Eddie Parker performs with his band Eddie Parker’s Mister Vertigo at the 606 Club on 26th June. Joe Stoddart interviewed him by email:
LondonJazz News: Eddie, you have a lot of different projects on the go, including – recently- Loose Tubes. Where does Mister Vertigo fit in musically?
Eddie Parker: Mister Vertigo (I should say “Eddie Parker’s Mister Vertigo” because there is another band in the US called “Mister Vertigo”) has been the main vehicle for my compositional work in recent years. It’s where I can explore different influences and pursue different directions in my music without committing wholly to any one genre, so you will hear classical music influences alongside Brazilian music, or free jazz alongside rock and funk – derived rhythms, and so on. The musicians are incredible so I can write really complicated stuff if I want to: it has always been important to me to play with great pianists who can read the spaghetti, but also understand the references like Debussy, Ligeti and so on. I’m emphasising the complexity here but they are all wonderful, natural improvisers too. I love to hear Julian Nicholas sing his heart out on tenor!
I got interested in renaissance music not long ago, and particularly how some 20th century composers have warped that music – Hindemith, for example. So for a while we started the gig with a John Dowland piece (just to throw people off the scent!). I wrote a piece called “Fat Man Galliard” which has a Henry VIII feel about it, but diverts into other territories like Ornette Coleman style free jazz, and odd time signatures a la Mahavisnu Orchestra, along the way.
Speaking of Mahavishnu Orchestra, I want to sing John McLaughlin’s praises for a minute. He is one of my big influences. He is undoubtedly an incredible player but I think his real genius is in his composing. He has a great melodic sense – somehow a bit like Gustav Holst in places – has anyone else noticed that? And he has this way of making odd time signatures seem natural (listen to Can’t Stand Your Funk on Visions of the Emerald Beyond). So if you are familiar with his music you will hear certain references in my music – some more overt than others.
LJN: Most of the band are long term collaborators, but Kit Downes is a relatively new addition, replacing the great Pete Saberton. Where did your paths first cross?
EP: I met Kit Downes when I was doing some teaching at Aldeburgh Young Musicians; Kit was part of a team put together by South African poet/musician/animateur Eugene Skeef. Eugene was a great friend of pianist Bheki Mseleku who I played with in the 1990’s. One of the lovely moments on that weekend course was when we were talking to the young musicians about how the music gets passed on from generation to generation; Kit talked about how Loose Tubes had been a major inspiration for him when he was younger. So it seemed a very natural thing for Kit to join my band. The death of Pete Saberton hit me like walking into a lamp post – I had difficulty in getting back on my bike for a while. Pete was a very special musician; no one made the piano sound the way he did. But Kit is very special too. We had this feeling that we’d known each other all our lives; he very quickly took his place in the family. So it’s great to have him around and he certainly has no difficulty reading and understanding complex music.
LJN: This is your first appearance back in London after the Loose Tubes residency, were you pleased with how the run went?
EP: Loose Tubes was incredible. I have so much to say about it, but for now I’ll just say that the time machine works both ways – it wasn’t just about revisiting the past (but there were lots of nostalgic comments from older fans) – it was also about transporting that incredible vibe and energy from 25 years ago to now. It was huge! And so many emotions! Quite overwhelming.
LondonJazz News: Are there any plans for more performances or new recordings?
Eddie Parker: At the moment there isn’t anything as far as I know after Brecon Festival 8th August, but I can’t believe there won’t be. Watch this space!
Tickets for Eddie Parer’s Mister Vertigo are available via the 606 website.