Friday, 19 December 2008
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Tuesday, 16 December 2008
Monday, 15 December 2008
Sunday, 14 December 2008
This is the story of a trip that the trio took for a gig in Halifax last December. At least, as I remember it.
It's epic, and possibly too long for a mere blog post but it kind of needs to be this long, and it's all true. At least, as I remember it.
For the purposes of this tale and to avoid confusion, Tom Bancroft will be referred to as Tom, and Tom Lyne will be referred to as Tomtom. There is also a GPS navigation system in this story, and I am aware that Tomtom is also a popular brand name of GPS system. This is purely coincidental.
The role of Geoff Amos will be played by himself, even though he only has one line. Thank you.
2.30pm: And we're off. On our way to Halifax for a gig, looking forward to it. It's gonna be good.
We were going to leave around 1 pm, but the journey has started a little later than planned. This is due, possibly, to the fact that Tom (designated driver for this particular trip) had very admirably and diligently opted to get his spare wheel replaced at a reputable auto repair centre before we left. Now that's responsible behaviour in my book. Good work. I mean, it's only an hour and a half delay... we can make that up.
Tom is driving his Daewoo, and in the Daewoo is Tom, Tomtom, Me, Tom's drum kit, Tomtom's double bass, 3 suit-bags, a few cases and an array of unlikely items that seem to live in the car. It's a tight fit - I'm sitting in what's left of the back seat, knees up around my ears and surrounded by instruments and bags. But we're ok. We're moving. It's going well.
We're heading south. It's probably a total of 3 and a half hours journey so we should arrive about 6pm. The gig's not til 8pm, so there's plenty time. We also have the added bonus of travelling with Tom's GPS sat-nav system, so nothing can go wrong. Tom has been telling Tomtom and me about how fantastic the sat-nav is, and how "you'll never go back once you've used one..." Great stuff, I think. It's going well.
2.40 pm: Ten minutes into the journey, Tom says: "Shit." to no-one in particular.
Tomtom & I says: "What?"
Tom says: "I think I forgot my bass drum pedal"
Tomtom & I says nothing, and we all silently contemplate the implications of doing a gig with no bass drum pedal.
After a few moments, Tom says "Shit" again.
Tomtom & I says "What?" again.
Tom says: "I think my drums sticks were with the bass drum pedal"
"Well," I says, "we're just coming up to Hawick - there's a wee music shop there, maybe we could buy some sticks and a pedal if they have them?"
There's a general agreement, and we're back on track. Everything is going well again.
2.45 pm: A matter of minutes later we roll into Hawick, and with expert local knowledge (having grown up near there), I guide us to the music shop. Tom pulls up on the pavement outside the shop. The kerb is a good 20cm high and the car hits it with quite a bump. As concerns for the well-being of Tom's tyres are raised, talk briefly turns to the coincidental and fortunate trip he made to the reputable auto repair centre to replace his spare wheel, just a matter of hours ago. We are somewhat reassured.
2.55 pm: We leave Hawick's only music shop with four drumsticks but no bass drum pedal. It's not the problem solved, but it's something. We're on the road again. It's still going well.
Now, sat-nav systems mostly, to my knowledge (I still don't own one), have an in-built pre-recorded voice that audibly gives you directions throughout your journey. You can choose from a variety of different voices and languages, and apparently you can also download various 'novelty' voices and character types. The voice guiding us on Tom's sat-nav, for some reason, has Tourette syndrome, an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder, characterized by the presence of multiple vocal tics. In short, the voice on Tom's sat-nav habitually shouts and swears at him when giving any directions. This fact has no direct effect on the story, but bearing in mind that the machine appears to give you advice whether you need it or not, it will give you a more accurate sense of the tension that will start to accumulate from this point on.
4 pm: We've just pulled on to the M6, the main artery south from Scotland and it feels good to be on the open road, travelling at speed. Tom's phone rings. He answers, and Tomtom and I are quietly listening to one side of the conversation. Throughout the course of the 3-minute call we hear some of the following phrases: "Yeah, I collected it this morning...", "No...", "Really?...", "Oh...", "I'm really sorry about that..." .
