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.
New Years Eve was spent with Jason Kester, one of my bandleaders and a fine guitarist. We were sharing the honours with a DJ at the Coach and Horses in Market Drayton.
The pub was packed when we arrived
which lead to some fun and games bringing our gear in, then we retreated upstairs
to spend some quality time with pub dog Jasper who was delighted to see us.
When we made our way to the stage for our set the crowd was packed in and ready to celebrate, with even more pouring in when Auld Lang Syne struck up. It was certainly getting very cosy but all extremely good humoured and an enjoyable way to see the New Year in.
The Weekend before Christmas was a busy one, Saturday night was a Wedding celebration at Peover Golf Club near Knutsford. I had a puncture on my way to the gig, but thanks to a lovely family who gave me a lift was there in good time for the drinks reception.
The conservertory looked a picture for the meal
while I was playing Jazz and Pop songs in the cosy bar area.
Here are the bride and groom
having a quick photo session before their friends arrived.
On Friday I had another gig with the fabulous Nu Soul Generation at the Tower Ballroom in Birmingham. The room is quite spectacular
a traditional ballroom with a proper dance floor. The venue is well known among musicians for it’s revolving stage, which can fling the unwary into a heap in the drumkit, as experienced pros we braced ourselves like sailors in a storm and made a graceful entrance. No one can resist a bit of Motown at a party, Judy and the boys soon had the room rocking, flashing Santa hats and all, a great start to the festive season.
on my way back to the dressing room, I’m not sure what was going on in the gents, but I hope they were wearing the appropriate safety gear!
In Hope Studios with vocalist Lucy Barlow making some demo tracks for our new venture. The session was engineered by college buddy Mike Harries, also an excellent drummer
who made a great job of mixing the songs.
relaxing between takes
We put down three Jazz numbers in the evening and were very pleased with the results, hope you enjoy listening to them.
I have posted a new video to my youtube channel showing what a sax player sees from the stage. The band is Jason Kester and the Believers and features John doing some very tasty guitar work.
There are some new recordings on my youtube page featuring work done as a member of the Ashley Hutchings Dance Band in the 90′s, including tunes by melodian player Gareth Turner and singer/guitarist Ken Nicol, both well-known in Folk circles. There is also a bit of free soprano impro with a short film, please take a look.
I have just received a copy of a single called Miles and Miles which I did some sax work on in 2010 for Neil Simms of Dark Forest Records. It features some rock tenor behind a female vocal, nice to hear the finished version.
The most recent session has been with Jason Kester and the Believers in Stoke. We recorded some covers for the party band and also an original song written by the band’s singer Lucy, and Jason, the bandleader. If you would like to hear one of the tracks, please click on Rockin’ Robin.
I have also posted some of my recordings on youtube, please click on SaxDiamond if you would like to listen to these.
Last year was a busy one for recording, covering some diverse styles, Blues to Bhangra. Most recent studio work has been a pop track for Dark Forest Records in St Helens, due for release next year.
Earlier in 2010, I played tenor and soprano sax on an album by Leeds-based prog-rock band Manning. The album, called Charlestown, has now been released and received some excellent reviews. It is available from www.guymanning.com
Saturday night saw me heading up to the Lake District, usually a scenic drive but on a dark, wet December evening, not so much.
I was playing with Abina, Ska and Jazz singer from Manchester, for a party in Ambleside YHA. The evening started well when we were offered an enormous curry followed by sticky toffee pudding, this was obviously going to be my kind of gig!
Caught a sneaky pic of Rick the drummer
celebrating his second helping.
When we had recovered slightly we squeezed into a cosy alcove by the fire
you can just see the star of the show in the mirror.
It was a tiny bit warm for those of us squished into the fireplace and even hotter when everyone packed in to boogie, fantastic evening all round.
Here’s Holly the black lab
waiting for someone to ask her to dance.
