Sunday, 28 June 2015

Phil Doleman - he's Doctor Jazz!

Aren't I lucky - here is Phil Doleman, and for the last few months, he's been my uke teacher. This song is currently my favourite; it's on Phil's CD "Phil Doleman Old Is The New New" and if I've played it once over the last few days I've played it twenty times. I love this stuff - this is great playing - and I want to play like this.

I searched for the chords online and haven't found them, so I've worked them out by ear... these are the basic chords anyway, if they are any fancier, I'll find out soon! You'll see that Phil is playing up the dusty end of the neck - of course.... but to play and sing along, the chords at the bottom end that we all know and love will suffice!

Doctor Jazz
By Joe “King” Oliver and Walter Melrose 1926

[C] Hello central [G7] give me doctor [C] jazz [G7]
[C] He's got what I [G7] need, I'll say he [C] has [C7]
[F] When the world goes wrong and [C] I've got the [A7] blues
[D7] He's the guy who makes me put on [G7] both my dancin' shoes

[C] The more I get, the [G7] more I want it [C] seems [C7]
[F] I see doctor jazz in all my [E7] dreams
When [A7] I'm in trouble bounds are mixed
[D7] He's the guy who gets me fixed
[C] Hello central [G7] give me doctor [C] jazz

Enjoy - if you need perking up, Doctor Jazz will do the trick!

Want the record? Get it here...

And if you want to catch Phil live at a uke festival, he'll be in Dublin in August for the Ukulele Hooley 2015... as will Andy Eastwood, Del Rey, and George Elmes! Also the wonderful Dead Man's Uke, Ken Middleton, Ukulele Uff and Lonesome Dave Trio and the Mersey Belles! Wow, I wish I was going.....

Friday, 26 June 2015

UFGB - If anyone asks you , "Why ukulele?" ... show them this....

And that, dear readers, is my quote of the day.... by Emerson Rogers, his response to watching this video. I know exactly what he means. Michael Adcock jamming with the lads from "Shine" (whom I mentioned with high praise in my last post) at the Ukulele Festival of Great Britain (UFGB) 2015.

Shine are from Barcelona. Fabulous band, hugely skilled and stylish, they knocked everyone out on the main stage the day after this video was shot. Michael Adcock is from Ludlow and at just 16 is beginning to make a name for himself on the ukulele scene. To see them all enjoying the festival spirit and jamming informally together is just a joy. Established musicians encouraging and jamming with talented up-and-comers - (who actually do deserve this experience, I think, with all the hard work, practice and hours they have put in... how can anyone believe that this stuff is EASY?)... the generosity of spirit and the spontaneity seen here... when people ask "Why ukulele?" ... surely this is the answer!

And did you see Ukulele Bartt joining in there? Yay! Wonderful stuff!

See Michael this weekend in Wigan! Uke@Crooke, run by Wigan Ukulele Club. He will be performing tomorrow evening, Saturday 27th June, just before the bill-topper Phil Doleman! And he'll be giving a workshop in the morning! How's that - wonderful, I say!

If you're not able to do that, well see him here at GNUF Huddersfield in May here!

Thanks for dropping in! Catch you again soon...

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

UFGB Cheltenham 2015... second post with a few pics!

Workshops. How can you attend a festival where the best players in the world are giving lessons, and not partake? That's my view, anyway. I usually take two workshops, but this year my attitude has been simply to take as many as I could afford.

So, UFGB in Cheltenham this last weekend...

Any workshop offered by James Hill is a must - he is ukulele "god" as far as I'm concerned, and such a great teacher to boot. Teaching objectives carefully broken down into a step by step progression toward achievement. It was like a dance.... he guided us effortlessly through filling in the melody gaps between given chords to working out the melody line in another song for ourselves. He guided us along, then armed with the know-how and the confidence, we made it on our own. Satisfaction guaranteed! What a great feeling!

And he signed my Little White Uke...

As did Herb Ohta Jnr! Who, if he didn't actually remember us meeting at the Kamaka factory in Honolulu last month, at least graciously pretended he did! Another lovely man... the prize to be taken away from Herb's workshop, straight after James's, was a catalogue of the finger-picking patterns taught to him by his father, Herb Ohta... it was a joy. Those magic numbers on the page, (thank goodness I did have a pen...) telling you which strings to pick with which fingers and in which order - and hearing how they sound, worked into the music. The thing now is to practice them, get them under the fingers and into the brain. Definitely worth making the effort... for as Herb told us - if you can bring yourself some magic into your music, it's a wonderful thing... if you can bring some magic into your music for others to hear, that's the best of all!

We left those workshops, Caroline and I, feeling like cats who had got the cream. Having got the cream, we headed for the beer. And the concerts.

