The latter half of 2015 included some fantastic gigs, notably Birmingham Jazz Festival with the excellent saxophonist Simon Spillett and super rhythm section of Mal Garrett (drums) and Ben Crosland (bass) who stepped in at the last minute. Our first of two gigs was at New Street station. Quite possibly the worst get-in to a gig in history given the unprecedented construction work going on but it's testament to such professional players when we rise above it and still make it happen, on time, which is more than what could be said for the train to Penzance which was fifty seven minutes late. We should all know given the forty six times it must have been announced during our gig! Our evening set was in China town and a thoroughly enjoyable show. I also had the pleasure of performing at Jazzlines' programme with my own band at the Symphony Hall Foyer, promoting After the Pier last Summer which remains a firm gigging highlight of 2015 too. The After the Pier band will be performing again on 21st June at the Jam House in Birmingham as well as returning to London soon.
More recently I've started working with a number of new live projects. The Paul Mason Secret Sextet which focus on performing alternative contemporary jazz compositions by the likes of horn players such as Matt Wates, Theo Travis and Jerry Bergonzi as well as bebop pieces by Art Pepper. Recently we've been exploring some Yellowjackets material for future performances. My other recent musical adventures included a really cool blues/jazz recording project with up and coming vocal talent Abi Kelsey and a jazz masterclass at Kidderminster College.
A lot of my time outside of gigging is focused on my PhD work, exploring alternative resources within contemporary composition. I have just begun my third year which will centre around a large-scale collaborative piece that addresses all of my research questions, focusing on the use of alternate guitar tunings, arch form, live/recorded and composed/improvised material alongside the use of graphical and conventional musical notation in one score. My work with the laptop ensemble will also include a special live performance at Manchester Art Gallery on Thursday 24th March. I plan to present at several conferences this year with my final portfolio and thesis due to be completed in 2017.
Other upcoming live gigs include work with the Kim Cypher Quartet (new release due out later this year) and the KoGo project; who's short video series recently attracted the attention of Michael McDonald. Producer Simon Tittley and I will be reuniting on a short series of videos exploring rare vintage amps using some solo guitar arrangements I've been working on to demonstrate this. The first shoot will be in late February and I will be using the material to re-enter the 2016 Made in New York Jazz Competition and Lee Ritenour's Six String Theory jazz contest.
All in all, probably my busiest year ahead on both music and academic fronts. Big changes may lie in the wings beyond this, time will no doubt tell.