|The Nick Weldon Sextet
L-R: Art Themen, Trevor Tomkins, Nikki Iles, Nick Weldon,
Andra Sparks, Laura Jurd
The photograph above tells part of the story of a fascinating gig at Lauderdale House on April 30th.
Start simultaneously at the opposite of this line-up. Trumpeter Laura Jurd (far right), and saxophonist Art Themen (far left) are two musicians who were born a mind-stretching 50 years apart. They are collaborating here for the very first time. Different worlds, but each is apparently bowled over by the playing of the other.
At the centre, hidden by a microphone, is the instigator/composer Nick Weldon (fourth from left). This is his album project, with compositions which deal with different kinds of passion – provisional titles are A Hidden Flame and Eleven Flames – and which gets a London airing at Lauderdale House on International Jazz Day April 30th.
Nick is heavily involved with the Jazz School UK which he and vocalist Andra Sparks (second from right) run in Rushden in Northamptonshire in an old shoe factory, which also has a recording studio. So his visit back to London to air this new project is welcome.
Also in the picture is drummer/educator Trevor Tomkins (second from left) who has been with the project since the beginning, and has worked with Nick Weldon over many years.Absent from the picture is the much-missed bassist andTomkins’ partner-in-rhythm Jeff Clyne, who was involved in early incarnations of this project. Nick Weldon is known on a pianist, but on this album he switches to bass, leaving the piano duties in the supremely capable hands of Nikki Iles (third from left).
What is it all about? The flame of passion is the starting point for music of varying character. One of the eleven tracks is a setting of John Dryden’s poem Hidden Flame. Another is what Nick Weldon calls a “hip-hop collage” using sound recordings of James Baldwin and Malcolm X, and is based around the passion for justice, using the fact that Thelonious Monk’s tune Evidence (originaly entitled Justice) is a contrafact of the standard Just You, Just Me (by inference “Just Us“). Another influence has been the classical composer Madeleine Dring.
And their plans? Nick Weldon will eventually release the whole thing as an album, but before he does that, he is going to be releasing the tracks one by one. If the process of creation often has to meet deadlines, here is one which is evolving at its own pace, and with a group of fine musicians loyal and committed to it. Go with the flow, or just go.