Creating The Sound

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I get asked this question a lot and the answer is quite a complex one when you consider the musical ingredients involved, but think of it like a recipe for a cake. You have the recipe in front of you for the first time with all the ingredients and with directions for how to bake it (this is sounding like McArthur Park) anyway you start of following it perfectly as you think! but if you are like me it will probably take few practice runs until you eventually get it right, once you have perfected it you might add few ingredients of your own to make it slightly unique. Keep this metaphor in mind as I explain my musical recipe.

I will divide the band into four separate parts for time and simplicity.

1…The Vocal 2…The Horn section 3…The Rhythm section. 4…Music Director, Arranger, Producer

The Vocal; The vocalist dominates popular music, for two reasons microphones, so they can be heard and the individual tone quality that is the human voice.

I was singing before I became a musician but until recently always considered myself as a musician first. During the credit crunch I needed some extra cash to pay the bills, so I started to do solo gigs as a tribute singer of Frank Sinatra songs, this went really well, a lot better than I expected and I still do this kind of gig. What I worked out very quickly is this, I don’t sound like Sinatra one little bit, in fact I got a bit depressed because I know at least two great vocalist who sound very like old blue eyes. I tried hard to work out why people still liked me performing these great songs, eventually from comments from fans and friends I got the answer. They were not the least bit bothered that I didn’t sound like Sinatra and some said they even preferred me, what they liked was the energy and performance I could bring to the music. What happened was simply this, I had fallen into a style of music that suited my vocal sound and range perfectly, it was from this point on that I started to write songs in this style, and sing them myself.

The Horn section; I have tried different combinations for this but what sounded the best is a cut back version of the big band sound of the 40’s & 50’s. This is 2 trumpets, 1 trombone, with saxophones alto, tenor and baritone. These instruments harmonise with each other and to me is a perfect blend, this works well live and in the studio. The musicians are first rate, they read music charts and play the music as if they it was one person playing, I absolutely love this and when these guys swing you have just got to swing with them.

The Rhythm section; This part of the band is the heart beat, and what makes it tick, consisting of drums, bass, piano and guitar these guys blend together like butter on hot toast. The piano is the lone ranger, he has mostly a free commission to ad lib around the song, the drums, guitar and bass are a tightly nit unit. On our first EP the band was recorded live with this set up, but for the next session I wanted to try something a little different without messing up what is already a great sound. The question is, what would this be?

Acoustic Guitar; Our guitarist is a top professional jazz guitarist creating a beautiful smooth guitar sound that blends perfectly with bass and drums listen carefully to “Watching The Stars” to hear what I mean. My first guitar was a really cheap red sparkly thing that sounded terrible but I fell in love with my acoustic guitar. The technology available now makes the acoustic guitar much easier to use and to be heard on stage. I like the bright sound of the acoustic guitar, so I have introduced a second guitarist playing this kind of guitar. These guitar players don’t just play the same chords they play the same chords a different way. We did a preview show on 16th November 2014 to try this out, I’m pleased to tell you that this was very successful and had the desired effect that I have been looking for. Listen out for this with our new EP to be recorded in January 2015.

The regular musicians in the band are;

Stewart Forbes, alto sax & clarinet.

Allan Glenn, tenor sax.

Russ Moore, baritone sax.

Gavin Spowart, trumpet 1.

Naj Zoha, trumpet 2.

Ross Lothian, trombone.

Campbell Normund, piano.

Aldos Morrow, drum kit & percussion

Mike Nesbit, jazz guitar.

Ross Gibson, acoustic guitar

Jimmy Taylor, bass.

Musical Director Russ Moore, who can read a musical score at a glance and makes the band including me, do it right.

Musical Arranger Jennifer Clarke, a very talented, educated musician who will take a song and lift it from the ordinary to something rather special.

Music Producer Stuart Hamilton, who has worked with Dire Straits to the BBC orchestra.

I should also mention my long time friend who tries to carry out everything I ask, Darren Smith, tech man, lighting, sound, lifting heavy loads, fixes everything, and sometimes breaks things.

I’m looking forward to the next recording session very much and I will keep you posted as things happen.

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