Saturday, 1 September 2012

Review - Cai Marle-Garcia / David Preston / Eric Ford

As this blog post suggests, this is a review of a gig I did midweek featuring myself, guitarist David Preston and drummer Eric Ford as part of our new fusion group. We were minus saxophonist Duncan Eagles but had a wicked night performing as a trio and really fed off the great vibe at Green Note. There are some video and audio clips from various tracks that I'll be uploading over the next couple of days, so keep checking my Twitter feed / Facebook for the links!

Thanks to everyone that came down, and here are some very kind words on the night...

Review by Rob Mallows - organiser of the London Jazz Meetup and contributor to the London Jazz blog.
Cai Marle-Garcia's Miscellany at The Green Note, Camden, 29 August 2012

The stage at The Green Note is tiny, but the three-man Miscellany still came up with a big sound that pushed all the right buttons for this listener. Cai Marle-Garcia on bass, David Preston on guitar and Eric Ford on drums played a host of tight, ballsy tunes that mixed in tracks from Cai's excellent 2009 album 'Mr Ears' - such as the vivid 'Black Beast of Bolivia' plus some new tracks. Based on what I heard of the new tracks, there's something special here which needs to find its way to a wider audience. 'Untitled 2' was an outstanding track calling out for a compelling name and an .mp3 release.

Cai's bass is the heart of the group, grounding it, varying the pace and throwing out a range of grooves from jazz-rock to contemporary jazz to full-on fusion, all of them played with relish up and down the full length of the fretboard and with effects adding a great 'wah' sound for some of the funkier tracks.

He and Eric Ford on drums clearly enjoy playing together and as a rhythm unit, they're tight tight tight. In choosing David Preston to provide the melodic colour, Cai's made a wise choice - astonishing variety of guitar playing, with effective use of pedals (but never over-used!), David is the perfect counterpoint to Cai's bass playing and brought to mind a range of sounds, from Pink Floyd to Metheny maybe and, at one point, I could have sworn he was channelling John Scofield!

This band - supplemented by Duncan Eagles on saxophone on a regular basis - is a great addition to London's jazz scene and, judging by the enthusiastic reaction from the crowd at the Green Note, there's clearly demand for musicians who are willing to take up the jazz fusion mantle and re-create it for the current scene. Very impressed, and for £6, an absolute bargain.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Laurence Cottle Big Band's 'A Portrait of Jaco' review

(Live at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, August 25th 2012)

It takes a brave bass player to cover Jaco Pastorius material. It takes a world-class talent to rearrange his material for big band and perform it at Ronnie Scott's. Laurence Cottle and his big band's 'A Portrait of Jaco' managed this feat with finesse.

Cottle had the rare privilege of meeting and spending time with the late Pastorius, and his encyclopedic knowledge of Jaco's back-catalogue helped to treat the crowd to hits both famous and more obscure.

With 2012 marking the 25th anniversary of Pastorius's untimely death, the show threw Cottle's finely-honed skills as an arranger, as well as bassist, into the limelight. Opening with 'Domingo', the band then blitzed through a formidable version of 'Donna Lee' complete with Pastorius's original solo played and harmonised by the woodwind section. Cottle clearly knows Jaco's material inside-out and the delicate attention paid to riffs, stabs and flourishes would have delighted any Jaco officionado.

It's easy to forget, amongst the joy of hearing Jaco's music in such bright and emphatic form, how much work has gone into creating such an epic show. It is not only Cottle's charts that are inventive and explorative, but also the sheer skill of his bass-playing. Effortless would be the wrong word, as many of Jaco's challenging solos and bass lines require a dedicated amount of practise and perfection let alone natural ability, but Cottle's note-perfect recreations of Jaco's solo in 'Used to be a Cha Cha' and tightly swung bass line for 'Liberty City' show that he's possibly the only one truly capable of pulling off a gig of this magnitude. One addition to the show the band did here last year was a blistering rendition of 'Giant Steps', which had Cottle and band playing not only the head but also John Coltrane's original solo, and once again, Cottle's ability was showcased for all to see and hear.

