Sunday, 18 July 2010

A lot to learn ...

Where to start? Been busy on the playing schedule the last few weeks (except the Sunday lunch Jazz club which was cancelled due to England playing - bet everyone wished they'd come out now!!)

Let's start with lesson number 1. I have established I am not a Jazz player by any means of any interpretation whatsoever. Oh dear. I have been masquerading as one... actually I have realised I am somebody who is just a saxophone player who happens to play jazz tunes,and I am so grateful to have learned that lesson now so I can eventually become the jazz musician 'which I have created in my head' (which I have also realised, not being a 'jazz player' per se, is most likely permanent, but I can certainly have it as one of my goals (see previous blog and reference to Eric Daniel.

I have just attended a 3 day Jazz course at East Riding College in Hull as an extension of their annual Jazz festival. I'm fully aware I'm not the most spontaneous at improvisation but I was there to 'give it a go' as they say, and I am pleased to say that I did not embarrass myself...totally! Heck, if I was great, I wouldn't need to go on courses, but I have never come across a time in my life where I have not wanted to better myself.

Hence where we come back to why I went on an intensive jazz course! Gosh, should I quote ERIC DANIELS some more (clearly his stuff is worth reading as I am still thinking about the very basic principles of it 2 months later...!) My desire is to LEARN! I've clearly got the confidence and the personality to have a go at most things even though some reluctantly, which I understand I am lucky in that respect, but it is only because I have found something which I enjoy doing and I want to better myself.

For 3 days, I had it drummed into me..(listen to as much jazz as you can; don't just limit yourself to sax; find the style you like; find the music you like to listen to; find who you want to sound like etc..) ... I am still nonthewiser! I clearly have been influenced styalistically by many jazz players (coltrane, 'cannonball' Adderley, Duke Ellington, to name a few, but I also think Stan Getz (sometimes..), and Candy Dulfer (yes, don't choke, I can't help it.. Candy Dulfer!) are well worth their weight! So clearly I haven't found the type or style of artist I like; maybe I will remain a 'generalist' and will never commit, but I can try! Okay, for now, I'm favouring the 'modern camp' - Snake Davis (what a solo & band artist he is, seen him many times!); Alan Barnes (masterclass with him during Hull Jazz festival, genius, and very funny!); Joel Purnell - just blows your 'tenor' mind away!, Branford Marsalis & Candy Dulfer - prob cos she can play sax very well & she happens to be female! But the fact remains, I am liking all these players but don't really understand why? (Maybe they're alive!!) But all also didn't get to where they are now without intuitively knowing who they want to sound like - lesson number 2 - find my style and start learning properly!

I must mention briefly my 'SarahOnSax' performances - I was booked to do a wedding anniversary do, play a few light tunes while the guests dined and honestly thought it would be a quiet affair, 20 or 30 guests - walked in to 150 guests sitting down after the couple had renewed their vows, made my day! Last Saturday I had to belt out a set at a garden party - I was right down at the bottom with a full force gale blowing my soundwaves into the fields behind me - again with dogs running far too close to my much loved saxophone! I finished Saturday off with a regular gig at Caesars - but even that took me by surprise as the place was packed! And there were quite a few of my friends there who had arranged their night around me, so thanks girls, your support is much appreciated (tho one of them did request 'Anything by Madonna'?? What!!)

Let me finish on the following link to a short video from Branford Marsalis - in essence, he is saying the more solos you learn from professionals, the more information you have to develop your own, like learning a wide range of vocabulary, you can express yourself more clearly' Never a truer word. Definitely a lesson I can start learning now!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

It all starts with... quote from his book 'The Saxophone Survival Kit'... 'DESIRE'.

Eric Daniel (Sax/flute player, composer, lyricist, musician, part-time comic, amongst everything else), tonight hit the nail on the head for me, about why I am feeling the way I am at the moment - I want to expand my repertoire; write more material; I want to get that solo tucked away every time; I want to be out there performing; I want to develop my technique; I want to feel that same buzz all the time when I'm performing etc. I was beginning to think that I was becoming selfish or even obsessive about it, but the fact is, I simply have DESIRE.

