Appearances at SoundCellar -
THE IVO NEAME QUINTET - Sun 7th June 2015
THE TORI FREESTONE TRIO - Thurs 31st July 2014
THE IVO NEAME QUINTET - Thurs 10th April 2014
Question 1 - What made you want to become a musician?
My family all played music and there were lots of musical instruments in the house and people playing at gatherings and parties. I started the violin first and played violin/whistles and sang with my family in folk clubs from about the age of 7. I always gravitated to playing whistles and playing flute was a natural transition. There was also an eclectic mix of music played at home, so jazz, classical, flamenco, Brazilian, country music were all sounds I often heard and playing by ear and improvising felt more natural to me at the time than reading music. I joined NYJO when I was 17 and then went on to study jazz flute at Leeds College of music. I actually took up the saxophone much later when I was about 26 after my degree at Leeds College of Music which again was a natural transition as I was so influenced by so many saxophonists at the time. Strangely though, I wasn't going to study music. I actually wanted to go to art college or study English, and I had a place lined up for an English degree at Uni. When I worked with NYJO though, I began wondering about a career in music, so I also auditioned for Leeds College. The vibe there was great and then having a giant Yorkshire pudding with chips and gravy at the caf across the road swung it for me! That's ultimately the reason I'm doing what I do today!
Question 2 - What was your practice routine when you decided to get serious about playing jazz?
Much as the same as it is now in a way, and a structure I give any students too. The aim is towards a creative end ultimately, but the discipline has to be there first, so I start with warm ups, scales/technique and then some lines based around a piece of harmony/rhythmic material I'm looking at and then end by putting this all into practice over the piece of repertoire I'm working on, improvising and trying to be creative with the material.
Question 3 – What advice can you give to other musicians to get the most from their practice routine?
As above really. I think it's easy to fall into the trap of going straight for the fun bit in your practice, but that's not practice, it's playing - it's the reason you're doing the practice. I used to hear lots of students practicing in this way at college, putting on a playalong and having a great time playing over it, but they weren't focussing on any one particular piece of harmony or rhythmic material to improve upon, and therefore ultimately they probably weren't improving. It has to be a balance and I feel that the more you work on the 'limitation exercises' as I call them, the more creative you will be when improvising.
Question 4 - Can you recommend some books that helped you with your studies?
I avoid working through books, but have dabbled and dipped into a few. 'Top tones for saxophone' is great for saxophonists developing a sound and a wider range. I think the Mark Levine jazz piano book is good for jazz theory. The Gerry Bergonzi books are good too, but again just to dip into. I'd recommend to find your own approach and to take practice ideas from these books rather than work through it cover to cover to find your own understanding of jazz vocabulary and in order not to sound generic.
Question 5 - Which recording, either as a leader or a sidewoman, do you think is the best example of your playing?
I'm not sure as they're all so different. 'In the Chop House' ultimately represents my playing, writing and band leading as it's is my first recording under my own name and I'm very proud of the trio, but I'm also proud of the 'Compassionate Dictatorship' albums I recorded as I co lead this quartet and co wrote a lot of the material. However, I'm also a flute player (I started on flute and only took up sax after I left Leeds College of Music), so the three albums I recorded with 'Fringe Magnetic' on flute and the recent recordings with Ivo Neame's Quintet and Octet also feature my flute playing and these are all albums I'm really proud to have been involved with.
Question 6 - Do you have a standard procedure for your compositional process?
I'm quite old school with the way I write. I get ideas and then go to an instrument (often piano, but I'm using the sax more and more especially when writing for the trio). Once I have an initial idea, I often live with it for quite a while and keep returning to it. I'm using a 4 track recording device at the moment, but when I'm abroad I often just use the recording device on the iphone, and gradually build on ideas. Eventually I start getting these down on paper and it's only towards the end of the process that I start inputting this all into Sibelius.
Question 7 - What qualities do you look for in your collaborators?
Fundamentally openness and great musicianship. Whilst good technique/reading skills etc are important, I'd rather there be an open approach to the music rather than it being about getting the notes right on a first reading! To me it's ultimately about communication and that's what I love about playing with Tim and Dave in the trio. They're fantastic musicians with great technical facility etc, but it's the interaction that's exciting within the band and this is something that audiences can appreciate and share with us.
