Zog Blog - St Austell, St Ives & Coventry / by Elaine Crouch

Gigs 30, 31 & 32

Coventry Albany Club

It was a wintery night when we arrived to load the gear in past a large, well oiled funeral party in the ground floor room.

Neil McGowan, who runs the Coventry Jazz evenings in the upstairs venue, is tirelessly enthusiastic and a generous host. It’s quite a big room, which ideally wants 150 people to pack it out. We got around 45-50, which looked ok but was a little disappointing after the promotional work Neil and I have done. Anyway, we still had a very good gig, and the audience, who took a little while to warm up, definitely found their voice by the end! We had the usual conversations at the end wondering how to get younger people to come out to the gigs, too, etc..... so anyone reading this in the Coventry area - please turn up and support these gigs! The venue, bands, and sound are all good and the drinks reasonably priced.

St Austell - The Lost Gardens of Heligan

We were scheduled to play at the regular St Austell's jazz venue, the Bosuns, which unfortunately was double booked relatively late in the day so the venue had to be switched in order to preserve the gig. The promoter, Phil Webb, did a great job sorting this out and moving it to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. The downside was that the new venue is more remote and therefore much harder to get the audience to go to. That said, we still had a respectable turnout. The setting was a summer holiday tropical garden cafe, that on a windy, rainy December night was more like the scary scene in Jurassic Park when everyone gets chowed by the AWOL dinosaurs.... the get in also had to rank as one of the most awkward imaginable!

Once we were in, it was great. We received handsome hospitality - terrific food and drinks, and an extremely enthusiastic audience. The band, wined and dined, rose to the occasion and played great. Graham Harvey used his Fender Rhodes and we played acoustic. I felt sorry for the poor chap, Eric, who'd lugged a mighty PA in. All we used it for was announcements and interval music (Nigel Price's excellent Heads and Tales Cd)

Cornwall College Workshop

This workshop was set up by Phil Webb with the college for 15 of their music students, aged around 17 years old. They were very receptive and capable. Graham Harvey and I taught them Sonnymoon For Two by ear, improvisation through call and response techniques, basic blues chord progressions, guide tones and rhythmic placement. I was really impressed by how engaged everyone was throughout and how readily everything we taught was assimilated and put into practice. It would be great to have workshops for this age group in all regions on national tours.

St Ives Jazz Club at the Western Hotel has been going for years and recently won “Jazz Venue of the Year” in the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. It’s a split level bar with a grand piano and a small PA. I’ve done many great gigs here over the years, and last night was certainly one of them. One of the committee running the show commented that it was the busiest November gig (though it's December, of course!) they’d had for some time, so we’d been doing something right with the PR. The audience was good and really got into it.

Along with Aberdeen, this gig is the furthest away from London you can get in the UK. The fees paid to the musicians are unfortunately amongst the lowest on the circuit and I was surprised after our respectable turnout that the band cut was as low as it was. The split came to a quarter of what I actually pay the guys (that’s the MU minimum rate, BTW). I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining about the gig, which is great and well run. I’m just suggesting that this should be reassessed more favourably from the musicians' perspective in order to respectfully maintain the high standard.