Part 2: In the run-up to three album launch events Lou Beckerman and some of the instrumentalists reflect on their experience of participating in this project.
I’m writing this two days before the first launch (the stately one!) at gracious Danny House in Hurstpierpoint. It looks as though time spent publicising has been worthwhile and this event has sold out! I’m delighted as it’s also a charity fundraiser to help people with M.E. Having taken the risk of offering three different launch settings to suit varying tastes (and pockets) I’m so pleased I did.
Local newspapers and radio stations have been enormously helpful and being on-air has been fun. Their interest is not only in the album, but also in linking to my work in the community with jazz as a resource and health intervention for people with potentially limiting conditions, e.g. Parkinson’s, dementia, strokes and cancer. Two of the choirs I lead have jazz pianists Wayne McConnell and Terry Seabrook as inspirational accompanists.
The Sussex jazz community of players and followers have also shown great support (thank you!). Launch no.2 at the Unitarian Church on 7th November promises to be full of lovely Friday lunchtimers and tickets are selling in advance of the Brunswick gig (the sassy one!) at the end of this ‘mini-tour’ on the afternoon of Sunday 16th November.
Our latest rehearsal was an opportunity to welcome Björn Dahlberg on reeds for the three events, and Steve Thompson on bass for launch no.1. And as we reach another milestone since recording the album there’s been a chance for some of us to reflect how we’ve experienced this project.
‘There's been nothing 'Blue' about working on this album and subsequent tour’ says Wayne McConnell, pianist. ‘It has been so great to work with a whole host of top-notch musicians for this project. Every album, tour, and gig is a chance for me to grow as a musician. The thing that has been so great is that Lou is really an open musician, accepting and evolving. Always up for trying out our crazy ideas and indeed coming up with her own crazy ideas. It really has been a blast from start to finish and I'm very much looking forward to gigging the material and seeing how it evolves. This album will always have very special memories as it was Simon D’souza's last but one album and I’ll always be in debt to Simon for giving me a chance to play with him when I first moved to Brighton almost ten years ago. Such a pleasure to work with brilliant musicians both on the album and the various gigging formats – I am proud to have been a part of it.’
And Dan Hayman, drummer: ’This album was a joy to work on for both the content and the incredible talents of the people involved. In the sessions leading up to the studio days everything seemed to fall into place as idea after idea was effortlessly put into practice until the pieces reached their natural conclusions. I really felt that as a group we were all approaching the tunes from a similar perspective and yet still putting our own personal elements of creativity into each tune without stepping on anyone's musical toes. A thoroughly enjoyable collaboration and a nice reminder of why I got into playing music in the first place.’
Terry Pack, bassist, comments: ‘It was a real pleasure working on ‘Into the Blue’. Lou, Wayne, Dan, Simon and I met several times at Lou's to arrange and rehearse the songs. This was a collaborative process, involving all of us. The recording sessions at Quiet Money were also very enjoyable, and featured many great performances, including some beautiful playing by Simon, who was very ill by that time, not that you would know it from his contributions to the tracks. It was good to work with Merlin Shepherd, who brought his unique sound to the album, and with Ben Sarfas, who I know well from our time with The Cloggz. I’m delighted to have been part of the album, and to be part of this ongoing project.’
And some words from Susan D’souza on what she feels the project meant for her late husband, saxophonist, composer and arranger, Simon: ‘It’s been helpful for me to reflect on Simon's involvement in this album. He really appreciated having time to rehearse and get to know the others in a relaxed way and in the warmth Lou created to make the rehearsals at her home so enjoyable. The actual recording happened when things had started to get much harder for Simon in terms of playing and fatigue. I think the fact that the tunes were familiar, and the band had been rehearsing them, meant he really felt the loss of familiarity with what he had been able to do a few months and even weeks before. Speaking to Lou post-recording and her reassurance that she loved what he had done helped him. I think Simon’s playing became less frantic and more soulful in his final months of playing. ‘Skylark’ definitely has that feel.’
Personally I couldn’t have ever wished for anything better than this superb group of musicians and thoroughly lovely guys to work with – including the multi-talented James McMillan of Quiet Money Studio. So now all is on track and tuxedos and frocks are being dusted off… I’ll be keeping you posted in SJM on how it all goes. And perhaps we’ll see you there…
Lou Beckerman, vocalist.
CD available from www.loubeckermanjazz.com or as a download from Amazon, iTunes or CD Baby.
This article appeared in issue 31 of The Sussex Jazz Mag available here.