Singer-songwriter festival Munich Stefan is taking the band and his artist friends to Munich, Ottobrunn.…
Purcell School hosts an evening of my music
Purcell School hosts and evening of my music. Billed as ‘Purcell Plays Jazz Funk – music by special guest Stefan Redtenbacher’ at the Watford Palace Theatre. An absolute delight and privilege.
The origin story
A while ago I was peforming for ‘The Young Drummer of the year 2023′ competition to help the good cause set up by my friend Mike Dolbear. Guitarist Carter Arrington and I had great fun to play my tune ‘Hot Jam’ with the best 10 young drummers of the competition – and yes, they can really play! Congrats to 15 year old Tyler Baker who won it – well done!
Unbeknowst to me my friend and long-standing Funkestra associate Simon Allen (saxophone) was in the crowd with a collegue from Purcell School of Music watching this exciting competition at the Lighthouse in Poole (nice theatre). Simon runs the Jazz department of this special school. The Purcell School is the oldest specialist music school in Britain for children between 10 and 18.
Simon asked me if I wanted to get involved in hosting an evening of my music with his students. Whoah! What an invitation and of course – a privilege and pleasure! A few years back I went to the Purcell school with my friend and awesome bassist Tiago Coimbra to watch an evening of music of the the mighty Laurence Cottle – master bassist, composer and arranger. As always I was blown away by the musical force that is Laurcence Cottle but also the caliber of the young musicians of the Purcell School. I recall them performing Laurence’s arrangement of ‘Donna Lee’ and both him and a young Seth Tackaberry (now internationally established bass slinger) absolutely ‘rinsing’ it. Both Tiago and I were utterly impressed and inspired by their performance. One reason more why I was really happy about Simon’s invite.
Watch my videogram about the concert HERE.
Going about the repertoire
Once Simon and I agreed on doing this for real we need to find the suitable repertoire. I’ve sent Simon my current list of small, big band and large ensemble arrangements. Feel free to download HERE. You can find many of these arrangements on my Funkstore HERE.
The different bands
There was the Year Nine group (the youngest players), the Improv Group (GSCE age), the Jazz Ensemble (6th form students) and the Big Band (including vocalists and strings).
Simon invited me for an afternoon to pop into the school to run through a few choice tunes with the four bands. Time was tight and I would have love to spend more time with all of them – as I was genuinley impressed by their enthusiam and skill level. Very inspiring!
The concert was the Watford Palace Theatre on June 28 2023. Simon and all the staff from the Purcell School and Theatre did an excellent job of putting this concert on. Of course the auditorium was packed with (proud) parents, family and friends and what a joyful experience. All the musicians played their hearts out and despite the logical challenges of ushering 4 different size bands and instruments on and off the stage it all went well. The ‘grande finale’ was to get a full set of Big Band horns, extended rhythm section, a string section and four vocalists onto the stage performing our most foot-tapping tunes, including a sing-a-long be the audience. What thrill!
Conducting? What conducting?
I’m obviously not a conductor and don’t claim to be. My comfort zone is to direct a band whilst playing my bass. Yet, of course, I have done concerts, like this one, when somebody else played bass and I acted more of a director.
At the same time, the smaller the ensemble the less I think it is necessary to ‘conduct’ them. I think it’s critical to talk to them beforehand and disuss the flow of the tune and in particular dynamics and the overall flow, including who solos when and for how long, etc. The larger the ensemble the more relevant it is to have a ‘conductor’ I reckon.
Still, it’s a different role to a classical music conductor as counting in, time-keeping, dynamics et al fall on the conductor. With a Jazz Funk band with a steady drum beat (and a drummer that counts in from a click/metronome) the time element falls by the way side. My role is more of cueing section and soloists in and out and probably most importantly dynamics in particular.
Yet for this concert it seemed that Simon and his team have done a great job preparing all musicians and by the time they’ve come to perform everybody knew what there were meant to do. I kept my ‘conducting’ role to a minimum, not least as there was very little room on stage when the large ensemble took center stage.
