I’m starting a Jazz club!!!

If someone had said to me, “you’ll move to France and start a Jazz Club”, I would have laughed in their face…….. But, I did, and I am! I’m starting a Jazz’n’Blues club! It’s something i’ve been thinking about for quite a while, and I finally got around to it. I contacted the Giac’s Bar in St Junien and asked if I could use their bar as a home! Next I put a call for musos on facebook, and voila! it’s happening! First meeting on 28th February. If it works it’ll then be the last Thursday each month.

Why am I doing it? Well, because I want to create a warm loving environment in which like minded musicians can meet, play, share, grow, and get hip! 😉 Nah, it because I thought it would be fun. There’s nothing else like it going on nearby. Seems to me there’s a lot of very experienced musos not playing, and something like this might get them out. I’m hoping I can learn from them too!

Here’s the skinny from the page I put up on limousinlife.com…..

We’ll aim to meet up on the last thursday of each month. Initially,
until we get things established, a list of songs for the session
will be posted by me well in advance. This gives those wishing to
take part a chance to brush up on them. We want people to feel comfortable,
so, no surprises – please don’t just turn up and ask to play something
that isn’t on the list. This may make people uncomfortable, and
while ‘outside the comfort zone’ is often where the magic happens
we don’t want to put people on the spot or embarras them.

Here’s the list for this month…

Moondance – Am

Autumn Leaves – G

Blue Bossa – Eb

Carnival/Black Orpheus – C
Mercy, Mercy, Mercy – Bb

Tell Me All About it – Bm Blues with a Feeling – 12 bar in G

Juke – 12 bar in E

Funk Groove 1 – Am

Funk Groove 2 – Em
If you want to play you must contact me in advance so that I can
plan the session. My aim being to give a little continuity to the

We’ll start the evening around 8pm with a couple of numbers from
the ‘house band’. Then I’ll invite people to get up and play. Think
of it as more of a ‘sit in’ session rather than a ‘jam session’.

There will be a PA with at least two mics, Guitar and Bass amps,
keyboards, and drums. Guitarists and bassists – you’ll need to bring
your own instrument and lead.

The venue is the Giacs Bar – 15 Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau, 87200
Saint-Junien. It’s a super nice bar, and they have a great courtyard
that would be fantastic for summer night jazz!

Why do people love to play guitar?

Why do people love to play guitar?

The guitar is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Some people love to listen to it, while others try their hand at playing one, whether it’s acoustic, classic or electric. You may wonder what the appeal of playing the guitar is though.

They love the sound

The first thing that attracts a person to an instrument is the sound. If listening to an instrument is akin to nails on a chalk board for you, then you won’t want to play it. However, if you love the sound when it is played well, it will make you more likely to give it a try yourself. Guitar has a very distinctive sound.

It’s soothing

The process of playing each note is actually quite soothing, once the movements have become second nature. You don’t necessarily have to play a well known song. Some people use partycasino.com to relax, but sometimes it’s quite therapeutic to play guitar and see where it goes.

Because they want to get girls

I wouldn’t say these people are the most successful guitar players in the world. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend taking up guitar if your main aim is to impress the opposite sex. However, if you take it up for that reason, and happen to love it and carry on, at least you got one good thing out of it.

Guitar is portable

The guitar is one of the most portable instruments in the world. Certainly the most portable one which can produce multiple notes, and this makes it more appealing than a keyboard, because you can zip it up in its case and carry it on your back.

Easy to teach

The guitar is relatively easy to teach at its most basic level. You don’t have to read sheet music, instead learning the chords and feeling them out as you go. One of the best ways to teach someone, is by teaching them how to play certain songs.

The Sugaree Band

Some of you, most of you, probably know me as a cyclist, but actually, I’ve been playing guitar longer than I’ve been riding a bike! I first picked up the guitar when I was a teenager recovering from a motorcycle crash! I didn’t start competitive cycling until some years later.

I’ve played in all sorts of bands over the years. I love playing guitar, and I think guitars and cycling go well together. Since I moved to France, and I’ve had a little more spare time I’ve been playing more. I’ve always been in other peoples bands up until now, and while that’s great, sometimes you don’t get to play the stuff you really want to play. Also, when I’ve played. friends have told me that they didn’t realise I was into this or that or whatever when really I’m not, I’m just playing the bands material – I rarely get to play as ‘me’!!!! I hope that makes sense.

