Improvizone

The interminable fire escape

Andrew Booker 2010-06-17 22:00:31

A few weeks ago we set up for the evening Upstairs At The Ritzy, a Brixton cinema with a bar upstairs. In many ways this was exactly the kind of gig that Improvizone was supposed to do from the beginning. Little bit of a stage at the back of the room, punters chatting their evenings away as normal with some unusual and sometimes, if I do say so, really nice music going on around them. Mmm, that was us.

As the local Roding Valley teenagers might say, what is it, like, one Godzillion years since I last posted a download from a gig? What is it, like, well long ago... And the like. Nor have I written anything about the last four. So here's a quick round-up of the last four.

Plough 31 Mar 2010
For this one we invited back Simon Taylor on trumpet. Simon is the only trumpet player we've had. Improvizone try Simon. Improvizone have no need to look anywhere else. He da man, yo. Plus we tried out bassplayer Ken Whaley this time. Nothing wrong with Nick, quite the opposite indeed, I just like to ring the changes, expand the gene pool, chop and change, pick and mix, generally make shuffly with the personnel every so often. Or at least I like the idea of being able to do that. Besides encouraging variety in our music, it means I can book gigs whenever it suits me, and bring in anyone who's available. The more people on the trusted list, the better. True, you'll notice mostly the same people have been doing the Improvizones for the last couple of years, because I like settling into a comfort zone as much as the next person that sits on a chair all day. But it can make the gigs harder to book. Anyway, Ken definitely chiselled himself and his semi-acoustic onto my not very long list of trusted bassplayers. Yes, you could tell he was having to get his head around my quirky random drumming for the first time, but his sound was great and in the second half we were cruising. Next time he plays with us it will be even better. For much of these gigs I'm trying to concentrate on my playing, knowing I have the luxury of listening properly to what everyone else was doing later. That's sounds rubbish of me, I know. Anyway, by now my left foot practice was starting to pay off. I could use it for alternate doubles, playing different sounds to the right foot, freeing up the hands for as much semi random stuff as my limited coordination allowed. Videotelephonically, for this gig I brought the same video as I'd used at the beginning of the month, in case the Plough had replaced the lamp like their projector was telling us all to do. They had not. In case you're wondering where I got that word videotelephonically, it's because I use my old Nokia N95 with its composite video output to play our visuals. See, I made it up.

CB2 07 Apr 2010
I'd been meaning to try a Cambridge gig ever since violinist Steve Bingham joined us on 06 Aug 2008. He lived near Ely at the time and I felt bad about dragging him all the way down to London to play a quiet gig for free. A gig in Cambridge would be much better, I figured. A good 18 months later I called CB2 and they seemed keen to try us. I was very slightly apprehensive about playing out of sight in the basement, but thanks to Steve twice over, I needn't have been. For one thing he brought along most of our audience. For another, he directed his wife to bring us an Improvizone! Tonight! Downstairs! Free! poster to stick on the door. People saw it and came down, and when they got there they a healthy audience watching us. While Steve filled up our audience, we total filled up the stage. Setting up was plenty kerfuffles. We all seemed to descend on the room with our carloads of gear at the same time. I put the drums in the middle at the back and, shocks and stuns, had to move forward to the front. Before the arrival of the Steve Bingham appreciation collective (some musicians he'd been working with that afternoon), we soundchecked to an empty room with something rather nice. And then we cruised along for the rest of the gig with some lovely interspersions here and there. And great to have a mixed audience... dare I even quantify them to the extent of a mainly female audience. Blimey.

Plough 21 Apr 2010
Back to the Plough with the regular quartet for a relaxing evening this time introducing Os's modular synth he had put together himself, including his own custom control interfaces. He was triggering sequences from his laptop, nicely bang-on in sync with his click in my earphones. Meanwhile I was mucking about with the timing as I notice I've been doing a few times lately, ie placing the pulse every three-quarters of the beat, and then playing a pattern in five over the top. Nick is unfazed, because he's been playing bass with me for nearly 15 years, and locks in with random cycles. Mike doesn't care either, and fits ambience or interjections over the top. Back with the same video for the third time, hoping they'd changed the bulb, hoping we could watch it properly. Nupe.

Upstairs At The Ritzy 25 May 2010
For our most recent gig, we tried a new venue. I saw them listed in the Evening Standard and got them interested in trying us out. I then repeatedly checked out the London A-Z for possible routes to Brixton. My geography of North London is pretty good. My geography of South London is feeble. Shite, actually. On arriving in Brixton I needed at least 10 minutes to negotiate the residential roads to get to the back entrance of the Ritzy. Luckily for me Os had got the first and could provide telephone guidance. We unloaded outside the fire exit. The fire escape route went on for ever. And then turned a corner and carried on a bit further. The stage was tiny, but we all fat on. Alright, we all fitted on. I think fat was funnier. Os had left his keyboard at home to save space, yet he seemed to be just as interesting for the entire evening without it, his modular synth sequences providing both rhythmic boost and tonal hypnotism. To my delight, though I guess not surprising for a cinema, the Ritzy had not one but two projectors. The entire back wall was our projection screen. However the stage lights were shining on it the whole evening, so once again I didn't get to see the video I had taken to the fourth consecutive gig. Nicely, we hit sweet spots several times during the evening, and as I handed out CDs I found many people who were enjoying us. However, I fear this is another venue who need their music to make money for them directly. Plus Brixton is a looooong way away for most of us. It was a nice try though, and they gave us free drinks and complimentary cinema tickets.

32nd gig: Tuesday 25 May 2010 Upstairs at the Ritzy, Brixton << | >> 33rd gig: Wednesday 23 June 2010 at CB2, Cambridge