from A to Bmaj7#5
…or how I escaped being a nun.
My parents were Irish (my father from Bray just outside Dublin, and my mother from Killiegh, Co. Offaly – just in case you were interested?). I was born In London and from an early age my younger sister and I were surrounded not so much by music itself as by musical instruments and stories of music. My grandmother was an opera singer and pianist, my great grandfather was a piano cabinet maker and my great great great grandfather was reputedly a Professor of Music in Madrid (Ouzley?).
Bernice and I both played the piano, though I felt she was especially talented and she was discovered to have perfect pitch. My first instrument was actually the ukelele banjo which I found fascinating when I was about 4 years old and later on, I taught myself to play the ukelele.
Beethoven, Mozart seemed incredibly romantic figures to me but I also loved the Beatles. I wanted to play the guitar for a long time but I didn’t own a decent i.e. playeable nylon strung guitar ’til I was about 13, and it was my knowledge of ukelele chords that enabled me to start playing simple tunes.
My Convent Grammar School was almost totally devoid of music. No choir, no orchestra and absolutely no pop songs. That didn’t put me off buying my first electric guitar at 14 and treating the school to obscure Marc Bolan songs accompanied by flute and bongo.
Discovering that I could only sing in a high warbly voice I realised that I had to become a lead guitarist like Jimmy Page or Eric Bell and so the path to rock ‘n’ roll began…
Well not quite, I was studying the Mickey Baker guitar method and jazz voicings and it was sometime before I discovered the minor pentatonic scale. Today, information seems so easy to get hold of but I actually played away quite happily for the first 18 months before bingo!… you mean the notes on the guitar are the same notes as on the piano…duh!
I bought a Django Reinhardt album but decided I preferred Jeff Beck and so the path to rock ‘n’ roll began again…
Actually I always felt I was torn between different styles and I was always out of step with the zeitgeist or whatever. My first pro session, an album of swing with Ivy Benson, meant the end of my social science degree. I was playing heavy rock with Painted Lady though I did introduce a John Coltrane tune into the set!!! Joined Jam Today and as punk rock took off, (this was all 1976) I got into the Allman Brothers.
I knew music was what I wanted to do and I was lucky in that opportunities presented themselves. I joined Tour de Force with my sister playing bass in 1979 and began writing songs. In 1981 I started sitting in with the Guest Stars, a jazz latin group. One day busking in Covent Garden (a Guest Stars spinoff trio), I was spotted by the producer of Rock School. Wahey!
When the Guest Stars finished in 1988, I began to create opportunities for myself. I co founded Blow the Fuse jazz club and and formed my own group. I had never thought of myself as a leader until then but it was a great space to write and develop my own pieces.
I’ve continued to play, practise, record, study, compose and write books. I?ve been inspired by guitarists like Jimi Hendrix, Mike Stern, John Scofield, Bill Frisell and guitarists I?ve played with which include Tal Farlow, Jim Mullen and John Etheridge and many other great musicians including my long term collaborator Alison Rayner.
I still find music and the guitar totally addictive. I?m really looking forward to writing some more tunes for my next album. It’s sometimes very demanding to have a career as a musician but when I’m playing at a great gig there is absolutely nothing else I’d rather be doing.