Henri Texier, The Hope Quartet | 16 November 2014 | Southbank Centre / Purcell Room
There are few certainties in life it seems other than death and taxes. To that select list I would respectfully add the venerable Henri Texier.
I don't know how many times I've seen the veteran bassist, but no matter what the format, he always delivers. A few years ago his set with long term associate Aldo Romano on drums and Sebastien Texier on reeds, accompanying Guy Lequerrec's wonderful photographic documentation of Texier's African travels was the highlight of the festival for many of those who were lucky enough to attend.
His Hope Quartet features son Sebastien again accompanied by Francois Corneloup on baritone sax with drum duties taken by Louis Moutin. The set at LJF 2014 was very much based around his latest release on the ever-wonderful Label Bleu, A L'Improviste, recorded in 2013. In Moutin, Texier has again found a perfect foil – essential in a quartet for which rhythmic pulse is the very heartbeat of the music. Like Romano and the wonderful Tony Rabeson before him, Moutin has a rolling, free-limbed approach to the drums, a physicality and generous use of tom-toms and hands-on skins. This sits perfectly within Texier's organic soundscapes which owe as much to the African bush as they do to the Parisian jazz scene of the 1960s.
The music is always evocative, conjuring up images of savannahs and tribal villages, verdant forests or arid dust bowls, life-giving water and flowing rivers. Above all perhaps, mankind's somewhat less than maternal relationship with mother earth. Texier also pays homage to others who have understood the rhythm of life. O Elvin had a polyrhythmic drive of which the late Mr Jones would surely have approved, whilst Song for Paul Motian had a typically abstract and left-of-centre theme which left it swimming in the head long after the notes had sunk into the ether.
Sitting imp-like in the middle of the stage, hunched over his bass, Texier drives the music with a natural ease and humour, reflected in his wonderfully light touch with the audience. When a woman left the hushed calm of the Purcell Room after the first number, high heels clacking loudly on the wooden floor, the bassist hopped off his stool to watch her go. “Do you hate me?!” he demanded as the door closed behind her. Then to the audience, “She loved me until she heard my music.”
Don't worry Henri – her loss. And there's still a lot of love out there for you.
Tommy Andrews Quintet + Let Spin
Serious had the chance to catch up with Tommy Andrews of the Tommy Andrews Quintet, along with guitarist Moss Freed of Let Spin, who are supporting the quintet at the Green Note on the 23 November as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.
The Tommy Andrews Quintet have recently released their debut album, The Crux, after forming in 2011 and performing regularly in some of London's best music venues. The group line up includes saxophonist Tommy Andrews, guitarist Nick Costley-White, pianist Rick Simpson, bassist Dave Manington and drummer Dave Hamblett. Their Festival performance this week closes The Crux album release autumn tour.
1. Your album, The Crux, was released in June of this year. What can listeners expect when purchasing the record?
''The Crux' is a collection of seven through-composed original works. It's my attempt to blend the cinematic power of genres such as progressive rock and film-music with the dynamic subtleties of classical music, British Jazz and minimalism. I've also allowed the band members passages for improvisation and exploration, which is often where the listener will hear elements of the jazz idiom and experience a heightened sense of interaction.
In terms of a concept, there's nothing strict running through the album but I do feel that the tunes are all linked by a sense of honesty and finding my own voice. During composition, I found myself going back to old influences that I had been afraid to utilise before. It's easy in pressured environments like music college, or even in a city like London, to follow trends, even if it does not create a true expression of yourself. I came to realise this, and music that I had been attached to as a kid and had formed a strong musical core began to emerge. Delving into this allowed me to create the most honest music I had made up until this point.
A couple of the tracks feature quite a rock-influenced edge. 'The Crux' features distorted guitar sounds, open 5th voicings and has a section where the harmony is influenced by the Norwegian progressive metal band, Opeth. The guitar tremolo sound in 'L.H.B.' is influenced by the incredible progressive rock band Oceansize.
I grew up listening to progressive bands like Yes, Genesis, Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd and I think that their use of 'odd' time signatures had a big effect on me too. The way that a lot of the vocal melodies are sung by those bands over the strict but odd time signatures is often quite free and stays melodic, and I like how they often float over the top of the complex grooves to give some contrast. In the final track, 'Steep', you'll hear the alto and guitar play a melody that only occasionally links up with the strict bass/drum groove and that's probably a result of listening to those prog bands.'
2. How do you compose tunes as a quintet?
'I tend to write all of the compositions myself, and often the only free time I get for writing is when my students forget to turn up for their lessons at school! Most of my compositions have started life at the piano, with only the last track of the album 'Steep' starting life on the clarinet, mucking about whilst waiting for a show rehearsal to start. I always compose the music with the distinct sounds of the band members in mind, and this individuality was one of the main factors in me picking this particular line-up.