Tonight I did my first private gig of the summer and it still amazes me how I get paid for performing, because it gives me the biggest buzz ever! Of course it's not quite on the scale of marrying my gorgeous hubby, or having my 2 gorgeous girls, hearing their 1st words, the first time they started to walk, the funny things they do, the special moments I spend with Ben & the girls etc. but I tell, you, at the moment it's right up there!

Today was a first for me on many fronts: they were singing along by song 3 (bearing in mind the 1st 2 songs are generally unknown, chosen specifically for long notes and range so I can warm up and tune my instrument!); I managed to play with the sun boucing off my music, a dog going beserk whilst it played 'catch' with its owner (only inches away from my very expensive saxophone...); trying to keep the cat away from me without looking like I'm kicking it cos I'm allergic to them; and the party danced the 'hokey cokey' to my version of 'Moondance! I guess that means they enjoyed it!

Sometimes desire can be mixed up with short term aspirations(eg. I hope this top f# comes out, or I hope I can hang onto this note for the full 12 beats without passing out...!), but at the moment, what I have is real and is what is driving me forward towards my goal -

For people to enjoy listening to me play.

Nothing else - I don't have any huge ambition to play thousands of gigs and make as much money as possible (although clearly being payed is a bonus - would I do it without renumeration? Actually, I probably would if I didn't have a young family, but the reality is that what I do needs a hell of a lot of commitment of time which is precious) - what I want is to do my best and know that people have enjoyed it - if they haven't, I simply need to try harder.

I think everybody needs 'desire' to want to do something in order to move forward: my hubby does his triathlons, mine is to perform and my 2 daughters desire is to dress up in as many princess outfits and where 'clip clop' shoes when ever the can!

This week, one of my students lost his son in a horrific plane crash. As a mum myself, it's too hard to think about as it is impossible to think that your child could go before you.

Find your desire, set your goals, no matter how small they may seem and go for it.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Highs and Lows...

Well, that was a quick few weeks! Think I'm gonna find it hard to blog every week, but I shall try my best to keep it regular!

My Highs this last month:
Evie's 3rd birthday: Monday - sun; Tuesday - sun; Wed - sun; Thursday - sun; Friday - scorching sun; saturday - really scorching sun; Sunday, evie's birthday - torrential rain!!!!!!! What's the chances????!!!! Unfortunately, so it seems, very high! Oh, well, 4 bedroom tent to hand (put up by hubby in said rain), I still managed to keep Evie's birthday outside my house - if I'd known I would have tidied the house up just incase instead of play my sax all day on Saturday!

Sunday Jazz Club: only 3rd one and I was absolutely delighted by the number of people who had come to listen who DIDNT KNOW ME!!! I have been doing my own 'plugging' as you would do but this month, I quite frankly ran out of time to send out emails/texts - it is a huge boost to my confidence and also it is inspiring how people enjoy it - fabulous! I even had my clarinet OUT IN PUBLIC for the 1st time ever! For those who don't know me, put a clarinet on a work bench, and I absolutely love stripping it down and putting it back together, far moreso that flute or sax; ask me to put a sax or flute in my hand over a clarinet, the former 2 win every time! I think it's purely because I learned clarinet after flute and sax (and a B wasn't just a B anymore and there are far too many keys to be worked by my poor weak little fingers!) You can't love everything, can you?! And I am trying to love it through the music I play rather than the music I have studied in the past. Heck, I might play 2 tunes on the clarinet next Jazz club!

Audition for Jazz Summer School - with Masterclass from Alan Barnes, key figure on the British Jazz scene since the 70's and Joel purnell ,sax tutor. Audition was more like an exam, which in hindsight wasn't too bad (I'm just out of practice!) but sadly, my age is against me (WHAT!!! I know, I may feel young but course is funded so aimed at 16 - 24 yr olds - I'm way outside of that bracket! Maybe my playing will get me in! At least I tried my best, not my fault I'm not twenty something!

