Hi folks, this one has been in danger of turning into a middle-aged rant!:

The hijacking  of Concentration

When I was a student (at the Guildhall, London in the early 1600’s) I divided my time between
contemporary composition and saxophone practise, a lot of it.
As a kid I had a wooden pyramid wind-up metronome but now I had bought a new-fangled digital version, with volume control, small enough to carry in my case.
As the practice rooms were a little resonant and I didn’t like wearing an earpiece, I sticky-taped the thing to my shoulder so I could play at louder volumes and walk around the room, allowing my concentration to deepen into the groove I was internally constructing over this incessant “blip blip” pulse.
In the end I would silence the device but my inner ear would trick me into still hearing and playing along with that click track, again, an act of concentration, in fact unless I got to a certain level of concentrated focus, no work of any importance was ever done.
What if that metronome also kept sending me messages from friends and family, pictures of cats and cappuccinos, all of which I simply had to respond to? What if the upright piano I studied my harmony on, was equipped with a computer-window into everything else on the  planet, tempting me to surf the web every half an hour?
I’d be screwed.
I know that I would have faced a barrier to a most vital thing in creative endeavour, the development of concentration.
Why are there folk around that think they are going to get good enough at anything with such diluted, flimsy concentration that makes practising even for a single hour almost impossible?
With the opportunity to talk to virtually anyone, virtually, – virtually all the time, comes the necessity to reactivate and hone that most unpopular, despised and berated attribute,  that of restraining the senses. We need to block out the din, seeing ALL of it (even important stuff) as distraction, whilst working at our craft.
I am aware that many students naturally have the capacity to do this, thank God, you are better than I would have been!
BUT…I feel that the 24 / 7 social media life that many of us share is, above all, ONE thing:
It is somebody else’s business plan.
My generation may be the last to know that NONE of what Instagram, Facebook and the others have to offer is actually necessary to sustain life on earth.
The main reason we have become hooked on it all, is very effective business / marketing planning by those who make a fortune out of our need to be distracted.
It is little different, when stuck to your phone in every “down-time” moment, to feeding an addiction to say, Mars Bars, the folks who invented them rub their hands together at our helpless neediness.
The difference now is that aspects of living, not just frivolous memes and cappuccinos, but all the most serious stuff, depend upon the same products. Very cool, but cancerous to the still, creative Soul in us,.. if you can roll with my turn of phrase.
So I would make a plea to anyone wanting to create something other than surface level imitation of all the stuff beamed at us, try turning all the toys OFF. Go and Woodshed, look here’s a picture of a shed:
Go through the mini- cold turkey and jitters, and dig deep enough to find something that is worthy of you. You are NOT somebody else’s business plan!
Slow-cook your food, slow-cook your practise, your listening, your creative writing. Use all the tech that you need like an athlete consumes nutrition, you being in charge of IT, (see what I did there.. I.T.?)  You probably won’t die.


Welcome to the new BLOG page which will incorporate bits of current news on projects I’m currently immersed in, plus some questions from students and fans.


From left to right: Jason Rebello, Yuri Goloubev, Tim Garland, Pablo Held, engineer Ronan Phelan, at Masterchord Studios

I’ve long been a fan of the BBC’s Free Thinking Festival, with its curiously diverse bunch of lively academics and artists. This March I’ve been invited to share my music and thoughts on Radio 3 as the focus of this years festival ties in with the contrasting sides of my music-making, and how they remain unified.

By now, the definition of that word JAZZ  is so multifarious as to start limiting  its usefulness altogether.
Nothing will ever take away the greatness of what we consider Jazz’s historical golden age, but it might be more accurate, in these times, to call jazz an approach we have to Music, rather than a defined genre.
Anyhow, I’ll be discussing this,  how modern composition ties in with improvisation, and music’s application within visual media circles, with Radio 3’s Sarah Walker this March. This will also be the first time my new CD Weather Walker will get an airing, due out in June.

As I get older I increasingly appreciate the mastery of younger musicians with whom I come into contact. Enter Pablo Held!  the German pianist is my latest case in point. We played together for the first time a few days ago at Masterchord Studio, (surely the best recorded piano in our fair city!). Pablo is another stellar artist whose invention just keeps pouring out!.

Yes I do sometimes wish I’d stuck with the piano!  When you are in the same room with not just Pablo but Jason Rebello (they both feature on Weather Walker along with bass virtuoso Yuri Goloubev), you leave the ivories to the big boys! Weather Walker features a string orchestra which is at times 43 players strong, in studio 1 of our famous Abbey Road Studios and its iconic sound. More on this in future news, but the journey to the albums release continues to inspire me!


How do YOU get inspired? How do you STAY inspired? This will be a recurring topic in these blogs.  Well….
What kind of question are you starting your creative project with? A good one might be “What is my “life-blood”, what gives me that surge of energy whenever I think of it or encounter it?!”
Try holding that feeling as you begin, and start from a place of energy, joy and enthusiasm. Get that feeling as a prerequisite to starting the adventure, and find others who inspire.

This blog will often feature a link to a track I find inspiring, check this out..and check in again soon! This time I’m actually going to try and keep this up!

Track of the moment:
Django Bates
Horses In Rain (with Sidsel Endresen)