I know, I know, I'm way behind AGAIN! To compensate for this, I'm going to try to blog for every day of September that I'm in London. But first…

Back in early July I had kind of a big week, which I thought I'd blog for posterity. And as so much time has passed since that week took place, it'll now be bitesized chunks instead of a massive screed. So let's see what I can remember, eh?

At the time, Dylan was over this way for a bit of a holiday, so it seemed like a good plan for him to join HC, Paul, K and I at the Jazz Cafe for the Ozomatli gig we went to. They'd always been a band I'd seen mentioned on festival flyers without having the feintest idea what they were about, but Paul gave them a thumbs up, and I figured one thumbs up was a perfectly good justification to drag down 3 other people, kicking and screaming.

The only description I had heard was that Ozomatli were similar-ish to The Cat Empire – funk/latino/jazz fusion; good for partying and boogeying, and that description was 100% accurate. From the second they stepped out on stage the crowd was heaving, and they kept us grooving til the very end. Finishing the gig, the musicians left the stage and navigated through the crowd, and the ever keen-to-queue British formed a conga line behind them (musical equivalent of a queue, I guess).

Dylan and I looked at the time and realised he had to be at Marylebone in 30 minutes, and we b-lined for the door, and what followed was a nothing-short-of-spectacular sprint back to mine to get his bags, then back up to the top of Parkway and frenzied waving of hands and praying to the Taxi Gods. The fates were on our side and I returned, breathless and sweaty from the impromptu run, to the Jazz Cafe to collect the others.

On the Wednesday night K & I went in to Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club for K's birthday, where we were booked in to see Mike Stern & Dave Weckl, along with a bit of dinner. Upon entering the building, my credit card started twitching nervously, after remembering last time's effort, and this was no exception to the rule, however the intense jazz at least takes your mind off it a bit.

The opening act were quite a tight & capable trio, although they suffered heavily from jazz-act-wannabe syndrome, where between songs the appointed leader (I suspect they're just random muso's thrown together for a week or so's gigs) introduces members of the band with flattering anecdotes, and repeats their name 14 or 15 times (“Thankyou ladies and gentlemen, and on the double bass, a big hand for Conrad Teapot. Conrad Teapot, on the bass, ladies and gentlemen. Conrad joins us straight from playing bass for U2 and Disney's Summer Jam, and – thankyou, Conrad Teapot! – watch out ladies, he's single! Tonight he's playing the bass that appeared in the background in a shot in X Men 2. Ladies and gentlemen, thankyou, Conrad Teapot!”). It's almost like they're expecting jazz talent scouts to be hiding in the crowd, fumbling for a notebook and scratching their heads going “Who IS that bass player?”.

They were then joined on stage by a “very special guest, ladies and gentlemen – Miss Natalie Williams“. I thought she was fricken amazing. I've no idea what she sang, but sing she did, and enjoy we surely did. A bit distracting that she looked a lot like my mate Sophie, and she sang almost as well…

And then Mike Stern & co. came on – to say he was an amazingly talented guitarist would be a bit of an understatement, and the thing that stood out for me was his incredibly light touch. After having seen a few uber-bitchin' rock god guitarists (the likes of Dave Gilmour, John Petrucci and Steve Vai), it was a good contrast to listen to someone with a skilled gliding hand, less driving the music and more ornamenting and playing with it. The most memorable song for me was the second on, called “KT”, off Stern's latest album, “Who Let The Cats Out”. Unfortunately even after seeing Weckl's playing I still remain unconvinced about drum solos.

Final leg in this gig tripod was back at the Jazz Cafe, and a rare opportunity to see The Easy Star All Stars on their Radiodread tour. The concept is that of giving Radiohead's “OK Computer” the reggae/dub treatment. Their earlier work, “Dub Side of the Moon” remains one of my favourite albums – primarily because it doesn't feel like a gimmicky cover album (such as “Rebuild The Wall” by Luther Wright and the Wrongs). I couldn't honestly say I know much about Radiohead however, and had primarily booked up to go to this gig on the strength of Dark Side.

The gig had a slightly odd feel to it from the beginning – rather than being cheered on stage, the band had all walked down the ramp and set themselves up, and it wasn't until “Hello London!” that they really even got an acknowledgement from the crowd. They then kicked off with a couple of their own tunes, and there was a mood of bemusement from the punters, who had obviously come along to get the Radiodread album from one end to the other. The tension abated as they launched into Airbag, and it was more or less plain sailing.

I don't know whether it was to lift the mood, or part of the set they'd worked out, but they decided to throw some tunes off Dark Side into the mix as well – a decision which met with the crowd's approval – and they cranked into “Money”, which is definitely one of the best tracks on that album. The interesting bit was that they morphed that into another song, and wound up breaking it down when they got to a song section which said “we hope that you choke”, repeated several times. As someone non 100% familiar with the Radiohead catalogue, I wasn't totally sure whether this was part of the gig, or if it was the band's response to the somewhat cold reception they'd received upon entering the room. Bizarre.

Anyway they segued back into “Money” again, and then stormed through the rest of the set, and all that were there agreed it was a truly cool gig.

(aren't you glad you got the quick version??)

2007-07-28 : Big week
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