PREVIEW/INTERVIEW: Lara Jones of J. Frisco (Jazz North Presents Alt-Shift-J in Middlesbrough)

J. Frisco. L-R: Megan Roe – Guitar/Voice, Jemma Freese – Keys/FX/Voice
and Lara Jones – Saxophone/FX/Voice
One of the highlights of this weekend’s Jazz North Presents Alt-Shift-J will be a set from the trio J. Frisco (The Crypt, 7pm, Saturday 16 February 2019). The band describes itself as an “avant-garde jazz trio featuring soprano saxophone, electric guitar, keyboards and vocals, creating improvised genre-fluid soundscapes and noise drawn from emotion, political, and gender issues.” AJ Dehany, who will be attending the event, talked to Lara Jones:

LondonJazz News: You are a young trio of guitar, sax, electronics, vocals, samples, and you’ve just released your debut album Naked – how would you explain what you do? What is the essence of the mooted ‘J Frisco Experience’?

Lara Jones: Well we say we make avant-garde jazz, others say it’s jazz, experimental, film, electronic, ambient, noise… we get lots of different tags, but we’re just about making music that responds to the world around us and love to explore new sounds where we can. Aha, the ‘J Frisco Experience’ – I guess this is something that can only be understood if you’ve seen us live… we’re quite theatrical with our performance and assume this is what people mean!

LJN: The album in particular sets up a kind of opposition between the salty sweetness of the soprano sax and the darker textures alongside it – is this sort of textural yin-yang a conscious dynamic?

LJ: The contrasts we create in the music is definitely a conscious dynamic, particularly in the first album Naked, it was written/recorded in a time when we were frustrated at a lot of things, there’s a polarisation in the music that was a polarisation we felt in ourselves at that time. We describe it as constantly being pulled under water and fighting to come back up above it…

LJN: The unperformed text accompanying previous ten-minute track Meditative encourages us to take a zen-like or yoga-like moment of stillness “in a world filled with constant noise”. Is there a tension between this and the ‘noise’ elements of what you do, particularly with regard to the use of sampling on the album?

LJ: This track is absolutely about taking a moment of pause and reflection and to take in all the noise around us. I suppose much like our music, the world and its sounds are constantly changing and evolving and this track gives the listener and ourselves a chance to take it back to something minimal. Listening, really listening is the key!

LJN: What’s your relationship with Jazz North? Do you see yourselves having a ‘northern identity’? 

LJ: Jazz North have been incredibly supportive of us. We were Jazz North’s Introduces Artist in 2017, this gave us the opportunity to play at lots of different Northern Jazz Festivals and hone our sound and performance. Ever since we feel we’ve become a part of this really beautiful northern scene of jazz/improvisation musicians. We met lots of other bands, musicians and promoters through this scheme and as a result we’ve had a a brilliant couple of years, performing and workshop leading! As individuals we are from all over and spend time in lots of different places but as a band we absolutely have a Northern identity we are really proud of. There are brilliant things happening up here and we couldn’t be more grateful to Jazz North for their support.

LJN: Omg, right, so you collaborated with Archipelago! I’m going to see them next week at the Vortex (birthday present to self). The Archipelago J Frisco double trio ‘superband’ is a monumental collaboration. How was that, especially working with a ‘rhythm section’? Will it be reprised/given a live treatment? Is this experimenting with expanded formats something you’re keen to continue?

LJ: ARCHIFRISCO! I’m so glad you know about this! We actually originally met Archipelago at a Jazz North showcase; we fell in love with what they did… somewhere along the line they become our friends. We did a gig at the Basement in York put in by an amazing promoter Harkirit Boparari, where we were supporting Archipelago and at the end of their set, they got us up on stage to play with them; there was this really powerful connection that happened when we played together, one of those that can’t really be described in words, it was unexpected too but beautiful! The wonderful Faye MacCalman decided to put us in for the Lancaster Jazz Festival Commission and we ended up getting it, so she wrote us a full set of music and we performed it… honestly we had the most amazing time doing it together and we’ve met since to record some of the material. We’re gigging in Leeds at the Fusebox Festival in June and hopefully at Sage Gateshead, we’re also looking to get all material recorded at released as an album if we can secure some funding!

We love collaboration and expanded formats is absolutely something we are keen to continue, both with our own set up and in future collaborations… we do love a good drummer!

LJN: What do you have planned for the Alt-J gig curated by Jazz North this weekend?

LJ: Soooo… we’re planning to play some of our NEW material… we just recorded our second album. We’re really really proud of this one and can’t wait to share it with the world, hence playing some of the material before its release, haha! We’re so excited for the gig on the weekend and look forward to seeing and working with all the other wonderful people.

LINKS: J Frisco website
Interview explaining the origin of the band’s name
Jazz North Presents Alt-Shift-J in Middlesbrough

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