Saxophonist, bandleader and arranger FLISS GORST is from Devon and has lived in London since 2011 where she leads The Fliss Gorst Band. In this interview she talks about the evolution of the band, her forthcoming album launch and performance at Pizza Express Dean Street. Sebastian reports:
LondonJazz News: The band were formerly called Jivestar – why the name change?
Fliss Gorst: When I moved to London and started Jivestar in 2012, I wanted to give myself a platform to perform with other musicians to create a fun band that would engage a wide audience. I learnt a lot along the way and have been lucky enough to play with many musicians since that time. I guess my tastes have changed somewhat with a particular desire now to create arrangements and original compositions within the swing genre, rather than pop and rock & roll as well. The reason I changed the name was because I felt like I didn’t need to hide behind a title. I’ve grown more confident, which has led me to better promote myself as a working, freelance musician without being pigeonholed by a style of music. It encourages me to develop new arrangements and compositions that are unique to the band.
LJN: So you’ve just finished producing The Place for Me, your debut album. What’s it all about?
FG: The title The Place For Me represents my inner-struggle with my love for London and my home county of Devon. I wouldn’t be able to live the life I live without my connection to either of these places. My parents’ house in Devon is my regular bolt hole to escape city life. The album is a compilation of what I’ve created so far. I wrote Blackfriars and Every Time which I hope seamlessly fit in with the other tracks which are my arrangements of classic standards.
LJN: Who is s on the album – tell us about the band…
FG: I’m really lucky to have made this album with seven of my good friends, some of whom I’ve met since living in the city. I met Lauren Bush at the Spice of Life where I help run the monthly Vandoren Jazz Jam. She is supremely confident on stage with a voice to match, yet she’s very humble and easy to work with. I love the swing tunes we play and Lauren brings them to life, enabling the audience to believe in every song. When she’s joined by swing vocalist Shane Hampsheir on stage there is so much banter it reminds me of the Louis Prima/Keeley Smith days. My right hand man is Dave Boraston on trumpet. Now he’s not only playing but singing in the band too! His easy charming manner and huge trumpet sound are irreplaceable. Then there’s the mighty Liam Dunachie on piano. Anyone that knows him knows what an asset he is to any ensemble. He is without doubt one of the finest musicians I’ve ever heard.
LJN: Musical inspirations?
FG: I’m heavily inspired by swing music. Ben Webster, Coleman Hawkins, Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz are among my favourite saxophonists. I love the big bands – Ellington, Basie and their fabulous sax sections. I love Sam Butera and his raucous tenor sound in Louis Prima’s band.
I love listening to standards as they were, listening to the lyrics and trying to understand the original intent behind the song.
LJN: Best gig ?
FG: It’s hard to choose. We’ve been lucky enough to perform in some incredible venues but sometimes the smaller gigs are the most fun. We performed at The Spice Of Life in September and it remains one of my favourite gigs lately. The atmosphere there is so intimate and we had such a positive response from the audience.
LJN: Where and when is the album launch?
FG: It is at lunchtime on Sunday 25 March at Pizza Express Dean Street – such an iconic yet intimate venue. I’m looking forward to that. The sound is good and it’s always nice to play to a listening audience. I hope that the lunchtime set will welcome in people of all ages to come and have some fun with us.