Farms, roofs, mountains and stuff

Don’t trust the weather forecast. If you want to know for sure when it’s going to rain, ask me; because surely enough, whenever I perform outdoors, it’s sure to rain. And so it was that this weekend at Farmfest, my band Polaroid 85 was terribly abused by the elements. Upon taking to the stage, the clouds appeared, the heavens opened, and our crowd of thoroughly delightful human beings got a total drenching. Thanks to those of you who stayed with us through the rain and the sunshine! It was a great weekend and a jolly good festival.

Polaroid 85 Farmfest megafan Polaroid 85 @ Farmfest 2014

In the few weeks before this, I had the opportunity to play all over the place with some crazy / wonderful people. One particular highlight was Othon‘s Pineal album launch party at The Garage in Highbury & Islington. This was a characteristically quirky night inspired by the wonders of ayahuasca, featuring cameo appearances from big names including Marc Almond and Ernesto Tomasini. Definitely something off the beaten track and well worth a listen. I’m also featured on the album performing a solo violin track called City Shaman.

Pineal launch show

Project Avartan took a trip to Lisbon to perform at the Museu do Oriente. Although we ended up stranded in Portugal due to flight cancellations (thank you TAP Portugal – still an unexplained cancellation and you haven’t replied to my letter), we had a smashing time soaking up the atmosphere and performing for a lovely mixed bunch of people. You can check out the compilation video here:

The Guastalla Quartet‘s Homeland Tour of Switzerland, Germany and the UK was a smash. The audiences in Bern, Karlsruhe and Norwich were incredibly friendly and receptive. We also had time to record a new live album in Boulder Studios, Bern. Watch this space for fresh recordings of Milhaud and Dvorak coming very soon! Apologies to those of you who helped fund the tour and are still expecting CDs. We haven’t forgotten! On that note, another massive thanks to everyone who made the tour possible. You are the true heroes of the music world! (P.S. commiserations to Switzerland for the World Cup…)

Guastalla Quartet in the Schwarzwald

On a final note, I’ve hooked up with young and funky company Gather.ly in pursuit of some exciting collaborative projects. I’m over the moon to be working with the formidably talented The Last Skeptik. We have no idea what we’re going to come up with, but that’s half the fun. If you don’t know him, you ought to check him ought immediately! Massive beats, beautiful textures and most importantly, a clear love of music. Here’s a little snap and brief clip from a rooftop meeting with Gather.ly recently. That’s all for now – enjoy the sun!

John @ the Gather.ly rooftop

Feeling blog blog blog

This room is very very hot. In England, we are not accustomed to high, or low, temperatures. Therefore, please forgive the slugggggggishnessssss of this news bulletin. I’ve been silent for some time, so there’s a fair amount to get through. I’ll be as brief as slug-humanly possible!

Marie Schreer and I have been busy all over the place with our new duo project Mainly Two. We’ve performed a total of six concerts in two countries, a radio broadcast and a recording session. We had an amazing time in the Puglia region of Italy, where one Enzo Bellomo was our local composer and tour manager. We’ve also débuted numerous works in the V&A’s Norfolk House Music Room and architect Zaha Hadid’s very own gallery in Central London. After a shatteringly long recording session yesterday at Konk Studios, we’re taking a break from performing to plan the releases of our first couple of albums. Here’s a video from one of the concerts of one work by Finnish composer, Tomi Räisänen.

I gave my first performance in an Indian music setting in early May with Project Avartan, after teaming up with fantastic musicians Rekesh Chauhan and Alok Verma to create a new blend of music drawing inspiration from Indian, classical, jazz and electronic music. Our début concert was for Sampad in Wolverhampton. We’re off to Lisbon in a couple of weeks to play at the Museu do Oriente. Here are a couple of clips from the gig.

I also joined M.o.o.K (Music of our Kind) on stage for the first time on May 24th at Union Chapel, always a great place to play. This is a really unusual group, featuring a mixed bag of classical, jazz and world musicians, often fronted by a breathtaking Ethiopian singer. Here’s a clip of one of the tunes (I’ve got a music stand for a head).

At the end of June, I’m heading off with The Guastalla Quartet for a brief tour of Germany and Switzerland, where we’ll also be recording our second album. We’ll be giving a live concert online on June 18th, so you don’t even need to leave your house! Click here to find out more. Our first release, featuring the music of Beethoven and Shostakovich, was made available on April 6th. Click on the picture to listen and download!

The Guastalla Quartet - Live @ Konk Studios

If you’re curious as to what I actually sound like, rather than just seeing my verbal spew all over this blog, you can hear me on Hoxton Radio on the catch-up podcast talking to Tina Edwards about jazz improvisation and its linguistic aspect (10am on June 9th). It was a cooky interview with some strange musical questions and answers, and a little fiddle improv thrown in for good measure. Don’t miss it!

