MANCHESTER IN JUNE….A SHADY VERANDA UNDER A SUNDAY BLUE SKY

Well the months are flying by. I can’t believe we’re nearly half way through the year already. How does this happen? Since it’s June, and I enjoy a good theme, I’d like to point you in the direction of my favourite June-based song Memphis In June written by Mr Hoagy Carmichael and performed by the great and dynamic Lianne Carroll.

What’s been happening?

Well there’s been a few gigs, news songs learned, outings to music nights.

Recently I’ve been getting down to Ed Kainyek’s Wednesday night jazz jam at Indigo in Withington. I always enjoy getting up to sing there, playing with some new people, trying things out. It can be a bit by the seat of your pants at times, but that’s the nature of jam nights. It’s a great little night with a real mixture of folks. There are some very accomplished musicians who have been out and about on the jazz scene for years and then also up and coming musicians who are just finding their feet. So it’s a good learning place for the musicians, but quality and entertaining for the audience as well.

One of the songs I’ve been learning is Lush Life, by Billy Strayhorn. It’s a song that I’d heard quite a few times by various artists, but it wasn’t until my other half left the music out in front of the piano and I started to have a little go through it one night that I really began to appreciate it. On the surface it sounds very straightforward, but once you start breaking it down, you find that the melody has some quite unexpected little twists and turns, with subtle little accidentals half a note out from where you’d expect them to be. Parts that sound like it’s just the same phrase repeated again, are just slightly different. I also love the drama of the lyrics. I think it’s got to be a bit tongue in cheek. It’s so melodramatic, and kind of clichéd, but that’s what I love about it. The version I’ve been listening to is from the 1963 album “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”, with the vocal performed by Johnny Hartman, who I think sounds like a male Sarah Vaughan. They share so many little inflections and ways of phrasing and making sounds. I found his style a bit schmaltzy to start with, but he’s really grown on me. It was much the same for me when I first came across Sarah Vaughan. I wasn’t an immediate fan, I found her a bit much, especially with her tendency for lots of vibrato and a slightly operatic sound, but the more I listened the more I grew to love her, and now I’m a firm fan. My favourite song by Sarah Vaughan is Shulie A Bop. I love the playful improvisations she does and the fact that they are very short, sweet and to the point. Not too much noodling! Also the interaction with the other musicians is fantastic. I think it’s a really good compact demonstration of what jazz is about.

On the 28th of May I had the pleasure of doing my second ever radio interview. Rory Duffy (leader of Diáspora) and myself were invited by DJ Amos De Roover to come and talk about Diáspora and to play a couple of songs on his Global Vybz radio show on 106.6 North Manchester FM. It was a good experience, a little bit nerve-racking at first, but we relaxed into it. The strangest thing really was performing the songs with just the two of us. I’m so used to having the weight of the full band behind me when I’m singing these songs that it felt quite exposed to have just a piano. But Rory did a sterling job, and I think we held it together. If you’d like hear what it was like, you can get the “listen again” option for the first hour of the show by clicking here we’re just in the last 7 minutes. Then in the second half of the show you can catch us performing our songs. Golden Section is at 12 mins 51 secs and Move To The Music is at 42 mins 26 secs. The show is on every Saturday 6pm-8pm on 106.6 FM if you want to hear more from the Global Vybz crew.

We had a great turn out for the Voice Collective gig at Chorlton Arts Festival. It was pretty much a full house. Not an empty pew in sight! So thanks to everyone who came down to watch. It was a lot of fun for us, and we enjoyed having the lovely acoustic of the church, which was a rare treat for us, as we’re normally performing in bars and pubs. I had quite a spiritual moment whilst singing “Down To The River” at the end of the gig and contemplating the beautiful stained glass window at the back of the church. It seemed very fitting! We also did our first public performance of “Don’t You Worry About A Thing” by Stevie Wonder, arranged by Joe from our tenor section. It’s something we’ve been working on for quite some time, so it was good to finally get it out there.

What’s coming up?

This Friday 3rd June will be my last gig with the group RiverMan, the band of my accompanist Chris Manley, before he disappears off to Corfu for half a year. So I’ll be losing an accompanist, but gaining a holiday home…and hopefully there’s a new accompanist in the pipeline. The gig is at Bar Place, 10 Crown Street, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8EH. Music starts at 9ish. Entry is free and you can check out the facebook event for full details.

Then the next evening (Saturday 4th June) you can catch me singing with The Voice Collective at fundraising event for Mustard Tree, a Manchester-based charity that works with homeless people. The night starts at 8pm, and the entry fee is a suggested donation of £5.00. We’ll be on in the second half at around 9.30pm, but there’ll be some great acts on before that including an Afro-Jazz band so get there early! The event will be held at The Mustard Tree, 110 Oldham Rd, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AG.

And finally…I’ll be singing with Diáspora at Prestwich Festival this coming Tuesday the 7th June. At 7.30 I’ll be doing half an hour of bossa novas, then at 8.15 we’ll be moving on to the full big band Diáspora brass percussion Latin extravaganza, so if you like to dance the salsa, this is the one to come down to!  It’s £6.00 in advance, £7.50 on the door. You can get tickets by emailing white548@btinternet.com or calling 07980092311. The venue is St Mary’s Church, Prestwich, M25 1AN. For full details click here.

Thanks for reading. Hope to see you at some gigs soon,

Alyss

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