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Bebop Spoken There

Jeremy Pelt: "I'm so much into melodies and into sound, and the presence of sound, that I don't necessarily want to try to play in between the cracks of a note." - (DownBeat November 2020)

The Things They Say!

Hudson Music: Lance's "Bebop Spoken Here" is one of the heaviest and most influential jazz blogs in the UK.

Rupert Burley (Dynamic Agency): "BSH just goes from strength to strength".

Postage

12,000 (and counting) posts since we started blogging 12 years ago. 1140 of them this year alone and, so far, 87 this month (Oct. 27).

Coming soon ...

IT IS ADVISABLE TO CHECK IN ADVANCE WITH THE VENUE THAT THE GIG IS ON.

OCTOBER

THURSDAY 29

Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. Tel: 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free.

Abbie Finn Trio - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm. Free (donations). Limited capacity (upstairs). It’s Abbie’s birthday!

Maine St Jazzmen - Sunniside Social Club, Sunniside Road, Sunniside NE16 5NA. Tel: 0191 488 7347. 8:00-10:00pm. Free. Note earlier start/finish.

FRIDAY 30

Neil William & Ben Holland - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm-10:00pm. Free (donations). Limited capacity. Jazz standards from the 1920s & 30s.

SATURDAY 31

Alice Grace & Pawel Jedrzejewski - Prohibition Bar, Pink Lane, Newcastle NE1 5DW. 8:00pm-10:00pm. £10.00. Online booking (to book a table). Limited capacity. Alice & Pav join a multi-bill of entertainers (magician etc) to celebrate Prohibition Bar’s fifth anniversary. SOLD OUT!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Matt Mackellar Story - so far ... Part 3 of 3.

BSH: And so to Berklee. You set your sights on winning a place at the prestigious American institution. Tell us about the application process? Where did you audition - here in Britain or in the US?

Matt: The whole process actually only took place over a few months. I applied at the beginning of 2017 on the Berklee website, having wanted to apply for a few years before that. There were a few hoops to jump through in order to convert my school results into the American style grading system. After waiting for a couple of weeks from submitting my application, I was informed that I had been selected for an audition and interview. Berklee auditions occur all around the world, so luckily the farthest I had to travel was London. 

The whole experience was fairly nerve-wracking. I knew that entry to my dream school was reliant on everything going as I hoped it would in that 20 minutes. Luckily, the audition went well, and a month or so later I was informed that I had been accepted for entry in the fall and rewarded with a scholarship! I was fairly shocked at first and it took me some time to really process that I had been accepted. After figuring out the logistics and taking everything into consideration, my parents and I came to the conclusion that this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. From then on the excitement set in and I couldn’t wait for August.

BSH: When you arrived in Boston how did you feel? Were you overwhelmed? Did it take time for you to settle in?  

Matt: Honestly, by August the only thing I really felt was excitement to set off. I was of course sad to say goodbye to my friends and family but setting off just felt like such an incredible adventure. I was ready to see another country and do what I loved doing all the time. In terms of settling in and being overwhelmed, Berklee had a programme for international students where anyone who is coming from abroad can move onto the campus a few days earlier than when the domestic students enter. This gave a perfect opportunity for people in the same boat as me to meet and get comfortable before the rest of the students arrived. I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people right away, many of whom have become good friends and valued collaborators.

BSH: So many questions to ask about the place, the people. Give us an idea of a typical day in Boston - accommodation, shopping, food, friendships, gigs and, of course, your studies. 

Matt: Every day is different honestly. It’s kind of exhausting to not really have a set schedule. Especially in a school like Berklee which pretty much operates 24/7. You could have a recording session from 2am-6am and have a few hours’ sleep before waking up for a class or a rehearsal later in the morning. Oftentimes, things like shopping and eating become a real slap dash activity in the middle of two engagements. Similarly, friendships often grow out of projects that you are involved in as you don’t have much time for going out and having fun. Berklee is a very unique place due to the sheer concentration of musicians pushing each other and improving themselves. When I first arrived, I was expecting much more of an aggressively competitive atmosphere. Instead, what I found was that people were encouraging each other to improve and feeding each other’s desire for knowledge. It’s a great environment to fully immerse yourself in music as a career.

BSH: Down the years Berklee has engaged the services of many well-known musicians to teach at the institution, equally, many graduates have gone on to become household names in the world of jazz and beyond. What's the current situation? Who are some of the names - tutors, visiting artists - we would know? Who are some of the names we perhaps don't know about but should?!      

Matt: During my time at Berklee, there have been some major names in the current contemporary music scene come for workshops and clinics. Some of these include the leader and bassist of Snarky Puppy, Michael League, Nate Smith, former drummer of Chris Potter and leader of his own project Kinfolk and jazz legends Pat Metheny, Ron Carter and Paquito D’Riviera. Berklee is also blessed to have a regular residency of bass legends John Pattitucci and Victor Wooten, who both hold workshops and “woodsheds” regularly: a great tool for drummers and bassists alike. One educator who has helped me greatly during my time at the college is an upright bassist by the name of Ron Mahdi. Over his career Ron has played with Chet Baker, Roy Haynes, Art Farmer, Donald Byrd and many more. Over my 3 years I have taken multiple 1 on 1 classes with Ron as well as Ensembles under his instruction. Ron really taught me to open my ears up to different sonic elements of the music, helping me see the music as one whole piece rather than a series of unrelated sounds. Definitely worth checking out!

BSH: Over the last couple of years when you've returned home for the summer vacation you've gigged with your own band. What's the current state of play? Any plans in the pipeline?

Matt: Obviously currently it’s tough logistically to organise anything in that regard. I would love to get the band together again to play some kind of virtual or reduced capacity gig. Right now we’ll just have to wait and see how things pan out in the weeks and months to come. Luckily, I am likely to be around for a while now until things get back to normal so I’m sure we’ll be able to organise something in the coming year!

BSH: Give us an idea of your kit set-up. Drummers will know what you're talking about, the rest of us might learn something. Feel free to be as geeky as you like with your answer!  

Matt: Currently I play a bit of a “Frankenstein Kit”. The main core of my kit is a Gretsch USA Custom with 12”, 14” toms and a 20” bass drum. I have added a 10” tom from a different kit as well as a second, 16” floor tom. This generally allows me to get the versatility in sound that I need from a kit. In terms of cymbals I play all Istanbul cymbals. My current set-up is a 20” Mel Lewis Ride, 19” Mel Lewis crash/ride, 19” Agop Signature crash ride and 14” Xist hats. I am currently using a 14” Yamaha recording custom snare drum and am currently using Evans hydraulic drum heads on most of my kit.

BSH: As lockdown occurred you were nearing the end of another year in Boston. If BSH has got its sums right, you've been in the States for three years with one more year to come. In light of the pandemic what are you planning to do? 

Matt: Right now my plan is just to stay home and stay safe with my family until the picture improves. Berklee is continuing with remote learning. However, I feel that in order to get the full Berklee experience, events such as gigs and larger rehearsals must be allowed to go ahead. For that reason, I feel it best to hold off and get the full experience that I have grown to love so much over those 3 years.

BSH: Like the rest of the jazz world, those of us on Tyneside can't wait for gigs and jam sessions to resume in a return to something like normal. When they do, be sure to get along to a jam session. Until then, stay safe. Thanks Matt! 

Matt: Thanks so much for reaching out, I look forward to seeing everyone again when things start getting back to normal!

Part One.

Part Two.

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