Gazing at the Stars All Night is a new album of thirteen original songs from folk and jazz musician Chris Flegg. Acoustic guitars are at the forefront of most of the arrangements, with piano provided by Richard Simmons, percussion from Rod Brown, Jez Guest on sax and Terry Ede on clarinet.
Acoustic guitars are at the forefront of most of the arrangements, with piano provided by Richard Simmons, percussion from Rod Brown, Jez Guest on sax and Terry Ede on clarinet.
This is Chris Flegg’s ninth album and features material drawn mainly from his acoustic singer/songwriter performances on the folk scene. Some of the tracks are normally found in his jazz gig set list but here they are given a relaxed acoustic interpretation.
As with his previous song albums for the folk scene, the arrangements give prominence to acoustic guitars with shades of blues and jazz creeping in on tracks such as I'm Going Home and Easy Living Blues, and what passes for a good old country song called I Don't Write Sad Songs Any More.
The title track is featured twice, first as a three minute version, then as a bonus a full length version which includes the sax playing of Jez Guest. On this track and elsewhere on the album, Richard Simmons plays some excellent piano accompaniment which is a model of how acoustic guitar and piano can be made to work well together.
Jazz sax man Terry Ede also has a clarinet part on a song called When I Go Out which sounds surprisingly folky. Rod Brown on percussion has featured on previous albums and underpins the songs with some nice touches. There are some unusual song topics too, including French Row, a song about a busking pitch, and St Alban, a song about the martyrdom of St Alban.
Overall this is an album of songs set at a relaxing tempo with lyrics which have a positive feel and including one instrumental track, Espírito Calmo, which lives up to the meaning of its title, “calm spirit”.
Chris Flegg is a singer, noted guitarist and song writer based in St Albans. Originally from Eastleigh in Hampshire, he moved to London to graduate in physics from Imperial College, becoming involved first with Imperial College Folk Club and later the Troubadour Folk Club, where he became co resident with Redd Sullivan and Martin Winsor.
This started his song writing and solo work and at the same time he took an interest in jazz, notably through a chance meeting with guitarist Diz Disley, and went on to be involved in bands covering a wide range of styles including gypsy jazz, mainstream and Dixieland jazz, as well as playing pop covers in a number of dance bands and groups.
Moving to St Albans in 2000 he discovered the local folk scene through meeting singer/guitarist John Breeze and became resident at John's Windward Folk Club alongside songwriter George Papavgeris and this rekindled his urge for song writing.
Chris Flegg was born in Eastleigh, Hampshire which is situated five miles north of the coastal city of Southampton.
A self taught musician, like so many in the sixties, Chris learned to play guitar using Bert Weedon’s “Play In A Day”. With his new found music knowledge, he set about honing his skills by playing the chart hits of the era in a local Hampshire group called ‘The Air Raiders’.
Following his education at Barton Peveril Grammar School he moved to London to study physics at Imperial College in South Kensington, taking with him an acoustic guitar traded for his much loved electric guitar. Once settled in this new environment, Chris made contact with other student musicians and explored the local music scene. He did not have to look far as the ‘Troubadour Club’ was close by in the Earls Court district of West London. This now legendary venue situated at 265 Old Brompton Road first opened its doors in 1954 and is still going strong, now occupying numbers 263-267. From its early incarnation as a folk venue and ‘counter culture den of creativity’ it has withstood the test of time.
Chris Flegg began singing at the Troubadour and swiftly progressed from floor spots to becoming co-resident with two of folk music’s unsung heroes, Martin Winsor and Redd Sullivan. At the same time he was learning the ropes of the London acoustic music scene by helping to run the Imperial College Folk Club.Around this time Chris started writing songs and, encouraged by Redd Sullivan’s enthusiasm for jazz and blues, developed a keen interest in jazz which was enhanced by meeting guitarist Diz Disley (Django Reinhardt & Stephane Grappelli) when Diz played at the Imperial College Folk Club. Diz saw Chris play guitar and after the show invited him to come along to the Fiesta Club in the Fulham Road to see and meet guitarist Denny Wright (Stephane Grapelli and Lonnie Donegan). On this night he would witness the playing skills of a man who is credited as having quietly influenced a generation of guitar players. Eventually things would turn full circle and at a later date Chris would end up occasionally playing for Diz Disley’s Band and alongside Denny Wright in The Steve Benbow Band.
Whilst at Imperial College Chris performed in an acoustic band called Matrix, two guitars and tabla, plus girl singer, (the singer is still active as Annie Long, www.annielong.co.uk ), the band were influenced by John Renbourn’s Pentangle.
