Preview: Sam Leak’s Aquarium, South Bank, 15th November (LJF)

Sam Leak writes about an LJF gig, showcasing music from his forthcoming album, on Thursday 15th November at the QEH Front Room…

I am really looking forward to my London Jazz Festival gig this year, on Thursday at the Queen Elizabeth Hall Front Room, where my band Aquarium will be showcasing music from our new album on Jellymould Jazz that will coming out in spring next year.

I’m very excited about this album. As any musician knows the period between recording and album and releasing it is usually fairly drawn out, and this album has been no exception. I’ve always liked setting up difficult challenges for myself and for this, I set a recording date for the beginning of April, and began penning the music for it in February. This seemed liked a great idea at the time, until I actually started writing and was very suddenly filled with terror at the thought that this may have made a terrible error of judgement… However, once I got over the initial fear, things started to really flow for me and I wrote an album’s worth of material that I am really pleased with. The band then had the daunting task of learning the music with me in a series of just three gigs: first at the Amersham Arms in New Cross, secondly at The Oxford in Kentish Town, and finally at Charlie Wrights Jazz Club in Hoxton. I am lucky to have in my band three of my favourite musicians in London: James Allsopp on Tenor Saxophone and Bass Clarinet, Calum Gourlay on Double Bass and Joshua Blackmore on Drums. As is generally the case with these guys, they learnt the music with ease and each also added something new and amazing to the music that really brought it to life in a way that far exceeded my expectations.

Learning an album’s worth of music, to a recordable standard, in less than a month before a recording session is no easy task and I have to admit to finding it very stressful. I had many late nights practicing, and a constant, though predictable, feeling of nervousness that I might not be ‘ready’ in time. The recording session itself was in the beautiful setting of Curtis Schwartz’s brilliant studio in Ardingley, Sussex. Curtis is a studio genius: he instantly understands whatever it is that you are going for and is able to achieve it at a mouse click. Dominic Sales, Label Manager of Jellymould Jazz and all-round nice guy, also helped out by bringing us chocolate eggs (we were recording on Easter Sunday) and generally helping us to feel comfortable. The piano at the studio is lovely and it is overall a brilliant place to record.

So… to make things even more stressful for myself I had decided that we would record the album in one studio day (though time-wise this was split over two days to give us some rest in the middle). This meant recording 8, somewhat difficult, tracks within a matter of hours. It was a highly pressured situation for me (that wasn’t helped by the fact that I didn’t manage to sleep at all in the night in-between). We managed to do it and recorded an album that I think has come out really well. I must admit though that after only 2 months of writing and rehearsing the music, and just 1 day of recording I was very very ill after we finished recording. Perhaps the release of having finished meant that my body decided it could finally unleash the result of a lot of stress and sleepless nights preceeding it. Luckily though it was all worth it as I now have a second album that I’m really excited about releasing. I’ve been sitting on this music since we recorded it, and this can get very frustrating as you really just want people to hear it as soon as possible. As such it is going to be a lot of fun performing it for people at our London Jazz Festival slot this year!

Categories: miscellaneous

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  1. I am a great admirer of Sam's playing and look forward to the new CD. What a contrast between Sam's meticulous preparation and that of Fats Waller. I love the story of Fat's record label deciding they needed to hire a minder to ensure that Fats remained sober in the days leading up to a recording date and that his band was properly rehearsed. Quite why they thought Eddie Condon was up to this task is a mystery, but there followed days of drinking. On the morning of the recording Fats put together the band and hummed new tunes to them on the way to the recording. The record company complimented Condon on doing a fine job. See http://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2010/09/25/the-minor-drag-fats-waller-a-quiz/

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