Last week marked the start of a six week run where I’ll playing guitar for First Family’s annual Panto at Richmond Theatre. Over 60 shows in total, with two a day and only about four days off between now and Jan 8th. This year it stars Maureen Lipman, as well as Chris Jarvis (of CBeebies fame) who also does a great job of directing it. It’s a really fun show and I’m delighted to be doing it, the rest of the band are all excellent, and really nice, too.
I’ve been dep-ing (covering) at Richmond Panto the last few years for my friend Dario Cortese. This year he has moved on to play for Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s new musical, School of Rock, which means I get to do the whole run – which I’m very grateful for!
A quick update to announce that I am now teaching at The Academy of Contemporary Music, Guildford! It’s a great place with lots of very talented teachers and students. I’m teaching on the brand new Level 2 diploma in performance and production. You can read more about that by clicking here.
So far I’m really enjoying it but like all new things there is something of a learning curve and I think as somebody who teaches, it’s good to be reminded that you always need to be learning and adapting, whatever you’re doing.
A quick run through All The Things You Are just to check out a clean sound on the AmpliFIRE.
This was “CleanLux” which is available in the firmware update. It was designed by The Amp Factory, who do a lot of profiles and patches for Kemper and AxeFX. I don’t think I edited this at all, other than removing the reverb so that I could use a one in Logic.
The guitar is a 2004 Epiphone Zephyr Regent, fitted with a Gibson pickup that I don’t know the name of – last owner did it. I really like it anyway!
Recorded straight into Logic, with nothing else added. First impressions? Impressed!
I don’t really follow many of the technological developments regarding amps. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m an amp luddite, but it’s pretty hard to argue against a good valve amp… or even an average valve amp. That is until the (quite recent) advent of Fractal’s AXFX, which I started to hear about around 2012; and the Kemper profiling amp, which over the last two years all my friends have been buying and raving about!
I’ve always felt (and still do) like as long as I have a decent guitar plugged into a decent amp I can cover all bases (with the addition of a few good pedals, natch). However, a few months back I got to use a Kemper on a panto gig and it was a real eye opener! Not only did it sound every bit as good as a “real” amp but it sounded every bit as good as about 30 different amps…. AND was incredibly easy to use – a patch programmed specifically for each number in the show. I was converted.
Problem is, that combination of high quality sounds and convenience rarely comes cheap. So, I was very excited to learn about the Atomic AmpliFIRE, which is works very much like AXFX/Kemper but at a quarter of the price. It’s actually like a grown-up version of the old Line-6 kidney shaped POD, which itself was a bit of a game changer back in the day. So I got one! Only had it a few days but it’s really easy to use and I’m really impressed with the results. I still have lots of experimenting to do, but like a good amp it sounds great from the off – Now it’s just about the tweaking! More to follow…
Recently some friends and I formed a new party/events band, we called it FRiSK. www.friskband.com
A stripped down acoustic/festival type band. A line up of male and female vocals (doubling on sax and flute) backed by guitar, double bass and cajon. We play all the best tunes, and none of the rubbish ones.
Here’s a follow up to the first video on this (huge) topic. This time we’re putting the chord on all four beats and adding the upstrokes, which should be kept light and late. Robin Nolan has referred to this approach as the “Dutch School” and you can hear it on most recordings featuring the Rosenbergs, for example. I really like this sound, it’s hard to execute at high tempos but if you get it right it has a great feel!
The first instalment features a simple rhythm study which will help you grasp the basic idea of the “La Pompe” feel. Traditionally Gypsy jazz ensembles don’t have a percussionist, so that role is taken on by the rhythm guitarist(s) who really have to drive the ensemble. It’s all about being consistent. The main thing is getting used to putting the chord on beats 1 and 3, and the dead notes on 2 and 4 – which seems odd at first, but think of those dead notes as a snare drum or peddled hi-hat and it should make sense. Consider this as the foundation of Gypsy style rhythm playing, there are lots of variations other complexities . Just go and listen to the greats – Django, anybody called Rosenberg, Bireli Lagrene… the list goes on.
Tim Robinson, who is something of an authority on the UK scene (more so than me anyway!) made an excellent short video that I also found very useful a while ago. If you’re interested in a second opinion, you can see it by clickinghere.
So here’s my first blog post on my new website. Other new things include a second baby (guitar), and a second actual baby. I’ll limit myself to talking about the former. Four or five years ago I started to get into playing Gypsy jazz through a good friend, one thing lead to another and I bought a Gitane D500. It features on Musicradar’s50 Guitars to Play Before You Die – they refer to it as a “credible starter with a unique sound and feel.” I completely agree, It’s a great guitar for the money (£600ish) and although not without it’s limitations (most noticeably the lack of volume in an ensemble setting) I can’t recommend it enough for any serious Gypsy beginner. Here’s Djangobooks founder Michael Horowitz’s review, which is well worth a look:
You can hear mine by clicking here and listening to the first tune on the page. After a few years I started to feel like I had outgrown the D500, but not in a snobbish way. When I started with it the greater number of limitations were in my playing rather than in the guitars construction, so naturally after a period of time addressing these limitations the balance tipped and so the limitations of the guitar became more apparent. I’m sure this happens to everybody. So, I upgraded! Interestingly the next step up from the D500, would probably be something like the D255, or the D250M or maybe one of the signature models – all would set me back about £1000, give or take. I spent a year looking at options, I’m not normally so conscientious, it’s just that none of the afore mentioned guitars I played seemed significantly better than my D500…. though I did play a 2nd hand Del Arte Pigalle which was very good, but somebody beat me to it. In the end, I decided if I was spending around the £1000-£1500 mark, I’d get the best value if I went bespoke. I found JWC guitars, who have a few notable endorsees and who’s prices start at the very reasonable £995.00 (including a Hiscox case). I made enquiries and the guys actually brought some samples to my house, when they were passing through a few weeks later. Anyway, I placed my order and three months later here it is, my JWC Modele Jazz!
Worth very penny, and a really fantastic sounding guitar that I can continue to grow with! I would insist that anybody looking for “the next move up” from an off the shelf Selmer style guitar pay a visit to JWC Guitars, excellent value and beautifully made.