Like us on Facebook

Monday, 5 December 2011

8 days...

Monday 7th November.

Time: 06:30.  Place: Peckham. Bus stand 436.  Destination: Victoria Coach station, for a 4.5 hour journey to Manchester.  Unfortunately the bus timetables never seem to account for traffic, so by the time I arrived in Manchester it was well past 1pm.

I had arrived to start a week of gigs based in the North West, continuing the promotion of my second album.  I am particularly drawn to the North West because my sister lives there, so I have a spare floor to sleep on whenever required.  Sadly, my sister will soon be moving to Cardiff... so South Wales, expect to see more of me!

The first gig of the week was at the Wilmslow Conservative Club.  I was treated to a fantastic local rhythm section, and although the place wasn't full, the select audience was appreciative and interested.  Unfortunately for me, I was coming to the end of a cold (which had started at the end of September), so singing wasn't very easy. Luckily, the band were happy to play plenty of tunes without me so I had the opportunity to rest.  Not what I wanted at the start of a busy week of gigs!

At the Royal British Legion in Llay - North Wales Jazz Society.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday featured a local band of my choice - some fantastic musicians I regularly work with when in this area.  We travelled to Wrexham, Kendal and Bury, sampling some excellent local ale, and being blessed with some great audiences and well-organised venues.

Underneath my poster at The Met, Bury.

Friday 11th November

Towards the end of the week, I travelled down to Cambridge for a concert at the Mumford Theatre at Anglia Ruskin University.  It was brilliant! (This venue has made it into my Top Ten this month).  A fab little theatre, with a good following for their lunchtime concerts - probably helped by the varied program of professional groups they program each week.

My picture was selected as the one to advertise the entire concert series!

I was lucky enough to spend the Saturday relaxing at Center Parcs for a friend's 30th birthday, as I had the night off, but Sunday launched me straight back into work again, starting with a 3-hour drive to Hull (following a 30-minute walk to my car - I don't know if you've ever been to Center Parcs, but the car park is miles away!)

First Stop: Pave Bar, Hull.  I had played here before during my last tour in 2010, and that time it was full of Tiger fans, waiting to go to their final game of the season before being relegated.  Luckily this year, Hull City were in no such predicament so we had a relatively peaceful gig with a great ambience and interested audience.

Pave Bar, Hull.  Gavin warming up.

Second Stop: Grove Inn Jazz Club, Leeds.

Again, this was another revisit.  Not such a great audience, but a great gig nonetheless - fantastic to play with my Northern Band who I don't get to gig with much, and good to be back in Leeds.  The only downside of this was that I had to drive back to Hitchin afterwards, which is 34 junctions on the M1.  I slept well that night!

Jersey 2011

Last weekend, we returned to Jersey for a Jazz supper concert at the Radisson Blu Hotel in St Helier.  Apparently, the hotel is one of the most hated buildings on the island, as it's got such a strange and large design that the locals detest it.  However, once you're inside it's wonderful - and of course, it's the best place to be on the island because it's one place that you can't see the hotel!

We arrived in the afternoon, ready for our concert in the evening, and departed by lunchtime the next day.  A flying visit, but plenty of time to take pictures...

Cool clouds from the plane.

You could be forgiven for thinking we were about to land on
an exotic Mediterranean island!

Jersey has an interesting history, and we had some
time to see the island.
On the red carpet at our gig.

To see more pictures, and to keep up to date with regular touring, find me on facebook:

Top Ten... Venues On Tour

Throughout September, October and November, I've been on tour with my quartet, promoting our new album "The Story So Far." (Stuck for a Christmas present? - buy it on Amazon or on my website!)

We've been high and low, far and wide, and have visited a great mix of venues all over the country.  It's a difficult task, but I've managed to whittle down all the gigs into my 10 favourite venues of the album tour 2011...

On stage at Cornerstone Arts Centre.

1. Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot

This was one of the first dates of the tour, and it was a wonderful venue to play at.  The fact that it was a gloriously sunny day and I arrived with 3 hours to spare helped the overall ambience, but we were exceptionally well looked-after, and the venue had done a fantastic job of advertising to ensure a good audience.  A thoroughly enjoyable evening!

Mumford Theatre.  This is not my 'nines' outfit!
2. Mumford Theatre, Cambridge

We played the lunchtime concert at the Mumford Theatre, which is part of the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, on Remembrance Day.  There was an amazing turn-out - over 200 people - which was one of the largest audiences they'd had all year!  As it was a lunchtime concert, we had to fit all our chosen repertoire into only 50 minutes, and my band did a superb job of delivering slick arrangements in the allocated time.  It was such a special day in the tour and a very memorable one, although a little bizarre and disorienting to be dressed up to the nines at lunchtime (as my pianist said on the way home: “This is so weird… I feel like I should be heading to bed!”)