4.05 pm: Tom hangs up. "What was that about?" we say. He tells us that it was the reputable auto repair centre on the phone wondering why he took the wrong spare wheel. "What do you mean?" we ask. Apparently, Tom had been mid-conversation with someone on his mobile phone when he arrived to collect his spare wheel from the reputable auto repair centre, and one of the mechanics had pointed vaguely in the direction of a pile of "ready to collect' spare wheels. Being distracted by his mobile phone conversation, Tom's attention perhaps wasn't fully on the matter at hand. However it happened, he did not pick up the wheel he was supposed to.
4.06 pm: BOOM! doof-doof-doof-doof-doof-doof-doof-doof-doof-doof.
This is something like the noise we hear as one of the tyres blows out and we limp on to the hard shoulder.
"What were the chances?" one of us said. Maybe we all said it. Maybe we just thought it. Or maybe it was just me. But what were the chances?
Tom gets out to retrieve the spare wheel... maybe it will fit anyway. Of course, we have to unpack the car to get access, and this is when we really start enjoying ourselves - it's a brilliantly cold and dark december afternoon, and we're standing on the hard shoulder, a few feet away from busy 80mph traffic with all the instruments scattered on the ground, and frankly, very inappropriate clothing.
4.10 pm: Tom skillfully and efficiently jacks the car up and gets the blown-out wheel off. The spare doesn't fit. It's for a small Honda. It so doesn't fit, it's nearly funny. If it wasn't so cold it might have been really funny, but as it was, only nearly funny. We get back in the car, and Tom gets on the case. "We just need a garage." he says, encouragingly and gets his phone out. We can see lights of a town nearby, so this is a good sign. From directory enquiries he gets the number of a garage. He calls them, but they can't come out to where we are - they could fix the tyre if we can get to them, but they're just too busy to send someone out. "Right, I just need to get the tyre to them then." Again, Tomtom & I are encouraged. Tom calls a local taxi company, again with the help of directory enquiries. After a frustrating but short call, Tom learns that the taxi company won't come on to the motor-way to collect him. "Not allowed" they said. Something to do with insurance.
4.30 pm: The police pull up behind us, and the inside of our car is suddenly illuminated with dancing lights, like beautiful blue rays of hope. "Hooray" I thinks, "the police will save us!". The police do not save us. Seemingly they are not allowed to leave the motorway. The two vaguely sympathetic coppers depart in search of more serious motor-way related crime, but not before making some intensely unhelpful comment about it possibly being a different situation, had we had blonde hair and big tits. Us pointing out that, between the three of us, we do technically possess both of those physical attributes does not help.
4.40 pm: So back to the taxi company plan. After some intense negotiation Tom arranges to meet a minicab near the motor-way and they will drive him to a garage - a fine compromise we all thought. And without a word, and before we can say "There's no business like it...", he's striding down the hard shoulder of the M6, into the dark, towards the next off-ramp wearing only a T-shirt for warmth and carrying the whole, broken wheel under one arm. In all my life I have never seen such an awesome sight, such determination, such a completely selfless act of courage in the face of adversity. It's very moving.
He also has the car keys in his pocket.
5 pm - 6pm: Not being able to turn on the engine of the stranded, 3-wheeled Daewoo, Tomtom and I pass a very cold hour by trying to arrange a bass drum pedal to be delivered to the venue, as well as trying to alert the venue to the fact that we may be cutting it fine getting there in time for the concert. Also during this hour, we are unaware that Tom has done slightly more walking than he'd anticipated. The minicab driver had suddenly stopped the car, saying "I'll just drop you here! I've got another fare to collect you see - The Garage is just up that road there...". As it turned out, it was just up that road, but he didn't mention it was over a mile away. When Tom does eventually make it back to the car, the vision of him appearing out of the darkness with an intact wheel has all the power and awe of his departure, and more. We are watching the return of a hero. Somebody will write songs about this moment one day. We have an unspoken urge to get out of the car and salute him or something. We don't salute him, but we do get out of the car. He has to change the wheel, and the extra weight would not be helpful at all.
6.10pm: New wheel. We're good to go! As we finally pull out on to the motor-way again, Tomtom and I sense that Tom has had enough of the verbal abuse he's been receiving from the sat-nav, as he calmly re-programs it. We are now being guided to Halifax by the voice of Yoda from the film Star Wars.
