Sophie Wales catches up with Tim Hill. Tim lives in Somerset and makes a lot of noise. He creates music for outdoor shows and celebrations, runs an improvising orchestra and plays baritone sax, sometimes he even plays a few jazz tunes.
We’ve been checking-in with jazz artists and musicians throughout the South to see how their lockdown experience has been, and how they’ve been adjusting to the new normal.
What was your first ever encounter with jazz?
In 1976 at seventeen I brought a second-hand copy of Ornette Coleman’s ‘Live in Europe’. I had been reading Amiri Baraka’s ‘Black Music’ and the ideas of 60’s free jazz offered strange liberating ideas to a white seventeen-year-old clergyman’s son.
Coleman’s music was my first encounter with these new sounds and it was at first too much for my innocent ears. But one track, the ballad ‘Sadness’, and the keening sound of Ornette’s alto was compelling and entranced me, opening up a whole new world of sound and possibilities.
Ornette’s sound led me to Albert Ayler, Sun Ra and the extra-ordinary generation of British free jazz and improvised music pioneers like Evan Parker and Derek Bailey.
Name a track you wish you’d written.
How about ‘Brooklyn’ by the Youngblood Brass band, wonderful, in your face, brass writing and riffing with a political edge.
Who have you been listening to recently?
I have been rediscovering Ben Webster, his gorgeous tenor sound and sense of melody and timing. I love the sound and the cry of jazz. The sound of Ornette, Hodges, Dolphy, Harry Carney, David Murray et al.
The intricacies of much modern jazz doesn’t do it for me; I want to be swept away in sound. During lock down I also listened to the sedge warblers out on the Somerset levels, the John Zorn’s of the bird world full of mad leaps and quick changes, noise and melody.
Favourite gig you’ve ever been to and why?
I first saw Sun Ra and his Arkestra at the Venue in 1980; an extra-ordinary cosmic carnival with explosive solos and guided group improvising, chants and dancing, synth storms, free jazz apocalypses blended with classic big band sounds.
We just had to stay to the end and then ran back to Paddington to get our train. The new album from the modern version of the Arkestra lead by Marshall Allen is wonderful too
Any livestream concert recommendations?
I have been really enjoying the domestic insanity of Czech noise maker Petr Valek and his barmy machines and improvisations with amplified objects.
What advice do you have for fellow musicians adjusting to the current situation, and the new normals
Much of my playing is out of doors, in street bands and making music for outdoor theatre and celebration. The world desperately needs music at the moment and we should be out there playing whenever we can. It’s our role in the world and it’s great to get out there and play for people.
It’s tough of course earning a living and keeping our families safe but we need to lift people spirits. I loved the early days of the ‘Clap for carers’ when we got out there and made a noise with our neighbours before the controversies kicked in.
Have you been working on any new material recently?
I have been working on the Wye Valley River Festival for many years and this year, despite the curtailed live programme, came up with the idea of a band lost in the woods. The band is called the Wodwos, and I wrote some music and arranged some folk tunes for it, the band also features the young drummer Jo Meikle and the wonderful trumpet player Stuart Henderson. We did some ‘long distance’ recording to develop the idea, which is nice but it’s not the same as playing together.
I did a recording session just before lockdown with live sound manipulation of my baritone sax by Colin Potter from Nurse with Wound and DroneCore veteran Jonathan Coleclough. I have been mixing and editing this material over the summer and will be putting it out on my bandcamp site this week together with the sketches by the Wodwos
It was also the chance to work on some of the research I do around outdoor music, seasonal celebration and the ways humans use noise in ritual. I did an online talk on expressive noise and wrote some stuff around the social history of Mayday and the ‘Thursday Clap for carers’.
What are your post-lockdown plans?
At the start of lockdown I lost my recording and practice space, and my wife had to work from home, so I mainly practised classical clarinet for the first time in over 40 years and played pretty tunes, no noise.
I have been busking with a great local street band called the Little Big Horns but the chance to get back to being a noisy monster again would be wonderful and also do some real improvising with other musicians. Web based music making leaves me cold.
I have been developing new ideas for an outdoor band, a sort of secular ‘gospel’ band, playing tunes for these times and called the Instruments of Joy. I am also very keen to get the Hullabaloo Orchestra back together; it’s an improvising orchestra open to all based at the CIC Centre in Taunton.
There’s nothing like the ‘aliveness’ of being in the middle of an improvising group.
Sign up to our mailing list to get our latest Jazz South news and opportunities direct to you inbox.