UK visit,Noel Langley, London night life...

Discussion in 'TM Lounge' started by NickD, Aug 5, 2005.

  1. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    Well, folks, my family and I got back from the UK late last night (around 9:30 PM Chicago time on August 4th). All in the entire trip was breath-taking. We got to pay personal homage to history dating back from 900 to 5000 years ago. We were overwhelmed with some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. We climbed on castle walls and descended into Welsh coal mines.

    I got to drive a car for almost two weeks. Really, driving in the UK is fine. It only took me a few hours to get used to being on the left side of the road. I did get the impression that things like lane markings and speed limit signs were more “suggestions†than hard and fast rules, and I never could quite relax on those roundabouts. I also couldn’t understand the apparent death wish of motorcyclists in the UK! The only REAL problem was the width of UK country roads. I mean a 50 mph speed limit on a road not much wider than my driveway just flat rattled me, especially when some bus came over the top of a hill in the middle of the road!

    Now, this was a family vacation, and my wife was keen to keep me away working – music or teaching, so she was a bit tough on me in that regard, but I’m glad. We all need to let go and get away now and then. However, I was able to experience some amazing memorable moments in the UK music scene and I’d like to share them here to all who would read them.

    Before I go off, I want to thank them many folks who responded to my queries on the various forums – both on the threads and with PM ‘s. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to some of you on the phone while over there. Ron Hayes and I had a lovely conversation while I was standing at the base of the final ascent to Arthur’s Peak in Edinburgh. I also have a lovely chat with Trumpet Mike as we were driving back to London. Mike, I am SOOO sorry we didn’t get to meet face to face. I was hoping you could drop by Ronnie Scott’s when Noel and I were there. Around here, a jazz club is the sort of place you can drop by, pay the cover and walk in. Man, oh man, was I mistaken in that concept with Ronnie Scott’s. I had no idea just what an incredible London hot spot it is, rivaling any pop club in the US. That is a tribute to London’s respect for jazz, but I fear it might have been problematic for you to get in Mike and the crowd was such that, even if you did, you might not have spotted me. I would be pleased to meet you, of course, and I hope to.

    I would also invite any of you to look me up if you are ever in the Chicago area. If we can find mutually agreeable times, I would love to hang out. This can’t always happen, but please give it a go.

    I had two experiences I want to share here. The first one I alluded to in my post about the jam session in Edinburgh. I wasn’t able to turn up a jam in London as was concerned I wouldn’t be able to find one. Then as we were walking back to the bus stop my son said “Dad, there’s a jazz club!†We found ourselves standing across the street from Bill Kyles place, The Jazz Bar. I checked the window and sure enough they had a Monday night jam session. My wife told me to go and let off some steam, so I did.

    There was another trumpeter there – Chris from Melbourne. He was an extremely amicable fellow and we had a terrific time chatting. He was there on holiday and had to borrow a horn from a local music store to play. I was using my pocket trumpet. It was a great session with at least 14 players sitting in! After it was all said and done, Bill invited my wife and me to come the next night. He wanted me to sit in with HIS band. This I did. The local musicians in Edinburgh, particularly the house musicians Kyle was working with (Kyle included – he plays drums) were excellent. It was a great time and I really enjoyed some private time out on the town with my wife (the kids were hanging out at the B&B).

    I most definitely want to go back to Edinburgh and PLAY – do a working performing visit, if there is an interest there. The crowds were most impressive, not only in number but in interest and courtesy to the musicians. All in all, a splendid time.

    Now, my real eye popping experience came when I got back to London. I had had several conversations with Eclipse trumpet artist, Noel Langley. Since I am a NYTC Stage 1 artist (final construction of Felix’s horns is done by Leigh of Eclipse), Noel and I wanted to get together and talk shop. We were able to do so on Wednesday night before I had to fly out (on Thursday afternoon). Again, my wife was very cool about letting me mix some music work in here. I split off from the family around 5:30 and met Noel over by the Drury Lane Theater where he plays lead on the Producers.

    First the evening. Noel showed me around the theater. It was filled with character – very old right in the thick of things. Then Noel and I adjourned to the band hang room to look at the Eclipse trumpet he plays. He showed me Leigh’s design work and then let me play it. I was operating on “holiday chops,†but this typically affects my fingers more than my lips. I’m not sure what Noel thought of my playing but he was a most gracious host. In any case, after messing with a pocket trumpet with a practice mute for 2.5 weeks, it was great to have such a magnificent instrument in my hands. I could have just sat there fussing with it for HOURS. If memory serves, after fidgeting to find my chops I played a bit of Joy Spring, S’Wonderful, Mendez Jota, a bit of Haydn and then some flat out egregious high notes. I wanted to see how well a high B-flat played on it. That has always been a troublesome note for me and My Stage 1 really plays well there. This Eclipse just rang right out. However, after a few of those, a cast member who was trying to sleep somewhere upstairs came down and very kindly asked us to back off a bit. At that point it seemed time to move on out to dinner. In any case, I can see why Leigh and Felix have hit it off. What a treat to play that horn.

