“The band musicians come to see”
Be Sharp was formed during soundchecks in the late 1980’s, and now, with seven albums and many hundreds of gigs under their belt, the band is sounding better than ever. The band’s CV reads like a ‘whos who’ of major artists spanning four decades, and today Bob, Jerry and Richard continue to innovate and entertain their audiences at every gig.
The be sharp story so far:
At the end of the ‘80s Bob Jenkins and Jerry Stevenson were working together, touring and recording in Barbara Dickson’s band. They were often to be found jamming before concerts long after the sound-check was over, until they were literally kicked off the stage so that the venue could open the doors for the evening show. It was probably inevitable that they would end up working together outside of the umbrella of Barbara’s band, but this didn’t happen right away. Bob had a healthy career as a session drummer, and Jerry had an incredibly busy gigging schedule playing in several different bands. In fact, all of Barbara Dickson’s musicians were of a very high calibre and involved in a wide variety of different projects, both live and recording, so it was a few years before the time was right.
Then, at the end of 1989 some of the band’s regular musicians had taken on an extensive tour with Elaine Paige, and found themselves unable to do some work that had come in for Barbara. One of them was bass player Andy Brown, and Jerry suggested that Barbara should contact Dave Bronze to temporarily replace him. Jerry had known Dave slightly since the end of the ‘70s, and was very aware of his reputation as a top class player. Dave was available and very happy to be involved, but it wasn’t long after playing together for the first time that Jerry, Bob and Dave were tossing around the idea of a ‘bluesy’ three-piece band to keep them gigging when Barbara’s tour had finished.
So at the end of 1990 some rehearsals were arranged, and it was clear immediately that the idea had wings. Not only that, but it seemed as if the new band could turn their hands to an extremely wide range of material and make it all work brilliantly together. A few dates were soon put in the diary, slotted in between the guys’ existing commitments. Right from the start the audience reaction was really positive, a blend of appreciation for the high standard of musicianship, and amazement at the fantastic sound that the band managed to conjure up so effortlessly. Soon there was a full gig list and a lot of new fans.
In 1991 they recorded their first album “BE SHARP LIVE”, at that time a cassette only release, which generated a great deal of interest and praise. Dave brought along one or two respected ‘name’ artists that he knew, such as Andy Fairweather-Low, to jam at their regular Tuesday night gig in Dave’s home town of Southend-on-Sea. A short while after that Bob’s friend, famous producer Mike Vernon, invited the American blues man Sherman Robertson to play a showcase with the band. Soon there was a real buzz going on, and the venues were packed. The guys started work on some original material, and in the meantime recorded another live album of covers called “Pier Pressure”. However, just as this album was coming up for release, Dave surprised the others with the news that he had decided to move on. He was soon touring with Dr. Feelgood, then Procol Harum, and after a while he went on to play a stint in Eric Clapton’s band.
Now, the new Be Sharp album was almost ready to go, there were a lot of dates in the diary and there was not much time to find a replacement bass player. However, as luck would have it, there had already been a few gigs that Dave had been unable to do. So Bob and Jerry had called in their old friend Andy Brown from Barbara’s band, who of course had proved to be an extremely capable stand in. He also had the huge bonus of being a brilliant singer with an amazing range, and it seemed logical to offer the empty space to him. He gladly joined the band, and quite soon afterwards they began to re-work the original material that had been started with Dave, and embark on the studio recordings that eventually became their third album “Play This”.
Around about this time Bob was contacted by Rolf Thomas, an agent living in Holland who had been given the ‘Be Sharp Live’ album to listen to. He contacted the band immediately after hearing the first track, and soon they started touring in Holland, Belgium and Germany, sometimes for up to three months of the year. The ‘Play This’ album was finally finished, a polished studio recording of all original material. It made a lot of new friends for the band and created some interest from the media, with the guys doing several interviews and playing live radio and TV broadcasts in Europe and the UK.
Continued gigging led to another live album entitled ‘Night By Night’, followed by a very successful tour of the UK supporting the newly re-formed legendary Canterbury group Caravan. A live performance was arranged by Ravensbourne Media College, to be recorded and filmed. After mixing and editing, the short concert was released as ‘Insert This’, a great video of three songs that cemented Be Sharp ’s reputation for having a huge and exciting sound. As a result the band was asked to make a tour of Holland with famous guitar player Jan Akkerman joining them on stage for the entire second half of the show. Then before long their fourth live album was in the pipeline, which was to be called ‘Take Us Alive’.
It was at this point towards the end of 1997 that Andy left. He had decided that the band was now becoming too heavy a burden for him, and he really wanted to spend more time with his wife and children. Tragically only a short while later he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and after a two-year long struggle against the disease Andy sadly died in August 2000. His cheerful good nature, zany sense of humour, brilliant musicianship, fabulous voice and deep love of his family are sorely missed by everyone that knew him.
