Monday 25 July 2016

I've had to fill in a couple of forms recently for magazine articles that haven't been published (and I wonder whether they ever will be.) I'm sure you've seen them in lots of magazines, usually just inside the back cover. Most the questions are either incredibly impertinent (How old are you?) or assume that you live in some sort of mono culture (What is you favourite food?). Others are impossible to answer (What are your hobbies?) or so unlikely (What famous people [dead or alive]  would you invite to a dinner party?) that I defy anybody to give answers that satisfy anybody or prevent them from shouting out at the printed page "You pretentious git!"
  As an antidote to this I thought I'd create answers to the sorts of questions that I really do get asked about "The Edge of Jazz", but they're the sort that are asked when you get together with a few mates, or even, on the odd occasion by somebody who listens to the show. So here are five questions with their answers that have actually been asked and I've made an attempt to answer them;

Why don't you play more Dave Brubeck?

It's nearly always Dave Brubeck, though Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and John Coltrane have also been mentioned from time to time. Truth is I find Brubeck's music limited and constrained, and with distance utterly predictable. I know he helped Jazz into the mainstream consciousness of music for a while, but he suffered badly, in my view. from a record company who wanted him to complete albums quickly in the post "Take Five" era, each with another tune that was as instantly recognisable, and on each of the subsequent albums he tried to oblige. Unsuccessfully. All that, without saying anything about how much a I detest Paul Desmond's alto sax playing within the group.

The show's been on the air for eight years - how has it changed?

When it started I played much more smooth jazz than I do now. I'd had the experience of playing on a U.S. based station and that was more or less what was on playlist. Free choice was a strange experience and I took a long time to adjust to playing out on a station that has neither adverts nor (at the moment) sponsorship. I found I no longer had the constraints of 3-4 minute tracks and gradually started playing longer tracks, which seemed to suit my taste for artists like Miles Davis and a lot of the Blue Note material from the early 60's. I also played more "soul" than I do now, not that I love it less, but the range of  jazz vocalists that are now available is amazing. I also try to play more British based artists. Then there are all the drop ins which are a fairly recent innovation. They're done by the same guy that did them for me on WSSJ. 

Who's your favourite artist?

This is impossible to answer. I love jazz, but at any given time I'm listening to dozens of different artists and all sorts of different genres. For example I love the Pet Shop Boys and at the time of writing I'm having some Elgar moments (especially some of his Church music). If push comes to shove and I had to nominate three I'd go for Russell Malone, James Carter and any of the Horace Silver bands with Junior Cook and Blue Mitchell. Malone because he superseded my previous favourite guitarist Eric Gale by recording in so many varied genres. Carter because he's the best, bar none, Tenor Sax player that I've seen live, and he always has such wonderful groups backing him - except they don't back him they become part of what he's doing. Horace Silver is perhaps cheating, but I've recently rediscovered all the albums he recorded with Cook and Mitchell and (wait for it here comes a "you pretentious git" moment) they speak to me about how 'tight' a working band could be.
Ask me at the end of the year I might add some others!

How are the shows compiled?

Normally over a couple of days at the weekend by sorting through a stack of CD's and downloads. A fairly recent innovation has been to start playing vinyl again since I still have a lot of it and in the studio (if not on-air) it's usually got a fuller sound. One of the things that I do notice if that if I put the playlist together late on Sunday the tracks end up getting more and more soporific, which is often great late on Sunday's, but possibly not so good a between two and four on a Tuesday afternoon! I also find that if it's done over two days it can have a lot of tracks which have, for example, trumpet as the lead instrument, and I do try to mix up the content of the show to try and represent all aspects of jazz, and all instruments (though I would admit to being averse to playing jazz flute tracks!)

You say on the website you don't play trad. jazz. Why?

When I was starting out, and still at school (where you had to learn an instrument) I played sax, but doubled on clarinet. A local trad jazz band was looking for a clarinet player and I was looking to earn some money. It was at a time when there was a schism in Traditional Jazz between two schools of jazz tradition (If you want more details read "Owning Up" by the late George Melly). The band I played in was riven with arguments about 'style' so sometimes we had a banjo player, sometimes a piano player, sometimes bass player and others a sousaphone player. Whatever the line up I always felt totally constrained by the format, hated the lack of freedom to improvise and left after 18 months to join a "progressive rock band" where I could wail and improvise to my hearts content. I've always disliked trad jazz ever since, and especially those bands that adhere to the format laid out by the commercially more successful bands of the period. Harumph! 

Sorry to have this interlude in what's going down well, but it'll be back to whatever normal is next time!