So, I finally started my own band, “The Sugaree Band”. We play an eclectic mix of anything that takes our fancy, and anything that suits my 70s based Strat spanking style. From Hendrix to Anita Ward! Yeah! We do “Ring my Bell”, the old disco classic!

We are a three piece, drums, bass, guitar, plus singer. You’ll never guess who the singer is! Actually, you probably will. The thing I really love about the ‘power trio‘ line up is that everyone must hold up their corner. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s honest, raw, earthy. It can make a grown man cry, and a young woman go weak at the knees – goin’ off on one. Soz!

We’ve only played a handful of gigs so far, but we’ve had a truly great response which has motivated us even more. No, I don’t imagine for a second anything silly. But I don’t see why we can’t be a good semi-pro outfit with a full schedule. There’s plenty of work out there for good bands.

Watch out, here comes the sales pitch! If you are looking for a band playing an eclectic mix of fantastic covers from the 70s onwards in the Haute Vienne (Limousin), and surrounding departments for your party, wedding, biker fest, fete, celebration, we are available.

You can listen to a sample of our music on our reverbnation page here…

You’ll find my stuff including some hilarious pictures of bands in the past here…

We have a facebook page here. Please ‘like’ us. It’s good karma! 🙂

Keep on Rocking in the Free World

SB 🙂

Lovely old Strat…

The Marshall MG15 practice amp wasn’t seeing much action since I got my Marshall Class 5, so I put it up for sale. Had a phone call about it, and told the gent to bring a guitar with him if he wanted to come and try it. So he did. This one…

As soon as he took it out of the case I recognised it as a 70s Strat. The large headstock, bullet trus rod, string trees, and three bolt neck. It was just like the one I bought from Rock Bottom in Croyden in the late 70s. I asked about it..

A 1974 Strat. Three way pickup selector switch. In fabulous condition for it’s age. Still had the original bridge cover in place. The owners friend had bought it new, then sold it to him one year later. He’d had it ever since. Sad part is that although he’d played it in lots of bands he doesn’t play anymore. Good part is that his rather lovely teenage daughter is taking up guitar and she gets to play it. She’s the one he’s buying the amp for, so she can practice at home. I hope she realises how lucky she is. With such a Strat and a Marshall you could go a long way.

Too much Rock, too little Roll….

Just recently i’ve been very busy with my band. We’ve been doing quite a few gigs. Playing late into the night, and into the early hours. Just about every gig we’ve played has included free drinks, and I’m a sucker for French lager. So lots of Rock, but not much roll (on the bike). I’ve still been riding 4 or 5 times a week, but not racing.

Decided it was time to get arse in gear. I don’t function properly if I don’t ride. Starting to feel like shit. Got up early and went and did the VTT Rando at Feytiat. It was great to see all my biking pals again, and it was even better to ride the superb circuit at speed, and enjoy the camaraderie on a beautiful morning. Carla came along as well. We both enjoyed the morning immensely. We’ve been a bit slack, but now we’re back on track. Had to have a nap in the afternoon. Very Rock’n’Roll eh?

Long Hard Rocky Road!

Yep, a Long Hard Rocky Road back to fitness!
A long hard rocky road
Dudes, I have been ill. No really. There’s not much keeps me off my bike, you know that, but it’s been more than three weeks with hardly a pedal turned! Mrs Stratobiker has been ill too. It started off with a sore throat, then got worse, a lot worse. Bad cough, fever, feeling awful. Gotta say there was one night in particular where I was truly scared of how bad it was gonna get. Lying in bed sweating up, chest on fire, breathing hard just lying still. Started to feel a little better after a couple of days, but everything was just such hard work. We didn’t leave the house for close on a week. We were living on the leftovers from our New Years Eve party. By the middle of the second week we managed to get out for a few easy walks, but they wiped us out. I tried a bike ride, just around the block, I felt like shit, it was no fun, and I was coughing up frogs. I gave up. By the third week we were feeling OK, still hacking stuff up, but getting out and about. At just over three weeks I tried the bike again. At last I felt OK, I was actually enjoying it, and felt like I had something in my legs. I didn’t push it though, just rolling along nice and easy.