Live on Hoxton Radio

Another very exciting piece of news: the music which I recorded in March alongside Nikola Kovacevic, Giovanni Cacioppo and Alok Verma (collectively known as Future Ancients), for the first Boxing Yoga DVD, has been released! It’s quite surreal to hear our music accompanying the incredibly testing work-out of the Boxing-Yoga-ers, but also deeply satisfying. I’m over the moon that they decided to get me involved, and I’m happy to have sparked up an ongoing relationship with the team. There will be more to come from this collaboration! Click on the picture below to get your copy of the DVD.

Boxing Yoga DVD

If you don’t fancy paying for anything, my group Polaroid 85 has released a track called Slow Breeze, available for free download. It’s an ambient, but intense, orchestral/electronic sonic journey (or something like that)… have a listen and share if you like it.

That’s it from me! Thanks for sticking it out to the end (those of you who skipped several paragraphs – you’re only cheating yourselves, as my teachers were so fond of saying). Hope to see you at a gig /reach your ears through your speakers sometime soon. Stay safe.

We interrupt this broadcast…

… to bring you this mildly interesting (if you’re lucky) blog. I will throw one or two titbits of Garner-ian trivia your way: should they strike a chord, read on dear friend; should they fall on deaf ears, duck and avoid a fate worse than boredom.

The first such titbit is news of my recent return from the East, where I was touring with the truly smashing folks of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Zipping from one delightful audience to the next, we visited such mysterious territories as Qatar (sandy), Japan (tall), Korea (mountainous) and Taiwan (exotic). [do pay attention – there’ll be a pop quiz next blog] Particularly notable experiences included a white-knuckled desert dune trip in a super jeep, a perilous lone hike into the Bukhansan National Park, a face-to-face encounter with some NBA basketball players whilst dressed as Ali G, and veggie chicken nuggets in the backstreets of Taipei. What more could you want from life? Here are some very haphazardly selected pictures:

Hot enough to fry an egg on the pavement. Doha, Qatar

 

Bustling Shibuya, Tokyo, JapanThe Ridgeline, Bukhansan, Seoul, KoreaShilin, Night Market, Taipei, Taiwan
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back in England (rainy), I have recently released a new video with the talented Neeta Sarl, Sam Ryan and Steve Barnegren. This live cover of the song ‘Perfect Darkness’ written by Fink has already been watched over 3,000 times and shared by the artist online. It’s a wonderfully dark soulful tune by one of my favourite bands of all time. Here’s our version:

Whilst on the subject of new recordings, allow me to direct your attention towards my jazz quartet’s latest release. ‘Live at Mallord Street’ was recorded, as you may have surmised, live in Chelsea in front of a real-life genuinely 100% living audience (who seemed to have a pretty jolly evening – and indeed were still alive when they left). You can listen right here, right now, on this very page, or take a stroll over to the dedicated page to read a little more (and potentially give it a download with a donation… go on… just reach into that imaginary online purse and dig out some digital paper… keep us musicians posting irritatingly beseeching blogs… HOORAY thank you!)… Click here to head that way.

Travels in China & my Sympolin

Happy 2013! I hope your year got off to a good start and continues as you would hope.

I returned yesterday from a tour of China with the Kent Sinfonia orchestra. After two thirteen hour flights, several internal flights, innumerable coach and train journeys, I’m feeling rather wrung out. However, China is a fascinating place. We visited cities including Zigong, Foshan, Kunming, Nanning, Yibin and Shanghai and got a real flavour for some of this monumental country. Despite an obvious language barrier, the people were always full of warmth and a genuine desire to lend a helping hand. Although the cities are generally sprawling concrete jungles, we were never short of an unusual distraction, whether it was a street vendor selling bizarre foods, a market full of eastern oddities, or another example of an incredible usage of the English language (‘Stop namely to walk namely’… prizes for translation). My highlights of the tour were a trip up the Jin Mao building in Shanghai and a river boat ride in the Guilin province where we saw some breathtaking karst mountains.

Cincopa WordPress plugin

SympolinOn an equally exciting note, I have just today collected my new Hardanger fiddle hybrid violin (dubbed the ‘sympolin’)  from David Bruce Johnson at Moseley Violins. He has done a fabulous job on this experimental project; the instrument looks and sounds absolutely stunning. It has 12 strings: 4 playable and 8 sympathetic. I will be doing many concerts and recordings with this instrument in 2013. Watch this space.

Highlights already planned for my diary this year include performances and recordings of the music of Louis Mander, a collaborative venture with Rekesh Chauhan, performances with the Park Quartet and the first release from my new jazzy groovy group (unnamed as of yet). See you during the year!