Interesting Things

It’s been all go here at Fagandini Mansions lately.

The biggest, most excellent thing of all the things has of course been the launch of the Happy Hour Collective! We had our launch party on Monday at The Miller in London Bridge, and it went swimmingly. The response from the audience was overwhelmingly positive, and we all had a great time. It was very gratifying to see the payoff for all the work we’d put in over the last few months. And thanks to the wonderful and excellent Callum Gillies, we have the whole thing caught on camera for posterity. We’ll be putting that up when it’s ready, but in the meantime you can catch the Martinis doing a couple of Disney-themed shows for Take A Seat Events at the end of November. And as always, if you’re interested in booking the HHC, drop us a line – we’re offering a 20% discount on all bookings until the end of the year!

In other news, you can also catch me with Down for the Count at the Bishopsgate Institute next weekend – as well as playing at Swing Patrol’s Super Swing Pit on Sunday 23rd, we’ll also be there for the BI’s 120th Anniversary ball on Friday 21st! And if you’re based up in Scotland, we’ll be trekking up to Edinburgh on Friday 28th November for another Swing Patrol ball – see you there!

For something a little more chilled out, stop by the Big Chill House on Pentonville Road this coming Tuesday (18th) to catch the ULU Quantet, a quantity of musicians featuring myself on trumpet and vocals! I mean really, what more could you ask for.

Anyway! That’s about all for now, we’ll see you soon. Stay in school.

It’s Happy Hour!

Ah, time for the quarterly update to the old blog. But with big news!

You’ll recall the show I mentioned last time, Rock the Jazz-bah, with their jazzy arrangements of your popular songs and your Gangnam Styles and the like. Well, I’m taking that idea and running with it, in the creation of the Happy Hour Collective (Facebook here, Twitter here, website to follow soon), a collaboration of (for now) three different groups: a revamped, rebranded Martinis (a new band in all but name), the Bloody Mary Brass Band, and the Brandy Alexanders. If you fancy checking it out (hint: you do), our launch party will be at The Miller, London Bridge, on November 10th! Details here.

And that’s not all! The 29th October brings a classy jazz jam night at Big Chill Shoreditch, hosted by the ULU Jazz Society, and also me. Come on down and check it out, it should be a blast!

And that’s not all! Down for the Count are, as ever, going from strength to strength, and you can catch us at various swing gigs over the next few months, including a monthly slot at the Super Swing Pit at Bishopsgate Institute (the next one of which is on October 19th, so get those dancing shoes on). On top of that, our excellent swing festival Rhythm Junction London went off without a hitch back in September, so keep an eye out for a reprise of that puppy some time in the future.

And that’s not all! Back in August I did some recording with a fella called Paul Carella, laying down some horn stuff on a few of his tracks for his upcoming EP. Well, as well as Paul just being a top guy, we’re shooting some video this weekend, and then he’ll be launching his EP on 7th November at Twickenham Theatre. Be there!

And that’s not all! I also updated the website, including the Bands page with details of the HHC and the excellent Equinox Quintet.

…That’s all.

Site Update

Now, the clever ones amongst you may have noticed something a little different about the site as of today. A new haircut? Different tie? Nope, I just decided to give it a bit of an overhaul, with a new theme and some pictures and that just to brighten the place up a bit.

I’ve also updated a number of the pages, like the Associates and Bands sections. Go check ’em out!

Oh, and anyone wondering what the deuce ‘The Two Rules Big Band’ is…well, that’s a secret.

Catapulted into the Real World

University life now sits behind me, a sort of hazy fever-dream of sex, drugs and rock and roll gigs, coffee and the occasional bit of work, and with that I find myself chucked out the door onto the Sidewalk of Reality, like an unruly drunkard at closing time at the Pub of Life. Stripped of the warm embrace of the education system (haha?) I stumble onwards, and turn towards that one thing that’s generally guided my way in times of strife: music.

Enjoying continued work with my good friends at Down for the Count and seeking out further opportunities with The Martinis (and yes, our album is still to come – I’ve put up some samples for your aural pleasure) are the main plans, supplemented by further work as a session musician, instrumental teacher and band leader. The creation of a big band is another project, following the discovery of a DVD-R full of charts long thought lost to the abyss while clearing out my room at home (OK, Mum, being tidy does have its merits I suppose). I’m also going along to my first rehearsal with the amazingly-named King Groovy and The Horn Stars on Thursday, so that ought to be fun.

At the advice of my stalwart and talented friend Claire Waterhouse I’ve also put myself out on this Internet thing, with profiles at UK Music Jobs and StarNow, so feel free to stop by those pages if you want to give me some work/fancy a laugh. They are both in progress, so don’t be put off by any lack of photos or anything at the moment. That will be rectified.

