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Narcissus @ The Pheasantry, Pizza Express Jazz Club, London: 12/09/14


narcissus pizza express peasantry band london wedding

This Friday sees Pete Lee’s Narcissus return to the live stage in London, at The Pheasantry (PizzaExpress, Chelsea).  As one of our favourite live bands, we can’t recommend them highly enough.  Why not read our Review of their Vortex gig, or the interview we did with Pete.

As well as their regular line up (see below) sax supremo George Crowley and singing sensation Alice Zawadzki will be joining them on stage.

Narcissus in Chelsea on a Friday night in September.  What more could London Town want?


Tickets can be bought here and check out the Facebook event.
The Pheasantry, PizzaExpress Live, 152 Kings Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4UT
£15.00 | doors 18:30 | set 20:30

Line Up Pete Lee: Piano, Tom Varrall: Guitar, Huw Foster: Bass Guitar, Ali Thynne: Drums



Interview with Lawrence Olsworth-Peter, Artistic Director of the International Rameau Ensemble

A shot from Achante et Cephise last year at the Bloomsbury Theatre, extracts of which will be performed on November 22nd. Tickets available now at with Anna-Louise Costello, Katherine Blumenthal and Lawrence Olsworth-Peter.  (Photo: Chris Cowell)

A shot from Achante et Cephise, extracts of which will be performed on November 22nd. (Anna-Louise Costello, Katherine Blumenthal & Lawrence Olsworth-Peter. Photo: Chris Cowell)

Tell us a little bit about this new project, the International Rameau Ensemble.  Where did the idea come from?

I like getting people together for projects and I am also passionate about theatre.  Creating the International Rameau Ensemble was as much about building relationships and creating opportunities, as it was about the music itself.

Having said that, I also started this project to share how extraordinary Rameau’s music is and to spread it outside the ‘informed musical elite’.  His music is still relatively unknown in the UK although over the last couple of years major opera companies have been trying  their hand at it.  With the 250th anniversary of his death next year this is the perfect opportunity.

So do you think today’s modern audiences will respond to a rather unknown old French composer?

The thing that drew me to Rameau’s music when I was first introduced to it at music college was its flamboyant risk taking and sense of pageantry as well as the ability to pull on your heart strings so tenderly with gorgeous scrunchy harmonies.  It is the capacity to move the human spirit which makes it appealing to any audience!

Give us a teaser for the concert on November 22nd…

Our inaugural concert will follow the theme of ‘Amour’ which is so prevalent in Rameau’s work and will include interwoven scenes from some of his most wonderful characters such as a cynical fairy, a jealous tyrant, gods and separated lovers. All the players and singers play at the highest level around the world and have kindly agreed to donate their time for the love of this music.  There will also be a drinks reception afterwards.

Thanks Lawrence!  We’re looking forward to it, and you’ll see a review up here shortly afterwards… ~BF


Amour International Rameau Ensemble


Mid-Tour Update: Dave Smyth’s Timecraft

dave smyth on tour timecraft blue flamingo jazz london drummer

We asked mid-tour Dave Smyth for an update….

“We’re now halfway through our first UK tour with this band.  Despite some of the pre-tour set backs with venues pulling out, it’s safe to say that the tour is going well and we’ve been having a great time!  We’ve been absolutely knocked out by the amount of people who’ve come out to the gigs, bought CDs and the support that the promoters and venues have given us along the way – so thanks everyone!

We’ve got three more dates left for the diaries. The first is tonight (25/6/13) at Charlie Wright’s in London and then we hit the road again playing at Dempsey’s in Cardiff on Wednesday 26th before finishing up at Soundcellar on Thursday 27th.  If you’re local to London tonight will be only date on the tour with the whole octet, featuring the last minute addition of mega-dep guitarist Alex Munk.  For those who cannot make tonight, we have another London gig next month appearing at the 606 Club on Tuesday 23rd July. Thanks again to everyone who has come out and supported the gigs and we’ll hopefully see more people over the next couple of days!”

You can read all about the tour here.

Thanks Dave!



Interview with Narcissus’s Pete Lee

Pete Lee is a London based jazz pianist, currently leading contemporary group Narcissus.  Blue Flamingo conducted this interview via email in March 2013.  We were lucky enough to see his RAM performance at The Vortex with Narcissus, so now we’re touching base again!

