Sessioneers (Part 2)
Part two of studiotime, with bassist Paul Westwood and guitarist Tim Renwick.
Another brace of unsung heroes. Our Jerry Uwins shunts out more of those skilled session men who bedeck many a record with their fab workings.
18 years of sessions. Founder member of Quiver, later The Sutherland Brothers and many big-name recording credits including Bowie, Andy Gibb, Kenny Rogers, Elton John, Al Stewart, Jimmy Ruffin, Mike Oldfield, Ian Matthews and Roger Waters. Toured with Clapton. TV work of all kinds including Station idents and themes like the new BBC drama series 'Call Me Mister'. Just completed an album of library music, has an Xmas special with Cliff Richard coming up and is currently sharing the guitar seat in the musical 'Time' with other consummate picker, Ray Russell. Finds a current upsurge in jingle work; has played on many campaigns including the latest Diet Pepsi commercial.
"I was playing in a backing band for Jackie Lomax in the late sixties and we were called in to record a couple of tracks that were being produced, one by McCartney, the other by George Harrison. Not bad producers to start with."
"Apart from Jackie Lomax, I think some of the first were for Peter and Gordon. It developed from there."
"Dionne Warwick's 'Heartbreaker' album which was produced by Barry Gibb and recorded in the Bee Gees' own studio, Middle Air. I was playing with guys like Richard T and Steve Gadd. It was great. Also doing Elton John's 'Single Man' LP and hearing 'Song for Guy' for the first time."
(Another Graham Jarvis one) "He invented a session bassist called Porty Byford. So legendary did Porty's reputation become that the very mention of his name would scare the shit out of other bass players. Some people even claimed to have played with him!
"I also remember a session where one of these archetypal no-talent, lots-of-money producers you occasionally come across actually broke down and cried because he couldn't get the players to do what he wanted."
For electric sessions — which is most of the time — a '54 Strat (with tremolo but screwed down and not used) and a very new Fender Elite non-tremolo which, with its active circuitry, is extremely versatile. I actually prefer it to the '54. If I need tremolo I have a G & L. For amps it's a Fender Twin Reverb and a Rockman. For longer, more varied sessions I'll take other amps as well — either a Boogie or a Pro Reverb.
"Where the occasion arises I also have a Martin M38 and high-strung Bourne acoustics, an Ovation, Squier Precision bass, an old Gibson mandolin and a fairly cheap Classic."
"Work never seems to come in a steady stream. It's all or nothing. Bad foldback systems annoy me, so do cramped conditions. Sessions also seem less sociable these days and it's easy to get out of the feel of playing with other people. That's why I really enjoyed recording with Gus Dudgeon for Jennifer Rush. It was done with all the players there at the same time."
ADVICE FOR ASPIRING SESSIONEERS
"If you can avoid it, never turn anything down."
LIKING FOR CURRIES
FAVE RESTAURANT AND DISH
"The New India in Norbiton. Egg Biryani and a Chicken Madras."
Sessions for 10 years now. Guildhall trained with jazz work before going pro. Extensive record credits including Charles Aznavour, John Dankworth and Cleo Laine, Stephen Bishop, John Miles, the LSO and RPO, Elton John, John Williams, Elkie Brooks, Andy Williams, Justin Hayward, Nick Heyward, Leiber & Stoller and Billy Connolly. Film work includes Bond movies and working with artists like Wayne Shorter, Steve Gadd, Larry Coryell and Paul McCartney. TV shows for the Pointer Sisters, Barry Manilow, Al Jarreau, Shirley Bassey, Jack Jones and Russ Abbott. Theme work includes 'Bergerac', 'Good Morning Britain' and 'ITV Midweek Sports'. Many jingles and commercials.
"I was doing a lot of cabaret work. The bookers, having seen I could do the gigs, started trying me out on sessions. At the time I was playing as much as possible, spreading myself around. From this people get to know you."
"For a small publishing company who advertised a demo service in the local paper for people who wanted copies of their songs recorded."
"Doing Elton John's latest album, 'Ice On Fire' on which I got four tracks. He wanted to do a dance track but was having difficulty finding a feel for it. One day, drummer Charlie Morgan and I were jamming in the studio. Elton liked what he heard and together we developed it into what became the track 'Wrapper-up'."
"An album session in the UK with Ray Russell, Simon Phillips and Tony Hymas for an Italian artist who spoke no English, and his producer, who did. During playbacks the producer, instead of telling us what he thought, would be asking our opinions. As musicians do, we started taking the mickey out of each other's performances. The artist thought we were serious and became convinced we didn't like each other. So paranoid did he get he insisted on taking all of us and our families out to dinner so we could all make friends. Of course, we had to go through with this charade. The producer tried to explain that it was the 'British sense of humour'. But the artist persisted!"
"An Ibanez Roadstar fretted bass. A fretless Precision with a Jazz back pickup and pickup selector. And a specialised Fender Jazz with four pickups (from front to back — EMG, Jazz, Kent Armstrong, Jazz) and twin stereo outputs which allow individual outs for each string. For amps I use a 15in Ohm combo which is good from loud TV to quiet acoustic stuff. Mostly though, I DI so always carry a Theatre Projects DI box. I have a selection of Boss pedals but always take my volume pedal. It's essential for varying the attack and blending in, particularly on orchestral sessions."
"Working slowly. Hanging around. Boredom is not a good environment and the best performances usually go down pretty quick. Modern technology tends to hold up spontaneity. I'm pleased to say, though, that the boring stuff is mostly done by machines.
ADVICE TO ASPIRING SESSIONEERS
"Refine what you do in three ways. (1) Technically by practising improvisation with a metronome. This introduces the discipline of using dynamics and still playing in time. (2) Become fluent in reading note lines or even chord symbols. Ultimately you'll be understanding and interpreting phrases, not just individual notes, which is important for sympathetic bass lines. (3) Practise other people's styles and sounds. At the same time you'll be improving your own repertoire and abilities."
LIKING FOR CURRIES?
FAVE RESTAURANT AND DISH
Cookham (Berks) Tandoori. Lamb Pasanda.
Feature by Jerry Uwins
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