Corey Mwamba


Hawkins' Time

I've just had a great couple of days playing some amazing music. Would you like to know more? I'm sure you would.

An uneventful ride back from Liverpool and a gentle taxi got me to the VoiceBox to set up for the night. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was putting on the Alexander Hawkins Ensemble. On the way down I had a few text messages to say people couldn't make it—mid-week is always a tricky time to put anything on—and then I remembered the footie. Double aagh.

Still, we had a nice crowd—not busy of course, but really attentive and appreciative—as the Ensemble weaved magical structures. And what a group! They're all on another level of thinking about and playing music, taking in the whole of the jazz tradition without pandering slavishly to it. The sound of the group [Hannah Marshall on 'cello, Dominic Lash on bass, Javier Carmona on drums and Otto Fischer on electric guitar] has a real presence and personality that is readily recognisable and idiosyncratic [in the classic sense of the word].

Alex's compositions adroitly use the resources of the musician, and also have fantastic melodies that really spur you on to use them in your improvisations. I was also lucky in that Otto had happened to write a sumptuous song called Martyr for which my best musical statement was to listen and enjoy. My only wish was that I was able to be in the audience and hear Orphy do the gig... but I'm certain if you manage to get to Reading today at 8p.m., you'll hear the magic!

Obviously, there was some pain: we played a collage of Braxton tunes, which kept repeatedly kicking me in the nuts and then laughing at me contemptuously. But it was a small price to pay for playing with such a stellar group!

I got a day's grace and then went back up to Newcastle on Friday—this time across the Ouseburn to a lovely real ale place called the Cumberland Arms. I was slightly perturbed as Alex had called to say he was stuck in some kind of horrible traffic jam and we'd had one of those cliff-hanger conversations you only really hear in drama:

AH {voice over crackly phone line}: it looks like I won't make it...

CM {shocked}: Oh no!

AH: I know, I know... but look, if I don't, then {phone-line goes dead}

CM: Hello? Hello?? Alex?? {on knees, looking to sky in anguish} ALEX!?!

That's a mild exaggeration, but I'm sure you get my point. Anyway, a text message and a few pints of Nel's Head calmed me down; and everyone arrived safe and sound. Cue repeat of fantastic gig. It's been an honour and total blast, and you should catch this group when and where ever they play. I'm certain those who caught his tour this time have really enjoyed the music!

There's more I want to tell you, as I want to tell you about a very special place in Newcastle... but I will do that in a separate post, probably on Tuesday.

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