SLEEVE NOTES Kit Downes and Ayanna Witter Johnson

Ahead of the April Jazz In The Round fixture, I caught up with ‘everyone’s favourite pianist’ Kit Downes, and the bewitching and bewildering Ayanna Witter Johnson.

SC:

Jazz education in the UK has taken some pretty giant steps in the last 15 or so years. Increasingly, players are coming from a background where they have attended specialist music schools and conservatoires. In what ways,if any, does this impact on the  technical aspects of the music, its culture and mythology?

KD:

I like that there is the option of going to them – no-one is forced to go  Conservatoires and Universities are not for everyone, but they do help a great deal of people, and I feel a bit sad that sometimes critics and musicians blame their perceived ‘state of the scene’ (which they are unhappy about) on music colleges.

This divisive attitude and the preconceptions that come with it don’t really exist when you are on the band stand (hopefully) – good musicians want to play with good musicians and to make good music – it’s unimportant whether they studied at college or not, it is just important that they are informed and developed enough to play with other people, and to make good music.

The whole area is such a pointless thing to generalise about. I personally have benefited from conservatoires enormously in my life and I don’t think I would have be playing music now if I hadn’t attended the Purcell School and the Royal Academy, however – that is my own complicated story and is not the same as everyone elses. I know that often music colleges fail to meet the needs of students and maybe it doesn’t work out at all – but I would rather there be the option of going than not – it’s an old argument as well, when you look back at the criticism players like Lenny Tristano and Lee Konitz got (The New School crowd) you know that there is always tension against and within these establishments.

The bigger threat to the music I feel is money, and the whole industry that comes with it that often ends up restricting creative people in the name of ‘success’ and resulting in a shift of priorities away from being a creative artist. That issue is what I want to hear musicians like Peter Brotzmann and Gail Brand really talk about on Jazz on 3.

SC:

John Fordham describes your playing as being that of a ‘patient storyteller’. Are you? and if so, what are your stories about?

KD:

I hear all music as storytelling, it’s maybe a grand word for it but it’s true I think!

SC:

What does the world scene need more of? What could it do without?

KD:

I don’t know really, I probably know less than 5% of whats going on – the worlds big! Something I could personally do without is the feeling that music is becoming just a business, valued solely on how financially successful it is, and that that approach trickles down into the listener (sometimes).

kit-downes1

 

Ayanna Witter Johnson. Cellist, singer, songwriter.

SC: 

I feel a bit rotten saying this but, the likes of Rhianna feel to me to be an abomination on the face of African American musical history! Is it the music or garbage that comes with it I’m recoiling from?

AWJ:

I don’t think that Rihanna need carry the weight of the African American tradition on her shoulders.  She is a commercial artist making pop music and there is and always has been a demand for that.  She never professes to stand for a people and I think that there is a wide enough range of music out there to uphold the various strands of music deriving from the African American culture.  Before Rihanna, Madonna held a similar position of that iconic star who is as much a source of visual entertainment as musical.

 SC:

The UK doesn’t have an equivalent venue to the Harlem Appollo where you famously appeared. Nothing as rich in tradition, history or quality anyway. Is it too late or too early?

AWJ:

I think there is an equivalent. For me, the Hackney Empire occupies a role in the community that brings people together in a similar way to the Apollo Theater in Harlem.  In fact, the Apollo Theater came over last summer to do a Harlem vs. Hackney show much like the Amateur Night Live Competition in Harlem and I was a special guest for two of those shows.

Ayanna 19

SC: Music. Why Music?

AWJ:

Why not?  :)  I don’t think I ever had a ‘lightbulb’ moment and made that kind of choice.  I have always played an instrument since the age of four so to express myself musically has always been a natural thing to do.  I guess, I’m just following the inevitable given the circumstances.

SLEEVE NOTES: Gary Crosby OBE

I still vividly remember the first time I met Gary Crosby. It was Saturday October 4th 1986. I was 14 years old, dreaming of being a jazz musician.

I’d read a newspaper feature on Courtney Pine shortly before, in which Courtney spoke about his route into the music, his hopes for raising people’s awareness of this great art form, and about Abibi Jazz Arts.

