Wednesday, March 22, 2006


I managed to catch up with our great Manchester based (well Lancashire really) guitarist Mike Walker last night for a great gig at Matt and Phreds in central Manchester. It was meant to be a tryout for new material from drummer Mikey Wilson as part of his quartet but they hadn't had the opportunity to rehearse, so it was standards based stuff. There was a great choice of tunes including Spain and others by Chick Corea, Black Narcissus by Joe Henderson as well as tracks by Pat Metheny and Steve Swallow. Black Narcissus was one of the first jazz tracks I learnt so it was great to hear that. It's the first time I've heard it played live anywhere. I studied it as part of jazz harmony and jazz guitar class when I was living down in London run by Amit Sen who was an ex student at Berklee and Black Narcissus was one of the study tunes. I then went on to do a BTec Jazz Foundation course at Westminster college also run by Amit that had a well respected Uk piano player called Tim Richards as one of the tutors. Tim's a great musician and played at last year's Manchester Jazz Festival. Black Narcissis was heavily featured as a study tune on that course as well.

Pic of the cover of Joe Henderson's Power to the People album that contains the track Black Narcissus

I managed to collar Mike and get the ball rolling with arranging a first guitar lesson next week so looking forward to that. It was a phenomenal gig actually with great playing from Mike, Iain Dixon, Mikey Wilson and the whole band. I'm not sure if it's just me, but it's great to hear a different choice of standards from the 'norm'. Many of the jams I go to tend to end up playing One Note Samba, Black Orpheus, Stella by Starlight and those sort of tunes. As good as they are, these aren't the tunes that got me into and playing jazz. Like many people, I picked up on A Kind of Blue, and much of the Coltrane stuff. Crescent was one of my early favorites. I also picked up on the first Return to Forever record. I wish more people were into playing these tracks at the jam sessions but I don't get the feeling that as many people are into that kind of stuff so much. Shame.

I've been fairly slow getting absorbed into the jazz scene in Manchester but getting there I think. There were a couple of friends there last night that I've played with at various jams. It was interesting what they were saying about Mike having been around longer themselves. Apparently he's very well respected in the USA and has dep'd for John Scofield a few times. They say he was offered a tutorship at Berklee as well but turned it down. No idea if any of this is true or just urban myth. It may be our UK bias but many people think he's better than most of the famous USA players such as Sco and Metheny and I'd have to say I'm not sure I disagree. It's a shame he hasn't recorded more. Anyway, all this whets my appetite for getting the lessons going and learning what I can from him.

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