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Stay at Home Soundtrack: Olie Brice

Double bassist, improviser and composer Olie Brice lives in Hastings and recommends five must-listen albums. 

In these challenging times we need music more than ever. While live gigs are cancelled we want to shine a spotlight on the jazz community in the South. We’ve been in contact with artists, venues and promoters to ask them for their listening recommendations.

Here are five albums that Olie has been listening to recently. Some are new to him, and others are old favourites.

1) Dave Holland – Emerald Tears

In this time of social isolation all musicians are doing more of their playing solo than usual, and this is one of the all-time great solo albums on my instrument. I’ve been studying this album really closely recently – incredible harmonic and technical clarity and imagination, truly inspiring.

2) Shirley Horn – Lazy Afternoon

This is one of my favourite albums for pure joy!  Definitely a good pick to cheer me up and get me dancing round the kitchen. Shirley Horn on magical vocals and piano, trio with one of the great rhythm sections – Buster Williams and Billy Hart.

3) The John Carter Octet – Dauwhe

This is an album I’ve been meaning to listen to for a while, but only recently spent time with. Astonishing writing and improvising from the great clarinetist and a seriously heavy band. This is the first of a five album series tracing African-American history, and one of my lockdown plans is to work my way through a close listening to the whole series.

4) Kim Kashkashian – J.S Bach, Six Suites for Viola solo

Bach’s cello suites, here played on viola, are some of the most sublime music ever written, and this recording is a really gorgeous take on them. Kashkashian is incredible, her Berio recording is out of this world and her Hindemith is also wonderful, but this recording would be a good place to look when you need some peace and beauty

5) Tarbaby with Special Guests – Fanon

The great Tarbaby (Orrin Evans, Eric Revis & Nasheet Waits) joined by Oliver Lake on alto and Marc Ducret on guitar. This is another one I’d been meaning to check out for a while. Rogue Art have one of the most interesting catalogues around at the moment, and while all this is going on they’ve been putting a whole album up to stream on their website, changing every two or three days. This is an incredible album, highly recommended, but won’t be streaming by the time you read this – check out what is here.

Our next Stay at Home Soundtrack will be by singer-songwriter Rue and published on Wednesday 22 April. Follow the series on our social media and hear about it directly when you sign up to our mailing list.

We can support you approach an Arts Council England application

The full criteria have been published for Arts Council’s Emergency Response funding packages for individuals and organisations. All details can be found here.

We would like to offer our support to any artists, creative freelancers or organisations * working in jazz in the Jazz South region with approaching an application.

This would consist of a 30 minute phone or virtual call to talk through the funding criteria, application process and articulating the impact of suspended programmes or lost work on you.

Email the Jazz South team at info@jazzsouth.org.uk to arrange a time.

* Outside the National Portfolio of funded organisations

Platform South Spotlight – Four Questions with Iain Ballamy

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena spoke to saxophonist Iain Ballamy about his ambitions for The Iain Ballamy Quartet and how it began.

As a band you are all highly established jazz musicians in your own right. How did you come together to form The Iain Ballamy Quartet?

The art of creating a good band together involves intuition and musical alchemy. It’s not just a case of putting good players together, it’s the combination of the players with their unique individuality that creates a reaction. An inspired group of players makes a recognisable constellation, one that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. I chose my players carefully for both their human and musical characters. After playing some gigs in Bristol I got in contact with people like Percy Pursglove on bass and Mark Whitlam on drums. Jason Rebello (piano) and Mark Whitlam also live near me in Bath. The idea was that we can get together and play regularly, cutting down on travel time. We wanted to be more sustainable, whilst not compromising musically.

I haven’t started a new band for quite some time because my bands have tended to go on for number of years – for example, Quercus has been going for 15 years. I don’t do a quick project and next year think: “Oh I want to do something else”. When I established the quartet I tried not to think too much about it being a big deal or a new band because otherwise it’s like dating: there’s too much pressure. I wanted this project to evolve slowly and naturally. Through both Platform South and local gigs, the band have been able to play in places where I wouldn’t necessarily normally perform which has been a nice way to slowly develop together.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the newly formed Iain Ballamy Quartet?

