Category Archives: Composition

hcmf// commission! (…and Double Bass Comments poster!)

Some really excellent news to announce today! I have been selected as one of the artists for the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (hcmf//) COVID-19 Commissions. The commissions are the festival’s response to the pandemic, offering artists some paid work now when things are pretty bleak for live performance. I’ll be writing a new piece for trio, to be performed at hcmf// at a later date. With my 2020 year planner in the recycling bin due to loads of future work being cancelled or postponed indefinitely, this is really brilliant news and I feel very lucky to have been chosen. I’ll be writing about the project on the blog as it develops.

In other news, there’s a new merch item up on the Sloth Racket site for tomorrow’s Bandcamp Friday and it’s something quite special. For many years, our bass player Seth has been collecting people’s verbal reactions to his double bass (usually when they see him on public transport or walking down the street) using the hashtag #doublebasscomments. Sloths guitarist Anton recently decided that this needed to be taken to a whole different level, and asked the brilliant artist and friend of Sloth Racket Angela Guyton to make a cartoon of some of the comments. The resulting A2 POSTER is now on sale!! Edition of 20, so grab one quick for the bassist in your life…

Vonnegut Collective Mindful Miniature

The lovely Vonnegut Collective have swung into action during the lockdown with their ‘Mindful Miniatures’ project, and I was very happy to be asked to contribute a track. For the project, participants take a guided audio walk and then respond with a piece of text, an image, a video etc. These are then passed on to artists for us to respond in turn with some music and sound. A nice process! I took the opportunity to experiment with multi-tracking the homemade percussion instruments I’ve been making, as well as blowing on a piece of plastic pipe from the beer shop with a sax mouthpiece (of course). I’m pretty happy with the results, and had a joyous morning creating the track. You can listen to it on the Vonneguts’ website. Hats off to VC for providing some work for artists during the pandemic and creating good vibes.

Some percussion bits (taken on a different session – no cymbals were used on the VC track).

‘Boundaries’ released today!

Out today is something I’m really happy to be involved with: Boundaries, an LP on the new multi.modal label. Based at SPARC (Sound Practice and Research @ City), a research centre at the Music Department of City, University of London, multi.modal is run by Tullis Rennie and Claudia Molitor. In their own words:

‘multi.modal is a new London based record label that muddies the borders between improvisation, field recording and composition. Each release on the label will triangulate these artistic spaces and reflect contemporary music practices, which tend to be collaborative and multimodal.’

I was lucky enough to be invited to work with City University Experimental Ensemble in April 2017, making a new graphic score, March Of The Egos, for them as well as playing my piece Off-World (as heard on the Favourite Animals album). We performed the two pieces at IKLECTIK, and it’s this recording that you can hear on side B of ‘Boundaries’.

The title of the release refers to side A of the LP: two interpretations of Chieko Shiomi’s Boundary Music. This 1963 text score reads: ‘Make the faintest possible sound to a boundary condition whether the sound is given birth to as a sound or not. At the performance, instruments, human bodies, electronic apparatus or anything else may be used.’

The Boundaries album is distributed by NMC Recordings and can be ordered from their website. I also have a couple of copies that I’ll be selling at gigs, so come and find me on a merch table somewhere soon!

Lastly I should mentioned the beautiful design work by Alexander Rennie. Look at the gorgeous cover!

Update: I’ve been alerted to a lovely review of this record on the Further blog, in which Mat Smith describes CUEE’s performances of my pieces as ‘a vibrant, colourful, euphorically noisy collision between noir jazz and electronics’ (Off-World) and ‘a discordant, joyously sprawling piece wherein each instrument and player seems to be vying for airtime’ (March Of The Egos). Thanks Mat!

What Love

This month I’m part of Seth Bennett’s ‘What Love’ project; three gigs for a brand new group, interpreting/responding to the music of Charles Mingus. Also playing in the ensemble will be Kim Macari (trumpet), Ollie Dover (alto saxophone and bass clarinet), George Murray (trombone), Adam Fairhall (piano), Johnny Hunter (drums) and of course Seth on bass. Each member of the band will bring an arrangement of a Mingus composition (or their own Mingus-inspired new composition). It should be good fun! You can catch us in Sheffield, Cambridge and Manchester. See the flyer below for dates and venues…Update: now with rehearsal video….

