|DouglasFinch, MartinSpeake. Photo Credit: Richard Kaby|
Michael Underwood interviews Martin Speake on his forthcoming album Sound Clouds (Pumpkin Records) with pianist Douglas Finch. Release date is 1st September:
Michael Underwood: How did you and Douglas meet?
Martin Speake: We both teach at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance but had not met until we were put together in an improvisation workshop with classical students. We played a couple of short totally improvised pieces together and felt that we had potential in collaborating.
MU: Was there a certain sound you had in mind for the album?
MS: No, just to play in the moment and with honest intention.
MU: Did you have to change your improvisational approach when performing with a classical musician?
MS: As Douglas’s musical vocabulary has no jazz language or traditions of accompanying from that idiom I suppose I must be changed in some way. He is able to draw on the complete history of classical music which is very exciting for me as what he plays is always unexpected and sounds fresh.
MU: Where was the album recorded? Were there variables you tried to control?
MS: The recording was in the studio at Trinity Laban and we didn’t control any variables. We realised after we recorded and listened back that the piano had gone out of tune by the end of the session. Neither of us had noticed while we were playing or we didn’t care! Douglas had given it quite a hammering. It was done in a 3 hour recording session and the CD tracks are in the order we played with no editing. We felt the music had a strong narrative throughout as a whole so it seemed a good idea to keep the same order and the out-of-tune piano!
MU: What common ground do you feel Douglas and yourself share?
MS: We both want to create something in the moment that has meaning.
MU: How much rehearsing was involved before the recording?
MS: Very little. I think we had a brief play the day before.
MU: Is there a process you have gone through to get to this stage?
MS: Everything I have listened to, music I have practiced over the years and also all my life’s experiences which have been sometimes joyful and sometimes very painful have got me to this stage.
MU: What can we expect from the record?
MS: The best thing is to listen to it. It is two people playing alto saxophone and piano in a room one morning in July 2013. Hopefully massive sales and talked about on the TV news!
MU: What was the inspiration behind the concept and music?
MS: All my projects over the years have been quite spontaneous and led from what feels right at the time. Meeting Douglas and playing together is another of these and obviously something that was meant to happen. I was and am inspired by Douglas.
MU: What preparation was involved for this style of music/improvisation?
MS: We had some ideas such as let’s play a ballad or play something fast but apart from that very little preparation.
MU: Can we expect a tour to follow the album?
MS: If promoters would like to book us that would be wonderful. I am not sure where we fit in as everything in this society is about labelling and pigeonholing people and musicians. It is not jazz or classical music, no tunes, nothing written…. How many good pianos are there in the country? Very few in jazz venues so we need to play in classical venues!
MU: Is there any written music or is it all improvised?
MS: Douglas came in with a tiny melodic fragment that he had stolen from Shostakovich but apart from that all improvised.
Michael Underwood: Can you see jazz/classical collaborations becoming more commonplace on the music scene?
Martin Speake: There are already jazz/classical collaborations with several artists such as Django Bates, Tim Garland and others. Of course the more collaborations the better. This certainly helps and legitimises jazz musicians with the establishment. It helps jazz musicians to get funding if they collaborate with classical musicians. All these collaborations are about composition as that is what classical music is about now, although in the past composers were improvisers too. The uniqueness of our duo is that Douglas is a very rare person, an improvising classical musician today and our duo is about instant composition. This makes it harder for us in some ways as I believe the establishment, musical and cultural finds improvisation in music or life hard to deal with.
Martin Speake has provided links to two tracks: