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.
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)
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.