7.45 pm: After a further hour and a half of wonderfully eventless travelling, we reach the outskirts of Halifax. I make the decision to abandon the force, ignoring Tom's plea just to trust Yoda's advice: "turn left, you must, at next junction, hmmmm..." and I phone Geoff Amos, who booked the gig for us, and is waiting nervously at the venue. We are supposed to be on stage in 15 minutes. The ever-resourceful Geoff tells us that he's got us a bass drum pedal, and that the venue is all set for us and ready to go. "We might just pull this off!" I thinks to myself. "How do we find the venue Geoff?" Now I'm sure Geoff gave us a perfectly good description of the building and its surroundings, but he doesn't drive, so he can't really give us the right road directions. We have the post code programmed into the sat-nav, and a vague idea of signs to follow, yet there are now five people involved in directing us to the gig; The three of us randomly pointing at signs, saying stuff like "Look, there's a sign for the bus station - isn't it near the bus station?". Geoff saying stuff like " It's a massive building, looks like an old factory warehouse, can't you see it yet?" And Yoda with the hard-to-take-seriously, but ultimately correct "prepare you must, for right turn..."
Then, suddenly, with a matter of minutes to go before we're due on stage, we pull on to a road that stretches out before us, and is surrounded by buildings that look like old factory warehouses. And at the end of the road, arms waving, is Geoff. We've made it! As we draw nearer, we realise Geoff is gesturing in the direction of an alley off the main road, so we obediently follow his directions. Then we spot someone from the venue at the end of the alley beckoning us towards what seems to be a service entrance to the building. With his arms swinging briskly and enthusiastically to the right like some crazed disco dance, we follow his indicated direction at the speed of someone who is late for a gig, and turn in to an opening in the building and down a ramp. "Great!" we think. "We're here! Straight to the door. WE'RE GONNA MAKE THE GIG!!" When we reach the bottom of the ramp, we realise that something is not quite right.
What nobody had thought about in the few seconds leading up to this point, was the fact that this service entrance ramp wasn't really meant for cars. We have driven into what is effectively a dead end tunnel that is only a few millimeters wider than the car itself. Sure enough, there's the door right in front of us, like some metaphoric finish line, a tantilising, wondrous portal that would magically evaporate all the struggle and adversity of the day simply by walking through it, the door that will take us to the gig, to the warmth and anticipation of an eager audience, sitting waiting patiently for the concert to begin. It's just a few feet away... but there's not enough room to open the car doors. We are well and truly wedged. The silence in the car is broken by a wise-sounding voice: "Reached your destination, you have. Hmmm."
It only took about 3 seconds to drive down the ramp, but it takes us nearly 5 minutes to reverse up it again, inch by inch, so close is the gap between the car and the sides of the high walls. When we do finally get out, a man appears with a trolley and as the car spews out the instruments and cases on to the trolley, we reflect briefly on the day's events. "It's going well" I think.
We rolled the trolley down the ramp, through the magic door and into one of the best gigs we'd done all year.
Saturday, 13 December 2008
I recall a very poignant moment in the history of the DMT in Germany a couple years ago. We were being driven from somehwere to somewhere else in a big Audi limo on the autobahn. It was raining, we were tired, the auto was big and black and the driver might have just turned 16 yesterday, but assured us he was really a university student. And he was very excited to demonstrate just how fast he could go in this big car on the autobahn; because the huge widescreen display in the car made it impossible to escape the fact we were now travelling somewhere in the region of the speed of sound, the boy/child driver needed to turn around completely to look in the back seat and say with a wild sparkle in his eye 'I have never driven such a big powerful car'. . . . The silence from the trio was acute, little passed between us as we all got out the mobiles and began texting our last will and testament to our loved ones. With that complete we moved on to video games and chess, just to block out the incredible speed at which everything flashed by the window. We got there fairly quick and we're still here to talk about it. But I have never gone that fast in a car in my life.