Me ‘conducting’ the RNCM Session orchestra performing ‘Funky Babarella’ and here the Upper Austrian Funkestra – me ‘conducting’ and playing bass at the same time for ‘Turned On’. As Simon wrote the big band intro I left him to it for the Purcell school concert.
Tune by tune
Simon asked me to talk a little about the story of each tune. I wrote down some of the thoughts that I had reading through the set-list. Of course, as ever, I probably didn’t say any of it. My mind simply doesn’t work like this, i.e. being able to recite and say things that I planned, at least not word-for-word. I’m absolutley terrible at auto-cue as I’m much more ‘reactional’ to what’s going on around me to stick to my agenda. Something to get better at, perhaps.
PANTHEON OF GREATS (Little Book of Jazz)
I’m a philosophy hack. I like a bit of Schoppenhauer, Marcus Aurelius, Aristotle, Tolke and Will Durant.
Will Durant wrote ‘The Story of Civilisation’ (11 Volumes) and ‘The Greatest Minds and Ideas of all time’ What a title? and a great book to read. In there I came across the description of ‘The Pantheon of Greats’. In the context of Jazz I imagine this Pantheon being populated by Parker, Gillespie, Monk, Miles, Pastorius, Zawinul, Shorter and so many other truly greats – and what an imaginary place to be!
REMEMBRANCE (Little Book of Jazz)
Dedicated to Remembrance Day, memorial day observed not only in the UK but in all commonwealth member states since the end of the First World War in 1919 to honour members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty.
On a more personal note – it also remembers the ‘Battle of Isonzo’ in modern day Slovenia where my great-grand mother lost her husband who fought and lost for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 12 major battles half a million Austro-Hungarian and Italian soldiers lost their lives.
I’m not known for introspective music creation – yet his was certainly one of these moments.
QUANTONOLOGY (Little Book of Jazz)
Inspired by George Gershwin’s classic ‘I Got Rhythm’ from the musical ‘Girl Crazy’ first opened in 1930. So a song that is soon a hundred years old has still the musical power to inspire new ones.
F LIKE IN SAM (Little Book of Jazz)
Well, this title makes no sense at all. I would like to explain it to you but I can’t. Originally I wanted to write a collection of Real Book type standards and went through my old manuscript papers and note books and found this traditional Be-bop Blues with the title ‘F Like In Sam’. The quirky sound of the title simply appealed to me.
THE COOKER (The Cooker)
‘The Cooker’ is the title for the next song and also the song for an album which I released in 2013 (gosh – 10 years ago).
Lee Morgan also has an album called ‘The Cooker’ – but I named the tune ‘The Cooker’ as I used to work in a music academy with an open plan office and we nicknamed the place ‘The Cooker’ as it was a place of great intensity. You know when you stepped into that room you were certain to get roasted good like a Sunday lunch.
A big thank you to my friend and trumpet player Sid Gauld, Michael B Nelson from Prince’s New Power Generation horns and also Lenny Pickett from Tower of Power who played saxophone on the original record. What a pleasure to meet one of my heroes In New York and create some music with him.
LIL JOHN WAYNE (The Time Thief)
I’m a badminton fanatic and singles is my game. There are many great players out there and one of my all time favourite badminton player is Lee Chong Wei from Malaysia.
For not good nor smart reason I combined this with my great-grand mothers love for John Wayne and next thing you know it – I had a title ‘Lil John Wayne’.
This is from the 2016 album ‘The Time Thief’ and features the fabulous Michael B Nelson and his Hornheads on the original album and arrangement.
PRECIOUS TIME (The Time Thief)
Also from the 2016 ‘The Time Thief’ album, yet again featuring my friend from Minneapolis Michael B Nelson who arranged the horn section with me.
WALKIN’ STRUTTIN’ STROLLIN’ (The Time Thief)
The final tune from ‘The Time Thief’ album in this concert. The original recording featured the legendary saxophonist and James Brown musical director – the late Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis.
The album is called ‘Time Thief’ as we all know the feeling of time passing to quickly and we have no idea where time disappears too – seemingly way to quickly.
