Opening the Studio

On-The-Road Stories

About a year ago, in the middle of yet another 2020 lockdown, I was juggling my teaching commitments at the Conservatoire of Amsterdam, some online courses where I was a guest tutor AND the second gypsy jazz Zoom group I’d just set up.

My diary that week was a mess; people got their preparation info too late from me; and I had to skip a meal to be in 2 (online) places at once. I made the end of the week, but decided there and then I wanted to do this better.

Ellen and Martin from my first Zoom group had been telling me I should write a simple, small book that would summarize the things I kept saying to the students: like “use the Leading Note Lick”; “play Minor on the Dominant”; “start your Bebop rhythm with a down bow”, that kind of thing.

My other ‘gypsy jazz family members’ Jim, Gary and Bob liked the idea, too, and all of them came up with valuable suggestions and reminded me of stuff I’d forgotten I said. The book took shape in my brain (but not on paper) over the next months.

The puzzle pieces only fell into place when I asked Pablo, violin improv colleague and technology buff, what he thought about a teaching website of my own. We thought about calling it the Studio and the name stuck. And that’s when it hit me: the book, now called “First Aid Kit” should be a blueprint for the Studio.

Over the Summer, the First Aid Kit had started taking shape, with me as usual writing on board trains, the bus of the orchestra I toured with, backstage before some concerts, and on my regular teaching trips to Amsterdam. October, November and December saw Pablo working hard on the technical side of this website.

Thanks to those five violinists already mentioned, the Gypsy Jazz First Aid Kit found its current form, and thanks to Pablo and the testers we are now GO … and look forward to your feedback 🙂

Can’t wait to work with you here!

Tim 

In 2005, when I left the Fapy Lafertin Quintet to start my own career, I was listening to Grappelli’s “Live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall”. It was on a Black Lion LP with a certain Len Skeat on bass.

I liked what I heard as it reminded me of my favourite bassist Ray Brown (check him out with the Oscar Peterson Trio!) and for me, this was a level up from Grappelli’s other bass players before and after.

Google helped out and I found out Len was alive and still playing on the English jazz circuit as an ‘éminence grise’. As I had just been offered a try-out gig at a London club as an audition for a tour, I got in touch with him through a friend of a friend to see if I could get him interested in joining me if things went well.

We chatted on the phone for 2 hours that first time, and quickly became friends – he helped organise my first solo album The Grappelli Tribute with guitar, piano and bass and I got the tour, on which he joined me.

Over the next few years, we played many concerts at clubs and festivals and my third album, Swingin’ the Classics, led to a festival in Garmisch Partenkirchen (Germany) where we played for the grandson of Richard Strauss. But that’s a story for another time!

Meanwhile, I’d started touring in Scotland with Roy and Nigel as the “Tim Kliphuis Trio” which was musically a very different thing – less traditional and much more musically challenging for me with its mix of classical, folk and jazz. So gradually I got to see Len less and less, but we stayed in touch until the day he passed away last March, at the age of 84.

Len told me many stories of his years with Grappelli, some of which I’ll be sharing with you here – and also of his favourite colleagues, bassist Ray Brown, saxophone giant Ben Webster and singer Peggy Lee. I thank him for his generosity and great musicianship.

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