I bring the tunes to rehearsals and they often go through a few changes before settling down into a more finalised version. It might be that the charts are over-written, or other band-members have suggestions, or perhaps a section of the music just doesn't work at all!
My compositions tend to have very strong links with the concepts they are based on, I find it more engrossing to try and write with back-stories, personifying characters and atmospheres. Information on all the album compositions can be found here to help the listener understand what I was thinking at the time.'
3. Your compositional style is for the work to be through-composed. What was it that made you decide to veer from the head-solo-head standard structure?
'I love playing be-bop and standards, I always will. Some of the composers and songwriters that contributed to the great American songbook have created masterpieces with storytelling, emotion and beautiful melodies all packed into concise arrangements of often no more than 32 bars! It's incredible that such high art was also the popular music of the time.
My aversion to the head-solo-head structure comes more from trying to create a unique musical personality for myself, as well as listening to lots of long-form compositions such as concept albums and symphonies. I felt that I could potentially create more momentum through using the solos to travel between different sections of a piece, rather than always going back to the beginning of the form. I like the idea that improvisation should be looking forwards towards a new destination, rather than being bound inside the same area.
Listening to concept albums would definitely have played a part in influencing my composition style, where often the music is unbroken throughout a whole album and the listener can get completely immersed in the music. The through-composed nature also could also have come from my classical upbringing, playing sonatas, concertos and symphonies, where themes are constantly morphed through different guises and motifs are used to travel between sections.'
4. You’ll be performing The Galilean Suite at the EFG London Jazz Festival – can you tell us a little more about the piece(s)?
'It's my first crack at a concept album! I was watching a programme on Jupiter's Galilean moons, and became deeply inspired by their radically distinct physical characteristics from one another, as well as the ancient mythological stories that inspired their names. The moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto are named after four of Zeus' (Jupiter to the Romans) lovers, who were all tricked or seduced unknowingly into his power. It completely mirrors how the moons have been captured in Jupiter's orbit. His wife, Hera, was obviously not very happy with his sneaky actions, so the music includes descriptive passages of Zeus' deception, Hera's wrath and musical personification of the moons themselves. The suite is formed of 7 movements, is continuous and lasts around 40 minutes. It uses many of the same influences that I mentioned above but as my writing has matured, I've begun to leave even more room for spontaneity and the unknown!
I adore concept albums, and I fell in love with the immersion that I found in records such as Yes' 'Close to the Edge', Dream Theater's 'Metropolis Pt. II' and Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon'. These bands tell intricate stories, drag listeners into new worlds and soundscapes, and I even find myself losing track of time because of this. I hope that listeners can find this when listening to the suite.'
Let Spin, in their own words, 'forges the progressive post-jazz scenes of London and Manchester'. In the first two months of their 2012 formation, the quartet - consisting of bassist Ruth Goller, saxophonist Chris Williams, guitarist Moss Freed and drummer Finlay Panter - managed to squeeze in a UK tour and record their debut, self-titled album, with the odd rehearsal thrown in for good measure. Let Spin was released in February 2014 and the band have been touring the album since.
1. You’ve just released debut album, Let Spin. What can listeners expect from the record?
'It’s quite a roller coaster, going from lyrical folk-infused melodies to punky riffs with plenty of free playing along the way. It’s raw and heavy in places and very reflective in others. One thing I really love about playing with these musicians is their dynamic and emotional scope.'
2. You recorded the album incredibly quickly, having only formed the band a couple of months beforehand. How did you end up comfortable enough with the ensemble/the music/each other to be able to record so soon?
'It was one of those amazing things. The four of us got in a room and it just worked. There had been various parings of players in other line ups - I’d played with Fin a lot in Manchester and with Ruth in Moss Project for a couple of years before that. Ruth and Chris had known each other since studying at Middlesex. I hadn’t really played with Chris though and it was a revelation - we had quite an instinctive reaction to each other’s playing and sharing melodic roles came very naturally. Likewise, Ruth and Fin locked in straight away. It turns out our musical backgrounds have a lot in common, so we understood where each other was coming from. We formed the band to do a string of gigs around the UK and by the end of those we felt confident enough to get in the studio - to capture the magic straight away.'
3. How did you go about composing the music for the album in that amount of time?
'It’s all very egalitarian - the initial conceit of the band was for it to be a collective and for us all to bring compositions, which is exactly what happened. So through that first tour we tried out a bunch of tunes from each player and narrowed it down to two each for the recording. Some of the arrangements were done by the composer, others were more of a group process. You can tell who’s written what but I think it all sounds like Let Spin.'
4. As a collective, who would you say are your musical influences?
'There’s a huge range between the four of us. Plenty of contemporary jazz but also 90’s rock, Americana, Delta blues and Middle Eastern folk music. From Bill Frisell, Bad Plus and Jim Black to Beck and Queens of the Stone Age, and lots between.'