Cottle's bass work was also highlighted thanks to the absence of any other harmony instrument in the band. There's no piano, synth or guitar to back the harmonic changes that regularly dance around those of the original Jaco tracks, so amongst the mayhem Cottle had plenty of space to work with. His immaculate walking lines through 'Donna Lee' were a fantastic foil for the original Jaco solo being played by the saxophones, and served the purpose not only of demonstrating another string to Cottle's considerable bow but also highlighted the genius behind the solo. Jaco's original note selection fits the changes of this jazz standard perfectly and probably represents one of the most melodic and technical pieces of improvisation in bass history.

Cottle had assembled a top-notch band to share the stage with, including longtime collaborator Nigel Hitchcock on sax and Gareth Lockrane on flutes and piccolo. Hitchcock's balance of the sensual and the intense was perfect on 'Three Views of a Secret' and Lockrane (who also weighed in with his own arrangement of 'Punk Jazz') was flawless on his featured tracks 'Used To Be A Cha Cha' and 'Reza'. Cottle and the band paid homage to the little-known album masterpiece 'Holiday For Pans', and the finale of Jaco classics 'Liberty City' and 'The Chicken' had the audience shouting for more. 

Jaco's legacy will live on in his music but it takes a special individual to be able to help bring the quality and substance of his compositions to new audiences. With the big band performing his intricate charts to a phenomenal standard, Laurence Cottle is fulfilling this role in exemplary fashion.

A shorter version of this review also appears on London Jazz. 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A week in the Far East

Hey y'all!

So I'm writing this from a hotel in Tokyo, where I'm with eclectic pop/rock group Magazine Gap as part of a 12 day tour of the Far East. In just 6 days we've played 4 gigs in 2 different countries and 4 different cities.

Firstly - what an amazing experience! We've visited Singapore, Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo so far and everything has been an experience to remember. From nice hotels, to good cuisine, efficient transport, friendly locals and of course some smoking gigs.

One thing that is so abundantly clear in this part of the world is that there is a wealth of RESPECT. Respect for others, for themselves, the environment, society. Without fail, everybody I've come across in Singapore and Japan have been courteous, kind and helpful with impeccable manners. It really is a world away from the U.K. and London, which really need to sit up and take notice of the way of life over here. It's above and beyond the standards back home and as someone that's always been naturally polite with good manners (thanks Mum), I'm absolutely loving it.

As an extension of that topic, it's amazing how much attention to detail for everything there is here. Everywhere you go is spotless; meticulously cleaned round the clock by diligent staff. Bathrooms and toilets cater for your well-being and cleanliness. Trains are regular, fast and high-tec. The 'bullet train' is something to behold, with seat aisles that rotate 180 degrees to always face in the direction of the destination and a top speed and smoothness that gets you across Japan quickly yet calmly. There is very little street litter anywhere - and in Singapore, chewing gum is banned altogether apparently. One thing's for sure...there are some stringent rules in place in this part of the world but it encourages discipline and respect and for the relatively little I've seen so far, it makes for a pleasant region.

Tomorrow I leave for the final leg of the tour in Hong Kong. We'll be playing a show on Thursday evening so that should leave some time to explore the city, I'm really looking forward to comparing it to Japan and Singapore.

Oh and I found a music shop here in Tokyo and got to have a 20 min shed on a Fodera Emperor...if I could work out the exchange rate for such a high figure, I'm sure it'd still be worth the price...maybe...


Cai x

Location:Tokyo, Japan

Thursday, 5 July 2012

An easier life?

So I just had a moment of marvel and deep thought after something I just let slip-out to my fiancee about 10 minutes ago (pipe down...):

"Man, wouldn't life be easier without the internet?"

As soon as I said it I laughed at how ridiculous it sounded. Obviously, the internet is hugely beneficial in endless ways. Getting to a location, streaming music, reading thoughts, views and reviews, staying in contact with people. The way that it has become the core of many millions of peoples' lives is a testament to how useful it is and how much we rely on it in society.

For a musician, the internet has come to be a huge part of our lives. I use my Mac to sell my music, to organise rehearsals, to practise seemingly-impossible solos, to upload videos to and watch cats falling off tables on YouTube, to maintain and update my website etc etc. The opportunities it has created for musicians all around the world have been amazing and it has, for good or bad, brought the gap between experienced high-level players and fresh, young up-and-comers much closer. In some cases you could say that there is no gap whatsoever when it comes to the ability to promote yourself or push your product (whatever it may be).

