Thursday, 12 December 2013

Desperate Times

It’s been a record breaking year for the Desperates.  This year, our total number of gigs reached a total of nineteen - more than any year since we started.
Fittingly, one of the gigs took place in Tavistock Town Hall - the very venue where we performed our first gig back in May 2009.  The last one this year was our third time supporting the Plymouth Santa charity run.

Concentration was in tents...

Mike wears a jumper for a bet

Tribute Band

Our fans are dedicated.  One fan turned up on Sunday with Desperate Measures tattooed on his arm:

OK, you can't read it, but it's there....

OK, OK, you're right.  The lads here aren't fans - they just used to be in a band with the same name as us.  Well, it's too late for us to change; we've just had our banner made.

Merry Christmas

Gigs are being lined up for next year - watch this space or visit our website dates page.  In the meantime, y'all have a great Christmas.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Desperate Secrets

An inside look at some of the things you might overhear the Desperates say, and even some of the strange signs they make to each other....

Code words

When I was first introduced to learning to play some jazz, it took more than a little while to understand what all the strange chords names meant, let alone play them.  But having made a bit of progress with that, it’s nice to think you can join in with other people.  That’s when you learn that jazz people aren’t normal.

For example, when jazzers talk about a chorus, they don’t mean the bit in between successive verses of a song.  They’ll say things like “Take a solo over two choruses”.  So what are you supposed to do?  Keep quiet in the verse part and solo on the middle bits?  No, what jazzers mean by ‘chorus’ is the whole caboodle, the whole tune.  Unlike normal folk, they talk about the A section, the B section and often several other letters.  So a tune consists of maybe A, followed by another A, followed by B, followed by another A.  So a tune has a ‘form’, such as AABA.
What’s worse, you might hear them talk about a verse.  “Are you doing the verse?” they might ask the vocalist.  And what they mean this time, is the bit at the front of a song that is only done once.  So for example, in “At Last”, you’ll hear some freely sung (no strict rhythm), scene-setting words: 
Then the band starts in rhythm and we are into the song “At last, my love has come along....”.  So that’s what a verse is.  But it’s not part of the chorus of course...
You know, even the Beatles did this.  You remember “Here, There and Everywhere”?  It starts “To lead a better life, I need my love to be here.....”   I bet they didn’t call it the verse though!

Even more confusing to me when I first played with a jazz enthusiast, he started talking about a “C part” for me.  What’s he talking about?  Doesn’t he realise I can play in other keys than C?  And then, slowly, from my school days, I remembered that wind instruments, trumpets and saxophones were set up in different keys.  Don’t ask me why.  I’ll leave that as your homework. So if you were to sneak a peek at the Desperates’ music stands, you might see the same tune written out in different keys on each one.  And occasionally you might hear a plaintiff voice saying “Has anyone got a spare B flat part?”
Oh, and if you hear someone talking about a vamp, they mean a simple repeating chord sequence and they are not referring to our female vocalist.  Usually.

Secret signs

Maybe you’ll see the band leader rotating his finger, or even his whole hand at a band member, usually while they are soloing.  This could well mean the band leader is thinking “What’s this guy’s name again?”
In fact, it usually means “Carry on doing that, it’s great!”

Sometimes you might notice someone tapping their head as band members are performing solos..  “Ah”, you might think, “they’ve just made mistake - it can’t be musical (this is the Desperate Measures!) - maybe they’ve realised they left the gas on at home...”
In fact they are indicating “go to the head”.  The head is the beginning of the tune - so they are telling the band to stop soloing and play the tune from the beginning, for the last time.

Maybe we should publish an ‘I Spy’ book....or Jazz Band Bingo.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

November jazz lunch

After a late night gig near Fowey on Saturday 2nd November, the following morning DMs dragged themselves from their beds to play November’s jazz lunch at the Bedford Hotel, Tavistock.  Intrepid bass player Mick Johnson reports:

“This Sunday was a sell out; 60 covers as they say in the restaurant business and we were in pretty good form (considering the winged state of the rhythm section). We had a couple of very short intermissions to rest your correspondent ‘s left hand which had seized up late in the evening the night before, necessitating a substitute electric bass. I could feel it beginning to go on a couple of occasions but avoided melt down through resting for only a few minutes or using the guitar bass. Afterwards a delightful couple came to our dining room and congratulated us; Debs and Tess in particular as they knew them from childhood, having looked after them at their house many times.