A message to my French friends…..
Bonjour mes amis
J’ai été malade. Pas de vélo depuis trois semaines. Ca va mieux maintenant, et j’espère vous voir bientôt sur le vélo.

Yesterday I managed and hour and a half on my road bike. Nothing too hard, but a purposeful tempo, it felt great to be back. If the weather is OK tomorrow I’m gonna try and get out with the boys on the Wednesday afternoon bash. But, I’ll be taking it easy, and I’ll pull out after a couple of hours. I’ve been here once before, you try too hard too soon, and it just knocks you back.

In the recording studio

So while I’ve been felling a little better I’ve been busying myself on my guitar. I’ve been in the studio doing some recording for a singer-songwriter. I reckon it’s really great stuff, and I’m thrilled to be able to work with her. I can’t let you listen to anything at the moment because it’s not finished. But when it is I’ll let you know.

rehearsing with a band from Bellac

I’ve also been rehearsing with an ex-pat band from the Bellac area. The idea is to put a set together now to do some gigs through the summer. It’s hard work, but it’s fun, and I get to play my guitar proper loud!!! Rock on!!! 🙂

Samba Pa Ti – Full Version

As promised, my attempt to play Carlos Santana’s ‘Samba Pa Ti’……

What started out as something simple ( I wanted to show off my new guitar) turned into a three and a half month study. You see, I found a transcription of Samba Pa Ti in an old guitar mag. Perfect for my new guitar I thought, but when I tried the first few bars it didn’t seem quite right, and that’s where it all started. That’s where the journey to this youtube video began.

I searched youtube trying to find videos of Carlos Santana playing. However, when he plays live he varies his performance, and never plays it the same twice. There’s loads of cover versions, some are very good too, but then again, they’re all different. I wanted to stay close to the recorded version on the Abraxus album, use that as my benchmark. I listened to it morning noon and night. I began working my way through it phrase by phrase.

While I was doing this I carried on making regular searches on youtube for more versions. I’d also check every couple of days for newer versions. I found some really great ones. My favourites include the version by Al Mora, the accoustic version played by Mark Galloway, Mark Thompson’s version, and the inspirational version by Grandma Mary.

I had a bit of a breakthrough when I found a video of the man himself talking about Samba Pa Ti, how it came about, how to play it, including some excellent tips on how to get a suitable tone.

Samba Pa Ti started out as a poem…
“Through every step of life you find freedom from within”… Carlos Santana.

Samba Pa Ti appeared on Santana’s second album Abraxus, which is still regarded by many as his finest work. As a study piece it is one of the most rewarding I have ever tried. Not only is it a great study in guitar playing, but also a great study into the unique and totally fabulous playing of Carlos Santana.

Carlos style relies on a mystical feeling ‘Duende‘ found in flamenco music, a sensation described as ‘musical shockwaves in the soul’. He has a very fluid sense of timing, and will often play repeated musical phrases with sublty different phrasing. He rarely uses vibrato at the top of bends. Unison bends are another characteristic.

Like I said at the top, three and a half months. That’s three and a half months and still learning, because each time I hear the original I’ll hear some little thing that I’ve missed, some little inflection that I hadn’t noticed before. Sometimes I think I’m close, then other times I think I’m miles off. I asked one of my favourite players how long it had taken him to get his version as good as it was. He told me 38 years and still trying!!! So I’ve got a long way to go. However, I hope my version does the song justice. Yeah, I know it’s just a bloke playing to a backing track. I’d love to play this with a live band.

Many many thanks to all who gave me encouragement with this, especially Mrs Stratobiker who can now spot a fake Santana from the first phrase!!!!


Technical Shiz – I used my Gibson Explorer, through a Digitech RP6 for the overdrive, into an old Roland 1680 hard disk recorder. I got the backing track from the internet.

