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Musicalife: Recording

One of our groups (Jasper & Ruby) recently recorded at Resident Studios (Willesden Green, North London).

Resident Studios were great – booking a Studio via online chat at 10pm has to be the most musician-friendly thing ever – and studio day was easy.  We bought cheap parking permits for the whole day, unloaded easily and they had no qualms with us eating the pizza we called out for in the studio.

Resident have a number of options available – either hiring rehearsal spaces or recording studios.   We decided to bring in our own engineer/gear with the fabulous Ali Thynne.  We used Studio 1 (pictured), recorded the rhythm section live with ghost vocals and then added horns, synth layers and vocals later in the day.

What do you prefer?  To get your own engineers and gear in, or to use what’s available at Recording Studios?  Do you prefer recording live, or just multi-tracking completely separately?   How many ears do you get to listen to a track before you’re happy, or is it just you?

We’re listening to and mastering the mixes – and we’ll let you have them soon.  We’re hoping that another one of our groups, Down Street will be visiting Resident to do some recording in late August/early September.

Let us know if you’d like to contribute to our #musicalife blog, or if you have preferred ways of recording.

Jasper And Ruby Recording at Resident Studios, Quirky Eccentric Wedding Band, Book, Enquire, Listen

~BF

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Our three favourite small jazz venues in London Town

We actually prefer the smaller venues.  Music’s better, vibe’s better, price’s better.  Check out these three if you ever have an evening free… ~BF

JAZZ AT THE CON (Camden)
First Friday of the month
the smallest basement with the best musicians
The Con Cellar Bar, The Constitution, 42 St Pancras Way, NW1 0QT
http://concellarjazz.co.uk

JAZZ AT THE OXFORD (Kentish Town)
Every Thursday
they have sofas & phenomenal music
256 Kentish Town Road, NW5 2A
http://theoxfordjazz.com

JAZZ NURSERY (SE1)
First Thursday of the month
in the arches with fabulous music vibe
Arch 61, Ewer Street, SE1 0NR
http://www.jazznursery.com

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Review: Pete Lee’s Narcissus at the Vortex

 

Pete Lee’s Narcissus opened to a rammed house on this cold January evening at The Vortex, bringing fire and frenzy to East London.

Opening with a recent composition which was still ‘unnamedPete Lee (piano) started the tune with solo piano.  A structurally complex work which integrated solo, heavy groove and ballad vibes, it really showed how many influences this ensemble has.  Next up was Mirror Stage which brought tenor player Nadim Teimoori to the stage (we have previously heard Narcissus with Josh Arcoleo).  Mirror Stage was a frenzy of sound with beautiful unison lines between Teimoori and Huw Foster (bass) moving on to what can only be described as a meditation of groove.   (Pairing of unison lines across different instrument combinations is a delicious Narcissus hallmark).   Lee’s solo here was a history of music for the piano, Brahmsian flourishes juxtaposed with contemporary ‘jazz’ harmony, alongside ‘piano basics’ of octaves and fourths.  You never knew what was coming next.  Tom Varrall on guitar demanded attention with a frenetic solo which inspired energy from the rest of the band.  With sax returning with the head, guitar continuing soloing and the rest of the band playing a rhythmically displaced groove it was insane controlled mayhem.   The colour of the guitar and sax voices blended so well that sounds were interlaced, lost and beautifully fused.

Third tune of the night, Criss Cross, moved sound worlds effortlessly, starting with solo bass which we mistook for guitar soloing, such was the lyricism.  North African sounding filmic modes then segued into Sci-fi Blake’s 7-esque sounds from synth (a Dave Smith Prophet 12)  with further sounds reminiscent of something you’d hear from the early days of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.   Ali Thynne, ever the master at the drums, changed the vibe completely, playing with hands on snare and toms. The tune went everywhere, a tango, sci-fi,  romantic piano and then a phenomenal blow by Teimoori which brought the first full audience applause mid-tune.  It was fantastic to see how much the band were loving Teimoori’s playing – Varrall especially.  We wish we’d taken a photo of his face.  Last tune of the night was the familiar Writer’s Block (vimeo below), a great tune which is forceful, angry, melodic with in your face groove.  It’s our favourite actually.

Lee has a great band:  five strong musical characters, each vibrant and individualistic, which he has nurtured to create a phenomenal sound.  It’s chaotic, energetic, wild, they’re influenced by jazz, pop, disco, Rachmaninov and Debussy, modes, tangos, electronica – and remarkably it has a beautiful cohesion.  Narcissus is sublime chaos, a great schizophrenic identity crisis of genre which against all odds makes sense.

Can’t wait to hear them again – (though we want more of the Dave Smith synth)! ~BF

Pete Lee: Piano, Synths, Compositions
Nadim Teimoori: Tenor Sax
Tom Varrall: Guitar
Huw Foster: Electric Bass
Ali Thynne:  Drums

Set on 27th January 2014 at the Vortex

1. ‘Unnamed’
2. Mirror Stage
3. Criss Cross
4. Writer’s Block

Check out the Narcissus website and watch ‘Writer’s Block’ below.  To read our interview with Pete, click here.