Question 8 - Name some of your favourite standards and tell me why you like them.
I love 'Beatrice' by Sam Rivers - we play it in the trio (the version on Joe Henderson's 'State of the Tenor' was one of the tracks that inspired me to work with the same format). I love all standards generally - they're such great structures to improvise from and a way of communicating with any musician you've never met before, like a universal language.
Question 9 – What are some of your desert island discs?
It's so hard to say - there're so many! Definitely some Joni Mitchell - Travelogue, Hejira, Blue perhaps, 'Personal Mountains' by Keith Jarrett, I'd have to have some British Saxophone players in there - Iain Ballamy, Julian Arguelles, Stan Sulzmann and some Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson as well as some folkies such as Martin Carthy/Dave Swarbrick. The list is too endless - I'm an incredibly indecisive person, so I'd probably drown deciding to tell you the truth!
Question 10 - What music are you listening to at the moment?
Question 11 - What motivates you to focus on creative music?
It's why I play - it's my therapy!
Question 12 – Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve played?
It's difficult to say as they vary in the way they're memorable. Sometimes playing alongside inspiring musicians at jazz festivals has been special just for that reason - playing before 'Fly' trio at Cheltenham Jazz Festival or before Martin Carthy at my local folk club have all been very inspiring, but equally I had some lovely gigs on tour in the UK in small venues such as on the last tour I did with Ivo Neame's Quintet in Ashburton in Devon and I've absolutely loved some of the trio gigs on the tour too - we had a lovely one in Sherborne after a lovely day out! Also, getting to travel and combine seeing great places with playing fab music - the Binhuis in Ambsterdam with Ivo's band was fantastic and we had a great trio gig in 'La Laguna' Tenerife (a very special place for me as it's a sort of second home).
Question 13 - Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve been to?
I went to some very inspiring gigs when I was young. Seeing Stephan Grappelli playing (and meeting him) when I was 7, lots of amazing gigs that I saw regularly at my local folk club and folk festivals and classical concerts too. More recently seeing 'Loose Tubes' for their reunion gig at Ronnie Scotts was an amazing experience and I felt very proud to be part of the British Jazz Scene.
Question 14 – Tell me about your current equipment set up?
I have a Borgani tenor sax, a metal Otto Link 9 and I use Francois Louis reeds (3 strength). I'm not much of a geek when it comes to equipment, and I've never searched around for mouthpieces or the latest most popular ligature. It's probably something I should do, but it's never seemed to be something that I've been that interested in.
Question 15 – Tell me about some musicians you think people should check out?
Question 16 - What's your favourite cultural pursuit other than music?
Speaking Spanish along with eating tapas and drinking rioja! I've been enjoying going to galleries and the theatre a lot this summer, making the most of the amazing culture that London has to offer.
Question 17 - What do you think of the state of jazz in the UK?
On one hand it's incredibly exciting and thriving. There are so many incredible musicians with their own voices, writing and playing inspiring and creative music and I feel honoured and excited to be working alongside some of them. On the other hand, the funding situation is extremely worrying, as very recently Jazz Services (which is the main body funding the touring and recording of new bands and projects in the UK), had their funding taken away. You can read more about the great work Jazz Services has done over the years and find a link to a petition here - I would urge anyone reading this who plays or appreciates jazz to read and sign this. I don't know how I would have began my career on the jazz scene without their support and it's a worrying situation for everyone on the jazz scene whether commencing on a new career or developing further projects.
Question 18 - Have you got any tips for jazz promoters?
Firstly I'd say thanks for being there and promoting the art form. I'd also say I know it's often hard to program new creative projects when some of the more established musicians are going to be more guaranteed to get a big audience, but if a balance is struck there's room for everyone.
Question 19 - What was the last thing you heard that got you excited?
Question 20 – Have you got anything you'd like to promote?
My new album by the trio (Tori Freestone trio featuring Dave Manington on double bass and Tim Giles on drums) which is out on 'Whirlwind Recordings'. There are also another couple of recordings I'm excited to be involved in - the Ivo Neame Quintet which will also be out on 'Whirlwind' and 'Solstice' a band run collectively featuring Brigitte Beraha, Dave Manington, John Turville and Jez Franks.