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Happy New Year + Prosit Neujahr 2015 + Bye Bye 2014!

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Here is to a fantastic 2015 to you all! May you be healthy, happy, successful and strong for the challenges that lay ahead for you.

A massive THANK YOU to all who supported me and my band in 2014 – it means the world to us!

LOOKING BACK AT 2014

We saw two great gigs last year – both of which blew us away and provided us with tons of inspiration – one was Lettuce and the other Snarky Puppy – really fantastic! I’ve seen a fair few gigs since the mid80s – so I’m not saying this lightly – but – Lettuce was one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. It just rocked my world!

Hopefully this energy and inspiration came across playing Funkestra gigs at tried and tested but also new venues and places: 606 Jazz Club, Boaters in Kingston, Cornbury Festival, Haslemere Fringe Festival, Real Ale and Beer Festival in Reading and Shottermill Club in Haslemere.

Thank you to Steve Pringle, Simon Carter, Graeme Taylor, Simon Allen, Paul Jordanous, Ed Jones, Robbie Robson, Simon Finch, Reuben Fowler and Andy Ross to step into the Funkestra and help us out! And, of course, always fun to have special guests like Steve Rubie, Duncan Millar and Piers Green amidst our regular line up with Mike Sturgis on drums, Eran Kendler on guitar, Rob Taggart on keys, Sid Gauld on trumpet and Rob Fowler on tenor saxophone.

Mike and myself also had the pleasure to provide the foundation for The Staxs, now in our 15th year (!) – yes really, our first gig was in December 1999! This year we performed with Mica Paris, Lulu, Noel McCoy and Gerry Beckley from America. Of course we were all very sad to see bass legend Jack Bruce go. We’ve played with him on numerous occasions and I believe he played his very last gig ever with us. He will be forever in the pantheons of great bassists who wrote ‘the book’ and laid the path for all rock bassists.

Taking inspiration from Jack I’m very much looking forward to releasing our 8th record ‘Dr. Hypenstein‘ this month. Long time collaborator Thomas Feurer and myself have been busy throughout 2014 to finish this album and several videos to go with it. Thomas is an exceptional writer and producer and has a real knack for shining light on my bass lines – something he achieves so much more than myself when I’m producing on my own. I’m really curious what you will make of this album as I’m very proud of it. Thomas and I played most of the instruments ourselves with the help of Prince and Vanguard Jazz Orchestra lead trumpet player Nick Marchione and NY ace session trombonist Michael Davis.

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Further on the recording front we’ve been back to the studio to record tracks for ‘The Time Thief‘ with Karl Vanden Bossche, Tony Remy, Fergus Gerrand, Paul Jordanous, Will Gibson, Piers Green, Karen Straw and Nick Mills. Rupert ‘Master Ears’ Christie is currently in the process of mixing the album. We are looking to release it in the autumn. It will feature both Rob Taggart on Rhodes and Dave Limina on Hammond organ and of course Mike Sturgis on drums and Eran Kendler on guitar. Special guests are Chris Hunter, Rick Margitza, Andy Snitzer and Michael B. Nelson‘s Hornheads. Michael even took some time out from his busy schedule working with Prince on his new recording to get involved in arranging the horns.

Watch my iBass interview talking about ‘The Time Thiefhere.

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[From L to R: Nick Mills, Paul Jordanous, Karen Straw, Stefan Redtenbacher, Piers Green, Will Gibson]

It is also a great and special privilege to have no other other than former James Brown MD and tenor saxophonist Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis on the record. Can’t wait to play it to you.

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[‘Pee Wee’ Ellis in the studio recording ‘Walkin’, Struttin’, Strollin’]

In the summmer I had a creative ‘itch’ and I recorded a bunch of tracks that are of a jazzier nature than what I usually write for the Funkestra. I call this project ‘The Red Counts‘. A big thank you goes out to Darren Williams, Andr? Spang, Sid Gauld, Simon Allen and Anthony Kerr. I’m currently finishing of the first set of tunes called ‘A Little Book of Jazz‘ – an homage to the sounds of the Blue Note Label and Rudy Van Gelder of the early 60s. If you want to hear the work in progress click here.

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A big thank you also goes to Peter Tomasso, former MD and arranger of Shirley Bassey who arranged our ‘Deck The Halls’ for Big Band in record time and getting me out of a spot of bother. Thank you to Mads Pagsberg in Kopenhagen, Denmark and his Big Band as well as Graeme Taylor and his Hot Waffle Big Band in London for performing this arrangement with good vibes and a funky festive spirit.

Always keen to keep my hand in music education too I’ve helped out Chichester University, DIME online, Access To Music at Birmingham City University, some students from the Royal Northern and continued writing my ‘in session‘ column for the iBass magazine.

Last but certainly not least it is just fantastic to see Eran’s and my music education technology start-up KnowledgeRocks grow at a steady pace. Check out Funkestra minus one backing tracks and scrolling charts on the free KR Player for iPad. If you always wanted to play some of the Funkestra music yourself click here.

Hopefully you will enjoy my musical endeavors as much as we’ve enjoyed creating them for you. Looking forward to another funky year and of course, our 10th ANNIVERSARY of the Funkestra in the UK. I’ve a few ideas how I want to celebrate this and will keep you posted.

In the meanwhile – all the very best for 2015!

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