Sunday, 26 June 2016

The connections game. Spot that muso!

Who's that guy on guitar? Didn't he use to be in...?

Seen those fingers on that fretboard, yep. But where? Duane Storey, Flickr
Like most people who care about creativity, inclusivity, positivity and the arts – especially, for me, music – Friday 24th was a bad, bad day. I spent most of it in a sleep-deprived haze, with too much time on social media, either commiserating with friends or raging at the toxic mix of stupidity, vanity and plain racism which has led my country to its present pass. 

Solitary rage and despair isn't healthy. So I headed to the Blue Piano to catch Fred Skidmore's trio doing 60s jazz from the Jimmy Smith/McGriff canon. A summer evening, beer in hand; a lovely garden with good friends and great, comforting, grooves. Just what the doctor ordered. 

The Blue Piano is always full of musos. Lots of veterans; some hot young guns. I reckon there's maybe a thousand years of live experience in the place on a good night. I started to play the connections game. It's fatal: once you start, you can't stop. 

You see him here, you see him there

Fred Skidmore trio - photo Lee Benson
On guitar with Fred was John Caswell. Last week he was on bass with Steve Gibbons at Tenbury Festival. Last month I saw him sit in with Ricky Cool. On drums was the excellent Roy Adams, having a ball for himself, and just back from Switzerland with Climax Blues Band. Before that he was on the road with Roy Wood. He's somewhere else in Brum today. 

Musicians in multiple bands – it's a game that can go on forever. Just to take it a touch further: last weekend, out in Tenbury, Pete Hammond was tub-thumping for Steve Ajao. When he's not doing that, he plays with Rhino and The Ranters. And he started out with the Au Pairs. Also at Tenbury, killer keyboard player, Abby Brant – who turns out for Quill, Trevor Burton, Robbie Blunt, and loads of other outfits – played two sets back to back with different bands. Another muso in attendance at the Blue Piano was Nigel Darvill. He and I go back at least thirty five years. Now he turns out with Ricky Cool, but I saw him last year with the mighty fine Brothers Groove, and we've had a conversation about him making a bit of a decent living playing with maybe six other bands.

Here's a little game, you can all join in... 

I've hardly got started here. Feel free to drop in your own connections: this game is endless fun, and goes on forever. 

The Jacket in full effect - photo Richard Shakespeare
Three weeks back, there was Pete again, happily smashing it with Rhino and the Ranters at Lunar Festival. But this year's Lunar King Of Connections was the excellent Richard March – he of the wandering double bass – who played three Lunar sets in one weekend with three different bands. He wore that gold sequin jacket into the ground, did Richard. 

Richard turns out for Rhino and The Ranters, Swampmeat Family Band and Bentley Rhythm Ace, now enjoying a sweet revival after twenty years or so. If you want to catch their Lunar set, here's a link to Brum Radio's recording:

Of course all this activity is possible where the bands have a relatively gentle gig schedule. Richard doesn't. 
Richard March: "Since we first got asked to do a gig at the end of last year – we kind of said yes, cos it was our twentieth anniversary – we've got another half dozen festival shows over the summer, we've just been invited to open for The Wonder Stuff 's Christmas shows, and we're looking at booking some bigger festivals for next summer. Talking to EMI about a re-release..."
It must be tricky turning out for one the fastest-rising Brum Bands, Rhino and The Ranters, building up yet another band locally with Swampmeat and also fitting in commitments for BRA, who are enjoying a bit of a revival...? 
Richard: "It's strange, because when we started the band, it was me and Mike Stokes. He DJ's; I did the programming. Then we started getting offered gigs. The whole reason the band came about in the first place was me and Mike sitting around having a couple of beers. We were just looping samples and seeing how ridiculous they could sound. The thing about Bentleys was that sense of fun. For me as a bass player, it was great to be on stage with Fuzz (Townshend) who's one of the best drummers – a great drummer to watch, and even better to play with..." 

A common factor?

I think Richard put his finger on it. There is one common factor here. None of the above, stellar musicians one and all, are exactly in the first flush of apple-cheeked youth. Well, apart from Abby, who is extraordinarily young. So they have had time to develop their chops, get a sense of perspective, and above all, really rather enjoy the fact that there are multiple overlapping worlds of music that welcome then in, and cherish their skills. 

For me, it's always a huge pleasure to catch someone who has been there, got the t-shirt, and clearly takes equal pride and enjoyment in delivering on stage with their peers. Seeing that is something I never tire of, just as I never tire of the joy of discovering vibrant and fresh new talent.

It made my evening, after a lousy depressing day. Great music will do that for you.

More music business posts on Radio To Go


Tue 28th, 4pm: Big Wheels: Roy and Jaki Davis of Madhouse Rehearsals
Wed 29nd, 11pm: Live and Local: Steve Ajao's Blues Giants at Tenbury Festival 
(repeated Sat 2nd at 11am)
Fri 1st, 3 pm: Muso TakeoverTom Walker

After airing, these can be found on Brum Radio's Mixcloud page.

All Radio To Go shows are listed here


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