Appearances at SoundCellar -
BOINK! - Thurs 27th February 2014
BOINK! - Thurs 18th July 2013
The Jon Lloyd Quintet - 26th October 2011
The Jon Lloyd Quintet - 10th February 2011
The Jon Lloyd Quintet - 17th June 2010
Question 1 - What made you want to become a musician?
I have listened to so much music throughout my life. It was always a very big deal, whatever I was into listening to at the time, but I didn’t consider playing myself until I was working, at the age of 22. I was going to clubs and gigs a lot, and one night listening to the great post-punk, quasi-jazz group Rip Rig and Panic and for no reason at all I thought “That looks like a LOT of fun. Why not try playing a saxophone?” Unusually for me I was decisive enough to go out and get one the next week. It became more and more important over the next couple of years, to the extent that I got rid of everything else in my life in order to play! Later on, other things ( real life) came back again, but of course once the desire is there, that’s it… you are a musician, like it or not, and you must live with it! And of course as we know it is both a religion and a curse…
Question 2 - What was your practice routine when you decided to get serious about playing jazz?
I practised scales and pieces, learned modes and chord progressions. A phase of reading and copying Charlie Parker solos was a big deal too. Mostly I played and improvised in order to make sounds I enjoyed, and tried to find sounds I had heard others make and then adapt them to the way I play. This is really what I still do. I think it was Steve Beresford who said “ I just practise everything I know as fast as possible, and then stop!” Something like that.
Question 3 – What advice can you give to other musicians to get the most from their practice routine?
Hmm, tricky one. It’s a very individual thing. I think one should be systematic ( which I am not) and very thorough (which I am not). In fact, I have no advice for others, except to try to do it properly! In my experience the relevant point is just to play – if you have 20 minutes only, use it. There are so many other distractions in life, but you must maintain a sound. At the very least do enough to keep your sound - on a reed instrument this is crucial. Without a good sound, you might as well forget it.
Question 4 - Can you recommend some books that helped you with your studies?
I truly hate books with all the routines. I have always found them to be deeply depressing and of no use to me at all. They make you feel inadequate, which is not a good starting point for any creative endeavour. However, lots of people learn this way. One of the best musical books is the famous book of Charlie Parker solos, which is absolutely brilliant. I also had a book of Eric Dolphy solos, which are about 10x harder to play. Reading books about music or musicians can be much more inspiring than books about playing. I loved John Cage’s Silence, Andrew Ford’s Composer to Composer and Keith Richards’ autobiography should be an A level text!
Question 5 - Which recording, either as a leader or a sideman, do you think is the best example of your playing?
The current release “Vanishing Points” contains some good examples of my straighter soprano soloing style. The only CD release by Apparitions contains some nice abstract soprano stuff. There is some good alto playing on Four and Five and By Confusion, and some freer soprano playing. I had to quit playing alto owing to a throat problem several years ago, so hearing some of that is a little odd now!
Question 6 - Do you have a standard procedure for your compositional process?
No, not at all. Pieces come from all directions. Perhaps a saxophone line, a piano chord progression, a bass line or even an under-used time signature. Typically my pieces involve welding disparate ideas together, and then trying to forget where they each came from. This creates a unity, which then begins to take on a life of its own. If I can still feel the mechanics then they don’t really work. My best pieces always feel as though someone else wrote them.
Question 7 - What qualities do you look for in your collaborators?
They have to be better than me! They also have to be great improvisers first and foremost, as none of my music works without creative interpretation. Without this, there is no music!
Question 8 - Name some of your favourite standards and tell me why you like them.
Well I am not a standards player. I tend to glaze over when faced with most of them, even when played by the very best. I don’t know why that is. It is just not why I came to music. However, God Bless the Child and Naima are beautiful tunes. Also Wayne Shorter’s Iris is hard to beat…
Question 9 – What are some of your desert island discs?
A lot of Morton Feldman - maybe Coptic Light, Piano and String Quartet or Rothko Chapel, most Steve Reich compositions before he started making the same music over and over, the three Miroslav Vitous Quartet recordings on ECM (perfect examples of European jazz at its best), Phronesis Alive! Shakti’s Handful of Beauty, John Law’s Talitha Cumi, Cage’s Sonatas and Interludes, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, Bitches Brew, Jarrett’s Nude Ants, John McLaughlin’s Extrapolation, Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure, of course Dolphy’s Out to Lunch – probably the most sublime avant-garde jazz recording ever made… it goes on and on.
Question 10 - What music are you listening to at the moment?
All of the above!
Question 11 - What motivates you to focus on creative music?
I work outside of music, so I don’t have to play any music I don’t want to. The motivation for me to focus on creative music is tied up with ideas of belonging, cooperation, obsession, need, fulfilment, exhibitionism, duty, fear of failure and a lot more besides! (better stop or I’ll sound like David Bowie). Basically I don’t know…
Question 12 – Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve played?
I played the Queen Elizabeth Hall years ago with my quartet supporting Bill Frisell. It sounds pretentious, but playing quite naked, exposed improvised music in front of a large crowd on a large stage changes the whole thing into another experience altogether…
Question 13 - Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve been to?
I spent years in London in the eighties and early nineties going to hear improvised music. Those small gigs in dark pubs were unbelievable – perfect expressions of the soul – music played for no money to a handful of people but which mattered absolutely to everyone involved. What could be better?
Question 14 – Tell me about your current equipment set up?
I play a Selmer mark 6 soprano with a very old ebonite Selmer soloist mouthpiece. I use Vandoren 3 reeds.
Question 15 – Tell me about some musicians you think people should check out?
Anyone who hasn’t heard any of the musicians cited above should listen to them. In jazz, I would go and see Jasper Hoiby or Ivo Neame any time.
Question 16 - What's your favourite cultural pursuit other than music?
Literature. Is wine drinking cultural?
Question 17 - What do you think of the state of jazz in the UK?
This is a golden age for jazz in the UK, in terms of musicianship and quality of characters playing. The problem is that most people don’t know it, so the audiences remain quite small, and young people stay away.
Question 18 - Have you got any tips for jazz promoters?
Get young people into jazz gigs before it’s too late. There’s going to be a strange vacuum a few years down the line - musicians playing to musicians…
Question 19 - What was the last thing you heard that got you excited?
The bass lines on Bitches Brew still take some beating. Also Dolphy’s first alto solo on Point of Departure is one of the wonders of the jazz world!
Question 20 – Have you got anything you'd like to promote?
Jon Lloyd Group’s “Vanishing Points”, out on 33extreme now! It’s mighty fine, with great playing from me, John Law, Rob Palmer, Tom Farmer and Asaf Sirkis.