Blue Flamingo Entertainments

Blue Flamingo, Interview, Jazz, Musicians, Saxophone

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Interview with Saxophonist Tom Stone

So Tom, why the saxophone?  Were you a clarinet kid first?

 Well…I was not a clarinet as a kid, nor did I play the clarinet as a kid!  I was actually a violinist (I have quite a few strings to my bow – pun intended!…)  I wanted to take up a new instrument when I went to secondary school, but my violin teacher said I was only allowed to take up an instrument that wasn’t in the orchestra, so that I would still play the violin at school.  That plan back fired fairly badly as I no longer own a violin!

Why did you choose to study at the Academy?  Did you find it different to Trinity?

 I had always wanted to study at the Academy having done the Junior Academy course, but what with the way the auditions were back then and with me having a nightmare of an audition, I didn’t get in!  So I went to Trinity – which may I say is where I have met all of my closest friends and I am so glad to have gone there.  The two places are very different.  At the time, I think I was best suited to Trinity anyway but after two years I felt that I wanted a change and to explore more writing/original music, which I feel is more what the Academy is about.

Has there been anyone you’ve learnt under/played with who has dramatically changed the way you play?

I wouldn’t say so really.  I am a massive Stan Sulzmann fan and have listened to his music a lot as well as had some lessons from him.  If only I could just play like him…

We learnt on a recent BF gig that you have amazing hair that repels hair spray.  Any other Blue Flamingo gigs that also stick out?

May I just point out to your readers that the use of hairspray on said gig was compulsory and I was not just trying out a new look!  Well I played a BF gig recently at the London Korean Film Festival and as I walked in I asked some people where we should set up.  The response was as if I was some sort of Hollywood film star and they all sort of screamed/giggled/panicked in that star struck way.  Perhaps I am huge in Korea…

What’s the most unusual/ridiculous gig you’ve ever been asked to do?

Saxophone on stilts.  I learned to walk on stilts, then I joined a completely insane band of people on stilts, then I left that band.  Now I can occasionally be found on stilts on some mental functions!

You’ve done great stuff with Jazz at the Green Man.  Tell us about that, why have you decided to move on? 

Time is really the main reason.  I don’t have the time to put in to the venue and therefore the venue suffers.  When I started at the Green Man it was with a group of people and slowly they have all moved on and left me holding the reigns.  Since then I have much more on myself and have also moved further away…everything points in the same direction!

How was your London Jazz Festival Experience?

LJF was brilliant!  We had great audiences down at the Green Man (which is where I spent pretty much all of my festival!) and when I played there myself the audience and atmosphere was absolutely amazing! (That’s some good alliteration!)  What’s so great about the festival is that every gig I went to was packed out.  There is definitely an audience out there for jazz…but I think they hibernate for 50 weeks of the year!

Here’s an open floor for you: vent about London Jazz, Cuts, beer, anything you like…

I’m not really good at venting about things…I like everything!

Anything else you’d like us to know?

I’m off to watch the tennis at the O2 now!  I’m a massive tennis fan – I go to Wimbledon at least once every year!  If anyone fancies a game, give me a shout!

First published Nov 23rd, 2011

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Interview with Singer Emma Smith

Emma is a young starlet on the UK jazz scene. She regularly sings with our Blue Flamingo jazz ensembles for corporate events and private parties.

Tell us all about the whole singing thing.  A musical heritage?

I come from a crazy musical family.  My grandfather played lead trombone with Sinatra for 20 years amongst other jazz legends, he’s now 76 and still plays every day!  My dad is a trumpet player and big band composer/arranger who has done lots of work for the BBC, Hollywood films, etc.  My mum is a burning lead alto player… the list goes on!

What’s the most bizarre thing you’ve ever learnt musically?

How to recite poetry in French over some free jazz improvisation.. this was my first combo performance at the Royal Academy of Music.  Or maybe the time I had to roll around on the floor pretending to be an injured monkey in a vocal workshop…

What has been the best gig you’ve ever played?

The Billy Strayhorn Story alongside Madeline Bell and Ian Shaw.  It was a live Radio 2 broadcast with Guy Barker’s Big Band and the BBC Concert Orchestra. That was an incredible experience!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

To be on time, do a professional job and be a friendly face… because everyone can play the snot out of their instruments these days (Stan Sulzmann– Living legend)

Any Blue Flamingo memories that stand out?

My motorbike breaking down on the way to a flamingo gig in Kensington!  Ran through South Ken in my stilettos to find a lovely martini waiting for me! [That’s how we roll! ~BF]

Do you find it any different being a woman in a predominantly male environment?

I think being a woman AND a singer on this scene is hard. I find myself biting my tongue when I get introduced to other musicians as a singer because of the image that surrounds us (out of tune, wrong key, bad charts, doesn’t know what note to start on, bad time etc.) and I do believe that, in the most part, this image is rather accurate.  Although, I’m really serious about what I do and I work my arse off to be taken seriously as a musician.  I like to think that this work is paying off and when I get work with incredible musicians, in and out of the Academy, I get given the same lead sheet as everyone else and no special treatment for being a singer and a woman.  And that’s the way it should be.

Here’s an open floor to rant: anything on your mind?  

What is up with making Facebook groups dedicated to ruining the peaceful vibe between jazz musicians of all race, colour and background on this scene?  That is so sad.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

I would like to have a career that looks a bit like Gretchen Parlato’s… recording, touring, residencies at the jazz standard in New York.  A girl can dream, right?

Who are your favourite artists/musicians at the moment?

Tom Harrell. Well he’s always been my favourite musician but since I saw him live at North Sea Jazz Festival this year I have listened to him every day.  I’m also massively into a singer Becca Stevens from NYC, she’s got an amazing folk/jazz thing going on.

Anything else at all you’d like to share (Daoud chose to tell us about sci-fi!)

How about a shameless plug?…I have an album coming out of Feb 1st 2012, I’ve been working on it with my band for nearly a year and am very excited for its release!  We are launching 8.30 pm Feb 1st at Pizza Express Dean Street, special guests to be announced.

First published Nov 7th 2011

Thanks Emma!