My camera can only cope with 2:40 mins recording, so I had to use two takes and stitch them together. I set the camera running, then set the recorder running. I used Windows Movie Maker to do the stitching and tidying. Once I had the video sorted I imported the sound track from the Roland, and ditched the sound from the camera. I took the liberty of overdubbing a second guitar for the unison bends at 1:42 as per the original, and also adding extra reverb for the lick at 1:09, again, like the original.

Update 18th Feb 2010 – I got such great compliments for my tone I thought I’d post some wise words on tone from the great man himself…..

“Just about any guitar will give you that tone as long as you’re not playing it really load………as long as you play it somewhere in the middle…..some guitars if you play them at very very low volume they get very thin, it’s like a baloon that is not inflated…..and if you play it too loud it sounds like you’re talking with you mouth full of food…..somewhere in the middle is where you get that pretty pristine tone.” …… Carlos Santana

I found these words on the video here

Then, a couple of days ago I got a message from my VanderBilly friend Wolf. He’d found a really interesting article on the Gibson website titled, “How Carlos Santana Refined and Defined his Sound with Abraxas”. It’s a great read, and it goes into some detail about the equipment that Carlos used, and the way in which he used it. Specifically talking about Samba Pa Ti it says….

“Although the cornerstones of Santana’s sound on Abraxas are his Gibson SGs, volume and the pureness and control of his touch, there are spots where he audibly used a wah-wah pedal to attenuate his tone. On “Samba Pa Ti” he left the pedal cocked to an open position throughout the song, achieving a sweet, warm distortion that produced the album’s most subtle guitar tone.”

You’ll find the full article here.

Thanks Wolf, a great find, and a damn good read.

It was a cold dark moonlit night…

It was a cold dark moonlit night, three men in a boat on the open sea, Captain, First Mate, and Cabin Boy. The Captain shouts, “Mate, tell us a story”. This is the story he told…..

It was a cold dark moonlit night, three men in a boat on the open sea, Captain, First Mate, and Cabin Boy. The Captain shouts, “Mate, tell us a story”. This is the story he told…..

Actually, it was a cold dark moonlit night back in April. I was trawling a few pages on ebay when I spotted a Gibson Explorer that I liked the look of. It had very little interest. I put in a half-hearted bid and thought no more of it. A few days later I got an email to tell me it was mine! Great, just the slight problem of how to get hold of it.

I asked my buddy JW at Pearce Cycles if he would collect it for me from the seller in Cheltenham. JW knows a bit about guitars so he’d know if it was OK or not. I bribed JW by telling him that he’d have to look after it for me until I could collect it, and naturally it would need playing. JW agreed. JW duly collected the guitar, and reported back to me that it was a little grubby, but apart from that was solid, and played well.

So, I’m running through all the scenarios of how I could get it to France, some of them involving it being sent part of the way, and ending up missing or broken. Plus trying to factor in the cost of fetching it. Weeks turned into months. Then I got an email from an old friend. He was driving down through France on his way to the Picos de Europa in Spain for a cycling holiday. He asked if I needed anything from Pearce Cycles as he would be calling in there a couple of weeks before leaving the UK, then driving down right past our doorstep.

Last weekend Duncan and Trish arrived with my guitar. Not only that, but they thought we might be missing a few things from the UK so they’d brought us some Marmite, some Heinz Baked Beans, some proper tea bags, Marmalade, and Famous Grouse whiskey. Flippin super heroes or what? They stayed for a couple of days, so I dragged them all over the trails of the Monts de Blond by way of a thank you.

Back to the guitar. Just like JW said, she was a little grubby, but she played well. I gave her a birthday clean up and a new set of strings. She plays just great. Now in case you don’t know, white Gibson Explorers are different, they have an ebony fingerboard, assuming that they’re not a refinished guitar, which this one isn’t. Explorers are great, I love them, your just 10 times cooler as soon as you strap one on, and they’re so much more than just a ‘Metal’ guitar. Though if you do a search on youtube that’s what most ‘players’ tend to do with them. So to redress the balance slightly I’ve posted a few bars of Santana’s “Samba Pa Ti” to show her gentle side. Here she is…

Trish, Duncan, if you’re reading this I hope you had a great holiday, and many thanks again for bringing my guitar.