One of my earliest memories is of hearing Louis Armstrong on television, when I was about 5 (I was born in '64). His presence and power made a strong impact. I rediscovered him as a teenager, along with Lester Young and Basie, Ella, Benny, Nat, and others, via the small collection of LP records in our house. I was learning clarinet at the time, and I tried to copy what I heard. Inside of a year or two I played my first professional gig.
I received a basic but but really very good music education at school, and taught myself guitar and tenor sax. A wonderful local local musician and bandleader, Mr. Jofre Swales, who is still very much remembered in my home town, gave me first lessons on clarinet, and also encouraged my early exploration of jazz. At 17 I became an electronics technician in the military (I was fascinated by electricity as well as jazz). I played everything : pop, jazz, funk, soul and even (for a short while) punk. Natural curiosity made me try many styles and, later, teachers.
Later, I entered the professional audio world as engineer, while still fiddling with different instruments and styles. I started writing and got into home recording. A demo of my tunes and arrangements got good press and airplay, and a debut CD ‘DanMcB’ is still on iTunes.
London in the early 90s was vibrant. I played everywhere, working with some performers who are now well known. Gigs were scarce but we made our own scene, with jam sessions and singers nights, and friendships which persist until now. But London was also expensive and it was hard to live anywhere that was practice friendly. I played by the canal, and in an African Church in Kentish Town. Later, working as an electronics designer at Royal Opera House, I would use the rehearsal room, before my working day.
When I started a family in 1999, we lived briefly in Dublin, and then in Belgium, my ex-wife’s home. At first, working for big tech companies to feeding my kids, I played less. But, things picked up; at a jam session in Brussels, I met jazz guitarist, Paolo Radoni, who encouraged me and told me not to neglect the clarinet (I had switchedto tenor sax).
A more unusual musical meeting happened with Indian percussion virtuoso Pandit Udhav Shinde. Together with Judith Rust, a professional singer and enthusiast of the style of Indian music called ‘drupad’,we formed a trio. Playing with maestro Udhav was a fascinating challenge; with no “conventional” harmonic structure, but a deep approach to rhythm, our extended improvisations tested,stretched and inspired me.
Branford Marsalis had an online forum in the mid 1990s, which put me in contact with thinking jazz musicians and their ideas, and changed the way I thought about musical study, and led to my sitting in briefly with Branford’s band, which exposed me to music making at a whole other energy level.
I visited New Orleans twice. In 2009, I was with a singer who I wrote for and accompanied on guitar. But when I played clarinet, peoples’ reactions made me feel that this was what I should be doing. When you go somewhere where people understand that music is not just a thing to be consumed, it touches you. On my return I dug into the clarinet.
In 2011 I recorded “Clarinet Swing”, with Dirk Van der Linden and Jean Van Lint, from Belgium. It got some great reviews. Later that year, back in New Orleans, I sat in with Meschiya Lake, Tuba Skinny, Aurora Nealand, Russell Welch and Gregory Agid, and Tim Laughlin. I played with David Roe and legendary drummer Freddie Flambeaux Staehle, one of Doctor John’s original band members. I played country blues with Stalebread Scottie, and with the Treme Brass Band in the Candlelight Lounge. Part of me never wanted to come back, and if I was younger perhaps I would have moved there.
I go to the Hot Club in Gent, to jam with Dajo and Waso De Cauter, Fapy Lafertin, Jan De Coninck, Rony Verbiest and other wonderful musicians. I play with “The Blue Heathens”, a New Orleans / Chicago style band, and have my own band, “The Moochers”, playing swing to bebop.
I am, as I always will be, busy with studying and playing jazz clarinet and saxophone.
The Moochers : six piece swing jazz group
Blue Heathens Jazz Collective : New Orleans and Chicago style jazz