Photo: © Steven Cropper/www.transientlife.uk/
Trumpeter and general jazz activist KIM MACARI is becoming a plate-spinner extraordinaire. Gail Tasker met her to find out how she does it all:
“The nice thing with spinning a lot plates is that you don’t get bored,” pronounces Kim Macari, as I sit opposite her in the lobby of King’s Place. Whilst only 30 years old, Kim seems to have life sussed. As well as working for The Vortex as their head of programming, which involves planning up to 350 gigs a year, Macari chairs the organization Jazz From Scotland and is a board member for the Jazz Promotion Network. Last but not least, she’s a professional trumpeter currently involved in numerous forward-thinking musical projects.
On initial questioning, Macari reveals that she will be releasing a debut album of her solo project We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live via Discus later this year. Her chordless quartet Family Band released an album at the end of last year, and is touring the UK over this month and April. And that’s not all. She’s part of an adventurous duo with saxophonist Raymond McDonald called Seeing Sounds – a project where there’s half discussion, half performance, based on graphic scores. It leads to my first question – how does she manage it all?
“There’s a level of being busy, where you’re almost too busy, but you’re operating at this really high productivity level, which is great. The downside is when it doesn’t go well. There’s lots of potential things that can not go well at once. I think, I’m probably drawn to that – that torturous environment.”
Macari’s playing centres mostly around free improvisation, and she professes to be interested in ekfrasis, the process in which one art form is used as inspiration for another. She admits herself to being part of a niche. I ask her who those ignorant of the genre can listen to, to ease into it. Her answer is unexpected.
“I actually think that for some people, for a lot of people, the way into that music is not necessarily through listening. It’s through reading. There’s some really erudite, articulate artists that are able to explain their process. John Cage being a huge example of that. When you hear someone talk really knowledgeably and really passionately about something, I think it gets to the point that it transcends the thing. So it doesn’t actually matter.”
Whilst Macari is now heavily involved in improvisational-based music and graphic scores, she initially studied jazz at the Leeds College of Music. Part of her journey of self-discovery was finding out that she didn’t fit into the “straight-ahead jazz world”.
“I was trying to be as versatile as possible and trying to be a tradesperson, but I wasn’t saying anything artistically. Who I felt (I was) as an artist was not the same as who I was as a musician – so there was this long period of self-discovery.”
Luckily, her course helped to figure that out.
“The nice thing about Leeds was that the course was really open. Especially in your final year, you were just given three projects, and those could be anything you wanted. So one of them ended up being a performance art piece, with live and pre-recorded music, improvised dance, and visuals. The music was based on Gaelic song. And there were a couple of people on the faculty who were really able to teach art music and improvised music
Out of the 55-60 people on Macari’s jazz course, only eight were women. Herself, a drummer, a vocalist, three saxophonists and two pianists. Yet, her experience was broadly positive?
“I was used to being the only – or one of the only – woman in an ensemble. I was a female instrumentalist, which was even more rare than the female vocalist. I guess, personality-wise, I felt comfortable in who I was. I often think that the people who would give really good answers to that question are the ones that decided not to do music. Because the ones that do it, for whatever reason, found a way through. The problem is, the people who give up. And they’re impossible to find. It’s a really hard question to answer.”
This wasn’t the only gem that Macari offered in our conversation. Her reflective, well-thought out position on feminism stretched to the principle of positive discrimination.
“I did a lot of reading, predominantly about meritocracy, and how that’s been handled. The problem that people have with positive discrimination is they view it as oppositional to merit. But you have to remember that we’re coming from a place where, up until this moment, everyone has not been given things based on what they deserve. This idea of merit is so widely fraught and narrow. You have to identify that you want a diverse group, in lots of different ways. Not least in the way people think. So that if you broaden what you’re looking for, you end up getting more interesting people.”
Macari is definitely one of those interesting people. Amongst other things, we discussed her love of Vivienne Westwood, her current favourite book on Francis Bacon, and the rise of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Her music is just as unique, if not more so.
LINK: Kim Macari’s website