Friday, 20 July 2018

Divas of Jazz is back!

Although I suppose I'm known for writing and performing my own songs, I LOVE the classic standards.   So am very pleased to announce that Divas of Jazz is back this Autumn!

We'll be celebrating the great jazz vocalists and performing the songs of Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and more.

Fri 27 Jul, 7-8.30pm - Crazy Coqs, 20 Sherwood Street, London W1F 7ED
Fri 14 Sep, 1-2pm - Gala Theatre, 1 Millennium Place, Town Centre, Durham  DH1 1WA
Fri 14 Sep, 5-6pm - Gosforth Civic Theatre, Regent Farm Road, Gosforth  NE3 3HD
Tue 18 Sep, 2-3pm - Forest Arts Centre, Hawbush Road, Walsall  WS3 1AG 
Fri 19 Oct, 7.45pm - Chichester Jazz Club, Pallant Suite, 7 South Pallant, Chichester, PO19 1SY

There are also some possible dates on the horizon in Kiev and Odessa (Ukraine).  Looking forward to singing those beautiful songs and telling those wonderful stories once more.  :)

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Planes, trains and automobiles

Uzhhorod Castle

Ukraine was a whirlwind. One train journey, two tube rides, two long car journeys and five flights! The concerts went very well and also got a chance to do some sightseeing in the beautiful city of Uzhhorod. It was also nice to revisit Odessa. Not so nice, was the snow! :( Unfortunately I didn’t bring my snow boots so wasn’t able to get around much but at least I have the memories of looking around the city in my first visit there at the end of 2016.

Map showing Uzhhorod's history
The city of Uzhhorod has an extremely complicated and storied history.  It's belonged to several different countries since its birth (including Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union) and although currently part of Ukraine it is only 20km away from the border with Hungary.  There is no longer a working airport so I flew into Hungary and drove across the border (an experience in itself!) and was surprised to learn that many people living there speak Hungarian rather than Ukranian.  Perhaps because of this history, the people are very warm and welcoming and there is a definite cosmopolitan air about the place.

Poster advertising concert outside Ilko Gallery

When I visited Ilko Gallery during the day I saw some interesting art by Pavlo Kerestey 
And then it was transformed that night into a concert venue!

It was a pleasure to perform with Ukranian musicians - Alexey Petuhov Trio

Although the concert was already sold out, more people turned up on the night and they put out extra chairs for an audience that numbered well over the usual 250 capacity.  And I felt especially honoured to received a standing ovation at the end of the night. :)

The trip to Odessa was pretty gruelling - including a 2 hour wait at the border and 2 flights - so we will gloss over that.  Perron No7 jazz club was a wonderful, quirky space with a dedicated jazz audience.  It was lovely to play for such a knowledgeable and discerning audience and I was bowled over by the fact that the owners had created a special cocktail menu for the evening based on the names of my songs!!!   Of course it would have been rude not to, so I sampled a couple of them.  I tried "One More Dance" (inspired by my song from Spellbound Stories) and Delicious (from Delicious Chemistry).  As a lover of cocktails,  it took all my willpower not to try all six of them!

Cocktail menu at Perron No7 jazz club with drinks based on my songs including one called Delicious - and it was!

Here I am in Uzhhorod.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Goodbye UK, Hello Ukraine!

Uzhhorod Cathedral

Just for a few days I'll be visiting the picturesque city of Uzhhorod in Western Ukraine and then I'll be making my way through the beautiful, mountainous scenery to revisit historic Odessa.  So looking forward to being back there.  Spent a wonderful New Year's Eve there at an amazing hotel back in 2016.  I'm a little worried about the cold and so will have to make sure to pack my thermals.

The two performances are taking place at ILKO Gallery and then at jazz club Perron No7.  Both gigs are totally sold out and am told they have a jazz hungry audience there so very much looking forward to performing for them with a great local trio led by Alexey Petuhov.

