Friday, 12 August 2022

They’ve still got the blues for you...

IT’S been a slow train coming, as an obscure folk singer once sang — but at

IT’S been a slow train coming, as an obscure folk singer once sang — but at last the locomotive is pulling into the station...

For music fans the wait is over as the Brakspear Jazz and Blues Festival returns tonight (Friday).

First to take to the stage at 8pm are the Rebecca Poole Trio at the Five Horseshoes in Maidensgrove.

The festival runs until Sunday, November 22. Of the 18 Brakspear pubs taking part, 15 are located in and around Henley.

A former student at Gillotts and The Henley College, Tom Michell is ambitious for his band, having gone full-time as a musician last summer.

Also featuring the talents of Pete Thomas on bass and Tom Sibly on drums, the Tom Michell Trio recently finished recording their No Grudge EP at Henwood Studios, near Wallingford — which are run by fellow jazz and blues festival performers Joe Henwood and Tom Excell.

Rock’s family tree certainly extends to Henley, and it turns out that Tom used to play guitar for Joe’s sister Megan back in the day — as well as lending a hand when Henwood Studios were first being built.

Happily, it seems, the hard work of all concerned has not gone to waste judging by Tom’s experience of making the EP under the guidance of Pete Brown, the son of rock and roll star Joe, 74.

“Pete was engineering and producing it,” said Tom.

“He’s got a lot of his and Joe’s really nice old kit down there — valves, desks and proper old-fashioned recording equipment.

“We basically wanted to make the most of that and get a good big live sound — and we’re really happy, they did a really good job.”

The resulting EP is intended as something of a calling card for the trio, which has now been going for about four years.

Says Tom: “The idea was to have something recorded so we’ve got a product, to begin with. The plan is to get it out, get some reviews and try and get it into magazines and then get some festival gigs and try and get some kind of management off the back of that. And once the ball starts rolling with that, we’ll look at recording an album.”

As things stand, Tom is the de facto manager of the trio.

“More or less, yeah. We’re starting to look for some sort of management and booking agent at the moment because it’s quite a lot of work to keep on top of it all and try and get the gigs.

“We want to try and get it out to a company or something. Basically there’s a progression where you just have to work through and build it up, build up the audience and all that kind of stuff.”

The response from live audiences is one of the reasons Tom is looking forward to playing the Red Lion in Peppard Common tomorrow night (Saturday) — and the Angel on the Bridge a week later as a solo artist.

“We get fairly decent crowds coming to our local gigs now and it’s really nice to get the feedback off people and, yeah, that atmosphere... It seems to get better as the gigs go on, actually.”

Another band with two gigs lined up at the festival is the Joe Henwood Jazz Duo — consisting of Joe and his friend and studio colleague Tom Excell.

They play the Bull on Bell Street next Friday (November 20) and the Golden Ball in Lower Assendon the following night.

Joe and Tom are also bandmates in the 12-strong Nubiyan Twist, which they co-founded with vocalist Nubiya Brandon while students at Leeds College of Music.

Nubiyan Twist played in Henley in June — at the Music for Nepal concert at the Kenton Theatre.

As Joe, 22, tells it, the band are currently enjoying “a little bit of a break from gigging” — having played live almost every weekend for three years straight.

He said: “We thought we’ll have a little break and we’ve got a new single recorded which is going to be out at the beginning of next year — and an EP that’s going to be out April-time next year.”

Joe says Nubiyan Twist, for whom he plays saxophone, is his main project as a musician — but that hasn’t stopped him joining a jazz outfit from Oxford, the Gabriel Mantell Quintet, as a pianist.

The quintet is a new project for Joe, but meanwhile he is looking forward to stretching his live legs with the duo that bears his name.

The venues are ones he knows well, with the Bull on Bell Street being more in the mould of a traditional pub to the Golden Ball’s restaurant — though both are hosting three gigs over the 10 days of the festival.

Says Joe: “There’s a lot more people standing round the bar chatting [at the Bull]. I’ve played gigs with my sister and seen Tom Michell play there and it can get quite lively...

“I think playing at the Golden Ball is really nice because [of] all the food you get and stuff — everyone’s really happy, you know?”

• Full listings for the Brakspear Jazz and Blues Festival are on the right. See next week’s Henley Standard for an exclusive interview with the Roger Winslet Trio.

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