photo-5

JOHN LAW

 

Appearances at SoundCellar -

BOINK! - Thurs  18th July  2013

The John Law Trio - Thursday 19th April  2012                                      

The Jon Lloyd Quintet - 26th October 2011

John Law's OPT Trio - 31st March 2011

The Jon Lloyd Quintet - 10th February 2011  

Nick Sorensen/John Law/Yuri Goloubev - Thursday 16th December 2010

The Jon Lloyd Quintet - 17th June 2010

 

Question 1 - What made you want to become a musician?

Music!

 

Question 2 - What was your practice routine when you decided to get serious about playing jazz?

OMG I've changed this so many times! Right at the beginning I tried learning from a book, a tutor, by someone called John Mehegan. And I transcribed a lot of jazz solos. Also I had some lessons from Simon Purcell. Then I went to jam sessions. Then I got into freely improvised music and spent about ten years or more agonising about how to remain free. I didn't know what to practice, as I thought anything I did would limit my free improvising. I was sooo confused!! Gradually, when I started changing the sort of music I was playing, I started to do the things, a lot later than I should have done, that everyone else does: practised licks, developed my harmony, improvised in modes, practised constantly with a metronome, learnt a whole load of tunes.. etc..

 

And through all this time I always played Bach!

 

Question 3 – What advice can you give to other musicians to get the most from their practice routine?

I'm afraid I'm not a very good example here.

:-(

I've wasted so many hours doing things badly...

I guess everyone has to find their own way, make their own mistakes.

 

Question 4 - Can you recommend some books that helped you with your studies?

You know what helped me, and stills helps me? It's not really books (though I mentioned one above). It's the little things that people say, people you admire. Little things, but full of wisdom, somehow. And because they're little you can carry them around with you everywhere in life.

Some examples. Miles Davis: Music has to have highs and it has to have lows.

Brilliant!

Keith Tippett: (when I asked him to give me some advice about improvising) Improvising is the hardest thing to do, and it's the easiest..

I love that one.

Sometimes you have to look at the really obvious things some artists say and allow yourself to see what doors they open up for you. Like when I read, in a Brad Mehldau interview of about eight or nine years ago, when he said, referring to all the difficult time signatures he plays in, "It all goes back to rhythm" When I read that it suddenly all made sense. I'd been looking at it all from the wrong angle. Once you start from rhythm and from a great groove, all the complexity comes out of that.. (He also said, in the same interview, when asked if he ever got lost when playing something tricky, that there were times when the trio got lost but there was always one of them that knew where they were. Whoa! That means that sometimes, back then, 66.6% of that trio was completely lost! That's comforting to know...)

 

Silly little things as well, like reading in the Ian Carr biography of Jarrett, that he says he's never been interested in drugs (Jarrett that is, not Ian Carr). Coming out of the free music scene I found that really inspirational; here was someone who looked (and sounded) as if he was completely out of it, yet in point of fact he wasn't. In other words it's all done with mirrors... And hard work.

 

Question 5 - Which recording, either as a leader or a sideman, do you think is the best example of your playing?

Can't really say. I don't do lists and Bests, as you very well know Rob! I don't do hierarchies. I'll leave that to the list-makers..

(Now which of my kids is the best? Must work that one out...)

 

Question 6 - Do you have a standard procedure for your compositional process?

No! Though I must say I do get inspired by other music a lot. Does that mean I steal ideas??? I guess it does..

 

Question 7 - What qualities do you look for in your collaborators?

Extreme sensitivity to respond to nuances, plus brutish strength, to survive touring and the hard life as a musician! And long sets.. Oh and a sense of humour to ease the travelling together..

 

Question 8 - Name some of your favourite standards and tell me why you like them.

Standards... hmmm.. I'm not a great expert here. Also I don't do favourites. But I'll tell you a few of the tunes by other people (not sure they're all officially 'standards') I'm playing around with a bit at the moment:

Everybody's Song (Wheeler) -  beautiful tune.

You Don't Know What Love Is  -  I'm trying out an arrangement of mine, very slow, with a double time 6/8 African clave pattern. Because I'm trying to learn this African feel.

My One and Only Love  -  got a nice little arrangement I do. With a bit of 5/8 in it. I like the possibilities for alternative harmonisations in this tune..

Unquity Road  -  really interesting early tune by Pat Metheny, from the Bright Size Life album. In 3 but with two strange bars of 4 stuck in there somewhere..

Three Views of a Secret. Gorgeous tune by Jaco Pastorious, which I have a little arrangement for..

Innocence, Jarrett. Apparently Manfred Eicher told someone that Jarrett still has loads of unrecorded compositions, of which about 30 are apparently masterpieces. This one, which is of course recorded, is, I think, a little gem..

Blame it on My Youth  -  I do a great arrangement by the American pianist Aaron Parks.

Norwegian Wood. I've done a little arrangement of this tune which is in 3/4 but occasionally has a bar of 3/8 shoved in, to shake things up a bit.

 

There are others..

 

Question 9 – What are some of your desert island discs?