Back in the UK I have gigs coming up in the spring at Royal Albert Hall (as part of their Women and the Hall series), Birmingham Jazz and The Stables in Milton Keynes. 

I'm also working hard on setting up a UK tour for the Autumn with my new project.  I have a feeling it's going to be a very good year. :)

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Merry Everything and a Happy Always

We rounded the year off with a second outing for "Sweet Nancy" (songs from the classic Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley album) at Royal Albert Hall (Verdi Room) and then a fun afternoon performing with Family Jazz All Stars for a very lively and energetic audience at a school in Camden.  

I also took part on a panel “Working as a Live Jazz Musician” for the Musicians’ Union at the London Jazz Festival.  It’s been a challenging year for many, both economically and politically, but it was good to share tips and suggestions for surviving as a jazz musician in these difficult times.

I’ve really enjoyed working on different projects with a mix of different musicians this year - and there was lots of new material too.  There’s more to come!  I’m working on a new project and tour for 2018.  I hope to be revisiting some venues as well as exploring new ones.  So watch this space!

Until then, wishing you Happy Holidays and all the best for 2018!

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Spellbound Stories Revisited and Sweet Nancy

Bonington Theatre - with Kate Williams (piano), Oli Hayhurst (bass), Cosimo Keita (drums)

It was wonderful to revisit "Spellbound Stories" after focusing on other projects for a while.  It was my first time performing in Nottingham too.  We had such a warm and enthusiastic audience - it was a real pleasure to share my stories with them.

Earlier in the month there was another debut - the first outing for my new project "Sweet Nancy".  It's a show centred on the songs from the classic Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley album released in 1961.  Tommaso Starace (sax), David Preston (guitar) and I performed it for the very first time at the excellent new monthly "E15 jazz sessions" at Stratford Circus.  A wonderful space that's definitely worth checking out if you're close by.

We'll be performing the show once more at Verdi (Royal Albert Hall) on 17 November.  We're on at 12 noon and it's free.  See you there!

Monday, 29 May 2017

Moons, Masons and M&S

I love taking photos of bridges over water. 
This was my first view of beautiful Norwich on the way to the hotel.

There was a chaise longue in my hotel room!  A chaise longue is
definitely one of my favourite things.

Kate Williams and I were booked to perform under this art installation of the moon during the full moon.  Unfortunately the windy conditions meant the artwork was moved inside and we perofrmed outsidebut it was absolutely stunning.

Soundcheck - done!  Just a few minutues until the seats were filled
with jazz fans fo all ages. We had fun!

Really enjoyed working with these guys.  Kate Williams, Cosimo Keita, Tony Kofi & Oli Hayhurst.
We also got a great review here

David Preston and I on our way to Bath for the Bath Festival to perform the new
collaboration project with performance poet Zena Edwards!
(I'm definitely #teamnero #properitaliancoffee)

Another beautiful bridge - this time spotted on the way to the hotel in Bath.

We spent the day before the show rehearsing in a small theatre above a church. 
David and Zena working on one of her songs.

And this was our venue - Masonic Hall which is part of the Old Theatre Royal.
A really stunning room.

I had a great time working with Zena on our project and we got lots of wonderful
feedback from the audience.

The next day David and I did an impromptu performance for the shoppers in M&S.  Some bewildered looks as we set up next to the lingerie!  Lots of nice comments from the surprised shoppers.  And another bonus is that I found these gorgeous sparkly shoes.

Next on the agenda are some London performances and a return to Oxford.  Hope to see you there!

08 June:  Bond to Bowie @ Bar Zedel, London
25 June:  Special Guest with house band at Summertown Wine Cafe, Oxford
28 June:  Divas of Jazz @ Bar Zedel, London
29 July:  Nina & Other Divas @ Boisdale of Canary Wharf, London

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Top Ten Tips for Finding Creative Inspiration

Like many artists, I often go through periods where I feel totally uncreative - as if I'll never ever be able to write anything again!  It can become a crippling self-fulfilling prophecy and each time it happens (although I tell myself that it's happened before and I've managed to work through it) I truly believe that "this time" there'll be no way out of it.