Back at the Cinnamon Club on Friday for a gig with one of my favourite bands, Nu Soul Generation, fronted by superb Soul singer Judy Duff. Here are the band in all their finery
backstage in the break.
It was a Soul and Motown party night for a packed house, tickets had been snapped up as soon as they went on sale. Here’s a sneaky peek from the stage at the diners enjoying a fine turkey dinner
illuminated by Judy’s spotlight.
We performed two sets of classic sounds, Otis Redding to Jackie Wilson via Diana Ross; the sprung floor at the Cinnamon took considerable punishment from an enthusiastic crowd. Thank you Altrincham, we hope to be back again soon.
On Saturday I was very pleased to be called out to one of my favourite Jazz and Blues venues the Cinnamon Club for a surprise 40th Birthday party. We were in the lounge upstairs for the first part of the evening
perfect for an intimate Jazz gig, and my sax looked a picture
under the red lights.
I played a few tunes while guests were wandering in before we all had to be quiet for the arrival of the Birthday girl who was gratifyingly startled, then livened the music up with some Latin and Soul numbers while the guests enjoyed the buffet
provided by the fabulous Herb Spice Garden.
After a video presentation from the family some people drifted off downstairs to watch a band while others stayed to hear another set from me to wind the night up.
Back at Abbey Leys Farm for the farmer’s market, a chilly one this month, I had to make regular visits to the brew stall in a bid to keep my fingers moving, but the customers seemed to be enjoying it.
The resident geese and hens
were hard at work providing eggs, and as you can see
we had the usual fine variety of plant, produce and gift stalls
I was particularly taken by this amazing merengue
which had been carefully transported down country lanes for display.
Another party night with Jason kester and the Believers, an annual gig for us at the Otis long-service awards. The venue this year was Ardencote Manor in Warwickshire, the entrance of which is well guarded
We played some background music as the guests wandered in and then retired to the bar to relax. Here are Lucy and Con
chilling, Lucy looking rather sultry there!
After the awards the crowd was ready to hit the dance-floor, here’s Lucy again
in full flight this time.
The music went down very well and I had a nice chat to Phil from Liverpool, a big saxophone fan who enjoyed One Step Beyond immensely.
The driving isn’t always the best part of a musician’s job but this Saturday’s run through the Autumnal Shropshire countryside was a real pleasure. The gig was a Wedding in the grand surroundings of Rowton Castle
although this cheeky little visitor
certainly wasn’t overawed by the setting.
The grounds looked lovely on a bright sunny day
but as it was quite crisp I was glad to be playing in the cosy lounge
even if I was overlooked by some rather strange customers
still, at least they were appropriately dressed.
The guests gathered for the drinks whil I played some Jazz braving the cold from time to time to nip out for the photos
which the sax player had the luxury of watching from indoors.
It was a great afternoon, the staff were charming and I had some very nice comments from the guests as they made their way through for dinner.
Extremely busy over the weekend, starting on Thursday with a run down to Cannock near Birmingham to work with DJ Chris at the opening of a new bar The Courtyard. As you can see it’s a very modern interior
the staff are just setting up to let the guests in, including the Lord Mayor.
I played a solo set to begin with, joined by Chris for some unplugged numbers after a while, then as things started to liven up we hit the dance tunes. Had a great reception and also a very nice chicken curry, so a top night all round.
Friday was a local event hosted by Neil, owner of the Cinnamon Club in Bowden, one of Manchester’s leading Jazz and live music venues. It was a friendly get-together for local businesses
at which I provided background Jazz for the drinks.
Here are a couple of shots of my performance
kindly provided by Graham Douglas and William Ellis, please click the links to their websites to see more of their splendid work.
The evening was a great success, rounding off with a concert from Sounds of Simon
performing to a packed house.
I recently spent a very pleasant afternoon at the Etrop Grange Hotel near Manchester Airport playing some Jazz and Pop tunes for a Wedding party. The guests were congregating in the bar area where the staff can be seen preparing the champagne
the sax player was of course imbibing only water
The weather was nice enough for photos to be taken outside
in this attractive little courtyard.
