North to the Sun!

Hello Boogie Friends,

Winter has snuck up on us here in Sydney, and we are (wisely) touring north for 2 concerts in Northern NSW, before ending up at the fabulous “Blues on Broadbeach” festival on the Gold Coast.

Our concerts in NZ this month were brilliant. Tauranga Jazz Festival outdoor stage was magical, Waihi Beach divine, and the Dome Room at the Poverty Bay Club in Gisborne is one of the most interesting venues I’ve ever played. I felt like I was somewhere in Berlin or New York, and I would urge people to check it out. It has a unique funky vibe, also operating as an arthouse cinema.

Speaking of cinemas, I am very excited to begin composing for the Australian Silent Film “The Cheaters” for a performance at the Melbourne International Film Festival in August. More about that soon!

I’ve also recently completed music for a short film about the Suffragettes for the Auckland Museum; an inspirational film made by my sister Gaylene, using interviews from women recounting their achievement of getting the right to vote in NZ.

I had no idea what these women went through!

We hope you can come along to one of our concerts in Brisbane, Melbourne, Geelong, Canberra, Perisher, Cootamundra, Adelaide, Marlborough Sounds NZ, Sydney, the Gold Coast and more.

Yours in boogie and blues!

Jan

February, March and Easter happenings!

Hello boogie friends,
What a blast it was to attend the Australian Blues Festival in Goulburn this past weekend!
Not only playing our own concerts, but also to hear the wealth of fantastic blues musicians and songwriters from throughout Australia, many of whom I hadn’t heard before (Geoff Achison, Lloyd Spiegel, Bonnie Kay) as well as many friends who I have enormous respect for such as Ali Penney, Nick Charles, and the electric blues band Tomcat Playground. Their performances gave me so much inspiration.
On Friday night we had Nick Charles sit in with us to play tunes he recorded from my latest CD “Play It Again Jan” and that show was a real highlight – I only wish he didn’t live in Melbourne!

And so to the present; coming up in March are 2 performances of my show “Wonderful Winnie” (the life and music of Winifred Atwell) in Canberra and Lismore, then NZ concerts around Easter in April. All details are on my website.

I want to make a special mention of our show this Saturday night at a unique venue in Wollombi, near the picturesque Central Coast and Hunter Valley. I’ve been playing there for years (since back in the day of the Wollombi Music Festival). The venue has recently changed hands and is now called the Harp Of Erin.
It’s a dinner/show format, the ambience and food is great, and the place is run by people with big hearts and good vibes. It’s $55 for dinner and show, with some places still available, so I would urge you to consider booking an Air BnB in the area and joining us!

Meanwhile here in Sydney in the blistering heat I’ve finished composing for the extraordinary BBC Scotland feature documentary “Border Politics” and am about to start composing for another film.

Only now am I feeling cheated by the lack of a break over Christmas and New Year and in surfacing this week it is with shock I realise the holiday season has been and gone, everything’s open again, kids are back at school, and I missed that particular boat!

At least I can wish you all a not-too-late Happy Chinese New Year and hope to see you at one of our shows.

Yours in boogie and blues,
Jan

WA – The Last Leg!!

Hello Boogie friends,

Thanks so much to everyone who came out to our concerts in Sydney, South Australia and Victoria. I’ve been really happy with the response to the new songs from the ‘Play It Again Jan’ CD (Mr Mogo Man and The Sun Shines being two particular crowd favourites).

We are wrapping up the tour in WA with shows at Fremantle and Perth this weekend, before heading out to Blues @ Bridgetown in the glorious South West Region of West Australia.

 

Whew!

 

I may need to put my feet up for a while after that, although only briefly, as I’ve started composing for a film, which I’m sworn to secrecy on at the moment. I’ll keep you posted; it’s very interesting…..

 

It’ll be lovely to finally catch up with our fans in WA, and I even have a new Tim Winton book to read while in Fremantle!

 

Yours in boogie and blues,

Jan

A Festival and CD Launch!