But doesn't it get exhausting sometimes? I'm sitting here having got in late from a rehearsal last night (got home at about 2am) and having woke up I turn on my iPhone to read all my emails, notifications on Twitter / Facebook and check any new texts. After dragging myself out of bed I'm then on the Mac taking part in a worthy and high energy debate on Facebook about musicians not being paid for Olympic games gigs (see here to read and sign the petition if you agree with the sentiments), updating my web site and engaging in Twitter to not only connect with people but also for the cynical, self-promoting side of social media. I know that I'll spend most of my time today tinkering with my phone,  be it Tweeting, or most definitely to find the rehearsal room in Tottenham I'll have trouble finding later.

So here it is - what if we didn't have the internet? Imagine if for a year, say, the internet was taken away. Think about musicians 20 years ago; how many hours on average did all the musicians in the world spend on a computer, or a piece of technology with the intent of self-promotion (or other internet-related musician feature)? The answer is of course zero. Were there tons of successful musicians during that period? Damn straight, of course there were, you just had to work harder. These days, musicians from semi-pro to super-successful pro have to spend a significant amount of time EVERY DAY using their smartphone or computer to help further their career, and as useful as the internet is, it can get exhausting. The feeling that if you're not tweeting / posting / commenting / downloading / liking / watching something somewhere out there, you'll miss the boat. That merry-go-round doesn't stop just because you need to go to the toilet! Wouldn't it be nice to have someone say 'Right. No internet for a year. Let's see what you can all do now'.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Getting used to a new bass and more

Hey guys!

Yesterday I excitedly picked up my new bass - a Wood & Tronics Chronos 5. It's a very, very nice instrument and probably the nicest and quickest bass I've played, let alone owned. I'm very pleased with it, even after having it for only 24 hours! It's strange because despite owning 5 string basses before this is the first one which is tuned E-C (no low B string, which is the usual vibe for 5 string basses). This opens up a whole new world of experimentation with chords, soloing and melody, though it's going to take some time to get used to the fact that all my strings have effectively moved up one and the B has disappeared; strange for an experienced bassist to say that I know but it's true!

I didn't know anything about W & T until I stumbled across this in the Bass Gallery in Camden Town here in London. If you're a bassist and you've never been there then get yourself down there - it's an unassuming looking shop on Royal College Street, housing the best of high-end basses, amps, effects units, strings, you name it, they got it. They're also incredibly nice guys and one of the luthiers, Martin Petersen, has been building his signature Sei basses for a long time now. Gorgeous instruments, though I haven't taken the plunge with one yet (I will one day).

Anyway, rambling again. W & T ( are an Italian company, and their design and goals give a little nod in the way of Fodera, if you're wondering what angle they're going for. I've not had the fortune of playing a Fodera yet myself but I honestly believe it'd be tough to hear something much better from one, simply because the tone of this is so damn gorgeous. Really cuts through, chords sound crisp and clear, the neck is unbelievably fast and the size of the neck, though comparatively low at 32 inches, is comfortable and snug (though I do have small hands...those that know me know I'm no 6 footer!). Check these guys out - and if you're lucky enough to stumble across a used one, or if you can afford a new one, try them out. This is top notch.

Coincidentally if you follow me on Twitter @caimarlegarcia , you can listen to a rough mix of a new track with the Chronos, with a little solo at the end. Take a listen and tell me what you think. This clip will be going up on my website shortly along with a video review of the bass. I got used to it a little more in preparation for the recording by having a jam with an old mate of mine, who you can also follow on Twitter @quietoutlaw. He's a Twitter fiend and a massive music / jazz buff so follow him for sure!

Enough from me for tonight, bit more practice and then sleep!


Cai x

Sunday, 30 October 2011

More on practice...

Hey y'all...

I thought seeing as I'd started a topic on practice, I'd go into a bit more detail into my current routine. It may not be for everyone and it's important to remember that as with most art-forms there's no right or wrong...what works for some doesn't for others.