Tell us about what inspires ‘Pete Lee’s Narcissus’

Over the last few years, I seem to have been torn in two very different musical directions, which futilely compete for my full attention. While I was studying at RAM, taught by the UK’s most prolific contemporary jazz composers & instrumentalists, I was gigging a few times a week with the most killing band of pop musicians of 12-piece group “The White Keys”.  Forming “Narcissus” was my way of bridging the gap between two things which appeared worlds apart.  I identified the two contrasting elements of life and fused them together.  I wanted to compose something with the sense of depth and maturity that you find in Gwilym Simcock’s or Kenny Wheeler’s music, with the sense of conviction, clarity, drive and sheer volume of an electronic pop band.  So that’s the musical background of the project.

I’ve been writing with a specific theme in mind too. I wanted to tie everything together with an idea that an audience could relate to, and that would be a catalyst for the creation of more music.  I chose the topic of the human mind. This includes human perception, attitude and behaviour.  It’s quite a personal theme really – I’ve had my own difficulties with mental health, and recently lost a family member, who had had a long history with mental illness.  So forming Narcissus was a bit of an emotional outpour.  Emotional potency is always a plus in music. The intangibility of the human thought process, and the fact that it is a universal entity, encouraged me to write something honest and truly from my own experience.  It can really interesting to become aware of your state of mind when you’re being most creative.  What’s happening in your mind when you’re lost in music, and how do you ensure that you achieve that state regularly?

 Do you think it makes a difference that it grew up outside the ‘London Bubble’? 

All band members in “Narcissus” have some rooting in Leeds.  We met in Leeds College of Music, but I didn’t form the band until we had relocated to London. It’s important to me that we’ve got a long history of playing together. You don’t really realise how much you trust and rely upon one-another, until you play with other musicians who have a different approach altogether.  It’s easy to forget how much you’ve become accustomed to each others’ playing, but this relationship is the basis for a group that sounds unique and well balanced.  To be honest, we’ve probably spent even more time together driving up and down the M1 in an overcrowded & precarious Transit van, sharing near-death experiences. It’s really important that we’re able to hang out together; it’s never even an effort anymore. Our activities as a group are more influential to the music than the location we came to meet.

This project is especially different for me musically.  Stylistically, it marks a bit of a paradigm shift, a tectonic shift even!  I used to swear by the acoustic sound of double bass and delicate brushes at the kit. I used to think that less was more.  This band is much punchier and more direct.  Now I think that more is more.  We chose to memorise all the material we play, so that when we’re on stage we are free to communicate rather than read.

 What did you learn during the time you studied in London?

I learnt that I’ve got a lot of work to do – a lifetime of work in fact.  I guess I was already aware that with music, there’s always more to learn.  But while studying at the Academy, this really hit home.  I was surrounded by prolific musicians, and I had one-to-ones with Nikki Iles, Gwilym Simcock, Tom Cawley and Django Bates.  It’s an amazing environment to be in – very humbling indeed.

I learnt a lot from Barak Schmool about groove writing – knowledge that I hope to utilise when writing for Narcissus. Pete Churchill’s composition and arranging lessons were great too – I learnt how to arrange my music for octet – which was really challenging.  We’d have a weekly session where we’d have an octet set up, and we’d bring in our compositions and arrangements. Mine would often sound quite rough at first – but I’d use the time between the sessions to tweak my arrangements until they I achieved what I’d first envisaged.

As well as being a humbling experience, the Academy taught me to have some self-belief and motivation. I learned that if I really worked hard, I could achieve an awful lot. The main product has been my group Narcissus with whom I played my final recital. I’m really proud of this group and I’m excited about its future.

 “Writer’s Block” is a great tune….inspired, by, Writer’s Block?  How did you break that Block?

While in my first year at academy, I had a bit of composing crisis!  I didn’t write anything new for a whole year.  To pass my composition module, I wrote new arrangements of 3 year old compositions (shhhh!). But seeing as I was arranging for octet for the first time, it made sense to practice the arranging side of things without worrying about the composition itself.  But once that was over, with my final recital approaching, I accepted that new material was long overdue. I knew how highly original material was valued in the final recital, and I wanted to leave RAM with something of my own.

Over Christmas of 2011, I fulfilled a short-term cruise contract to help out with rent. I was there for 6 weeks, and we revisited a lot of the same ports each time that we’d have new passengers. When we pulled up at port, all the old folks would amble off to the beach, leaving the room with the grand piano free.  I forced myself to write something, dusting off the creative compartments in my brain, ignoring my self-doubt.  It took around 6 weeks to write “Writer’s Block” complete with an arrangement for octet.  My idea with this piece was to unite my pop and jazz ties. It’s really similar to Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” – a really similar structure. It’s got “verses” and “choruses”, keyboard riffs that keep coming back with a horn line that sits on top – swiped almost directly from “Ain’t Nobody”!  But I used harmonic ideas that I’d found in John Taylor’s “Autumn”, and the kind of unison bass and left hand piano runs that you find in Gwilym Simcock’s “1981”.  So it’s a piece that consists of contemporary jazz content, organised into a pop structure.