Here is the Bride
about to make her entrance.
The guests were kind enough to give me a round of applause as they went in for the meal which was greatly appreciated.
This weekend being the first Sunday of the month, I was at Abbey Leys farmer’s market near Lymm playing some Pop and Jazz among the stalls. We had a lovely sunny day and that brought a lot of people down, it was so busy I hardly had time to do my own shopping.
Here is some of the lovely produce
that you missed.
I have been on the road with regular gigging buddies Jason Kester and the Believers, ths time at Wolstanton Golf Club. It was the Lady Captain’s dinner and we played for a very good-humoured crowd who could hardly wait for the tables to be cleared before piling on to the dancefloor. Here’s the boss Jason
On Tuesday I was invited to take part in the bridal open evening at Denton Golf Club where Wedding suppliers were showcasing their products for couples planning to marry.
The venue is very conveniently placed for the M60 and provides a spacious room with a balcony and a bar. Full catering for your event can be provided (the food looked very tempting when I was playing) and the resident DJ Mike would be happy to discuss your choice of music. If you would like to make an enquiry, please contact Dianne at email@example.com
Denton Golf Club
There were a variety of beautiful table dressings on show
courtesy of Let’s Celebrate of Hyde who also provide balloons, personalised gifts and many other little touches for your special event.
I was sharing the musical honours with singer Kirsty Rogers
who has a lovely voice and great range of material
while other entertainment came from magician Robert Ellams
who had me completely fooled and can produce citrus fruit from the most amazing places!
For those with a sweet tooth (like me), this fabulous cake
is from Emma of Heatons Cakes
and this eye-catching display
was made by Angela from How Sweet It Is
How Sweet It Is
If you would like an extra-special touch for your guests, these postboxes
came from Kelly’s Wedding Post Boxes, for all your cards.
Another busy weekend starting with a local gig at a drinks reception in the Alderley Edge Hotel, I had a little trouble finding it but picked up an 89 year old hitchiker on her way to the pub (she assured me it was for some soup) and was soon put on the right track. The day was a little overcast but the Laurent Perrier Bar was warm and welcoming
with champagne glasses waiting for the guests to arrive from the ceremony. The Jazz went down very well, after which Jon and Rachel
who are much less blurry in real life, went in for the Wedding breakfast.
On Saturday the drive was a little longer, off to Tortworth Court in Gloucestershire, a stately house near Bristol. The Atrium was the first stop
for the drinks reception, but as the weather brightened up we went outside
for Jazz on the lawn.
After that it was a quick scamper for me to get into the dining room
where the decorated screens
and stunning flower displays
made a very nice setting for the meal. I went with more of a Pop vibe for this and had quite a few of the younger diners singing along with Bruno Mars, which is always fun.
I should also give an honourable mention to toastmaster James Macleod who coordinated the whole event with impeccable professionalism, here he is
looking exteremly smart waiting for the Wedding party to arrive. I can highly recommend his services, James can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org .
A trip up to the Lake District on Saturday for the Wedding of Madison and James in the beautiful setting of Broughton Craggs Hotel. It was a long drive but the Lakes are always a pleasure to see on a sunny Autumn day, and the hotel, seen here
looked perfectfor the occasion. I played throughout the meal and have since had a very nice email from the happy couple who enjoyed the music while their guests were eating.
Many thanks to the hotel staff who couldn’t have been more helpful and even carried my PA to the car afterwards, a real treat!
Always nice to play for a friend, this weekend saw the Wedding of Con, drummer from Jason Kester and the Believers. We couldn’t have had better weather, here are Jason and DJ Ade enjoying the sunshine
as they wait to go on.
As every musician knows, you don’t get a free roadie even at your own Wedding, here’s Con
hefting his gear in for the evening do.
The band also features Miss Lucy Sian
talented vocalist, classy lady and always a pleasure to work with.