19 June 2013
To start where I left off, the do last Friday playing Ellington music in the fabulous acoustic paradise that is the Stables in Wavendon, just down the road from the fabulous architectural paradise that is Milton Keynes, went off extremely well indeed. As well as indulging in some incredible brass gymnastics, Principal trumpeter and hot-as-Hades soloist Nathan Bray (pictured) brought an interesting new strand to the already well documented train of thought that is the Inevitable Curry. Rather than waste valuable post-bandcall-pre-gig time seeking out the nearest Star Of The Raj, Nathan had cut straight to the chase by preparing a Chicken Madras of his own devising (pictured) earlier on that day and then allowed it to infuse on the dashboard of his Volvo in the hot Milton Keynes sunshine while we were all indoors getting to grips with the finer nuances of such jewels as “Diminuendo In Blue” and “Air-Conditioned Jungle”.
Toying even further with accepted form and protocol, Nathan had taken the idea of a home made curry to the extreme, in that all the veg (and there were many) were from his allotment. We’d done the bandcall by 6pm, and here’s a shot of Nathan at 6.02 opening up the foil to reveal what lay inside. I just had time to take this quick shot, before I got into a Volvo of my own to join the other lads at the Wavendon Tandoori. I also spared a moment, in the purely professional pursuit of truth, you understand, to have a quick taste. That lad can cook! When the time comes, as inevitably as curry itself, that we all eventually get replaced by iPods in some form or another, at least he’ll have another trade.
The Ellington job marked the artistic high spot of the year so far, but the weekend was not without other highlights. Her Indoors had a job on Saturday night, leaving me at home in the home workshop, or shed, with a few spare hours to put in on the Seaplanes Of The Axis Powers diorama. I spent most of the time on the Blohm & Voss 238, or in more user-friendly terms, Bloody Great Big Nazi Plane. I mention this only because I reckon it’s so Bloody and Big that it will cross over from the cloud of a chap’s personal nerd musk into the arena of something approaching general interest. When it’s done, I’ll put up a picture. Six propellers and huge great swastikas on the tail. Enough there to fascinate anyone.
Sunday evening was marked with a nice wedding gig led by the golden glottis of singer Iain Mackenzie. It’s not often I get to do a gig now where I’m not at the helm, and the simple pleasure of turning up, operating a saxophone and going home again was not lost on me. Poor old MacKenzie had had a bit of an intense time on the run-up to the do with an amount of emails from the happy couple -to-be which would have brought the central computer at the Pentagon. He’d even had several detailed communications about the song order for the background music on the iPod, and by the time we had to go in, he had shades of the whiskery gibbering wreck about him. I know how this feels, and so I was acutely aware of the joyous sensation of none of it being any of my responsibility! I can only liken it to the feeling I got when I discovered the joy of Compeed, back in the War Of The Ragged Feet earlier on this year. As it turned out, these two were really nice people, the dance floor was full all night and they gave us chocolate cake in the bandroom. A victory.
Mind you, watch out if you ever need to go in a car to the area of London between Whitehall and the Embankment. This hotel was slap bang in the middle of all that, just up a bit from the Liberal Club. What with virtually every building round there being a government office, I guess it’s an anti-terrorist measure or something, but there’s simply nowhere to park. Her Indoors and I had to walk a good mile and a half up from behind Parliament Square, and she had her pointy gig shoes on. A good job we were on business, and not going out for the night, the meal would have been shot before we’d even got close to seeing how her food was going to go wrong.
Things got stranger still on Monday. Once again, I had the luxury of not being in charge. This time, it was a job in a venue called The Crypt, near Hatton Garden. The Crypt is indeed an old crypt, complete with gargoyles and vaulted ceiling, and the party hosts had decided to immerse themselves in the Tudor theme by having a medieval flavour running through the whole evening. This they did by the rather brilliant masterstroke of hiring in a load of suitable hats from Angels and Bermans. It really did the trick- the mind can be easily fooled with a little altered stimulus for the minces- The other thing they did to really seal the deal was to book a five-piece jazz band. Mark Armstrong on Trumpet was in control of this one, and noting that jazz bands don’t feature too heavily in Pepys, had prepared small arrangements for us to play of such sixteenth century classics as “Greensleeves” and “All Burpe Us In Goode Companie” or something. It was great fun. It got more fun when, rather than jazzing up the old stuff, we olded up some jazz. Working on, probably the inaccurate cliché that, the basic rhythm of Olde Englishe Court Music goes Daaa-Da-Da-Daaa-Da-Da, astonishing versions of “Little Sunflower”, “Star Eyes”, and particularly “Caravan”, or “Caravanne” were the result, the latter with some rather fetching nasal group vocals in the Steeleye Span way. Dave Chamberlain proposed a version of “Tudor, Night, And The Music”, but we never got around to it. Luckily. Here’s a picture of us in our splendid headgear. I think you’ll agree that the clear winner here is Gunther Kurmayr at the piano, in the eerie half-light looking surprisingly like a Holbein sketch of , say, “Hennery’s Codpiece Primper”, but for the record, you see Mark Armstrong as Cardinal Wolsey, me as Archbishop John Whitgift, Dave Chamberlain as Young Henry, and Jerome Davies as Henry VII, or possibly Anne Of Cleves.
Finally, a quick observation. As you may know, I am fascinated by the architecture of London’s underground, and on a recent trip in on the Met Line, I noticed this. It is the end of the line at Baker Street. It has nowhere else to go. So why is it curved?
More from the shed soon,