Magna Carta Suite, the new CD from the Alex Hutton Trio presents a new composition for piano trio and reciter. Alex Hutton describes it as a “musical journey of ideas exploring the layers of history and landscapes from 1215 to 2015.” Magna Carta was a founding document of the western traditions of Liberty and democracy, and its influence extended to the creation of the American constitution. Sebastian asked him to explain:
LondonJazz News: Alex, can you describe the motivation behind the new record?
Alex Hutton: My initial inspiration behind this music was on my daily local dog walking duties through the ancient woodland where Magna Carta was signed ,between the villages of Wraysbury and Runnymede (by the Thames near Windsor ) Capitalizing on the wide range of colours and textures available to this trio, I saw as a challenge the composition a piece of music that drew from northern European and especially English sources over the last 800 years. I wanted to then tie these themes to specific political or social events in history.
My idea was to start in 2015 and musically move forward in time signposting what I attribute were important landmarks along the way. Using early music, Baroque classical and English folk as melodic and harmonic fragments I wanted to depict a forward momentum in the music as Western music developed in parallel with the pursuit of liberty and democracy.
LJN: So it is universal, but it is also rooted in a specfic place….
AH: An ancient Yew tree, over 2000 years old is said to be the place under which King John sealed the Magna Carta. This was my starting point, So musically there’s hints of early church music, ancient celtic jigs, simple folk themes, baroque, romantic classical , and a hypnotic comtemporary classical piece.
So within my cherry-picked series of landmarks , I was attracted to a phrase Francis Bacon once wrote ; that the three most important inventions that took us into the Renaissance paving the way to the modern industrialized world were the Gutenburg printing press, gunpowder and compass. With these in mind I composed baroque influenced pieces: gunpowder and compass you might say is what brought the new world, America, into the story. Transforming warfare and navigation these inventions were the link with the new world leading to Magna Carta becoming the bedrock of the American constitution. –I wanted this piece to have the tension and ‘ high sea’ drama that these two inventions have brought.
And there’s a piece that tries to capture the 19thc optimism and romanticism of the American dream. After an angst ridden composition for the 20th we finally return to the original Yew tree theme but in 2015 (the tree still remains.. A stronger more defined version of the piece .The cry of the flute (Liz Palmer) seems more haunting. There’s also some beautiful cor anglias playing by Leisbeth Allart. So it’s a round trip of 800 years – A long dog walk.
LJN: Tell us about the musicians.
AH: The fantastic musicianship of both Yuri Goloubev (bass) and Asaf Sirkis (drums) are captured here like I’ve never heard them before. Yuri’s tone and sense of harmony is highly developed, so here you can here some beautiful bass solos, some inspired accompaniment and some very moving arco playing. Asaf’s drums approach is so fluid and effortless I sometime forget its drums he’s playing. He has a very broad dynamic range and an amazing pallet of colours . Both amazingly articulate band leaders/composers in their own right, they’re able to take a composition they see before them and completely understand the direction – before taking the music to a higher plane.
The inspired word of Neil Sparkes plots this trip through poetry. Using the same starting point, the old Yew Tree, the words follow the Magna Carta to the new world. So within the two spoken pieces he was able to get to the heart of this journey and bring another dimension to the drama.His poetry is printed in effect as the album liner notes. This collaboration has inspired him to write a whole body of work entitled ‘Magna Carta Suite –Xerox sonnets & X-Ray Blues’.
LJN: How did your compositional process work?
AH: A lot this music is purposefully simple melodic themes, one might whistle. I think composition is a fantastic process that is great in helping us musicians re-evaluate own direction/limitations/tastes. As improvising musicians we’ve definitely got a head start in this taste process, but I love getting to that space where you can compose without caring how simple or how strangely familiar the music is. I suppose its just a matter of conviction as someone once said.
LJN: When is the launch?
AH: Mon 13th July at the 606 club Chelsea