Appearances at SoundCellar –
THE NICK COSTLEY-WHITE QUARTET – Thursday 20th Sept 2018
THE TOMMY ANDREWS QUINTET – Thursday 3rd July 2014
Question 1 – What made you want to become a musician?
I grew up in a very musical family, my brothers and I all played instruments from a young age and were all choristers. Having started on cello i took up the guitar when I was about 13. After doing a few summer schools at teh Guildhall I was hooked on playing and improvising with other musicians. I haven’t thought about doing anything else since!
Question 2 – What was your practice routine when you decided to get serious about playing jazz?
By the time I got to music college when I was 18 I was really serious about dong a lot of hard work on the guitar. Being at college gave me the time and opportunity to my own daily practice for 4-5 hours a day, as well as getting to play in lots of ensembles. I would say that I’ve learned a great deal about how to make the practice I do much better quality. I used to do days of 6 hours of practice, but if I’m really honest there were probably only 2 hours of really productive practice in there. It was nice to have the chance to play your instrument for that amount of time so regularly, I rarely get that opportunity nowadays!
Question 3 – What advice can you give to other musicians to get the most from their practise routine?
As I alluded to in the last question, it’s all about making the practice you are able to do really count. I always start out by setting a timer for 20 mins. Before I hit start I decide what I’m going to practice for that time, and at the end I try and think about whether it’s been effective. I’ll continue that process for as much time as I can with little breaks in between were I might reply to an email or two. It’s a good method especially when you’re not feeling that inspired as you can choose something really academic or technical like learning a new scale. There are lots of musicians who seem to get by and still progress by simply gigging and playing with people. I’ve always felt I needed to keep up a steady practice routine in order to stay on top of the performing I’m doing, otherwise I feel it really suffers.
Question 4 – Can you recommend some books that helped you with your studies?
I’ve recently started looking at a book written for pianists called “An Approach to comping; the essentials” by Jeb Paton which has some really useful ideas. Other than that I’ve never found books to be that helpful. Learning solos and standards from the recordings (by ear!) is by far the best method I could recommend.
Question 5 – Which recording, either as a leader or a sideman, do you think is the best example of your playing?
It would have to be the quartet album I just released “Detour Ahead” which is my debut as a leader. It’s definitely the one that features me the most! I like some of the soloing I did on Henry Spencer’s album The Reasons Don’t Change, as well as on Tommy Andrews’ record The Crux (particularly on the title track) which is one of the first recording sessions I ever did.
Question 6 – Do you have a standard procedure for your compositional process?
It often starts by being inspired by a piece of music I’ve been listening to, or perhaps a little nugget from a solo I’ve been learning. I’ll then throw around various ideas based on that initial inspiration, often recording little chunks on my phone. Once I’ve managed to get an overall form together I’ll take it along to play with some other people and record some takes on my phone again. I’ll then normally tweak it a bit further but I try and find a point to step back and let it be a finished article otherwise you can go on and on indefinitely!
Question 7 – What qualities do you look for in your collaborators?
Strong rhythm, deep sense of jazz harmony and hopefully a fairly intuitive musical report based on similar musical reference points.
Question 8 – Name some of your favourite standards and tell me why you like them.
My favourites are generally the ones I’ve learned most recently! Those include The Best Thing For You Would Be Me, the best things in life are free & John’s Abbey by bud powell. Each standard has it’s own charm and character that draws you to it, which maybe a very technical thing such as the harmony or a broader appeal, perhaps the emotional response you feel, which is perhaps more undefinable.
Question 9 – What are some of your desert island discs?
Similarly to my response about Jazz standards, it’s mostly whatever I’ve been listening to most deeply at the moment. There are some classic records that I’ve come back quite often to over the years but I’m always so excited to get really stuck into an album I don’t know so well, whether it be old or new.
Question 10 – What music are you listening to at the moment?
I’ve been listening to Blues and The Abstract Truth by Oliver Nelson which I absolutely love. Such an incredible combination of musicians. Albums like Maiden Voyage by Herbie Hancock and some of the live Miles Davis Quintet albums from that period I love. Charlie Parker is always one of my absolute favourite artists, perhaps Bird and Dizzy live at Birdland would be a favourite.
Question 11 – What motivates you to focus on creative music?
Well the same thing that motivates me to play any music. I’ve been lucky to be able to focus my performing in on just playing jazz so it’s great to be able to devote all of my practice to discovering how I want to play that music in an individual way. That process is not particularly conceptual for me, it’s just a matter of keeping on plugging away at it and I really think the more you do that the more like yourself you’ll sound. Rather than sitting around stroking my chin worrying about whether I have a “voice” or not. I just focus on trying to play as well as I can!
Question 12 – Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve played?
Well I did my album launch at the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho 2 weeks ago which was totally sold out, so that was a fantastic experience and the guys in the band played their asses off. It’s hard to pinpoint particularly memorable gigs as I’ve done some really big gigs to huge audiences or live on the radio or at a big festival, but musically it’s probably the little gigs in bars in London that are the most exciting and gratifying. However sadly those ones all blur into one a bit!
Question 13 – Tell me about some of the most memorable gigs you’ve been to?
I went to see Barry Harris a few days ago which was gorgeous. I hope people still want to hear me play when I’m that age!
Question 14 – Tell me about your current equipment set up?
I’m keeping it pretty straightforward nowadays. I play my slightly battered Eastman archtop which I’ve had for many years now. It’s not a bad instrument, I feel quite at home with it. I replaced the pickup it came with for a Bare Knuckle Manhattan p90. That goes straight into a Rift Princeton amp which is an English made valve amp, basically a really fancy clone of a fender princeton. I might occasionally use a reverb pedal, but I don’t really use effects as I find it removes me a bit from the process and connection of playing the guitar.
Question 15 – Tell me about some musicians you think people should check out?
In terms of guitarists who are around now I love Jesse Van Ruller’s playing, as well as Peter Bernstein, Joe Cohn, a young dutch guy called Daan Kleijn as well as one of my old teachers, Phil Robson!
Question 16 – What’s your favourite cultural pursuit other than music?
I don’t know if this is cultural but I love cooking and going out to eat good food! I’m pretty interested in fashion and definitely enjoy wearing beautifully designed clothes (which is occasionally an embarrassingly expensive hobby….!).
Question 17 – What do you think of the state of jazz in the UK?
I think it’s incredible. There’s been such a strong push amongst the younger players in London to play music, whether it be original tunes or standards, that is really heavily routed in the jazz tradition. There are so many fantastic players it’s hard to keep track. The Jazz press are perhaps giving far too much attention to this afro beaty cross over scene which I generally find incredibly disappointing and underwhelming to listen to, especially when there are musicians in the UK making music of such great depth!
Question 18 – Have you got any tips for jazz promoters?
Give me more gigs! haha, I’m joking. I’m new to leading my band around the country so I can’t wait to meet all these people who I’ve been emailing for months and months!
Question 19 – What was the last thing you heard that got you excited?
I really like the live album Dreams and Daggers by Cecile Mclorin Salvant. She’s drawing on so many parts of the jazz tradition at once it’s really fun to listen to. Plus the rhythm section are incredible and play in a very open way.
Question 20 – Have you got anything you’d like to promote?
Yes, my debut album Detour Ahead! It’s out now on Ubuntu Music and is available to buy online from all the usual places. It’s definitely best when people buy the physical CD from me at a gig as I get a chance to meet them and get an idea for what they enjoy about the music!