Saturday, March 23, 2013

Goin' Home.

Goin‘ Home


                                My yearly musings of gigs in Germany over the past twelve months conclude with my „end of year report“.  Different situations dictate changes in one’s life and I have long since learned that you have to change with them.  Sometimes when you just know it is time to do something different it simply means taking a deep breath and taking the plunge. After sixteen years in Germany, ten years in the same band, the financial crisis, changing audience demographics, marriage and fatherhood, I wanted to return to England.

The year began with a pub job with Rod Mason and his Hot Five in Neuss. I remember visiting the town with Bob Kerr and his Whoopee Band about twenty years ago to play at the week- long fair, the “Kirmes”. In those days a different jazz band played each night to over 300 people in the main marquee. A local band then decided to take all those nights, thereby reducing costs for the promoter. It backfired, the audience did not want it, stayed away and now the whole event is now just a memory. The pub job is a distant echo of those days, organised by the same guy. A similar job a few weeks later with the Hot Five was also another one I had done with Whoopee’s, in fact we once played for New Years Eve in the Storkshof jazz club near Dortmund. They too, like many others here now, struggle with getting customers through the door and one wonders “how long” before Euro and Fan collide.

My short time spent living in Denmark is now ten years in the past and to celebrate the event, Paul Harrison, the Yorkshire Clarinet-ist now living in Haderslev with his Danish wife Betina, invited me back for a short but gig packed tour. Paul and I have an instant musical rapore and it is always a lot of fun to be with him on stage. Denmark is a cool place in January (cool as in cold!) but to my delight I found that Paul lived near to an Indian restaurant, one of the very few in Denmark, so a good Vindaloo was just the thing. Flying from Germany to Denmark is a story itself. The game of “getting the instrument case of the ‘plane” is always a tough one. The Air Berlin check-in girl at Düsseldorf Airport told me to buy another seat for the instrument case (nearly two hundred Euros) and after asking to kindly speak to her superior she relented and said “well, check with the cabin crew if there is space onboard”. She was operating the knobs and dials on the computer to check people in - surely she should know these things?? Anyway, the case came on board and nobody said anything further.

              On the way back to Düsseldorf the instrument was passed through the security X-ray machine at Copenhagen Airport. The lady operating it said “Who owns the banjo?” Oh no, here we go again, “I do”, I replied. “My Dad used to play banjo, may I have a look at it?” she enquired. I opened the case and lifted my Pietsch MasterVox #7 ArtDeco  out. It is a stunning instrument, crafted by Norbert Pietsch in Bremen and has an ArtDeco dancer inlaid in the resonator, gold engraved metalwork, pearl, diamonds – it’s a real showpiece. She was equally impressed and explained that her Father (Jan) had a number one hit in the 1960’s with his brother (Kjeld) singing a tune called “Play a song little banjo boy”. I know this song, it is still popular in both Germany and Denmark, plus my hero George Formby had recorded it, in fact it was his very last recording. I promised to let her know next time I am in Denmark so she and her Dad could come along to see me play. I got a nice email a few days later saying she had told her Dad about the banjo and she had “Googled” me on the internet. It was nice to see the more human side of the security people at airports for a change.

                Rod Mason’s Hot Five have been making annual trips to the UK for as long as I’ve been in the band and what turned out to be the final such tour was a well planned and enjoyable trip. Ingrid, Rod’s wife and band manager, invested many hours making sure that as soon as Travelodge motels offered the “special price” they so often advertise-but seldom actually have- she was right there at the computer, credit card poised. Our concerts were mostly sold out and included Shipston on Stour, Plymouth, Hereford, Nottingham, Acle, Little Witley, Minehead, Carshalton, Wantage, Harlow, Wickham Bishop and three well organised jobs initiated by our clarinettist, Andy Leggett. I love playing to an English audience and having a chance to play my uke-banjo on a Formby number or two. I cannot do that in Germany, as George was not such a “hit” here in the Fatherland of the 1940’s!

          During the summer I had a couple of opportunities to do some more concerts with The Pasadena Roof Orchestra. I love their music, playing the arrangements and being part of a big 1920’s style dance orchestra. The management had organised a hotel room for me the night before the concert,  so I set off by train from Erkelenz, our local station, to Bern in Switzerland fully loaded with banjo case, guitar case and suitcase. The guys flew in from London the following day, having had an early start. From Bern we travelled to a small five star hotel in Thubingen, the Hotel La Casa. What a beautiful hotel, friendly and welcoming. It must be one of the nicest concerts I have had with the orchestra so far and even the 0500 start the next day for a mid-day job with the Hot Five in Solingen did not dull the experience.

