Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gig Preview and Interview with Ronnie Bottomley

Gig Preview and Interview with Ronnie Bottomley
Lee Gibson and RBJO@Leeds Irish Centre,
York Road, Leeds, LS9 9NT 
Thursday evening 12 December 8-11pm
£16/£14 concessions

This year Seven Jazz have moved their big band spectacular to the Irish centre York Road Leeds because the previous venue always sold out! I caught up with Ronnie for a chat (by email). Most people in Yorkshire who know about the jazz scene will have encountered Ronnie Bottomley, who was the inaugural winner of the Jazz Yorkshire Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ronnie who has years of experience as a jazz drummer, is also an educator and a band leader. Now in his 80s, it appears that he is working as hard as ever in all 3 guises.

On the 12th December he brings a fresh set of arrangements for the first set and then internationally acclaimed jazz singer, Lee Gibson joins the band in the second set.

Was it always going to be music for you or did you have other occupations before or during?
RB -  If I numbered all the jobs that I had had from being ten years of age to when I turned pro in 1960 you wouldn't believe it - looking back, even I can't believe it. At ten I had two paper rounds and washed mill owner's cars on Saturday morning. When I was twelve I added to all this by caddying on the golf course all Saturday afternoon then from midnight until Sunday lunchtime I cleaned inside mill chimneys and de-scaled mill boilers. When I came out of the navy I couldn't settle, I worked at Covent Garden as a potato porter , then at Billingsgate Fish Market pushing barrows up the hill opposite the gate, then sold Encyclopaedias door to door and on and on - I had twentyfive jobs in just over two years. I took a hairdressing course open to ex-servicemen and, as I'd had selling experience, ended up working for Raymond, better known as 'Mr Teesie Weesie', the TV personality. Due to befriending drummer Phil Seaman when I was in the navy in Portsmouth (and everyone who is a jazz fan should know who he was) I was playing around the North London area as a semi-pro during all this and, eventually, music won me over.

Has it always been Jazz that you have played?
RB - No, although jazz has always been my first love, as a pro one has to go where the money is so during the 60s, 70s and 80s I played for a variety of stars on the cabaret circuit from Matt Munroe, Johnny Ray, The (original) Drifters, Howard Keel, Edmund Hockridge, Alma Cogan, Ruby Murray, Dorothy Squires, The Beverley Sisters, Bruce Forsyth, Bob Monkhouse and toured Europe and Australia five times with Gene Pitney, at the time. I was also doing regular TV work on the Les Dawson Show, Emmerdale, The Royal and Stay Lucky. Added to which, fusion, or jazz/rock, emerged in the early 70s and I loved it and embraced it whole- heartedly.

How does running a big band differ from when you started?
RB - Well, every town and city had one, if not more, Palais de Dance halls like The Mecca and The Majestic Ballroom in city square where people danced nightly, so running a big band was quite different then (in the Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Wakefield, Harrogate and Leeds area there were over forty, full time, seven nights per week drummers working, if the cabaret clubs are included). Now, to run a big band, it has to have in it, at least, sixteen members who, because they love jazz, are willing to travel miles and work for next to nothing just to play. These are now known as 'rehearsal bands' and, usually meet once a week to play, sometimes before an audience, sometimes not. My Jazz Orchestra is full of the top soloists in the country and travel from as far away South Wales, North wales, Cheshire, Nottingham and Doncaster, plus the local people from Leeds and Harrogate. All this means that we can't rehearse and so in all the concerts that have been attended in the past the musicians have had no more idea of what the arrangements were going to be like than the audience. It's all 'seat of your pants' stuff and makes for a very exciting performance but, they're all excellent readers and, so far, it's always gone without a hiccup.

How did you meet Lee Gibson?
RB - I first worked with her on a concert in Rotherham when I played in the Colin Yates Big Band twenty-three years ago. I then met Lee Gibson through her association with LCM as an external examiner. I worked there for thirty-three years and during that time whenever she came up she would bring quintet charts then we'd play somewhere locally in the evening or lunchtime in college or whatever.

What do you feel sets her apart from the other big band singers?
RB - Most other jazz vocalists usually sing with small groups which allows them more freedom but Lee is equally at home with both small groups and big bands.

