Parc (2)

Ysgol Parc 2011 (photo copyright David Woodfall)

Last night was the first public meeting of the Parc Project in Ysgol Parc, Bala, Gwynedd. The community was introduced to the three artists (David Woodfall, Greg Byatt and myself) and after a brief introduction from David (where he showed some pictures from a Bangladesh village lost to floods from climate change) we all watched the 1949 film “Noson Lawen” shot and based in Parc. Amazing to see many of the current landmarks of the village, such as the bridge, school and chapel almost completely unchanged.

Here’s a still from the film:

Maybe a little idealistic and sentimental at times this is still a great film, with some interesting imagery. The real message of the film (presumably shot in fairly harsh post war times economically) comes up in the final frame with the logo of the film’s sponsors National Savings Bank! Also, even watching it in 2012, you get a real sense of the strength of the community that it documents; something that we are hoping to mirror in our project.

This was followed by a short ‘work in progress@ film made by Greg Byatt from material he has already gathered in Parc.This  included the school Christmas concert, a traditional toffee making session and all superimposed over a stirring soundtrack from the collectibve carol at the end of the Plygain last december.

plygain (picture copyright (David Woodfall)

Again really interesting to see that many of the contemporary images from Greg’s film could also with a few subtle changes (such as fashion or vehicles) could be from the 1940’s or older. A great response from all present to both the Noson Lawen film and the  new film….

David before the meeting

I then talked a little about my interest in music and “place”, and played a couple of short pieces including playing to a slide show of some of David’s photographs….

Greg working his magic for people!

All in all, we were made to feel so welcome here, it really is a special community. Not only was this a chance for us to try out a mini version of how the project might work in its finished version it was also an opprtunity to engage in a two way dialogue with the community inviting their contributions. Within a very short period of time we were soon aware that we will probably have too much information as opposed to not enough!

David also made it clear to all that all parts of the project (but especially photos and videos) will be available free to local people, as part of us also giving something back to the community that we are documenting.

More details in the next blog, but I was lucky enough to meet a man who had been a POW in the nearby camp in Frongoch and had never gone home. With a wicked sense of humour he told me that his reading and writing were so bad at first that they had only recently told him that the war had finished. Priceless.

I hope to not only document the process of the project here but also offer the blog as a forum and collecting point for contributions from anyone re Parc.

Please feel free to email me if you have any contributions

Here’s a link on the BBC website….

I look forward to the next phase of this project!

photo copyright David Woodfall

2011 – A year in music

Fashionably late as usual….

Gigs, here  there and everywhere – from Llanberis to Hanoi.

Just looking back over my last 12 months of music making (not something I’ve ever thought about doing before!) here are some of my personal favourites…..

In no particular order –

Iain Ballamy, Huw Warren, Steve Berry and Zoot Warren

Ucheldre Centre, Holyhead, Anglesey June 2011. Just a great night of music in a beautiful venue, fab steinway…What more can I say? Luckily it was also filmed by Greg Byatt.


Future Jazz, Bristol. Feb 2011.Intimate trio gig with Dudley Phillips and Martin France to a smallish crowd that had some great interactive playing.

Huw Warren Paula Gardiner Duo

Christchurch, Rochester,NY  June 2011 as part of the Rochester International Jazz Festival.Another church and another special atmosphere!

3 Voices Project (Norma Winstone Maria Pia de Vito David Linx Huw Warren)

Pizza Express, London April 2011.A lot of work on this gig for me – but amazing to work with three singers like this!

Perfect Houseplants

Kingfisher Way Festival Roxton Church, Bedfordshire. June 2011.A lovely night for our reunion (well partial reunion!). Also kickstarted us into planning some more Houseplants activity and new music for 2012.

Silent Movie Night

Petes Eats, Llanberis, Gwynedd.May 2011. Classic silent movies with live improvisation in a miniature Hi Def cinema in a back room of this well known cafe. Unlikely, but a stunningly intense experience.

Huw Warren Iain Ballamy Duo

Kings Place, London Oct 2011. Loved this venue, and some beautiful music with Iain.

