Archive for March 2016

Gig review – Joe Stilgoe & Liane Carroll, Pizza Express (Soho), 8 March 2016

I have to put my hand up and admit that I’m not a big fan of jazz singers.  Sure, I’m a big fan of Sinatra, Bennett, Ella & Louis, etc. but I prefer my jazz vocal free.  Joining friends to see Joe Stilgoe and Liane Carroll – both singer/pianists – at Soho’s Pizza Express wouldn’t therefore be my first choice for a gig.  But I try to keep an open mind and went along.


The gig was part of the Steinway Festival 2016, so it wasn’t a surprise to see that two Steinway grand pianos (together worth a whopping £150k) were awaiting the performers.  The gig was also the first time the two had played together, which isn’t surprising given they’re both singer/pianists.

Kicking off the show was Liane Carroll (and by which time I’d polished off my pizza!).  It didn’t take me long to be won over.  The husky, blues-inflected tones were a perfect complement to her command of the Steinway.  Stilgoe (son of Richard, in case you were wondering) joined Carroll, evincing Cullum/Buble/Sinatra vocals – no bad thing in my book, and as much command of the piano.  The night wasn’t a strict jazz set, which made a refreshing change.  Stilgoe and Carroll, share a love of Carole King and one of the evening’s highlights was a version of King’s ‘Will you still love me tomorrow’ that segued into John Lennon’s ‘Jealous guy’ – with the two performers playing musical ping-pong.  What with Stilgoe’s wit, Carroll’s border-line irrevence, nods to the Eastender’s and Bullseye theme tunes and more than enough musicality to shake a stick at, it was a great night and I’m very glad I went along.

This gig was the perfect example of why people need to get out and see live music.  A CD or download will never capture the magic of a live performance such as this one.



Hard boppin’ in Hoxton

Hoxton, London: birthplace of the Kray twins; hipster central; and the home of Jazz Rehearsals.

For over two years, musicians (including me) have been travelling to The Premises rehearsal studios – where the likes of Lana Del Rey, Nile Rogers and Ed Sheeran have rehearsed or recorded – to take part in monthly jazz workshops run by London’s top jazz musicians.  Jazz Rehearsals is the brainchild of Geert Schouten.  Schouten, a pianist, wanted to create a relaxed space in which burgeoning jazz musicians can meet, learn and play.  The recipe’s proved a success with more workshops being run to meet the increasing demand.

So what happens at a workshop?  Each workshop is around three hours long (which includes a break).  For the first 90 minutes you’ll work through one tune, typically a ‘jazz standard’.  This involves, under expert tutelage, breaking the tune down into easily digestible chunks, demystifying the ‘lead sheet’ and developing approaches to improvising over the tune.  This is jazz after all!  After a break, the remaining hour or so will be spent jamming over two other tunes and revisiting the original tune – invariably sounding better than when you first walked through the door!

The focus is on playing together as a band, listening to one another, and creating something new. Typically, each workshop will be attended by a drummer, bass players, guitarists, pianists and horn players.  Many of the regulars, myself included, get together outside of these workshops and have started bands: a testament to the success of Jazz Rehearsals.  The sessions are open to everyone, on a first-come-first-served basis, and there’s always a range of workshops on offer, both in terms of difficulty and in style.  They’re not free, however, but you don’t have to part with a lot of your hard-earnt cash; the sessions are great value for money.  So if you want to get into jazz, and don’t know what to do, it really couldn’t be easier: check out Jazz Rehearsals.