had been working overtime for the market
At Arley Hall in Cheshire today where I had the pleasure of playing for the sister of one of my students. The Hall is in the beautiful Cheshire countryside and is known for the gardens surrounding the house
although the house itself is well worth looking round
providing a lovely setting for the meal
I played a selection of classic and modern tunes on the lawn as guests assembled for the drinks reception
which was very pleasant, but the best moment of the day came when my student Mike stepped up to perform a solo number for his sister
It took a lot of nerve as this was his first public performance and I was extremely proud of the way he carried it off.
the Bourbon Street Preachers were back at the Bleachworks again in June, our mix of Blues and Cajun tunes seems to go down well with the dancers. I caught Dave and John pretending they can lift the heavy stuff
We had superb keyboard player Paul with us tonight, he needs a bit of room on stage
so we all squeeeeeeze up a bit, leaving room for Dave’s mighty accordion of course!
It was another riotous night, big thanks to the enthusiastic crowd, fuelled by the well-stocked champagne cabinet perhaps?
A glorious day for a wedding at Rogerthorpe Manor in Pontefract. I was playing on the terrace for the drinks reception
and had a good view of the nervous bridegroom and his gentleman escorts heading off for a pre-ceremony photo-shoot
with two imposing white lions supervising arrangements
Rogerthorpe Manor is an interesting building dating back to the 17th century
when bicycles were apparantly much larger than today
The bride and groom had their ceremony at the hotel, followed by champagne in the conservatory
I was playing in the sunshine as the wedding party came through and we had a very pleasant afternoon on the lawn. Here are the guests assembling for a group photo
A live radio session today on WA12 Radio with DJ John White. The session featured Jazz duo partner Lucy Barlow and guitarist Les Renshaw who we borrowed from the Fretbusters
Here are Les and Lucy during our soundcheck
Spot who knows where the camera is
We spent an hour in the studio with John
doing a Q&A session using the Very Big Microphone
after which we went through to the live room and played a selection of Jazz standards. We were snapped in the act by John’s phone
The session can be heard in the Live Lounge page here
Before leaving, we autographed the walls in true superstar style
Big thanks to John and all the staff at WA12 Radio for inviting us down, hope to see you again soon.
Back at one of my favourite gigs this weekend, playing for Abbey Leys farmer’s market. It’s not just the pleasure of playing music in the sunshine, it’s the opportunity to sneak off in my breaks and get my shopping from some of the best food producers in our area.
There is plenty of top quality fruit and veg as you’d expect
but also hand-made sweets and cakes
preserves and cordials
award-winning pies from the Great North Pie co
and even soap for your Sunday bath
Jane’s bread stall is always a great favourite, here’s the queue snaking out of the door as usual
Up to north Lincolnshire today for a wedding at the Forest Pines resort, a bit of a drive but one of the first sunny days of the year which made it more pleasant.
The theme for the day was sunflowers
inside the hotel
which made a lovely setting.
I played as the guests arrived for the drinks reception, inside the hotel and then as it was such a nice day, out on the decking
until it was time for the bride and groom to welcome their guests into the dining room for the wedding breakfast.
The Junction Hotel in Moss Side has hosted a jam night on Monday evenings for many years, I used to play with the house band on a regular basis and it’s always nice to be asked back. It’s a friendly session, open to all from beginners to professionals popping in for a drink, this time we had the pleasure of hearing great harmonica player Franny Eubanks sit in. I particularly enjoyed seeing one of my students, Keith get up and play a blues riff on his tenor, only the second time he’s performed for an audience.
Here is local singer Lorraine in the middle of a soulful rendition of Stand By Me
From tranquil garden parties to howling blues, out with Night Train again this time in the Rising Sun, well established music venue in Hazel Grove. Here’s Alec doing the final tweaking of his guitar sound
Is it just me or does time move a little differently in Stockport?
I have to admit, I was a bit distracted when I spotted this little beauty in the pub, I do enjoy a game of pinball… or two… or three
it’s a testament to my professionalism that I arrived on stage in time and with most of my wages unspent.
Another rocking night with the boys and a great crowd in the Rising Sun.
