Leonie's album launch
secret woodland location near Canterbury
This was the first of these woodland gigs I've facilitated where I didn't get more than one act involved. It was part of Leonie's tour to launch her magnificent Collaborations Volume 1 album, which has been getting a lot of love from BBC 6 Music's Cerys Matthews lately (Cerys's eclectic tastes and Sunday morning slot would fit quite neatly into my life if only I had some means of listening to digital radio). No one else available seemed to quite suit the occasion, so I suggested to Leonie that she play two sets — one based on the new album, and one of old jazz, blues, requests, whatever she felt like.
The album consists of nine tracks, each recorded with a different band, all part of her extensive network of musical friends (you can see a press release I wrote about that on her website). On some of the tour dates, some of these bands were going to be playing the whole album with her. On this occasion, it was a solo thing, the songs stripped right back to just Leonie and her lovely Gretsch hollow-body electric guitar (unamplified). Having said that, she did talk me into quickly figuring out saz parts for a couple of the songs: "Kagayaku", as recorded with Yama Warashi, where I replaced the koto part she played (she having made that up spontaneously on her friend Yoshino's granny's koto one afternoon) and "Freya", which she recorded with Cocos Lovers. That went reasonably well. I was surprised how relaxed I felt playing in front of everyone (the audience included quite a few musicians who are of an entirely different calibre to myself).
The second set was a lovely melange of Leonieness: gospel-blues, country-blues, jazz standards, "The Littlest Birds" (a Jolie Holland song Hannah requested) and a "Foreign Lands" singalong to finish (I'd proposed a Leonard Cohen song since the great man had only just departed this earthly plane, but Leonie didn't know any, nor could she remember how to play some of her older songs I suggested). There was a decent amount of "frumpet" (her mouth trumpet technique) and very relaxed between-song banter. Part of what's so special about seeing Leonie play live is just how relaxed she is about the whole thing — it puts everyone at ease, creating a rare atmosphere of chilled-out receptivity.