We were looking for leaders. People who included us in their vision, and who seemed to share the same feelings and aspirations for Jazz and its place in our culture.

I travelled over to Leeds where Courtney and his Quartet, which included Mark Mondesir, Adrian Reid, and Gary, were performing at the legendary Trades Club in Chapeltown.

Now, if you’ve read any of David Peace’s ‘Red Riding’ books, you may well get the picture, because this was 80’s Leeds. Dirty Leeds. The Leeds of the Service Crew, The Adelphi, Termite Club, Sunny’s, Gotham City, and Xero Slingsby busking with Gene Velocette in the City Centre. A gritty place Leeds in them days.

I got my chance to speak with Gary, Adrian, and Courtney, who spent time with me after the gig and were generous and encouraging. They told me check out this guy Booker Little and to practice, practice, and practice. Well, at least I checked out Booker Little!

Gary has been a figure in my life pretty much constantly since then. I was fortunate enough to have  been invited to join The Jazz Warriors when I moved to London at 19, and I served my musical apprenticeship with Tomorrow’s Warriors and Gary Crosby’s Nu troop.

Gary has encouraged and supported many young players, a significant number of which would not have been received well, or encouraged by the existing gatekeepers of the jazz scene at the time.

Many of these players have gone on to become leading musicians, some of us have tripped up here and there, but have a reason d’etre that isn’t just about the playing. Gary has grafted for this music and its meaning, and I think he genuinely deserves the recognition he’s received for his contribution to music in the U.K.

Gary is a man who would have guided, encouraged and supported others regardless of his occupation, and regardless of  whether or not they were set for stardom. I am quite certain of that. Over 20 years after my first meeting with him, I feel proud to have him headline an event that I am involved in organising.

I appreciate the time he took out from ‘shedding’ to answer these questions, and though sometimes the journey gets stormy, when it comes to the crunch, I feel grateful for the kindness and inspiration that Gary has shared during this fleeting time.

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SC: You pioneered the cause of developing young jazz musicians when many musicians were happy to simply pursue their own careers as artists. How early in your career did you feel a desire to do this and what motivated you?

GC: As a youngster I had been influenced by a few older guys from the University of the Street Corner in my area who were passing on whatever information they had about music, politics, civil rights, girls, fashion, sport, cultural issues, and so on. Then in my early twenties, having become a qualified electrical engineer, I worked for a Black-led company that employed a few guys (‘yout man dem’!) some of whom were at risk of being excluded from the labour market. Some had been referred to us via the probation service and I was given responsibility for training them. This is where I found a role to play in the struggle that faced my community at that time. So it seemed a natural thing for me, as I began to work more as a professional musician, to take on the role of a kind of older brother as I could see some of the young musicians needed support.

SC: As a founder of the Jazz Warriors in the 80’s what positive legacy has been left by that particular group of musicians?

Courtney Pine’s Jazz Warriors made an important contribution to jazz in Britain by bringing diversity to the stage, to the music colleges and to the audience for jazz. I’m proud of that achievement, and I am also proud that Tomorrow’s Warriors has been so successful in carrying forward this legacy.

GC: What are your 3 wishes for the UK scene in 2013?

- A greater and more honest focus on audience development by those with a vested interest in the Jazz community

- More female stars – there simply aren’t enough of them but Tomorrow’s Warriors is committed to changing this. We now have a dedicated programme for the development of female jazz musicians so the boys best watch out!

- A TV programme about this great music and its influence on popular culture with the intention to demystify jazz and remind ourselves of the roots and functionality of the music.

Peace

Gary

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Sleeve Notes 2013: Kicking off in Leeds with Matthew Bourne and Metamorphic

The new season of Jazz In The Round, inarguably London’s most eclectic barrier-busting jazz binge, is set to kick-off on January 28th, at its base-the iconic Cockpit Theatre, in London’s Marylebone district.

