Singer, artist, chess-player NETTE ROBINSON has put together one of the most intriguing evening’s in London’s jazz calendar. She explained the background to, and the plans for her Music and Chess evening at the beginning of May to Sebastian:
LondonJazz News: Music and chess are far from an obvious combination. What has led you to want to put them together?
Nette Robinson: You’re right, it’s not an obvious combination! On the other hand, I do believe that chess is an art form, thus, in a way it does make some kind of sense to collaborate it with music! I’ve always loved and been excited by collaborations or fusions of different arts. I’ll never forget an occasion at the Festival Hall Foyer when the Avalon Trio were performing; during the interval, some street dancers came up to show us videos they’d made on their phones of them dancing to the music, which, if you don’t already know, is jazz improvisation on early English 20th century music! Quite an unlikely fusion, but I thought that was fantastic! It’s such a joy witnessing or being part of a creative hub. That’s how it feels when I put together events involving music, art and chess.
LJN: What is your own background in music and in chess?
NR: I grew up with music. I started playing piano and singing in choirs when I turned 7. My elder brother had a huge influence on me. He was always playing or improvising at the piano, keyboards or saxophone. As well as a pianist, he’s now in great demand as a sousaphone player and, amongst other ensembles, is in the ultra-hip Riot Jazz brass band. I learned a lot from him. I would sometimes sit at the piano with him and he would go through the Real Book and play me tunes from it. After graduating from the University of Chichester, where I studied Fine Art and Music, I enrolled on the excellent jazz course at Chichester College, which at the time, was run by Adrian Kendon. I met my future husband, Tony Woods, whilst living in Chichester and eventually moved up to where he was living in the West London area. I started forming various projects, such as my Little Big Band, got involved with great musicians and was one of the very first members of the long-established musicians’ collective, Way Out West.
In complete contrast, chess is something I took up much more recently! On a whim a few years ago, inspired by an uncommonly warm and sunny spring day, I decided I fancied having a game of chess sitting outside a cafe. By extraordinary coincidence, my husband found a chess set in a nearby charity shop and so we did indeed, sit outside a cafe and have a game! Within a very short time, I utterly fell in love with the game and ever since it has provided me with such joy and boundless artistic inspiration.
LJN: You’ve got Daniel King there . Tell us about him and what he will be doing at the event?
NR: Dan is Chess Grandmaster. That is the highest ranking you can reach in chess. He is also a double bassist! We got chatting at chess event in central London a couple of years ago, and it was there I learned that his talents don’t stop at chess, but also encompass music! He plays bass for a number of bands of different genres and performs around the London area. I was so delighted to hear about this and I vowed he would perform with me sometime as well! I’m very pleased to say that we have performed together several times since that evening!
LJN: Who else is playing?
NR: We have the excellent Canadian guitarist, Dominic Ashworth with us. He’s an absolutely beautiful player; so melodic and genuine. I’ve worked with him on a number of occasions and, I believe the first time would have been with Michael Garrick’s Jazz Orchestra. I know Dominic has worked with all sorts of musicians; Carol Kidd, Julian Marc Stringle, Digby Fairweather, George Melly, Paul Jones to name a few. He’s a composer as well and has written beautiful and varied music over his career. He’s enjoyed some well-deserved recognition such as being chosen as a performer at the prestigious Havana Guitar Festival Cuba, being awarded a scholarship to study in Spain and was named as Jazz Guitarist of the Year at the Birmingham Jazz Awards in 2006.
The wonderfully creative and dynamic Andy Trim will be on drums. I have listened to him playing many times in various bands, including with Mike Outram’s Double Guitar Quartet only last week, but as yet, I’ve never performed with him. He is a very thoughtful, sensitive, exciting and powerful player and it will be such a treat to perform with him for the first time!
|Prints of Nette Robinson’s chess-themed paintings
will be offered as prizes
LJN: What is the form of the evening. The chess and the music are separate or will they combine ? If so …er… how?!
NR: This is the plan!…Before the gig, at 7pm, there will be several rounds of Blitz Chess. For those who don’t know what that is, Blitz is chess played at lightening speed. Instead of several hours for a game, each player will have just 5 minutes on the clock in which to try to claim victory. There will be a complete break from the chess as we start the music at 8.30. Listeners can expect to hear a wide spectrum of songs, performed with sensitivity and imagination by the ensemble, ranging from Russian, English 20th Century, standards and originals. We will be treated to a special guest appearance of Tony Woods.
The interval will provide time to watch the finalists battle it out for first place! They will be playing on stunning, illuminated chess boards! The sets are called Dark Chess as the concept is that you can play on them in a dark room. They add a certain visual spectacle to events, so I’m really pleased Purling London is lending them to me! (Thank you, Simon!)
LJN: Has it been tried before?
NR: It’s not the first time I’ve combined chess with music, but in the past, it has taken different forms. For example, as part of my Chess Art Exhibition & Festival in 2014, I invited 6 players, most of whom were titled players, such as Grandmaster or International Master, to compete in a Basque Chess tournament. (This is where two players play two games simultaneously: one as White and one as Black!) We ran it as a blitz-style event, so it was also fast and furious and very entertaining to watch!
LJN: Will there be a winner?
NR: There will indeed be a winner! I will be awarding prizes to the finalists. Each finalist will get one of my limited edition prints of my chess themed paintings!
LJN: Where and when is it happening ?
NR: I’m delighted that the fabulous Cafe Posk in Hammersmith, will be hosting the event. It’s happening on Friday 6th May. The chess starts at 7pm and the music will be from 8.30pm. Those who are curious are welcome to come earlier and spectate the games!
LJN: Have you got plans to repeat it?
NR: Definitely. I may try a different format for the chess. Perhaps I will get a Chess Master to do a simul (this is where one person plays multiple games at a time against a number of players), maybe some kind of paired tournament, two players pitted against another two, the possibilities are endless!…
NETTE ROBINSON’S MUSIC & CHESS will kick off at 7pm on Friday May 6th at Jazz Cafe Posk in King St, W6, with preliminary rounds of Blitz Chess. Music will be from 8.30pm.
LINKS: Nette Robinson’s art website
Nette Robinson’s music website
Will there be more of these events in the summer?
Thank you for your interest. I will certainly organise future Music & Chess events, but probably not this summer. I hope you will be able to come on Friday!