What songs can we expect to hear on the night and why have you chosen those particular songs?
RB - I have yet no idea which songs Lee will choose sing on the night (I did mention that we didn't rehearse, earlier, didn't I) before the concert we will all meet to have a quick look at the programme and, perhaps, blow through some of the more tricky numbers and get the sound engineer to make any adjustments where necessary. For the first half I've written entirely new arrangements that feature certain members of the band, "Without A Song" (Joel Purnell, tenor sax); "Emily" (Neil Yates, flugel horn); "Prelude To A Kiss" (Tony Harper, baritone sax); "West Side Story Medley" (Dave Walsh, drums); "Billie's Bounce" (Derrick Harris, guitar); "I'm Not Yet Over The Hill"- very fitting - (a blues featuring Graham Hearn, piano) plus a whole lot of other numbers. Bill Charleson has arranged "A House Is Not A Home" which features Bill, himself, on alto sax).

Do you like marmalade?
RB - I do like marmalade, the one that has all bits in it like was originally. 

For more details of the gig please check:

For a taster of the gig here is a youtube clip from last year!

If you are looking for Ronnie he can be found on facebook!
Lee Gibsons website is:

Hope to see you all at the gig


Monday, November 11, 2013

Arun Ghosh – “A South Asian Suite” Camoci Records

According to the press release for “A South Asian Suite”, the music takes inspiration from Miles Davis’ “Sketches of Spain” and Duke Ellington’s “Far East Suite” and reflects Arun Ghosh’s respect for South Asian music in the same way Vaughan Williams paid homage to the English countryside in many of his most important works. Certainly, on first hearing this collection, one cannot help but be drawn into the sensuality of the instrumentation. There are tunes of love and devotion and there are tunes that evoke imagery, which is at times melancholic and sacred, whilst at others joyous and uplifting. The Suite features six movements, which can be regarded as Ghosh’s interpretation of the subtle variations in musical styles of the Subcontinent. This cauldron of musical ingredients is achieved through blending clarinet, harmonium, table, dholak, alto saxophone, flute, bass drums, Tibetan bowls and piano. What may initially sound like disparate confusion skilfully intertwines to produce a sound that has both beauty and significance.

Opening with “The Gypsies of Rajasthan”, a praise song, inspired by Rajasthani folk and Gypsy music, the mood is bright and exultant, and illustrates perfectly how music can speak to differing cultures with dialogue which is not so different wherever you are on the planet. “After the Monsoon” demonstrates a far more meditative quality, one that is as soothing to the soul as it is to the listener’s ears. “River Song” is inspired by bhatiyali music, the folk style of Bengal, which is Ghosh’s parental homeland. Again the imagery that flows from the music captures perfectly essence of the waterways and culture that surrounds them. An altogether sprightlier piece, “Sufi Stomp (Soul of Sindh)” is up-tempo and celebrational, and utilises compositional structure and phrases from swing to rock and roll, without ever losing the overall mood. “Mountain Song” is a contemplative love song evocative of Nepalese panoramas. “Ode to the Martyrs” is one of a number of pieces which form segues between the dialogue, and like the others, “Pilgrimage to the Ganges”, “Arise Dancing Dervish!” and “Guatama’s Footsteps”, is a transitional vignette created through musical improvisation and mutual understanding.
 The saga ends with “Journey South” a dramatic progression which builds upon layers of repetition into an almost trance like euphoria. 

“A South Asian Suite” was originally commissioned by Manchester Mega Mela and PRS for Music Foundation, and was premiered in 2010 performed as an octet. Subsequently the suite has been rearranged to include table and piano, and on this recording, Nilesh Gulhane and Zoe Rahman perform these parts respectively. Where “world music” can sometimes be a phrase used to indicate that musical cultures have been bolted together, “A South Asian Suite” effortlessly fuses jazz and South Asian musical characteristics to form a cohesive piece that not only is a joy to hear, but is an education for the listener willing to engage and understand its’ influences.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Interview Richard Iles – Microscopic Seven Arts 24th November

I first came across Microscopic as part of the Jazz North – Northernline, those in the know will have encountered Richard Iles playing and composing before, either with the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra or The Miniature Brass Enssmble more recently. Microscopic premiered at the Manchester Jazz Festival in 2012 however my first encounter with Richards music was at the Northern line showcase gig back in the summer in Leeds where he was the last act on (following The Weave, Stuart Mcullum for strings and Djangologie all tough acts to follow).

