Steve Baker – ‘Tonic’ (new album on Ubuntu Music) – London Jazz News
“What’s not to love! These musicians are beautiful, creative people and their personalities shine through the speakers,” writes pianist/composer Steve Baker of the experience working with Laura Jurd, Mark Lockheart, John Parricelli and Ralph Salmins on her new album on Ubuntu Music, “Tonic”
Steve Baker has worked extensively in television, radio, film and library music for 30 years, and it’s clear that “Tonic” is the start of a new creative phase… Interview with Sebastian Scottey:
London Jazz News: How was this album project born?
Steve Baker: I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to write for a few major labels in the media music world, and I particularly enjoyed the cheeky art of working across genres. I’ve had my head down working so hard for so many years: I guess I just reached the point where I needed to break away from the musical restrictions inherent in the commercial arena and explore a little of individualism. The word ‘Tonic’ with its musical and healing connotations has been with me since the beginning.
LJN: You have worked with Mark Lockheart before. Tell me about your friendship and Mark’s role in the project?
SB: Mark and I met in the mid 80’s – in a wonderful act of mentorship he tactfully convinced me to put down my alto sax and spend more time on the piano! Since then we have worked together on many records and share a true philosophy and appreciation for music.
An artist’s music is of course such a personal matter – and when producing there’s a real responsibility to try to understand and honor that – it’s an intimate relationship. It’s the same on the other side of the glass, and when Mark plays on my music he brings a real fragility to the work reflecting this tacit agreement. Working together has always been a joy and an inspiration.
LJN: Have you worked with other jazz musicians in the past?
SB: I’ve mostly worked with musicians from the London session scene. These people can sight-read – with sensation – just about anything you put on the stand – all of it, often with an orchestra and the red light on! I started working with my friends John Parricelli (guitar) and Ralph Salmins (drums) who, like so many others in this cohort, have serious jazz skills. They can just disengage from the page and take off – it’s amazing and thrilling to see.
LJN: What did you enjoy working with Mark, Laura and the other jazz musicians on the album?
SB: What’s not to like! These musicians are beautiful, creative people and their personalities shine through through the speakers.
I wanted to bring an element of improvisation to the music before locking down the arrangements too much, and as such I had to sometimes really suspend ownership of the tracks and let go of my preconceptions. I worked quite fluidly – ready to rework arrangements in response to their artistry.
We all hear music differently, so I learn from them and feel very humbled to have them on board – they have taken my ideas to unexpected places.
LJN: Is Tonic unique or do you now want to create more albums?
SB: Tonic is just the beginning. I’m currently working on new music which again features Mark, Laura and Raph Clarkson (trombone) as well as Jasper Høiby (double bass) and Dave Smith (drums) – I’m also using a little more electro.
I’m constantly trying to check my level of curiosity – as long as there’s still a sense of exploration, I think it’s still worth making records.
LINK: Tonic at Presto Music
Tonic was released on July 8, 2022