By 1993 I’d been gigging around the northern club scene and jazz circuit for a few years. A local restauranteur had teamed me up with a reliable (and patient) band and for the first time I was really learning how to sing. I still remember the pianist telling me I should start singing after the four bar intro, “What’s a bar?” He thought I was joking. That education continued in earnest when I joined local jazzer Pat McCarthy and his combo. At some point we decided to go into the studio and booked an all-night marathon recording session. I can’t really remember much about it except we recorded seven tracks and never released them.
Since then that recording has sat in a drawer all but forgotten. When I came across it, there was no label and I had no idea what was on it. I was in the middle of recording another album, so I took it to my producer, Chris Traves, and we were both pleasantly surprised. What struck me most was how lucky I‘d been to work with such fine musicians so early in my career, and from Grimsby too. My old home-town often gets a bad rap but it’s always been a hotbed for talent and the arts and was very kind to me.
This collection of songs sees me right at the beginning of my career and I look back on this time with great fondness. I’m still grateful for all the people who believed in me back then and wanted to see me do my best. People like Paul Gregory, Lisa Martland, Christine Pearson, Alf Stevenson, Rosie Bartlett, Mike Brown, and a reliable group of fans, some of whom crammed into a minibus to support me at my very first London gig at the much missed Pizza On The Park in 1996!
The songs are pretty standard American Songbook choices. I must have been having a My Fair Lady moment as it’s heavily represented. It’s interesting listening to my younger-self sing. Sure, my voice was still developing, but so was my style. There are lots of Sinatra-isms here, phrasing I copied from my heroes as well as a few oddly American sounding vowels. If I could go back and give myself a bit of advice, I’d say stop trying to sound like other people, and give the musicians more time to do their thing. For me the best moments on these recordings are when Pat McCarthy and Ben Martin take their solos.
The Pat McCarthy band is still going strong and sounding better than ever. I’ve never forgotten a piece of advice Pat gave me back then: “If all you play for is applause,” he said, “that’s all you’ll ever get.” Eh? That made no sense to me because I loved getting applause! It took me many years to understand that sometimes good taste is more important than getting a big reaction and, that applause isn’t the only way to measure a quality performance.
Enjoy the music and feel free to applaud as much as you like (I still like it).
“his forte is mezzoforte: letting the great songs speak, and they do speak, for themselves.” BBC Radio 2’s Russell Davis
“Sprinkled between songs were shared moments of intimacy, confessions and plenty of laughs, all helping to create a sense of something special… Gary’s polished performances ensure that, unlike the prophet, he will always be welcome in his hometown.” Grimsby Evening Telegraph