We spoke to pianist / keyboardist Pete Lee from the group Narcissus, ahead of the band’s gig at the Vortex on 27th January (8:00pm).
LondonJazz: Who is in the band?
Pete Lee: Myself – Piano and Synth
Tom Varrall – Guitar
Ali Thynne – Drums
Huw Foster – Electric Bass
We’re really excited to have Nadim Teimoori on sax at the Vortex on the 27th Janurary 2014. From my perspective as band-leader, the way he plays really outlines the intention and direction of the music.
LJ: How long has Narcissus been going?
PL: I formed Narcissus in around January 2012, so two years now! However, Huw, Ali, Tom and I have been playing together in various forms more like seven years. We met back in 2006 when we studied at Leeds College of Music.
LJ: What made you choose the name?
PL: I’ve always had an interest in the ego and our varying abilities to be self-aware! I’ve come to the conclusion that the pursuit of self-awareness is futile. It’s important to regulate your own behaviour and try to be the best person you can be, but when it comes to anticipating others’ perceptions, then you’re really into a minefield of questioning, insecurity and confusion. As an alternative, I decided to think less about myself, and more about being as spontaneous as possible, focusing on my social abilities and the thrill of grasping opportunities that only come up if you’ve got your eyes open.
I thought about the Greek myth of Narcissus. A hunter who becomes so fixated with his own reflection in a pool that he develops a complete obliviousness to his environment, and ultimately dies at the poolside. With my band Narcissus, I hope to reflect on some of the protagonist’s arrogance. Many of my tunes are based on the challenges of the human condition: Dependency, Writer’s Block and The Mirror Stage for example.
Most recently when I’ve been writing, I try not to let the pressure of adhering to the theme stifle the ideas I come up with. I focus on composing music that compliments the material we already play, so that we have a well-balanced sound.
LJ: Pete what’s your story/ where do you come from? / Who are your piano/ composing heroes?
PL: I’m originally from Cardiff. I was brought up in a charismatic church environment, where I played trumpet in the church band. I studied piano at Leeds College of Music under the guidance of Jamil Sheriff and Les Chisnall, before studying a Masters in Jazz at The Royal Academy of Music.
Many musicians I know seem to have a much more diverse musical taste than I, and a broader knowledge of different styles and genres. I tend to get obsessed with just a few different musical influences. I’ll listen to just them for years before moving on. These have included Bill Evans & Herbie Hancock, Jarrett, Enrico Pieranunzi. But I would say I’m more focused on the contemporary side at the moment. Brad Mehldau, Gwilym Simcock, Django Bates. Apparently, I’m also guilty of solely listening to piano players!
LondonJazz: Which venue do you like playing/ where has the vibe been the best?
Pete Lee: The first gig we ever played was at the Vortex, as part of my final recital at RAM. We were last on, and the crowd got inappropriately rowdy. So much so that a formal warning was sent round via email the next day. The vibe was really was one-of-a-kind. It’s a very highly pressurised event for students. The combination of that pressure and a vocally supportive audience meant that adrenaline soared. I think I’d list that as my no.1 most enjoyable gig. The Vortex is an intimate venue and regarded as the host of contemporary jazz in London, so we felt suitably humbled. It’s especially humbling to have been asked back to the Vortex, since we’ve left the educational bubble. We’ll be playing alongside Harpist Tori Handsley and her trio. We’re on first at 8ish, so I can’t wait to be a part of the audience for her performance.
In November 2013, Narcissus performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival, curated by Young and Serious, featuring saxophonist Josh Arcoleo. We made a multi-track recording from the desk and shot multi-cam video. Ali and I have been painstakingly editing all the audio and all the video ever since! We’re about 75% done now, and I’m just desperate to get our new material out there. We plan to finish all the editing before releasing anything. Having listened back to gig, I see it as a really special gig that I’d like to share. We will be uploading the whole gig, separated into individual tracks, all before Spring 2014.
Narcissus’ Facebook Page
I and another couple of London Jazz Meetups are down to go to the gig on Monday – sounds like it will be a lot of fun.