BFHM

The Non-Stick Penguins have now made it on to YouTube, twice!

The first video is from our first open mic night last month and is of the song called Lorraine.  I’m playing bass ukulele on that one (on the left of the frame).  As far as I’m aware, the bass was quite a bit louder in the gig than it comes across on the video.  It looks like the video was taken on somebody’s phone so I assume it couldn’t cope with the lower frequencies, or perhaps it’s just my computer’s speakers that fail to handle it. Certainly the bass line gets easier to hear later in the song as it goes higher up.

The second is an audio-only recording of one of Jon’s newest songs: Big Fat Hairy Monster.  This one is actually a collaboration between us and a chap called Ken that I’ve never met.  He and Jon have done some songs together online (I’m not sure that they’ve ever met in person either) and in this case he’s taken a recording that we made at my house and overdubbed harmony vocals and a second guitar part.  I’m playing (soprano) ukulele on this one, and it mostly blends in with the guitars.

We played a second open-mic night last week at which we did our first live performance of Big Fat Hairy Monster (without Ken).  It was actually only about an hour after we’d made the recording, which was the first time Rob and I had played the song.  The live performance wasn’t entirely polished, so I hope no one made a video of it!

Jon assures me that the song, which contains references to “a big fat hairy monster with big fat hairy legs”, is not about me!

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Non-Stick Penguins

I seem to have ended up in another new band!

More accurately speaking, a couple of friends and I now have a name to use when we perform together.  Instead of just being Jon, Rob and Magnus, we are the Non-Stick Penguins. So far our public playing has amounted to a handful of songs at an open-mic night last week, but there will doubtless be more.

I have known both Jon and Rob for quite a long time.  A couple of years ago, I started playing some guitar for Jon, who was writing and singing his own songs and needing someone to play them.  We did a few open-mic nights and informal gigs.  For the last few months we haven’t got round to making any music together but a few weeks ago we started again and this time it occurred to us to invite Rob, a mutual friend and fine guitarist, to join us.  Having Rob on guitar frees me up to play other instruments (so far mostly bass ukulele and violin) on the songs.

We have continued to play mostly Jon’s songs but for last week’s gig we also did a cover of the song Who’s going to lead the march upon the jailhouse by Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies.  It’s likely that we will do a few more covers (of songs by Harry and other people) in the future and we may even eventually do some of my songs, although I am not exactly a prolific (or especially talented) songwriter.

Jazz (K)nights

Jazz is one of my favourite kinds of music, both for listening to and playing, although I don’t often get opportunities to play it these days.  Therefore, I was delighted to be offered a jazz gig (as a bass player) this coming Saturday night.  This evening I met the rest of the band (for the first time) for a practice, which went pretty well.  There won’t be any further practices before the gig.

The band – The Jazz Knights – is newly formed for this occasion and (apart from me) is made up of members of Holyhead Jazz Club.  It is currently a six-piece band, with a line up of tenor sax/clarinet (doubling), soprano sax, trombone, guitar, drums and bass.  The programme for our concert on Saturday says: “Our music ranges from Traditional [jazz], through Swing, Bossa Nova and Tin Pan Alley/Show tunes”, which seems to me to be a fair description.  The plan seems to be to keep going after this gig and maybe try to get a regular residency (perhaps once per fortnight) at a local pub.  Hopefully I’ll get to be a part of all that too.

We have a set list of 22 pieces for this particular gig.  I have probably played about 7 or 8 of them before (including a few that I’m very familiar with, like Summertime, Satin Doll and Autumn Leaves) and I was at least vaguely familiar with about half the others.  Amongst the tunes that are entirely new to me is a bossa nova piece called Wave (by Antonio Carlos Jobim), which I particularly enjoyed playing this evening.  We didn’t have time to play through the whole set at our practice, so there will be a few that I’m sightreading on the night (which is just the way I like it).

To make matters even more exciting, I am playing this gig on a borrowed bass ukulele.  This is a small instrument (roughly the size of a viola) with polyurethane strings, which plays at the same pitch (and in the same tuning) as a bass guitar or upright bass.  When amplified, it sounds remarkably like an upright bass but is significantly more portable (and easier to fit in small bungalows or on cramped stages).  The only downside is that the scale length is very short (certainly compared to most bass instruments) and therefore it takes some getting used to the different finger spacing.  It’s probably just as well that it’s a fretted instrument I’m borrowing!

The gig on Saturday is a charity gig on behalf of the Anglesey Centre of Mission.  It takes place at St Anne’s Hall, Dale Street, Menai Bridge, starting at 7:30pm (and going on until about 10pm). Tickets cost £6 and should be available on the door, although it’s a fairly small hall so space is limited.  The Jazz Knights will be playing most of the music but there will be an interlude with music from a quartet drawn from the Menai Bridge Brass Band (as it happens both Tim, our trombone player, and I also play with the Menai Bridge Band but we’re not in this quartet).