Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Madeline Bell at Ronnie Scott's 2015

Friday 18-June-2015

Second time Mary Galashan and I have had the pleasure of seeing Madeline Bell at Ronnie's. Madeline is having way too much fun. She comes across as such a lovely lady as well as being a fabulous singer. The banter between her and the band is great.

Two songs stand out from the set. The first was a cover of the Abba hit "Money, Money, Money". It gives the song an interesting twist to hear a kitsch pop song sung by a soul vocalist. The other was "Melting Pot" which was a huge hit for Blue Mink and as she said made so much more that followed possible for her (or words to that effect).

We went with friends Grant and Helen. Grant called Madeline an entertainer which is a good description. She does more than just sing. She connects with the audience by grinning and not taking it it too seriously and clearly having a good time.

When she signed our copy of her CD she took real care to sign her name, and ours, clearly and legibly unlike like some other's squiggle signatures. When I mentioned the banter between her and the percussionist she said they had been playing together for years and they all loved each other. That showed in the performance. Go see her if you can.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cleaning the Wandle June 2015

Watermeads Nature Reserve, Poulter Park. Sunday 14-Jun-2015

Last time Mary and I walked this stretch the Watermeads Nature Reserve was not open so we had to walk along the railings looking wistfully at the river bank. Now the reserve it open to the public so the Wandle Trust were able to gain access for the first ever clear up on this stretch.

"Watermeads, a National Trust nature reserve along the River Wandle, opened to the public in May 2015 having been hidden behind locked gates for 100 years. National Trust founder Octavia Hill and her sister Miranda personally started the appeal to save Watermeads. The 11 acre site has recently had new paths, bridges and a sluice, to improve the wetlands habitat for wildlife and public access. " Watermeads nature reserve in South London

Despite being inaccessible to the public there was the inevitable shopping trolley but generally there was not much rubbish compared to other stretches. The guys in the water must have been newbies because they starting working downstream. That means you are working in your own stirred up silt and it is impossible to see the debris in the water, you have to work by feel. I gave up and switched to wheelbarrow duty; less glamorous but still an essential part of the teamwork.

None of the wheelbarrows are Ninja-silent but "Sean" is the worst culprit. However today, after several years, I finally remembered to bring a can of bicycle oil and give all the barrows' axles a good squirt. At long last peace reigns!

A major theme of the day was invasive species, this time not Himalyan balsam but Floating pennywort: "Floating pennywort can grow up to 20 centimetres a day, blocking out light and reducing the oxygen for other plants and animals". There is a pond as part of the reserve which was completely covered in the stuff.

Part of the team did a major piece of aquatic weeding.

A lovely day out!

The Wandle Trust is an environmental charity dedicated to restoring and maintaining the health of the River Wandle and its catchment. They hold community river cleanups on the second Sunday of every month, up and down this unique urban chalkstream – pulling out everything from shopping trolleys to shotguns, and improving the environment for birds, fish, insects and local people. For more visit: http://www.wandletrust.org/.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Errol Linton's Blues Band at Green Note

Camden Town, London. Saturday 12-Jun-2015.

Congratulations to Green Note voted Londoners’ Favourite Music Venue in the London Music Awards sponsored by The Mayor's Music Fund in association with Time Out.  Well deserved.

I had a couple of colleagues from overseas who were in London over the weekend so I organised an evening of music at this fine venue. We got there early and snagged the front table closest to the minuscule stage. The stage is so small they could only squeeze four of the band on the stage, the guitarist had to stand off the edge.

As luck would have it Errol Linton was on and Blues is Delton's favourite music. Excellent Chicago blues with a seasoning of reggae beat in the mix. Brilliant music played with energy. When you are that close you really get a feel for the personality of the individual band members because you can see every smile and grimace, every fleeting expression. They played two sets, nearly two hours of live music and all for the bargain price of £9 a ticket. Amazing!

As Mary said Green Note punches above its weight. For a small venue it has excellent acts night after night. Every time I have been there it has been a musical treat.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Late May Bank Holiday in Puglia

A visit to Italy with our friend Andrea in search of a designer "Mother of the Groom" outfit. Her son Daniel is getting married and there are a number of outlet shops in the area that we hoped would provide a bargain outfit not available in the UK.

It was a festival for the local Saint so the illuminations were up in Cisternino.