Chris made his first recording debut in 1969 on an EP titled “Reflections On A Good Year” shared with other Imperial College Folk Club performers. The track was “Three Legged Woman Blues”, a parody played in the style of Big Bill Broonzy: it’s out there somewhere! This song was later re-recorded for the album “Solo”. The EP vinyl recording (FEP 269) was recorded by Malcolm Jackson at the Rickmansworth studios of Jack Jackson the legendary band leader and radio presenter. The other tracks were by Paul Steer and Dick Henrywood, and Frank Ellis, fellow students at Imperial College.
His first radio broadcasts were as a member of the five piece folk group called Thamesis (1971 - 1974) when the group appeared on Capital Radio in a show hosted by Sarah Ward. The Thamesis line up included Jeanni Steel, Shirley Lucas, Martin Winsor, Redd Sullivan and Chris Flegg. The group played a variety of venues which memorably included the remand wing of South London’s Brixton Prison!
After five years spent at Imperial College, Chris found the jazz scene becoming a more rewarding interest and he started performing with a variety of London based groups and musicians ranging from ‘Hot Club’ style acoustic bands with violinists including Dick Powell and Mike Piggott to mainstream combos and even Dixieland bands such as Dick Laurie’s Elastic Band. He also spent a time playing in a Bix Beiderbecke influenced band called ‘Dix Six’ led by Richard Williams (Later -- Oscar winning animator -- ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit’). There followed residencies in a succession of pub and club bands of varying genres which included working with Steve Benbow, Diz Disley and Denny Wright.
In 1980 he left London for Stevenage moving to nearby St Albans in 2000. The death of his wife Shirley (Shirley Lucas) to heart disease in 2002 after thirty years together brought about a number of lifestyle changes including a deeper involvement in music.
In rediscovering the acoustic music scene he became resident at the Windward Folk Club in St Albans alongside George Papavgeris, a prolific songwriter; this rekindled the need to write songs.
He recorded ‘Solo’ in 2004 a retrospective album including earlier compositions and then two albums of new original songs followed, ‘My Sweet Lady’ in 2005 and ‘Through The Window’ in 2006. He recently published an illustrated book of his own song lyrics covering new material.
His song ‘A Hill So High’ from the ‘My Sweet Lady’ album won second prize in the 2005 Maidenhead Folk Club song writing contest. ‘Things Just Might Not Get Better’ from the same album is now sung by Anthony John Clarke who included it in his recent covers album.
This recording was played at the Brentford Football Ground after their relegation in 2007.
Chris also took up the saxophone and has featured the soprano sax on his recent albums, as well as playing tenor sax for George Papavgeris on his album ‘For My Next Trick'. Currently Chris spends time developing his solo performing featuring his own song writing while continuing to play jazz guitar in his own trio ‘Mellowtone’ as well as a number of ensembles of varying line up under the name ”Chris Flegg and friends”. He runs regular jazz jam sessions in St Albans at the Portland Arms and the Rose and Crown.
If time and weather permit, you will also find him busking at weekends in St Albans in support of The British Heart Foundation and performing with his jazz group at the monthly farmers market. Chris has also supported The Children's Society by performing at their open air fundraising events in London and St Albans.
VIDEO - Chris Flegg & The Mellowtone Jazz Quartet playing The Girl From Ipanema, at Marlborough College, St Albans, July 2010
FLEGGCD 009 Gazing at the Stars All Night 2013
FLEGGCD 008 Time Precious Time 2011
FLEGGCD 006 My Green Guitar 2010
FLEGGCD 007 Her Favourite Flower 2009
FLEGGCD 005 The Sound of Life 2008
FLEGGCD 004 Through the Window 2006
FLEGGCD 003 My Sweet Lady 2005
FLEGGCD 002 Solo 2004
MTCFFCD 001 Moving On 2000
Chris Flegg's composition "Old Soldiers" has been arranged by Gareth Cottrell for the Lanner District Silver Band who performed their world premier performance of the piece at Padstow in June 2011.
The arrangement features a flugel horn solo and Gareth has added introduction and ending passages which invoke the sound of the Last Post. The tune will be included in a number of forthcoming events including the Lanner Mining Villages Festival on 18th August 2011.
For details of the band and its performances see the website for theLanner and District Silver Band. Based at Lanner, near Redruth in Cornwall, they perform regularly throughout Cornwall and beyond and their many achievements include reaching third place in the Boosey and Hawkes National Brass Band Championships 2003.
Lanner is a small, quiet mining village on the outskirts of Redruth in Cornwall.
