I play most weeks at the Monday evening jam sessions at either the Ampleforth Arms in Risinghurst, or the Chester Arms off the Iffley Road (the Chester Arms jam is led by Jeff Young, kbd and Matty Paton, vocals).
We play well-known mid-20th-century jazz standards by people like Carmichael, Ellington, Gershwin, Jobim, Kern and Porter, and occasionally less well-known ones. The mood is constantly changing as we vary swing numbers with blues, trad jazz, ballads, bossa novas and bebop.
The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, and for anyone who’s a newcomer to jazz or to live performance it’s a marvellous place to learn.
My sax heroes are Bobby Militello, who plays (mainly alto) on the later Dave Brubeck recordings, Paul Desmond (alto) and Stan Getz (tenor). More recently I’ve discovered Scott Robinson, who is one of the few people to have recorded a CD on the old C-melody sax, and the young and upcoming Japanese star altoist Kaori Kobayashi. The older Japanese alto player Sadao Watanabe is another of my favourites.
For me, these players represent an ideal of fluency and melodic invention that I could hardly gain with a lifetime’s practice. But my solos attract appreciative comment from time to time – surprisingly, not always from people who are completely tone-deaf – so I keep working at those scales and chord sequences.
Check out the pages below for more detail about how I got into jazz and learnt to improvise – or come along to the Ampleforth Arms or the Chester Arms (check with me for exact dates) and enjoy the jam session.