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!

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Bowie, Bath and Beyond

Masonic Hall

It's been a quiet couple of months as far as performances go but things are going to be picking up in the spring.

Lots of exciting gigs planned.  I'm back with more Bond to Bowie in a return visit to Saffron Hall where we had lots of fun last year with Family Jazz All Stars.  And speaking of Family Jazz, I'll be featured once again with this project for two shows at Norwich Playhouse for the Norwich & Norfolk Festival in May.  Looking forward to playing with my fabulous all star band again.  Here's an interview that I did about the show before last year's performance.

28 April - Bond to Bowie (with Jennifer Carr), Saffron Hall
13 May - Family Jazz All-Stars, Norwich Playhouse, Norfolk & Norwich Festival

And at the end of May I'll be working on a new project with the excellent performance poet/spoken word artist Zena Edwards for the Bath Festival.   We'll be performing songs around the themes of our past, present, future and what it means to be a thinking and feeling person in an increasingly self-centred, "post-truth" world.  The show will take place in the beautiful Masonic Hall at the Old Theatre Royal, a setting that will make this debut performance even more special.

22 May - New Meetings: Juliet Kelly & Zena Edwards, Masonic Hall, Bath Festival

In the summer, gigs will be happening in Oxford, London and possibly Italy!  I will keep you posted.