I've just come through another one of those phases and thought that it might be a good idea to write down a checklist of the things that really help me.  Hopefully it means that I won't panic the next time I'm hit by a "creative block". :-)  Perhaps there's something here that can help you too...

1.  Dream about it

My debut album, Aphrodite's Child, included several tracks that were almost entirely written after waking from a dream and immediately writing down the music and/or lyrics floating around in my head.  I dream every single night.  I don't often dream music but for when I do, I have my phone nearby and can quickly use the voice recorder to capture my ideas.  Perhaps you're more of a pen and paper person and could keep a notebook by your bed.  And if you don't dream, I still think that "sleeping on it" can sometimes help you solve a problem, so it's worth a shot!

2. Take a walk

Many songs have come to me while I've been out walking.  I might be strolling through a lovely park enjoying the sights and sounds of nature or I could be walking along a busy London road being hypnotised by the rattle and hum of traffic.   Again I will have my trusty voice recorder to record anything that comes to mind.  Sometimes, just getting out of your usual environment can cause a shift in your thoughts and allow ideas to break through.

3. Watch a film

I love watching films and there's so much great television available online these days from services like Netflix and Amazon.  One of my current favourites is Black Mirror.  Highly recommended!  Watching films and TV, whether fiction or documentaries, can expose you to ideas that wouldn't come up in your normal life.  For me, it's a great way to relax and give my creative thoughts time to marinate and develop, in the same way that sleeping/dreaming can.

4. Visit a gallery

This is not something I do much but I think visiting an art gallery or museum is a great way to stimulate the senses.  One of my favourite exhibitions is the annual "Sensational Butterflies" at the Natural History Museum.  Just magical!

5. See the sea

Whenever I really need to unblock my creativity, a visit to the sea is top of my list.  There's something about listening to the sound of waves whilst looking out on an endless horizon that really calms me.  After a recording gap of around 4 years, I started writing my most recent album whilst walking by the sea at a tiny resort on the coast near Athens, Greece.  I remember that the song "Forbidden Fruit" came to me in its entirety in about 20 mins.  It was such a beautiful experience.

6.  Write it out

Brainstorming or stream of consciousness writing is another way I sometimes work to get the ideas out.  The trick is to make sure you do absolutely no censoring of yourself.  Just let the words flow.  There could well be a gem or two in there...

7.  Meditate on it

I'm not going to lie - I find it extremely difficult to meditate.  My mind is always going at 1,000mph.  What I've found really helpful is using the guided meditation tracks that you can find on YouTube.  Even 10 minutes is hard for me but it's something I'm working on.  A great way to clear the mind to allow those creative ideas through.  

8.  Take a break

Just stop.  Forbid yourself to write music, or whatever it is that you're struggling with, for a short period of time.  Sometimes just knowing that you can't do something makes you want to do it all the more!  It also takes the pressure off and allows you to forget about your block for a while without the guilt of feeling unproductive.  When the time period is up, just go with the flow and see if anything comes to you.  

9.  Sweat it out

Exercise is another thing that I know I should do much more.  It always takes me so much effort to start but then it feels so good once I've finished that I wonder why I resisted!  Physical exercise releases endorphins that makes you feel good.  Apparently this triggers a similar feeling to taking morphine - who knew?!  

10.  Read a book

My latest album "Spellbound Stories" is a set of songs inspired by my favourite novels.  I don't read as much as I used to but there's something about the written word that allows your free reign to your imagination like nothing else.  The video above is a song I wrote after reading Paulo Coelho's "Veronika Decides to Die".

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  If you have any suggestions about ways to break through those pesky blocks or any other feedback, comments are very welcome!