Saturday, November 20, 2010

Tahoe Snow

Have to notify you all that we were unable to get to Lake Tahoe for tonight's concert at the South Shore Room, Harrah's, due to massive snowfalls overnight in the passes leading to the region
from the south Bay Area. Please stay home, stay warm, and don't attempt to get there unless you're prepared to spend many, many hours in stopped traffic, have chains for your vehicle, and are hell- bent on skiing/skateboarding, and you DON'T plan to get out of there until next week!
Meanwhile, we will re-schedule this date for a more clement weather period next year, and look forward to that. I hope you're not too disappointed, and that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.
We had to find a little light relief at the prospect of being stuck for days in one of the high passes, and that our Thanksgiving dinner call would be "The Donner Party of eight - your table's ready."
Meanwhile, we're sorry to have to miss this much-anticipated gig, and we thank the folks at Harrah's for their understanding. This unexpected winter storm took us all by surprise.

Alan Gorrie, sat Nov. 20, 2010

Friday, September 17, 2010


Following on from my recent exhortations to snap up the remaining tickets for the Ronnie Scott’s week, it appears you took heed and promptly did same, giving us an unqualified success and sold-out shows every night of what turned out to be a magic week in Soho. From what I could see and hear around me, the reaction was palpable and genuinely appreciative, and the comments relayed to us by staff and other in-house functionaries seemed to be glowing and generous, to say the least.

The band had a blast, and most of the sets exceeded our projected energy level – in no small part to the instant feedback of yourselves out there in the house – and our ability to reign in our normal concert show to such an intimate space without noticeable compromise musically or sonically was more than gratifying for us, too. It’s always rather daunting to gamble that our kind of noise will translate to a venue as venerable, and therefore as under-the-microscope as that, given our audience’s demanding nature. Our fellow musicians (and sometime critics) and the club itself must measure us against the legends that have graced that hallowed stage. It seems our fears were unfounded, but we weren’t half on a bit of ‘edge’ to begin with, until we settled in to the vibe of the place and the routine of rehearsals and nightly showtimes to hone our knives to surgical keenness for the upcoming rigours of the weekend’s double-show nights.

There were a few lighthearted moments, too; on Friday’s first show, we heard repeated squawks from a table off to the right, as a besotted (and well-lubricated) fan tried gallantly, but vainly, to interject garbled outburst of lyrics to Let’s Go Round Again between much of our set – rather like one of those motorway service station rubber toys that you can wind up & shake, and out comes a strangled Elton, Elvis or Frosty The Snowman. It gave us, and a few in the house a spot of light relief from our otherwise determined and deeply-committed set, but culminated in her getting on stage, grabbing Onnie’s mic., and proceeding to launch into a moment of spontaneous karaoke on said song. Fred, our ever-coiled ‘mossad’ security-saxophonist, leapt across, took the microphone away, and gently eased her exit from stage right with an implored, “Not now, MUM”, to the audience which gave a potentially difficult moment a light touch while we regrouped to perform the much-desired piece itself.

A standout memory from Wednesday night was the welcome reunion with old friend Jim Mullen who sat in for the end of the set with us, and played some spine-tingling guitar on Put It Where You Want It. Jim and I first met at the Blue Workshop, a mid-sixties ad hoc fortnightly jazz & blues gathering in my hometown of Perth (along with Molly Duncan & Roger Ball – later to become our ‘Dundee Horns’ – and a fledgling Robbie McIntosh, original lynchpin to the very idea of what became AWB), which saw us all delve into hitherto untried combinations of young and uninhibited ensembles, and an anything-goes approach to stuff that was mainly and patently way above our heads, but which resonated in our souls and gave us the necessary moxie to flee the coop for London one-by-one, and end up with lasting alliances and the ensuing kudos that has provided us all with a blessed existence at the heart of our, then, dreamed-of future.

