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Blue Vanguard : Brandon Allen

Blue Vanguard Jazz Club

8th September 8.00 – 10.30 £10 (£8)

Gipsy Hill Hotel, Pinhoe, Exeter

Brandon Allen (Sax):

Born in Perth, Western Australia, Brandon has been based in London for the past 16 years. Since arriving in the UK, he has worked with a host of major names, and works regularly with the Kyle Eastwood Band, Paloma Faith, Alec Dankworth’s World Spirit, James Torme, the Alex Garnett Sextet, the Gareth Lockrane Big Band, Sax Appeal, the Clark Tracey Quartet, as well as leading his own projects, teaching, and running the Highgate Jazz Festival.


You can see video, listen to music and get further info about Brandon from his Official Website

Brandon will be accompanied by the Blue Vanguard Trio :

Craig Milverton – Keys / Al Swainger – Bass / Coach York – Drums

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Blue Vanguard : Dave O’Higgins

Blue Vanguard Jazz Club

19th May 8.00 – 10.30 £10 (£8)

Gipsy Hill Hotel, Pinhoe, Exeter

Dave O’Higgins (Sax):

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Dave played various musical instruments from the age of 7, finally settling on the saxophone. He moved from Derbyshire to London in 1983 to study music at the City University. Whilst still studying he started his own jazz quartet and began gigging with NYJO, John Dankworth & Cleo Laine, & Icelandic jazz-funk band, Mezzoforte.

Over the years Dave has won various accolades from the British Jazz Awards including Best Tenor Sax. Sketch Book (Jazzizit) is his 10th solo cd, featuring Dave alongside one of New York’s finest tenor saxophonists, Eric Alexander. Dave regularly features as a part of the Ronnie Scotts Allstars & the BBC Big Band.

Fast Foot Shuffle (Candid) & Push (Short Fuse) were conceived for the jazz dance market and have become favourites in clubs like London’s Jazz Café. The track North Station is also on compilations Brasilia Slim & Messin’ Around. Dave can be seen on many festival stages internationally performing with the breathtaking Jazzcotech Dancers.

Dave has played over the years with “everyone and their auntie” from Martin Taylor, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra & Matthew Herbert to Salif Keita. He has also done a fair amount of studio work (jingles, pop stuff, films, library) and composes & arranges for jazz ensembles of all sizes. Dave has also taught at Leeds College of Music, Goldsmiths College and acts as an external examiner for Birmingham Conservatoire.

“A stunning player in the neo-bop vein, with an apparently effortless flow of coherent ideas, beautiful time and a highly developed harmonic sense.” JAZZ GUIDE

“one of the most vigorously compelling tenor players on the UK scene, and on this wholly enjoyable, powerful album, he nods to the great saxophonists – Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Dexter Gordon chief among them – who so clearly influenced him, without unduly compromising his individuality; In the Zone is archetypal O’Higgins: unpretentious, accessible, no-nonsense acoustic jazz addressed with skillfully controlled energy.” CHRIS PARKER reviewing In the Zone (Jazzizit)

You can see video, listen to music and get further info about Dave from his Official Website

Ant will be accompanied by the Blue Vanguard Trio :

Craig Milverton – Keys / Al Swainger – Bass / Coach York – Drums

Check out podcasts from previous guests by clicking this link

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What to do with a day off…

It’s Saturday – I’ve been left unattended and don’t have a gig to get to… What shall I do with my day?

1) Teach for an hour!

a) Ask the pupil to explain how something I’d like them to do works as if I was the pupil. This based on information covered in previous lessons – I haven’t seen them for about 6 weeks so want to do some recapping without yapping endlessly myself.
b) Ask the pupil to demonstrate what they’ve just told me
c) Ask the pupil to explain what they left out or got wrong from their original explanation (based on the demonstration they’ve just given).
d) Make some suggestions of my own as to how I’d go about learning or explaining it.

Today’s approach was used for : technical exercises, individual note finding across the fingerboard, song structure & performance, scales (theory & muscle memory).

2) Play the french horn! I’ve been invited to a gathering of horn players at the beginning of Jan. This happens every year and usually I’m away or working but this year I can make it. I haven’t played since the last one I could make about three years ago but I used to play a lot when I was younger. It’s always a wonderful thing to go and play a different style of music, different disciplines are required… but maybe more on that when I’ve actually done it. In the meantime I have to learn to play again… I remember the fingering and how it works mechanically but getting the embouchure (lip muscles) back is the tricky bit. It’s also interesting to try and incorporate and adapt all the work I’ve done with the Alexander Technique to a new instrument. Perhaps because it’s such a long time since I last played my old playing habits are easier to reconsider and reprogramme than when I play every day, (i.e. with the bass).

3) Look at Ableton Live tutorials. I’m considering whether this is a workable alternative to stompbox based looping. The opportunity to include other sounds into my palette is definitely appealing. I find tutorials really boring but it’s great that they’re ‘in program’ so I can keep track of doing a small amount at a time and recap easily. Not in any rush to sort this out but a little each day is manageable.

4) Play computer games. Still hacking away at Skyrim – been playing this for a long time now… It’s a good mindless antidote to doing more intellectual stuff. I can struggle to stop doing things without getting grumpy… this seems to fool my brain into thinking it’s busy without actually requiring real resources.

5) Double bass FX. I have a gig tomorrow paying homage to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. While this is going to be based on those tunes there is obviously considerable latitude for doing something different. Massimo de Majo (who has organised this one) is a big fan of my electronic music and has asked if I can incorporate something where Jimmy Garrison takes an extended solo on the original. Normally I would use the electric bass for fx work so it’s been interesting to see what works with the upright. Tracking for pitch-shifting is noticeably less elegant but still useable and obviously the bass remains audible whichever effects are being used. I think it’ll be cool though… 🙂

6) Electric practice. I have a gig with Kick Ass Brass on Tues, a 10 piece soul band. Mostly this will be pretty straight forward for me – the whole pad is charted and I’m a good reader. There are some Tower of Power & Brecker Brothers tunes to watch out for but isolating key moments to practice carefully with a metronome mean my practice time can be as efficient as possible.

7) Write a blog post about what I’ve been doing. On the one hand this might seem a hopelessly narcissistic thing to do. On the other I find it useful to write down what I’ve been up to from time to time. Why am I doing what I’m doing? Am I actually learning anything or just going through familiar motions because they are comfortable? I don’t consciously try to vary what I do – being asked to take part in projects tends to take care of that for me. By the time I do have some time of my own I’ve usually got a backlog of ideas that I want to try out. It’s still good to check now and again anyway though.

8) Food. I get very wrapped up in things and forget to eat…

9) Remember that this in theory a day off and I’ve spent most of it working… No one will directly give me money for any of it of course, and I don’t really consider that I have been working, but it’s a key part of continuing to be asked to take part in new projects and developing as musician. The downside is that remembering to stop before I drop is really not one of my gifts…

10) Whatever seems like a good idea next!