I’m currently doing a tour in the South and Midlands. What I am enjoying is playing regularly with the same people. When you get the chance for this to happen the music evolves and you are tempted to try new things. Things move quicker when you have a row of dates, so playing often is something that I try to keep going. I hope to play regularly together to achieve ultimate familiarity and also to experiment with new repertoire for the band, working towards an album. Also I would like to play in places we wouldn’t normally reach, such as new towns and venues. It’s always nice to go to new places. This is where Platform South helps!

Through your experience of touring and creating music, how do you perceive the jazz scene within the UK to have changed over the years?

It has changed very little in some ways, existing at grassroot level in small venues around the country run by devoted enthusiasts, while the latest so called “jazz revival” comes and goes from time to time. The big difference is the standard of the young up-and-coming players, with so many great musicians and well-trained students coming through colleges and shaping the future. I think I am one of the last generations who didn’t go through formal study – I learned the old fashioned way, being hands-on and watching. There are positives and negatives for people being trained in college, because it makes the approach to the music more academic and sometimes more of a science than art. But the good news is that more skilled young musicians are making their way into jazz. We just need the audience to wake up and open their ears and actively support this great music!

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

Live dates are listed on my website

My most recent CD with Ian Shaw and Jamie Safir was released on Absolute music and the previous 5 releases before that were released by ECM records

Find music and social media feeds here

Iain Ballamy is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy – click for details

Platform South Spotlight – Four Questions with We Are Leif

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena spoke to drummer Mark Whitlam and vocalist Louise Victoria from We Are Leif to ask about their first album ‘Breathe’ and their favourite touring moments.

As a young band crafting your sound and style, can you tell us about your influences and how you approached your first album Breathe? What is the meaning behind the name?

Mark: Lu and I met randomly on a gig and realised we had similar musical influences with regards to writing, which really became the prime motivation for forming the band. I feel our harmonic influences come from jazz and soul crossover artists, such as Norwegian band Rohey, Hiatus Kaiyote and Robert Glasper. Melodically, Lu brings to the table our shared love of singers like Gretchen Parlato and Becca Stevens. Often Lu tends to create a top line (melody) over a chord progression I may have started and we go from there together. A couple of the songs on that album differ in that Lu or I may have come with a fairly complete idea, but usually it’s a case of sewing the musical patchwork quilt together between us in one room.

Louise: The name for the album came about very late in the process of making the record. For so long, Mark and I were going to keep the album as self-titled, but after designing the album art with Bristol artists Brook Tate and Holyseus Fly, it felt like it needed a name – I called Mark one night having thought of ‘Breathe’ on a car journey home and we both liked it. For me, it felt like we’d spent a lot of time in the process of making the album, so it was important to remember to stay present, and ‘Breathe’ feels like a nod to that.

What is your favourite part about touring as a band, and do you have any stand-out moments from your album tour last spring?

Louise: One of my favourite bits of touring with the guys is all the funny little stories that arise along the way. For example, on the ‘Breathe’ Spring Tour, Chris & I found Dale’s deadpan observations of everyday events so funny, we started a Twitter account to post them. Spending time like that together is really precious, especially because they’re all my best mates.

Mark: We were really fortunate to play some lovely venues, and a couple which I’ve never been to on tours before. For me, and the others from what I’ve gathered, the gigs in Windsor at the Firestation Arts Centre and The Northern Quarter in Huddersfield were highlights. Curiously, they couldn’t have been more different and the approach we took them, but both had really vibrant energies in their different ways. The epic drive to Huddersfield from Bristol was less of a highlight though!

What can we expect from your up-and-coming second studio album?

Louise: Mark and I feel like we’ve gotten into the groove of song-writing and arranging for this album, definitely with a more conceptual vibe from the get-go. Various personal events have led it to being quite an emotionally restorative record too.

