I have just had the most busy and varied week of musical activities I have had in a long time. Last Monday, Sept 15 was the release date of my latest album – Travis & Fripp 'Discretion' (on the Panegyric label). An album of duets with he who is Robert Fripp, it is our fourth CD release and perhaps our finest. I hope we will do more live performances in the future but at the moment Robert is on tour in the USA with the latest incarnation of King Crimson, playing to sold out houses everywhere. I was fortunate enough to see the band play through their set to an invited audience of about 25 people at Elstree studios as part of their rehearsal process. It was great to hear Mel Collins again (one of my favourite sax and flute players) and I thought the three drummer front line (yes, you heard correctly!) worked very well. Anyway, for now promotional Travis & Fripp gigs will have to wait.
Then on Tues, Weds and Thurs I was working with Trevor Warren on his new album. Trevor is a founding member of a curry club of friends that convenes from time to time with lots of the London jazz guitarists – John Etheridge, John Paricelli, Carl Orr, Trevor and others. It has expanded to now include various musician friends including myself and is always a lot of fun. So the band Trevor put together had one day of rehearsal to play through the ten songs he has written then two days recording. The band was awesome – Trevor on guitar and vocals, Ayo on second guitar, me and the stunning rhythm section of Dudley Phillips on basses (who I toured with with Anja Garbarek) and Nic France (of Steven Wilson/ David Gilmour/lLoose Tubes fame) on drums. We rehearsed at the rather funky Audio Underground studios in Stoke Newington, London, but were recording in Bath. The sound engineer was Stuart Bruce – a great sound engineer who was at Peter Gabriel's Real World for years. We were recording at his own Riverside studios where the facilities were very good, and relaxed too, and there was very comfortable residential accommodation. Stuart was superb and also had some great stories like when he recorded Paco de Lucia, John McLaughlin and Al Di Miola and the egos, law suits and even physical punch ups that were involved in those sessions! We arrived at the studio lunch time on the first of the 2 days and were ready to record by about 4.30pm. I thought it would be impossible to actually record 10 songs by the following night then drive back to London, but unbelievably we did. I played tenor and soprano sax and flute and there was a very organic feel to the songs – which were all recorded live, in one, two or occasionally three takes. There was also a lot of space for layers of flute and soprano sax soundscapes and loops which we recorded live in real time and they came out really well. There were also some roaring solos from various members of the band. A very English feel to the songs, I was reminded of Syd Barrett's songs at times. On the evening of the second day, the heavens opened and there was the fiercest thunder and lightning I can ever remember, like from a Hammer Horror film. We were a bit nervous driving back to London but I eventually got back home fine. I am looking forward to hearing the finished album.
Very early the very next morning I had to get up and drive 3 hours to Ironbridge in the Midlands for a dress rehearsal of the Freefall Arts / Cipher Past Lives performance. Past Lives is an archive amateur movie footage and live soundtrack project (www.pastlivesproject.com) which is unusual, inspirational and moving. It involves writing and performing live scores to amazing films of real people and real lives from the Midlands going back to the 1940s/50s and 1960s. Saturday's performance was of a soundtrack written by students from the excellent Abraham Darby Academy in Telford, arranged and organised by Dave Sturt and myself. The music was arranged for brass sextet, percussion ensemble, wind and strings and two duos. Each of the eight pieces had to run sequentially with the film that had been put together from local historical footage and the performers, who were schoolchildren – very proficient and able students, but nevertheless still children – had to get it right. I was conducting the whole thing, so had to carefully follow the tempos with an in-ear click track to make sure the music stayed in sync' with the films. I also needed to see the film as it was running, and conduct, bringing in instrumentalists as required and ensuring all went smoothly. There were about 250 people in the audience so a big occasion for my public conducting debut! Thankfully it went well and there was some excellent feedback. During the second half of the performance I was playing sax, flute and clarinet for the original Past Lives film and live soundtrack composed by Dave Sturt and myself. A great evening and rewarding event, to be followed by the rather dull 3 hour drive home.
Then Monday (yesterday) I got the early train to St Ives in Cornwall to play at the Guildhall as part of the St Ives festival with the mighty Soft Machine Legacy with special guest Keith Tippett on piano. The train should have been five and a half hours but because of a fatality on the railway line (poor sod) the journey was actually seven hours. It did give me some much needed time to try and write a bit more music for a planned instrumental psychadelic Prog- jazz project I have been working on for some time. So out came the manuscript paper and iPad keyboard (I love GarageBand!). I arrived in St Ives time for the soundcheck, quick Mexican dinner, check in at the Western Hotel and then the gig. It was a great gig and everyone was on form (John Etheridge on guitar, Roy Babbington on bass, John Marshall on drums, Keith Tippett on piano and your truly on sax, flute, keyboards and a bit of electronic jiggery-pokery). We went for a quick drink afterwards at the Kettle and Wink pub under our hotel where John Etheridge whipped out his guitar and sat in with the local band to much applause.
So it is now the following day and I have arrived home (late because of another fatality on the railway line…) and ready for a nice cuppa tea….Phew.