1. When and how did you come to start playing music and then how did you get into jazz?
I’ve been learning since I was very little. I began piano lessons at the age of 7, then started learning trumpet when I was 9. I grew up in a musical household, so starting the basics of jazz with my piano teacher in my teenage years was a very natural progression, since I’d grown up hearing it.
2. What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? At a gig?
The first time I saw a jazz gig. I went to Ronnie Scott’s to see Wynton Marsalis when I was 13. The level of playing in the band blew me away, and I couldn’t wait to hear more jazz of that calibre.
3. Tell us a bit about the path of your musical education/development. How did you get to where you are today?
I auditioned for Birmingham Conservatoire with no idea of the standard required for degree level performance. As a student, I realised how much I had to learn, and used these years to develop as a player and composer. I am sure I would not have been able to find my own musical path as easily, were it not for the formal training.
4. When you are composing, what are the key elements do you aim to incorporate in your music?
I’m a big fan of structured chaos! I think that the contrast between heavily written passages and unencumbered free sections is really interesting, and makes for exciting listening. I also tend to flesh out my music by playing fragments of melody, harmony and rhythm, and try and build from there. It’s very rare that I start with chord progressions, as I find these come easily once I have a skeleton, be it a melody, rhythm or a structure.
5. Which 3 musicians/bands/composers have had a key influence on you and your music?
As an improviser, John Taylor has contributed hugely to how I interpret jazz. Even from my first listen to his music, I wanted to know more about how he created lines and melodies. Compositionally, I’ve always leaned towards fusion and avant-garde, so I’d say the big two for me in that respect have been Chick Corea and John Zorn. Both opened up my ears and gave me the confidence to try non-traditional approaches to writing.
6. If you were introducing a friend to jazz music for the first time, what 3 artists or albums would you recommend to them?
I’ve always found Keith Jarrett to be fail-safe for first time listeners. Last Dance is a beautiful duo album with Charlie Haden, and I can’t imagine anyone disliking it! Mingus Ah Umis a certified classic, so I’d have to put that in there. I’d definitely have to include some Bill Evans too, probably Portrait in Jazz.
7. Please explain a bit about your upcoming project or tell us about any musical ambitions/plans you have for the future (new projects, collaborations)?
Juggenaught is a trio that grew from my original, more traditional piano trio. Collectively we’ve tried to go for an experimental approach, incorporating soundscapes and open passages with grooves and structured basslines. It’s a bit of a melting pot of our influences, and there’s definitely a hive mind approach to how we collaborate. In the future I’d love to expand on the band and create a larger ensemble version.