For the last 4 or 5 years, I've had certain things be the staple parts of my practice diet, if you like. One of those is what I call my students the 'Spider Exercise', the classic one-finger-per-fret across all strings and in groups of 4 frets all the way up the fretboard. Doesn't matter if you're 8 or 28 (though I'm 3 years shy of that...), this exercise will get you nice and warmed up for some more musically-inspiring practice. Next, is running through the first couple of parts of the Hanon piano exercises book. You can grab this off of Amazon for a few dollars / pounds, and is a series of scale exercises running through different patterns. I tend to pick a few different key centres around the bass to test my fingers with larger and smaller spacings. For example, the first 20 or 30 exercises are all based around a C major scale. I'll run through these in a combination of a G maj scale (3rd fret E string G) and an E major scale (12th fret E string E). Again, doing this pretty much every day is all about increasing dexterity, comfortability around the fretboard and that all important muscle memory. Remember, pretty much every awesome thing that you hear in music, be it a lick, bassline or 160bpm solo, is based on a scale or a collection of scales.

I'll run through a combination of major, melodic and harmonic minor modes. If you're not sure what these are, check them out. If you've ever wondered what the hell some killing cat is playing or how they're playing it, it's a combination of chops and a vast vocabulary gained from extensive knowledge from listening, transcribing and getting their theory down. Modes fall into this category - and don't stop at major modes. Melodic minor modes are the gateway to interesting phrases and soloing!

Next I'll focus on a specific song. Usually a bassline, melody, solo, passage or phrase will have pricked my ears up and I'll have the urge to find out not just HOW to play what I've heard but WHY. If you can work out the why, then you can use the idea in your own context and put your own slant on it. If you only have the how, then you have an idea that isn't relevant to any other piece of music or moment than from where you first heard it, making it pretty much useless except as something to boost your own ego or impress others. Which can sometimes be handy, but that's not the point!

As I said in my very recent blog post, I've been revisiting John Coltrane's solo in 'Moment's Notice'. It's not a bassline, obviously, but many trail-blazers over recent decades have shown that we shouldn't think of ourselves as rooted to the instrument that we play, but as MUSICIANS. Calling myself a bassist is accurate of course but doesn't cover my composing, arranging, or transcribing infuriating-but-legendary saxophone solos. As a bassist I have specific roles and duties at specific times but it doesn't mean I shouldn't be totally prepared for and aware of everything else that's happening around me. Download this and run it through Transcribe or Robick (for iPhone / iPad users), and try and work out some of his solo. It doesn't matter if you don't dig the music, but your skill on the bass will improve because you'll be playing in ways you never thought likely on the instrument.

Other solos I've been working on recently have included a few of Hadrien Feraud's monstrous solos. This guy is a phenomenal player and his harmonic understanding is almost completely unrivalled. Try running 'Natural', 'Rumeurs' or for a more melodic solo, 'Shall we love?' through Transcribe.

Anyway enough rambling from me - have some structure to your shedding sessions, and have your bedrock of material you visit every day - it'll help with your rudiments and prepare you for whatever new challenges you throw yourself into.


Cai x

Let's get back on the horse...

Hey all!

So, it's been a really long time since I've posted on here. I've been using Twitter / Facebook continuously and it suits my musings / happenings as they usually happen in short bursts! 2011 has been a strange year so far, taking a break from my own fusion-orientated music and working on pop gigs and sessions, aside from doing lots of writing.
However, recently I've got the bug again, and have been writing and getting my chops back into shape for my newest fusion tunes and upcoming rehearsals. I'm very excited about the new direction of some of the tunes, and am generally in a better state of mind than I have been for a while.

It's funny how not being 'in the zone' to shed for hours and hours can put you off-track at times and as my man Janek Gwizdala details more eloquently over on his page and blog, it's hard to know what to focus on when practicing or writing when there always seems like there's so much to cover. Recently it's been specific solos (sax and guitar as well as bass) to help push my vocabulary and keep pushing my technical level further. One specific solo I came back to over the last week or so has been Coltrane's on 'Moment's Notice'. It doesn't matter what style you play, or the ability you're at, working out and playing through something like this will improve your vocab and skill immeasurably. As I always say to my students, speed isn't important when practicing. Clarity and playing clean is the goal. 

I'll be updating this more regularly from now on, though do follow me on Twitter to be right up-to-date. I'll be heading to Bass Day U.K. next week so stay tuned and follow me on 'caimarlegarcia' to get my thoughts on the day and checking out as much gear as possible. Tomorrow I'm picking up a new bass - so expect my next blog entry to follow this one very closely, and excitedly!

Now go download 'Moment's Notice' from iTunes, and 'Transcribe' (or 'Robick' for iPhone / iPad users). Slow it down, work out Trane's solo and reap the rewards. 


Cai x