As always, I’m always happy to hear from potential clients so don’t hesitate to get in touch through the website too.

In other news, as well as the upcoming Martinis CD, there are also new albums from both Down for the Count AND The Emily Tree to look forward to in the next couple of months! Goodness me, what lucky people you all are. If buying music and supporting local artists isn’t your thing (and if it isn’t then your morals are bad and you should feel bad), then check out some of our upcoming live performances, including The Emily Tree playing at Candied Nonsense at The Wilmington Arms in Clerkenwell on August 2nd, and Down for the Count’s next gig at Winslow Public Hall on September 8th.

Until next time, my lieblings.

Freedom

Exams are over and I have a brief window of freedom before I’m tied down with rehearsals and concerts in the upcoming couple of weeks. So, I decided to pick up L.A. Noire, the new detective-’em-up from Rockstar Games. Short story: I love it, it’s great.

The facial animation technology for which people have been foaming at the mouth is…well, let’s just say it deserves the attention. It’s a key part of the gameplay too – a hefty chunk of your time is spent interviewing witnesses and suspects, and you can inspect the facial tics and tells that will betray a liar. It’s an ingenious mechanic.

What I found funny is that it’s not necessarily the type of game you’d expect from Rockstar, famous for the Grand Theft Auto titles. It’s refreshing to see games like this and Red Dead Redemption (which is arguably a Wild West GTA but still a great game, different enough in its way) coming from the studio. I loved GTA 4 but it’s nice to see a little variety.

Anyway. I’m making the most of my freedom while it lasts, because rehearsals start tomorrow for the UCL Summer Ball, followed by a smaller quintet gig, the Musical Theatre society gala and various gigs with Down for the Count.

You can see why I enjoy the time off.

What’s in the daily news? I’ll tell you what’s in the daily news…

So in the midst of revision, rehearsals and recordings I find the news (plastered across Facebook, Twitter and various other corners of the Interweb) about Osama bin Laden’s death. People seem to be equal parts thrilled and wary about it and I have to say, I can see why.

It is, of course, pretty great news – he was definitely a Bad Man and it’s good to see a conclusion to ten years of searching for him. And as an added bonus we have the pleasure of his death happening under Obama rather than George W Bush – one fears we might never have seen or heard the last of it from the American right if Dubya had been ‘responsible’ for the end of Osama.

But on the other hand we have two things to consider: firstly, bin Laden was not the sole thing binding Al-Quaeda together. Far from it. They’re still there, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they were pretty pissed. I don’t want to come across as a crazy fearmonger but we should probably keep alert. Secondly, the end of bin Laden accomplishes one of the USA’s more concrete aims for their presence in the Middle East. So…what are they to do now? I sincerely doubt they’ll just up and leave. I think the next few weeks will be very telling.

I know, I know. ‘Quit it with the serious stuff!’ Well, on a lighter note, Down For The Count is taking to Don’t Tell Fred in East Sheen for a live gig this Friday (6th May), and the Martinis are heading to The Bull’s Head in Barnes for a recording session on Wednesday. Very exciting stuff. Watch this space for details of our CD!

End of term, and not a moment too soon

So I shut my finger in a lift door for 4 floors a few weeks ago, and typing is still weird for me as one side of it is still kind of numb. On the plus side, I…well, there isn’t really a tangible upside to it, but people laugh at the story and give me that look that implies it’s exactly the kind of thing they’d expect me to do, so there’s that I guess?

We’re a little way into the Easter holidays now, though it’s only felt like it for a few days for me – contrary to my belief up until about a week ago, 6000 words on the comedies of Aristophanes do not, in fact, write themselves. That said, setting the general essay-panic of the last couple of weeks aside, I found the whole process quite enjoyable – I kept finding interesting articles and the like that I wanted to shoehorn into my dissertation (it was technically an ‘extended essay’ but dissertation sounds as though I did more work for it), and it made me glad that I’d sent in an application to do an MA next year. Well, you don’t want to be doing something you don’t enjoy, do you? Besides that, I also found this wonderful blog that presents a…somewhat different take on a number of myths. Hysterically funny stuff.

Speaking of next year, the Bloomsbury Theatre will be in for a treat in the form of UCLU Musical Theatre Society’s Guys and Dolls in the first term, directed by a schoolfriend of mine, Nick Goodman, and with myself as MD. It’s going to be a cracking show and will probably be the first week of December or thereabouts, so keep it free! (Also keep it real.) More details as and when, but for the time being I need to brush up on my ‘waving my arms around like a loony’ skills.

