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Ben Folds Q&A

Ben Folds’ UK tour with yMusic starts in Cardiff on Sunday 12 June, circling across the country and featuring two London shows, finishing up in Cambridge on Thursday 23rd. We recently caught up with Ben to find out what fans can expect from these live shows.

Serious: The Palladium is the biggest theatre in London, how does it feel to be performing in such an iconic venue? 
Ben: It’s one of the finest performance venues in the world with an insanely rich music legacy. I’m excited about performing songs off my new record in that space. The blend of pop and classical sounds that we perform were tailor made to be heard and experienced in that space. 

Serious: If you could describe your new album So There in three words, what would they be?
Ben: Power chamber rock. 

Serious: Why did you decide to incorporate classical music into your songs? 
Ben: As a kid I played in my middle school orchestra.  After I began my career as a pop artist, I made sure that my songs were also scored by world class arrangers for orchestras. And for more than a decade I’ve performed with some of the greatest orchestras on the planet. This latest collaboration with the celebrated classical sextet yMusic on my new record has simply been a natural next step in my journey as a musician and as a composer.

Serious: It must be a complex process putting together classic and pop music with yMusic, can you talk us through this process? 
Ben: Our approach from the beginning was to avoid the compulsory and gratuitous. I vowed never to use yMusic as ornamentation. We also weren’t policy driven. CJ Camerieri, Rob Moose and spent about six months arranging, orchestrating and workshopping material, recording with the rest of yMusic when our collective schedules allowed at studios in New York, LA and Nashville. A few hours before we start a recording session, Moose, CJ and me would meet to arrange, print and place charts on stands before the others showed up. Collaborative decisions were then made by the whole group, scores reprinted and tracks quickly recorded in just one and two takes. I’ve never worked with as telepathically as these guys. We all just knew the other would do the right thing when it came down to it.

Serious: You’ve worked with so many fantastic artists, from Sara Bareilles to William Shatner, but who was the most interesting to work with?
All the artists I have worked with over the years have brought their own unique musical and artistic perspective to the creative process. I honestly couldn’t single out any one as being a favourite.

Serious: Do you have any ideas about who or what genre you’d like to collaborate with next? 
Ben: I plan on writing more pop piano songs and doing more solo touring, and I do have a few collaborations in the works that I’m exploring. But if I shared more details than that I’d have to kill you.

Serious: When you did your Concerto For Piano and Orchestra, you were commissioned by the Nashville Ballet. Do you see yourself collaborating with dancers/theatre makers again in the near future?
Ben: I’d like to. In fact, I have an even greater appreciation for how dance can be a great interpretative outlet for my music.

Serious: Do you have any other plans while you’re in the UK? 
Ben: We’re on a tight touring schedule, so I’m afraid my only downtime will either be on a bus or a train getting from one venue to the next.

Serious: Can you tell us something people might not know about you?
Ben: I have a man crush on Shawn Stockman. 

Joe Temperley

At the end of last week, the sad news came through that saxophonist Joe Temperley has died. Anyone who attended Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra concerts over the past years will have known about Joe – a bulky figure perched at the end of the saxophone section, playing both baritone saxophone and bass clarinet with a sound that harked back to the golden era of jazz. Remarkably for a musician who was steeped in the jazz tradition, and who made a real impact in the hustle and bustle of the New York scene, Joe was Scottish through and through – born in 1927 in Lochgelly, a small mining town in Fife, he worked his way through the British dance and swing bands of the 40s and 50s before joining the Humphrey Lyttelton band, and thence moving to New York in the mid 60s – a courageous step for a European player in those days. Typically, he picked up work – first with Woody Herman, with Frank Sinatra, then with the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the terrific big band led by Thad Jones and Me Lewis. He became a founder member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, credited by Wynton Marsalis as being the heart of  the band, providing an essential link with the great big band leaders. 

It seemed like Joe was indestructible, and despite his age, he seemed like his seven decade career would be somehow endless. A consummate professional and an inspirational teacher (he continued to act as mentor to the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra until the final bars) – and he was a fountain of jazz knowledge. A late night malt with Joe Temperley was an often hilarious, but invariably fascinating glimpse into jazz history – he lived and breathed the jazz spirit. But the thing that will be most missed is, of course, his playing – a big, soulful saxophonist who could swing the night away in irresistible style. But it’s the gorgeous bass clarinet sound that sticks in the memory, described by Tommy Smith as 'sweet velvet' – his interpretation of  Ellington’s classic A single Petal of a Rose remains one of the great statements in jazz balladry. 

Read The Scotsman's obituary here

Parliamentary Jazz Awards

Take Five alumni Alexander HawkinsEmilia Martensson and Moses Boyd (with Binker Golding) emerged among the winners at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, alongside Empirical, whose saxophonist Nathaniel Facey is another Take Fiver. Congratulations also to saxophonist Evan Parker for his Lifetime Achievement Award, to Mary Grieg who has supported the scene so well, and to Julian ArguellesMichael ConnartyJez Nelson and Tommy Smith, as well as Seven Jazz.

Full list of winners:

Jazz Album of the Year: Julian Argüelles, Let It Be Told
Jazz Education Award: Dr Tommy Smith
Jazz Newcomer of the Year: Binker & Moses
Jazz Venue of the Year: Seven Jazz Leeds
Jazz Vocalist of the Year: Emilia Mårtensson
Jazz Media Award: Jez Nelson, BBC Jazz on 3
Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year: Alexander Hawkins
Jazz Ensemble of the Year: Empirical
Services to Jazz Award: Mary Greig
APPJAG Special Awards: Michael Connarty and Evan Parker

EFG London Jazz Festival - more shows announced

We are delighted to announce the next wave of concerts for this year's EFG London Jazz Festival (Friday 11 – Sunday 20 November 2016).

New shows, which go on sale 10am this Friday, include the Jazz Voice opening gala, Bobby McFerrinBugge Wesseltoft, Dhafer Youssef, Les Diaboliques (Joëlle Léandre, Maggie Nicols and Irène Schweizer), Madeleine PeyrouxMarius NesetNorma Winstone and Robert Glasper. 

efglondonjazzfestival.org.uk/events

Gateshead International Jazz Festival and the joy of festivals

Terence Blanchard and Courtney Pine are among the big names appearing at Gateshead International Jazz Festival next weekend. They shared a stage at the 1985 Camden Jazz Festival, conveniently 30 years ago.

At that point, Terence was the emerging trumpeter on the block, earning his spurs with Art Blakey. Courtney was emerging as a leading light of the young guns of Brit jazz, spearheading a new generation of black UK musicians. Both of them have gone on to become hugely important jazz ambassadors – championing the music in their playing, in their attitude and in their ability to take the music to the big wide world, acknowledging their roots in the jazz tradition, as well as their own cultural backgrounds, from New Orleans and urban America (Blanchard), or from London and Jamaica (Pine). They both continue to move jazz forward into new and innovative territory, and follow in the Blakey footsteps by encouraging and mentoring musicians of successive generations. And speaking on behalf of the music publicly and with commitment, passion and generosity.

Festivals are special places where life-long friendships can take root both on the stage, in the crowd and wherever there’s a creative spark. Get down to Gateshead next weekend to be part of this wonderful atmosphere.

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