the importance of live music and music education …

For the last twenty years or so, Vince Mendoza has been top of the list for major artists and ensembles in the market for fantastic sophisticated and expensive sounding orchestral arrangements.  From Joni Mitchell, Sting, Melody Gardot, Elvis Costello, Robbie Williams and Björk to Joe Zawinul, John Schofield, Kurt Elling and Randy Brecker he’s worked with the best.  Not only a gifted arranger but a great composer and conductor too, creating wonderful music with The Netherland’s Metropole Orkest and Germany’s WDR Big Band.

Though he can write in virtually any style his sound is completely his own and immediately identifiable and I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing this incredible musician a few weeks ago.

Our meeting was unexpectedly brought forward due to Vince’s rehearsal schedule, conducting The London Symphony Orchestra to accompany Gregory Porter at The Albert Hall, performing songs, from Gregory’s tribute to Nat King Cole album as arranged by Mr Mendoza, this meant instead of having two clear days to prep for such an important interview it came hot on the heels of one of our busiest touring weekends but then having to make time to listen to hours of painfully beautiful music is absolutely no hardship.

I very much enjoyed our chat about the world of Mendoza and felt so heartened to hear Vince’s views on the importance of live music and music education.  Views shared by another visitor to the radio show this week, trumpeter, arranger, educator and director of The Count Basie Orchestra Scotty Barnhart. He and the chaps were over as part of their European tour.  Here’s a chap who has worked with the CBO for the last couple of decades as a star soloist before taking over as leader, a man who has had the privilege of sitting on a tour bus with some of the greatest names in big band history, people like Clark Terry, Frank Foster and Freddie Green.  He spoke passionately about the history of this legendary ensemble now in it’s 83rd year and about meeting Count Basie himself when he was just seventeen. Scotty talked about his childhood growing up in Atlanta, Georgia where he was christened by non-other than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Scotty Barnhart and Vince Mendoza have a mantle shelf full of Grammys between them but you couldn’t wish to meet two more down to earth people who just love what they do.


Two sat navs, an atlas plus 3 extra hours …

Two sat navs, an atlas plus 3 extra hours on top of the required 5, afforded us the luxury of checking into our hotel before sound check.  We rewarded ourselves with a cup of tea and homemade shortbread biscuits stacked pretty in a jar by the kettle.

Victoria Hall in Settle is a wonderful venue, it’s a joy to play and The Lion on Duke Street is a delightful place to eat and stay.  The food is amazing as is the beer, Hetton Pale Ale from the Dark Horse Brewery (just lovely).  Newsflash: Car and Kitchen has reopened! After a great gig we were further treated to some fantastic live music back at The Lion – Thursday Night Folk with Mike Harding.

Bright and breezy the next morning we headed up to Durham, managing to catch up with friends for lunch in the process. Mid fish finger sandwich I received a phone call from Mister-Sir Van Morrison regarding his excellent new album “You’re Driving Me Crazy” it was only when I finished the call did I realise I was standing up in the middle of the restaurant shouting with my finger in my ear – I’ll be singing folk songs before you know it.

From Durham to Winchester (whose idea was that?) Mud decided we’d be better off driving home after the gig rather than the next morning as the roads have been shocking of late, sat nav 1 was on top form, and despite the curious route, got us back to Chippenham in record time.

Winchester is a very pretty town and again we arrived early enough to buy artisan fudge and have a quick mooch about.  On unpacking the band’s delicious Indian takeaway, I realised why it was so heavy not to mention expensive.  My request for 4 onion bhajis, had become onion bhajis  for 4… as a main.  Twelve cricket ball size bhajis!

The weekend’s long journeys had provided really useful listening and research time for the big interview, ahead of my Sunday evening Radio 2 show, with the amazing composer, arranger and conductor Vince Mendoza.  Not only does he compose incredible music under his own name, this chap has won 6 Grammys and received 31 nominations he has arranged sumptuous scores for Joni Mitchel, Gregory Porter, Kurt Elling, Joe Zawinal, Björk, Sting, Robbie Williams….  He was the cherry on the top of what was a most memorable weekend.