The original Lanner & District Silver Band was formed in the mid 1890's. Sadly, due to the considerable emigration of would-be musicians to countries such as South Africa (mining being the primary cause), it disbanded in 1902.
The band was reformed in 1965, and in those early days practised in a chicken shed in the garden of Lanner resident Daisy Moyle. Mrs. Moyle later became the band's first 'Life Member'. As the band attracted more members they outgrew the chicken shed and moved to a bandroom at the top of Lanner Hill. From these humble beginnings a strong youth band emerged, and as time went by these young players progressed into the senior band, thus helping to sustain its development. Eventually, even the Lanner Hill Bandroom became too small, and a concerted effort from the players and committee members resulted in the purchase, in 1983, of the old chapel on Lanner Moor, which is the present band's headquarters.
Lanner & District Silver band has progressed from its early days in the fourth section of the Cornish and national ratings, and is today one of the finest bands in Cornwall - no mean achievement in a county which has around 40 brass bands. It has represented the South West area at the National Finals and won many other contests throughout the south west. The band's finest achievement came in April 2003, when they were crowned West of England 2nd Section Champions. This promoted the band to the 1st Section and gained them qualification to the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain. The success continued later that year when, at the finals, the band achieved a magnificent 3rd place.
The band owes its success to a string of Musical Directors, committee members, players and supporters (past and present) who have made Lanner & District Silver Band a part of their lives, and a huge debt of thanks goes out to each and every one.
This Chris Flegg composition was originally a guitar piece written circa 2000 and titled "Old Soldiers" because it captured in mood the feelings Chris had about his father's illness, disabled by a stroke which left him bed bound and unable to speak.
Fred Flegg had fought in the Second World War and earned his Burma Star medal fighting in the jungles of Burma under Mountbatten, also spending time in artillery training at Lark Hill Camp and Deolali.
Going through his papers after his stroke uncovered old photos from the war which included one of him playing guitar, something Fred had never mentioned and in fact he had always denied ever having played any musical instrument.
Fred died in 2006 and the tune was played at his funeral. The guitar version is available on Chris Flegg's album My Green Guitar and a vocal arrangement called Poor Old Soldier is available on the album My Sweet Lady.
The Lanner District Silver Band decided to create their own arrangement of Old Soldiers after hearing the guitar version and first performed the piece at Padstow in June 2011 on the harbour bandstand, the very bandstand which by coincidence was a favourite spot visited by Fred Flegg during frequent holidays to Cornwall.
The Lanner band arrangement by Gareth Cottrell features a flugel horn solo and includes beginning and ending passages which invoke the refrain of the Last Post. A further arrangement for brass band has also now been commissioned from Leeds based JJ Williamson.
John Williamson's arrangement includes some imaginative variations and a magnificent finale and is now made available to any UK brass bands interested in performing the piece simply by contacting Chris Flegg at http://www.chrisflegg.com/contact/
This is Chris Flegg’s eighth album in all, and the fourth album of original songs written with the folk scene in mind. As with previous folk albums, the sound is entirely acoustic, no electric guitar or electronic keyboards, but having a more adventurous range in instrumentation and backing musicians. For good measure, one track, T-Rex Would Still Be Here, is given a jazz band treatment and the closing track, Mean Old Daddy, is a stomping blues.
Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer who are rising stars of the UK folk scene make a major contribution to the overall sound, Vicki providing double bass on most tracks and using the bow to great effect on the slower numbers, while Jonny adds accordion backing. Steve Lockwood adds his virtuoso harmonica playing on Across The Wasteland and Mean Old Daddy. Rod Brown on percussion and Terry Ede, clarinet and saxes, have recorded with Chris on previous albums and are here joined by fellow jazz musicians John Bridge on trombone and Harvey Weston on double bass.
If you are into Martin acoustic guitars, you will appreciate the rich sound of Chris’s Martin D41 used behind the vocals and smooth sound of his Martin OMC-41 Richie Sambora signature guitar used for lead guitar work. The album also features for the first time Chris’s Anglo concertina playing on one of the tracks, There’s No Escape The Daily Grind.
Why make an album called “My Green Guitar”? It started out with a trip to ‘Hanks Guitar Shop’ in Denmark St, London to buy strings and there it was, in the back room with all the posh guitars - you can’t just try without asking, a second hand dark green Gibson L4A guitar. Half an hour later it was bought and on its way back to the office making it quite an expensive lunch hour. It made its debut busking in French Row, St Albans, played through a battery amp and soon became a favourite instrument because of its easy action and the sweet sound you get from a Gibson that sets it apart from typical dreadnaught style flat top guitars. I understand that this model has been discontinued by Gibson, which makes it all the more special for me.
