Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Now we’re into November. The clocks have gone back so the evenings are dark. It’s wet and windy, and England’s second lockdown has recently been announced starting this Thursday. I was excited about the prospect of a series of gigs this week with Tony Jacob’s Tuxedo Jazz Orchestra. We would have each had a room to ourselves staying in Gunton Hall in Norfolk, doing concerts on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The festival had been reduced and re-formatted due to the pandemic, some new arrangements for the band had been written, and we were all looking forward to meeting and playing together for the first time since January. I had hoped we’d have managed to sneak these gigs in before the inevitable lockdown, but it wasn’t to be. The whole event has been cancelled.
I did squeeze in a few more gigs over the weekend though: A couple more gigs in Bicester Village retail outlet centre, and a concert in Riverhouse Barn Arts Centre in Walton on Thames on Sunday with three other friends. This was a New Orleans style lineup lead by trumpeter Gabriel Garrick which was inevitably a little unrehearsed but full of life. Social distancing meant the audience was quite small, but the concert was live streamed for anyone who wanted to watch.
Despite the PM’s insistence even last week that the full lockdown wouldn’t be necessary, and was the wrong course of action, he changed his mind this weekend. There’s a lot of anger and resentment across the country and within the Conservative party (with one senior MP accusing the government of ‘giving in to scientists’!). On top of this, schools and universities will be open this time round so I can’t see how the planned one month lockdown will be sufficient. We’re told the test and trace system is a shambles too which doesn't help.
Enrico Tomasso is one of the UK’s leading jazz trumpet players and an expert in the music and life of Louis Armstrong (when a child he met Louis and stayed in touch). Enrico has been putting on weekly live-streamed concerts from his front room, accompanied by pre-recorded backings by friends and colleagues. Last Friday he expanded the backing band to a six-piece line-up, in tribute to the fabulous Whitley Bay International Jazz Party that we’d have all been performing at this weekend but for the pandemic. I recorded trombone and sousaphone parts for various songs and on Friday evening Enrico added his own trumpet parts live for all to watch. A lot of work for a free live-streamed concert, but we were all pleased to be part of it.
I had to resist the urge to shout at the radio recently when an upbeat journalist in the arts told the UK how we weren’t to worry – artists are being so creative in finding other ways to connect with the public. I would say a small proportion, in desperation to do something if only for their mental health, are using the internet to put on free performances, and a handful of venues are finding ways of putting on ‘socially distanced’ events, often at a loss. In reality thousands and thousands of artists and others working in the industry who were earning a respectable living have been earning next to nothing since March.
I’m determined to use the time positively though so I’ll get back to writing and recording music, increasing my understanding and knowledge of the process if nothing else.
I’m also busy doing regular practice, particularly on the trumpet which I’m trying to bring up to a performance standard which would add yet one more ‘string to my bow’.
A booking did come in for next June, a regular annual gig I’ve done for some years now, a large open-air jazz picnic in Essex that raised thousands for charity. Although it was on the proviso that the virus didn’t once again prevent the event from happening as it did this summer.
Meanwhile the world is waiting with anticipation of the results of the USA election happening tomorrow.