David Sinclair Trio
The Brand New Heavies
So I met up with the Brand New Heavies
in Copenhagen last Thursday. What an amazing night! I watched their show at the 1,500-capacity Vega club from the mixing desk enclosure in the company of the group's PR, Sam Oxley, and their sound engineer Mark Ralph. They played brilliantly, and their new singer, Nicole Russo is a star! But what happened next really floored me.
When the gig was over, Sam, Mark and I wandered backstage to hook up with the band. As I walked into the dressing room an acoustic guitar was thrust into my hands, and before I knew it I was in the middle of a jam session - with the Brand New Heavies!!!
How cool is that? Answer: Just as cool as it ever gets, believe me.
As well as guitarist Simon Bartholomew, bass player Andrew Love Levy and Mark all playing guitar, bass and/or various percussion items we had a succession of glamorous singers on board, including not only Nicole, but also the Heavies' talented backing singer Heidi Vogel and the lovely Simone Larsen, singer with the celebrated Norwegian group D'Sound
, who were supporting the Heavies at the gig. Well, we swung through a selection of 12-bar blues with varying degrees of success (on my part), followed by impromptu versions of the Doobie Brothers' Long Train Runnin'
and La Bamba
, which morphed, as it often tends to do, into a spectacularly raucous version of Twist and Shout.
And then, just when it all seemed about to peter out, Mark started pestering me to play one of my songs. Next thing you know we were ploughing through Dusted & Rusted
, hastily adapted for acoustic guitar and bass. God knows what it sounded like, but it felt fantastic.
I guess, having heard that I was a musician as well as a journalist, the group had decided to pay me the ultimate compliment and invite me to play with them. Well, flattery will get you everywhere in this game, and believe me, I was beyond flattered. Flattened more like!
But I was genuinely impressed too, not just by their generosity of spirit, but also by their unforced enthusiasm for playing. Even after all those years on the road, and straight after a gig, when most musicians would either be out partying or holed up in their hotel bar, they were all still totally up for it. I can also tell you that to play with musicians like that, under any circumstances, is a privilege. They have such total command of their instruments that, for me, it was a bit like hitting a tennis ball with Pete Sampras.
Naturally, after it was all over, I was dishing out copies of the Dusted & Rusted CD left, right and centre. Mark, who also co-produced the Brand New Heavies' super new album, Allabouthefunk, gave me his number and suggested we meet up some time in his recording studio in London. Simone volunteered to play the CD on a show she hosts on a Norwegian radio station. And Simon said that if I wanted him to play guitar on one of my future recordings he would be happy to do it. Wow. Respect! At last!! And maybe even Big In Norway to add to the CV.
Talking of future recordings, Drew, Elizabeth and I are returning to the Stone Room with Gareth on Wednesday (23rd). We have two new songs ready to record this time, so if everything goes according to plan there will be more to add to our online repertoire in the near future.
After which, I am going to San Diego to see U2 play the first show of their World Tour. I wonder if there will be any aftershow jamming on that trip... Come to think of it, I've got a couple of riffs that The Edge just might want to get to grips with. Hey-hey-hey!
The importance of being David Sinclair
I am often asked "Are you David Sinclair?" And sometimes I have to reply "No." Or at least I have to confess that I am not the David Sinclair in question. If you are new to this blog, or unfamiliar with my website
, or still otherwise confused, you can find my biographical details here
So, David Sinclair. It's a splendid name and not one that I would change in a hurry. But it is also a surprisingly popular name. In fact, there are enough of them around to form a small masonic lodge. Who are these other David Sinclairs? There are several of them lurking in various corners of my world, but none who moves in quite such close proximity to me as the David Sinclair
who is renowned for his photographs of jazz musicians. His name seems to be permanently on the door at Ronnie Scott's, which makes it a bit awkward on the odd occasions when I phone up asking to get myself on the guest list there. Our paths have crossed several times, and it seems likely that we are distantly related, since both our families come from the north of Scotland and we are quite close in age.
I once reviewed a concert by Andy Summers for The Times
and David took the photograph which accompanied my piece. The by-line and the picture credit were thus both [separately] in the name of David Sinclair, which I thought was really rather cool, since most people who spotted this would surely have arrived at the conclusion that this Sinclair fellow must be even more talented than previously suspected. David gave me a lovely print of Andy Summers as a souvenir of that occasion, which I keep in my office. I still see David from time to time, most recently across a seriously crowded room at the launch of the new Vortex club in North London last month, when Acoustic Ladyland, featuring the sensational young jazz drummer Seb Rochford
, played an utterly blinding set.
There is a completely different author and journalist called David Sinclair
who is best known for his book The Pound
, a "biography" of the UK currency, described by one reviewer as "a timely narrative of sterling's 1,000 years of history." This David Sinclair
is, or was until recently, executive editor of the Financial Mail on Sunday
. He also, rather incredibly, used to contribute to The Times
. Not only that, but he occasionally turned his hand to writing about pop. This was before I started writing for the paper, and I was unaware of him until we were introduced at a media jolly-up somewhere in town. He suggested that I might like to insert an initial in my by-line. I haven't had the pleasure of speaking to him again. However, I did once receive a substantial payment for an article I obviously hadn't written. I eventually figured out that it should have gone to him. I wonder if he got it in the end.
However, the namesake I am most often confused with, or asked about, is David Sinclair
the musician who used to play keyboards in the group Caravan
. Convened in Canterbury in 1968, Caravan
specialised in a whimsical brand of progressive rock played in awkward time signatures. A largely ego-free bunch of English eccentrics, including David's cousin Richard Sinclair on bass and vocals, they were fondly regarded by a particularly knowing sort of 1970s rock fan. But they were never as forceful as their more celebrated contemporaries Soft Machine, and despite a couple of brushes with the lower reaches of the charts with their albums Cunning Stunts
(1975) and Blind Dog at St. Dunstan's
(1976), they remained the archetypal underground/cult band.
Again, I am roughly the same age as this David Sinclair
, but that is where the similarities end. I don't play keyboards, I have no connections with Canterbury. So far as I'm aware he has never written for The Times
. We have never met or spoken. But perhaps the most crucial divergence in our histories is that he has become known - whether by choice or otherwise - as Dave
Sinclair. So it is strange that he is the one I am most often confused with.
There are plenty of other David Sinclairs who can claim varying degrees of celebrity, including the flamenco guitarist
living in Ontario, and the former pirate radio DJ
, who was also working in Canada the last anyone heard of him. But as identity crises go, the situation could be worse. Imagine what it must be like to have been born with the name Fred West or Michael Jackson. None of my lot are mass murderers - so far as I know - or world famous superstars.... yet!
Well, we did it again, and I am delighted to report that my new song, Bouquet of Weeds,
went up on the website today. Elizabeth, Drew and I recorded it, as before, with Gareth Parton at The Stone Room on February 18, and you can now download it from www.davidsinclair.uk.com
absolutely free of charge - for the time being. A bittersweet love song which shines the spotlight on the overlooked genre of West London country-rock, Bouquet of
Weeds came together with remarkable speed soon after Dusted & Rusted
. And there is more on the way.... Stay tuned!