Sticking to our usual 3-piece formation, which features an emerging band, solo performer, and headline act, we start the year with a line-up topped by the British Jazz scene’s favourite uncle, Jazz Warrior and mentor to many- Gary Crosby, with his nu-ish trio ‘Groundation’, featuring Nat Facey on saxophone and Moses Boyd on drums, along with the maverick Matthew Bourne doing a solo piano set, and Metamorphic- a terrific young outfit who come freshly radicalised from the Northern city of Leeds.

I’ve been reliably informed that Gary was last sighted deep in the shed, but in the meantime, I caught up with Matt and Metamorphic’s Laura Cole ,who both kindly took the time to answer my line of questioning.

Matt Bourne.

SC: What impact has being a musician based outside of London had on your career in terms of influence and profile?

MB: Good question.

SC: Thanks Matt!

MB: I’m not sure, really. I’ve never really worried or, more accurately, never really taken the concept of ‘career’ at face value enough to ponder that. I am however very pleased that I am involved with the Leeds-based, The Leaf Label. We’re planning a series of releases and projects over the next few years – and it’s really great to be working so closely with them in shaping an output with more focus on my own writing/project-shaping abilities for the first time (and The Leaf Label’s offices are just five minutes over the hill from where I live – making it very convenient indeed!).

SC: A cursory glance at your website reveals an apparent omission of the word ‘jazz’.  Do you see yourself in any way connected or disconnected to the ‘Jazz’ tradition?

MB: Wow, I wasn’t aware of that (although the word “jazz” does feature, where applicable) – it’s certainly not meant to be a conscious omission. I moved up to Leeds to study jazz at Leeds College of Music in 1996 – and my love jazz still continues, although, inevitably, with so much music and with such an excellent library full of scores and recordings, I discovered so much other music that simply fed into what I was doing in a very natural way. Again, I don’t remember making a conscious decision to move away from the jazz tradition as such – just allowed my heart/ears to be my guide; and that’s all one can do, I guess!

SC: What are your 3 wishes for the UK scene in 2013?

MB: Which scene – the UK jazz scene? Well, I’m not sure what I would wish for personally but, I would wish for anyone looking to share their music through performing in the UK, finds work – and that everyone is able to play at LEAST three paid shows of their own work in 2013!

Matthew Bourne (photo by John Stanley Austin  www.johnstanleyaustin.com)

Matt Bourne digs my line of questioning

Laura Cole of Metamorphic on overcoming all obstacles to reach the music deep within:

SC: Metamorphic means change of form right? What form are you referring to and how has it changed?

LC: The name Metamorphic came about while discussing names for my sextet with my husband over 6 years ago now. We were originally thinking about my last name, Cole, and how to work with that, when he said well you know coal [cole!] is a metamorphic rock. And I just seized on that word, metamorphic: ‘The process of rocks morphing into other forms, through heat and pressure.’ And I thought I’ve had to do that with my music.

The word metamorphic seemed to really work in terms of a deeper meaning, of things metamorphosing, of forms changing, as I had been forced to have a serious rethink of my own change of form as a musician prior to forming the sextet, having been forced to interrupt my jazz degree at Middlesex University due to severe RSI. I was not able to play the piano for a few years and felt a huge internal pressure to express the music I felt I couldn’t create without the piano.

I was unable to really use my arms at all for a while and this feeling of paralysis consequently caused severe depression (interestingly, the word depression itself also has an element of ‘pressure’ in it).

After a time, through following many different holistic courses such as Alexander technique, t’ai chi, homeopathy, osteopathy as well as intensive counselling, I began to slowly get better, mentally and physically, and the pressure began to lift. I got married, became a mother. I joined a choir and discovered that the music was still there, inside, and that I didn’t necessarily need my arms to express it.

The relief was enormous. I began to approach the piano, not initially as a player but as a musician wanting to create something more lasting; composition became my passion. I discovered that I also really enjoyed taking apart pieces I loved and pasting my favourite elements -such as a groove or a fragment of a chord progression- from them together to make one big collage, along with some compositional ideas of my own as a kind of paste (when he first heard Metamorphic, Dan Spicer called this a patchwork, a visual idea which I really like).

