|The Julian Costello Quartet
Photo: © Lisa Miniussi
Saxophonist Julian Costello starts out soon on a tour with a difference – his Open Soundcheck tour. He tells Mary James what it’s all about.
London Jazz News: Julian, you’ve had many excellent reviews of your album Transitions which came out last year and you had an Arts Council England supported tour to promote it. What is this new tour about?
Julian Costello: I am calling this the Open Soundcheck tour. I’m fortunate in having received ACE funding to support this tour too. The idea is that the people who are attending one of our gigs come early and sit in on our soundcheck. This means being party to us setting up our instruments, getting a good sound in the room, negotiating a set list as well as some last minute rehearsing. This also means seeing us being a bit stressed and witnessing any pre-gig nerves, and how we handle them. The audience will then be invited to ask any of the band, not just me, questions on err… well… just about anything really.
LJN: What particular benefits do you think Open Soundcheck will bring to the audience?
JC: The aim is to deepen the relationship between the musician on the stage and the audience before, during and after the gig. I have been to gigs where I have arrived, sat down, the band hasn’t said anything, played, had a break, played again and then disappeared backstage. I go home feeling that I may have heard some good music but I don’t feel I have engaged or developed any kind of relationship with the performers.
Recently I took my daughter to see an immersive play, where instead of a stage and stalls the audience and cast move around and interact. It was amazing! You feel so much a part of the performance itself. You sit on the edge of your seat, alert, as you know one of the actors could address you at any moment, or whisk you onto the performance space. I am not suggesting that we do that, but I would really like people to leave a gig having enjoyed the music but also the whole experience itself, seeing the metamorphosis from sometimes chaotic soundcheck to performance, the alchemy that happens in that transition.
LJN: And for the band (Costello on soprano and tenor saxophones, Maciek Pysz on electric and classical guitars, Yuri Goloubev on double bass / Michele Tacchi on bass and Adam Teixeira on drums/percussion)?
JC: Well hopefully the main benefit is an engaged and listening audience. We would like to create an intimate atmosphere of course, the audience is integral to the success of any performance. I also very much hope there is a benefit to the promoters who give up their time for free and put on music with little support or acknowledgement. They are inundated with requests from musicians for gigs and they can feel overwhelmed. They can also often be struggling with getting people out to gigs and therefore operate on incredibly tight margins. It’s up to all of us to try to widen and increase audiences so I hope that Open Soundcheck will have lasting benefits.
LJN: Hopes for the future?
JC: I would like there to be more gigs/concerts that take place in light, family-friendly environments and at sociable times like just after work or weekend lunchtimes, times when people are out. To be informal, use plain language, avoid alienating terms and to respond as much as possible to the modern nature of the potential audience. A very salutary lesson I had lately was going to a gig at the Southbank Centre foyer at 5.30pm on a Friday and it was absolutely packed, I could barely get in the door. So there is an audience, we just have to find it and then make sure it has a good experience.
Mary James, who works with several artists including John Law, assisted Julian in the creation of the tour.