It was impossible to see absolutely every artist. You have to have refreshment... but we saw most. The line-up was pretty impressive. In the afternoon we saw Ben Rouse, Zoe Bestel and Herb Ohta Jnr before taking a break in search of something hearty. They all showcased their own individual style, and were stupendous. Then the evening concert was everything we'd hoped it would be. The first act was at 6.00 and we missed it. You have to eat. We found seats but changed them eventually as the people in front of us were quite a nuisance with their big ipads stuck up to video, and phones glaring lights up under your nose. What a relief it was to find seats where the folk around us were content to sit quietly and watch the show! Much more civilised... there, my little rant off my chest...

We saw Tobias Elof from Denmark playing wonderful Scandinavian folk instrumentals; "Shine", a trio from Barcelona playing swing music from the 30's, Ukulele Bartt, hugely entertaining; Ryo Natayama, a brilliant young player from Japan; The Hot Potato Syncopators, who put on the most polished and comedic set that had people in stitches; and of course the massively accomplished James Hill with his wife Anne Janelle on cello. Surely a line-up that takes some beating.

I have to have a special mention for Shine. Here in the UK you can't count on a standing ovation. It takes a really special performance to get everyone off their behinds. I tell you, when these fellas finished, people leaped to their feet in their appreciation. They were just so darned GOOD! Flying fingers, oodles of style, massive enthusiasm for their music - which was of the best that the swing era produced. The folk rushed out to buy copies of their CD... I know, I was one... those CD's fairly flew off the table!

That just left the Big Busk and the afternoon back at the Norwood Arms for socialising and the open mic. So here are a few pics! I'm always too busy enjoying myself to trouble with too many photos... then afterwards I regret not taking more!

Dead Man's Uke - (the coolest duo around!) and Yours Truly

Benjamyn Rees

Caroline and myself stealing a pic with Bartt!

My favourite pic of the lot! Stealing a pic of Bartt stealing a pic..

Cootching up close for a pic with Dave Morgan of DJ Morgan Ukuleles - The Uke on the table!

with my great pal Caroline Stewart...

Michael Adcock with
Ken Middleton

and Michael on stage at the Norwood Arms!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Caroline Stewart at Ukulele Festival of Great Britain 2015

The theme of this year’s Ukulele Festival of Great Britain – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Clearly, there would be fairies. Look, I’m girlie, I like fairies, I’ve got a lovely pair of black fairy wings that I wore on a charity “Fairy Walk” one midsummer’s night… but this year I was accompanied by Caroline – and Caroline’s strictly a no-nonsense girl who would promptly have disowned me had I gone adorned in wings, ivy and flowers…. so I made the sacrifice and stuck to my Ukulele Freak tee-shirt – and on the Friday night get-together at the pub, the Norwood Arms, we held our breath and went wearing “Formby Style Rules” tees complete with George Formby photo that LSH (Long-Suffering Husband) had had printed for us. Sporting those teeshirts felt like going to a meeting for vegetarians with a placard saying “EAT MORE MEAT”. Seriously. George Formby, his banjolele and his music are viewed with varying degrees of disdain by a sizeable proportion of the ukulele-playing community in Britain. But not all, dear readers, not all. And as card-carrying members of the GFS (George Formby Society) (actually, Caroline is the Chairman, no less…) we felt compelled to fly the Formby flag.

The teeshirts raised some smiles. I think they were friendly… and in that great waiting-room for ladies, the Ladies loo, a great place for chatting while you wait your turn, a conversation with one lady revealed a great love of the Formby style… and my teeshirt was by that time concealed by my sweater, so it wasn’t prompted by that! Anyway, that evening in the pub beer garden, we gave the friendly types at our table renditions of a few Formby favourites… Window Cleaner, Blackpool Rock, Grandad’s Flannelette Nightshirt. And we felt better.

The festival was stupendous. I love it, love it, love it. The workshops, the bazaar, the concerts, yes and the Big Busk…. I’ll come back to post on all that.

For now, switch to Sunday afternoon. Back at the Norwood Arms. Open mic, strictly one song each. So Caroline went up. “Are there any fans of George Formby out there?” Oh yes, there were… they bellowed their approval. So Caroline gave them “Baby” – a song she sings and plays so very beautifully. Here it is. Played on a 1920’s Gibson soprano strung with Living Water Strings.

Went down well, didn't it! It turned out nice again.

(As ever, I missed that introduction, switching the camera on…. Pfffft!)

Saturday, 13 June 2015

A bonus at the June Convention of the GFS - Andy Eastwood pops in!