This meant chopping up the forms of the pieces and rearranging them. At first this felt quite brutal but I ended up really relishing it and it fed into original pieces I was writing too. It felt like a challenge. Maybe it was do with feeling like my own arms had been chopped off and then stuck back on a bit wonkily, and I had to learn to use them all over again, and that it would always feel different.

I made a decision early on that if asked, I would always talk about this long and tricky process, as there were bound to be other musicians suffering from this too: I know that if I had read or heard something similar while I was going through this it would have really helped.

So Metamorphic worked as a band title on a number of different levels; yes a change in many different forms: and as something which represented me not being afraid of this and celebrating it. Metamorphic’s first album title, The Rock Between (F-ire) reflected this, and our second album title, Coalescence, also stems from the same idea, but in the sense of bringing these different forms back together again to form a whole, with some very special guests such as Chris Montague and Seth Bennett to add into the mix too. I also like how the word sounds like Cole-essence!

Metamorphic wouldn’t be where or what it is today without the 5 other hugely talented musicians who play in the group, and who have stuck with it through all the various highs and lows.

So here’s to Chris Williams on alto, John Martin on tenor/soprano sax, Kerry Andrew on vocals/loops, Tom Greenhalgh on drums and Paul Sandy on bass who make up Metamorphic and who have made the music come alive.

SC: There are several young, female musicians emerging on the UK scene to much applause right now. Does this resonate with you in any way?

LC: Yes it really resonates. It’s really great!! They so deserve this celebration and support. I think it’s really important to raise the profile of women jazz musicians in the UK today. I have recently started a blog (www.littlewomanlonelywing.blogspot.co.uk) and just before Christmas I approached all the female musicians I knew and asked them if they’d like to contribute to the blog and share their experiences within the UK music industry as women musicians.

The question I asked was this: ‘As female musicians/composers/radio presenters, how do you feel your experiences as women in the UK music industry have contributed to or influenced – if at all – your music, creativity and career choices today?’ Overall I received a really positive response about people wanting to contribute (although people are pretty time poor so responses will be posted as and when people have a spare minute or two!) but a few pointed out that they didn’t really agree with highlighting the differences, I think preferring the idea that they were just musicians, rather than ‘female’ musicians.

I may ask male musicians the same question, from a male perspective, and see what comes back! So far there are responses from vocalists Kerry Andrew, Sarah Dacey and Kate Westbrook up on the blog. I feel so honoured that people have taken the time to consider my question and are willing to contribute to the blog.

 

SC: What are your 3 wishes for the UK scene in 2013?

LC: For female musicians/composers/bandleaders/music students to continue to receive support and encouragement, to help raise the profile of women musicians in the UK;

For the cuts to stop and be reversed so that musicians, local authorities, venues, funding bodies can recover and begin to function properly again (pie in the sky probably but hey ho, it’s a wish);

For there to be more collaborations between musicians/bands on the North/South axis and for more musicians/bands to get funding to travel round the UK (although somewhat dependent on the above..!) to get their music more widely heard.

metamorphic

A conversation with Leon Forrest.

This is a wonderful 2 part interview with author Leon Forrest. He talks about his Magnus Opus ‘Divine Days’ that set out to do for Chicago what Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ did for Dublin, the Nation of Islam, and his place in American literature.

Remembering Leon Forrest Part One

Remembering Leon Forrest Part Two

Leon Forrest: "I was out to write the great American novel."

SLEEVE NOTES: Jason Yarde

Sean: Jason, all of us who know you cannot help but admire your unswerving dedication and devotion to the music. Something else that is very apparent is the way you have played in so many different contexts yet, as both an improvisor and composer, been able to express a personal sound whilst remaining very much aware of the idiom in which you are playing or composing.

Can you tell me something about how you think you are able to do this?

Jason: Well first off – thank you! I think that finding a truthful personal voice is the ultimate goal in music and its certainly something I strive for.

That said, this year so far I have already written orchestral arrangements for Ms Dynamite, Fazer and Yolanda Brown, seen the premier of my New Music 2012 commission for Wonderbrass across in Cardiff,  and toured with Louis Moholo and Jason Moran.

In short – I guess variety is the spice of life.