Mark: I wholeheartedly agree with Lu on this. The first album thankfully hangs together as a number of pieces we were exploring writing together. This forthcoming album has a clear voice and concept from start to finish. That’s clear in the writing, which is more focused and lyric-orientated through to the production, which clearly has echoes of the Bristol sound from downtempo bands whilst retaining a contemporary jazz-influenced vibe.

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

You can find more information and music on our website

Our new album ‘Breathe’ is available here

Find music and social media feeds here

We Are Leif is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy – click for details

Platform South Spotlight – Four Questions with Kate Westbrook

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena spoke to Kate Westbrook about forming The Granite Band as a collective and her advice for young jazz musicians.

Your most recent album ‘Granite’ is rich in story-telling and poetry, conjuring up vivid imagery. How did this composition come about, and how did you form together as a collective to create this body of work?

All the members of the band live in Devon. Mike has run a big band here in the West Country for a few years. Gradually, each of the musicians (who later became Graniteers), joined. A German friend commissioned me to write a piece and we share a love of Dartmoor with its quarries, and the tramway. So together Mike and I wrote ‘Granite’, my texts inspired by that love of Dartmoor, and Mike’s music springing from that same source. As far as the story goes, we follow a granite creature through the seasons and over aeons of time. As the composition evolved each of the musicians took their place in the sound of the ensemble.

Roz Harding is a highly intelligent and inventive saxophonist that I admire. Jesse Molins is a fine guitarist who is classically trained and works well with Matthew North who comes from a rock background. Billie Bottle is an exceptional multi-instrumentalist. In the piece ‘Granite’ she plays electric bass, but on my forthcoming album she also plays piano and sings. Coach York is a fine drummer and considerable force both in Mike’s big band and in our 7-piece band. Mike plays piano and keyboard and I sing. We all get on famously together.

What inspires your approach to music, and which artists influence your style?

I studied Fine Art at University and I paint and exhibit. My interest in art, literature and music all feed into the song writing. I find there are basic approaches to painting and to song writing, in which one discipline informs the other. Much of my early years I spent in the States. I had a rich mix of classical, contemporary music, jazz, blues, musical theatre. When I was young pop was pretty rubbish until Elvis and The Beatles came along. Jazz became the main staple of my adult musical diet, right from New Orleans through giants such as Dizzy, Miles and Ellington. Singers I enjoy and who have influenced me include Anita O’Day, Billie Holiday, Ella, and I particularly admire and love Betty Carter.

In 1974 I joined a small acoustic band the Mike Westbrook Brass Band. Initially I played tenor horn and piccolo and sang a couple of songs. As time went on I sang more and I started to write lyrics which Mike then set to music. Sometimes Mike has composed an instrumental to which I write words. Over time this collaboration led to operas, music-theatre pieces, an oratorio and many individual songs. We toured through the year mostly in Europe, and occasionally as far afield as Australia, North America and the Far East. Most of my musical life has been working with Mike, but from time to time I have performed with classical composers such as Michael Finnissy and Philip Clark, and with jazz composer Heribert Leuchter. I have performed with classical ensembles from the LSO to a West-Country-based contemporary group called Lavolta. My influences are broad and my voice as a writer grows from all these influences.

With your long and broad experience, what advice do you have for people who want to form their own jazz bands, or those who are making their own jazz music?

As well as a life in jazz I have worked in the contemporary music scene from time to time. I have to say I find the jazz ethos encourages creativity and is wonderfully democratic. But surviving, forming a band and making new work, are undoubtedly a struggle, but a struggle that is well worth pursuing. Many people teach or become session musicians. Mike and I have been fortunate over these many years to live by writing and performing with the occasional workshop. It has not been easy I have to say, but it has been immensely rewarding.

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

You can find information about The Granite Band on our website

Find music and social media feeds here

We will be playing live at Exeter Phoenix on Sunday 14th June and at the Swanage Jazz Festival on Saturday 11th July

Kate Westbook GRANITE with The Granite Band is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy – click for details

Platforms South Spotlight – Four Questions with Sara Colman

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena caught up with composer and vocalist Sara Colman to discuss her song writing process and how she found her incredible band.