Thanks again, Jim, for another magic moment for the annals, and for an obviously-thrilled house that went away with an extra story to tell. That’s what Ronnie’s is all about, as I said in my prior piece, and long may it continue to be so. Our thanks to the staff who worked their collective ass off throughout the week, ferrying vast oceans of expensive refreshments to packed houses without ever seeming to get in our sight-line or in our ‘zone’ during the quieter moments of the set. I think the exuberance of the somewhat-gruelling week physically (and mentally) for us was best defused in a moment of farce as we departed the club doorway for the final time at about 3am on Sunday morning, as a posse of Soho’s Finest beat cops were preparing to split up and end their weekend’s street vigil and patrol, right beside us. Their brisk move off coincided with young McIntyre bumbling down the steps to the pavement on his club exodus, his gig-clothes hanging-bag over his arm, whereupon one of the protruding coat hangers snagged the belt clip of one of the members of the constabulary as he strode off, trailing Onnie with him until the pair of them seemed to engage in a mutually-shocked surreal tango in mid Frith Street as each tried to extricate the other from their highly-unconventional entwinement. Had we all stopped howling with laughter, we might have considered the possible consequence of what must have seemed to the officer-in-question a likely attack on his personage, with who-knows-what results. Fortunately it provided a brilliant footnote to an extraordinary week of music and fun, and the ability for us to put to rest a sense that this had been a big missing piece in squaring the AWB circle back to where it all began for us – just two streets away, at the Marquee, in 1973.

As the lady would say in the Greek caff round the corner, “it was luvalee week, dahlin’, dunnit?”

Alan Gorrie, Sep.16, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010


We are coming back to London, this time to the original home of world-class jazz and blues in the capital, Ronnie Scott’s, for our Soho debut. We’re booked to play the week of September 6 through 11 this summer, and the band is full of expectations and anticipation for the visit. The only previous (and unpaid) time we were on that famous stage was at a record-company do for the press launch of “Show Your Hand” in 1973, and all I can remember is a bloody hangover that lasted a week. This time, however, the gig will last a week - we will be more abstemious.

We’ve always eagerly looked forward to our many Jazz Café sojourns over the years, but there is an extra frisson of excitement to this particular pilgrimage, as it will complete a missing piece of the AWB jigsaw puzzle. Because it’s Ronnie’s, everyone is buzzing about how we can best perform as much of our musical history as possible in that week – everything we collectively love from the not-inconsiderable catalogue of hits (and misses - some of those are the best), and in which context to play them. We’re also hoping some of our muzo pals will join us through the week for spontaneous combustions and surprise guest appearances if they’re in town.

When we were mere musical ingénues and apprentices in the late Sixties and then early-Seventies London, if there was a spare fiver in the pocket, we would go to Ronnie’s to hear an Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, a Return to Forever or even a ribald late set with “The Melly” – all for a quid with an M.U. membership – and still have the means to order a ‘Spag Bog’ for that night’s meal (and probably the next day’s too; these were tough times). Of course there was Ronnie Scott himself, along with Tubby Hayes, Pete King, the other Ronnie (Ross), Bill LeSage, Harold McNair, Alan Skidmore, all of whom on a good night could hold their own against any NY squad – recordings prove my point – and of course, Ronnie’s pithy and witty delivery introducing his peerless performers was some of the best stand-up in town. A shrine to an everlasting and continuing musical legacy, of which we’re proud to now be a part, set as it is against today’s backdrop of machine-driven and loony-looped ‘music-products’, where the pitch-rider is far more important than the pitcher.

Dinosaurs we may seem to be to some (who obviously don’t get about enough), but take a trip to BB Kings in NY City, The Birchmere in DC, or The Greek Theatre in L.A., and see what the music does to a hardened and consummately-educated ethnic audience and you will realize that this shit is timeless, irrespective of the newer names in our lineup or the ages of its protagonists (I seem to remember Blakey’s Jazz Messengers had an ever-changing name-call too, to their constant benefit). We can’t wait to stir the porridge and lay down some grooves in a few weeks. This should be an historic, and not-unemotional week for a band that flew in the face of dire warnings back in ‘72/’73 that it “couldn’t be done”. Once again, we will bloody-well do it.

If all of this reeks of hyperbole, then wear a mask and read on. I am not kidding when I say that this is undoubtedly the most committed and spirited version of AWB since the blood-rush of the original days, and that special six who took it past the winning-post first time around. A warning, though: there won’t be any tickets left after your hols. (in fact, as I write, only Mon – Wed. have many real seat choices left, and a mere sprinkling at the weekend), so get your dibs in now. It’s our sole UK event for this year, so please don’t miss a somewhat special premiere at Ronnie’s. See you all in Frith Street, Sep. 6,7,8,9 (one show each night) Sep.10, 11 (two shows each).