Photo credit: Dave Hamblett
Fabled is the band saxophonist/clarinettist Sam Rapley started four years ago. Now the band’s debut album, Short Stories, is recorded and nearly ready for release. But the process has not been without its dramatic moments, especially when Sam broke both his elbows. He’s back playing now but he needs some assistance to get Short Stories across that finishing line, and he has instigated Kickstarter in order to attract your support. The fund-raising period ends in ten days’ time. Peter Bacon urges you all: let’s make this happen!
Fabled brings Sam Rapley together with four other excellent young musicians who also just happen to be his close friends. Matt Robinson is the pianist, Alex Munk is on guitar, Conor Chaplin on double bass and Will Glaser on drums.
They made an EP of music back in 2015, and for their first full-length album, Sam has looked to literature for inspiration. Here is a brief Q&A:
LondonJazz News: The music on your debut album has strong literary sources – what is it about a particular story or piece of writing that inspires you to write music?
Sam Rapley: I suppose for me it’s about trying to recreate the experience that I had when I read that book. Wanting the listener to be immersed, captivated and fully present for that period of time. The books that I love, and indeed any art that I love, all has that same effect on me and that’s what I want to create with this album. The longer forms allowed by literature have also been a huge inspiration – your experience of reading a book happens over several days, weeks or months, whereas when you listen to a piece of music, it only lasts a few minutes. So I wanted to find my own way of portraying these longer forms, but within the framework of a piece of music.
LJN: Is improvising a solo like telling a story?
SR: Absolutely. That’s something I was taught right from the beginning. I first got into jazz through a summer school in Manchester run by Mike Walker, Iain Dixon, Les Chsinall and Andy Schofield, who are all big advocates of having a narrative throughout a solo – something that is proved time and time again in their own playing. They were a huge influence on the way I play having an arc/shape to an improvisation is still something I alway strive for.
Photo credit: Dave Hamblett
It’s been interesting striking the balance on this album between improvisation and composition. The tunes are more composed than our previous EP so in a way, a lot of the drama and narrative is written into the music, but with such creative improvisers on board, I wanted to make sure that they were allowed to tell their own stories. I definitely feel that we’ve managed to find that balance and hopefully we’ve ended up with the best of both worlds.
LJN: Your own personal story has contained some drama recently… Tell us about your elbows.
SR: It has indeed! At the beginning of July, I rather unfortunately fell off a bike whilst riding down a mountain in Switzerland and broke both of my elbows. In hindsight, cycling down a mountain possibly wasn’t the wisest decision when you need your arms for your living, but you live and learn. Once I got over the first month which was pretty terrible (and which I only got through thanks to my girlfriend Helena, who was absolutely amazing!) I’ve actually enjoyed having some time off. I’ve been able to put it to good use and it’s made me appreciate making music more than ever.
LJN: Your three favourite saxophonists… and your three favourite writers?
SR: Now this is a hard one. My original favourite has to be Stan Getz – he’s the reason that I started playing the saxophone and I still spend most of my time trying to sound like him. Benny Golson is another one that I got into fairly early on and still love listening to. And someone that I’ve been checking out more recently is Shabaka Hutchings, he has an amazing way of building a story throughout a solo, which I love.
Writers-wise, Ian McEwan is an absolute favourite, especially his short stories First Love, Last Rites which influenced one of the tunes on the album. I loved reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, I learnt so much from the way she shapes the story and develops the characters throughout the book. And finally, Kate Tempest, who is a performer as well as a writer – she’s just released a new album Let Them Eat Chaos which is incredible – but I first got into her through her piece, Brand New Ancients. She just has such a unique way of making stories relatable that I love reading and listening to.
For the rest of what you need to know about Fabled, Sam Rapley and Short Stories, see below.