My Lows;
Audition for Jazz Summer School - incase many good 16 to 24 yr olds audition too!

Saturday night 5th June @ Caesars. My 1st disappointing public performance. Afte r the previous Saturday's gig and the Sunday before, I was buzzing. I'd had a great week preparing for Evie's birthday, was really disappointed with my practice sessions over the week(mainly non-existent)but managed to get a few hours in on the Saturday day time - clearly a mistake as could hardly play a note on the evening! Well, by my standards I couldn't! It was one of those evenings when once you'd made a mistake, you kept going down the same channel, thinking about last mistake, oh, made another! think about that one... oh, there's another... and so on. Fortunately for me, I had a very easily pleased - (and hopefully tone deaf!) audience who said nothing but praise, but I was burning inside with what was in my mind, way below standard. I don't mean that in a way that it was awful to listen to,but I can do so much better. It really has put me at a low and affected my playing, but at last....


Basically, I scrapped playing for a week, broke down the solo's which were sub standard, then felt the urge I love - heard 'Me & Mrs Jones' on radio and that was it! Back to 'Sarah On Sax'! Re-vamped my version of Mrs Jones which I never quite liked and did an awesome version of 'What a Wonderful World' yesterday! Now I have so many ideas in my head I just have to find the time to realise them!

I think there's a couple of lessons in this blog somewhere, something like 'if you try your best, then you should feel content with that' and 'if something doesn't work, don't give up, you could just be having an off day!'

I think y biggest lesson I have learned in the last 3 months is that I am now playing for fun and it feels great, Highly recommend it!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Live music, Jamie Cullum and Teeth!

For the last 2 Saturday's I have performed at Caesars and I really just love it! I've added some great tunes to my repertoire - Cry me a River, Aint no Sunshine, Fever, Feelin' Good - the audience clearly respond to the more well known ones and I love the more modern Jazz classics and love putting my own spin on them! And with respect to Selby, it's probably a little different to what they are used to, whether it's the live music, live saxophonist or live female playing sax!

This is where I get to do my little shpeel of appreciation - many of my students and friends have already come to see me over the last few weeks to give me support - but they have also probably felt obliged to come after my relentless emails and texts (sorry, unless you ask to be removed from my list, you're staying on!:-)) and also out of curiosity (can she actually play???!!).

I must take this oppotunity to say, your support means more to me than anything. And not just for me but in support of live music which I feel very strongly about - there is just not enough. I have had so many great comments, not least for the cute dresses! (Heck, I'm a mother the other 6 1/2 days a week I don't perform so it's nice to feel like I've still got something!), but also for my playing. My fantastic friend Jane has such huge plans for me that I'll be an international star if she had her way! Dreaming aside... I am keen to grow my performance side as and when I have the time, and if you enjoy it, all I can ask is you spread the word!

In my bid to support live music, I have decided to hold a concert in aid of a local, music related charity (details to follow, but trust me, this charity is worth it) towards the end of the summer with my students being the star performers! Watch this space!

I just cannot finish this blog without mentioning that Ben and I had the most fantastic night last night (Tuesday 18th)with Jamie Cullum! What a fantastic, innovative, inspiring and natural performer he is, who engaged every single one of his audience! Totally amazing! If you get the opportunity to see him, WELL WORTH IT!

And finally, Ellie's 1st tooth fell out on Sunday - she was very brave (given the amount of blood shed over the previous 3 weeks because of it!) and her toothfairy 'Flowerbell' left a very nice letter and a shiny coin. Ellie still cannot belive how she managed to bring the letter and coin when a fairy is so small! (Oh to be 5...!)

This weekend should be fantastic as well as slightly more stressful for me as we are going to Ben's mum's 60th (it's a surprise, don't tell her!) and I am also playing a few tunes at the party of Sunday - that in itself is not a worry, but it's the fact that I am playing with a most fantastically accomplished and successful musician, Ben's cousin Nathan (sadly cousin on other side of family, Ben SO has no musical skills at all! But I still love you more than ever! (not like I could do a triathlon tomorrow is it?! That's why we're made for each other xxx)

In the words of Friedrich Nietzche, "Without music, life would be an error".