Click here to find out more about Tommy Andrews Quintet + Let Spin at the Green Note this Sunday.
Peter Edwards - in focus
Nothing gets you right in the spirit of the Festival quite like catching up with an artist, especially an artist we consider a good friend and when we get to take them along to meet Robert Roope at the stylish and inimitable Black Eyewear in central London. For those not in the know or those curious as to where the likes of Paloma Faith, Lauren Laverne and Courtney Pine get their most striking glasses from, Black Eyewear is the destination for you.
Black Eyewear is a boutique eyewear brand with a passion for jazz and the legendary style and inspiring creativity borne of the golden era of jazz. Each and every frame is inspired by a jazz musician and named as such. Browse through a host of frames named after Duke, Ray, Ella and everyone in between and take on that retro glamour for yourself. If Mad Men did opticians, this would be Joan’s favourite hang out.
Owner Robert Roope is a passionate fan of jazz, the stars of the past and the new leading lights forging their own path and styles. This year Black Eyewear is supporting the evolution of the younger generation of jazz and has chosen to support a new piece of music at the EFG London Jazz Festival, a commissioned piece by MOBO-nominated rising star, Peter Edwards.
Peter will open for New York pianist Kris Bowers at XOYO with an electro-acoustic piano composition destined to take jazz another step forward in its journey. Electronica meets jazz at XOYO! A club most recently in the press for their new residency with house music stalwarts, Simian Mobile Disco, this gig is a fusion of sound and atmosphere.
So, backtrack to a shop full of the most amazing glasses and a MOBO-nominated artist chatting all things jazz music whilst trying on every pair of glasses in the shop and you have an afternoon where the Festival lead-up does not get better.
Q. Peter, can you tell us a bit about how the commission came about and how the composition is coming together? I think I may have put myself in the firing line inadvertently and mentioned to some of the team at Serious (producers of the EFG London Jazz Festival) that I had an idea for a new piece of music and I wanted to get all my music toys out to create something really different. They took me at my word and asked me to be part of the commissions programme at this year’s Festival! It has been a really enjoyable experience and really focussed my attention. I didn’t want to lose the emotion and soulful qualities I love to play, I wanted to create an orchestral soundscape and I think that balance has been achieved.
Q. What has been the most important part of the process? Putting in limits, strangely enough. Just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. For me, there has got to be a reason for every nuance and technicality written, in order to keep the balance between breaking new ground and staying true to your sound.
Q. Where do you see this piece of music taking you? My wish is for it to be a really flexible piece of music that can have a life of its own beyond its premiere. It needs to be able to evolve into something that I can play as an individual, with my Trio or expand for a large band. If that is achieved, I will feel that it has been a real success.
Q. Are you looking forward to opening for Kris Bowers? Yes very much so. I am a big fan of his work but haven’t played with Kris before and really looking forward to the club atmosphere of the venue.
Q. Why are opportunities to present new music and support from enthusiasts such as Black Eyewear important to the future of jazz music? New music and support of the next generation of artists forging their way is the lifeblood of the genre and what enables the music to stay relevant to existing fans but also reach out to new audiences.
After a lengthy deliberation and a few classic poses in the Courtney frames, Peter chose a pair of Quincy sunglasses (pictured).
To see Peter in action, head to XOYO on Wednesday 19 November, tickets available here.
If the club scene is more your style, we have a wealth of shows at XOYO, Roundhouse, Village Underground to name just a few, check out the Festival's club listings here.
If you would be interested in supporting new music and rising stars, find out about Serious Trust and how to get involved here.
We were all saddened to hear that David Redfern has lost a long battle with cancer. One of the most talented music photographers of the past fifty years, his images of artists from many different styles and backgrounds captured the essence of the music he loved — whether in full performing flight, or in more contemplative moments, he seemed to possess an intuitive visual insight into the creative process. He was the most courteous and delightful of men, a consummate professional — it was always a complete pleasure to see him at a soundcheck or a concert, going about his art unobtrusively and thoughtfully — his quietly cheerful presence will be deeply missed. As will the results, which were invariably of the very highest quality.
We’re very proud to have worked with David and his protégé Edu Hawkins to mount a joint exhibition of their work at last year’s EFG London Jazz Festival— David holding the fort for hours at a time, talking individually with members of the audience and, in panel sessions with Edu, illuminating the alchemical process that connects music to photography. The exhibition itself served as a timely reminder that David was responsible for many of the iconic images of jazz and popular music over the past decades.
Our fondest congratulations to Zara McFarlane who has won Best Jazz Act at the 2014 MOBO Awards. She plays Rich Mix on Friday 21 November, as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.
Pianist Peter Edwards (who also plays in Zara’s band) was also nominated in this category. He plays a series of gigs at the Festival including opening for Kris Bowers at XOYO on Wednesday 19 November when he’ll premier his new commission (sponsored by Black Eyewear).