Purcell Relayed

Dora Stoutzker Hall, RWCMD Cardiff. May 2011.A speaial project for the opening of the new building and a great chance to play in the new hall.It didn’t disapoint! We deconstructed and reassembled some of Purcell’s music with myself, Martin France, Greg Cordez and students from the historical performance course at RWCMD

Maria Pia de Vito + Ramamani (from Naples to Bangalore)

L’espal le Mans, France, Oct 2011.A steep learning curve but an amazing opportunity to work on this project with incredible vocalist  Ramamani and a great band including Mr TS Mani and Carlo Rizzo.…/prog_naplesbanga.pdf

Greg Lyons London Project

Kuala Lumpur Contemporary Music Festival November 2011. Another reunuon, this time with saxophonist Lyons, who I played with a lot during the late 80’s. All in all a great trip- see my earlier posts about the food!!

John Parricelli Huw Warren Duo

National Centre for Early Music, York November 2011. Another great chuch venue, and a lovely afternoon concert with John;who always plays so beautifully.

Dialektos , Far East Tour

Some really great concerts with Maria Pia de Vito in Indonesia, Vietnam and China.

Some new commissions in 2011 as well – I wrote “Gladrags” for Alton College Big Band at Farnham Festival in April (video here), “Tilt” for New Perspectives in July and also a brand new arrangement of my piece “Is it August Yet?” for saxophonist Lara James with string quartet and rhythm section for her new CD to be released soon. Also was involved with a fascinating arts/science project at ACES in Aberdeen which resulted in a concert of new solo piano music at the Lemon Tree Arts Centre in August (video here).

Finally, should mention the latest record with Maria Pia de Vito and Ralph Towner “O Pata Pata” which came out this year a pleasure to work on these songs (including 3 of my compositions) and to play and hang with Ralph.

Onwards to 2012!

Happy New Year…….


Dialektos in the Far East

Back from another great trip to the East including Indonesia, Vietnam and Hong Kong. Really interesting time, and great concerts with Maria Pia de Vito. Audiences seem to be intrigued by me playing inside the piano (first comment was always “I’ve never seen anyone do that, before”!) but in general really seemed to relate to the music (especially the high energy stuff)

As ever, some great food en route, and met a lot of interesting people. First impressions were Jakarta (Traffic!) Hanoi (Traffic, but creative!) Ho Chi Minh City (buzzy) and Hong Kong (western style consumerism gone crazy….)

Jakarta from the hotel
Indonesian food Sumatran style

Crossing the street in Hanoi was a particular pleasure all of its own that seemed to contradict several rules of science….The guide book said “Walk slowly but with purpose” and that pretty much summed it up! if you stood still you suddenly had scooters, rickshaws coming at you from all directions. A lot of life there seemed to centre around the pavements as well – eating, drinking, selling of all kinds….Most entertaining!

Wiring Vietnamese style!
a brave man selling ceramics from his bicycle....

Hong Kong in comparison seemed a mix of Zurich (airport) and Manhattan (buildings and streets) All great, but I’m not sure I wanted to travel that far to shop in Gucci and Armani shops (apparently at higher prices than Europe even!) Tourist highlight was definitely the ferry to Hong Kong island

Maria Pia being interviewed for TV whilst I look on from the poster!
Hong Kong island from the ferry
Hong Kong - Interesting sign, turned out to be a restaurant!!


Also started work this week on a commission/collaboration much closer to home. Closure is a new project documenting the potential closure of a tiny school in Parc (near Bala) in rural North Wales with film (greg byatt) pictures (david woodfall) and music. An ACW funded project we hope to look at the village school in terms of both its past, present  and future and examine the effects of losing a school in a small local welsh community.

The initial part of the process will involve asking members of the community to share archive material, photos, stories etc, which will be woven into the the fabric of the piece, culminating in a live performance and a travelling exhibition next july. I’ll be making regular updates here as a way of documenting the process of both the subject and the collaboration and interaction between the three artists….

