Helena Kay (crowdfunding for new album ‘Golden Sands’) – London Jazz News
Saxophonist Helena Kay left for New York in February 2019 and returned in March 2020. Her next album golden sands is inspired by his time there. A crowdfunder for the new albumm is in progress (LINK BELOW). Interview with Sebastian.
London Jazz News: A year in New York seems relatively short. Would you have liked to spend more time there?
Helen Kay: Yes. I went to New York on an artist visa that lasts three years, so my original plan was to stay for three years. The pandemic brought me back to the UK after a year on visa. I was going to say “unfortunately”, but actually I’m really happy to be here playing music, meeting friends and spending time with my family. The start of the pandemic was a really horrible time, but there were some upsides, like spending time with my family.
LJN: What was your main idea when you went there??
Hong Kong: I wanted to absorb the American attitude and the music culture there. I love American music, black American music in particular, and had visited NYC several times before deciding to move there. There is such a strong connection to the story. I also wanted to take lessons with some of my favorite musicians in the world and hear amazing music regularly, which I did!
LJN: What have you learned from your face-to-face lessons?
Hong Kong: I had lessons with Melissa Aldana, Chris Cheek and Dayna Stephens when I was in New York. I first met Melissa in Edinburgh years ago, and had a few lessons with her in the UK when she is on tour. She is a huge inspiration to me and a very lovely and generous person. I could say the same of all these musicians, they are very different but they share warmth and generosity. Melissa got me through her rigorous workout routine, Chris got me singing and going back to basics, and Dayna got me exploring some interesting harmonic tracks, among other things. They all know the fundamentals of music so well, it’s one of the main takeaways, and they each have their own unique approach. It was amazing spending time with them and getting to know them, as well as hearing them play.
I also worked for rodney green for a while he taught me a lot too, about music and life. He is a very thoughtful and innovative musician and teacher. (INTERVIEW)
LJN: Are there other aspects of the New York experience that have influenced your music?
Hong Kong: I would say the whole experience of living in New York left a huge mark on me as a person, so in turn will have affected my music. It doesn’t feel entirely tangible or describable, I just know I’m a different person having lived there. I’d like to think that my experiences made me tougher and bolder, and so I hope my music/playing is bolder because of that.
LJN: There must be a story behind the title track ‘Tuesday Club’
Hong Kong: My good friend and photographer John Rogers helped me a lot when I moved to New York. He was working at the Village Vanguard at the time, and used to go to a show there on his night off every Tuesday, and he would invite me over too, along with his friend Amy Lemaire (who’s an amazing performer – glass blower). We’ve heard so much amazing music and met living music legends. We stayed after the show with other staff and often the musicians too. I can’t believe this was my life for a while! It was an amazing time.
LJN: And you admire Carla Bly….
Hong Kong: One of the tracks on the upcoming album is called Carla after the great Carla Bley. I love his writing.
LJN: Now that you’re back, there’s a real “thing” going on in Scottish jazz, especially with Fergus McCreadie and Matt Carmichael. What do you think of that? Are you part of it?
Hong Kong: I feel very lucky to be part of the scene here in London and also have the regular opportunity to perform in Scotland. I wouldn’t say that I’m necessarily part of the scene up there, I think being part of a scene involves going to concerts as well as playing them, and contributing in other ways, to moving the things. There’s a very vibrant scene in Scotland led by amazing musicians who I’m proud to call my friends, and I’m lucky enough to be part of it from time to time. I always feel like I’m coming home when I play there. As I get older I feel the bond with this country grows stronger, especially after living away from the UK, your nationality becomes a big part of your identity.
I’ve known Fergus for a long time (we were both at FYJO together, I think he was around 12 when we met), and I’m really excited to see what he does next. Same with Matt Carmichael – he blows my mind every time I hear it. I was thinking about it after recording a big band album with my good friend Sean Gibbs (another Scot); it’s really exciting to grow old and see your friends (as well as yourself) grow and do amazing things. I’ll only mention a few more while we’re at it – Anoushka Nanguy, Liam Shortall, Paul Towndrow, Alan Benzie (& much more!)
LJN: Is London home now or Scotland?
Hong Kong: I live in London, Harringay to be precise, and I love this part of London. I am in Scotland so regularly that I also feel at home. I am very lucky to be in this position.
LJN: Who are the musicians on the new album?
Hong Kong: I have a great group, I’m grateful to be able to play and spend time with these people. David Ingamells been part of the band from the start, we first met at Guildhall. He pushes me to do better every time I play with him. He also has a good sense of humor. I knew Calum Gourlay because before I moved to London he was from Fife and we both had a similar musical education (Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra, NYJOS, Tommy Smith Youth Jazz Orchestra). He’s the glue that holds us all together, and he plays bass beautifully. I decided for this album to move from the trio to the quartet because some of my new compositions require a chord instrument. scottish pianist Peter Johnson and I started dueting together in 2017, we had some great gigs, some of my favorites, and I love the way he performs my music. It is also a ball of positive energy with which it is pleasant to work.
LJN: Your last album was with KIM Trio… is it a quartet… or what?
Hong Kong: I keep the name KIM Trio, because this album looks like the sequel to my first album Moon Palace, and also because I would like to continue with the KIM Trio + special guest format. Vibraphonist Jonny Mansfield will be joining us for a few gigs in July, East Neuk Festival on July 1 and The Oxford in Kentish Town on July 11.
LJN: What is crowdfunding used for?
Hong Kong: City Music Foundation helped me set up a crowdfunder to cover the costs of everything that turns a recording into an album – mixing, mastering, illustration, design, video, printing, PR. I was able to cover the costs of the recording session myself, but now I need help with the next steps, to make the music an album that can be released to the world. We aim to raise £4,000 by July 1.
Sebastian Scotney is a member of the advisory board of the City Music Foundation
golden sands will be available for pre-order on Bandcamp in July. The release of the singles is tentatively scheduled for August. Album release date: September 2.
June 23 – KIM Trio at the Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall 9:30 p.m. Calum Gourlay and David Ingamells
July 1 – KIM Trio + Jonny Mansfield at East Neuk Festival
July 11 – KIM Trio + Jonny Mansfield at The Oxford, Kentish Town, 8:30 p.m.
CONNECTIONS: SPECIFIC FUNDING
Interview for #IWD2020 with Alex Hitchcock