I’ve been preparing for various gigs and the like coming up by shopping around to see about upgrading some of my equipment – new mutes, a clip-on bell microphone, things like that. Have to say, Dawkes seem pretty good and they come well-recommended. I’m also looking forward to finally buying a flugelhorn this summer, at long last. Any recommendations on that front will be duly noted! Oh, and money. Gifts of money.

Other exciting upcoming events:

21st MayDown for the Count bring you a fantastic live gig at Winslow Public Hall: On The Town! Celebrating a brand new recording, signing up with several new agencies and even a music video (I know right), it’s set to be a brilliant night. Get tickets from their website before they run out!

4th June – UCL-goers et al, take note: UCL Jazz Society are going to be rocking up to the Summer Ball this year. After the success of Sextetera last year, the Jazz Soc have been asked to bring along a full big band to wow the crowds this summer. Not to be missed – buy your tickets around UCL or head to this site to avoid disappointment!

There are a few other bits and bobs coming up, but I’ll keep them to myself for now to avoid jinxing them…so watch this space…

The Gatsby of Campania

I return to The Smoke tonight, having come home to finish off an essay on the Cena Trimalchionis from the Satyricon of Petronius which was driving me mad. Only 1,500 words and it ended up taking days to complete satisfactorily. I found myself asking a question usually saved for when spiralling circumstances deposit one in the gutter with a bottle of whisky (probably something embarrassing like Bell’s) in one hand: how has it come to this?

The answer is typically multi-tiered (short attention span definitely factors into it), but I’ll just go ahead and say that a big consideration is that we’re probably not getting our money’s worth at university (cue cheers of affirmation from many humanities students). I’ll make it clear, though, that – by and large – tutors themselves aren’t to blame. Plenty of my own lecturers are passionate about their chosen topic and manage to convey that excitement and interest to their students. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the classes and taken great pleasure in reading around the subject and picking up more information on it.

Unfortunately, although that’s certainly what I had hoped to get out of university, the methods of assessment don’t really seem to want to look into that. Even at a tertiary level of education, we’re encouraged to memorise and regurgitate for exams, and to write essays according to a series of arbitrary rules that seem to me – someone with, I like to think, at least one creative bone in my body – designed to produce a set of twenty nigh-identical papers. I of course value the merits of proper citation and bibliography and the like, but in the course of research I find myself reading articles and books with a decidedly personal flair to them – first-person perspectives, narrative passages, sentence fragments and even the odd bit of slang for good measure – in exactly the manner that would get red pen scrawled over one of our essays. Are we paying those fees for something that feels alarmingly like secondary school all over again?

To put it another way – for £3,125 a year (and more for future students – but that’s a topic for another day) I get between 6 and 8 hours of lectures a week, a maximum of two (restrictive) essays a term, and plenty to complain about. Not really value for money, is it?

But enough of my whining. The new term is beginning, and that means shows and gigs coming up. We’re heading up to Bristol on the 12th February, so if you’re in the area come see a joint gig between the UCLU Jazz Society and the Bristol Uni Big Bands. Warwick Uni Big Band are also coming down to London at the beginning of March, and we have our second term Garage Theatre Workshop show towards the end of term. On top of all that, Down for the Count have a live gig in London planned at some point over the next few months, so watch this space! Or their website, that works too.

London, City of Dreams and Stuff

“How can you be bored in London? Go for a walk! There’s always something to do, you just have to look for it.”

So a friend of mine once chastised me when I complained of occasionally having nothing to do in my first year at UCL. I of course realised shortly afterwards that he was absolutely right, and took to taking the odd moonlit stroll through the city to see bits of it I hadn’t before and narrowly avoid getting mugged. I did a lot in my first two years of university – I took in places like the British Museum in my own time, took a boat trip down the Thames and discovered delightful little shops, cafes and pubs hidden away in plain sight.

So far this year, however, I’ve found myself too busy or too exhausted to entertain that particular fancy of mine, which is a shame. With the pressures of third year kicking in on top of running a society, I find myself with relatively little free time, and what little I do have I often prefer to spend resting my aching feet rather than sending them off to discover new places. Still, maybe all I needed was a little nudge to keep my head above water – I think I shall take a walk. Well…maybe tomorrow.

The Jazz Society held its great Garage Theatre Workshop show last week, Ray!: The Abridged Version. Billed as ‘reviv[ing] the music from the Oscar® winning film Ray! by cutting out all the boring bits like plot and dialogue’, it was certainly an entertaining three nights, so to those of you who didn’t come along, shame on you. Don’t worry though, there’s a chance to redeem yourself: our big Bloomsbury Theatre show, Sax and the City, is looming at the end of November. With tickets starting as low as £4, it’s a TV and film music-filled night not to be missed. Hope to see you there.