A new venue for me at today’s wedding, Rodbaston Hall in Staffordshire. Fortunately the day was fine so I could set up in the lovely garden for my first set, Jazz for the drinks reception
with a little help from the resident peacocks
Afterwards we moved into the beautifully decorated dining room for some Pop tunes with the wedding breakfast
I should give a mention to Lesley, the wedding coordinator and her team who were fantastic, friendly and efficient, meal and drinks reception went like clockwork and they still had time to look after the sax player We were all slightly upstaged by the peacocks though who took a great interest in the proceedings
After a very enjoyable afternoon I managed to catch this gentleman being very dramatic in the car park on my way out
A wedding booking at the Belle Époque restaurant in Knutsford this afternoon. It was one of those wonderful English days where it’s cloudy and clear in alternate minutes but fortunately just as the bride and groom came out of the ceremony, the sun came out and we were able to have the drinks reception in the garden
where I played some Jazz and Pop numbers for the guests.
I tried to recruit these guys into my backing band but no success
The restaurant is in one of the older buildings in Knutsford with many original features including this mosaic floor
in the bar area
The dining room upstairs was beautifully laid out, here are a couple of snaps of the room and cake
which I took before the wedding party headed indoors for their meal.
The Belle Époque
Back on the Blues scene again with Night Train, this week at the Crown in Darwen, Lancashire, a regular live music venue and a bit of a squeeze to get in. We managed to assemble this amount of gear
in this amount of space
The band have been going for many years under the leadership of frontman Alec and play a mix of standards and original songs. It’s a powerful sound, appreciated by the audience at the Crown who enjoyed guitarist Wally’s showmanship as he hurled himself into their midst.
This isn’t the best quality photo, taken by a fan on their phone, but it shows how mean and moody we are
If you enjoy Blues-Rock, keep an eye open for us at venues around the North-West
It’s always a pleasure to work with new musicians so I was delighted to be contacted by guitarist Les Renshaw recently. Les plays in the Fretbusters specialising in classic Americana, and also organises live music at Poynton WMC. We are putting together a set of Jazz numbers with particular emphasis on the Latin repertoire, should be perfect for restaurant gigs and parties.
A very smiley Les
I usually reserve this blog for my own musical misadventures but would like to give a mention to Beatnik Records which has just opened in Altrincham.
There hasn’t been a record shop in Alty for some time so this is very welcome, even if they are a bit cheeky to the Jazzers!
The best thing is they also serve excellent food, so you can listen to good tunes and admire the window art with a brew and a bun,
I can see this being a very popular musicians hangout.
Duo partner Lucy Barlow and I took over the bandstand in the Trafford Centre for the evening, entertaining diners and shoppers with some Jazz and Pop tunes.
It’s a nice setting, with a view of the cake stand which appealed to me
And with Lucy at her most glam
we were all set for a great night. There was an enthusiastic response from folk sitting outside the restaurants and some excellent dancing from passers-by, lots of fun, we hope to be back soon.
A 40th Wedding anniversary today for Wendy and Kevin at the Old Red Lion Hotel in Atherstone, near Tamworth. This is a very old building with some interesting carving in the wooden beams, a remnant of some old love affair here
As it was a Ruby Wedding, the tables were done out in a striking red and black theme
I played Jazz and Latin standards while the meal was being served, and can personally confirm that the food was excellent as there was time for some tagliatelle while Kevin was making his speech
It was a very pleasant afternoon, wishing Wendy and Kevin many more happy years to come.
The Bourbon Street Preachers were on the road again this week, taking our mix of Blues and Cajun tunes back to the Bleachworks in Bolton. Always a favourite gig for the band, the audience was enhanced this time by a 30th Birtday do in lively mood, a big Mustang Sally singalong seemed to be in order. Just a guess but I think the Birthday Boy may have been a Bolton fan
It was a rocking night, here are drummer Gavin and bandleader Dave giving it their all
When the first Sunday of the month rolls around I always look forward to playing at Abbey Leys farmer’s market. The farm is organic and has a well-stocked shop selling their free-range eggs and other produce, don’t miss Janet’s home-made pies, they really are something special!
