|George Crowley. Photo credit: Joe Crowley|
Saxophonist George Crowley is currently on the launch tour for his second album “Can of Worms” (Whirlwind), with a band consisiting of Tom Challenger, Dan Nicholls, Sam Lasserson, Jon Scott and himself. Sebastian interviewed him about this project which has worked particularly well, and which George Crowley wants to continue and develop, and about how it will fit in with his valuable and active role on the London scene as promoter:
LondonJazz News: Can of Worms started with a gig at the Shaftesbury in Harringay in 2013, and you found you got on?
George Crowley: That’s right, yes. My friends were running a night at The Shaftesbury and I was invited to put something together; as a ‘promoter’ myself I see regularly the established route to these gigs – someone writes a couple of sets, rehearses and then they gig with the material totally formed – this is how you should go about it, but I did exactly the opposite! We didn’t really have any material, just a few sketches and ideas and a couple of other people’s tunes, so we had to just play and make things happen, and thankfully it seemed to work, and there was a great energy to everything.
I’d deliberately put together a lovely team of people I enjoyed playing with, and we hadn’t all played together before – certainly Jon and Sam, for example, they’d played together before, but not really ever on gigs where they were allowed to throw it around and misbehave, so they got stuck in!
LJN: And then you got gigging?
GC: Yes, from there on there was a nice reception to it and I started to think about making a band out of it; one of the positives about the London scene is that, despite a general lack of money for original / new music, there are quite a few nice DIY / grass roots gigs to do, so we could get it together and have chances to perform fairly regularly.
LJN: What were audiences responding to ?
GC: I think that, though doubtless we might have confused a few people along the way, we’ve had predominantly a really nice reception from crowds, even when the music was a little bit mad, simply because each of these guys gives off a great vibe when they play, and they seem to really enjoy themselves – it’s something which, if it were artificially cultivated would be utterly repellent to me, but as it is I love the fact that we all enjoy ourselves – we’re not getting rich, so what’s the point if we’re not having fun?!
LJN: So you got writing last year
GC: Yeah, slowly but surely. I’m not a prolific writer, and quite often tunes are dashed out the night before, or on the day of a gig, then if there’s anything good there they might be redrafted and rearranged (or in some cases simply discarded) and then all of a sudden after a few gigs you have something approaching a pad…
LJN: You trust each other and leave it open and enjoy transitions
GC: Yes, some of the improvisation is quite open, but often a case of, ‘We’ve got to get from A to B – how we do that is up to us.’ I’m quite into using the open improvised sections as a kind of compositional / structural tool, so there’s usually a purpose to it. There’s also plenty of bits where people solo on forms and stuff, but even in those bits I like that it feels open and not too staid – a healthy irreverence, perhaps, from the guys in the band towards my tunes!
LJN: How was recording / how long did process take?
GC: We went into the Fish Factory studios in Dollis Hill for a couple of days at the end of last July, and it was a great time! I did my last one in a day, which felt pretty fraught (especially with the occasional dark-out) so it felt like a luxury to have the extra day – more time to listen, discuss and also recover as we were going in pretty hard on some takes…
LJN: So it’s a live rather than a studio vibe
GC: Yup, I wanted to capture the energy of a live gig, or at least attempt to. It’s very easy to tense up in the studio environment and overthink things, and then all of a sudden your super-vibey live group sounds just a touch sterile when the red light’s on, and so that was something I wanted to avoid. Probably the next one will be an actual live recording, for that same reason – it’s where the best stuff happens!
LJN: And you also promote at the Con and Oxford
GC: Yes, still plowing on with those – the Con we have a little team running, whereas the Ox is my little project. I’ve gained an invaluable amount not just performing at those nights, but listening and checking out people’s music and work and THE HANG – that’s how a scene takes shape, I think, and so to me it’s really important to keep nights like that going; in pretty much every respect, I’m just keeping going the good work of the Loop Collective (who started the Oxford) and the late and ever-so-great Richard Turner who made the Con what it is.
LJN: What’s happening next with Can of Worms?
GC: We’re on a little album launch tour at the moment, culminating in a London launch at The Vortex on March 5th, after which I will sleep for quite a long time and lick my financial wounds – thereafter I’m trying to book a more comprehensive tour which will hopefully culminate in a live recording – I’d like that to happen before the end of this year, but we’ll see. I’ve also got plans to start a Can of Worms monthly residency at The Oxford at some point, where we’ll play a set each month and invite another band to share the bill with us, kind of like ‘Can of Worms Presents…’
It would be really valuable for me to have regular dates to write new things for, and also just a great opportunity to get a regular thing going and work on our playing together; not too many bands get to do that, and I think it could really help us towards the next chapter for Can of Worms.
18/02/15 – The Jazz Bar, Edinburgh
19/02/15 – Glasgow Arts Club
24/02/15 – The Spotted Dog, Brimingham
25/02/15 – The Lescar, Sheffield
05/03/15 – ALBUM LAUNCH GIG, The Vortex, London