Sunday, 13 March 2016

Motown, Berry Gordy, Mary Wilson, Laurence Hobgood and Shelter From The Storm.

Its been a week. Preparing for the tour which starts this coming Wednesday, with the extraordinary and brilliant Grammy winning US pianist Laurence Hobgood, who has literally just flown in, Italian double bassist Davide Mantovani, percussionist Oli Savill and I playing at the following - Newbury, Bury St Edmunds, Liverpool, Maidstone, Oldham, and  with 4 nights at Soho Jazz at Pizza Express Dean Street and with 2 more dates at Portsmouth and Corby in early April. Its full on. Here is all the info in case you missed it

And we'll be playing this.....

And this

And all the rest of the album and a couple of new songs.

So last week was a quiet week because of all the learning, but in the middle of it I was invited to the opening night of Motown The Musical by Kathryn Kirton my radio agent, and she and I sat through the show and stood at the end clapping when the most extraordinary thing happened. Berry Gordy himself came on stage and as if that wasn't enough,  he was followed by Smokey Robinson! Everyone cheered for quite a while before we all pulled our coats over our glad rags and traipsed to the party at 100 Wardour Street which was the usual first night affair with red carpet wilting in the rain and disgruntled bouncers standing about looking morose in the cold, Soho damp night air. Inside we went.  Cocktails were clutched by TOWIE look likies and various other swish first night party lovers. "I wonder if Berry Gordy will come to this?" I mused. "If he does he'll be in the VIP area" said Kathryn, knowingly. "So will we" I said and off we marched, into said area, where I found myself standing next to an absolute Goddess of a woman whom I was pretty sure I recognised. "Do you know Jim Gavin?" I asked her. "Yes" she said. "You do his Lena Horne? I just did his Peggy Lee concert" I said, "Barb?" Yes. Hi. Its Mary, isn't it"? I said, and found myself hugging a Supreme! Honestly that could easily have been enough for me. Mary Wilson? You have to be kidding me. I got excited when my old mate from Stockport, Jelly, (now sadly in the great bar in the sky) saw Diana Ross go into McDonalds on the Kings Road with her kids. And here's me, not only standing beside, but chit chatting to, a Supreme! I remember hearing "Where Did Our Love Go" the first time Tony Blackburn played it on Radio 1 in the morning as I was preparing for school in sunny Stockport. You don't forget that intro, ever. Thats one of the great pop intros of all time.

Mary Wilson and I. I'm the one looking mad with joy.
So when Berry Gordy appeared I knew I had to seize the carpe diem moment or regret it forever. Wiggling through the surrounding hordes and bouncers and protectors I managed to get in front of him and have a few minutes of conversation, and a photograph. And he couldn't have been nicer to this crazy woman politely pushing in front of him and besieging him with tales of his music in the Northwest when we were growing up in a little miserable mill town. He hugged me. I was on fire with joy.

With Berry Gordy legendary founder of Tamla Motown, in London
For anyone who grew up when I did, and that includes my great mate Mari Wilson (the other one, the one from Neasden, I've got the full set now, Mari and Mary Wilson) and for all my school friends, and musician mates of my age, Tamla was something else. To have had it as a backdrop to your teenage life, to know why Psychedelic Shack and Ball of Confusion were important, why Marvin went political and the Supremes sang Love Child.....this man brought all those great vocalists and songs to the world, to say nothing of the musicians and the arrangements and the joy of it all. And I'm aware, of course, of course I am, that in order to do that, at that time when America was still segregated and Dr King was leading the Civil rights Movement, he maybe had some problems he maybe solved his own way. And all I say to the criticisms is this. Look what he achieved, look what he gave to this world. Look what he did for African American music across the globe. This man's a legend. And for a minute, we chatted. Because I get to meet a lot of people, some pretty damn famous. But every so often you get to meet one of life's game changers, and thats a privilege beyond compare.

So, off I go now to rehearsal, and how I hope to see you at one of the upcoming shows, because here  I am working alongside some of the best musicians in the western world. Come fly with us. And have a great week.