Hello Boogie friends,
It’s been a long time coming, 4 years in fact, but from the adversity of breaking my wrists I have risen, like a piano playing Phoenix from the ashes with my new CD, PLAY IT AGAIN JAN and an Australian Tour beginning at Illawarra’s fabulous “Folk By The Sea” festival next weekend SEP 22nd and 23rd.
Mike and I will be joined by bass playing sensation Liz Frencham for our shows on
Fri 22nd @ 6.30pm and Sat 23rd @ 8.30pm
www.folkbythesea.com.au

Next up is our Sydney CD launch at the SEYMOUR CENTRE SOUND LOUNGE 7.30pm SAT OCT 14, followed by dates through VIC, SA and WA.
Bookings for the Sound Lounge are Ph (02) 9351 7940 or online www.seymourcentre.com

I really love this album, it’s definitely my best; the team were awesome, especially engineer/co-producer Nigel Masters from the Boatshed Studios in Tauranga NZ.
I’ve got sound bites on my website, so please check some of the tracks such as The Sun Shines, Blues and the Boogie, and Scared of the Dark. It’s currently in production, copies will be ready in a few days time, and we already have pre-orders.

And for people in Adelaide, we are excited that the film I composed music for earlier this year, My Year With Helen (directed and produced by my lovely sister Gaylene), has been programmed in October at the Adelaide International Film Festival. Very cool.

See you out and about!
Yours in boogie and blues,
Jan

New CD On It’s Way!

Hello boogie friends,

Exciting news – my “Play It Again Jan” CD is in the finishing stages! This new baby is very precious to me, I have taken time, attention, as well as passion and hard work in all aspects from the songwriting to the recording and mastering.

A huge thanks to Nigel Masters, (co producer, engineer and bass player, he can do everything!) who’s produced an amazing series of tracks in his studio in Tauranga, NZ.

Over the decades that I’ve been making albums, this is the best recording of my voice ever. Love it!

We will now embark on a national tour to launch the CD, beginning in Sydney on Oct 14th, through Victoria, SA, and ending in WA in November.

Here are some photos taken at the “Noosa Alive” Festival in July, where Rococo presented a 3 day festival on the beach.

It was great fun to play 3 handers with Wil Sargeson and The Wizard, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven to play a white grand piano on the beach! (The closest I have previously come was teaching piano to director Jane Campion before the making of her film “The Piano”, which opens with footage of a grand piano on a wild NZ beach.)

Hope to see you soon, and we’ll be back in touch about the CD launches.

Yours in boogie and blues,

Jan

A Film, a Tour and a Birthday!

Hello boogie friends,

Many thanks to the people who came out to our short North Island NZ concert series recently; Napier was a particular highlight.
The consensus of opinion seems to be unanimously that I’m playing as well as ever and singing better, this probably due to my implementing the New York Taubman piano technique method that sees me sitting a lot higher.
Opens the lungs I guess!
So from everything bad something good comes……..well, mostly……

Special news about my sister Gaylene’s film MY YEAR WITH HELEN for which I wrote the music. (Choir, percussion and piano, most unusual for me!)
Gaylene spent 2016 tracking Helen Clark in her bid to become UN Secretary General and the film has been chosen for showcase screenings in the Sydney Film Festival and the New Zealand International

Gaylene will attend the World Premiere at the Sydney Film Festival together with Helen Clark, where it will be a Special Presentation at the magnificent State Theatre on June 10, followed by a Q&A session about the making of the film.
Here are the links; the State Theatre screening is almost sold out, so be quick if you want to attend that one.
– Saturday 10th June, State Theatre, 4.20pm
– Sunday 11th June, Dendy Opera Quays Cinema, 5.30pm

Lastly, Mike and I are off to Germany today for a 3 week tour, and are very excited to be reconnecting with our Blues and Boogie fraternity in Berlin and Hamburg.

And for once, here’s a personal photo on my birthday yesterday with my awesome son Ivan.
Not a piano in sight!

Yours in boogie,
Jan

Back on My Bike!

Hello Boogie Friends,

Much composing and performing activity this month and next, so I am back on my bike, indeed pedalling hard!

First up, the wonderful Yackandandah Folk Festival in Victoria next weekend where we are playing three concerts. It’s a beautiful rural town, an extremely well run festival with a special heart to it, great acts, highly recommended.

Next a trip across the Tasman to the PumpHouse in Auckland for one concert on March 31 as part of their 40 Year anniversary, an amazing achievement for a venue anywhere in the world. I’m delighted to be returning to the PumpHouse, it’s been a few years and it’s a fabulous concert room with a terrific Baldwin Grand piano

During April I’m touring theatres in NZ and completing the score for my sister Gaylene’s film.