         I had another chance to meet with the PRO guys in Berlin later in the year, this time to achieve a boyhood dream - singing and fronting the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. I have to say that in my twenty five years of playing professionally, this one job was the most probably one of the most rewarding. Duncan Galloway, the singing band leader/owner of the orchestra had a prior engagement and could not attend so this was my “try-out” as his understudy, live, no rehearsal, in front of a 600+ concert audience. After the first initial butterflies passed it was simply just a joy to be on stage. On the last job with them as banjo/guitar player in Ingoldstadt, Southern Germany, I met up with Ian Bateman, who was in the trombone seat. Ian is a top musician who adapts to almost any style brilliantly and was also with Rod Mason’s Hot Five 20 years ago. He now runs his Bateman Brother band.

                A special treat this year was to be invited over to the AllFrets Annual Convention in St. Louis, USA. The extra added bonus was that George Peabody, son of my banjo hero, the late, great Eddie Peabody, had agreed to attend. Flying from Frankfurt to Dallas and then on to St. Louis was stressful. The inefficient check-in system for American Airlines (even though I was two hours early and had checked in online) meant that, unbeknown to me, my suitcase did not make the flight. Coupled with having to transfer it yourself to the connecting flight at Dallas and waiting for a bag that was not there - I only just made the St. Louis flight by the skin of my teeth. Once at the hotel I had only my banjo as luggage but they had a back-up plan for such moments, so at least I could keep fresh and clean. The case turned up two days later. The standard of playing was extremely high and it was great to be re-united with some friends I had previously made on earlier trips to the States. George Peabody was a member of the audience during a special programme  I was very honoured to be part of, “The Peabody Parade”, during which friends, students and fans of the great man presented a half hour special. It was quite an emotional moment when he entered the stage and spoke about his Dad who has been gone now 42 years. Before I left I got him to sign the inside of my VegaVox 4, one that Eddie had once owned. I also got to play on a riverboat on the Mississippi. Very memorable.

                Another excellent Trombonist whom I have known and often worked for since I first moved to Germany is Joe Wulf. His band “The Gentlemen of Swing”, are mainly younger guys, all top readers and fun to be around. Joe is a real grafter for work, has a very uplifting positive outlook and his terrific band is one to watch in future. As one of “The Gentlemen” I did several memorable concerts this year including St. Goar, Remagen (just behind that remains of that famous bridge), Mayern and an overnight drive to Dresden. That one was my fault.  Sometimes a late night after a gig and then early morning start with very little sleep between just happens. The job was a wedding reception in a castle overlooking the city and was welcoming, relaxed and bathed in sunshine. We had the bass player from the Dutch Swing College Band on that job, Adrie Braat chatting about the DSC and the plan to keep the band’s name alive in the future by nurturing young Dutch jazz talent. Jazz has a future and is fun to play but it needs forward thinking or it will die out when the older generation wants to pass the mantel on - someone has to grasp that mantel. The night was rounded off by a huge firework display for the wedding guests, not the first big bangs and flashes have been seen in Dresden.

                November was life changing month for me. I finally married my sweetheart Miyuki. That was not an easy bureaucratic procedure here as we have both be married before, she is Japanese, I’m English - and we live in Germany. Everything needed translating and of course the famous German “Ordnung muß sein”. The close examination of each single word by the authorities delayed our wedding plans by six months, meaning we received our most wonderful wedding present, our beautiful daughter Kiki Mae Moyses, just a few weeks later.

The usual end of year concerts playing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and similar crowd pleasing nonsense in Kevelaer, Menden, Neukirchen, Moers, Duisburg and Düsseldorf were briefly interrupted by Ralf Wagemann’s excellent European Top 6 Concert in Gelsenkirchen. Taking part was another brilliant musician to watch for, Nils Conrad, who has styled his drum technique on the late, great Huub Jansen. Nils is fun to watch playing and is a really excellent drummer. We rounded our year out in Werne and a very long journey to Potsdam.

And so back home to England. I shall be actively looking for as many gigs as possible and it will not be easy starting over again but I have a nice solo show which is affordable for almost any club and I will enjoy playing music with my English colleagues. To my many music friends in Germany and especially my colleagues in Rod Mason’s Hot Five I say “Dankeshön und Tschuß”, thanks for the memorable times and companionship on the road. It has been a great experience but all good things come to an end. I return to England with an open calendar so if you can help me by offering me a gig, please get in touch!  I look forward to meeting you along the way. It’s nice to be home.

Sean Moyses, 2012.


<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?