I’d say the balance comes first and foremost from being a music fan and trying to keep an open ear – nothing has been off limits if I or others feel I can contribute. I’ve grown up with a lot of different music so hopefully that passes through your personal filter which hopefully becomes more refined with time. Through some combination of work and luck, over time others as well as oneself become more aware of how things come out the other end so to speak and this becomes your personal voice, hopefully reaching a stage where folks call you just as much for that as you might try and impose that sound on others.

Skill sets and technique are things many can have in common so it’s trying to go beyond that.

So finally, the point for me is remembering you are not only expressing yourself but also the artist you are working with/for too.

Sean: You appeared on the scene at a time when it seemed the business end of the music was all about the ‘next new thing’, which to some degree it still is. However, it seems to be that you evaded being positioned in that way and instead have matured as a much more complete artist.

What are your thoughts on artistic longevity, and what might be the incompatibility of using a ‘pop’ model in Jazz and ‘Creative’ music?

Jason: This indeed is a curious subject for me… I was very fortunate to be in the presence of the original Jazz Warriors at the tender age of 16 and for the majority of the 20 years plus since then I’ve managed to stretch out this ‘up and coming’ tag. This suited me fine but now entering my 4th decade I too could stop and scratch my head about ‘where I’m placed’ in the bigger picture, but I’ve always taken my cues from folks like Sam Rivers, Andrew Hill and Hermeto Pascoal so music has always been a long term concern for me.

The truth is, in those early days, besides actual music, I learnt it’s not of ultimate importance for me to court the spotlight, so I’m quite happy in ‘back of house’ roles too, whether it be production or arranging. I’m far more interested in building up a body of work.

One of the fundamental things that attracted me to jazz in particular was the idea of a long journey of growth in an environment that seemed to allow for development and age!

As mush as I love discovering ‘new’ music etc. I think the ‘pop model’ is dangerous as it too often doesn’t allow true development. It’s true that in general, things have become more throw away in society, but for me it’s the equivalent of reading the first chapter or two of a book and then disregarding it for another and it’s not even like you can skip to the last few pages and see how it ends! Although some folks will make an assumption…

Surely if not a best seller it’s better to be that reference book that you have to keep delving back into?

I’m certainly not trying to be a throw away paperback…

In this for the long haul. Jason Yarde in his Afro Blok days

Sean: What’s on your heaphones?!

Jason: This is a funny one too! I find I really have to make time to listen to music ‘outside’ of work! Again, even with the work stuff the variety keeps things really open which is cool as it’s still probably 80%+ of my listening on a good week.

So to name a few, I’ve been delving back into some back catalogue of the Blue Notes along with most folks I’ve already mentioned above, along with some Monk. I have maybe 50Gb of music on my phone at any one time so sometimes I just have to put the shuffle on and be surprised!

I’m halfway through Laura Cole’s album at the mo and really enjoying that.

SATIE SAYS

I never wrote a note I didn’t mean

ERIK SATIE

Vidal Montgomery on the Mechanics of Soul

My good friend Vidal ‘Monty’ Montgomery, bass player, thinker, Spurs fanatic and all round good for the planet type guy speaks about Mingus, Sankofa  and why you’d better get it!

http://jazzreloaded.tumblr.com/post/19177106360/better-get-it

SLEEVE NOTES talking with the artists from Jazz In The Round

The event was finally conceived when 4 like minds met serendipitously and decided to turn ideas into action.

Dave Wybrow of The Cockpit, Richard Wyatt an economist with interests in Somethin’ Else and the 606 club, Jez Nelson presenter of BBC Jazz on 3 and CEO of Somethin’ Else and me, Sean Corby of Prodigal Jazz all share the view that jazz snobs, inverted jazz snobs, or snobs of any sort for that matter, should EAT SHIT!

We’ve got no time for cliques and camps, boundaries and barriers, posers and posturers or anything else that gets in the way of the musicians making the music they want to make and audiences getting to hear it.

We’ve got a really thriving scene musically, with a rich and diverse community of musicians with such varied interests, influences and aspirations and the JITR team love it all.

