When Hearing Becomes Listening

November 25, 2023

April 25, 2021

Isn’t it true that on so many occasions, everything seems to be competing for our attention? On the internet every outstretched hand of friendship is only there because the other hand is ready to sign you up for something!

With music online and piped into public spaces 24/7, we hear a great deal more than we actually listen to. With so much talk about our mental health, with the ease of lockdown being so slow and not at all in some parts of the world, the quality of our attention can be said to be key to our well-being. In my experience that’s true when listening to or playing music. I find it takes a conscious effort to switch from merely passive hearing to active listening, requiring a narrowing of focus.

One thing that has really helped keep me listening over the last few months is the regular gatherings of musicians at my studio, some of whom are meeting for the first time. What they inspire in each other is invariably fun, engaging and honest. It started months ago with Winter Encounters, and now we are half way through Spring Encounters (with big thanks to the Arts Council for invaluable support).

Amongst the line-ups are all kinds of ages and backgrounds, and the hope is that the brevity of the meeting encourages something more precious because it has been fleeting. These are “unplugged” sessions, and although they are beautifully edited and mixed, at the core they are glorified jam sessions that can unexpectedly move you to tears or make you laugh.

I see different aspects emerge in my own playing as I endeavour to add something purposeful to the group. No element, it seems, remains unaffected by its counterparts, and if that were not the case it would mean we weren’t truly listening to each other’s music-making.

While Spring Encounters is about presenting music as a quality product during the pandemic, it is also a celebration of how to listen.

The first three sessions (featuring singers Norma Winstone, Liane Carroll and Ayanna Witter-Johnson) are all still available on ViewStub and of course through my website. Moving forward, the Spring Encounters catalogue continues to grow with Vimeo as its home.

An unexpected triple bill happens on Sunday 2nd May, when the planets align and the Cheltenham Jazz Festival stream the duet myself and Jason Rebello were requested to make here at the studio:


Follow the link above for tickets. Tune in around 7pm for a 20 minute tribute to Chick Corea.

A wonderful series of environmental talks on the same day culminates in an online concert I was commissioned to record / film for them. To support that worthy cause go to


Our concert starts shortly after 7.30. The talks are all leading up to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow and again, it seems, to hear the calls for action are not enough, we have to really listen!

And finally, by chance, another Spring Encounter is released at 9pm the same evening:


Your ticket will be valid for three months with this.

After the concert there is a live Q&A – with myself, Cleveland Watkiss, John Turville, Asaf Sirkis and Orlando LeFleming. That might be a good time to ask me directly about any of that music you may have caught earlier in the evening. All of this was not by design – talk about competing for attention!

Until we can all meet up again at our favourite venues, please join us for one or all of these things on Sunday 2nd May!