To be brutally honest, I found it really fun to write something that entirely lacked tact or subtlety. It felt like a bit of a rebel statement in an increasingly pretentious and airy-fairy jazz scene. The enjoyment I found encouraged me to write the rest of the Narcissus repertoire without the self-doubt. I began to believe that I was creating was valid and worthwhile.

 Do you know what might inspire your next tunes?

I want to use more elements of live dance music, including more modern technology and sounds. Perhaps some really subby bass and synth solos. There’s still lots more mileage to be had from my theme too. There’s been some really pressing political & personal issues recently that I’d like to express with music. I’ve been brainstorming – and have a list of tune themes as long as my arm!

 What do you do to chill out when not music-ing?

Music is always on my mind, even if I’m playing Playstation! I read an interesting article recently that suggested that time spent procrastinating can be a time where many people subconsciously order their thoughts, and make grand plans. Perhaps it’s not as beneficial as playing your scales, but I think a good balance of socialising, relaxing, practicing and composing is key to living a life of successes, happiness and sound mental health.

~Thanks Pete! BF


Interview with Pianist Gabriel Latchin

Do you actually enjoy playing jazz the most?


What brought you into jazz?

My Grandmum bought me an Oscar Peterson compilation CD when I was a teenager. I had been playing the piano for a while already, but soon realised what music I was most into.

Did you study music at University then?

I went to Edinburgh and did Economics.  I wasn’t planning on being a musician back then.  I had a great time there and over time started to get involved in the jazz scene.  It was a fairly easy transition after I graduated.  Then I came back to London (where I’m from) and started at the Guildhall.

What’s the best lesson you’ve ever been taught that’s stuck with you?

Probably a lesson with Aaron Goldberg, and mainly because I recorded it and have listened to it so many times.  He talked in a lot of detail about some really important things I hadn’t been thinking about so much at the time.  Each time I listened back I understood another small detail in what he was trying to explain.

Who inspires you musically?

All the greats- Ella, Oscar, HerbieBill Evans and Hank Jones especially at the moment.  Ray Bryant doesn’t get too much of a mention.  Count Basie.  All those guys.

So what’s the best gig you’ve ever seen?

There have been many, but I really enjoyed an afternoon trio session with Benny Green, Steve Brown and Sam Burgess at Ronnie’s.  Steve let me know that they were hooking up for a play before the club opened.  All acoustic and I was the only one there.  It was really special.

Any Blue Flamingo gigs that stand out?

The afternoon one with Daoud Merchant and Tim Thornton was a lot of fun – for that street party!

What does an “average” day look like for you?

Practice, admin, maybe some teaching from home.  I have lots of plays at mine, a few times a week.  Gig somewhere in the evening I guess, or Orange Wednesdays with my girlfriend.

Do you have any ‘musical pet hates’ ?

I’m not a huge fan of fakers – guys who can’t play but try to wear the right hat and say the right thing.

If you’re not playing music, what do you like to do?

Movies, hanging with friends, Italian food…

First Published 2011


Interview with Trombone Player Ellie Smith

Was the trombone your first choice of instrument?

The violin was my first choice and trombone my second, which I started a year after.

Why did the trombone win out?

I enjoyed playing the violin (and still do now occasionally in a string quartet and I hope to do a bit of teaching) but I think I enjoyed the trombone more as I was involved in many groups and was a member of the Doncaster Jazz Association for many years.   The trombone became a much more interesting instrument, being able to play both classical and jazz music to a high level.  I will never forget my first rehearsal in the trombone section in my first big band up North!

Being a ‘Northerner’ have you found any difference in musical perspectives with ‘Southerners’?  Or is it irrelevant?

When I first moved to London I got the impression a lot of musicians thought they were better than people from the North, but I never felt that I was an inferior player.

How did your pre-Trinity musical life prepare you for Music College?

The music department was great at school, having a great head of music also helped.  He encouraged me to join many different musical activities both in and out of school.  I met lots of interesting people and learnt more advanced things about music.

So who have you learnt the most from?

I’d have to say the teachers I had at Trinity, and most of all, my trombone teacher Malcolm Earle Smith.  He knew my ‘technique of learning’ and could explain things in a way I could understand with regard to learning jazz and improvising.  His jazz vocal technique was also a great learning curve for me!

Tell us about the best gig you’ve ever done….