For me; the music I heard had beautiful melodies, great harmonic choices and subtle rhythms. Well Microscopic are back this side of the Pennines at Seven Jazz on 24th November I highly recommend you attend! I already have my tickets reserved! I cant give a better description that what Seven Jazz say ‘Microscopic play warm, melodious home grown tunes, no amplification, just right for the ambient acoustic setting of Seven Arts.’

Microscopic are:
Richard Iles – trumpet/flugelhorn,
Mike Williams – alto saxophone,
Les Chisnall – piano,
Percy Pursglove – bass,

I caught up with Richard by the power of email to have a chat about this gig:

MBS – How is being a member of Northernline treating you?
RI - It`s been really good, especially the showcase event in Leeds where we got to hear 3 other bands which were all great and it was nice to catch up with some old friends. I think Nigel Slee and all the Jazz North team are doing a great job and as ex Yorkshire resident I can`t remember there ever being an opportunity like this for North west musicians being supported in this way so I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be part of a programme like this.

MBS – Why the small format from the bigger bands of the past?
RI - In the past I have co-led a big band with Andy Schofield and most recently I have had a Brass based group called the Miniature Brass emporium, I also have a jazz quintet called Prestwich Deluxe and I now run this smallest of bands called Microscopic! This band has come about because I really wanted to play some jazz with the people in the band, the format of the band is incidental to the people who are in it. I have had a long association with pianist Les Chisnall and Percy Pursglove is one of my old students, although I taught him the trumpet I was astonished to hear him many years later playing the Bass. Percy is an amazingly rounded musician who I really wanted to involve in this band. Finally Mike Williams is a colleague at Birmingham Conservatoire on the jazz course who I believe is a pretty unique talent and is very seldom heard performing in public.

MBS – Any reason you have decided against having drums?
RI - No particular reason although I always enjoyed listening to the Jimmy Guiffre trio with Paul Bley and Steve Swallow and the absence of drums obviously changes the dynamic of the music. It does have its challenges but playing with drums also has its own challenges. The format of the music allows the music to breathe in a different way without drums so I don’t think it is an issue for the musicians.

MBS – What came first the band or the music?
RI - Well I think the band came first really although some of the music is from another time and I thought it would fit in this context. I always feel that once I have written a tune and the musicians have played it, it no longer belongs to me as they hopefully put their own slant on it. I`m not precious about how it is played as I believe the musicians I have chosen can bring a unique interpretation to it and that to me is what its all about.

MBS – Is it all originals planned for the Seven gig or will you be including some   interpretations of peoples music?
RI - It will be some of my music and some other tunes which are particular favourites of mine which I hope will be appropriate for the day.

MBS – What is this music saying, is there a story behind it?
RI - With some tunes that I write there is a story behind it which relates to the background that is occurring at the time of writing it. I tend to think about writing tunes every day and I keep a little book with all my bits and pieces in and I keep everything that I write most of which is not that interesting but I only use the stuff that I can live with for a while. I’m not sure whether the stories are that relevant to the listener as I think it’s nice when the listener creates their own story for the tune. One of the things about instrumental music is, there are no lyrics to help the listener through, but I feel the melody, harmony and groove can help let the audience create their own story.

MBS – When you compose is there a set way this happens do you have a starting point like a specific melody line or bass riff or do you start with the harmony or rhythm first?
RI - A starting point has many ingredients and there is no specific order to it. Sometimes it can start with a melodic idea, sometimes it can start with a mood created. Most of the tunes I write start when I am in the car driving to work so I sing the idea into my phone and record it (hands free!). I rarely start with a chord sequence as I find it doesn’t give the best results for me. Rhythm is created by interpreting the melody in different ways and sometimes I think of a bass line. I don`t really have a method that I use, I just like writing music for my own pleasure and when a new tune arrives I’m relieved!

MBS – Being a trumpet player how do you think this affects your compositions?
RI - I don`t really know, I just like music and I play the trumpet and I love listening to jazz so I think that along with all my past musical experiences have an effect on how I play and the stuff I write. My tunes tend to work on most instruments and they certainly aren`t particularly technical.

MBS – Do you like Marmalade?
Well as a child of the 70`s I do remember Ob-la-Di- Ob-La-Da but my favourite band of that type was Mud, Tiger Feet.

To hear some of Richards music and a video interview check out

Richards web site has more videos and sounds to check out