There is a legendary New Orleans Funk band called ‘The Meters’ and they have an album called ‘Struttin’ there is also an old Jazz record by Sonny Clark called ‘Cool Struttin’ (recorded by Rudy Van Gelder [see RVG] – both albums are great and inspiring.
I wanted to have a Washington DC Go Go feel this song, influenced by artists like Trouble Funk and Chuck Brown.
SAVE MY SKIN (Little Book of Jazz)
From the album ‘A Little Book of Jazz’ from 2020. The Original title of this song is ‘Under The Skin’. Dedicated to the brilliant performance of Scarlett Johansson in the arthouse movie ‘Under the Skin’ which plays out in Scotland.
It was listed as one of the greatest films of the 21st century by the BBC and was at the same time a tremendous box office failure…
Didn’t deter me to dedicate a song to it though:-) Inspired by the legendary Horace Silver.
RVG (Little Book of Jazz)
Another dedication – this time to the legendary sound engineer Rudy van Gelder who cut many iconic albums for the Blue Note label but also Impulse, CTI and Prestige. He recorded several thousand sessions – you can say he was brilliant and prolific. If you like classic jazz albums you will have heard his creations – certainly worth a dedication.
CRANKMASTER GENERAL (The Cooker)
I’m a big fan of the Funk band Lettuce and the Soul Funk Trio Soullive. So I reached out to their guitarist Eric Krasno whose style of guitar playing I really like, To my amazement he agreed to play on this track released on the album ‘The Cooker’ A bit shout out to my friend and trumpeter from Incognito Sid Gauld who co-wrote the horn arrangement with me.
THE BELL OF SALAMANCA
During lockdown my wife started watching a Netflix series called ‘Ozarks’ and really enjoyed it. My wife wanted me to watch an episode which I did. I wasn’t impressed and said that ‘Breaking Bad’ was a lot more ground breaking and there wouldn’t be ‘Ozarks’ without ‘Breaking Bad’. This resulted us watching all the seasons of ‘Breaking Bad’ together and she really fell for the series.
It has many memorably characters Mr White aka Heisenberg, Jesse,Skyler, Gus Ring, Saul Goodman, Hank Schrader and also Hector Salamanca. A very bad man and again cartel boss without a voice who could only communicate via a bell attached to his wheelchair. I thought this was well worth a tune which I wrote with my good friend and saxophone player Andreas See who lives in Austria and recorded this with his big band The Upper Austrian Big Band.
TURNED ON (Little Black Raincloud)
My friend and fantastic vocalist Brendan Reilly wrote the next two songs. We recorded an EP quite some time ago called ‘Little Black Raincloud’. This was in 2012 – whoah – over a decade ago!
Simon Allen created the big band horn arrangement and also composed the introduction and a B section – much to my delight. He went well beyond the call of duty as you can hear. The string arrangement was written by Pete Whitfield.
HOW IT’S GONNA BE (Little Black Raincloud)
The Big Band horn arrangement is by Simon Allen and the string arrangement is by Pete Whitfield from Manchester. I’ve written many many arrangements with him and he is just brilliant.
YOU CAN’T HIDE (Falling from Insanity)
Was written by my long-standing writing partner Thomas Feurer who I met at Berklee in the mid 90s. Around the same time I also met trombonist Nichol Thomson who happened to play first trombone in the big band on the very night. ‘You can’t hide’ is an all out disco funk tune to close our show. A big thank you to my friend and trumpeter Sid Gauld who arranged the horns. The string arrangement is by Pete Whitfield.
First of all to all the wonderfully talented musicians of the Purcell School of Music; Simon Allen for inviting me and the Purcell school for putting on these concerts.
A big thank you to my writing and arranging partners Simon Allen, Sid Gauld, Pete Whitfield, Peter Tomasso, Andreas See, Thomas Feurer, Michael B Nelson and all the awesome musicians who have helped me to make my musical ideas tangible.
Last but not the very least, a big thank you to the audience and parents who support the musical education and future careers of their children.
Thank you very much and good night! Here is to many more.