During dinner John was waxing oratorically and it then it struck me so I told the assembled company that with a few more heavy dinners in him he could pass for Winston Churchill... that did it... off he went into several impressions to the amusement of all.

We divided up the absent guitarist’s dinner between us having neglected to tell them we were one short! It was very good:  rare roast beef , yorkshires, cauliflower cheese, roast tatties and excellent swede. Which wouldn’t have suited the missing guitarist’s fat free regime at all.”


Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The band played on

Despite your usual scribe being slightly hors de combat (insert your own joke about femmes de guerre here), Desperate Measures have continued with their busy schedule through October 2013.

Sunday 6th October saw the band appear again at the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock for the regular jazz lunch, held on the first Sunday of each month.  A couple of weeks later, the band made the long trip to the wild regions of north Devon for a gig in Lymouth.

While all this was going on, the eternal quest for variety added two new tunes to the repertoire - ‘Sermonette’ and ‘You and the Night and the Music’.

Playing in a bigger venue in Lynmouth - a town hall - highlighted some PA problems for the band which, although not a problem for the audience (who were very happy with the music), created some difficulties for the band. 

There are well-known irritations for musicians in a band, such as the inebriated audience member asking a jazz band if they “know any Oasis”, or a guest vocalist handing out parts written in faint pencil, just as the lights are dimmed so that they can be in the spotlight.  Another, perhaps more common, is being unable to hear what other band members are playing - a particular problem with larger venues.  And it was the latter problem that led to some discomfort at Lynmouth.

We only have a simple PA, with limited monitoring facilities, even if the complexity of cables might give another, some experimentation may be required to improve things.  On the bright side, the experience has only served to increase the determination of the band to provide a polished performance.

Coming up this weekend (2nd/3rd November), a hard weekend for the band with an evening gig in Fowey on Saturday night, followed by the November lunchtime gig at the Bedford.

Meanwhile, your scribe continues with an enforced low-fat diet.  The other day, a girl stopped me in the street and said she’d seen me at a vegetarian party.  I thought, that’s funny, I never met herbivore.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

September in the Rain

 7th September 2013 Bicton Park Gardens

Bicton Park isn't what you might necessarily expect from a park.  As well as the usual gardens and botanical features, there is also an eclectic collection of family-centred entertainments, including playgrounds and a narrow guage railway. And a church.  Where they can have weddings. 

The church at Bicton Park

So it came to pass, that the DMs were booked to provide background music while the newlyweds and guests mingled after the ceremony for drinks and photographs before their meal.

Cherub laments booking of yet another **** jazz band
As befitted the occasion, we all wore our best bib and tucker (which according to Wkipedia are actually women's clothes?) but we were outshone as usual by the sartorial wardrobe of our drummer.

Drummer exhibits dapperness, while eating chocolate, with a normal band member for comparison
While we prepared for all this, the sun was shining and, although rain was forecast, it was decided that some of the band ought to play outside "so that the wedding party could see the band".  This led to a hasty rehearsal of semaphore, and some less polite sign language, as the rhythm section in the marquee endeavoured to hear what the front line were doing outside the marquee.  Or even see where they were.

Lonely bass player asks bar staff where everyone went
Sadly - although perhaps it was for the best - as the wedding procession processed toward the marquee, the heavens opened. Cue frantic dash of front line back into the tent...

Lemme in, it's ****** down!
Frantic re-arrangements as band leader attempts to start first tune....
Professionals that we are, the music started on time and the slightly bedraggled guests entered, moving neatly in time with Manha de Carnaval.

And at precisely three o-clock, as the meal began, we finished our last number.

We stopped for a few sandwiches kindly provided for us and began the damp process of collecting our cars and packing up and moving the kit.  A damp process which even affected your scribe's camera....

Picture of damp band members reveals Felicity's angelic aura
Next gig, back at the Bedford on October the 6th!

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Another day, another dinner

1st September 2013 and 27th August 2014

No photograph of the Desperate Diners' Club this month - you've seen enough of us tucking into our roast beef....

...but today (Sunday 1st September 2013) we returned to the Bedford Hotel for our first-Sunday-of-the-month jazz lunch outing.  We were missing our pianist Geoff and baritone player Felicity who had a prestigious gig elsewhere, so the rhythm section had to concentrate properly for a change.