The best gig I’ve ever done would have to be recording Michael Bolton’s DVD at the Royal Albert Hall in November 2009.  Great experience, great place, great gig! 

 …The most inspiring gig?

The BBC Big Band (in various places)!  It would be incredible to be a part of that band in 10 years time!  Also watching trombone players Mark Nightingale and Gordon Campbell play inspires me to learn more new and exciting things!

…So your perfect gig would be?

To perform with the BBC Big Band, or to tour with Sting/Michael Bublé.

Do any Blue Flamingo memories stick out?

I really enjoy the 100 Club gigs as I love to watch the dancing, amazing!

If you weren’t a musician, what would your absolutely perfect job be?

I’d be a gymnast!  I used to love going to gymnastics seven days a week when I was 7/8 years old, went for around four years until music took over! I used to love doing competitions and meeting lots of different people.  It was an enjoyable hobby and one that I hated giving up!

What’s your most unusual habit?

Too weird to tell! [sounds ominous! ~BF]


Interview with Trumpeter Freddie Gavita

Surely you can only get three notes out of a trumpet?  Why did you go with that instrument?

Well that is a common misconception!  The number of notes available on the trumpet does not correspond to the number of valves, or buttons, as I like to call them.  There are seven combinations, each one lowering the pitch a semi-tone from the open note (no buttons) and the harmonic series is available on each valve.  So to play a scale, you are in fact accessing a note from a different fundamental’s harmonic series.  Hope that clears that one up! As far as your second question is concerned, I thought the teacher said ‘trombone’ when we were asked which instruments we wanted to play in primary school. You can imagine my surprise when I was handed a Bach 6c trumpet mouthpiece.

When and how did you know that your profession in life was to be a musician?

Well I can’t really do anything else, so it was the only option!  I guess it was a gradual thing for me, I never really believed I would be good enough to do it.  Step by step from getting in to the Junior Academy, then the senior course, doing NYJO, actually getting work whilst at college, and still being alive nearly four years after graduating.  Then you start to realise you might just about be okay!

What’s the best thing you ever learnt whilst studying at RAM?

Ooh tricky! Martin Speake taught me not to apologise for my playing.  Perhaps the most useful teaching was Pete Churchill‘s composition course, learning about voicings and harmony.  Barak Schmool’s world rhythm classes are pretty amazing, and very applicable to a lot of music that you end up playing in the professional world.  And of course the more enjoyable artistic projects.  I think the best thing about college is that all that analysis and theory teaches you to think about every part of your playing, from sound and time to repertoire, stylistic things and your own approach.  Being versatile but always sounding like yourself is the ultimate goal I think, as a freelancing jazz player.

What’s the best thing you’ve learnt since you’ve finished your studies?

In a professional sense, take every gig you can, turn up on time, be smart, and be really nice to everyone and you’ll get gigs! On a more musical level, and maybe this is something I need to address more, decide what you really want to be and go for it! It’s hard to work out whether you want to be the best at the thing you’re good at (say playing standards or fusion etc), or work on your weaknesses and become an all-round better player. It’s a tough one, the balance between making the music you love and paying your rent!

Tell us about the most bizarre gig you’ve ever played?

It was a concert at the Barbican theatre playing the music of Scott Walker (lead singer from the Walker Brothers).  He writes incredible music, but the subject matter was very dark!  There was a song about Mussolini, which involved the singer being hung upside down singing the song, whilst a man in a boxing outfit punched a dead pig that was suspended from the ceiling with a microphone in it, so the thuds were amplified through the theatre.  The song I was in was called Flugel Man, and was about herpes!

Any Blue Flamingo memories which stick out?

Well there are too many to mention!  The Kentucky trip was obviously an excellent experience, meeting some fantastic people, playing great music with my friends and discovering bourbon and stetson hats. Your [Leah] sister’s wedding was fun too!

Are you a coffee or tea man?

Depends. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon, hot chocolate at night. So now you know what to buy me and when!

As usual, here’s the open floor.  Anything you’d like to rant about? Arts cuts? Jazz? Beer? Plans for the weekend?

Have they cut arts?  I thought it was always this bad.  Yes we need more money, yes jazz is underfunded, no I don’t want to do my accounts, and I would love some theatres to put even just a bottle of water backstage for the band!  Can’t think of anything else that particularly winds me up at the moment, apart from people who stop JUST at the top of an escalator.

Anything else you’d like us to know (gigs/bizarre hobbies/randomness?)

Gigs: Hmm, it’s my birthday on 12th December, and I’m playing at Ronnie Scott’s with the house big band, so come down after and buy me a hot chocolate!

