Mike Gates

I was 8 or 9 years old when I bought my first record. Even to this day it is still one of the most vivid memories I have… It was a Chuck Berry album. I’d seen him on the TV and thought Wow! Who is this guy? I don’t remember my family being particularly musical, apart from my Dad playing Sinatra endlessly into the night, I guess for me Chuck Berry was the beginning of a love affair, an obsession even, with music. So on that fateful day my Dad took me to Woolworths and there it was: 12″ bright and shiny Chuck Berry. I’d saved my pennies for weeks; the anticipation, the energy, the pull was so strong I was shaking with excitement. Then I realised I was a few pence short… Oh no! The devastation I felt is beyond words. “Go on then” said my Dad, “here’s the rest of the money you need.” Yes!

And so it had begun. Over the next couple of years I had discovered Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard, Bo Diddley and the greatest in my mind; Jerry Lee Lewis. Oh yes, and Showaddywaddy… cut me some slack here though, I was only 11. It was in my early teens that the voyage of discovery really began. After brief flirtations with punk, ska, heavy rock etc etc, it was with a close friend at school, led on by his dope smoking errant uncle, that led us on to our next journey. By the age of 16 we were heavily into the UK and American folk/singer-songwriter scene. My vinyl collection was rapidly growing, my pockets rapidly emptying. Roy Harper, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Terry Callier, all becoming not just firm favourites, but an integral part of our lives. That’s what music does to us you see, it becomes a living, breathing part of us that no-one can ever take away. It was, perhaps inevitably, during this time that I first picked up a guitar and started to strum. I had found my freedom. This was my place to be. I began writing songs, performing live and recording… a love affair that still burns brightly, even if not so regularly these days.

The next pivotal moment came when I was 17. The drummer in my band was also a jazz devotee. I’d never taken much of an interest in jazz or classical music up to this point, (it was only later I was to realise and understand the influences jazz and classical music had already had on me through some of the music I was already listening to). Said drummer was part of a jazz quartet, so one evening I ventured into Birmingham to the Victoria pub to see them perform. Leading the band was a 14-year-old alto saxophonist. We were introduced. His name: Chris Bowden. And therein began a life long friendship and a new adventure: Jazz. I was soon making new, exciting discoveries; Pat Metheny, Weather Report, Michael Brecker, Coltrane, Keith Jarrett, Charles Lloyd, and on it goes…

Writing this has made me realise something. Although it doesn’t quite match those heady days of searching out new music, long-lost albums, getting up early to travel to record fairs just to try to find that elusive album missing from my collection… since I started reviewing for UK Vibe in January 2015, I have rediscovered the excitement of what it is to be surprised and invigorated by hearing something new and unexpected. And to listen properly again… To take it all in and enjoy it. Talking/writing about someone else’s music can be a challenging task, but ultimately, and surprisingly, I find it an enjoyable, rewarding experience.

These days I don’t get to gig or record as much, but new life has recently been injected into these bones and I can now be seen and heard performing live with my daughter, Kia. She has a bright future ahead of her, hopefully in the world of music, but for now she settles for the odd gig with her old man. Over the years I’ve had many bands, possibly the most memorable being a 9 piece folk/jazz outfit featuring Chris Bowden on saxes and Joe Murphy on violin. And on the odd occasion, I have been seen strutting my stuff as my alter-ego Rockabilly hipster Captain Jive and his Pink Sectrets! Other info/interests?… On a professional level I have just about paid for the daily bread running, with my long-suffering and wonderful wife, Helena, Kingate Press, a Birmingham based printing company. www.kingate.co.uk We now also operate a cd/dvd printing and manufacturing business. www.sky-com.biz

Interests: Food, guitars, drink, guitars, wife and 2 kids, guitars, my dogs, guitars, sci-fi, guitars, reading and writing, guitars, movies, and oh yes… Hmm, well you know what they say, you can never have too many guitars. And lamb jalfrezi, you can never have too much of that either. And Hobgoblin ale, you can never… I’ll go now. Our leader has just sent me another 20 albums to listen to and review… There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Mike Gates’ Best of 2015:

1. Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet – Family First (Beat Music Productions) Review here

2. Nat Birchall – Invocations (Jazzman) Review here

3. Charles Lloyd – Wild Man Dance (Blue Note) Review here

4. Ibrahim Maalouf – Kalthoum (Impulse!)

5. Géraud Portal & Etienne Déconfin – Brothers (Gaya Music Production) Review here

6. Verneri Pohjola – Bullhorn (Edition) Review here

7. Kamasi Washington – The Epic (Brainfeeder) Review here

8. Brad Mehldau – 10 Years Solo Live (Nonesuch) Review here

9. Lage Lund – Idlewild (Criss Cross Jazz) Review here

10. Brian Ellis Group – Escondido Sessions (El Paraiso) Review here

11. Emanative – The Light Years of The Darkness (Steve Reid Foundation/Brownswood) Review here

12. Gael Horellou – Synthesis (DTC) Review here

13. Makaya McCraven – In The Moment (International Anthem) Review here

14. Jan Prax Quartett – Keepin’ A Style Alive (ACT) Review here

15. Antonio Sanchez & Migration – The Meridian Suite (CAM Jazz) Review here

16. Artyom Manukyan – Citizen (Ghost Note) Review here

17. Kenny Wheeler – Songs for Quintet (ECM) Review here

18. Rotem Sivan Trio – A New Dance (Fresh Sound New Talent) Review here

19. Snarky Puppy with Metropole Orkest – Sylva (Impulse!) Review here

20. Jean Marc Padovani – Motian in Motion (Naïve Jazz) Review here

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