We interviewed manouche guitarist Kourosh Kanani, who recently moved to London from Leeds, where he grew up. He has three nights next week as featured artist at the After Show Jazz in the Delfont Room at the Prince of Wales Theatre
LondonJazz News: How old were you when you first picked up a guitar and how old are you now?
Kourosh Kanani: I was 8 when I first held a guitar, which was my brother’s. I was very jealous and got one for my 9th birthday from my mum. I’m 22 now and still have that first guitar… somewhere.
LJN: Where does your name come from?
KK: My name is Persian (from Iran). I’m half-Iranian (on my dad’s side) and half Irish (on my mum’s side). So I guess it was going to be either “Kourosh” or “Paddy”…
LJN: And is there music in your family?
KK: Yes there is. My brother, Dariush Kanani, is also a professional musician in the singer/songwriter style. He writes, records and performs around the country. My uncle is an incredible classical pianist and I have been told of two relatives on my mother’s side who were virtuoso banjo and fiddle players. That’s all I know of.
LJN: How did you first get into Gypsy Jazz?
KK: When I was 15, I was playing fingerstyle blues and ragtime guitar. Listening to lots of the delta blues guys, Tommy Emmanuel Chet Atkins and others. My brother came home one day with a new load of CD’s he’d just bought, one of which was a Django Reinhardt anthology… I put it on and I was hooked instantly. I’d never heard a sound like that before. It completely blew me away.
LJN: You studied at Leeds. How was that?
KK: I was there from 2008/2010. I did a diploma in popular music, but by the 2nd year my head was in Jazz music and I lost interest. It was a very helpful experience at first, meeting and playing with so many other musicians. I enjoyed learning about the history of pop music.
I learned a lot of music theory there too. But I was slacking off the work because I was practising how to play jazz and improvise. It’s a great course for people who want it though.
LJN: Have you moved to London?
KK: Yes. I moved down at the beginning of July 2014. I’d been coming to London almost every weekend since February for gigs. It was getting too tiring and I was sick of sleeping on sofas so, I decided to move here. I love it.
LJN: Who is in your group?
KK: It can change all the time but, the group I’m in now which I do most of the work with is Peri Quartet. In it there is Matt Holborn (Violin), Jeremie Coullon (Guitar), Eleazar Spreafico (Bass) and myself on guitar. But I play a lot with Giacomo Smith from the Kansas Smitty’s and others from the same band.
LJN: Do you play all the standards, Minor Swing and all that? Or your own tunes or what tunes?
KK: Yes. We play all the Gypsy jazz standards. People complain that Minor Swing and some others are played too much butI think if it’s played badly then it can feel like that. Other than that, we play American Standards. One of my heroes is John Coltrane so we play a lot of the tunes he played and wrote. My favourite tune to play right now is Some Day My Prince Will Come.
LJN: What are your plans – festivals, recordings – anything else?
KK: The thing I want to do most right now is perform and record my own compositions. Not necessarily in a gypsy jazz set-up but, with drums and bass. I feel like I want some some change. Festivals are always something I look out to do. They’re a lot of fun and advantageous. I’d love to play at the annual Django Reinhardt festival in Samois-sur-Seine. But above all, just to keep making music and learning.
LJN: Thanks, and all the best for next week.