Hobbies: include thumb twiddles, collecting loose change, buying vintage trumpet mutes, thinking of daft things to write on twitter, collecting quotes from footballers that make no sense, such as “there are people all over the country waiting to put custard in my eyes…” – Steve Evans, Crawley Town manager.

Randomness: All the animals that live in my back garden are themed on footballers, and Newcastle United.  Even though I’m a Norwich fan. There’s Ruel (the) Fox, Mike Ashleigh (an actual magpie), Sir Bobby Robin and Squirrel Regis, and his two baby squirrels Shola and Sammy Ameobi.

Can I interview you next please? [Yes Fred, of course you can]

First Published Dec 2, 2011 @11:55


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


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!


Interview with Drummer Daoud Merchant

Tell us about how you got into the drums…

Whether it makes me lucky or unlucky, I’ve always wanted to play drums. I have a very early memory of putting a metal watering can on the patio in the garden and pulling up a chair, ripping two sticks off a tree and beating the living daylights out of it.  My first (and only I’m proud to say) complaint from the neighbours.  Then, at junior school, I was always a table tapper, to the point where my teacher warned my parents that either they should give me drum lessons or she would refuse to teach me.  So they gave in and started me on snare drum, and it gradually went from there.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever learnt about the drums?

Hmmm… I suppose I was a bit shocked the first time I heard someone ‘screeching’ on their cymbals with the tip of the stick. To be honest, I haven’t gone too far down the ‘extended technique’ path (yet).

Sticking with the drum theme….give us a career history to date!

Well, as I mentioned, I began on snare drum, because a practise pad and pair of sticks was much more merciful on my parents’ ears and wallets than a full blown kit. I still tell parents it sorts the men from the boys: if your child wants to play drums and is still getting a kick out of playing a practise pad or practise kit into week 2, the bad news is it’s time to start thinking about the real thing.  Anyway, snare drum led to timpani and tuned percussion in local ensembles, and then I joined the Junior Classical course at the RAM for a few years at 15.  It was a really fantastic course, and the surrounding activities to the instrumental lessons were invaluable for my musicianship.  At 18 I joined the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and I’m now a ‘professional’ musician, (meaning the usual mix of performances and teaching).  


When I began listening to jazz, I started with the Wynton and Branford Marsalis groups, so Jeff Watts blew me away (of course).  I was lucky enough to have an older brother to keep me on the straight and narrow, so I was listening to Elvin Jones and Tony Williams pretty early in my jazz explorations.  Of course, when you hit music college, your tastes explode, but I remember Brian Blade and Jack DeJohnette standing out as real inspirations.  In a more general sense, Wayne Shorter has been a real symbol for the essence of jazz performance and composition for me (as he has been for many people).  There’s always something from his 50-year output to suit my mood at any point.

Got any lasting Blue Flamingo memories?

Playing for a series of graduation ceremonies will be a lasting memory.  Although it was a lot of fun, the ceremonies were running in quick succession throughout 5 days, and it was a bit of a test of stamina: not just on the bandstand, but in having the willpower to resist the never ending supply of mini cupcakes…

Best gig you’ve ever played/worst?

Wow. This is tough. I’ll always remember a function I did with a good friend for a millionaire’s private Halloween party in Surrey.  As well as it being great fun musically, we had to come in fancy dress, and chose the theme of the Wizard of Oz.  I was the lion, the bassist the tin man, the pianist the scarecrow and the saxophonist (bravely) went as Dorothy.  There are worse ways to spend an interval than watching a hoard of zombies creep through a garden to ‘Thriller’.

Give us a weird/bizarre fact not many people know about you

Er… My brothers and I talk in a pretty weird gobbledygook language, it really freaks out anyone who overhears us

Tea or Coffee?

Coffee, no contest.  I’ve given it up now because I was getting far too reliant (think how much is too much coffee to have in the mornings and then double it), and although I miss the buzz and the hit of ‘happy’, it’s great to be able to get up in the morning and just get on with the day without needing to jumpstart it.  It always felt like coffee removed tiredness, rather than gave energy.

Anything else you would like to add?

I’d like to spend this moment dispelling a myth.  Star Trek isn’t just for nerds, the modern versions (TNG, DS9, Voyager) feature fantastic ensemble casts and a real range of plots.  One episode might be a comedy, another a didactic moral dilemma, another a courtroom drama, another a romance.  It’s slightly pulpy, but really good fun. Remember people, ‘sci fi’ is a setting, not a genre.

Want to read more?  Check out Daoud’s Tips From the Travelling Merchant here.

First Published Oct 25th 2011