This, of course, is in complete contradiction to the usual course of events, particularly, well, . . depending on who is at the wheel and who owns the car. Presently I am unwilling to name names and highlight various shortcomings and generosities. And it is inevitable that if or when I do, it will become entirely clear that, apart from me most of the time, none of us are, well, either perfect, or free from incident. And its not like I want to be critical, its more that I really enjoy the rediculous nature of the trip and the way it sets the mood and an undercurrent which is then brought with you onto the stage. We're all professionals here, but not at everything.
So, big world tour time next week. We've been rehearsing for months now and I feel bad that this has impacted negatively on Tom B's completion of his roof, though I may have got that slightly wrong. Anyways thats not the point. The point, and after all, there is always a point. And the point this week is, Its Dave's turn to drive; Wahey, which means Dave is driving and the rest of us can generally misbehave and tell stories about when we had newborn babies, and the excitement that can cause in a relationship, and about the condition one achieves when deprived of sleep for long periods, oh and adult conversation, and few other things like that. Or maybe not, thats the great thing, you just don't know where its gonna go. I think the days of just drinking the whole way are kind of behind us, I'd like to think they were. And Dave knows the way so its not like we're gonna get lost or anything like that (and I think he has a spare incase of a blowout - not that that happens everyday), and his seatbelts all work properly, particularly if you turn the car over upsidedown, which is never a good way to start a tour, though it has worked in the past as a way of upgrading your double bass, but best to keep that kind of private.
An Tobar on tuesday evening, which I am really looking forward to and then WEDNESDAY DEC 17th AT THE LOT IN EDINBURGH. My shouting is due to a serious infringement of jazz promoting which has taken place on our behalf and I know they are trying to promote jazz in scotland, but even their in-house advertising for our gig at the Lot is wrong. This gig is advertised everywhere as the 18th when it is the 17th(aaahh). There was a nice little blurb in the Scotsman yesterday and they had it wrong too(presumably because they got the information directly from Assembly Direct) and advertised the 18th. . .
I don't know how we can compete with all this promotion, good thing most of our friends are directly in touch with us or read the blog or visit the website (well not mine as its not been updated since early 2007).
Is it not difficult enough to attract an audience to a jazz gig, even a really good one like ours, which really deserves some professional promotion and care and attention??, I think it is fair to say we (the members of DMT) have all dedicated our lives to playing music, and working and practicing and studying and pushing the boundaries and writing new material and driving all over to f**k and back, and doing promotional spots and showcases, and pitching in when asked to serve the greater good of the scottish music scene, and doing crap paying gigs because otherwise there isn't a gig in town to play?????? And are these promoters not fully salaried professionals too, who have desks and salaries and telephones and calendars, possibly computers in this day and age? Its a date man! How come they get the salaries? Why do they get momney from the Arts council, is there a management council, or a promoter council where they could get their money. Then if there was some arts council money, it could get to the artists to make their lives a little less fucked up financially. Sheeesh.
At the end off the day there are so few organisations which help and promote jazz. This makes it very difficult. but also poignantly painful when you want to put something on, something you really care about and have worked very hard on, and really want people to see it, and know a lot of people want to come, and then the date is advertised wrong. Makes me really quite angry to think about it. How hard is it to get a date right? And its not like there are a lot of dates on this tour, as far as I know, apart from the previous night at An Tobar, this is only date the promoters have anything to do with! There are people phoning my house complaining because they want to come to the gig and the promotional material posted through their letterbox has the wrong date.
In the end we'll get on stage and do the gig and we will thank the promoters for their hard work and dedication, and the arts council for their support and making everything happen. But the people who really make this stuff happen are folks like Gordon at An Tobar, our families who put up with our irrational travel techniques and rehearsals in the sitting room at dinner time because there is nowhere else to play and no other time because we're all trying to pay bills and raise children and keep the car on the road, heck - possibly even upgrade an instrument here and there. It is the great internal links with friends and fans that make all this music work. In the event the economy fails and there is no petrol left, food scarce and the structure of this consumerist society breeched to destruction, we'll probably still be playing to gathering of folk out here in midlothian.There'll be food and warmth, some love and family, and everyone will be all right.