I subtitle this blog "Life for a Lady with a Ukulele or Two".... and I have to say, life is good. Counting my blessings daily. So much going on, ukulele-wise that I can't keep up with myself when it comes to blogging. Like the cow's tail, I'm all behind... and need to catch up smartish, as the UFGB (Ukulele Festival of Great Britain) takes place agin in Cheltenham at the weekend... and here I am, still reeling fromm the fun at the last George Formby Convention!

A great thrill was the surprise appearance of Andy Eastwood. Of the professional musicians to have started out as a young GFS member, Andy is the one who has achieved the most success. He is a superb musician, and wows audiences with performances on violin and wooden uke as well as his George Formby songs and banjolele instrumentals.

One of the songs he gasve us was Wunga Bunga Boo, 1938.

And as my camera had given up the ghost the last time he came, I made sure I got a photo with him this time! Shame I didn't have the Little White Uke with me.... Andy's a must for signing that!
Andy's a busy man... currently on tour with "We'll Meet Again", you can catch him here before the tour ends!

RUNCORN The Brindley
SKEGNESS Embassy Theatre
DERBY Guildhall Theatre
BLACKPOOL Viva Showbar
LYTHAM Lowther Pavilion
LINCOLN Lincoln Showground

If you haven't seen it, it's a great show - and if you have, (I have...) you'll want to see it again!

Thanks for dropping in... I'm trying to catch up, honestly I am...

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

George Elmes - Stardust

George Elmes from Dublin, "Stardust" written by Hoagy Carmichael, 1927. One of my favourite instrumentals of all time, played by one of my very favoutite players... I love Artie Shaw's clarinet solo in this piece, but to hear it played here so beautifully by George is such a joy. What more needs to be said about this? We need to see this man on the main stage at a ukefest here in England soon. When is it going to happen?

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Paul Culkin at the GFS June Convention - "My Little Skateboard"

I have so many ukulele goings-on in my life right now that I really am hard-pressed to write about them! After all, somewhere in-between, a little housework does have to be done, people have to be visited... LSH is doing his bit, he feeds me (shouts up the stairs when I'm working "Nosebag!" Reference to feeding a horse, you understand - as long as I get sustenance I'm not too fussy, though I'd draw the line at a bag of oats and a carrot...) and has been laying extra turf to narrow the flower beds so there isn't so much weeding to be done in the garden. Today I rushed in from going to see a sick relative and spent an hour chopping down the undergrowth... but it really isn't enough. Half an hour just now on serious uke practice for my lesson next week... and I'm determined to get a blog post in. So where do I start. Because a weekend at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival 2015 (May) has already been followed up by a weekend in Blackpool for the June convention of the George Formby Society.

The convention first, then. It was pretty fantastic, as usual. Never fails to please. Two solid days of music and good company in a great atmosphere. I enjoy watching everyone on stage, hate to miss a performance. The younger members, mostly still in their teens, just keep getting better and better and after only a few years playing they are all without exception among the finest Formby players in the Society. I'm thinking of Lewis Clifton, (also the society archivist and doing a fabulous job on displays), Stewart Lowther, Bradley Clarke, Angus Lamont, Francesca Davies and little James Bassett who's a well-seasoned performer at only eleven. Another young performer, Joe Thomas made his first appearance in Blackpool at just 15 years old and wowed everyone with his well-honed skills and Formby repertoire. They are amazing. We oldies still trying to acquire the skills all mutter "why do we bother..." but we still do because it's just such good fun.

As for me, I ventured on stage twice and did two numbers each time. Two songs including a Formby number (that's the Rools) and on the Sunday evening, two instrumentals. I risked Mr Sandman. Heaven knows, I've been practising it long enough... and at last I'm as confident as I'll ever be about that nasty fast chord change up the neck. And I did the Marcy Marxer version of 12th Street Rag that I posted on here (tuition video) quite some time ago. I think I got away with it. Then I get home and ask myself "Did I REALLY get up there and do that? Twice? However did I have the nerve?" But you know, it's such a lovely atmosphere and if you can play a bit you are encouraged to take your courage in both hands and just do it, get up there and give 'em a song. It feels natural to have a go. Everyone is so supportive. The thing is to learn your stuff, and everyone tries. Formby songs are not that easy to learn, (unless you're 13!)... the verses and choruses often don't conform to a pattern and you have to know where the solo fits in - but that's all part of the challenge. And that's why it feels good when you've done it.

Photo above (thanks to Gill Walley) - actually that was at the March convention, where I just tackled "Blackpool Rock" - and managed to miss out part of the solo! Oh well, it all helps to keep the band on their toes! They are brilliant - they never let a performer down, they manage to follow anyone, however dodgy their sense of timing. That's called musicality - and generosity of spirit. The GFS has it in spades. And that's why you go there once and you're hooked.

Here's Paul Culkin - enjoy!