For the sake of humanity and the world at large, I refrain from driving wherever possible but then Muddy is a brilliant driver, so we’re all lucky that I don’t often need to get behind the wheel. Mud seems to have eyes in the back of her head and can spot potential hazards a mile off, I’m more like Flash the sloth in the cartoon Zootopia, I don’t catch half the things she does and because of this I tend to drive at a speed I feel will give me time to catch up. Third is my gear of choice, I think the others are overrated, besides I like the noise.
Imagine my surprise then, when I received a speeding notice through the post. Initially Mud thought it was hers as the car is registered in her name. When she realised it was for a journey I’d made to Bristol on my own, she laughed her head off. You won’t be startled to learn that I wasn’t going very fast, just a little over the limit and I’m virtually certain I’d have been in 3rd gear at the time my speed was recorded.
Instead of taking the 3 points I gladly accepted Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s invitation to attend a speed awareness course, as our friend Charlotte often says, she learns something new every time she goes on one!
Our course took place in a nice country hotel and was jam packed with both offenders and tourists. I’d heard mixed reviews from various friends so didn’t really know what to expect other than numb bum – having to sit on an uncomfortable chair for four hours.
We had two fantastic speakers John and Selena, who took it turns to take us through the necessary information. I found the whole thing brilliantly informative and couldn’t believe how much I’d forgotten in the 28 years I’ve been in the road (in third gear), I feel we also all benefited from the dedicated persistence of one of our party, a motorist of advanced years who has driven all over the world since passing her test in 1953 to clarify and discuss absolutely every single key point made throughout the afternoon.
Other than the absence of a nice plate of biscuits, I couldn’t fault the course. I wouldn’t even complain if it became compulsory for all drivers to attend one every now and then.
A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of presenting and performing with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. It was the launch of a yearlong programme of events and initiatives called The EQ Project designed to remix the gender balance in jazz. The concert celebrated compositions and songs written by women from the 30’s through to present day.
We started with a beautiful piece, and a favourite of the band, called Hush by pianist Nikki Illes. I then sang a selection of songs by the likes of Marilyn (And Alan) Bergman (What are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life), Doris Fisher (That Old Devil Called Love) and er…me. Then came a stunning work titled El Viento, composed and arranged by the incredible musician and American band leader Maria Schneider.
Excitingly it was then time to unleash the first brand new commissioned piece of the evening. You Do? By saxophonist Issie Barratt. It was very well played and brilliantly received.
We opened the 2nd half with songs written by Dorothy Fields (A Fine Romance), Peggy Lee (alternative lyrics to Fever) and Ann Ronell (Willow Weep For Me) before moving on to pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams’ Zodiac Suite written in 1947 and very recently orchestrated for big band, by young trumpeter and composer Laura Jurd who herself was a member of NYJO till 2011.
I am a big Mary Lou Williams fan, to me she was as great as Duke Ellington. He was a great admirer himself, saying “Mary Lou Williams is perpetually contemporary. Her writing and performing have always been a little ahead throughout her career. Her music retains, and maintains, a standard of quality that is timeless. She is like soul on soul.”
Laura’s reading of Mary Lou’s work was just brilliant. At the end of the concert whilst searching for the trumpet 4 part of A Fine Romance, I had a 5 minute chat with Laura and Issie about the wonderful Ms Williams.
Muddy and I finally set off only to find ourselves stranded on the M4, 30 cars behind a broken down lorry in single lane roadworks. Although she never said a word I could sense that the question on Muddy’s lips went along the lines of, “When does a 5 minute conversation about one of the jazz world’s most unsung heroes warrant sitting in the dark for 3 hours in the freezing cold. Discuss.”
We’re swinging into 2018 with the ‘Swing’s The Thing’.
This brand new show sees Clare and her excellent musicians effortlessly traverse a rich landscape of timeless and sparkling material, with standards from the grand masters of the Great American Song Book, Cole Porter & Rodgers & Hart, to witty urbane song stylists of the 50’s & 60’2 Cy Coleman & Carolyn Leigh & Dave Brubeck, there’s always a not to more contemporary writers and originals too.
So check out our listings page for a venue near you and join us for a celebration of popular music from the golden age of song that guarantees to be upbeat and uplifting to the extreme!
The winners of the British Jazz Awards 2017 were announced late on Wed 8th November. Featuring a broad array of jazz talent and now in their 31st year they are the only poll that gives jazz lovers up and down the country the chance to vote on who their favourite musicians, bands and albums have been in the last 12 months.
Teal, who has previously won the British Jazz Awards for vocals in 2005, 2007 and 2015, is a sought after singer throughout the country with her stunning voice, encyclopaedic knowledge of jazz, swing and big band music, and her innate warmth as well as a prolific recording artist and popular BBC Radio 2 broadcaster.
Clare Teal says ‘It is an honour to win any award and as the British Jazz Awards are voted by the public it is pretty special to win for a fourth time particularly with the stellar line-up of nominees. So a big thank you to those who gave me their vote and a massive congratulations to all the other winners and nominees’.
All of Manchester’s communities stand together in strength, resilience and love.
In this most musical of cities, Manchester’s orchestral musicians from the Hallé, the BBC Philharmonic and the Manchester Camerata will come together with The Bridgewater Hall for a concert in support of the families and friends of the victims of last Monday’s atrocity.
The event details are:
Thursday 1 June at 8pm
The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Sir Mark Elder and Stephen Bell will conduct members of the Hallé, Manchester Camerata and BBC Philharmonic orchestras
Performances by Clare Teal, Alice Coote and Guy Garvey
The evening will include inspiring and uplifting classical music, a performance by Alice Coote – one of the world’s finest mezzo sopranos – as well as songs from international jazz star Clare Teal and award-winning singer-songwriter Guy Garvey.
Everyone involved with the event are giving their services free. Tickets for the concert are free, but you MUST have a ticket to gain entry.
We are asking people, if they are able, to make a donation to the WeStandTogetherManchester Justgiving page at
You can get the latest information, details on admission and book tickets by visiting www.halle.co.uk/westandtogether. You can also contact the box office on 0161 907 9000. The Bridgewater Hall has waived its usual ticket charge. You will need your tickets to gain entry to the building.
Please check the Hallé link above for updated information as it is confirmed.
To whet your appetite, here’s a little taster of what’s to come … enjoy!
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Accompanied by the renowned Hallé, conducted by Stephen Bell and arranged by British composer and trumpet maestro Guy Barker and celebrated jazz pianists Grant Windsor and Jason Rebello, Twelve O’Clock Tales’ rich jazz infused repertoire includes songs from Cole Porter, Billy Strayhorn, Van Morrison, Tim Rice, made famous by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson and Peggy Lee, the songs include ‘Sans Souci’, ‘Secret Love’, ‘Feeling Good’, ‘Lush Life’, ‘It Might As Well Be Spring’, ‘Wild Is The Wind’, ‘Into The Mystic’ and ‘Paradisi Carousel’