The score comprises piano, percussion and voice for which I will be recording a choir in my studio in Sydney, percussion in Auckland, and mixing in Wellington. I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed working on this extraordinary documentary about Helen Clark and the United Nations. It’s very unlike any other film music I have ever written!

Please come along and hear my new wrists in concert action throughout April in theatres in Palmerston North, Napier, Wellington and Tauranga. Who says I can’t play the Bumbleboogie at speed with metal plates? You will be as stunned and amazed as me at what those clever doctors have achieved!

Yours in boogie,
Jan

Play it Again, Jan!

Hello boogie friends,

Yes, I can play it again and, I think, better than ever!
5 months after breaking both my wrists, you’ll be delighted to hear that everything is now back to normal and I cannot tell you how relieved and happy I am to be back at those wonderful 88’s.

Having been a guest on 2 shows in Sydney last December, I’ll now be performing my first entire concert, part of the Gold Coast City Jazz Club’s Concert Series next Monday Feb 20th.

I’ll be joined by Mike on drums and the very talented (Brisbane based) Andrew Shaw on bass, as well as special guest, the fabulously virtuosic piano player, Kiwi ex-pat Will Sargeson.
Will plays phenomenal boogie and we intend to carve it up together for sure!

The past few weeks I’ve also been composing music for a fascinating film, directed by my sister Gaylene Preston.
Gaylene has a unique voice amongst filmmakers which has given her longstanding success, great respect and countless awards, and I am delighted to be working with her.
The project will wrap in April, so stay posted to hear more in my next newsletter!

So what else does 2017 hold in store?
A return in March to the delightful Yackandandah Folk Festival in Victoria, some April ‘Play It Again Jan’ concerts in theatres in the North Island of NZ, the recording of a new CD in May (at last!) and a tour back to our beloved German Boogie Festivals in June.

Hope to see you soon!

And so they heal…….

Hello boogie friends,
Thank you thank you thank you sooooo much for your emails, apologies for the group reply to let you know that my wrists are healing.
I’ve got the casts off and am in removable splints; see the groovy purple numbers in the photo!
I can do just about everything, i.e. dress myself, wipe my own bum, pour a cuppa, do the dishes (slowly), shower myself which is heaven, but I can’t walk the dog, drive, or unscrew lids off jars.

And of piano playing?
I couldn’t resist buying a piano up here on the Gold Coast which I absolutely love, and am practising finger exercises and singing a lot.
I’m convinced a keyboard is NOT what I should be playing and this old piano has a lovely feel.

To keep myself occupied I’ve been writing more blogs (not compulsory reading) and I thought this one might grab you.

Yours in boogie,
Jan

The Night Spike Played To Me

 

It was the 1980s and having been a popstar with a number 1 hit single in New Zealand I relocated to Sydney, and was living in a flat in Glebe with two other people; my then husband, Martin, and Carl Ecke. Carl Ecke was a big, brown, muscular, magnificent and vibrant German-made upright piano I was in love with at the time.
Indeed, it would seem I was more in love with that piano than my husband, since a couple of years after we moved in, Martin and I divorced and he moved out.
That left me and Carl Ecke all to ourselves.
Heaven!
At last I could play and sing as long and as loud as I wanted.
Throughout 12 years of marriage, my music practicing had always greatly annoyed Martin who accused me of being “so….so….. so loud Jan!”
“There’s no volume control on a piano Martin” I would feebly reply.

I guess the split was always going to come down in Carl Ecke’s favour.

So there I was at the age of 37, overlooking the water from my brilliantly positioned sunny flat, watching the Glebe High School being built and the old Glebe Island Bridge opening and closing, opening and closing as the Russian cargo ships, the Camira and the Conara, sailed through.

At this time I experienced a huge burst of creativity and was playing, singing, and songwriting for hours every day.
It was truly the happiest I’d been in years.

Ah, but there was a catch!
How to pay the rent?
I soon discovered that whilst husbands are handy for rental contributions, Carl Ecke was not.

Ever since I was a small child I was a natural performer, taking to the stage like the proverbial duck to water. My struggling parents had somehow managed to pay for piano, singing, and elocution lessons for me and my sister, and I adored most of all the end of year performances.
Being an entertainer by nature, I had always been a reluctant and impatient piano teacher, but finding myself in such a tight financial situation, I relented and took on a couple of piano students.
I also put feelers out for some kind of playing work, which I eventually found in piano bars and Leagues Clubs throughout Sydney’s outer suburbs.
Having recently been a Popstar playing concerts to hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of adoring fans, you can imagine that it was an ever-so-slight come-down to find myself in the upstairs bar of the Sutherland United Services Club or the Caringbah inn.

