Hello Strangers.

It’s been a while, and for that I apologise. I have been incredibly busy, and I’m loving it! There’s been gigs, socialising, studying, jamming… It’s been a rollercoaster. So, let’s dive straight in and catch you up with my experiences in Leeds.

Jazz Poster october

Way back on the 3rd October, I went to a pub called The White Swan where a quartet of Lecturers from LCoM were playing. They were Steve Fishwick, my Harmony lecturer; Jamil Sheriff, the head of Jazz and my Clapping Club lecturer; Sebastiaan De Krom, a drum tutor; and Sam Vicary, a bass tutor. The gig was all about Steve Fishwick – his playing was brilliant. They played two sets of standards, my favourite of the evening being ‘Body and Soul’ – they were swinging hard. It’s a really lovely piece; the melody really flows and there’s a beautiful modulation up by a semitone which brightens the mood perfectly. The best moment of the night however, had to be Sebastiaan’s solo on a piece towards the end of the evening. The pub was packed full of people, everyone enjoying themselves and being rather loud. Sebastiaan did something incredible: he began his solo by grabbing everyone’s attention and showing off some brilliant chops. Once people were starting to listen, he began a snare roll which went on for a rather long time, during which he slowly brought the volume down to barely nothing and managed to silence the bar. Not a single person was speaking; everyone was focused on him. He then brought the level back up before a stop to cue the rest of the band back in – it was better than any dubstep drop I’ve ever heard. His control of dynamics was expert, truly outstanding.

In the world of LCoM, the intensity hasn’t diminished. Clapping Club is just getting harder, Transcription is getting even more complex and Harmony is becoming more extended! I still find myself coming out of each lecture saying ‘he is definitely my favourite lecturer’, before I go to another class and I change my mind yet again. I did have to admit to my Dad the other day that, although I moaned throughout my two years of classical harmony education, it’s really helping me to understand jazz harmony! My Pop ensemble is becoming really fun, our first assignment – to write a song (without anymore direction than that) – was really quite hard because we were all still getting used to each others’ playing and styles. We’re working on our second assignment now which is to write a song inspired by a sample of something. This means taking a pre-recorded sound, be that speech, music, sound effect or whatever, and use it as inspiration for an original song. We decided to take the the sparkly synth at the beginning of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Everywhere’ and re-harmonise it. When I played the band the track I’d put together, they loved it, something clicked and we’re now writing some really cool music.

My one-to-one guitar lessons have stepped up a gear in the last two weeks and they’re becoming a great challenge. Last week I was told to arrange a solo version of ‘Misty’ by Erroll Garner and the results can be seen below. This week, I’ve been given two pieces to learn and two solos to transcribe. My favourite of the 4 is Wes Montgomery’s solo version ‘While We’re Young’ which I haven’t quite perfected yet, so I’ll leave that demonstration to Wes – he is the king. His playing is so simplistic (yet it’s super tricky to learn), he leaves lots of space and uses some gorgeous voicing.

In between all the learning and practicing, I’m going to jams quite a lot of the time with as many different players as possible. It’s really great to be getting into all kinds of musical situations; there are some where I’m comfortable like a funk jam and others where I’m being roasted alive like in the straight ahead jams! It’s this kind of experience that really helps you prepare for the real world – you have to be ready to take any kind of work there is and be able to cope with and ace every situation. I’ve also been working on some new music which I’m ready to take to a band. There’s so many gig opportunities in Leeds and I want to start taking advantage of them!

The last two weekends I’ve had visitors in town, which has been lovely. Two weeks ago, my girlfriend, Ellen, came up to visit. I had such an amazing time, catching up with her and showing her the sights and sounds of Leeds. Two sights I enjoyed in particular were The Dry Dock, which is a pub inside a boat, in the middle of a roundabout and the Town Hall, which is very large in the picture below compared to Ellen. She got the proper uni experience when I had laid out a romantic dinner in the communal kitchen right before my flatmates and their entourage rocked up, rather drunk, and somewhat changed the dynamic of our evening. Nonetheless, we had a lot of fun at our mini flat party!

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Last weekend, my parents came up to visit. The first thing I wanted to do was utilise their car and get out of the city to find some trees! We went to Roundhay Park, 15 minutes outside the city centre and we were blown away – it was gargantuan (brownie points for the person who can name the movie reference). The colours of the trees were a really vivid mix of greens, yellows and reds. It is the perfect quick getaway from the city.

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We also went out on the town and found ourselves at Sela Bar where there was a Bowie tribute night. A DJ was spinning some fantastic tunes and the vibe was rocking. I’m always amazed at festivals and tribute events like this, by the overwhelming sense of community and love as well as the effort that people go through to dress up – everyone looked fab! After singing along to most of Hunky Dory, we then moved onto The Domino. This is a really cool bar, in the cellar of a Barber Shop, with live music. We had missed the evening’s headline act but got to see the house band play some really mellow Badu-esque numbers. They also did a fantastic cover of Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’ which was actually more similar to Robert Glasper’s version. I’m going to stick it below because I love it!

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This week, flatmate Sam and I ventured into the Market opposite our apartment building. Within 30 seconds of being there, I had purchased a huge bag of onions for £1. Pictured here is me scrubbed up, ready to chop what must have been 50 onions for freezing. 

Seeing Ellen and my parents was really lovely but also made me realise how much I miss home. I’m writing this, however, on a train back to London as it is reading week next week. I’ll be spending the week practicing lots in my room and catching up with some mates. I can’t wait! That said, I am already wanting to go back and jam some more. I’ll have to meet up with The Conscious this week to satisfy my playing needs!

TTFN x

P.S. SofaTime (the YouTube channel I set up with Luke MacGregor Phillips) is now under new management and I’m proud to announce that the first episode of Season 3 is out now! Produced by Ellen Berry, Matt James, Freya Turner and Joss Malcomson.

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