Hello again! And – of course – a very Happy New Year!
Well I hope you heard the GREAT news by now; that back in December our wonderful ‘HALF-DOZEN’ – Craig Milverton, Julian Marc Stringle, Len Skeat, Nick Millward, Chris Gower, Dominic Ashworth and self – won the British Jazz Award for ‘top small group’ 2008-9! This is the third time in four years and we’re all completely knocked out; it;s been a lucky thirteen years for our group since we first formed in 1995. Needless to say our new manager Paul Ripley has had non-stop phone-calls ever since for bookings, so I very much hope we’ll see you in 2009. And in April of course we go back into the studio to record our latest album – called ‘Pollwinners’ (needless to say) for Peter Clayton and the Robinwood label!
VAL WISEMAN will be making a guest appearance on the album. And what was especially nice was that Val – the star of our Half-Dozen ‘Jazz Goes to the Movies’ THEATRE SHOW – won ‘top vocalist’ too. It’s well overdue! Her starring role in the Billie Holiday tribute show ‘Lady sings the Blues’ established her throughout Britain during the l980s and 90s, but – believe it or not – this is her very first win at the polls! So we’re looking forward to getting together with Val throughout the year, including a star gig at Pizza Express, Dean Street, London which I’ll tell you about in a paragraph or two. And do look out for Val’s brand-new album; ‘Keeping the Flame Alive’ – a tribute to the Bronte legacy and one of the most original issues in years.
Well, yes, I know, there’s a lot of talk about this ‘crunch’! But I have a feeling that when times are hard people really enjoy getting out to hear live music. It seems to be happening like that too. Since Christmas all my gigs with the Half Dozen – or other good musical friends – have been busy at least, packed at best! Early on in January we did our new ‘Ella and Louis’ tribute show at the georgeous Electric Theatre in Guildford with Craig Milverton’s Trio and Maggie Reeday and they had to open up the orchestra pit to get everyone in! That was a lovely concert and the day after I got to spend a day wandering around Guildford and Shalford where I spent all my childhood holidays. Just beautiful!
Since then my manager-agent Paul Ripley has been keeping us REALLY busy. Last week, starting on January 23rd, we actually went on tour – taking ‘Jazz Goes to the Movies’with our fellow-pollwinner (!) Val Wiseman to Huntingdon Hall Worcester and then carrying on with two nights in the good company of PAUL JONES for ‘Rocking in Rhythm’; first at the Gulbenkian Theatre on the campus of Kent University and then on to the Brewhouse Theatre at Taunton where we sold out again! Quite a weekend, and to cap it all, Julian Marc and I played the great Bexley Jazz Club for Joe and Jan Mudele on Monday 26th; the room was packed and we had an honoured guest too – Daryl Sherman, on a visit from New York, who dropped in to say hello and sing a song or two! What a night (as Tony Bennett says) – and what a club too! Thanks Joe and Jan!
There’s lots of new gigs coming up over the next few months so do take a regular look on the website. But one very special event happens in April; ‘Digby Fairweather Week’ at the Pizza Express, 10 Dean Street London. I’m really looking forward to this and each night there’ll be a different presentation! Naturally the Half Dozen opens the season with our own show on Tuesday 7th, then on Wednesday 8th – with Val Wiseman – we do ‘Jazz Goes to the Movies’. Thursday 9th we celebrate the centenary of Johnny Mercer with a whole evening of Mercer music titled ‘The Quality of Mercer’ with Maggie Reeday, Craig Milverton’s Trio and special guests to be announced. Then on Friday – bearing in mind that we’re short of Chicago-style jazz in London right now – my All-Star Dixielanders will be bringing you some red-hot ‘Echoes of Chicago’ with guests including that great clarinettist TIM HUSKISSON. And on Saturday we finish the week with a London reprise of the show that sold out Ronnie Scott’s SRO last Autumn – ‘Ella and Louis’. So why not block off the week and come and join me in town? Rememer what Dr. Johnson said – ‘that looks nasty!’. Oh no, sorry, that’s wrong! The good Doctor said ‘He who is tired of London is tired of life’. That’s it. So see you SOON!
Take care! And keep in touch! All my best,