Transforming Via Roma into a classier version of Blackpool illuminations and on a more modest scale.

Saturday we dined once again at the excellent Osteria la Valle and I had the starter special of the day linguine with crab - delicious.

Mary's main course squid was equally fresh and tasty.

Back at Trullo Azzurro the previous guests had the water pump cut out on them and a simple press of the reset button sufficed. While we were there it played up repeatedly so our local managing agent and general useful guy, Graham, came and had a look. He took the pump (shiny lump at the bottom) and controller (blue lump at the top) away for servicing. It was the controller at fault, apparently, and all was back in place that afternoon with absolutely no problems since.

After Andrea had left we went over for a meal with our new friends Ceri and David in Alberobello - plus a sleep over as much wine was consumed. The next morning they revealed that they had a spare, second-hand, above ground pool that they had acquired but never used. This solved the debate of whether we should invest in a pool. We could *ahem* put our toe in the water by trying this one out and see how it goes in terms of generating extra bookings.

It turned out there were a couple of parts missing which we have ordered and will take out with us next trip. That means some guests will get a pleasant surprise when they arrive - not expecting a pool and finding one. At 18ft x 9ft x 52in (5.5m x 2.7m x 1.3m) this makes for decent size pool; let's hope our prospective guests agree.

Another planned social event was to meet up with Patrizia, the artist who painted our recent artwork purchase. It was lovely to meet her in person and show her how well the painting looked in it's new home.

All in all another most excellent visit.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Al Stewart at the Royal Albert Hall

Saturday 16-May-2015.

Another coup for SingKick. As soon as I got the alert I went online to buy tickets but the concert was not even up on the RAH website. So I rang the box office and they confirmed the concert was on and I could buy tickets. Being so quick off the mark, I was able to get front row seats right in the middle of the row. Result!

Don't miss Night #2 of the Royal Albert Hall in London, when Al will perform the albums Past Present Future and Year of...
Posted by Al Stewart OFFICIAL on Wednesday, 20 May 2015

It was not the usual "greatest hits" approach of many established artists. Instead it was two albums in their entirety. First he played "Past Present and Future" track for track. Then an interval. Then "Year of the Cat". After that the encore was "Carol" and the wonderful "Time Passages" as the final song.

Hearing the songs live is very different to the albums I was used to but in a good way as he was supported by a full band. The band were great but two musicians stood out for me. Tim Renwick in particular made playing superb guitar look so effortless. You could hear echoes of the man who played with Pink Floyd. Dave Nachmanoff is a long time collaborator with Al Stewart and key to the concert we enjoyed so much.

At the end we could see a photographer up behind the choir and blow me if they didn't publish the picture on Facebook - that's me in the brown jacket and Mary Galashan in the floral dress.

Photo by Anne Burghard
Posted by Al Stewart OFFICIAL on Sunday, 17 May 2015

A brilliant concert. Superb band. Two classic albums. Time Passages for an encore. AND the best seats in the house. It doesn't get much better than that. My eyes may have leaked. Thanks to Al Stewart and all the musicians for a wonderful evening.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Lee Konitz and Dave Douglas Quintet at Ronnie Scott's

Monday 04-May-2015.

Our friends, Bron and Maggie's, first visit to Ronnie Scott's. The front desk very kindly put us in a corner table in the premier seating pit. The advantage of that table is that we could shuffle round and all see the stage without imitating the swivelling head of an owl.

Jazz Journal preview: "Cool-school maestro Lee Konitz, in his 88th year, leads a group with trumpeter Dave Douglas at Ronnie Scott's in May. Konitz is, with Sonny Rollins, the last major representative of early modern jazz who's still active." Full preview...

We ate, we drank, we listened to great jazz.

Jazz Journal Review: "Andy Hamilton finds veteran saxophonist Lee Konitz in remarkable form, alongside the supportive trumpeter Dave Douglas and a fine band at Ronnie Scott's. [...] Konitz at 87 still conveys a sense of mischievous spontaneity, keeping audience and band wondering what he will do next. It's true that in the 1990s he returned full-time to the standards repertoire, and no longer plays original compositions by former partners such as Frank Wunsch, Kenny Wheeler or Harold Danko. But his work remains as unpredictable and unclich├ęd as ever. Full review...

Well that seemed to go OK!