The album was conceived after noting comments received while busking about how nice it was hearing just instrumentals played simply on solo guitar, things like Cavatina and The Entertainer as well as my own tunes like Chasing Cuckoos. Not all of the tracks on this album are played on the green guitar, a couple of the jazzier numbers such as Round Midnight are played on my Gibson L5 Custom, the classic style of jazz guitar of the type favoured by Wes Montgomery, and which is a very nice guitar but sadly not green. So here it is, a set of tunes recorded with invaluable help, patience and coffee from sound engineer Wes Maebe and Cream Recording Studios in Wembley on the morning of 10th November 2008.
Cavatina (Theme From The Deer Hunter) by Stanley Myers is a gentle and relaxing tune that I often begin with when playing solo guitar. My version is simplified compared to the original but has a few jazz chords thrown in for variation.
Classical Gas by Mason Williams is a tune I learned from Bill Thacker, a fellow guitarist from my student days and with whom I formed a duo for a while. I have never really paid attention to the original. I like to play this fairly fast as it sounds exciting.
Teddy Bears’ Picnic by John W. Bratton is one of those tunes that always seems to make people smile, perhaps because it instantly recalls childhood days. When busking, this is a favourite with children, and it must be one of the most musically interesting pieces that children learn.
Staircase is one of my compositions with a progression of jazz chords that has descending and ascending patterns, hence the name, and a contrasting bluesy middle section.
Chasing Cuckoos is another of my compositions that has a first part with a ragtime feel and features harmonics that sound like the call of the cuckoo. There is also a middle section that has some tricky runs. This tune reminds me of Porthtowan (Truro, Cornwall) where I stayed in a chalet where cuckoos could often be seen and heard.
Moonlight Serenade makes an unusual solo guitar piece, far removed from Glen Miller’s original conception for his big band, and in my arrangement the chords in the middle section make a good finger stretching exercise.
VIDEO - This video shows buskers Chris Flegg & John Breeze enjoying the holiday mood on the harbour wall at Padstow as a never ending stream of holidaymakers pass by. Here Chris Flegg sings one of his own songs, 'There's A Sound' from the album 'The Sound Of Life' Click on You Tube logo.
Round Midnight is another tune that rarely gets played as a guitar solo, but always sounds moody and evocative, possibly because of the slow descending bass line and minor chords; it conjures a vision of a smoky jazz club after hours, though come to think of it, clubs are smoke free these days – and a good thing too!
Her Favourite Flower is another of my compositions from the 1970s which gets an occasional airing in my folk club set and was previously issued on my “Solo” CD.
Danny boy is probably the most unlikely choice for an album of guitar solos, but why not I ask myself, it’s a tune you can whistle all day.
Old Soldiers is my own composition, previously recorded on my “Solo” album and also as a song titled “Poor Old Soldier” on my “Through the Window” album. It suits the green guitar very well.
The Entertainer is Scott Joplin’s famous rag, a tune far better suited to the piano, but which still sounds good on guitar. This track was recorded in one take at the start of the session (I like to get the tricky stuff out of the way first) and, I hope you will agree, brings the album to an end in style.
Chris Flegg is based in St Albans, Herts and not only plays jazz guitar but is a singer songwriter on the acoustic and folk scene with three albums of original songs to date, the latest being The Sound Of Life. Previous jazz recordings include Moving On, an album of original pieces for jazz quartet, in which John Rees-Jones also features on bass. Chris mainly performs locally in St Albans with sax and bass in a jazz context or solo as a singer guitarist. He runs a monthly jazz jam session and enjoys charity busking in support of the British Heart Foundation.
John Rees-Jonestrained classically as a cellist and toured and recorded with Keith Tippett’s CENTIPEDE which included many of the top jazz and rock musicians of the time. He subsequently appeared with numerous classical musicians such as Yehudi Menuhin before moving over to the double bass and bass guitar in the late 1970’s. John has since worked extensively in the theatre, cabaret, studio and jazz fields with a breathtaking list of artists of which a small sample includes Elkie Brooks, Georgie Fame, the Inkspots, Ted Heath Big Band, Glenn Miller Orchestra UK, and George Melly, as well as guitarists Barney Kessell, Martin Taylor, Al Casey, Herb Ellis, Slim Gaillard and Charlie Byrd. He was a member of Humphrey Lyttelton’s band until Humph’s sad demise in 2008. John is visiting teacher of jazz double bass and bass guitar at Eton College and has tutored several hundred jazz workshops nationwide.
