It’s 2009 already.

•January 26, 2009 • 1 Comment

Hello again. Apologies, apologies, apologies. One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to keep this blog up to date, and before I’ve even had a chance to break it, I’ve broken it. Goodness me, it’s the end of January, for Chrissakes.

Anyway, I’ve not been idling. I’ve been busily beavering away at this and that; doing gigs, teaching, contracting viruses, visiting family members, driving around, acquiring new technology &c. Writing music, too. Songs, with and without words. This is really just to say hello and allay any fears that you may have had for my health or whereabouts.
Lots of nice things have been happening: I’ve just got back from Kendal where I was working with the National Youth Jazz Collective, teaching jazz to kids. Remarkably fulfilling stuff when it goes well, and it was great fun.
I took Joseph (my 5 year-old boy) to the Autosport Racing Car Show too, which was killing. Lots of cars, as you’d imagine, but check this. I met Nigel Roebuck! And gave him my album! Turns out the copy I sent to Motor Sport magazine hadn’t got through to him, which was a relief. He seemed quite surprised by the tribute, and fair enough; I could have been a lunatic. Maybe he did think that, actually. Maybe I am. Whichever, I still haven’t heard back from him…
Goodness me, how much does one put into in one’s blog? How much of one’s life can one assume is of interest to, I presume, a small handful of strangers? It’s difficult to call. Perhaps I will end, therefore, with some news that may be pertinent in some way to anyone who’s here because of an interest in jazz piano. Or even better, jazz piano as played by T. Cawley. My band, Curios, is off on a short UK tour later this week. Please come along. If by chance you live in Gateshead, Southampton, Oxford on London then we’re coming your way.


Curios all over Radio 3

•November 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Is it London buses that come in twos, or is it deaths? Whatever, Curios’ Radio 3 appearances this week may also count among these phenomena, starting, as we did, with an appearance on Jazz Line-Up last Sunday evening, and continuing by opening the Jazz On 3 London Jazz Festival show this coming Friday. Woo, and to a certain extent, hoo.

The second of these will be our first ever live broadcast and I’m rather excited. We’ve to perform a 20 minute set and, gasp, play the opening theme tune. This is a Cannonball Adderley number in 7 which sounds suspiciously like acid-jazz and took rather a beating in our rehearsal today. I think we’ve managed to come up with something suitably rousing in the end, though.

The first was an interview with Brit jazz legend Julian Joseph in which I rattled on about – guess what – motorsport and football. I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m assured by J. Blackmore that the sports stuff survived the edit. I think we also spoke of music and, inevitably, of pianos. And they played some tunes, of course.

Anyway, enough Curios. I’ll be back with more anecdotal nonsense soon, I promise.

Meeting my heroes: No. 1, Jenson Button.

•October 26, 2008 • 1 Comment

A pitiful tale, this; a story of nerves and sweat and stammering and extraordinary tolerance and good nature on the part of the subject.

A few years ago, I wrote a few songs with Louise Griffiths. She was on Fame Academy, you may remember. She was also Jenson Button’s girlfriend at the time and, I must say, just about the loveliest and kindest person I ever met. She would come round with gifts for my baby boy Joseph, once even arriving with a mini race suit for him. She took me for a drive in her amazing car. And once, and here comes the pertinent bit, she arranged for me and a friend (Sam Burgess, more of whom below) to visit a Formula 1 test session at Silverstone as guests of Jenson and Honda.

There would be very little I could place ahead of this as a day out, conceptually. It even happened to be a full test session, with such as M. Schumacher, M. Hakkinen et al in attendance. We arrived first thing in the morning, bristling with anticipation, clutching our passes. Sam, of course, is even more obsessed with this sport that I, and had been following Jenson since karts, I think, and at least since Formula 3. We parked and made for the Honda garage, where we stood as JB was wheeled into his box, backwards. Deep in conversation with his engineer, he broke off having spotted me, and came over to say hi. Introduced us to his PA, told us to ask her for anything, and that he’d see us at lunch. Then he went back to work. A gentleman.

So we spent the morning blissfully skipping from corner to straight to corner, watching the world’s greatest drivers sliding and fizzing and sweeping and blasting around the historic track. Lunchtime came, and we were delivered to the Honda catering unit, where we were joined by Jenson and a small huddle of mechanics.

This is where the trouble started. Jenson sat next to me. He was dressed head to toe as Jenson Button, with Jenson Button’s face, and even Jenson Button’s speaking voice, which he used to address me. He tried so hard, bless his heart. He asked about what we’d seen, where we’d been on the circuit, told a couple of light-hearted anecdotes, told us some technical stuff, asked me about me. He tried everything, but was every time met by a terrified grunt, a stammering monosyllable, a jumpy squeak. I had, in the first three minutes, bolted my food down and I sat there with nothing on my plate, sweating and shaking as everyone else casually toyed with their lunches, swapping stories and leaning back in their chairs. I had become so hot that I desperately needed to take off my coat, but I didn’t have the confidence to stand up, so I sat there, sweating all the more. I eventually ground Jenson down to silence. I had sapped the life out of him.

