Monday 30 April will see the culmination of a project that has taken a year to complete: recording three albums and releasing them on my own record label, V&V Music. Next week we have two concerts to celebrate – the Label launch on Friday 27 at The Forge in Camden, and a Platform 33 event on Thursday 26 at Dalston's Servant Jazz Quarters.
Platform 33 is a cross-arts showcase, where part of the deal is to talk about your work, explaining why or how you do what you do. This set me thinking - I have learnt a huge amount in the last year, and a lot of that learning was about the process: how do you actually make an album? It emerged pretty quickly that the music making was going to be a fraction of the work involved. Obviously the music is always the most important thing, something which the commercial sector seems to have forgotten, but it had to be conceived and crystallised before the decidedly unglamorous admin and organisation began.
The recordings were all completed before Christmas in the space of a few months, and the process since then has been trying to figure out what needed to be done in advance, sometimes failing, and having to learn, fast. A year ago I had no idea what mastering was, what PRS, PPL and MCPS were, why barcodes existed, or if making three albums in a year was actually practically possible. The last year was me learning all those things, and included falling asleep in mastering sessions (it turns out mastering is both fascinating and tedious), a few terrifying, near-disastrous errors, and some of the most fun I've ever had.
The musicians that I work with are always a prime motivator, and recording these albums (and in particular the big band album) has allowed me to work with, and learn from, more of the UK's great jazz musicians. Some are friends who I have played with for a very long time, like Rob Cope, who is on all three of my albums, others are players I met on the jazz scene in London, like Josh Arcoleo (whose debut album Beginnings has just come out on Edition Records), James Opstad and Alex Munk. Others are musicians I admired, who I have been lucky enough to rope in: Martin Speake, Nick Smart, Colin Towns.
Colin said that if he closed his eyes and listened to the players in my big band, he would never guess that many of them are recent graduates. I think he's right. It has been a genuine privilege to hear these musicians playing my music, and seeing them find depth in places I hadn't thought of. Please come and join us on Thursday or Friday (or both!) and at the rest of dates on the tour.
You'll be happy to know that it turns out barcodes are more important than you can realise, and making three albums in a year is definitely possible.