when playing jazz is ‘the most fun ever’ – London Jazz News
Bandleader, composer and saxophonist Trish Clowes explains how her band, My Iris, brought the spirit of adventure to the studio for their new album. John Bungey’s film.
The essence of jazz, they say, is never to play the same thing once. For saxophonist Trish ClowesBoss of My Irises, getting out of the script is the key to the spirit of one of the most influential small groups in British jazz. The task of the comrades of Clowes’ group is to surprise her. “I’ll tell them I’m ready for anything,” she laughs. “If everyone in a band doesn’t talk to each other and improvise – well, what’s the point?”
This freedom extends to the recording studio. “On the new album, the last track, Almost, turned into a massive boulder. On the chart, the two sections that open have just received the instructions: “Choose any tempo and play freely.” (Incidentally, by the standards of a “massive rock-out”, Almost is a nuanced and skillfully executed finale.)
The scrapbook, A view with a bedroom, also highlights Clowes’ songwriting skills in the more written sections as the tunes change the mood from playfulness to soul, from melody to abstraction. The tenor and feathery soprano of the leader intertwine with the guitar of Chris Montague and Ross Stanleykeyboards in a palette of changing colors and rhythms. The eight caterpillars are propelled by James Madrenis the sensitive battery.
A See with a room is the seventh album with the London-based musician as frontman and reveals the growing band spirit of a quartet that has been playing together since 2016. “When you write for the same people and see how they react to your music , your writing changes as you respond to them. It’s a really special process,” says Clowes. “You can take more risks and sometimes you just let things go and just say ‘OK, let’s see what happens’ – which can be the most fun ever.
“The best thing about writing improvised music is that it’s not just about you. You configure a model.
Clowes grew up in Shropshire in a household where jazz was in his ears from an early age. Her grandfather played the American songbook on the piano, her mother loved Ella Fitzgerald, and her father played trumpet with a local big band. She swapped the clarinet for the saxophone (hearing the tenor saxophonist play a solo in In a sentimental mood with the big band was a key moment) and in 2003 she gained a place at the Royal Academy of Music. She recorded her first album in 2010 before Radio 3 made her a new generation artist and she was commissioned to write for the BBC Concert Orchestra. Along the way, she has been honored by Jamie Cullum, Gilles Peterson, Fiona Talkington and many more.
A formative influence – even greater than In a sentimental mood – was the music of Wayne Shorter. When Clowes began playing jazz repertoire with older Shropshire musicians, she found that all of her favorite tunes “were the most original Wayne Shorter had written”.
She saw Shorter’s acoustic quartet play at Festival Hall in 2001 and heard the L-printsive! album. “How lucky am I that he created this group at this important time when you absorb everything. I feel like the life of this band was pivotal.
“There are plenty of saxophonists who have influenced me. I don’t think I necessarily look like Wayne. People often think that “influenced by” means “looks like”, which is not true at all. You follow someone’s concept and way of thinking – just copying wouldn’t be part of that.
And yes, while sharing the openness to exploration of the Shorter group, My Iris has its own clear identity. Clowes gradually wrote the tracks for the new album during the lockdown, presenting them one by one as the band streamed gigs. Organizing time in the studio with the risk of Covid cancellation was a financial gamble. But now the saxophonist has a finished album and a planned tour where new material can slowly evolve and mutate. “It’s been quite a journey. When I think about where all of our heads were a few years ago, I can’t believe it, it doesn’t feel real,” Clowes says. “But that’s how I feel about it and I’m really excited to share this music with the world.”
A view with a bedroom is released by Green leaf music April 22.
The band are touring the UK from 5 April with the album launching at Wigmore Hall, London W1 on 23 April;
CONNECTIONS: Full list of tour dates at trishclowes.com