Time somehow kept slipping away from me this month, so July’s newsletter is a retrospective one. It has been a month of varied gigs and musical activities. There’s been jam nights, burlesque, Latin themed parties, recording sessions, a bit of guitar, and intensive jazz viewing. As I write I’m listening to Gregory Porter’s album, Water. He’s a new American jazz singer that I came across on Jools Holland a few months ago. I would highly recommend it. It’s a mixture of standards and originals and it has a real classic sound.



So, the burlesque night was with The Voice Collective, where happily we were allowed to keep all our clothes on. It was a bit of an eye opener, I can tell you! The night was called Cherry Kiss Cabaret, and it was part of Not Part Of Festival (I love that sentence). I think they are planning it as a regular night, so it would be worth checking out if you like a bit of cabaret style entertainment. One of things I enjoyed most about the night was the compere, who was a stand-up comedian. He really brought the whole thing together and helped to get everyone involved.


Is that fruit on your head?

Beleza (the bossa nova duo I sing in) performed at the annual celebration for The Cranberries Club, an inspiring club for older people which allows them to meet new people and do all sorts of activities. They had decided on a Latin theme for the party, hence the bossa nova music from us, and a plethora of Carmen Miranda style hats from them. There was one particular 94 year old lady with a definite twinkle in her eye, who seemed to take a real shine to my guitarist Julian. It was good to see such a positive and creative attitude to ageing and older people.


Serious recording artists

Well The Voice Collective have now completed the first day of recording for our new album! It’s very exciting for us. We have done a number of recordings before, but this time it’s serious. We’re going to get something out there into the world that shows what we can do. It was a productive day. We got around five songs down, so we’re nearly half way there. Watch this space.


Wi jammin

I had the pleasure of going down and taking part in the jam night at the Salutation Pub (known to the regulars as “The Salli”). It’s a very different animal to the jazz jams that I normally go to, in that it’s not improvising from charts to standards, but really someone just lays down a groove and then you see what grows out of it. It’s the first one of that kind that I’ve been to in a long time. I used to go down to one at the Arch Bar, and The Dancehouse, but sadly neither place exists anymore. It was a great experience anyway to do that again. It encouraged me to experiment and be spontaneous with on the spot composing of lyrics and melodies. I do find coming up with lyrics quite a challenge, so I decided to use this as my inspiration, and to sing about the fact that I didn’t know what to sing about. This worked well as a starting point, and helped me to get over that initial fear.


I enjoyed it immensely, but I have to admit that after five or so jammed songs, I was itching to just sing a song that already existed – just for the joy of singing and playing around with something that already has form. Which is why it was so nice to go down to the jazz jam at Matt n Phred’s jazz club. It was part of the Manchester Jazz Festival, so there were some fantastic musicians there taking part. I got to get up and do one song. The house band has a real high energy feel to it, which feeds into the rest of the night when various people are getting up to play and sing. This all seems to stem from Dave Spencer who leads from the double bass.


Would you like some jazz with that?

So I spent the majority of this week planning my life around the Manchester Jazz Festival. I’m exhausted now. Even then I didn’t manage to see everything that I wanted to see, but I did squeeze a lot in. So, here’s my highlights: Clarke-Thorne-Fell, a trio made up of violin, double bass and drum kit. It was completely improvised, with the use of experimental and non-traditional sounds on the violin especially. I’m not sure that I can do it justice with a description. All I can say is that they were extremely imaginative, accomplished players and the way they communicated and played off each other was captivating and really joyful.


I also enjoyed watching Kenji Fenton (sax) and Andy Stamatakis-Brown (piano) playing together. They were less experimental, but again there was a big focus on improvisation, interaction and communication. They have played together in various outfits for at least 10 years they said, so they were a really tight unit. They mainly played standards with some original compositions too and also a song by Bjork. I liked the way they made the Bjork connection by following on with “Like Someone In Love”, an old jazz sing that was included on her album, Debut. I enjoyed the geeky feeling of knowing why they’d put those two songs next to each other.


The other act I’d like to mention is Sally Doherty (voice). She was joined by Paul Kilvington (piano) and Liz Hanks (cello). Sally has a beautiful clear resonant voice, and a gentle and thoughtful style of delivery. There were bossa novas, swaying jazz songs and folk flavours, and the music had a spacious airy quality to it.


The first rule of guitar club is…

…you know, you don’t talk about guitar club. So I’ll keep it short in case I get kicked out by the other members. The guitar class I was doing has reached the end, so I’m on my own from now on. Happily I think me and a friend are starting a mini “guitar club”, so that will help to keep me motivated and inspired to practice and learn. My guitar playing was tested over the weekend. Playing when drunk has always been the ultimate test for me, and this time I could do it. It’s safe to say it wasn’t the best I’ve ever played, but I remembered the chords and my fingers pretty much did as I told them. So that’s progress.


Duo plans

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, my regular accompanist has run away to Corfu, so I was hunting for a new one. Well I’ve now found a great piano player who I’m really looking forward to working with. I’ve also found someone who’s willing to record us, so the cogs are slowly turning, and things are getting into motion. Now I just need to choose the songs, get rehearsing, record them, and send them out to the right people, and then start taking over the world. Easy, when you put it like that.

Thanks for reading,



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