Monday, 28 November 2011

In With the New

I'm beginning to think that Eastern Straynotes have had more bass players than Spinal Tap had drummers.  But it is to be hoped that the excellent Cesar Camba is a long-term appointment.  Cesar (pronounced 'Thessar') took over from Cairo-bound Paul in September and has quickly made an impact.  And having seen him wading in the chilly River Yare during a photo shoot last month I don't think he's the type to get cold feet.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Farewell to Paul and retro wedding

This month we said goodbye to Paul Fitzgerald, our regular bass player for the last two years. Of all the places to emigrate to he's chosen Cairo. We wish him well.

Paul's replacement will be unveiled in a future post. Meanwhile, we are fortunate to have the incomparable Dave Pullin standing in on a temporary basis.

Yesterday we were in the deep south of Suffolk. The wedding speeches finished well over an hour behind schedule, giving Andy a chance to check out the featured automobile.

"Yes, the unmistakable smell of a Morris Minor!"

Friday, 6 May 2011

Straynotes on the ball

Last night we found ourselves at the ground of Norwich City FC, newly promoted to the Premier League. We began our set with the pitch clearly visible behind us. But by the time muggins here remembered his camera the sun had gone down. So here we are instead, posing at the third floor entrance to the Jarrold stand at the end of the night. The light isn't reflected glory, it's our own. One shouldn't blow one's own trumpet, especially if one doesn't even play trumpet, but we really were rather good.

And the occasion? A rather grand looking meal for folk engaged in pharmaceutical research at the University of East Anglia. Of course a function of this nature requires live jazz.

The Bandstand

As a child, almost before I knew what a musical instrument was, I fancied playing in a bandstand. I hadn't realised how cold my hands would get as the sun sank below the treeline. However, it was warm enough two weekends ago (I've had trouble keeping up with the pace of events!) to mark our first gig at Kelling Heath Holiday Park by playing in its bandstand. Surprisingly for April it remained warm all evening and the fingerless gloves were not required. Here's hoping it's as balmy when we return in a fortnight.

Here Andy and Paul are tuning up, just in case you're wondering.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Out on the Town, part two

Once a year, for the past year or two anyway, we have arranged a gig at Norwich Arts Centre as a showcase for the band. In the past we have invited other musicians including local heroes Cakes and Ale. This time we were joined by songwriter Alan Southgate and cabaret performer Lucy Enskat in her 'The Gypsy' persona. To add colour to the band, Paul brought along three batik shirts from his extensive collection of clothes and the whole evening passed off rather well, though I say so myself.

Alan Southgate has to be one of the most inventive songwriters around at the moment but, like many of the great artists I have met in my live, appears completely unaware of the fact. This makes watching him perform all the more rare and special.

Lucy's gypsy act has become far more assured since I first saw it when she and the Straynotes shared the bill at a burlesque night last year. She really inhabits the role and knows how to work an audience to comic, but never unkind, effect.

And of course Eastern Straynotes are rather good at this performance thing themselves.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Out on the Town, part one

It's not often the Straynotes play in public but recently we managed to do so three times in six days.

I wish I had a photo of us playing at the ShopArt! Live event, organised by Norwich Arts Centre in a disused estate agents' premises on King Street. We played behind a pane of glass each, on the other side of which was our audience. Highly conceptual, and making a big enough impression on guitarist Andy Kirkham to cause him to change the band's name. Fortunately The Manikins reverted to Eastern Straynotes as we cycled home.

Also on the bill was the legendary Bruce Lacey, pictured with a robot he built in the 1960s. The camera angle was poor so you may have to take my word for it. And there's Andy maintaining a safe distance behind.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Valentine's Day

One of the most romantic meals I ever had featured, along with my loved one, a genial old duffer filling the restaurant with the warm sound of a jazz piano. Last Monday, St Valentine's Day,the lucky couples at Quayside Plaza were treated to a menu which included venison, monkfish and, for the vegetarians, stuffed Mediterranean vegetables. Angelo, Magda and their team really know how to prepare and present food. They are also masters of the sympathetic ambiance.

But what of music? It is the food of love, as everyone knows. Well instead of a piano the diners had the soft strings of a jazz guitar and the dulcet tones of a clarinet. I Can't Give You Anything But Love, My Favourite Things, Cheek to Cheek...

Wine flowed, eyes danced and the band played on.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A varied run-up

The busy run-up to Christmas provided the Straynotes to demonstrate their versatility. Among our December gigs were a sedate arty-party in the always impressive Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts, a cosy pub on the north Norfolk coast, and a pre-Christmas blow-out for foodies in a restaurant in Great Yarmouth.

Regular readers will know that we always enjoy playing at the Sainsbury Centre so were especially pleased to be asked to play for the Friends' annual Christmas party. This was very much a chat and catch-up event so our role was provide the oil that lubricates the flow of words. The trick is to get a few feet tapping without seeing anyone cup their ears in order to hear. By that measure I think we did pretty well. The favourable comments we received at the end of the evening were the icing on the Christmas cake.

The Stiffkey Red Lion is a pub that has moved with the times, embracing the fashions for beer gardens and food (for which it has a deserved reputation) without losing its identity as a village pub. It has maintained the layout it had when it began life (as the Black Lion) in 1836, comprising a series variously sized rooms. We played in the bar by a large log fire. Very cosy on what was a particularly cold night, but it meant constantly retuning as the heat affected the instruments. Had Andy dropped his guitar at any point it would have been engulfed. We were certainly on fire musically with an attentive audience of locals and weekenders, none of whom were averse to dancing between the tables. Andy duetting with Paul's thumping double bass on 'Undecided' was an especially exhilarating moment; everyone in the bar was wearing the look of wonder.

Plenty of people decided to have their office Christmas meal at the Quayside Plaza Restaurant in Great Yarmouth. I have blogged before about the interesting curios displayed there from antique Indian door frames to enormous oils in Latin American styles. The restaurant operates as a cafe-bar and shop during the day, specialising in fine coffee mixed with third world art and accessories. This resulted in some bizarre takes on the festive season. When I wound our extension lead behind a display of foot-high carved wooden Christmas gnomes I really should have thought to take a quick snap. If they have them again next year (and I can't imagine they were flying out of the door) I will rectify this omission.

Happy New Year from Eastern Straynotes!