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TOM GREEN

 

Appearances at SoundCellar -

TIMECRAFT - Thursday 27th July 2013

THE TOM GREEN SEPTET - Thursday 5th December 2013

 

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

I think the most defining moment was when a friend played me some Carl Fontana and Bill Watrous records during a long car journey. The trombone is often an under-appreciated instrument and I had never heard it played like that before!

 

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

I remember spending a long time at the piano moving voicings up and down and really getting used to the sound of different chords before moving things onto the trombone. My practice regime for several years was heavily based on scales and modes, moving patterns around and becoming comfortable in every key. I also spent a lot of time doing technical studies in order to make sure I was able to play the things I wanted to play on the trombone.

 

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

I think ear training is key to playing jazz both on your own instrument and with other musicians - being able to instantly recognise different chords, play back melodies, play a simple tune in any key by ear - all of these skills I think are surprisingly absent from many musicians who are otherwise serious about playing jazz and often very highly technically accomplished. The goal should be to break down the barrier between yourself and your instrument so it becomes an extension of you.

 

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

I remember devouring the Jazz Piano book by Mark Levine when I started to get serious about playing. Then there's another great arranging book by Rayburn Wright called Inside the Score which I'd recommend highly.

 

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

I've yet to feature on a lot of recordings - although we're recording our first Septet CD soon and I'm in the process of sorting out recordings with some other projects as well.

 

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

Not really. I almost always write at the piano - I'm never short of ideas and have books of fragments of melodies but I find it often takes me a long time to organise and frame those ideas in the right way.

 

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

Openness, having great ears and willingness to play for the band and what the music requires rather than for themselves. They've also got to have a good sense of humour and an ability to organise themselves!

 

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

I'm a big fan of Cole Porter - his melodies are completely unique and often go in very unusual directions. So in Love, You Do Something to Me, Everything I Love are 3 of my favourites. Laura by David Raskin is another fascinating one as it starts in G and ends up in C major right at the end. I'm also a big fan of Jobim.

 

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

Too many to list! Here are some of my current favourites:

Concert in the Garden - Maria Schneider

Lost Words - Marshall Gilkes

Weightless - Becca Stevens

Gently Disturbed - Avishai Cohen

and of course Sinatra at the Sands - with Count Basie

 

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

I've been checking out a lot of big band writing by John Hollenbeck, Vince Mendoza, Bob Brookmeyer, Darcy James Argue, Loose Tubes and a few others. I love the way they go beyond beyond standard forms and structures in their compositions, and naturally integrate improvisation and free elements with written material.

 

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

It can be a struggle sometimes getting exposure for creative music but when gigs come off and you're playing your own tunes with people who really are 100% committed to the music there isn't any better feeling - it does take a lot of willpower to fight through the endless administration aspects of getting gigs, but once you're on stage and playing it's all worth it.

 

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

Probably the most bizarre one was this summer in a jazz cafe in Tunisia - I was directing a 10-piece expanded version of my septet and we were suffering from complete culture shock and had no idea what to expect from this gig - but we were shown into an incredible bar with great equipment (I think we were borrowing one of the only double basses in the country) and were treated like royalty - I've never had a more enthusiastic audience or met a nicer bunch of people.

 

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

I actually went to see the whole of Wagner's Ring Cycle at the Covent Garden Opera house last year - that was a really amazing experience and a fascinating insight into a different musical world...

 

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

I play a King 2B Silvertone from the 1930s with an extra counterweight to properly balance the weight of the bell which is unusually heavy.

 

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

Apart from the CDs and artists listed above - listen to some trombone players! Hardly any non-trombonists seem to have any records by trombone players in their collection despite us all being forced to check out sax players all the time - there are some great modern players like Marshall Gilkes, Ryan Keberle, Elliot Mason - and some truly swinging ones like Carl Fontana who for me was #1 even though nobody outside trombone circles has heard of him.

 

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

Music is my main cultural love - otherwise I'm more of an active person and would rather go on a walk or cycle than look round a museum! I'm also very into freestyle windsurfing...

 

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

Obviously it's a difficult time for the arts in the UK and funding is tight, but there are still just as many people making creative music as before. The only unfortunate thing is that it'll never be a great money earner for most of those musicians. Also many people who come to our gigs either don't know what to expect at all or have some preconceptions of what jazz music is, and are usually surprised by what they hear, so I think jazz maybe has a slight image problem - especially when it spans so much diverse music (probably arguably more diverse than any other "music category"). But there are loads of incredible young musicians in the UK at the moment so that's definitely a positive thing.

 

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

Keep pushing creative music! We really do rely on you to provide us with the opportunities to play the music we really want to play. Be open to trying something new as well - if the music is good then take a chance once in a while on booking a lesser-known band and giving them their "lucky break" - many venues seem impossible to penetrate for new artists, just because they don't have as big a reputation as some more established acts - although the music may be just as good. And just a personal gripe - please answer emails, even if it's "no, we're not interested, stop pestering me!"

 

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

I recently saw the guitarist Gilad Hekselman play with his trio - his interaction with his band was incredible so that would have to be the best recent listening experience I've had.

 

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

My Septet tour in December - we're playing at 7 venues in Sheffield, Bristol, Poole as well as in Devon and Cornwall followed by a London showcase in January. After that tour we're planning on recording and releasing our first CD - check out my website www.tomgreen.org.uk for the full listings!