Photo credit: Abraham Latchin
London-born pianist GABRIEL LATCHIN is becoming increasingly known as a first-call sideman, particularly for singers. He launches his debut CD, Introducing Gabriel Latchin Trio, a straight-ahead album in the classic jazz piano trio tradition, next Monday 18 September and starts a five-date tour tonight. Interview by Sebastian:
LondonJazz News: Where are you from originally ?
Gabriel Latchin: I was born and raised in London. I spent 6 years in Scotland, studying and starting my jazz career while at university. In 2008 I moved back to go to the Guildhall for two years.
LJN: Do you remember a moment when you were first drawn towards jazz as a listener and as a player?
GL: My first introduction to jazz was through my grandmother, Dorothy Paton. A singer and pianist in her youth, she taught me In the Mood on the piano when I was nine years old, complete with boogie-woogie bass line in the left hand. Soon after, she bought me my first CD – a compilation of Oscar Peterson’s music called Piano Moods. I was hooked. As the great Cedar Walton said, “If the bug’s gonna bite you, it’d be then.”
LJN: The time you spent in Edinburgh studying Economics drew you closer to jazz…
GL: I was already interested in jazz at school but didn’t start playing gigs until my student years in Edinburgh. There is a great scene up there which is very welcoming of young players. My first few gigs were with Ant Law and the late Bill Kyle when he opened The Jazz Bar.
LJN: When did you first meet Christian McBride ?
GL: I first met Christian McBride during a workshop at the Guildhall. I remember he told the class about how, as a teenager, he had learnt all of Wynton Marsalis’ tunes before they first met at a workshop in Philadelphia. He explained he wanted to be ready in case Wynton asked him to sit in. This inspired me to do the same the following year when I saw Christian was playing in London. I learnt all the music from his Inside Straight album and ended up playing one of his tunes with him at Ronnie Scott’s. This was back in 2011.
LJN: How did the concert with him and Renée Fleming come about?
GL: I woke up early one Wednesday in December last year to a voicemail from Christian asking me to call him back asap. I returned the call and he asked to me play with him and Renée that Friday at Wigmore Hall. I was thrilled and, of course, I said yes. It remains a musical highlight of my career so far and was a real pleasure to share the stage with such masters.
LJN: You work with singers Sara Dowling and Atila – you like working with singers….
GL: If a pianist enjoys the songs themselves then, of course, they’ll enjoy working with great singers. The special relationship between the piano and the voice is one of the highlights of playing the piano for me. When I have time, I make the effort to learn the lyrics to songs to appreciate what they are really about.
LJN: What is the story behind the originals Carlora and Off The Latch?
GL: – The opening track, Carlora, is dedicated to my parents, Fiona and Dinkha. The word is a portmanteau of the towns in which they grew up, Carlisle in the North of England and Dora in Baghdad. The composition is heavily inspired by the virtuoso Phineas Newborn, in particular his use of contrary motion and arpeggios in tenths.
Off The Latch came about from practising over the chord sequence to Frank Loesser’s song Slow Boat to China. It is a bebop melody based on the same changes. I wanted to have an original with “Latch” somewhere in the title. A few ideas were being bounced around until Tom came up with this title.
LJN: In interviews you have mentioned Barry Harris as one influence – what is it that you particularly love in his playing?
GL: I love everything about Barry Harris. He is one of the most melodic, swinging and tasteful pianists in jazz.
LJN: Where did you record the album?
GL: The album was recorded at Red Gables Studio in West London in 2014. They have a beautiful, old Steinway which is excellently maintained. I know it’s a favourite for pianists on the scene.
LJN: There was quite a gap between recording and release….
GL: Among others, there are two reasons for why the recording took so long to release. The first is now two years old and the second arrived three months ago.
LJN: Do you have a sense your playing has changed since the recording?
GL: The music was recorded a few years ago and so, naturally, my playing will have developed somewhat. Having said that, my style remains the same. I still listen to, and try to learn from, all the master jazz pianists of the past. My playing is a product of the music I have learnt from them. At times, I may be inspired more by certain players but generally my inspiration comes from the same “straight-ahead” group of musicians.
LJN: Are you enjoying being part of Nat Steele’s MJQ project?
GL: Yes, I think it’s wonderful music in a style I wouldn’t normally play. John Lewis was a fantastic composer and arranger, drawing on lots of classical influences, such as Bach. Nat is a brilliant musician in the Milt Jackson mould and does a great job leading the group. We just had the album launch gig at Ronnie Scott’s over the weekend and it was very well received.
LJN: What do you have coming up / gigs / recordings?
GL: The trio has five dates over the next week to promote the new album. We’ll be performing in Hove, Luton, Maidenhead, London and Bristol. In terms of recordings, I’m looking forward to the release of a duo album with Sara Dowling. We recorded at the Fish Factory recently. I’ll be there again in December with Steve Fishwick to record his new album too.
(*) Sebastian has been in the team helping with the press coverage of this album.
Gabriel Latchin’s website
Album tour dates
14 September – All Saint Church, Hove
16 September – The Bear Club, Luton
17 September – Norden Farm Centre for the Arts, Maidenhead
18 September – Pizza Express, Soho – ALBUM LAUNCH
21 September – Jazz at Future Inn, Bristol