The afternoon passed as had the morning. It was enthralling stuff. Watching Massa, the young apprentice, following Schumacher through the Maggotts/Becketts complex; seeing Jenson’s Honda twitch terrifyingly as the winds crossed the Hangar Straight; watching Mika come on the power in exactly the same point lap after lap, like clockwork. We were privileged. 

Jenson, to his credit, greeted us with a smile as he stepped from his motorhome to say goodbye to us. It had been a productive day, said he. It had been a wonderful day, said I. I think we both chose to forget about lunchtime, and with the end in sight were able to relax a little, which was a huge relief, obviously.

They say never meet your idols, as they can only really disappoint you. I found the opposite here; he was humorous, kind and utterly lovely. A proper hero. Makes it even worse, somehow.

Nigel Roebuck

•October 2, 2008 • Leave a Comment

So I wrote a piece of music and dedicated it to Nigel Roebuck, the motor racing journalist. The man who illuminated, and illuminates, Formula 1 like no other. Much of my life is still given over to reading his words, and absolutely delightful they are. He’s warm, insightful, amusing, wry and passionate. It’s utterly wonderful stuff. So yeah, I wanted to write him a tune. And I did.

You can see my band playing the tune here:

Or you can listen to it here:

Roebuck, by Curios

The thing is, it doesn’t stop there. Unfortunately I sent a copy to him, via the office address given at MotorSport magazine. And, even though this was now many weeks ago, I have heard nothing back. With it I sent an incredibly gushing letter, explaining myself. I think it’s possibly here that I went wrong. I mean, why? What was I hoping for?

So I hope that maybe it’s not all as embarrassing as it looks at the moment. Maybe he doesn’t like jazz, full stop. I mean possibly he just hates the tune. Maybe he didn’t yet get the CD…

Anyway, so I’ve done something rather silly there. Has anyone else ever done anything like this? With more (or possibly less) luck?

Please tell…

Not much, I’m afraid

•October 1, 2008 • 2 Comments

So, a huge gap between the last post and this. Not good blogging form, I know. But I’ve been doing lots of all-consuming stuff and haven’t had a chance, I’m afraid.

One of which was working with a huge youth voices project. Quite amazing in its sheer sonic might, and quite an eye-opener in how music can work when stretched out across the human voicebox. Literally, a single note sung by a choir sounds incredible. Throw in a few harmonies and a fantastically eccentric musical director and Bob was very much your uncle.

Another thing has been the arrival of my Boss RC-50. I’m still hoping that I’ll be able to use the box to dramatic pianistic effect, but at the moment I’m just staring, bewildered, at its flashing lights. It doesn’t yet do what I’d like it to do, to put it mildly. There’s what they call a steep learning curve. Still, one day. One day.

A third all-consuming thing has been being ill, then resolving to get fit, then being ill again. Really takes it out of you, does that. Not that you have to be particularly fit to live my life (play piano, drive up and down motorway, stare at computer screen), but I reckon a spot of jogging every morning can’t fail to be good for me. Even though joggers look miserable while they’re at it, I’m sure they have the last laugh.

Anyway, some proper stuff when I return to health, I promise.

New videos

•September 12, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I’ve put some new videos up on YouTube. They’re from our gig at Pizza Express earlier this week. It’s the first manifestation of an attempt I’m going to make to video our gigs and share bits of them. For starters, we have:

It’s an idealistic notion, and actually quite a complicated process; aligning video with audio, selecting compression settings and juggling file sizes causes much gnashing of teeth, in my small experience of it. Still, it’s good to get the stuff out there, I needn’t say. I’ll keep you informed of developments…

Chris Potter; Lewis Hamilton

•September 9, 2008 • 9 Comments

Everyone I’ve told about it has already heard it, and my intuition tells me that there probably aren’t, as yet, all that many dear readers of this blog, but nonetheless let me say this: Chris Potter – bloody hell! I’ve been listening to Kurt Rosenwinkel recently quite a lot (the new album, with Mark Turner) and goodness crikey me, that’s some pretty scary playing. I saw him recently in London and he tore the shit out of it then, but on record it’s somehow even greater? Anyway, just when I thought I’d probably heard it all, I was driving back from a gig and a young saxophonist played me a bootleg of what sounded like a workshop given by Chris Potter, in which he played All The Things You Are on his own. With devastating results. It’s quite unbelievable, and you must hear it. You must seek it out. It’s ridiculous.

Lewis Hamilton was, of course, robbed. We await the verdict of the appeal courts, but not with much hope, I have to say. He even ducked back behind him and changed sides. I mean demonstrably behind him. I despair…