Zog Blog - Seven Arts, Leeds / by Elaine Crouch

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Day 1 of the Zog Tour

Masterclass

Audience: A small select gathering of about 10 ranging from teenage to OAP

Since this was the first date of the tour, we decided to rehearse one of our trickier tunes, Bheki Mseleku's "Timelessness". This was both a way of sonically introducing ourselves, and helping us acclimatise to the room acoustic. We explained these processes to the audience. Since we've just come off a Matt Bianco tour in Japan, we had to refamiliarise ourselves with this music. I've nearly fully committed my own tunes to memory, but decided for the first gig of the tour a prompter set of parts on my iPad, operated discretely by foot pedal, might be in order. I chose this since I didn't want to be fiddling with pieces of paper. I might as well have just done the whole set from memory as in fact the iPad was was an additional distraction and when I stopped looking at it the whole thing was better. That's a big note to self (like I should need a reminder!) and all students: learn your repertoire asap! If you need to read, use pieces of paper on a music stand. iPads are a handy reference to carry around and good for practice, but not a slick act on the gig IMO. It looks like you're emailing your mum or watching the football.

We soon got into the nitty gritty of the music, and Graham Harvey wanted to check how we would phrase the unison melody. This opened up a lengthy investigation into jazz quavers, articulation, swing feel, accents and the perception of each member of the band with regard to these points. In the end we agreed that the point of "resolution" of a 4/4 swing feel is 1 and 3, though the accents are felt on 2 and 4, and when further subdivided, on the off-beat quavers. We demonstrated comping and soloing feels on different standards and blues from slow 12/8 to fast swing and double time, using Charlie Parker solo phrases and melodies to demonstrate points.

In the last 5 minutes we got the controversial "is jazz just a museum piece now, and therefore what's the point in playing it?" (My paraphrase, but that was the gist). I guess you could ask the same about Mozart......

Gig

About 70 people in an 80 capacity lovely arts theatre. We are always at pains to create an acoustic sound, therefore employing the least amount of amplification necessary. During the masterclass it was apparent we'd need a monitor for the Yamaha U3 piano, which would enable Graham to play with a better touch to make a good sound. I used a mic, not for volume, but for a smidge of reverb as the room was very dry. I had brought my own mic. Note to engineers: please don't use Shure SM57/58s on sax as they sound horrible - all nasal upper mids and nothing in the business area. Also we had the upright piano with the keyboard on the side of the band, so mic'ed the soundboard about halfway up, left and right. This gives the most natural sound (mics into the piano from above sound boxy) and the piano itself acts as a baffle screening off the bleed from the band. Alex, the sound guy, did a great job.

We opened with and easy straight ahead blower, "Nothing to Lose". From that point everything fell into place, the audience was engaged and the band swung hard. I normally reckon a 10-20% cd sale is reward for a good gig. We sold 15, so that's a good start. Thanks to Steve Crocker for putting us on, the nice audience for coming, and the excellent support act, the Pete Rosser Duo (piano and bass clarinet), who paid tribute to Thelonius Monk's 100th birthday year.

Apologies to anyone next to room 336 at the Leeds Premier Inn, as we had a late hang listening to Billy Cobham, Charles Lloyd, Geoff Keezer, the latest jazz releases and 60s Sérgio Mendez!

Thanks to Steve Crocker for the photo.