On market day there is a huge range of stalls
fruit and veg, meat including game and goat products, fresh pasta sauces, fruit cordials, jams and preserves, woolcraft from Hartfelt Friends and not forgetting the Great North Pie Co.
Jane’s artisan bread stall always has a long queue, but if your feet get tired you can treat yourself to a sausage butty and a tea from the splendid folk of Little Heath Farm.
I play outside the main barn between 10 and 1, taking requests from shoppers, please drop by and say hello.
The wildlife always adds a bit of interest to farm gigs, I spotted this lady lurking by my PA
went to see what she was up to, she had left me a tip!
Perfect for a Sunday tea-time
Abbey Leys is now on Twitter @abbeyleysfm give them a follow
in the course of a year I play a lot of Birthday parties and Anniversaries, this was a combination of the two. Michael and Jaqui were celebrating their 30th Wedding Anniversary, which happened to coincide with Michael’s 60th. Here is a display of memorabelia from the big day including Jaqui’s dress
My professional ethics were put to the test when I was left alone with this fabulous cake (Michael has a reputation as a chocoholic) but I stayed strong and there wasn’t a single button missing when the guests came in
fortunately Bowden Parish Centre had left a toybox out to distract me, although the smaller guests raided it laterand rather spoiled my fun
I played Jazz standards while the drinks were being served, followed by a couple of sets of Pop and Soul numbers during the meal, with a break for Happy Birthday of course.
Michael and Jaqui have a close family and many friends, there was a great atmosphere during the afternoon, and I should also mention the fabulous food served by the Herb and Spice Garden team.
Sax man Jim Collins is an excellent Jazzer, always a pleasure to work with. Today he was getting married and chose a band I have had the pleasure of playing alongside him in, fronted by moss Side legend Abina.
Jim wisely chose not to join us onstage, this photo isn’t out of focus, it’s a fairly accurate picture of the happy groom at the time
Little Jim on the cake was a bit steadier
We were performing at Heaton House Farm in Staffordshire, a spectacular venue up in the hills and above the snowline
the staff had obviously been working hard to clear a path for the guests
Abina specialises in Ska, Carribean songs and Jazz standards, all good dance tunes, once the younger guests had finished playing aeroplanes we had a crowd on the dance floor til closing time.
All the best to Jim, Rhiannon and their lovely family.
It’s a while since I was in the studio, bookings have all been for live work recently, but I was contacted earlier this year by Liverpool songwriters Crows in the Cornfield. They sent me several interesting tracks, influenced by early Bowie among others, and this week we went into Alien Sound studio in Lancashire, run by engineer Mark
to put some sax lines down.
I was going through this rather tasty mic
with my every move being watched by Robby the Robot
so no room for error.
We worked on three numbers, as you can see the lads were chuffed with my efforts
Blues is one of the main influences on my playing, I always look for opportunities to get back on the circuit so the offer of a gig with Bolton outfit Night Train was welcome. We were playing at a new club in Macclesfield, Cabin 5150, created with live music in mind, a full stage upstairs with a more intimate room downstairs.
Alec is the front man, seen here warming up
on his vintage guitar
drummer Rob had an impressive set up too, here’s the luggage
and here’s what emerged, complete with gong!
The effects man was a little hyperactive with the smoke machine
my colleagues disappearing in the mist from time to time, but I could certainly hear them, as could the enthusiastic crowd. A rocking night at an impressive new club, hoping to be back with the boys soon.
I have recently been enjoying life-drawing classes at Local Creation in Altrincham, which houses various artists studios and runs workshops in disciplines including textiles, animation and ceramics. I was very pleased to be invited to play at their open day along with my duo partner, Jazz singer Lucy Barlow
We played a lively set in the entrance hall while people enjoyed the barbecue, perused the displays and took part in a pottery session upstairs.
Here is one of my drawings from the class run by Jo Cushing
For anyone interested in the arts in Altrincham, I would highly recommend checking out the classes here
A bit of a treat tonight, one of my favourite bands in the opulent setting of the Midland Hotel, Manchester. Nu Soul Generation are a classy bunch of musicians from the West Midlands specialising in Soul, Motown and Disco, fronted by the wonderful voice of Judy Duff.