The expertly Jazz on 3 team, along with the crew from the Cockpit and soundman supremo Steve Lowe got on board and we set sail on the 30th January.

Our launch night was just as we wanted it to be. Celebratory and welcoming in feel and eclectic musically. The venue is so intimate that one audience member, renowned trumpeter Noel Langley commented “It was like being in an anatomists studio..with the audience held attentive throughout.”

First up was young trumpeter Yazz Ahmed and her trio, followed by a solo set from Mancunian guitarist of Cinematic Orchestra fame Stuart McCallum then topped off by Black Top the step dub trio of Orphy Robinson, Pat Thomas and Steve Williamson.

Next up, on February 27th, we have headliners Shabaka Hutchings and Sons of Kemet featuring Oren Marshall, Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford,  pianist Andrew McCormack solo and opening act Ryan Williams Flashmob.

I caught up with them all and posed a couple of questions.

Shabaka Hutchings

shabaka, no time for hierarchy in music.....

Sean:  JITR is all about ignoring barriers of any kind that might discourage or prevent an audience or fellow musicians from checking out the great music being made out there.

I’ve heard you make reference to Jimmy Hamilton, Bjork and Don Byron.

How do you reconcile all these influences in your musical concept?

Shabaka: I believe that you are what you ingest, and that goes as much physically as it does intellectually and musically.

We can’t help being influenced by our surroundings even if our influence manifests itself in the opposite or a form of resistance to the elements we’re exposed to.

For me, the situation becomes complicated when, as a ‘Jazz’ musician you are made to feel, through the examples of history, like influence is a novelty and certain elements should be emphasised, or made known to the public for the sake of reconciling them to the fact that we do still live within the same age as them, and therefore might dig some of the same stuff.

When I create music I try my hardest to purge myself from other people’s concepts and ideas, even if that results in a slightly nihilistic sound at times.

For me the truest homage to a great artist is to have his spirit manifest itself in my music in a completely lucid, un self regulated way.

Sometimes when I’m listening intently to various forms of music I feel as if I’m training my subconscious for the moment it sees fit to call forth a certain bit of information or vibe from a certain artist.

I guess, back to the question, my reconciliation is in the listening and appreciating alot of different forms of music on the same level.

I’ve tried for a long time to remove the sense of hierarchy within myself in regards to music, this is a trait I think jazz has borrowed from classical music and which is generally unhealthy.

Sean: In this era of mass commoditisation of pretty much everything. What strategies can an artist with integrity adopt to make sure their music has an impact on our culture?

Shabaka: This isn’t meant to be a cop out answer, but I guess the only think an artist can do is to have integrity and to consider (continually) what integrity means to him.

It is easy to survive as a musician yet be asleep to the reality of time one lives in, this in terms of the function your music plays in society as a whole and if it has no function what its purpose is – simply a way of sustaining the musician’s existence? a means of furthering the arty canon? pushing the legacy of western music into unseen realms for the sake of the elite few that have the financial resources to subsidise or partake in art for its own survival’s sake….. ?

For me, the questioning of basic existential musical questions and then putting one’s whole energy into what the artist thinks is right creates an impact on the culture of the age.

Sean: What are the 5 most precious albums you own?

Shabaka: 

Bjork – Vesperetine
Mystic Revalation of Rastafari –
Groundation
John Coltrane –
A Love Supreme
Yaya Diallo –
Nangape
Joanna Newsome –
YS

Andrew McCormack

Sean: Having had the fortune of playing alongside you on many occasions as members of Tomorrow’s Warriors and other groups, I was aware of, and admired the rigour with which you approached the music and the attention you paid to addressing the fundamentals honestly. 

How has this approach enabled you to play in the way you do now?

Andrew: I’ve always thought it was important for me to be somewhat disciplined and organised in practising and learning music as talent alone can only get you so far. Time (as we all know) is a precious commodity so it’s useful to have an idea of what you’re trying to improve and make sure you dedicate the time to doing it.

I think the ideals in technique can sometimes blur or hinder one’s more exploratory nature but I think I’m finding a way to do both these days.

Although the structure of how I practise has changed many times over the years, and is still changing, I think (hope) I’ve always kept the same goal in mind which is making music!

