|Stan Sulzmann and Nikki Iles.|
It has been over 20 years since the duo of saxophonist Stan Sulzmann and pianist Nikki Iles recorded their first album, “Treasure Trove.” There is now, finally, a follow-up, “Stardust”, which Jellymould Records will be releasing on December 11th. Stan Sulzmann tells the story of a long-term collaboration between these two good friends, who are also pivotal figures in British jazz. Stan Sulzmann writes:
I first met Nikki on a freezing cold and densely foggy night at Wakefield Jazz club in the early 1990s. There was hardly any audience as the weather was so appalling and Nikki had to drive with a keyboard from Leeds. Being Nikki she made it and we played two lovely quartet sets. Sometime later I was thinking about making another duo cd (after having recorded Everybody’s Song But My Own with John Taylor for a Loose Tubes label vinyl recording). At that time there was a great studio in Kingston University called Gateway that had two great pianos and was very affordable with a good engineer Steve Lowe. I had really loved Nikki’s sense of harmony and that wonderful keyboard touch that she shares with people like Victor Feldman, Bill Evans, Herbie and John Taylor, so essential for me if playing in a duo. So I invited her. We both provided the original material plus a Bill Evans tune Since We Met and a Paul Simon song, I do it for your love. This was released in 1994 titled ‘TREASURE TROVE”. We received very nice reviews and this started a long-term musical relationship. We worked as a duo and in each other’s bands including a week at Ronnie Scotts and a lovely trip to Jyaskyla in the center of Finland to play with my quartet and with Ken Wheeler as guest.
In the duo setting I feel we are a good foil style-wise, Nikki has a gentler approach with a beautiful sense of harmony and calm, mixed with a love of songs. I’ve also stood in for Mark Lockheart in Nikki’s ‘Printmakers’ band and she has played in my big band ‘NEON ORCHESTRA’ that opened the LJF 2013 at the Purcell room in London. We both compose and arrange but we both also love the great standard songbook and jazz repertoire. Over the years we have found ourselves in many ad hoc groups in jazz clubs and have played some of our favourite tunes for fun. The opportunity to use The Royal Academy studio facilities and a very nice Academy piano gave us a chance to document some of these songs.
Apart from one original tune each the remaining tracks are standards. I wrote Nicki’s Corner for Nikki referring to some chordal harmony (two chords) made famous by Bill Evans which Nikki sometimes used as an underlay for reharmonizing a ballad like My One And Only Love. The standards include the classic Body & Soul, and Stardust, great tunes that have stood the test of time. The pieces also made me think about some of the wonderful versions and arrangements. Memorable for me are Lucky Thompson with Oscar Pettiford playing Body & Soul and a wonderful big band arrangement of Stardust written by the late Alan Downey, the verse written for solo brass, but the list is vast. Steve Gray wrote an arrangement for 8 saxophones of You’ll Never Get To Heaven for a saxophone group called Winds Of Change that I played with for some years. Steve was a remarkable musician’s musician and writer. So I wanted to make this small tribute to him, as I learned a lot from his music.
I hope this CD, Stardust, fills the gap in the recordings I’ve made over the years by focusing on this standard material with some re-workings here and there. Making it with Nikki couldn’t have been a better choice for me as her bright positive musicality has given me so much pleasure over the years and I would like you to share in this with me.
Stardust will be released on Jellymould on 11th December.
A track is available for free download from Stan Sulzman’s website
DATES for Neon Orchestra and the Sulzmann/Iles duo
Jan 10th – Stan Sulzmann/Nikki Iles Duo, Herts Jazz
Jan 21st – Neon Orchestra, Karamel Club
Jan 25th – Stan Sulzmann/Nikki Iles Duo, Jazz In The Round Cockpit Theatre, London 8.30pm
Feb 11th – Neon Orchestra, Watermill Jazz Club, Dorking