Thursday 1st January 2015, New Year's Eve 'Masterjam' Dubai Media City, UAE with Chaka K
I've come back home this evening from one of the most memorable nights I've ever had. The Masterjam event in Dubai celebrating New Year's Eve into 2015 had a dream lineup and I played with five different acts! (At one point I was also asked to perform with Shalamar but they didn't appear in the final lineup unfortunately!)
I have played with Chaka Khan many times now, I have played in Kathy Sledge's band this year and Jocelyn Brown used to be practically my neighbour until recently (!) I had never - and sadly still have never - met Gloria Gaynor! However, I did play with her! Confused?
Well let's say I worked hard out there in Dubai in the face of delayed flights and wayward baggage… I arrived six hours later than scheduled to go straight into a meeting with Gloria's musicians to cover the music we'd been given (there were no rehearsals scheduled for Gloria or Kathy). I had already committed everyone's music to memory (nearly 50 songs in total although it was a little less in the end as a few things were cut for the sake of time). That might sound like a lot of songs, well, it is, but I made sure I came prepared and I only had to do a little reading on the gig as some of the structures had been changed. All this glorious Funk and Disco was swimming around my head (more than usual!) I was excited for many reasons, but I also came to do justice to these amazing artists. Plus when The Jacksons and Nile Rodgers are standing at the side of the stage, I want everyone to understand how much I love this music. It's in me and I'm lucky to get to play with such artists and meet them on the road.
Vanessa Haynes of Incognito
Incognito opened the night with a (very) cut down set and then we were joined by Jocelyn Brown who as always was on top form. I'd not heard about half her set until we rehearsed it just before Christmas; it totally came to life on stage. When her set was done, I remained on stage...
Because of the tight schedule, I didn't actually meet Gloria Gaynor before or after her killing set. Most of the band was from the UK (including Gee Bello on percussion and bvs, Carmelo Caruso on keys, Nat Augustin on guitar and Andrew McGuinness on drums, the last two I'd met for the first time). Everyone had done their homework and I think we did a great job backing her. Her MD Mark Baron was super positive and helpful in guiding us as to what Gloria wanted, but because she was the middle act (for me) she left before I got to say hi! I specifically wanted to praise her for choosing to do a tribute to Donna Summer (an arrangement of Donna's Last Dance/Macarthur Park/Heaven Knows medley by Mark Baron). It's difficult to communicate how ecstatic I felt when Latrese Bush hit on THAT HIGH NOTE in Macarthur Park! If you know the song then you know exactly what I'm talking about!
Playing with Kathy Sledge and her band was once again a total blast (she never stops smiling, which in turn makes me smile!) I wouldn't say having Nile Rodgers at side of stage is distracting as such but I was in some sort of heavenly disco zone in my head that felt as if I was just dreaming! He seemed to be smiling as much as Kathy which has gotta be a good thing! Nile Rodgers (and Bernard Edwards) wrote the music that Sister Sledge performed, in fact Chic played some of the same songs later in their set too. Thinking Of You and We Are Family were the highlights of Kathy's set for me.
That took us to set number 5! My final set, with Chaka Khan backed by Incognito. At this point I was starting to reflect on what a great year (although not easy or pain-free) 2014 has been for me. We'd toured with Chaka, released two albums (Incognito and Citrus Sun) and toured all over the world with Incognito. This New Year's Eve concert was the most incredible way to go out, backing so many artists that I'd listened to for so many years. I can never tire of playing Chaka's music! We played for over an hour with her, including Through The Fire which we have only played with her a couple of times before. I Know You I Live You is MY TUNE though! When her set was over, I'd been on stage for nearly four hours bar a quick T-Shirt change behind my bass amp! They moved a few things around and then Chic took to the stage with my fellow Atelier Z endorsee and bass buddy Jerry Barnes killing it on his M245 four string (I also played M245 along with my M265 that night). At midnight we all rushed to the stage for the countdown. Tony Momrelle has an incredible video of it from the stage with Chaka, Jocelyn, Kathy, Nile, Jerry and Incognito during Good Times. Unfortunately as I was on stage for so long I didn't take as many photos as I would've liked but luckily my cousin Emma grabbed my camera from me at the start of the evening and took a few that I'm posting here. FH
Chaka Khan (Taken by Chris Lewis)
Chaka Khan (Taken by Chris Lewis)
Jerry Barnes and his Atelier Z M245 bass at 12:00 January 1st 2015! ⌚⏰⏰😃😃
Bluey, Kathy, Chaka
The awesome Latrese Bush, guesting on BV's with Gloria Gaynor, tore up the lead vocal on Macarthur Park
Midnight, Happy New Year!🎊🎉🎆 (Taken by Chris Lewis)
Chaka Khan and my cousin Emma who flew over specially from London
Tony Momrelle and Chic drummer Ralph Rolle. I've been meaning to meet Ralph for a while now. I have his first record somewhere (!) and one day I will actually make it to his cookie shop in Ginza, Tokyo!
Some of Incognito (also the band for Jocelyn and Chaka) from L-R: Joao Caetano (p), Francisco Sales (g), Dave Ital (g), Francesco Mendolia (dr), Katie Leone (voc), Bluey (g), Tony Momrelle (voc) and myself on bass. Missing from photo: Vanessa Haynes (voc), Matt Cooper (MD,keys), Alistair White (tb), Sid Gauld (tr), Nigel Hitchcock (ts)
Incognito soundcheck, evening before event
Chosen axes for the shows: Atelier Z M265 and Atelier Z M245