The first event is on jan 6th 2012 in the village with a showing of the 1950’s film Noson Lawen (filmed in Parc) and a short performance from my self – but I’m also hoping to attend a Plygain over the Christmas period.

More on this next year – in the meantime if anyone is from Parc or nearaby, please feel free to get in touch!

Far East (1) Malaysia

Just made my first trip to the far east to play at the contemporary music festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. What an incredible place! Reunited with my old friend, the saxophonist Greg Lyons, we performed on the 26th November at UCSI University on a hot, humid and steamy night. A great band included bassist (and houseplant) Dudley Phillips and drummer Nic France. As you can see below, we looked pretty wiped out after playing in such high humidity. The parts and pretty much everything else was hot and soggy…… Even the cymbals had a sheen of moisture over them!

A positively surreal soundcheck had us set up in a slightly rock and roll configuration (including drum riser)and  the strange sight of a 9ft Kawai grand warapped in clingfilm to protect it from the moisture! Definitely a night to remember, and great to play with these guys again.

Music was only part of the experience out there. Some of the best food on the planet – and super cheap at that. Incredible chinese food, thai food and southern indian food (served authentically on a banana leaf) One of the advantages of being with a local who loves his food was that we completely stayed away from any of the tourist traps and ate at real local places. I don’t think we saw a single menu all the time we were there – and every meal seemed to be one the best we had ever eaten. Our favourite places were:

Zin Sin – a modest looking but absolutely incredible chinese, full of locals and their families

Jimmy’s Thai Sea Food Barbecue – so many great dishes including chilli crab and an amazing sea bass…..

and Rajou (southern Indian) Roti and Fish curry!

and also this mega fresh chilli noodle below; made by a guy in a small cafe in literally seconds (including rolling out the noodles from a pasta machine!)

All in all an amazing time – I even got used to drinking beer with ice (and out of small glasses) which is pretty sensible when the temperature is around 32. Massive and heartfelt thanks to Greg and June for looking after us in such a royal manner!

Now looking forward to the next batch of gigs in Indonesia,Vietnam, and China with Maria Pia de Vito next week……Full details here:


Check these out (1)

One of the cool things about entering the blogsphere is exploring some of the other great sites out there…In no particular order, these are a few of my favourites.

Do the Math  – Ethan Iverson’s blog is varied, informed and always interesting.Whether he is analysing his favourite players, disecting jazz education or commenting on much wider issues (such as institutional racism or 9/11) he’s always worth reading. His interview with Keith Jarrett here is probably the best ever, a great mix of insightful questions, and Jarrett’s obvious respect for the interviewer.

Kit Downes’ Kit Rambling is equally interesting. One of the younger stars of the UK jazz scene,  blessed with a rare musical intelligence, and a wise head on those young shoulders!

Howard Mandels’ Jazz beyond Jazz has a great mixand variety of current US jazz (from straight ahead to free/experimental) and On an Overgrown Path is a classical music blog that also covers some jazz and improvised music.There’s a review of my dowland improvisations here.

if you are interested in animation or film music – check out Jazz Animated – fascinatining!

A couple of different US blogs Fred Kaplan’s Stereophile and NEC’s Tanya Kalmanovitch ………

Finally two of my students at RWCMD in Cardiff- showing their viewpoint from a current jazz students perspective. The Aimless Rambler and Alex Haines

Some more to come soon. Please send me your suggestions too!

gigs gigs

Calendar over the next few weeks includes….

November 18th – Kyffin, Bangor, North Wales 8pm with saxophonist Garry Bywater

November 20th – Seiat Jazz at Galeri Caernarfon,North Wales 1pm

Duo with Neil Yates (trumpet)

November 25th – Kuala Lumpur Contemporary Music Festival,Malaysia

with Greg Lyons (saxophone) Dudley Phillips (bass) and Nic France (drums)

And a tour of the Far east in December with fantastic Italian singer Maria Pia de Vito including performances in:

Jakarta,Indonseia (6th)

Hanoi,Vietnam (9th)

Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam (11th)

Hong Kong, China (13th)