BBC Jazz Awards Ceremony

What a fantastic night……

First things first: I voted for Evan Parker in my category and obviously I am a sub-pimple on a pimple on the arse of his level of innovation. So it was truly ridiculous that I won – I guess I ran a better campaign……But anyway Evan doesn’t need a BBC Jazz Award to raise his profile (even though he absolutely deserves it way more than me) but I do. So I am not going to turn it down!

Anyway it was an amazing and wonderful night. This is what I wrote down the morning after and kind of takes you through it as it happened for me.

“How did I end up here? One of those moments you dream of, about to go onstage to collect a BBC Jazz Award in front of a star studded audience. But you know those other kind of dreams when you suddenly realise you are  onstage + you have forgotten to put on your trousers. In this case I was about to walk right through the audience wearing a nylon purple + tigerskin pimp suit, elvis wig, + giant medallion saying ‘Who’s the Daddy’. And at 21 stone this was definitely an end of career king.

What chain of events lead to this? Well I was nominated for the innovation award for my kids jazz show ‘Kidsamonium’ and I had chosen for the band to play the massed kazoo call + response piece from the show – in costume. There wasn’t tlme to change before going on to play so here I was going on looking truly idiotic.

Don’t get me wrong. I Iike taking risks, showing off, and being outlandish – but that doesnt mean that I don’t get nervous + start going through all the hideous ways this could fall flat on it’s arse and end up as a David Brent level cringefest. I am not at all fearless – it’s more like ‘Feel the Fear + Do it Anyway’ with me.

There was a lot of tension anyway cos’s producers were really nervous about the whole audience participation kazoo thing – how lt would come across on radio and whether there would  be drunken kazoo playing through the live Dave Brubeck satellite link. After weeks of haggllng they had still banned us from giving all 600 people a kazoo and limited us to 200 kazoos + 4 and a half minutes. which was 1 or 2 minutes less than we needed.

Through the whole negotiations I had been battling for the space to do our thing- saying  the audience will Iove it! Jazz is about pushing the boundaries and taking risks + I am nominated for innovation so let me take a risk here!! etc.

The BBC team had made lt qulte clear during the soundcheck that they were concened we’d mess up their lovely slick show. I recognised that they were under a lot of pressure.

They didn’t know that I had secretly given out another 200 kazoos to frlends who were members of the newly formed kazoo resistance front, who were briefed to hand them out when it all kicked off.

Thing was I wanted to give the producers a really kick arse performance that they would love rather than some watered down safety conscious bollocks.

But  now all that preparation phase was over and I was about to go on. I had had plenty of time to consider how bad this could be if I had miscalculated how it would go down. My mind was considerably focussed by hearing the deafening silence when one of the compere, Paul Gambacini’s, jokes died a total death in his opening monologue. (He recovered really well by the way)

But I had resolved that we just had to totally go for it + hope the audience would come with us. They had to re-record the other Scottish winner’s (the wonderful guitarist & man Martln Taylor) guitar piece due to a technical fault, and all the other bands seemed to be stretching out so I also declded ‘I’m not stressing if we go 1 minute overtime. We got do it so it works.”

So here l was at crunch moment. My name is announced. I’m on. I run down the stairs. Oh Shit! What am I doing? As I pass through the audience, Bill Wyman on my !eft Richard E Grant on my right, l hear my sister in law Cathie Rae, absolutely pissing hersel at my outfit. Something in my head screamed ‘Come On ! It’s Showtime’ I’m at the mike babbling my speech. it’s a blur, people are smiling, they are laughing, l start to get get the important thankyous in – Phil, Soph, Mum and dad ( I think) Ros at the Sage, John Cumming, Tony at Cheltenham, Gina, the kids.

Suddenly Billy Jenkins the madcap genius guitarist from my band has escaped his BBC minder and starts running  around the theatre in a flylng helmet, arms outstretched, maklng loud airplane noises, the whole band is running about – Paul Towndrow in a chicken hat, Dave “Robotuba” in full body chrome suit, Joost Buis, Byron Wallen in a judge’s wig.

I tell the audience the BBC are worried they are too mature for our music and I get the crowd to make a bunch of silly sounds and arm shapes and Wow! they are really going for it and making a huge noise. I start to think ‘It’s going to be OK’

I get on the drums. Poor Paul Gambaclni –  who had no idea what was going on- in a slightly trembling voice introduces the names of the band. And we are off.

Towndrow is playing a line on sax + the audience are belting it back some on kazoo and lots of people singing heartily.

There is this massive energy in the room, Byron plays glorious trumpet, the audience sings it back even louder, then Joost from Amsterdam plays this totally avant garde line on trombone + the audience is in hysterics.

Then we are into the drum solo. I am playing the audience in 3 sections – I point and they go ‘Hoo’ ‘Ha’ or ‘Wee’ and make silly arm shapes as I showed them in the intro. It sounds + looks absolutely nuts the whole audience making mad noises + grinning ears to ears.

It is big finish time we play the tune out and then Billy is playing ‘Hendrix on acid’ gultar while playing the piano with his arse, l am playing the drums wlth a large plastic shark then a doll baby. As agreed Billy + I start wrestling and tumble off stage.

We are all giggling + hugging like elated schoolboys I get whisked off to do photos + interviews.

It turns out I left my award on stage + Paul Gambaccllni was left there holding it……

It turns out the audience had all been getting a bit bored halfway through the second and dying for something less stuffy.

It turns our we stormed the vast majority of the audience. Fantastc feedback afterwards from loads of people….

Also fantastic that my mum, stepdad Cyril,  wife Gina, + kids Sam & Sophie were there.

Rest of night dissolved into champagne soaked blur. At one point I was jamming with all these young London players and Paul in some bar on a drum kit that was falling apart.
It ended up with Cathie, Gina, and me and a bottle of champagne back at the hotel at about 5 in the morning……

see John Fordham’s blog here:

JazzWise here:

you can hear the set on:

click listen to the latest programme (14th July 2007)

our bit is about an hour in….

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