So here’s a casual post, designed to update you with my recent activities and plans for the future. Every time I write a new post it seems to start with an apology, or at the very least a knowing nod and wink to the time-length between each blog update. With this opening it’s too late now to not acknowledge how long it’s been since my last post (a month and 2 days if you must know), but I’m certainly not going to apologise this time. For at least the past 3 months I’ve been dealing with some pretty heavy personal shiz, and it would be wrong of me to ignore this completely when writing a catch-up post. But things are generally cool now and I’m certainly more aware of what Bill Hicks so beautifully stated concerning the peaks and troughs of life, that it’s all “just a ride.”
I do want this blog to be a bit more diary-like with my shinanigans, so to the left is a picture of my beautiful new Swatch. I’ve never been a big watch wearer, but I do remember many moons ago (I’m 26 now, so it must have been when I was 15/16 and deep into HipHop) that I tried to carry off a fake yellow-gold, diamond encrusted Rolex. I remember it falling of the exam desk and the glass breaking whilst completing my Maths GCSE (higher paper I hasten to add). That watch must have looked a right treat on my broomstick wrists. But, along with my promotional Doctor Who watch for the Paul Mcgann film (he WAS a great Doctor), this current one’s a keeper too.
Look to the right. Beautiful, isn’t it?
However, back to the Swatch and “where did you buy said watch?” I hear you cry. Well, the duty free at Heathrow! I’m currently typing this on the tail-end of a holiday to Thailand. It’s been nice to get away from the UK for a couple of weeks but I do feel ready to come home now. I came away with the best intentions of eating healthy Thai food everyday (particularly the seafood and Tom Yum soups) yet within the first 4 days the burger cravings kept intruding my consciousness and I had to give in to my western predilections – plus steaks are so cheap out here! Oh well.
I have done a bit of sightseeing this holiday, although nothing too extravagant as I’m definitely a swimming pool/air conditioned sorta man rather than an all-out back-packer (man I sound old before my time reading that back). Here are some photos from the Khao Luang caves in Phetchaburi, which have been turned into a temple. I found it an incredibly calming space, really quite spiritual, and the visit has certainly increased my interest in meditation and the Buddhist faith overall. I found this informative blog if you want further reading on the Khao Luang caves.
These are the stairs you walk down when entering the caves. Very Tomb Raidery!
Here is a link to the book I’m currently reading on meditation. It was a passage from Leo Tolstoy’s A Confession and Other Religious Writings that helped set me on my current search for spiritual fulfillment. It’s from the opening of chapter 3, when Tolstoy is discussing his time in Europe, Paris specifically, and how spiritually lost-at-sea he felt (in fact the quote details the very essence of that phrase)…
“Living as I was then, like any individual I was tormented by the problem of how to live a better life. I did not yet understand that in answering ‘live in conformity with progress’, I was speaking exactly like a person who is in a boat being carried along by wind and waves and who when asked the most important and vital question, ‘Where should I steer?’ avoids answering by saying, ‘We are being carried somewhere.’”
I just feel it’s about time I took control of my own steering (ponce alert!)
Anywayz, after the cave-temple visit I ‘steered’ myself to one of the most bizarre amusement parks I ever been to. Sheep World. Well, I’ve called it Sheep World, the actual name of the park is Swiss Sheep Farm and you can find it’s website here, where you will find some brilliant examples of Thai-lish in the About section.
Entrance, with the year in the title.
A couple of local hipsters loving it. In all seriousness there was no knowing irony to this couple taking the shot.
Katie Price donated one of her many Wedding carriages to the project.
The fusion of Western agricultural heritage with Halloween pumpkins, all in the setting of a Thai landscape, was just too much at times. Also, bearing in mind this place is called Swiss Sheep Farm, I didn’t see one living sheep. Just the humorous sheep statues above. No joke.
Lamb meat is such a rare food stuff in Thailand that this relatively meagre paper plate of lamb chops cost the UK equivalent of around £8. Double the price of a half decent Steak. No wonder I didn’t see any sheep.
Before I end the Chris Tarrant schtick of ‘aren’t foreigners funny’, I did notice this unfortunate administrative error on one of the products in the gift shop. Whoever google-mapped London for a storage case background really should have double-checked they had London UK and not London Canada. Doh!
Ok, back to my music. So when I’m back in the UK I have a solo piano gig on the 13th December. It’s a private show so unfortunately I can’t advertise but I’m really looking forward to it as I haven’t done a solo show in a while. I have a keyboard over here so I’ve been practicing voicings and getting a set-list together. What I enjoy about preparing for solo shows is the implementation of variety in actual song execution, particularly in the left hand. For example I wouldn’t want to do an hours worth of stride piano, nor mid-range voicing’s, nor walking bass lines, nor ostiantos, nor Monk-esque open Dominant 7ths etc. Obviously you shouldn’t be too hesitant in utilisng these techniques whenever you deem fit, but for varieties sake I find it useful to give each individual piece a left hand starting point. So for example I’ve been practicing All The Things You Are with open, root-based 7ths and 3rds in the left hand with lush crunchy voice-led shapes in the right. Mood Indigo is a piece I’ve recorded before (at the bottom of the article) with an original, more up-tempo ostinato pattern in the left hand. Chick Corea’s Armando’s Rhumba is a tune I play with my quartet, but it’s been fun to play solo with a walking bass line too. Needless to say creating intricate walking bass lines is a fun way to get your left hand chops up-to-speed. Once I have a full set-list and plan I’ll update.
Finally, there are a few gigs coming up that I want to spread the word about. I have personally seen the sheer hard graft and strain going into organizing and promoting these shows as the guy’s a very close friend of mine. Add Alex on twitter here. He’s working his socks off to present internationally world-class acts in London for Jazz FM and I can’t recommend the shows enough. I’ll be there and it would be great to see some of you there too…
A final note. I know Lee Konitz part II is still to come, as are a plethora of other posts. No excuses now folks.