I was once asked something like this, in an interview. This was my answer:

http://www.nday.co.uk/BathChronicleInterview.html

 

Question 10 - What music are you listening to at the moment?

I have a whole stack of CDs next to my desk, which I want to listen to more carefully and study. But for now I'll just tell you the four I have in the car:

Weather Report: Night Passage

Weather Report: Mr. Gone (a masterpiece! why does everyone dislike this one?? I guess 'cos it's not like the above or like 8:30 or Heavy Weather. But here's the news... IT'S NOT MEANT TO BE LIKE THEM!!! Another example of the futility of aesthetic judgements and the odiousness of comparison..)

Herbie Hancock: Thrust

Stravinsky: works for piano and orchestra (includes the amazing neo-baroque Concerto for piano and wind instruments and the really late serial piece Movements for piano and orchestra, which I heard in the last proms and was really knocked out by)

 

Question 11 - What motivates you to focus on creative music?

Don't understand the question.

 

Question 12 – Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve played?

There have been so many. For the sake of conciseness I'll just name one: I did a two piano concert with Gwilym Simock, a couple of years ago, at St. George's Bristol. One of the most amazing musicians I've ever played with..

 

Question 13 - Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve been to?

Wow, again... so many!

Hearing, many, many years ago, the Jarrett Standards trio was awesome.

 

I used to go to Ronnie Scotts, when I was young and penniless (as opposed to now, when I'm much older... and still penniless!!) and pay my MU rate of £1, stand at the bar and order an orange juice, and listen, night after night, to the house pianist, John Taylor, doing the most amazing transformations of standards!

 

Hearing the Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton Trio, at the Vortex, about 15 years ago, that was amazing. I had the feeling, listening to and watching these guys, that they were the pillars upon which so much free jazz in Europe had been built.

 

Living here in the South West now I've actually managed to hear, at St. Georges, a couple of really classic piano trios: Brad Mehldau (the early one with Rossy) and EST. EST changed my life (at that time) quite a bit. A real breath of fresh air.

 

Question 14 – Tell me about your current equipment set up?

It's crap! In flux... as you very well know Rob! The electric keyboard I use is the Korg SV1. With my new electric project (with you!) called Boink! I play this keyboard and a cheap Yamaha synth (of which you hate the Warm Pad!). But I'm thinking of changing my set up and making it a bit lighter, more contemporary (maybe use a laptop) and have more sounds that I spend a bit of time actually customising. As opposed to using the pre-sets, which I generally do. But that will take time, which I might not have, plus money (which I currently definitely don't have!). I've been asking a couple of pianists to let me know their set ups: Anders Olinder and particularly Frank Harrison, who furnished me with a really detailed description of what he uses (cheers Frank!).

 

Other than that.... very simple.... Steinway grand please!! Large!! (Yes, size DOES matter..) Newish.. I've heard so many people who find it fashionable nowadays to knock Steinways. But for me they're still reliably the best. They offer strength and subtlety. Look, this is what it's about for me: a piano is not, essentially, a very nice-sounding instrument. Not like a French Horn, or a flute, or (wow!) an oboe. Or, my God, like the strings.. particularly the violin or cello. No, the piano is preeminent because of the possibilities it offers. It can imitate other instruments as well. But it needs to not so much have a wonderfully beautiful tone as a great breadth of dynamics ranging from whispering soft to the metal of the fortissimo.

 

And if not a Steinway then a good Yamaha!

 

Question 15 – Tell me about some musicians you think people should check out?

I've recently been checking out some of the NY scene: for example listening to drummer Louis Cole.

 

I love the Armenian pianist Tigran. He's a real one-off.

 

I've just come out of a couple of years listening a lot (belatedly, I admit) to Radiohead. Got particularly into the two albums Kid A and Amnesiac (plus Stand Up, from Hail to the Thief).

 

Here in the UK I was recently blown away by the Preston/Glasgow/Lowe trio. Check out Kevin Glasgow on electric bass... amazing virtuosity at the service of a really refined and sensitive musicality. It doesn't get any better than that.

I keep meaning to study the music of Vijay Iyer more. I'm sort of turned off him, on the surface, but I think he's very important. And I think it's really good to get beyond Like and Dislike. After all, I've never been personally that turned on by the sound world of French Impressionism; that doesn't mean that Debussy isn't a raving genius and vital to the development of 20th century music.

 

There are loads and loads of musicians. I don't know where to stop. Phronesis and Ivo Neame... Wow, my God!

I could go on and on..

 

Question 16 - What's your favourite cultural pursuit other than music?

Art, definitely, and then Architecture. I read, but not as much as I should do (just finishing Primo Levi's If Not Now When).

 

Question 17 - What do you think of the state of jazz in the UK?

Brilliant, brilliant, wonderful musicians. God I love them all... But no suitably developed audience, unfortunately. Needs to go hand in hand.

 

Question 18 - Have you got any tips for jazz promoters?

Give me a gig please!

 

Question 19 - What was the last thing you heard that got you excited?

PGL trio (see above)

 

Question 20 – Have you got anything you'd like to promote?

Yes! My new Boink! project, with you!! At the Blue Boar on Feb 27.