    Noel did play a bit for me, and I was immediately struck by his clear tone and precise accuracy – a very warm sound. Noel is a fine player and has the track record to prove it. I had a hunch he was a heavy hitter when I heard he was the lead player on the Producers at a big London theater. I had no idea. He began rattling off film score credits (Madagascar and Die Another Day for example!) and some of the players he works with (Derek Watlkins, for example!) and I was beginning to get the picture. Now, don’t get me wrong here. Noel was every bit the humble gentleman. I was bugging him for his experiences. That is one of the things I look for when I do these side trips on vacations. It turns out I just hit the mother lode with Noel. The capper was when, again at my request to hear his work, he put some CD’s on which he was the lead player with some London big bands and Grammy award winning smooth jazz groups. That’s when I really had it. Noel is a brilliant musician in a very vibrant music scene, and that’s it. What a treat for me.

    Noel drove me all over the place down by the theater district and I got to see lots of colorful London night life. We had a sumptuous repast at a fine little Chinese restaurant he frequents. He took me to a local record store and helped me pick out some UK jazz music to listen to.

    Finally Noel took me to Ronnie Scott’s. I was thinking of going somewhere else, but this was my first trip over the Atlantic (I never made it over here with MF – just US, South America, Canada and Japan) and how could I NOT go to Ronnie Scott’s? That would be like getting to NYC for the first time and skipping The Vanguard or the Blue Note or going to Chicago and passing over the Jazz Showcase or the Green Mill. So off we went.

    Now, who was the headliner? None other than the Fox himself – Maynard Ferguson. I haven’t been able to catch up with him since Steve Wiest left the band. Just sheer dumb luck that way. Noel is a bit “connected†and as a result we were able to get in in spite of the line (queue) being about half a block long in both directions! It was SRO for us, but it was worth it. My old buddy, Dennis DiBlasio was there. It was great catching up with him. Dennis played spectacularly, as always. Noel seemed to know everyone there and had me hanging out in the band bar. It sure took me back.

    Noel also introduced me to a trumpeter from the Royal Philharmonic. He was an EXTREMELY nice fellow and also very decent and humble, even though I was agog with awe at his accomplishments at being able to hold a chair like that down. I THINK his name was Joe Aitkins, but I am very bad with names. Perhaps some of you fellows from the UK can clear that up.

    In any case the MF band played beautifully. Maynard’s chops seemed strong (he hammered one D or E-flat over double C and high G’s were plentiful), though he was content with just playing a bit. He was every bit the elder statesman and legend and was very gracious about sharing the limelight with his young musicians.

    Throughout all of this, Noel and I were talking a blue streak comparing notes about music scenes, the trumpet business and the spiritual side of making music as art. I have come to some significant conclusions.

    One is that you folks in the UK are blessed with one of the most vibrant active and appreciated music communities I have every witnessed, including NYC. I have to admit that I found myself fantasizing what it would be like to live and work there.

    Two, is that the folks I met while there were all really nice people.

    Three, is that the UK is a beautiful country – amazingly cosmopolitan and diverse.

    Finally, I felt it was a beautiful and safe place to be. My wife and family and I used the busses and tubes wherever we went – London both, Edinburgh busses and taxis. We just basked in what a wonderful country you have and what fine folks are there. Granted there have been some tough times with 7/7 and the secondary wave (we were up in Greenwich at that time), but one cannot let those extremists dictate how the rest of us have to live our lives. NO FEAR. We can’t give those people fear and as long as we don’t they will have to give up.

    Folks, check out the UK. There is culture and color everywhere and some of the finest people on the earth. Also, check out any of Noel Langley’s work. You’ll be glad you did.

    I hope this will fit in one post. If not, I’ll split it up.

    Thanks to you all.


  2. JackD

    JackD Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 30, 2003
    Manchester / London
    Glad to hear you enjoyed your stay Nick!

    Sounds like you had an awesome time with Noel - and I agree he is a phenomenal player and all around nice guy.

    I guess you met Joe Atkins (I think he's the RPO's 4th player?) - I met him once and he seemed like a very nice guy indeed (and of course a very good player!)
  3. NYTC

    NYTC Forte User

    Nov 1, 2004
    Hey Nick.
    Got any pictures?
  4. NickD

    NickD Forte User

    Dumb luck...

    As luck would have it, we went to Parliment just before I met with Noel and my wife absent-mindedly put a loose bottle of water in her bag with our Nikon in it. The camera was dripping water out of it when we pulled it out and ceased to work at all. That was a serious bummer. Also, I didn't have the camera with me up in the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh. I just flat out wasn't thinking. I'll email Bill Kyle. He had a lot of folks there and they were taking picutres madly of the jam session. He might have some.

    Sorry I didn't have better news.


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