INTERVIEW: Samuel Eagles (New CD Ask Seek Knock on Whirlwind just released)

Samuel Eagles (centre) with Ferg Ireland and Ralph Wyld

Saxophonist SAMUEL EAGLES has a new album out, Ask Seek Knock, his second as leader. Sebastian found out more about it:

LondonJazz News: You are a saxophonist with a saxophonist brother. He plays tenor and soprano, you play alto. What led you to your choice of instrument?

Samuel Eagles: I started playing alto when I was 12 years old, I knew I wanted to play the saxophone and I guess alto was the appropriate size. Most of my influences growing up were tenor players (including my brother), however I was mesmerized by Kenny Garrett, this solidified my relationship with the alto saxophone. I also play soprano saxophone, this is also originally due to the Kenny Garrett influence but it doesn’t get much of an outing at the moment.

LJN: Apart from your own projects you have a busy life playing – what other bands are you currently in?

SE: I am involved in a number of great bands, one being The Philip Clouts Quartet. We recorded his latest album ‘Umoya’ just over a year ago and are now preparing to embark on our 2nd UK tour in October/November.

I am also part of German born guitarist’s band The Gero Schipmann sextet. In this group we play all of Gero’s original tunes and the line up is also very exciting! I believe we are going into the studio in the near future to record an album.

Another group that I co – lead is ‘Emeka Presents – KALAKUTA’. This is an extremely fun band. We play many Fela Kuti tunes and also a few of Emeka’s originals. What is also great is that Emeka used to be in Fella Kuti’s band when he was younger. This band has so much fire and energy. We are headling the ‘Tribal Earth Festival’ in August.

I occasionally play in a Ska band called ‘Maroon Town’. I love this band, it’s exciting and full of character. Jazz piano player, Jack Knoke and his group is another band I play with. We have a nice weekly residency at Komo club in Guildford.

LJN: This is your second album – first can you explain the the title “Ask Seek Knock”

SE: The title is related to a very difficult period of my life where I realized who God is to me. I realized God is always watching me and through my troubles , I could ask Him for wisdom to make the right choices. ‘Ask, Seek, Knock’ is short for: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

LJN: The press release talks about “spiritual enlightenment”. What does that mean? 

SE: Spiritual enlightenment for me is about putting God at the heart of everything I do. Through this I will become more aware, moral, peaceful, wise and happy. This doesn’t happen over night, it is a process and a discipline that I have entered which spans a life time.

LJN: And who’s in the band – who are the oldest and newest members?

SE: The line up of the band is extremely exciting and it’s a privilege to perform with them. We have Duncan Eagles on Tenor, we met when I popped out all those years ago…

This is the first time I have involved him in my band. There is a flow with him, he understands the music and I don’t think he could be replaced. Ralph Wyld is on Vibraphone. I have been playing with Ralph for almost 5 years and he was also on my debut album ‘Next Beginning’. Sam Leak is on piano. Sam adds an elegant tenderness to the music but can also bring the intensity when he wants. I met Sam 14 years ago at various jam session in the area we used to live. This is the first time I have involved him in my band. Max Luthert is on Double Bass. Max and I went to school together and have been playing together since we were primary school children. Dave Hamblett is on Drums and is the latest addition to the band. We haven’t known each other long. We met briefly at gigs a few times but I always remember thinking, ‘wow this guy is a ridiculous drummer’. He always brings something new to the table at every gig. I am happy to have such an amazing band of musicians.

LJN: You have Jean Toussaint as guest, what led to that choice? Does he get a speacial feature on the album?

SE: Jean helped me so much and taught me a lot. He woud invite me to his home to study with him regularly, this experience was precious. I admire greatly Jeans playing, I think he is very unique and you know for sure it is Jean when you hear his sound etc. Jean features on two tracks, ‘Hear His Voice’ and ‘Dreams and Visions of The Son’. On both tracks he delivers oustanding playing. I won’t forget the knowledge and wisdom he passed on to me, having him play on my album makes me very happy. I think it is important for the older musicians to mentor the young so we can keep music alive and keep pushing the boundaries of music in every way.

LJN: What is the story behind “Hope in the Hills”

SE: Hope in The Hills is about a road trip I took with a band I am in. We were headed from London to Lake Bracciano just outside of Rome to play a gig there. We decided to make an adventure of it and hire a mini bus for 2 weeks. We arrived at the lake, did the gig, it was all good. Then we set off back to London, 2 hours into the journey the bus wasn’t feeling quite right. We stopped to check the engine. A few of us got out of the bus and a few stayed waiting in the bus. My friend decided to test drive the bus, so off we went, then the bus really broke down, we were stuck on a motor way in the middle of no where, separated from our friends with a max speed of 10mph.

A loophole in the insurance policy meant that we were stuck with no help coming. We decided to drive at 10mph back to our friends to try and find them, eventually we did. All the car repair shops were closed that day and all the hotels nearby were too expensive so we checked online and found a camp site about 20km away up in the hills.

A few hours later and countless times of pushing the bus up some steep gradients in the road we made it to the camp. The people running the camp were amazing, helped us with food, repair of the bus, getting to and from the local town, providing us with a cabin. Also the holiday maker’s staying at the camp were great too. We were stranded there for 4 days but it was worth every moment and it all worked out…

LJN: You’ve been touring the album. Was there a gig which was the highlight of the tour?

SE: I love every gig we do, large and small. The one which sticks out is the album launch at Inventions and Dimensions in Kingston. It’s a smaller venue but when it gets packed out the intimacy and atmosphere is in my opinion is one of the best in London.

LJN: What’s next for you?

SE: I am planning a UK tour for 2018. I am also hoping to get some gigs in Europe and I am planning a tour of China/Taiwan and South Korea in 2018. I am also going to start composing for the next SPIRIT album

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