We played to a packed dining room, and what we believe was an appreciative audience, many of whom had been attracted by the prospect hearing some jazz standards while they enjoyed their lunch.  And then we enjoyed our lunch where we regaled by stories of Charlie's water feature and how Guiness helped our drummer discover oysters.

The Bedford Hotel

It's been a busy couple of months for the Desperates, and we have another gig next week - making three weekends in a row.  Last week, on the Bank Holiday Monday, we were at our "home" venue, outside the Royal Oak at Meavy.  We rehearse in the parish hall there and always visit the Oak to check the quality of the beer.  And we enjoy playing there.  Even if (we hear) a few local residents don't....there's a moral about living next to a village grenn with a pub there somewhere.

On a sunny day the venue is idyllic.

Meavy village green, packed with people enjoying the cider festival, the sunshine, and Desperate Measures
Our little spot outside the pub.
Next week, we're off to the wilds of east Devon - crikey, the venue is even further than Exeter.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Diamonds Last Forever

3rd August 2013

08.30 hrs Buckfastleigh

V had hoped his retirement in a quiet Devon village would enable him to pursue his love of fine wine, skillfully-prepared food and modern jazz, although he had accepted that his interest in fast cars and might be curtailed somewhat. 
He also knew that no-one who worked for the service ever really retired.

He had received the text this morning while eating a single egg, boiled for three and a third minutes and presented in a blue porcelain egg cup with a gold band around the top. It was a very fresh, powder blue egg from Crested Cream Legbar hens owned by a still active female operative known as D, who lived in nearby Meavy.  Irritated by the interruption, he checked the text message.  One word sparked his immediate interest: diamonds.
17.00 hrs Bedford Hotel, Tavistock

The semi-professional 10-piece jazz band, Desperate Measures, met to set up their PA for a sound check in preparation for a private function.  V and D were both there.  Playing with this band provided excellent cover for their activities.  And this was another opportunity to keep an eye on the band leader, C Sing Lowe, who V knew to be a freelance wet operator.
18.30 hrs Robertson’s Restaurant and Pizzeria, Pepper Street, Tavistock

The band moved to Robertsons- apart from D, who had taken the opportunity to run a cyber intercept on Sing Lowe’s 64 GB iPhone 5, which unfortunately returned nothing but cricket scores.

V's instinctive choice of a 2003 Pomerol and 2008 Chablis caused a few raised eyebrow around the table and immediately alerted Sing Lowe who had studied the tastes of British agents.  Realising his mistake, V improvised an embellishment of his back story about his first teenage love which was based on a sanitised version of an early mission involving Kooli Tüdruk, a female Estonian spy who loved him.

Sing-Lowe cleverly turned the conversation to schooling and established which band members had received classical educations, knowing that secret services all over the world recruited such agents.  This revealed that most of the band were probably unlikely to be who they claimed to be.  V also admitted that he had scored 23% in his Maths O level, realising too late that this considerably weakened his cover story of a career in banking...

The band return to the bar in the Bedford, eyeing each other with suspicion - particularly the immaculately-dressed Linney who was overhead talking to V about a leak.
In the bar Sing Lowe picks a small seat, realising too late that his choice of shirt shows his true pedigree

CIA operative Tessa listens in to agents discussing pirates based in Penzance and what happened to the policeman they put in a unhappy lot

Yeah, well, sorry.  Silliness again.  You had to be there.  Sensible stuff now.

There was a diamond connection.  Desperate Measures were at the Bedford on Saturday to play at a Diamond Wedding celebration - a gig we were offered as a result of our Sunday lunch gigs at the hotel. This time, the usually carpeted dance floor was revealed so we had to arrange ourselves around it in a sort of L shape.

The L-shaped Boom (caption courtesy of Mick Johnson)

We started later than we had planned because, as at all wedding-related celebrations, the speeches and cake-cutting took longer than anticipated.  We therefore played our first two planned sets without a break and the dance floor provided us with an entertaining variety of dancing styles.

In our break, the celebrants’ grandson entertained the party singing a range of songs that were largely a mystery to our rather more mature ears but which were well received by those present.  So when we returned to play again, Jo pruned our planned final sets to fit the remaining hour, finishing at midnight with “Too Young” - a song with particular redolence for the happy couple.

So it was a return home in the early hours for the band - a very long day, especially for those who had to travel some distance.  So it does feel as if diamonds last forever.

