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Monkey’s Uncle : Live at CICCIC

Monkey’s Uncle Live

“pure molasses…sweet sounds…too engrossing to think of pigeon-holing genres.”

ciccic jazz club with monkeys uncle


Ottone Caretta – Sax


Jesse Molins – Guitar


George Cooper – Keys


Al Swainger – Bass


Gary Evans – Drums



Monkey’s Uncle return to CICCIC Taunton on Friday 13th May 7.30pm – 11.00pm (£8/£7) with their programme of all original compositions.

Fran Pitt’s review from our last visit to the CICCIC :

“Al Swainger’s and Jesse Molins’ bass and guitar riffs were like catching up with a long-missed best friend…complex, uninhibited conversations on everything. Both obviously lived every note, Al silently mouthing a scat accompaniment, whilst Jesse’s grimaces looked like chewing wasps. The elegant, rangy figure of Ottone Caretta perfectly matched his lyrical and enticing sax playing, whilst the talented fingers of pianist George Cooper sensitively caressed the keys. Meanwhile Gary Evans’ sticks ‘n skins kept it all together with exceptional versatility, perfectly matching the various moods of the guys’ intricate compositions.

The evening was so toe-tapping, joint-loosening good and the atmosphere so intimate I virtually trickled off my CICCIC-trademark sofa at the end of the evening. One of the best jazz nights ever: I felt privileged to be there. And what a coup for CICCIC!”

Read the full review here :

Monkey’s Uncle – Jazz…and You Better Believe it!

“like catching up with a long-missed best friend…complex, uninhibited conversations on everything.”

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Snow Giants Press Release for UN

Snow Giants debut album is finally here!

Snow Giants First Pressing 1


Snow Giants debut album UN to be released: May 25th 2015

Join Snow Giants for a special launch event from 8pm on Monday May 25th 2015 at the Bread and Roses, Plymouth (free entry)

Coining the phrase ‘improvisational omni-fusion’, the trio draw influences from a wide range of genres including prog, rock, jazz, ambient, world music and the avant-garde.

Bassist Al Swainger spoke about the making of the album, recorded at Sound Gallery Studios, Exeter:

“We’re all passionate improvisers and love the freedom that this gives us when we play live. It seemed only natural to begin this album by recording live improvisations in the studio – resulting in about three hours of exciting new material to work with.

A great studio album is somewhat different from a great live album though. Since the recording sessions took place we’ve added layers, refined it and boiled it down into a a much more produced 45 minutes of music.

Starting with improvisations has given the tracks some really unique structures and the end results could not have been achieved any other way.”

UN can be pre-ordered at where you can also hear and download the first track, ‘SummerRain Town’


Snow Giants are:

Mike Outram – Guitar (Asaf Sirkis, Steven Wilson)

05Ric – Drums / Vocals (Gavin Harrison, Grice)

Al Swainger – Bass / Vocals & Soundscapes (solo artist, Grice)


Recorded at Sound Gallery Studios, Exeter

Mastered by Andrea Pellegrini at WHITE SOUND MASTERING STUDIO, Firenze

Cover Photo “The Visitor” by Mark Colman


For more information contact Al Swainger, 07859 027973

http://www.twitterSnow Giants@snowgiants3

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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!


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The Other Compass : Steve Lawson


I’m very pleased to say that I’ll be doing a short 3 date tour with the fabulous Steve Lawson in late November.

‘…a brilliant and visionary artist..’ Michael Manring

‘One of the best innovators in the bass community… You are a gift and I love your playing and concept.’ Leland Sklar

‘Steve Lawson is a brilliant musician. I’ve known about him and listened to him for many years. He may not be one of the most famous bassists but he is definitely one of the most talented’. – Victor Wooten

‘sensuous melodies intertwine and fall away with the intimacy of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden and the cinematic production values of Brian Eno’ Sid Smith

The dates are :

Double NeckSun 23rd Nov
Trio with Andy Williamson
St Lawrence Chapel, St Lawrence Lane, Ashburton, TQ13 7DD
Tickets £10 (£5 Concessions)
20.00 – 22.30
Mon 24th Nov
The Other Compass at Hope Hall, Exeter
Hope Hall, Hope Road, Exeter, EX2 5JN
Tickets £10 (£8 Concessions)
20.00 – 22.30
Tues 25th Nov
62 Ebrington St, Plymouth. PL4 9AF
Free Entry
20.30 – 23.00

‘…without a doubt the most free-thinking solo bass player ever to emerge from this country.’ Bass Guitar Magazine, Feb 2014

‘Lawson’s solo bass compositions include palettes of lush sonic soundscapes and layers of ambient textures which have helped to redefine the art of looping and live performance as a solo bassist.’ International Institute Of Bassists

‘Lawson’s writing and his phenomenal command of the possibilities of looping creates a compelling and surprising variety of sounds one would never imagine the bass capable of producing.’ – JazzWise Magazine

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Grice at Acoustica Festival

I’ll be appearing at Acoustica Festival this coming Fri 12th Sept 2014 with Grice at 7.00pm. We’ll be reworking some existing songs from the Propeller album as well as debuting a couple of things from the forthcoming Alexandrine. It’ll be a fairly mellow ambient set this time out but don’t expect us to hold back when needed! Fans of Richard Barbieri, Pink Floyd, Osric Tentacles, Marillion, Porcupine Tree etc will love this band 🙂

Grice – Vocals & Guitar / Al Swainger – Bass, Loops & FX

05Ric – Drums / Duncan Chave – Ableton Live

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This is what I love about… Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman brilliantly puts into words my attitude to composing, improvising and why so many of my projects turn out the way they do:

Ralph Steadman - For No Good Reason 1

“I don’t go out of my way to be professional, I go out of my way to try and make something that is as unexpected to me as it is to anyone else.”

“…simply start a drawing and it will come out the other end somehow, and I won’t know how it’s going to come out but that’s the fascination.That makes it a worthwhile pursuit. If I knew what was going to happen before I started, what would be the point of doing it? If you surprise yourself still you really can have a good trip.”

– from the documentary For No Good Reason

Ralph Steadman - For No Good Reason 2 

The forthcoming Snow Giants album comes from this place as does everything in my Pointless Beauty project. My monthly club The Other Compass is intended as a forum to experience this behaviour live – come along if you’re in the area or listen to past explorations on Soundcloud. Have fun, explore, try things out! Our society and media constantly discourages us from doing this but there’s so much to be gained by introducing a little mischief into your creative process. If you’d like some ideas on how to make a start with this attitude you might find my blog The Aware Musician helpful.

– Al Swainger


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Snow Giants Recording Update 1

On Monday 7th July we put down just over 3 hours of recorded improvisations for the forthcoming Snow Giants album. The session took place at the Sound Gallery (also home to sister project Grice). Engineered by the marvellous Duncan Chave, Ric & I are now hard at work sifting through all the material.

The process of editing, mixing, producing and (gasp) overdubbing is well underway and wonderful it all sounds too. So far 3 tracks (lasting about 20 mins in total) are pretty much there with demo versions and we’re very excited with what we have already. While we’d love to share them with you it’ll be so much better to hit you with the finished article so please be patient – it’ll be worth the wait I promise.

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New Music from The Other Compass

New track added to SoundCloud from the 8th July session of The Other Compass :

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A very mellow beginning to the 10th session of The Other Compass. This performance Al Swainger – Bass, Loops & FX / Matt Carter – Keys & Trumpet / Gemma Allen – Drums

Next session will be 12th August 2014