Laying Out

Ah, if only... This time of year, my skin cries out for sun and salt.

Ah, if only… This time of year, my skin cries out for sun and salt.

It’s that time of year. Time for some reflection and writing, catching up on the bills, taking the cat for her shots, putting that doorknob back on… God, might even get round to some practice. Got a bit of a shock last night when someone called Cherokee (my chops are a bit soggier than I thought they were).

January generally isn’t the kindest month for musicians, workwise, and so it is with me. But that can be a good thing. The jam session will womble on through though. Come rain or come shine… (and if you’re in the UK right now, you’ll appreciate that the former seems more likely)

The recently departed British pianist Stan Tracey’s wife Jackie used to remark, with a laugh, that they’d never had a holiday. Mostly because he was a very driven kind of guy, but also because a musician (however successful) is of the genus freelancius opportunisticus, an order of mammals that doesn’t really do holidays – gotta take the gigs whenever they come up and can’t afford to be unavailable. Maybe also because a good gig can be just as enjoyable as a holiday.

Actors have the same issue. “Cut! – Whose bloody phone is that?” “Sorry, that’s me – I’m afraid it’s my agent darling, I’ve got to take it.” “Okay, reset. (Tsk – for another couple of hundred we could have got that bloke from the meerkat commercials…)”

Still, having spent most of my life as a freelancer of one type or another, I’ve learned that you do have to not so much take time off as make time off. And dozy January is generally the best chance a musician is going to get.

Happy Birthday Stab, er Stan

Farewell Stab, er Stan

“Laying out” (or “strolling”) is hip jazz speak for not playing. It’s not a sign of confusion, inexperience or weakness, it’s a question of listening and having the maturity and confidence to appreciate that sometimes the most musical thing to do is not play. (Okay, sometimes it’s laziness…)

That’s what I’m going to do for a bit here – take a couple of weeks off. But as in the musical context, I’ll still be listening and ready to jump in, so stay in touch, dig into the back catalogue and let me know what you think. I’ll be back in plenty of time to be rude and grumbly about Valentine’s gigs.

I had originally planned to publish this on 30th December and wish Stan a happy birthday, but sadly he didn’t quite get there this year.

Stan was a great musician and well worth checking out. He was once the victim of a delicious keyboard error and referred to in the press as “the great Stab Tracey”. If you look at the way the keyboard is laid out, that’s a sort of bluesy alteration in a funny kind of way. He apparently enjoyed the error.

Anyway RIP guv, and condolences to his son Clark.

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Posted in c) Musicianship, e) Rants & Ramblings

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Wednesday Gig/Jam


We play every Wednesday night, 9 to 12.30, at Toulouse Lautrec in Kennington, South London. It starts as a gig then becomes a jam. We welcome and accommodate all, but please do have a squizz at Thoughts from the Piano Chair of a Jam Session.
Illustration by Sue Harding

June guest soloists
7 Sara Dowling voc
14 Ed Riches gtr
21 Duncan Eagles tenor
28 Tom Ridout tenor

More info on guests here


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