Outside The Met, Bury
3. The Met, Bury

As a touring singer, I play at quite a few theatres, but never before have I been featured in lights on the sign outside!  The Met, Bury, had done a fantastic advertising campaign, and as such had sold out the show, apart from 3 seats.  Add to this the fact that they served me the best Southern Fried Chicken I’ve ever had, (none of this KFC nonsense!) and this gig definitely has to make the top 3!

The Lion
4. Lion, Nottingham

This is the second tour for which I've played at The Lion in Nottingham.  The first gig, in June 2010, was great fun, and as such was one of the first gigs I re-booked for the 2011 tour.  The Lion is a fantastic Sunday lunchtime jazz venue - excellent roast dinners, great local ale (for my bass player fanatic, not me!) and free entry, it's a quality weekly gig.

Unusually, I didn't take any pictures in Kendal -
even though my band will tell you I'm addicted to my camera!
5.Kendal Jazz Club

I had tried to get a gig at Kendal Jazz Club in 2010 when on my first album tour.  However, they are such a popular club that they had been booked up well in advance, and so I had to wait until 2011.  Well worth the wait, though, and I can see why it's such a popular club.  Good room, knowledgeable and helpful promoters, and a great sound leant themselves to a lovely gig.  Being back in Kendal was great too - I used to live in Lancaster so there were quite a few locals who came along that I used to know 7 years ago.  Thank you for making the return so enjoyable!  (There's a review here - scroll down to the bottom and I'm under the December heading)

Me on the big screen at Stratford Jazz Club
6. Stratford Jazz Club

As with Kendal, Stratford Jazz Club is booked up months and months in advance, so I had been waiting for this gig for nearly a year when it came along.  Stratford Jazz Club is held at number one Shakespeare Street, in The Chapel ("A Shrine Of Entertainment") which is an inviting room with a good stage, good sound and various nooks and crannies for the audience to ponder.  The only trouble with this gig was the timing - we were playing at the end of the Stratford Music Week, so the potential audience had already had the choice of various superstars of the jazz world that week, and only a few of them turned up to see little old me!  Nevertheless, it was a great gig, and I'd love to return another time, when not competing with the best jazz names in the business.  (This gig was review too - catch up with all the tour reviews on

On stage at Black Mountain Jazz.  If you look closely there's
the sign indicating the Old Town Wall behind us - Circa 1200.
7. Black Mountain Jazz

A trip to Abergavenny is always right up my street, and this time I was looking forward to featuring my drummer Darren Altman with local musicians Dave Cottle (owner of Swansea Jazzland) and Alun Vaughan.  The difficulty of touring an album is that you're expected to - and I want to - play tunes from the album, some of which may be particularly difficult.  But that just makes it all the more exciting!  Two of my arrangements - an original called Busy Bee (listen here) and Gershwin's Fascinating Rhythm - are not for the faint-hearted sight-reader, and entailed a collective sigh of relief at the end of each.
Black Mountain Jazz is held in the back room of the King's Arms, which is an interesting place because the wall providing the backdrop for the bandstand is actually the ancient town wall.

Club 43 after our gig.
8. Club 43

This venue was another re-visit for my band, after playing a successful gig there in February.  I am always impressed with Club 43 in its food, ambience, and ability to set up the evening so that the audience really listen rather than chatting over their dinner - even without a compรจre to ask the audience to button it!  Club 43 is named after the 1950s Manchester Club, which was something of a late night hang for the jazz stars who had been playing in the city earlier that night.  The present day Club 43 is now a jazz supper club, but it still has bags of charm, and I hope to re-return one day!

Enjoying the Green Man.

9. Green Man Norwich

On entering the Green Man in Norwich, I was disheartened to find a low-ceilinged country pub as the setting for this jazz club.  (Nothing wrong with this - except that in similar venues, the ceiling has been so low that the bass player has got his bass wedged underneath the roof!)  I thought too soon, however, as on walking through the pub, a vast back room greeted me, with balconies adorned with all sorts of musical instruments, a piano on stage, and many seats set out jazz-club-style.  The gig continued to be fantastic from this minute on.

After the gig at NC Jazz.
10. NC Jazz

I have never sold such a high volume of CDs as I have at Northampton Contemporary Jazz Club (unless you count my sister taking them round and forcing people to buy!)  This is quite often indicative of a successful gig, so our concert in October was certainly successful.  We were playing in a small room off the main theatre, and competing with Ian Shaw supporting Rory Bremner, so I was thrilled with a lovely venue, and an attentive audience.

Roll on Tour 2012!