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Mini Review: Nightjar & Freddie Gavita Quartet @ Con Cellar Bar

Nightjar @ Con Cellar Bar

The Con Cellar Bar is one of our favourite venues;  we’ve been regular visitors since its early days.  It’s a rare  and special space where you hear the music in all its purity: no need to mic up horns or the kick, just play as you are.  It’s a secret you have to know about to get to, it’s slightly out of the way; you always bump into somebody you know, it’s always rammed, and the music is always, and I mean always, great.  We’ve never heard a bad gig there.

So much is due to the faithful work of the late Rich Turner – whose dedication and passion for live music spread through a community of young jazz musicians, to make the Con a favourite of musicians and audiences of all generations.  Now George Crowley,  Dan Nicholls, Sam Jesson & Tom Challenger run the monthly Friday night.  Remarkably, they’ve managed to get a double bill of the best jazz musicians in the country, for only a fiver each month.  They do a great job.  Perhaps this really IS London’s best kept secret.  And we’ve just blogged it.  Oh well, don’t tell too many people.  It’s OURS!

So we’ll keep this brief.  First off was Joe Wright’s Nightjar (see below for musicians/links/set).  Set alight by Alice Zawadzki’s hauntingly beautiful vocals, the folk influences in harmony and rhythms were evident in Spencer’s writing before he told us one of his tunes was based on the 15th Century folk song, the Bonnie Banks of Fordie.  The writing really is exquisite.  The dovetailing of the vocal and sax lines was aurally mesmerising, and there is just so much space!  Jeff Spencer on bass was a great example of the old cliché ‘less is more’.  Grounding the group effortlessly, yet giving the sound time to breath was Spencer’s gift to the group.  Playing around with tempos appears to be a Nightjar speciality.  Several times they pulled back the tempo like a steam train, gradually grinding to a perfect halt.  On the other end of the spectrum we really enjoyed Laura Stands Tall with the repeated firey opening line ‘A total lack of respect’ crying out throughout the song.  Spencer’s electronic effects with tenor sax brought an other-worldness to the already dreamlike folk vibe, and James Maddren on drums brought spacious complexity to the mix.  We were excited to find out that you can watch Nightjar’s Strange Places here.

Freddie Gavita Quartet Con Cellar BarAfter the traditional raffle (who could resist the chance of winning Sainsbury’s wine, a firework, or top prize, a toffee apple?) Freddie Gavita’s Quartet emerged (again see below for musicians/links/sets).  A group of friends who clearly play together often (much laughing, conversation & in-jokes whilst playing) this was a night where Gavita pulled out many of his old well-loved tunes.  Our favourite was the more groove based Turnaround featuring a storming piano solo by Tom Cawley, with fierce playing from James Maddren to finish it off.  Maddren’s playing so captured performers and audiences alike – that Gavita immediately commented ‘Thanks James – that’s fabulous mate’.  Last up was The Buffalo Trace – which holds a very special connection to us.  Fred toured with us to Kentucky, and this song is named after a beautiful whiskey produced at a distillery we visited.  Fred played beautifully over this tune, the lilting melody reflecting the southern-American state.  Mick Coady on bass brought out some stellar sounds to the chilled out last song.  It was a great second set.  Fred’s natural charm and humility had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.

Thanks for having us at the Con!  Don’t forget to check out The Con at the London Jazz Festival! ~BF

The Con Cellar Bar Friday 1st November 2013 Live Jazz

Nightjar

Joe Wright:  Saxophone & Electronics & Compositions
Alice Zawadzki: Voice
Jeff Spencer: Electric bass
James Maddren: Drums

Freddie Gavita Quartet

Freddie Gavita: Trumpet & Flugelhorn & Compositions
Tom Cawley: Piano
Mick Coady:  Double Bass
James Maddren:  Drums

Nightjar Set

Cut me down
Footsteps
Gates
Amanda how could I
Wind (based on a Ted Hughes poem)
Laura stands tall
Strange places

Freddie Gavita Quartet Set

Alpha
Yearning
Beloved
Pull your socks up
Turnaround
The Buffalo trace

Nightjar’s Strange Places

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REVIEW: BBC PROM 59 ‘Hollywood Rhapsody’

bbc prom 59 hollywood rhapsody blue flamingo

One of the most popular proms of the BBC season, the ‘Hollywood Rhapsody‘ performed by the John Wilson Orchestra was a storm of colour and energy.  (Full programme below).

Two things stood out.  Firstly: whilst we went to listen to the music of the films we may have seen, in listening the result was mirrored: it inspired us to see the films (again).  It is a great thing that the visual and aural complement each other so well.

Secondly: despite the first point, the music still stands in its own right without any need for the visual: Psycho and Tom & Jerry are case in point.

The perfomance was fantastic.  The 1950s Hollywood sound was generated with full horn, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and rhythm sections, alongside the great sweeping and warm tones of the strings.