Never a truer word.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Beginning...

Okay, so it's not quite the beginning of my playing career, but after not having the confidence to do 'total' solo performance when I was younger (I had plenty of opportunities but I liked the support - believe it or not, I was shy!), I have now discovered my own personal 'Ironman'!

For the average person who does 0 - average exercise, an Ironman consists of a 2.4 miles swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and then a 26 mile run). I hope I have got that right as my husband has done 3 of these 'superhuman' competitions! (each to their own...!)

Clearly the physical efforts during one of my performances are not quite up to Ironman standard (but if you asked my strained ribs that, they might not agree after still being in agony 2 weeks after my last performance!). The comparison is in the 'training'.

Ben trains to achieve his goal of Ironman and other triathlons inbetween. I am now in training to do my 'Ironman' and have some great gigs inbetween. The problem is we now both have the same problem - Time!

Since that comment to the manager at Caesars, (Would you be interested in a saxophoninst?), I was in a rather awkward position of agreeing to do something but not actually having any material to perform - could have proved rather embarrassing, but as it turned out, with thanks to Ben and the girls, for giving me that time and support, I have managed to accumulate a portfolio of 54 songs (and growing!), each of which have required some element of writing solos (and I never knew I was any good at composing until I did this either!).

I got a quiet lunch time gig out of the way just to prove to myself that I was capable of some element of playing, loved that, so drafted myself in for a Bank Holiday evening. I then sold the idea of a regular 'Sunday Jazz Club' lunch to the Manager which now happens the last Sunday lunch of each month (2-4pm!) and then last night, I did my 2nd Saturday evening, which I can honestly say, is the best feeling ever playing to a full restaurant! Heck, I've even been in the local rag the last 3 weeks running!

Hey, I've also had some fantastic support from many of my friends who have come down to see me, thanks and I just hope you enjoyed the experience of live music - your support is always welcome and appreciated.

My mum, dad, brother David and his gorgeous family also came to the last Sunday lunch Jazz club - don't think David has ever heard me play, and my mum and dad probably not since I was practicing in the front room at home many eons ago! Thank you for coming along, that was a special day xxx

I must also reiterrate how important Ben's support is in all of this as he knows me and he knows this is important to me and knowing how proud he is, makes it even more worthwhile (as is the new wardrobe which I have HAD to get in support of my new venture! ;-)!!!)

I am now up to date in terms of writing my blog in real time, so bring it on!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Fullfilling a Dream...

Have you ever come to a point in your life when you say to yourself, 'if you don't do it now, you never will'?

A few weeks ago, I saw an opportunity, asked myself that very question and now I am fullfilling one of my life long ambitions - performing live again - not something I've really done in years and not something I've ever done just me, on my own.

Okay, so I'm not exactly performing in some huge concert hall or arena, and nobody has a clue who I am, but that's not the point. I am playing at Caesars Restaurant which is a very nice venue in Selby with fantastic acoustics (I think it used to be the old Savation Army building), which is now being run by a new and very enthusiastic manager who wants his business to be a success and can see the potential in having live music as a way to offer his customers something different.

How did it start? Ben and I went out for a meal for the 1st time in oh, about 3 YEARS! It's difficult getting out with no family close and young children, but we have promised to make an effort. It was a lovely evening and I particularly noted the very talented young pianist (Liam he is called), and with the help of a glass of wine or 2(!) I said to Ben, 'I could do that'. When paying the bill, that question 'If you don't do it now, you never will' was firmly in my mind (as was the wine!) so I asked the manager if he would be interested in having a saxophoninst play and he said, yes, do you know one?

I now play a 2 hour set of jazz sax the last Sunday of each month 2-4pm, and a Saturday evening a month and it is one of the best feelings in the world when I am up there playing.

I am writing this blog to share my experiences and feelings about where this new branch of my musical journey will take me and I hope you enjoy taking the journey with me!