INTERVIEW: John Warren (live album rec. 1993 with Surman/Marshall. Also live at Karamel N22 Jan 19th)

John Warren

The distinguished arranger/composer JOHN WARREN’s new work “A Whereabout” will be performed under his direction for just the third time with a line-up of top UK players at Karamel in N22 on Jan 19th. Sebastian asked him to explain about the piece, and to talk about his extraordinary career: 

LondonJazz News: Like quite a few of the best arrangers you are originally from Canada…..

John Warren: I wasn’t aware of any Canadian arrangers at the time I started. I listened to Monk, Mingus, Ellington, Herman, Kenton (particularly Bill Holman’s work) and Gil Evans (wore out my copy of Miles Ahead). Along with Duke those two were (and still are) two of my favourite arrangers. I had been a jazz fan since early teens but only got started playing while at university.

LJN: And who encouraged you to get involved in writing?

JW: My first attempts at arranging were encouraged by Herbie Spanier- a well known Canadian trumpet player at the time.

LJN: You moved to the UK over 50 years ago… what was the original motivation in coming here And you got to know Kenny Wheeler…

JW: I came to England in 1962. I had an introduction to two Canadian musicians Kenny Wheeler and Art Ellefson. They introduced me to some of the musicians in Dankworth’s band and others on the scene. (I didn’t have anything to do with Dankworth, although I did write a piece for his band in the 70s.) In the same year, I met John Surman in a rehearsal band. I had taken along an arrangement and he liked it.

Years later I bumped into in Notting Hill Gate and he invited me to a Mike Westbrook rehearsal at Ronnie Scott’s Old Place. So I met all the guys in that band who subsequently became the core of my big band. (Surman, Mike Osborne, Malcolm Griffiths, Harry Miller, and Alan Jackson) Surman organised the personnel for my big band’s first gig – including John Taylor. Kenny Wheeler and Mike Gibbs were in it later. In 1971 we made Tales of the Algonquin under Surman’s name with his trio and my big band. We toured England, Germany and Switzerland a few times.

Through all these musical connections I got to write for the Kurt Edelhagen Band, Danish Radio Big Band, Bohuslan Big Band- Gothenburg, Bergen Big Band, NDR Big Band. Several of these projects involving Surman.
The Brass Project issued an ECM studio album

The Brass Project was a band John started in the 80s that we both wrote for. The band toured Britain and Europe.(“The Brass Project”- ECM Records)

I taught at Newcastle College for 10 years. During the same period 90s-00s I wrote for and directed the Voice of the North Jazz Orchestra – based in Darlington but with musos from all over the North East.

LJN:  What have you written in the past few years?

In 2008 I made 2 recordings ( “Finally Beginning” and “Following On”- Fuzzy Moon Records) of music for the Nonet with Simcock, Presencer, Sulzmann, Siegel, Nightingale, Hart, Brewer, Donkin, Maddren.

LJN: Your nonet has a gig at Karamel on Thursday Jan 19th. What is the story there? What music is the group playing?

JW: In 2015 I was commissioned by the Jazz Nursery to write a work – The 40 minute suite AwhereAbout inspired by First Nation folk legends was written for the players that were chosen from the Jazz Nursery stable. The third performance of the piece will be at Karamel Jazz on January 19th – virtually the original band – Sam Braysher, Miquel Gorodi, Owen Dawson, James Allsopp, Sam Rapley, Nick Costley-White, Oli Hayhurst and Tim Giles. We will also play a number of my other compositions and arrangements.

LJN: And you are directing the University Big Band in York later too??

JW: In 2017 I am directing the University of York Jazz Orchestra in 2 concerts of my music.

LJN: And you also have an album coming out, what are the details

JW: The album is The Traveller’s Tale-  The Brass Project Live!featuring John Surman / Chris Laurence / John Marshall . On Fledg’ling Records, and  to be released February 24 2017

David Suff runs the label that is mostly folk, but they have re released albums by Surman, Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath.

The Traveller’s Tale is a suite I wrote based on stories about my grandfather’s life. It was a recorded live at a concert in ’93. Brass section is made up of Steve Waterman, Steve Sidwell, Guy Barker, Pete Beachill, Malcolm Griffiths, Richard Edwards, Kenny Hamilton.

Link: Sam Braysher previewed the Jazz Nursery performance last year for us
Details of John Warren Nonet at Karamel

Categories: miscellaneous

Leave a Reply