Herrmann’s Psycho invoked one of the most bizarre responses we have ever seen in a live music audience.  As soon as the repeated violin lines with full harmonics emerged – there was a physical lurch and bizarre involuntary murmur.  The question really is whether the ‘screeching’ violin timbre invoked the response, or whether the association with the film is so vivid that it is that which raises the hackles.   Either way – the JW strings played this wonderfully.  It was also interesting to watch the orchestra ‘breathe’ during the ‘stabbing’ patterns.  They literally lent in and out of their instruments with their bow movements giving us a visual stab pattern.

Tom and Jerry was hilarious.  The audience were laughing and cheering.   The orchestra itself plays cat and mouse.  The muted trombone had his line stolen by the flute; the clarinet came and surprised us then stole the melody again;  the trumpets and cymbals argued with one another as to who could play the shortest and loudest.  Then of course we had the literal humour: water splashing around, bubble wrap being crinkled, snoring.  It’s so refreshing to listen to this without seeing the cartoon: the quality of the music is high, and it was so well performed.  It was clear the JW orchestra were enjoying themselves and therefore so did we.

The audience adored Venera Gimadieva with her rendition of Citizen Kane and Howard McGill’s sax playing in A Place in the Sun was wonderful.  His pure tone resonated beautifully.  Playing alone in the great Royal Albert Hall  he had the audience in the palm of his hand.  Too rarely does the RAH hear solo sax fill that great space.  Jane Monheit and Matthew Ford did a fine job with the Movie Medley and it was great to hear the orchestra come alive and burst into full on Big Band sounds.  Mike Lovatt did a top job on trumpet.

The night finished with Ben-Hur, a tale of a man whose life changes when he sees Christ’s crucifiction and the forgiveness that brings.  It was a genius way to end a great night.  What more could you want than that great RAH organ on full whack – with 15 of the best brass players going full blow.

Great programming, great spectacle, spectacular playing.  Don’t miss it on BBC Four – August 30th.

~BF

Programme

Alfred Newman: 20th Century Fox Fanfare

Alfred Newman:  How to Marry a Millionaire / Street Scene

Bronislau Kaper: Forever, Darling / Confetti

David Raksin: Laura / Suite

Bernard Herrmann: Psycho / Suite for Strings

Bernard Herrmann: Citizen Kane / Salammbô’s Aria

Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Adventures of Robin Hood / Suite

INTERVAL

Jerome Moross: The Big Country / Main Title

Max Steiner: Casablanca / Suite

Move Theme Song Medley: An Affair to Remember / Something’s Gotta Give / Young at Heart / It’s Magic / The Tender Trap / My Foolish Heart / Three Coins in the Fountain / Love is a Many-Splendoured Thing / That’s Amore / Que Sera, Sera / All the Way

Franz Waxman: A Place in the Sun – Suite

Scott Bradley: Tom and Jerry at MGM

Miklós Rósza: Ben-Hur / Suite

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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!

-BF

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REVIEW: Metamorphic & Røyst Trio at The Vortex

vortex royst trio metamorphic

This review is short and sweet – simply because we weren’t planning on putting pen to paper (or rather, fingers to blog…).  However our ears were so stimulated, we just had to share.

Two bands.  Metamorphic and Røyst Trio.  Three sets.

First up: Metamorphic, launching their new album ‘Coalescence’.  Headed up by pianist Laura Cole, they place themselves on the ‘folk-jazz’ side of the music scene.  It was great to hear groove based lines juxtaposed with wild improvised sections.  The writing is great, and they were tight.  There were beautiful moments with horn stabs and stops suddenly let the pure vocal line of Kerry Andrew shine through.  Alto Sax player Chris Williams stood out: he clearly loves playing with the group and fed off the rest of the band to create some beautiful virtuosic solo lines.

Then we were silenced by Royst, a trio of voices creating harmonies we didn’t even know existed.  What makes them quite so wonderful, is that each of their voices really is VERY different , and yet they can still blend beautifully.  Interlacing complex rhythmic loops (acoustically) with melody and panache, it’s impossible to take your eyes and ears away from these three.  ‘This Is Sound’ by Kari Bleivik stood out for it melodic flavours, exploring scales and modes alongside rhythmic switches.

The final set brought these two groups together.  Reeds are as lyrical as voices – and the mix was just sublime.  There were moments of serenity when each member of both groups sang, chaos when the horns were let free over the voices.

You must grab a chance to see this collaboration.  It’s a breath of fresh air to hear ‘jazz’ with such original variety and freedom.

See it: June 27th 2013, Lost Voices, Liverpool.

Buy it: ‘Coalescence’ by Metamorphic,

-BF

Metamorphic 

Laura Cole (bandleader, piano/composer/arranger ), Chris Williams (alto sax (Led Bib)), John Martin (tenor/soprano sax), Kerry Andrew (vocals/loops), Tom Greenhalgh  (drums), Paul Sandy – (bass (The Rude Mechanicals)) + Seth Bennet (bass)

Røyst Trio

Kari BleivikCecilie GiskemoMaria Jardardottir