I had to find strategies to survive this, and I came up with a few. For instance I always made a point, every single night, of fighting my way out into the kitchen and introducing myself to the dishhand. Getting home in the wee small hours frustrated and exhausted, I could go to sleep in the knowledge that I was much better paid and hadn’t been on my feet all night with my hands in hot soapy water.

And I had Carl Ecke to hang out with all of the next day!

One morning I was walking up to the fruit shop past the Mexican restaurant just around the corner to discover it had changed hands overnight.
Gone was the EL PASO sign, the restaurant’s new name being PIANO RAG and, much to my delight and amazement, there was a black shiny 6 foot Yamaha grand piano on a riser in the window.

I couldn’t believe my luck!
What synchronicity!
Being precisely 45 seconds walk from home, this was surely the perfect gig for me.

I spent an agonizing three days waiting for the joint to open, and as soon as it did I strode in with what I thought was a rather impressive CV, confidently believing a no 1 Hit Single (never mind that no one in Australia had ever heard of it) would surely get me in the door.

But no!
To my horror and amazement they quickly explained to me that the piano was only for SHOW, they didn’t want anybody PLAYING the piano.
I was completely gobsmacked, flummoxed as to why on earth anyone would have a 6 foot good quality Yamaha grand and not want it played?! It simply defied reason.

Before leaving I deposited my card on the bar (remember cards with our phone numbers on that we used in the 1980s?) in the vague hope at some point in the future they might change their minds.

In the meantime it was back to Sutherland and Caringbah.

About a month later my home phone rang (no mobiles in those days) and believe or not, it was the manager from PIANO RAG asking me to come in and play that night.
“But I thought you weren’t having anyone PLAY the piano, I thought the piano was only for SHOW?”
“Yes, well, that’s true Jan. But tonight we have Spike Milligan booked in with a group, and he will only confirm if there is live music.”

Good onya Spike, we got ‘em!

I have since read that all of his life Spike Milligan would only attend venues with live music, couldn’t abide piped music, and was famous for ripping speakers out of lifts in expensive hotels, something I heartily approve of.

So then, what to wear?
Having tried on and discarded several outfits, I settled on a quirky but smart Cyndi Lauper style skirt and shoulder-padded jacket which offset my (then red) massively permed hair.
Like I said, this was the 1980s.

Playing my trademark boogie-woogie and ragtime (but oh so quietly) to the murmurings of cultured conversations and clinkings of wine glasses, I saw Spike Milligan with 2 women enter the room.
I was later told that one of the women was his daughter, the Milligans having had a close and affectionate relationship with Australia ever since Spike’s mother had emigrated and lived for most of her later life in Woy Woy, just north of Sydney.

Hours of boogie and ragtime, conversations and clinking glasses passed, and as the restaurant began to thin out I thought how disappointing that I never got to meet him.
Yet at nearly closing time a serious young waiter approached me with the hushed words “Spike would like you to join him.”

My Cindy Lauper outfit made it across the room, I sat down beside him, and spent the next 15 minutes or so talking to a man that I can honestly say had the most agonizingly tragic face I’ve ever seen on any human being.
The other diners all gone, he took my hand with the words “come with me, my dear, and I will play piano to you.”
And as we strolled arm in arm across the floor of the room towards the Yamaha Grand, I said to him “Gosh, I didn’t realize you played the piano Spike.” The straight man immediately transformed into Eccles, and with that unmistakable “Ying Tong Yiddle I Po” Goons voice replied “Ohhhhh. I didn’t realize I played the piano either!”

What followed was the most heartbreakingly beautiful and skilled version of Autumn Leaves, which I will hold in my musical memory for the rest of my life.

Thank you and God rest you Spike.

So you’d be thinking by now that I would score a regular gig at PIANO RAG?
No way!
I was never invited back, the place closed down soonafter, I heard that my ex husband Martin had remarried (that was quick) and life moved on as it does.
And Carl?
Most of all, I still miss Carl Ecke and greatly regret having sold him.
I do so hope his big, brown, vibrant, quality German sound and touch is giving great pleasure to another woman somewhere.