On 16th May at Cadogan Hall, ‘Close To You: Sinatra and the Hollywood Quartet’ will present a reinvention of “Close to You”, one of the great Sinatra recordings. In this feature about the project, Héloïse Werner interviewed drummer Matt Skelton:
LondonJazz News: What is your role in the project?
Matt Skelton I’m the drummer and producer of the project. Brushes, count-ins and telephone.
LJN: How did you come up with the idea?
MS: I’ve known the album Close To You for years. It’s a masterpiece setting and telling of popular song. It’s very special to me. About ten years ago violinist Andrew Haveron approached me with an idea to perform the CTY material featuring the quartet of which he was then a member. Somehow it didn’t quite happen. Diaries, touring, money etc. I kept the project in mind aiming to locate a stylistically perfect fiddler with a fine sounding quartet. Enter John Mills and the Tippett Quartet. Matt Ford required little persuasion AND James Pearson got back to me. Around this time I’d also become aware of Callum Au, young genius arranger and a fellow ‘make it happen yourself’ kind of a person. Understandably, he loves this music and having asked him nicely, one afternoon in January, he transcribed it all off the record for us.
LJN: Can you tell us about what the ensemble has already been up to so far?
MS: Thanks are due to both Cole Mathieson and Richard Pite for giving us our first dates last year making it possible to establish the group. I’m thrilled and somewhat relieved that the reaction from audiences & promoters has been so positive. I organised a showcase of CTY at Dean St Pizza last June. The audience reception was very enthusiastic indeed. It was a very memorable gig. Our current EPK on YouTube is composed of clips from this gig. We’re hugely grateful to Stewart Collins who has been so very supportive of the project. He has provided us with some pretty fantastic opportunities to preform at festivals such as Henley and Petworth last summer. We also had great concert at the West Malling Festival in September.
LJN: Seeing that the set up includes a classical string quartet, do you feel that performing as part of this ensemble is any different from performing with a more standard jazz group, and if so, why?
MS: I love playing drums in orchestras & chamber groups. In the best circumstances it heightens your awareness of rhythmic placement and dynamics. Not just in terms of accompanying the singer, framing the song and aiming to help make the time feel comfy & groovy. I love the added responsibility of aiming to make the drums & rhythm section element properly homogenous with the string quartet, harp etc. Ilove this group for that… Everyone’s heads up and fully invested. They have to be, it’s often mercilessly exposed & delicate chamber music, oh yes, with drums & bass.
LJN: Apart from the Cadogan Hall concert, what else have you got in the pipeline?
MS: We’re looking forward to performing at the Cheltenham Festival, Snape Proms, Newry Chamber Music Festival, Newbury Spring Festival and Thaxted Festival this year. I’m also looking into recording the group later this year. Yes, I have been on the phone quite a bit. We’re also premiering a new project this summer with Claire Martin with the same ensemble. This new programme features material from the Shirley Horn – Johnny Mandel masterpiece record, Here’s To Life. It features some pretty artful arranging by our very talented friend, Tommy Laurence.
LJN: If you were to describe the project in five words, what would they be?
MS: Worth the stress and hassle.