Sara, in 2019 you were awarded Lyricist of the Year – an incredible achievement. What’s your song-writing process and what do you find comes first – the melody or the lyrics?

My song writing process is ….. always different! Sometimes it’s the music, sometimes the melody, probably most often the words. I was especially delighted to have received that award because I really spend a lot of time on lyrics – they have to be exactly right. They are like sculpture, you keep chipping away until there is nothing extra, nothing left except exactly what you want to say – I guess that’s why it takes a long time. I love collaborating and have been doing a lot of that over the last year or two, with pianist Rebecca Nash, lyricist Hannah Hind and guitarist Steve Banks. I’ve also been doing some song-writing hideaways and workshops with friend and singer songwriter Sophie Bancroft. This has been so illuminating in terms of really seeing my own habits as a songwriter. We tend to limit ourselves and stick with what we know – working alongside someone else can make us all a bit bolder.

Your second and most recent album ‘What We’re Made Of’ has been praised by Jazzwise for its ‘refusal to be corralled by convention’. How important was it to give yourself complete freedom to experiment throughout the creation of this body of work?

Complete freedom is totally at the heart of how we developed and recorded this music. It was very much a studio album – we recorded lots of the tracks with what we thought would be guide vocals and then kept some of them with some overdubs. We added backing vocals, double tracks, percussion and so on. There was a lot of creation in the studio and that was a new experience for me – all the music I recorded to that point was pretty much live and recorded in a couple of days. This was a few months in the making. Nothing was set in stone and each song had its own momentum and settling point.

Sara, you’ve mentioned how lucky you feel to have worked with such an incredible group of musicians who have brought so much to your latest album. How did these collaborations come about, and how did you form your band?

The musicians on this album are true gems, full of integrity and musicality – I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity to collaborate with old and new friends. Steve Banks and I spent a lot of time working on the guitar arrangements and writing some of the songs together. He is my husband and blessed with patience I can only dream of! I have worked with Ben Markland for about 25 years – a mega bass player and superb sound engineer, who musically directs the band when we perform live. The talented Jonathan Silk plays drums and wrote the string arrangements for most of the songs on the album as well as the new Joni Mitchell celebrations in our live programme. I had seen but never recorded with Adriano Adewale and it was very special to have his authenticity and joy for music in our recording. Rebecca Nash is a fantastic piano and Rhodes player; we seem to like a lot of the same things about music and have a symbiotic experience when we play together. Percy Pursglove on trumpet and flugelhorn is my improvising inspiration, with his clear identity: lyrical and bold. The multi-talented Jules Jackson also co-wrote, string arranged and played on the album too. Nick Dover who owns Canyon Sound was a big part of the recording creating a home from home studio environment which was brilliant, especially as the album took so long to make! Nick is a talented jazz musician with broad musical interest who made tasty suggestions and co-wrote a song too.

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

You can see me live all over the place – I have dates up on my website

Find music and social media feeds here

Sara Colman Band is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy click for details

 

Platform South Spotlight – Four Questions with Fourth Page

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena caught up with guitarist and vocalist Charlie Beresford from Fourth Page to discuss different musical influences and the evolution of the band’s sound.

You have a unique experimental sound which features elements of jazz, English folk and Krautrock. How did you establish your sound as a band and what different influences did you draw from?

The sound was there from day one. The very first notes we played together are actually on the first album, but there wasn’t (and never has been) any serious discussion about what we were aiming for. We’re all influenced by different things which kind of seep through into the music subconsciously, if they do so at all. It took a little while before we realised that not many people were doing this sort of thing, which was spontaneously improvising actual songs which appeared to have some kind of structure.

How has your sound evolved over the years as a band and did you find it developed through the creation of your four albums?