Sean: There’s a lot of talk about tradition, individuality and innovation. Sometimes inferring they are mutually exclusive and such like.

It seems to me that you’ve addressed the tradition not only in a historical or in a rhetorical way but very practically. 

Can you give some insight into what the jazz lineage means to you as an improviser?

Andrew: For me learning the ‘lineage’ is about mastery. Although it’s a big scary word if you want to ‘master’ music, as well as technical proficiency you have to be fluent in the language. By this I mean conversant with past masters, conversant being a better word because you will NEVER sound like Charlie Parker and that’s not what we’re trying to do.

At the same time as doing this it’s important to always expand on this to add your own voice. Having an historical understanding in anything will always give you a richer context to what is happening right now. This is what I want to work towards anyway and I’ve not always done this!

To break it down simply if you take something that Charlie Parker has played for example, look at the concept behind the idea and then expand on that concept by going further with it, I think this is the key to individuality within the ‘lineage’. Anyone who we might call a master has done this and it doesn’t exclusively apply to jazz music either.

Having said that it’s hard to do! Once you have it under the fingers so to speak it then requires one’s own creativity and imagination to really go beyond the existing ideas and this is where real artistry comes into play. Some are better at it than others as we can see!

conversant with the masters

Sean: I know you’ve become increasingly interested in composition. 

What are the similarities and differences in the way you approach creating music in these ways?

Andrew: I  think it’s helped me as a context to how I might play and enriched my understanding of how music works in general. If you want to find a way of repeating an idea with an interesting variation I can’t recommend highly enough asking Bach, Beethoven or Brahms!
I think the great thing about composition is that you have to be concise with what you have to say and I think jazz musicians could perhaps think about that sometimes. Having said that I am all in favour of closing one’s eyes and just seeing where the music takes us, both approaches are valid. You don’t always have to know exactly what your playing if you want to surprise yourself but a few goalposts here and there can help keep things focussed.

Ryan Williams

Sean: I’ve been talking to writers recently about how they approach their work. Whether they feel inspired or not, it has to be done.

As a musician and composer, how do you approach your work?

Ryan: I find that I tend to write with things in batches. More often than not, these come about through the feeling of it having to be done. Occasionally, I will come up with an idea unintentionally and try to develop it. I rarely just sit down and write, normally there is a particular project or gig in mind.

The inspiration to create always comes from listening to music. The ideas again, come from listening and also from personal practise. Sometimes, when sitting down and trying to write, I may give myself certain parameters in an attempt to come up with something different.

Sean: It’s fair to say that London has a head start in terms of the amount of access to information as it pertains to the education of  an aspiring jazz musician. Of course, many of the greatest British and American musicians are from outside of New York, Chicago and London etc..  As a ‘provincial’ musician, like myself, how did you go about gaining knowledge and understanding of the art n craft?

Ryan: Primarily through studying. I studied on an undergraduate music programme in Cornwall and then, on moving to London, took a post-graduate course at the Guildhall. It was interesting to compare the two. Though the course in Cornwall was beneficial to a certain extent, there is no real creative music scene down there. I started writing during my time on the course but very little of this music ever got played other than in rehearsals. The kind of gigs to perform original music just didn’t exist.

Upon moving to London, I quickly realised that the enviroment in which you study is absolutely crucial. In Cornwall, there was no contemporary scene, both in terms of venues and the attitude of other musicians. Anyone who wanted to persue this ultimately moved to London.

I have gained the majority of my knowledge and understanding since being in London. I think it is possible to develop as a creative musician outside of London but under the tutelage of musicians who are that way inclined and alongside a likeminded group of peers.

Ryan, Andrew and Shabaka all appear at Jazz In The Round part 2 on the 27th February 2012. Hope to see you there!

Shabaka’s Big Blog

Be sure to check out Musician Shabaka Hutching’s new blog for some wonderful insights…..

http://shabakahutchings.blogspot.com/

Buck, Bix, Charlie, Jabbo, and Hot Lips stomp the Blues

Buck Clayton – Relax Alix

Stomping the Blues

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