Autumn Samba

I never thought I’d have occasion to say this, but I almost feel as though this summer has been too long. Not in terms of weather or anything – we’ve only had about four real days of summer this year if that were the indicator – but rather just the time between everything winding down at the end of one academic year and starting up again at the beginning of the next. I’ve found myself wishing I had something to do rather more often than I’m used to, and the musical scene has been unusually arid.

So with this in mind I must confess I’m rather looking forward to returning to UCL for my final year at the end of this month. Things have started being set in motion for the coming year and I’m already feeling more invigorated than I have in quite some time. I’ve been doing all those little organisational things that give you a small but beguiling sense of productivity: re-enrolling, sorting out student finance, picking modules, looking up course books. The latter has admittedly been a bit of a dead end – if Amazon or AbeBooks (normally full of such good bargains) were to have its way I could end up paying more than my rent for reading material. The cunning swines.

I’ve been looking a bit into various styles of big band lead trumpeting. The one with which I’ve become most familiar over the last few years has probably been the Wayne Bergeron: powerful, with much screamingly high playing when necessary to cut across the band and say ‘I am trumpet, hear me roar.’ He’s a great player, with a fantastic tone and range and (as I just discovered) an extensive resumé. I was recently introduced to the works of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, and was astonished at the professionalism and sound of their brass section (obviously the rest of the ensemble is fantastic too but it’s the trumpets that piqued my interest). Even at the higher end of the stave there was an incredible blend of the tone and texture, like it was one super-brasser with several instruments. It was wonderful.

I finished the final book of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, just now, and have to say that I thoroughly approved. As I mentioned before, the translation could be slightly clunky from time to time, and the story does begin to test the limits of suspended disbelief from about three-quarters of the way through the second book, but overall I thought it was extremely well-written. What I particularly liked was the ending – fear not, I won’t spoil anything – because it is, in my experience, the most difficult bit of a book to get right. It’s much easier in standalone books, where there isn’t so much to deal with, but if the author wishes to give a satisfactory ending to a whole series, there is always the risk of it coming across as unnecessarily twee and corny, à la Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I feel Stieg Larsson struck just the right chord.

Finally, with term starting up again in a couple of weeks, I feel compelled to remind you all that several of the bands with whom I’m involved will be commencing rehearsals again – if you would like to hire them or me, head over to the Contact page.

Back in Blighty II

So we’re back in town once again. Sadly the return seems to have coincided with a splitting headache and illness on my part, which is a shame as it prohibited me from celebrating a 21st birthday in Bath this evening (and getting some much needed trumpet practice in to boot). Still, that aside I intend to enjoy the bank holiday weekend as best I can.

I played a little Lego Batman with Jonna this afternoon – I’ve been a big fan of the Lego games (which have included Star Wars and Indiana Jones in the past and have recently added Harry Potter to the mix), with their quirky sense of humour and fun gameplay. The one niggle I always have is the camera angle and the same-screen multiplayer problems, but it seems they’re trying split-screen for Harry Potter so we’ll see how that goes.

I also recently ordered Mass Effect 2 and Bioshock 2 on Amazon for (relatively) dirt cheap which I’m quite happy about. A recent Penny Arcade comic and post did get me thinking about the used games market and its effects on developers, but frankly – and it does pain me to say this as I’d love to support them in whatever way I can – I just don’t have the cash to flash to keep buying new games at initial retail price which can be anywhere between £40 and £60 often. So I buy second hand. It’s probably selfish in a way, but that’s my vice.

In and around the fun of flat-hunting (friends of mine are starting to Facebook and tweet about their new flats so I’m getting antsy) I have to prepare for a gig with the UCLU Jazz Society Big Band at a civil partnership at the end of September, giving me the unique (at least apart from the other guys playing) get-out for any other events planned that night of: ‘Sorry, I’m playing at a lesbian wedding.’ It’s all rather exciting. Maybe I’ll wear a fez.