The most noticeable change has been the shift to using more electric or electronic instrumentation, which has made the music a bit tougher and given us a wider dynamic range. Initially we started out as an acoustic band. Peter was on bass, I was on guitar, Carolyn was on piano and Paul on percussion. We have always used extended techniques. Often when we played the acoustic instruments, they sounded almost electronic in their approach. When we came back from a little break, we decided start adding electrics to the whole thing. I started playing an electric guitar, Peter started playing electronic bass, Carolyn introduced the keyboards. We began using various pedals and different methods to create these sounds as well as the extended techniques. This gives the sound an edgy, more aggressive approach. But you can still hear the riches of the acoustic performances through all of it. As all the albums were recorded live, and the material on them was entirely improvised, they’re like snapshots of where we were at the time. Any development is organic rather than a result of us trying to steer what we do in a certain direction.

You’ve recently had a few years apart to focus on individual projects and work. How do you feel this time has impacted your music as a band? Has it given you more inspiration and ideas to bring back to Fourth Page and feed into your most recent album ‘Live Wales- Hungary’?

Working in this area of music usually means a fluid approach to working with other people. There has always been the attitude that each of the members would at all times be able to do their own thing as well. Just as travelling abroad gives a person a new perspective so does working with other musicians in other fields. Essentially any Fourth Page record is evidence of a moment in time, we have never gone into any session with a fixed agenda so in a sense the time apart gave us more to say.

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

More information can be found on our website

Find music and social media feeds here

Fourth Page is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy – click for details

Platform South Spotlight – Four Questions with Hexagonal

Jazz South interns Sophie Wales and Megija Petinena caught up with bass player Simon Thorpe from Hexagonal to talk about the band’s musical influences and establishing a sound.

Having formed in late 2016, you haven’t been together too long as a band. How have you established and developed your sound within this period of time, or was this something that instantly clicked when you first formed?

We had known each other for many years on the music scene and had shared a love for this genre of music, in particular the work of Hexagonal’s two main inspirations, McCoy Tyner and Bheki Mseleku. I think the idea first came from John Donaldson, who suggested that we could expand our existing band from a quartet to a sextet. It made sense to get Jason Yarde involved, particularly as he’d worked with McCoy Tyner, and so with Jason and Greg on saxes, the band was conceived. The empathy was there from the start; we were not only delighted to play the compositions together but were inspired to develop the sound of the band in our own direction. The natural progression of this has been to create our own compositions, both individually and as an ensemble. In doing this we’ve been able to create platforms for each of the players as well as structures for improvisation and group interaction. Through this process we’ve further developed the palette of sounds the band makes.

You’ve each worked with some incredible musicians, the likes of Bheki Mseleku, McCoy Tyner, Amy Winehouse and so on. What did you learn from these artists and how has it influenced your music?

Our music as improvisers has been informed and inspired by our work individually with many great jazz musicians. But it has also been broadened by exposure to and creation of larger scale works in the contemporary music world. Inevitably too, performing with esteemed artists of pop music has improved our own performing and communication skills. This means that our music is developing to become more accessible as well as having more depth – an elusive combination prevalent in the music of many of the greats.

Your album McCoy & Mseleku covers the works of McCoy Tyner and Bheki Mseleku. With jazz making its way back into mainstream music in the UK, how important did you feel it was to share this body of work with the world?

The music of McCoy Tyner is well-known throughout the jazz world, but of course deserves an even greater audience, having had such an influence on generations of musicians since his rise in the early 1960s. The work of Bheki Mseleku is less known in the wider music world, but his unique talent, together with the place of music in South African social history, deserves much wider exposure. No other musician has emerged from that country with Bheki’s combination of infectious rhythm, sophisticated harmony and above all a unique melodic gift. His music appeals to listeners, dancers and scholars alike, and people who hear his music for the first time are often astounded by its immediate appeal and then by its fascination and lasting depth.

Where can we find your music and where can we see you live?

Our live dates are on our website

Our music is available for purchase on: Bandcamp, CD Baby and iTunes

Find music and social media feeds here

Hexagonal is available to book in 2020-21 with Platform South fee subsidy – click for details