Just so you know, I do have respect and admiration for the promoters in this business and I know its a tough job. I take nothing away from that. When I am travelling and get to a remote gig and there is someone there to pick us up and take us to the hotel and make sure we get a meal and a soundcheck, I am eternally grateful. I have done a lot of 'busking'touring where there was nothing like that so I really, intimately know the difference. My diatribe is all about getting one number right.
. . . . Can you belive it, One date!!!! not nearly right - sheeeeesh
(Editor note) If you find any of the previous blog offfensive or feel there has been a degree of slander, . . . tough, its my blog.
And I am going now, it feels better getting that out, because I was starting tto get really wound up about it.
Peace and be kind to small animals - except maybe any mice that get into our house, in which case, the cat(Becky) will catch you and then the dog(Ella) will tear you to shreds and eat you.
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Saturday, 6 December 2008
Made me start wondering what the christmas presents for the boys in the band should be. I think this will be predominantly conjecture and possibly cynical humor (I'm Canadian and cynicism and hypocracy are kind of inbred - and you may argue the point, I wouldn't dream of depriving anyone of anything so go on and argue, as long as its fair, and I am in no way trying to suppress your feelings, your origins, or your unique view of national identity, or cast any aspertions on the authenticity of your claim to the throne.).).__! . . Casting christmas gift suggestions should be free of politics and policy.
However, just last week my free and open attitude towards this subject was cut wide open like emergency heart surgery. My youngest rugrat was completing a homework assignment by interviewing family members with the question; If you had a magic wand that granted one free wish for christmas this year, what would you wish for? I had to think very hard. It was a tossup (Toss Up?). I really want some good studio monitors for mixing and recording here at the studio, but for the moment I have nicked Tom B's 2.1 system and I really love the sound, so I thought it greedy to ask for more just at this moment. OK, then the next thing, and I decided this was my answer, I wanted a new widescreen TV with a built in digibox. . . not a really big one, just one big enough so I can read the guide when sitting across the room (my eyes are getting worse these days). Fair enough, I want a widescreen TV.
The youth scrawled it down in his finest joined up writing and disappeared to ask others their wishes. When he returned, the other Christmas wishes, to my surprise, took the form of culturally sound and morally just desires, like, 'I wish a peaceful holidays to my friend who is not very well just at the moment', and 'I wish for peace and an end to fighting in the middle east'. hmmm. Then the youngster said, we are going to write everyone's wishes on card and put them up on the wall at school, but dad, I might not put up your one asking for a TV.
The relevance, . . . well if you've read this far all I can say is HA to the relevance. But there is a kind of relevance. I think for Dave Milligan, there are a few things to wish, and they are all important but again, I'm not here seeking world peace, I'm a Canadian who left Canada after all, seeking an altogether unpeaceful and exciting life, so my gift suggestions are frivolous, possibly cynical and probably wholly unattainable. But if you don't ask, you won't get, as I am fond of telling my kids.
So Dave. Dave, for you I wish some wonderful benefactor out there reads this and thinks it a wise thing to do. It is commesurate with your piano playing and dedication, and I've been listening to some Lyle Mays and Pat Metheney and am starting to hear where you're coming from. So I wish for you a brand new Fazioli under the tree. We played the Dean Gallery last year where there was a Fazioli and the look on Dave's face while he was there, well, its hard to describe, and would be emberassing if I tried. So you rich benefactors out there with nothing better to do than read blogs from obscure scottish piano trios (with Canadian bass players), here is the link (http://www.fazioli.com/). Also for Dave I wish eternal strength, a bit of extra sleep, and warm up that big heart of yours for there is to be a baby arriving in your life soon. Sleep will become a distant memory and your powers of concentration will be challenged, but it will be something like you can't imagine. Kid(s) bring an extra force to your life, you'll fall inlove and everything shifts a bit one way or another, and you'll find something like an anchor that ties a lot of stuff together, you're gonna love it. (and no, this part is not cynical, at all). I was also gonna wish for a speedy and correct return of the new Trio CD but I believe it has already happened so the hell with it.
