We interviewed Reuben Fowler about his forthcoming Kings Place concert:
LondonJazz : What’s special to you about the Kings Place concert on January 18th ?
Reuben Fowler: It’s always a fantastic experience to get this band together as it happens so rarely. I’m very lucky to be joined by some of the most talented, and busiest musicians – so unfortunately it’s not possible to get everyone together in one room that often. This will be just our fourth gig (the last one being at the 2013 London Jazz Festival). It also marks a year since we went into Angel Studios and recorded the album Between Shadows.
LJ: And you have guests too?
RF: Yes. This will be the first gig we do with Stan Sulzmann; a guest on the original recording and a voice on the soprano saxophone that inspired much of the music. We are also joined by Troyka’s Chris Montague on guitar: a fantastic musician and bloke who I’ve been lucky enough to work with as part of ‘Troyk-estra.’ The guitarist has quite an important part in my band, and having heard Chris’ incredible, distinctive way of playing with Troyk-estra (and all of his other projects) I’m really excited about how he’s going to interpret this music.
LJ: What changes have there been since recording the album last January?
RF: Since recording the album the big band has become a little bigger. Gareth Lockrane now has a prominent role on assorted flutes, and for this concert we’ll be playing some new music written especially for the event that will feature him. Having Stan present as well has meant that much of the music from the album has been adapted to feature his iconic soprano saxophone sound in greater depth, which I’m looking forward to hearing live.
LJ. Take a step back. How did the big band come about?
RF: I had the idea to put this big band together in early 2012, and immediately knew who I wanted to play all the parts. It’s quite hard sometimes as you really have to find a group of people who are going to work well together and sound great together; and that’s before you’ve even started putting any music in front of them.
LJ: And you combine generations and types of musician in this band.
RF: Essentially I aimed to bring two groups of people together; much like I felt Kenny Wheeler did in his brilliant band to such great success. Because there’s so much written stuff we have some of the UKs greatest studio musicians; including Mike Lovatt, Gordon Campbell and Sam Mayne. Not only are they some of the finest at their craft in the world, but they have that really special quality of making melodies come to life. I then have some of the most brilliant young voices in jazz on the scene at the moment including Dave Hamblett, George Crowley, Robbie Harvey, Percy Pursglove and Freddie Gavita (to name a just few.) I think it’s really exciting for a listener hearing the combination of these great arts in one room as you get that huge scale, brilliance and virtuosic energy of a true ‘big band sound’ however with all the innovation and interaction of a modern jazz quartet or something.
LJ: And sometimes you get just to listen during the gig?
RF: I remember on the album launch at the Forge watching Mike Lovatt (a formidable trumpet player who you usually see playing lead trumpet with the John Wilson Orchestra on the Proms, or hear soaring over the band on a film or television session) getting really into a free bass solo at the beginning of a tune. It’s great when you see people who are all real masters of their craft interacting with each other.
LJ: What have been your personal highlights in the year since the album was recorded?
RF: Between Shadows has received some lovely reviews which I’m really grateful for- including being hailed as ‘destined to become a British Jazz Milestone.’ I’m not so sure about this! but it’s really encouraging to know that it has been well received. Being nominated in the first round of the 56th Grammy Awards this year was also a surreal experience as there have been so many amazing albums released over the year I was delighted to have even been considered. We’ve done some great concerts with the full big band and as part of the UK tour with my septet. One of the best gigs was at the London Jazz Festival this year; it was the first time I’d done the festival under my own name, and lots of people came down and supported so we had a packed house at the Clore Ballroom in the Royal Festival Hall.
LJ: And you’ve travelled too?
RF: Making the album lead to some unforgettable moments I will always treasure, including meeting my hero Tom Harrell in New York City and recording his flugelhorn solo for the track ‘Dundry’ on my album. I also spent some time with Tom and Michael Abene in Koln, Germany, watching the rehearsals and subsequent gig with the WDR Big Band.
LondonJazz: Who else have you been playing for? Boy George, right?
Reuben Fowler: I was on tour earlier in the year with Boy George promoting his new album ‘This Is What I Do’ which was the first time I’d been on the road with a commercial artist. This is a really fun gig for me as not only do I get to play some brilliant horn section lines, but I have a quite a lot of trumpet solos including a big bluesy harmon mute solo at the beginning of ‘Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?’ It was a challenge as after spending so much time writing and playing jazz I had to get my trumpet chops back in, but I’m enjoying getting into practicing playing that music!