See you at Meavy on Bank Holiday Monday for the Cider Festival.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Steamy Weather

A sensible blog for a change....
Steamer Quay Road in Totnes leads to a large grassy area alongside the River Dart known as Longmarsh, and it was here that the Desperates assembled on Sunday 21st July 2013, on one of the hottest days of the year.

Totnes Rotary organised the Canoe Festival
Although we were delighted that the weather was delivering a long-awaited heatwave, we were not so happy to learn that we would be playing outside (having been promised a marquee).  First task therefore was to slap on the sun cream and look for a hat.  Fortunately the nearby RNLI stand sold rather fetching caps.
The sun has got his on, and so have Tess and Rich
Second task: find some power for the PA and amps.  A noisy generator was provided which we promptly moved behind next door’s refreshment wagon.
Our space, sandwiched between, er, sandwich wagons.
We played two sets, in our alloted slots between the brass band, the magic show, the folk dancing, the Zumba dancing and the boats being raced up and down the river.
Dep. keyboard man, Tez, wisely brought his own hat.
The weather was hot but Rich and Deb are looking cool

Rich is drawn towards the ice-cream van; Jo vainly hopes for a 99
A long day for us all, and as the crowds thinned, it was with some relief we finished our second set and went home to nurse our sunburn.
Charlie and Tess give it beans
Happy beats, I got those happy beats

"I played alright."  "Yeah, well, so did I."


Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Once Upon a Time in the West Country

It was well past high noon.  The guns may not have blazed, but the sun delivered rapid-fire heat.  The air was so still that the tumbleweed had taken root.  From all around the parish, the crowds had gathered.  Cowpokes and wranglers, buckaroos and bandits, drifters and greenhorns had assembled at Shaugh Prior and walked bravely across country to Meavy, in the wildest West Country.

The parish folk camped around the saloon near the chuck wagon

The horses argued about whether a pony could really do a moonwalking dance

Local indians "Dances with Fooballers (but only from Wolverhampton)" and "Looks Strangely at Horses"

But they all were here to find out if the rumours were true.  Were the Desperados coming to town?
Yes of course they were!  At first the gathered masses were happy.  The sight of Two-Gun Tess and Dead-Eye Deborah sent a shiver down their backs, but it would be alright, Sheriff Checkshirt Charlie was there to keep order.  But when Fast-drawers Flic turned up the crowd got nervous.  They couldn’t face the music today.  The assembled masses high-tailed it out of town.

Checkshirt Charlie tries to keep order

Enough of this strained narrative!  The truth was that the Parish Plod Charity walkers had obviously arrived sooner than planned - or rather, we had been booked later than we should have been.  Unfortunately, that meant that when we started playing at 2 pm on Sunday 14th July 2013, outside the Royal Oak at Meavy, most of the walkers had walked.

But there was still an audience and the show must go on.

The band played on under the old oak tree

Even that drum box is almost smiling

A few beers were consumed, barbecue rolls consumed, we played and played.  The shadows began to lengthen, and it was time to go home.  The sun blinded the Western sky, and the tumbleweed stirred in the late afternoon breeze.
As I drove away, I think I heard a young boy cry “Dave!    .........Come back!”. 
Well, he might have said "Shane!", and it might have been in my head.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Toot Sweet

June 2nd 2013 arrived with sunny skies, bringing the coldest Spring on record to an end.  (We hope).  A beautiful day for sitting outside, listening to the gentle sounds of a blackbird singing, and quiet children's games in the neighbouring gardens.  And what's that?  Oh, someone mowing their lawn with a noisy hover machine....and now, there's the sound of an angle grinder cutting paving slabs.  The constant yapping of someone's darling little dog completes the idyllic picture....

You'd obviously be much better off listening to Desperate Measures at another jazz lunch in the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock!  Hard to believe another month has passed but there we were, accompanied only by the toots of passing steam traction engines giving attendees at the steam fair slow rides past the hotel.

This time our set up process prompted a discussion about cables with a staff member who is studying music production.

A Bedford staff member examines Tessa's coil
But our cables were tucked away this time. 

Well, it's a little bit tidier.
Now, it may be blowing our own trumpet (ha ha), but I think the band gets better every time we play here.  Confidence is growing, and we are more relaxed.  There are things we need to work on, as always, but there were some very good performances in there.

So not a long blog today, because it's the same place as the last post, and pretty much the same thing.

We'll be back at the Bedford in July, but we'll miss August.  Our calendar is filling up with a couple of new events that will appear in more detail on the web site.  And watch this space for reports on how we get on.

