|The Philip Clouts Quartet. L-R: Dave Ingamells,
Alex Keen, Philip Clouts, Samuel Eagles
South Africa-born pianist Philip Clouts launches his quartet’s new album, “Umoya”, at Café Posk in Hammersmith on Saturday, October 17th during a tour of England and Scotland to mark the album’s release. He spoke to Rob Adams about the tour:
Philip Clouts’ new album Umoya continues Clouts’ love affair with not just South African music, but also rhythms and melodies from around the world. “Jazz and world music have been important to me throughout my musical life,” says the now Dorset-based Clouts who emerged on the London scene during the 1980s and became a key member of popular world jazz ensemble Zubop before moving to the Jurassic coast in 2006. “I’m inspired by both the freedom of jazz and the rootedness of world music with its sense of dance, community and spirituality. Listening to both genres always reveals a variety of approaches to rhythm, harmony and melody.”
The influences on Umoya include Sufi music, with its trance-like bass figures, Nigerian dance rhythms and European folk music from Romania and Southern Italy as well as an already well-established jazz inspiration, gospel music.
Although he came over to London from Cape Town with his family as a young child in the early 1960s, Clouts grew up hearing the music of his homeland as his parents – his father, Sydney Clouts, was a poet whose work captured the South African landscape – had brought their favourite records with them.
After his two older brothers began taking piano lessons, he impressed by picking up what they were playing by ear. He found himself drawn to improvising, and hearing Stan Tracey on a television programme when he was twelve attracted him to jazz and inspired him to take the instrument more seriously.
It was while studying anthropology at Cambridge that Clouts realised he really wanted to focus on contributing to his own culture. On returning to London he got the chance to play with and learn from African musicians including the pianist Bheki Mseleku, who became a mentor for a while, and the percussionist Thebe Lipere, who joined Clouts in the first incarnation of Zubop.
“There was a lot of South African music on the London scene at that time in the 1980s,” he says. “I’d missed the Blue Notes live, being too young, but there were bands that had grown out of them and were carrying on that spirit that they’d brought over. Their saxophonist, Dudu Pukwana was a real force in those days and, of course, listening to Chris MacGregor’s Brotherhood of Breath was a huge inspiration.”
Clouts’ current quartet features saxophonist Samuel Eagles, bass guitarist Alex Keen and the Yamaha Jazz Scholarship-winning drummer Dave Ingamells, all players who have, he says, taken to the multi-cultural mix at the root of his music with real enthusiasm.
“Umoya is the Zulu word for ‘life force’. It can also be translated as ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ and I’m really pleased with the way Sam, Alex and Dave brought these aspects out in the music on the album,” says Clouts. “Playing live is where jazz really develops, of course, so I’m looking forward to getting out on the road and seeing what happens with these compositions as we share them with audiences around the country.”
Rob Adams is a freelance writer, and jazz and roots music correspondent for The Herald Scotland. Twitter @rabjourno
Philip Clouts October Umoya Tour Dates 2015
Sat Oct 3: Café Bar Contemporary, Nottingham
Sun Oct 4: Oxford Wine Café
Sat 17 Oct: Album Launch Concert at Café Posk, London
Fri Oct 23: Bridport Arts Centre
Sat Oct 24: Zefirelli’s, Ambleside, Cumbria
Sun Oct 25 Number 39, Darwen, Lancashire (3pm start)
Mon 26: Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Tue 27: “Sounds in the Suburbs” Glasgow
Wed 28: Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline
Thur 29: Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
Fri Oct 30: Capstone Theatre Liverpool
UMOYA is one of the first releases on the new jazz imprint of American classical label Odradek.