Jazz journalism

In 2005 I discovered that turning myself into a pseudo-critic was the perfect way to sustain a heavy listening habit: It acted as a free ticket to concerts and provided a valuable platform to spread the word about artists I liked. Jazz first piqued my interest in early secondary school, when I started playing tenor saxophone and drew inspiration from a classroom visit by the British maestro Courtney Pine.

My first reviews were published on AllAboutJazz.com, the Internet’s leading hub for all things jazzified. Soon enough, I started getting into jazz writing in a bigger way, setting up interviews with musicians that intrigued me.

The first was Geoff Wilkinson, producer and creator of Us3, the pioneering jazz/hip-hop crossover project that hit big-time success in 1992 as the first Blue Note artist to go platinum. But, as you can read here, the charming Yorkshireman’s tale is not all fine cars and fast champagne…

Since then, some other splendid musicians I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing include:

  • Omara Portuondo – leading lady of the legendary Buena Vista Social Club;
  • Christian Scott – a rebellious rising jazz star who is not afraid to speak his mind;
  • Chris Potter – one of the outstanding saxophonists of the current generation;
  • Manuel Mengis – I also wrote liner notes for this talented Swiss trumpet player, who has a distinctive compositional philosophy;
  • Pete Wareham – the mercurial frontman of cult jazz-rock hybrid group Acoustic Ladyland;
  • Igor Butman – Russia’s most popular jazzman;
  • James Morton – one of Britain’s hottest up-and-coming alto saxists;
  • The Portico Quartet – a group of Londoners who went from riverside busking to prestigious award ceremonies;
  • Neil Cowley – a charismatic jazz crossover musician who understands the mainstream audience.

In 2008, I covered the North Sea and London jazz festivals for AllAboutJazz.com and Jazzwise magazine. Other publications that have allowed me to scribble about music include The Guardian, The Moscow Times, Jazz.com, Fly and the LondonJazz blog.

During my second year of university I dabbled in radio, hosting a genre-crossing show called ‘Off The Hook’ on the student station. Playlists typically included anything from jazz, funk and hip-hop to folk music from around the world and all forms of general beatmaking – as well as selections made by frequent guests from the exciting Bristol scene.

Unfortunately all recordings of the show were lost in the wireless archives, but I am hoping to one day recreate some kind of similar project.

Making music

Around the same time as my radio initiative, I played saxophone a band called Ruckus Collective that was formed by a group of friends at uni. After a shifting initial lineup of alto and tenor saxes, guitar, bass, drums and a couple of MCs and/or a singer, Ruckus developed into a formidable gigging force. During six frantic months at the start of 2008 we played at least a couple of shows every week, venturing out into places such as London, Exeter, Birmingham, Plymouth and Frome.

Our signature sound was a toxic cocktail of everything the band members enjoyed, perhaps best described as punk-fusion party music. Every tune was different. In summer 2008 we captured the creative vibes by recording Stop, Drop, Dance! – our debut album – at Blue Room Studios. Tracks are available on this site and via SoundCloud.

Back in Bristol, the Ruckus crew is still going strong – albeit with a slightly different band and a sampladelic style more firmly rooted in hip-hop. Their second album, FIST (released late 2010) is well worth a listen, but it’s the energetic live shows that really stand out.

In the tunes section I’ve posted a few of my own creations. One of these days I am hoping to finally polish off an album of self-produced electronic randomness for the masses…