Here’s a snap of the lady herself all glammed up and ready to hit the stage
The Junction in Moss Side has been supporting live music for many years with an open mic night which attracts musicians of all abilities from beginners to professionals dropping in for a jam.
I had the pleasure of sitting in with the house band this Monday, playing Ska and Jazz with host Abina, Reggae, Pop and Soul with all comers and rounding the night off with some rocking Blues which even tempted harmonica star Frannie Eubanks onto the mic.
Here we are setting up for the evening
Myself and duo partner Lucy Barlow had a very productive session in the studio last November, turning out three tracks including Dance Me To The End Of Love by Leonard Cohen. I have posted a video to accompany the song, if you would like to take a look, please click on the link below.
Fans of great sax playing will be familiar with Andy Sheppard, an original voice in British Jazz since the 1980s, I was intrigued to find that he was now producing his own line of Tenor saxes and went down to Sax.co.uk in Sussex to investigate.
The horn looked fantastic with it’s matt finish
and after giving it a thorough tryout for a couple of hours
I was impressed enough with the sound and performance to make a purchase.
This is Jim, head saxman at the shop who has also bought one of the AS tenors
which, given the range of instruments at his disposal
is quite an endorsement.
I think the musician who buys this one might be in for a surprise though
I thought I might have to call on the services of this little fellow to help pay for my purchase
but fortunately a freind snapped up my Selmer Series III as soon as she heard it was on the market so both me and my bank manager breathed a sigh of relief.
I would like to thank Jim and all the staff at Sax.co.uk for their friendly help and advice, I am absolutely delighted with my new horn and look forward to doing some serious gigging on this great machine.
Valentine’s Day saw me back at the Simla restaurant near Tamworth for another good night. The staff had been very busy and the room looked a picture when I arrived
and soon filled up with couples and family parties enjoying the fantastic food and the music
The evening was a great success, I would like to thank the staff at the Simla for their hospitality, I was very well looked after and look forward to being back there next year.
One last pic, this is the lovely light fitting that I clanged my head on several times during the night, very professional though, didn’t miss a note.
It is always a pleasure to work with guitarist Jason Kester, so I was very pleased to be asked to sit in with his trio at Hoar Cross Hall. The Hall is a stately home in the Staffordshire countryside and we have a comfortable little niche by the dining room
with very suitable seating for the sax player
The lighting is also a little more ornate than your average venue
We played some dinner jazz, then as the diners started to filter through, began taking requests for pop songs. The weather began to turn during the second set with a heavy snowfall
which delighted the guests, the band were a little more concerned about how to get home, but a tentative convoy through the back lanes saw us safely back to the bright lights of Stoke on Trent.
Hoar Cross Hall Jason Kester
The Bourbon Street Preachers returned to the Bleachworks in Bolton at the weekend, playing a mix of Blues, Cajun and original numbers by our singer Dave Eatock. We always enjoy this gig, although it seems more like a Pop crowd they always give us an enthusiastic response and some exotic dancing.
The stage is a little tight so my tenor
is well tucked away from the dance floor.
I took a few shots of the band, here’s keyboard player Paul
communing with his muse, and I tried to get a nice arty pic of guitarist John but as you can see
A Birthday party in Stoke was the occasion on my most recent trip, heading down the A50 just as the Brittannia Stadium was turning out
not the best time to travel.
I was soon set up, the DJ
had a more complicated task, and we shared the space with a fabulous chocolate fountain
seen here in it’s pre-eruptive state.
The Birthday girl was Donna, celebrating her 30th rather than her 3rd
as the balloons seemed to indicate. Here she is supervising the finer points of buffet management
and balloon distribution.
The kids hit the dancefloor first
at 600mph as usual, and I played a mixed set of new and classic Pop songs only slightly distracted by the audience
in a nearby vending machine.
The set was very well received, especially by Donna and her Mum which is the important thing, and I handed over to DJ Alan for the rest of the evening.