VIDEO - Chris Flegg on guitar and vocals is joined by Terry Ede on tenor sax, Trevor Evans on bass and Tony Cobley on drums playing On Broadway at the 2010 Music Fest at Marlborough Science College, St Albans, Herts, UK. For more information on Chris Flegg and for gig listings and booking details for the trio or quartet go to www.chrisflegg.com
This album is taken from a single recording session at Cream Studios, Wembley, 10 November 2008, a day which produced no fewer than 23 recorded titles. The album features guitar and double bass with just Her Favourite flower and Round Midnight as solo guitar pieces. The aim in creating this (my sixth) CD was to put together some of my arrangements of standards and a few original tunes with a jazz flavour but with the accent mainly on melody rather than extended improvisation.
The guitar is a Gibson L5 Custom electric guitar played mainly finger style and sometimes with a pick during solos. The L5 has been the preferred instrument of many jazz players since Gibson first started making the L5 in 1922, this Custom model being the single pickup version designed for Wes Montgomery and branded with his name. But don’t expect to hear on this album anything like that famous Wes Montgomery sound, Wes got an individual tone by playing heavy flat wound strings with his thumb and cutting back the treble using the tone control. I prefer using light gauge round wound strings plucked with finger nails for a bright clean sound. The double bass of John Rees-Jones richly complements this guitar sound, never more so when John resorts to bowing as for example in the last notes of Stardust. So here are some notes on the tracks:
Night and Day, by Cole Porter, I first heard on a Django Reinhardt recording that was an early jazz influence for me, though my finger picking / chordal style version bears little resemblance to Django’s, not withstanding my quote in my improvisation from his composition “Nuages”.
I’m Going Home and Cat House are my own compositions, both written some years ago but never previously available on CD. I occasionally sing a vocal version of “I’m Going Home,” but the instrumental version here is I believe just as strong and has a relaxed bossa feel. Cat House has a main theme that swings along with an almost country lilt and in places suggests the influence of Chet Atkins or maybe Les Paul. The long chordal intro and bridging riff are repeated after the theme and help make this a quite unusual number.
Stardust as a guitar piece will for me always be associated with Frank Vignola who I saw playing this tune in a bar in New York with the “Frank and Joe Show”. His CD recordings are hard to find but they are out there. My version begins with the verse played out of tempo, and the ending closes with John bowing a magnificent bottom C.
Our Love Is Here To Stay is a tune which is so interesting it hardly needs extemporisation to make it jazz. This is said to be the last composition of George Gershwin so I guess you could say by then he knew what he was doing.
Her Favourite Flower is a guitar solo I wrote in the 1970’s and was inspired by listening to one of Django’s solo guitar recordings titled “Improvisation”, though the only real similarity is the idea of three note chord voicing to carry the melody against a bass line on the lower strings. The title comes from memories of a girl waiting for me holding a single flower, a tulip.
A Day In The Life Of A Fool is a melancholy tune with a Brazilian flavour. This version includes an excellent bass solo from John.
The Girl From Ipanema must be the best known bossa nova of all time, not only a pop hit in its day but memorable for the playing of Stan Getz in the original. John gets to play the intro and ending on this track and the overall feeling is bright and rhythmically interesting.
Body And Soul is a classic jazz ballad with some fun chord changes (giving us a chance to play in D flat) and a middle section that ends like no other; I guess I just like playing it.
Perhaps less well known is Stella By Starlight, a number which I first heard played in a record by Stan Getz in a version I have never heard equalled, in fact his recording of this tune was on of the reasons I took up playing tenor sax, but that is another story. This is a great tune for playing melody against guitar chord in a single voicing and shows off the tone of the guitar to its best.
Round Midnight is played here as a bluesy solo guitar arrangement which tries in places to capture some of the staccato piano style of the original almost percussive piano playing of the composer, Thelonious Monk. I think sounds unusual and in fact have so far not heard any other solo guitar arrangement of this tune.
My version of When Sonny Gets Blue starts with an introduction based on the Miles Davis tune ‘Blue ‘n Green’ and then simply states the melody. Chris Flegg, 2009
Chris Flegg’s song "I'm Not Crazy Yet" was an entrant in the UK Songwriting Contest 2008. The results showed that the song reached the semi-finals with a score of 7 out of 10 in the Folk/Country category, which means the song was in the top 15% of over 6200 songs.
‘I’m Not Crazy Yet’ is taken from Cris Flegg’s 'The Sound Of Life’ (FLEGGCD-005)
The UK Songwriting Contest is held annually in association with The BRIT Trust, The British Academy of Composers and Songwriters, The Guild of International Songwriters and Composers, BBC Radio, The World Music Foundation, Music Aid UK and other music industry bodies.