21.10.14

New Accelerator

New Accelerator has a complicated history. The simple version is that my talented guitarist friend Richard and I wanted to start a new band playing original music in a style that we could enjoy working in. We soon met  Bobby, who brought a fresh approach to the drums and overall arrangement of the tunes. For months the band rehearsed and wrote as a trio while looking for the missing instrument that would add an extra sense of melody. The missing instrument turned out to be the voice of our great friend Emma Jones. Once Emma was onboard the band found a sense of direction and we were ready to go.


For these recordings the band are joined by the extremely talented keyboardist, Colin Henney.

14.10.14

Neil Cowley Trio at the Barbican


In the last post I wrote about a day in London. That day’s highlight was a gig at the Barbican by the Neil Cowley Trio.

I first heard about the trio when my friend Colin Price sent me a link to this video.



I immediately bought the Face of Mount Molehill album and was hooked. Not only did I love the music but my whole family did too. This is a very rare occurance.

The trio are interesting because, although they look and sometimes sound like a jazz trio, they seem to upset people because they are not jazz enough. There aren’t tons of solos for a start. Trying to explain why they do or don’t fit into a certain category is a complete waste of time. The thing to do is shut up and listen to the music with an open mind. Let’s make a flow chart: do you like the music? Yes – great. No – oh well.

Anyway, the Barbican gig was an important one for the band and you could feel this from the moment they came out on stage. The energy, nervous or otherwise, was palpable. There was so much emotion generated in some pieces my wife almost had to get out of the room. I too felt an overwhelming vibe running through the audience and the reactions (at least two standing ovations) showed this. It easily makes it to my favourite gigs of all time list.

Neil Cowley showed a mastery of the piano and pulled melodies, dynamics and rhythms which demonstrate just how versatile this instrument is. Rex Horan played the double bass and made it sing. Evan Jenkins played the straight ahead parts and complex rhythmic changes with a gleeful ease. At the end of the concert everyone seemed to be smiling, there was so much joy in the room.

I went to see the trio again at their Oxford gig the following week and, despite their wonderful playing, I was reminded how Oxford audiences can seem so restrained compared to, well, almost anywhere else.

My son, at four years old, really loves this band and keeps asking when he can go and see them. Hopefully it won’t be too long.

13.10.14

A day in London


I love London. I spent a large part of my childhood with my dad, being shown the famous and not so famous corners of the city which he was born and grew up in. When I got older I continued visiting and exploring. It’s not so easy to go as often as I’d like now but we went up for my daughter’s birthday and, last Friday, I got back there for a gig.

My wife and I rarely have any time on our own so this was a great opportunity to get into town and enjoy ourselves. Thanks to our incredibly supportive network of friends we knew the children were in safe hands and took an early train to Paddington. From there we took the tube to Oxford Circus and walked down Regent Street, stopping for lunch at the excellent Tidbits on Hadden Street. We then walked through Piccadilly and Leicester Square to the National Portrait Gallery. After a few hours gazing at paintings and photographs we moved on up Charing Cross Road with a quick stop on Denmark Street where we made an exciting decision I’ll reveal later. Denmark Street is lined with musical instrument shops, so that should be a clue.

We stopped for a snack then walked up to the British Museum, which was a favourite stop of mine as a child. I was fascinated by the everyday items from ancient times: cups, plates, pots and vases. I loved the idea of these ordinary things being used by someone long forgotten. They seemed to be a gateway back to times that only existed in books and pictures. It was one thing to see an illustration of an ancient Roman family enjoying meal, something else to see the actual things they ate off of.

The other reason I loved the British Museum as a child was because it was close to a shop called Davenports, which sold professional magic tricks and apparatus. It was a fascinating place to hang out in and my pocket money could usually stretch to a small trick for me to learn over the following weeks.

The gig we went to see deserves a post of its own.

26.9.14

More Warr

I wrote a few days ago about playing the Warr Guitar again. After the last band rehearsal I decided to keep the instrument for one or two songs but not to bring it to this week's rehearsal. Keep it simple, I thought. Stick with what you know (the regular bass guitar) while you're learning new songs.

So when I left home I picked up the bass in its bag and looked forward to a night on a completely familiar instrument.

But no. When I opened the bag I found the Warr Guitar and was forced to play everything on it. Of course, having no option but to rethink my parts I had some panicky moments but also had a ton of fun. My kind bandmates also seemed to enjoy the change.
Teaser No. 2 - work in progress from the band New Accelerator from Will Cruttenden on Vimeo.


16.9.14

The Phonetic Alphabet - sorted at last!


I have been fascinated by the TED talks ever since I saw my first one some years ago. Typically for me I felt an irrational desire to be on that stage, showing the assembled audience my amazing idea. Without an actual amazing idea though, I wasn’t likely to do this.

Until now.

Of all the world’s serious problems surely one of the biggest is the Phonetic Alphabet. What? Not a problem? Well of course it is. For a start there are two phonetic alphabets. That can be confusing enough but hen factor in the problems with explaining either one to a four year old. “What does Alpha mean?” “What is a Foxtrot?” “Why do they say Sierra?”

So, to combat this problem I have created the (admittedly Cruttenden family-centric) phonetic alphabet. My gift to you.


Apples

Bananas

Custard

Dog

Elephant

Fart

Goat

Happy

Igloo

Jumper

Kick

Lemon

Mouse

Numpty

Octopus

Pants

Queen

Rubbish

Spacehopper

Toilet

Underpants

Vomit

Willy

X-Box

Zappa

 

Now, where’s the number for TED?

15.9.14

Warr

Many years ago I ordered a guitar from Mark Warr. It took a year to build and it arrived around the same time as my daughter, so I named it after her.
This instrument is a touch guitar and is designed to be played by tapping the strings against the fretboard, although you can play it in any style you like. I had previously owned a Chapman Stick, which is a purely tapping instrument and turned out not to be right for me. I didn’t like only being able to tap and, over time, I realised I did not like the tone.
The Warr Guitar is a wonderful, beautifully built, gorgeous sounding instrument, even when it isn’t amplified. But there was a problem. Not having anyone to teach me the instrument I felt my way and developed plenty of (probably) bad habits. I recorded it for bass and lead parts on my Spingere project and played soundscapes in front of audiences before Eclipse trio gigs. I even recorded the bass line for a country song on it.
The one thing I had never done was to play it, full volume, with a drummer in a band situation. At least, I hadn’t done that until last week.
The Band With No Name (soon to be revealed) tried out some new material and I felt this might be the place to let the Warr Guitar loose. I began with my back to everyone and the more comfortable I felt the more I turned around.
It wasn’t perfect. Getting consistent volume took a while and, as I was alternating between by bass and the Warr (both are tuned in different intervals) there were a few brown notes. But, overall, I was pleased with the sound and no one asked me to put it away and pick the bass back up.
The next step is to gig with it.
 

4.9.14

Cryptic

Thank goodness for the i newpaper and its five clue cryptic crossword.

I'm learning to solve cryptic crossword clues as part of my 50 at 50 list. I've tried before and got nowherr. I read Colin Dexter's book and got a tiny bit further. Now I can attempt these small but fiendish puzzles and feel seriously good when I get three out of five right.

Sometimes I don't understand the answer even when I have it in front of me. But I'm getting better and enjoying the difficulty. Time to read Mr Dexter's book again.