New Sloth Racket video

Sloth Racket has a new video! Our good friend Ben Owen has made this great short film of us playing at a LUME gig at The Vortex in May this year. The piece we play is called ‘Shapeshifters’ and will appear on our second album, coming out in Summer 2017.

More videos of the band can be found on the Sloth Racket page. Also this month, some new nice words about the band have appeared online; from Dave Sumner on his latest Bird Is The Worm ‘This Is Jazz Today’ dispatch, and from Stewart Smith in his 2016 jazz/improv roundup on The Quietus. Thanks both!

First incarnation of the LUMEkestra

Anton Hunter has posted a video of the LUMEkestra playing his composition ‘LUME Kestrel’. The gig was at IKLECTIK or 14th November, as part of our special LUME triple bill show for the London Jazz Festival. As well as Anton’s piece we played compositions by Paulo Duarte, Tom Ward, Martin Pyne and Dave Kane. It was a lot of fun, and the ensemble will definitely appear again in 2017: its mission is to create a space for the composers around LUME to experiment with writing for large groups.

I was quite pleased with my flyer for this gig too:

lumekestra-poster

Lancaster Jazz Festival Artist In Residence/Headline Artist

Some very exciting news for the Autumn: I’m going to be Artist In Residence at Lancaster Jazz Festival 2016! Their tireless artistic director and ace clarinettist Matt Robinson emailed me a few months ago to offer this fantastic (and terrifying) opportunity and obviously I had to say yes. The main focus of my Artist In Residence role will be to produce some new music, the performance of which will be the festival’s headline set on Saturday 17th September. So, not a very high pressure gig then…

I decided to assemble a large ensemble for the occasion, which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It’s ended up as a ten-piece, and the line-up will be:

Julie Kjær flute & bass clarinet
Tom Ward flute & bass clarinet
Graham South trumpet
Tullis Rennie trombone
Dee Byrne alto sax
Sam Andreae tenor sax
Cath Roberts baritone sax
Anton Hunter guitar
Seth Bennett double bass
Johnny Hunter drums

The band is basically an expanded Sloth Racket, and I can’t wait to get started on putting the music together. More on this to follow….

The festival is happening over the weekend of the 16th-18th September, and the full programme will be announced soon (keep an eye on the festival website).

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Gateshead here we come…

Quick post about my next upcoming project. On Sunday 12th April I’ll be taking Sloth Racket, a brand new band featuring some of my favourite musicians (and favourite people!) to Gateshead International Jazz Festival. Anton Hunter, Sam Andreae, Seth Bennett and Johnny Hunter will be joining me to play some new music that I’ve put together especially for the gig; with a heavy emphasis on improvisation, of course.

We’re sharing the bill with the excellent trio of Rachel Musson, Julie Kjaer and Hannah Marshall, so it promises to be a great evening all round. Tickets are available from the festival website. Our gig is part of Jazz North East’s ‘Women Make Music’ series, supported by PRSF.

It wouldn’t be a new band without a gig at LUME, so we’ll be heading to Long White Cloud on Thursday 16th April for the London leg. Hope to see you there or at Gateshead!

In lieu of a band photo, here’s my sketch of a sloth making a racket.

sloth

Word Of Moth

After nearly two years of running LUME, Dee Byrne and I have decided that it’s time to collaborate on a musical project. We have taken the liberty of booking ourselves in for a gig at Long White Cloud on Thursday 12th February, roped in a couple of our favourite musicians, and named the project Word Of Moth – after a silly misreading while filling in a form (because, you know, we mainly do admin when we’re together).

Seth Bennett, who I first worked with in Anton Hunter’s Article 11 band last year, has agreed to be on bass. He’s great to play with! On drums will be Tom Greenhalgh, who I’ve heard in various different bands including the excellent Vole, but haven’t played with before. I’m very much looking forward to it.

Dee and I will both be bringing some compositions, and there will be lots of space for group improvisation too. If you’re free, come down and hear the results…