There always has to be a picture of our reward at this venue, so here it is:

It's a hard life
And we got our just desserts too.  Chocolate cheesecake or bread and butter pudding.  Sweet.

And so, with sun still high, we made our way home to enjoy the sounds of our gardens.  And for Debs, this meant a chance to listen to her lettuces (you had to be there).

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Another day, another dinner

May 5th 2013.  A hard day's work at Bedford Hotel is rewarded with a pleasant meal.

Our immaculately dressed drummer is mistaken for a waiter and has to serve the drinks

The restaurant was fully booked for the jazz lunch, but staggered bookings combined with delays in diners being served left us running out of tunes and energy.  Bravely, we carried on well past our scheduled end time of 2 pm.  And finally, it was a tired band that sat down to lunch at around 3.30 pm. 

Sadly there had been no time to organise photographs of us playing this time.  So you'll have to put up with just one or two pictures of our sojourn in the 'green room'.  Here's Mick asking Debs to check that his nostrils are clean.

And John the waiter hungrily contemplates his lunch
At the end of our gig, just as Charlie was doing the band name check and bringing it to an end, a keen jazz fan who had only just started her meal asked us to play Summertime.  We obliged with a tired and rather ragged rendering.  So should we try to accommodate folk coming up and asking for tunes or not?  Discussion continued over lunch.  Opinions were divided, but Charlie our leader had a clear viewpoint:

It subsequently emerged that the folk booking us for a future gig for a diamond wedding had submitted, er, a list of requests.  Here's Charlie rehearsing his outfit to satisfy the requirement.

That's him on the left I think
Yep, they want some Abba.  Anyone got a swing version of Dancing Queen?

See you next time!



Sunday, 28 April 2013

It begins to tell.....

...'round midnight, midnight...

Musician clocking off time
Our vehicles hadn't turned into pumpkins, but we were pretty tired after a long evening in Yealmpton on Saturday 27th April.  We played to help the friendly folk from Yealmpton celebrate 25 years of their twinning arrangement with Milizac in Brittany.

Les Mesures Désespérées ont joué la musique pour les personnes françaises et anglaises hier soir.
Speaking of pumpkins, do you know their favourite sport?  Squash.

We arrived at six o'clock to set up and kicked off around 7.30 while the partygoers had their meal.  To allow civilised bilingual conversation, we played a couple of low key sections.  Actually in many different keys, but...oh, well, you see what a late night does to your metaphors.  For these sections we had clarinet, bass and guitar, followed a few songs by Tessa with bass, guitar and keys.

We were then completely upstaged by the appearance of a new young french singer...

This petite chanteuse was part of a tradition of singing that seems to have evevolved in the the twinning arrangement, and there were further choral sessions during the rest of evening.

The Yealmpton Choir sing "Sloop John B"
The band can't resist joining in
More Desperate music was then played, and we were pleased to see that was well-received.

It was the best conga achieved in a Desperate audience so far!
Couple more pictures - and well done us!

Four to the bar (their usual destination)
That's not your mike, Tessa!
Next week, Sunday jazz lunch at the Bedford Hotel again.  See you there!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The Life of Pie

Following a successful day at a Wedding Fair in February at the Bedford Hotel in Tavistock, the Desperates have agreed to play for their lunch on the first Sunday of the month, for the next few months.

Today was the first - and we were greeted at the front door by the sight of a smart sign advertising the event.  Just like a proper band!

So for a jazz lunch, does the chef make it up as he goes along?  What scales does he use? 

The light and airy venue

We had access to a room to store our cases and coats... we had a nice tidy stage
The aim of these gigs for us is to give ourselves a bit of exposure, in a manner of speaking.  And it seems to be working as we are now in discussion with one of the Sunday-lunchers about another possible gig in August. The events diary for the band is filling up nicely after along quiet period since Christmas. Check out our events on our web-site!

Our audience...


As things turned out, we were a bit premature with our set.  Over-excited...  The early tunes were well received, but only by a handful of diners - and by the time it came to the end of our first set, the restaurant had filled up.  Bravely and steadfastly, we elected to plough on without a break.  They'd come for a jazz lunch and, by jingo, they were going to get it.

The hotel seemed to be happy and we were offered free soft drinks.  Strangely, most of the band seemed to prefer slightly stronger stuff.  But this time, the accompaniment was not the usual crisps from the Royal Oak, but the chance to finish off the chef's roasted compositions. 

Living the dream....