When Andy departed he left behind some very big musical boots to fill, and a newly finished album to promote. In to the picture came Gary Moxom. Jerry had known him for quite a while, and when they first met Gary had not been playing bass for very long. Now he was gigging regularly and also importantly- singing lead, plus he had been a fan of B# for many years, and he immediately jumped at the chance to try out for the band. A combination of sheer hard work and raw natural talent had Gary mastering over forty songs in just a few weeks, and by the time they started full rehearsals Bob and Jerry knew that he would fit in perfectly.
Gary had not long been involved, when Be Sharp was seen at a gig by Cliff Gill. He had recently retired from a career in law to follow his dream of becoming a musician, and was so impressed by what he heard that he most generously offered to give the band the use of a space that he had available. This quickly became the centre of the band’s production work, somewhere to make recordings both for themselves and for other artists, and a place to rehearse without having to continually move in and out of different studios. It has been an incredible gift, and one that the guys will never forget.
After nearly four years on the road with Gary a fresh recording project was started. This was going to be a studio album to showcase some of the new cover material that they had recently been working on. After much time and effort, the backing tracks were virtually complete. During this busy time Gary was enjoying both a young family and a new house. Inevitably he was beginning to feel that he would like to be at home more while the children were small, and finally decided to take a short break from the life of a travelling musician. Gary didn’t put down his bass though, he is still just as passionate about his music and now playing better than ever. He has returned to gigging and recording regularly, and has a great band with some other fine musicians including his wife Simone (who just happens to be a fabulous singer!).
Once again Bob and Jerry were looking for the right replacement. Gary continued to help out with some of the gigs, and the rest were mostly covered by a talented friend of Jerry’s, Kevin Miller (ex Style Council) who had been working with him for many years, long before the formation of Be Sharp . Another mate from the past- Pete Shaw also did a great job when needed. However Kevin was not available to join the band and Pete did not sing, so the search was on, and the half finished album had to be shelved for the time being. After nearly a year, a chance encounter came to the rescue. Bob was in his local music shop talking about the situation to one of the staff, whose immediate reaction was that he might know of someone suitable and handed Bob the phone. That mysterious ‘someone’ at the other end turned out to be Darren Tingey.
Just like Gary before him Darren had been a big admirer of the band, coming to hear them regularly during the time that Andy had been involved. He was delighted to be asked along to a rehearsal, and after playing through some of the songs that he had prepared, singing a little bit and chatting for a while, it became clear that he was just the person that Jerry and Bob had been looking for. Darren was really happy to join Be Sharp and right away he fitted in fantastically well. Being both a talented musician and a very good singer, he was immediately well liked and accepted by the regular fans.
It wasn’t long after rehearsing up the material for the gigs that there were thoughts about resurrecting the half completed album, and so the process of reviewing the recordings began. It became obvious that some of the tunes had changed significantly since Darren had joined. Many of the tracks ended up being re-recorded almost completely, or Gary’s original part replaced with Darren’s new arrangement. However some of the tracks sounded great as they were, and so it was decided to keep a couple in the finished album to mark Gary’s excellent contribution to the band. The album called ‘Slaves To The Rhythm’ was released in 2006, and featured guest performances from Ian Lynn on keyboards and Derek Nash on saxophones.
The gigs kept coming, including the occasional tour in Europe, there was a new album in progress, but after eight years of gigging and recording with the band, the summer of 2011 saw Darren starting to feel that he would like to try some new musical challenges. He decided that it was time to take a break from heavy gigging and rethink what he wanted to achieve with his playing. So Bob and Jerry found themselves sadly having to say goodbye to another fabulous player – luckily this time they didn’t have to search far for the right man. Darren already knew the perfect guy to replace him, and he gave his friend Richard Finch-Turner a call.
Richard’s playing ability and great voice were evident straight away. He had also seen the band several times over the years, and always enjoyed the choice of material and the care that the band put in to it’s sound, so joining B# really appealed to him. After just a few rehearsals everything was feeling extremely comfortable, and Richard’s wide musical knowledge and incredible fretless bass playing had brought another interesting spin to the tunes. The opening song in his first ever gig with the band was interrupted by a broken snare drum head, and while Bob changed it, Richard entertained the audience with an impromptu unaccompanied operatic vocal solo- It brought the house down, and everyone was equally knocked out by his exciting playing. The regular fans have been incredibly impressed by how easily Richard has slotted in to the band, and are looking forward to him taking on a few songs of his own.
The band is now in it’s 20th year! At the moment the plans are to finish the album that is in the works and introduce some excellent new material.
Long may it continue………………………