Tom Bancroft. A christmas wish for the big guy. I am split about this but my intention is pure. There was a great episode of Mr Bean where he painted a room by putting a stick of dynamite in the paint can, a kind of flawed genius that got to the end of a challenge. I am wishing for Mr Bean to show up and help you finish building your house. We are needing your studio finished so we can get back to regular playing and not worry that you will either fall off your roof of chop your arm off with the radial saw. It must be noted though, I am deeply impressed with the work you have done to the house and have the upmost respect. My wish for the Mr Bean helper is to drive you through this last bit and see completeion arrive. And you have to see how selfless this wish is. Because as long as your house remains unfinished, the longer I can hang on to these wonderful studio monitors I have borrowed from you, so finishing the house would mean I had to return them. The less tangeable part of my wish for you is to find some peace and time so you can pursue those things you hanker after. From spending so much time and effort tryring to build up businesses or mechanisms to promote music and creativity in this country, I wish you to take the time for yourself and explore all that is racing through that Bancroftian head of yours, in a free and unrestrained way, like a little puppy racing through the fields experiencing snow for the first time, and peeing with excitement . . . (ok some of that may be tinged by cynicism, but only in the nicest possible way).
Right then, so Dave gets a piano and stocks up on sleep, and Tom gets a free builder (that could be a type of improvisation too) and then some time off. For my wish, its still stupidly pedestrian. I wasn't lying when I said I wanted a widescreen TV, and maybesome new speakers for the studio. We'll share the CD this time (if Dave gives Tom and I any copies). And finally, I do wish for strength and life to pervade everyone I know, because for some it isn't just now and that makes me pause and think how fragile everything really is. And that a wish for a TV needs to be held up as important because it is, and it lends weight to other wishes of a more ethereal nature, which may not be tangeable, but also need to be there to give hope.
I'd also like to say hi to my Mom and Dad. XXX Tom
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Healthy trio blog going on 'round here.
Well,.... I have to confess, I once started a blog, some years back, and as soon as I posted it I deleted it and cancelled my account, the process didn't sit with me. Why would I want to spend time writing things? And here we are again, writing things. Hmmm. I am interested in what people are thinking, but I have always been reticent just throwing my thoughts out for general consumption.
Right then, lets take a turn.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year revitalising my relationship with music and quite particularly, the piano trio. When we did the commission for Gordon, way back when, it was the first time we, as a trio, had spent five days concentrating on writing and playing (this is a trio with fantastic ability to distract, displace and be very busy doing other things). The progress and development in that week was inspiring, and as I recall, the Friday night gig at An Tobar was a very special event. It left me feeling good; and certain that much more concentrated effort needed to happen, there was much to learn, and improve my musical relationship within myself. I had a number of years of being somewhat unconnected to my musical soul.
I began searching and listening to a lot of young, old, new and contemporary jazz musicians coming out of all different geographic locations. I craved hearing new things, invention and surprise; and I was not to be disappointed. There is such great music being made now and it sounds vital and relevant. Perhaps, until this happened, I had pursued my knowledge of jazz by following the prescribed consumption of established greats, of playing to standard convention (be it free, harmonic or other), and following the inventions of our heroes.
Well then, the new music worked. The establishment has been turned on it’s head (for me) by paying attention to modern players breaking down traditions and making great and exciting music. Playing well with clear intentions, creating great energy and sounds that push enthusiasm to the fore of the conversation.
Clearly, I am an older guy getting excited about music again. This has been an exciting course to follow.
The reason I’m going on about my personal re-awakening to new music is important because I too had not heard much from our sessions in Mull and had the presumptuous feeling wasn’t much to work with (the cynical old man syndrom). When the CD dropped through the door with the new mixes made by Dave and Gordon, out popped some great sounds and fantastic energy. Since I had done a lot of listening and enjoying of music, I could hear the depth and progress of the trio. There is clearly something special going on, and that is a ‘something’ external to what I get out of the trio as a player who resides within it.
So I did my bit, worked on the mastering and helped Dave edit the CD. I feel very good about the resulting disc. It’s very good. The trio sounds very good, and the music is an invitation to take part, play more, and keep going. I want to hear more of this band and I want to play more, and I want to write more.
In the end, the reluctant blogger has found a bit of voice. Perhaps I sound too earnest but I don’t care There is something fresh and energetic about the Shops CD, crunching credit and malignant banks aside, I feel sure the DMT has tapped into a new world of music and performance, Bring It On!!!.