Rob Adams writes
Pianist Philip Clouts takes his new-look quartet out on the road during April and May with a tour that includes The Archduke on London’s South Bank on Saturday 4th May.
Clouts has brought in bassist Tim Fairhall, who has worked extensively with Israeli-Spanish singer Yasmin Levy, and drummer Kiran Bhatt, who has played with London Afrobeat band Nomad Soul Collective and alt-folk group Red River Dialect, alongside saxophonist Samuel Eagles for the dates, which begin in Fishguard on Friday 12 April.
“Tim has worked with the quartet before and takes a lot of the credit for the success we had on our winter tour in 2014,” says Clouts. “His double bass playing really suits the grooves in the music. Ideally we like to play with an acoustic piano but that’s not always possible when touring in the UK and Tim, with his lovely warm tone and strong presence, somehow managed to give the band an acoustic feel even on the gigs where I had to play a digital keyboard.”
Clouts’ music has always drawn heavily on his South African roots. He was born in Cape Town but moved to London as a child and grew up hearing the records his parents brought over with them. More recently, though, he has added influences from other countries including Italy and India. He has also listened to a lot of Gnawa music, the ancient African Islamic spiritual and religious songs from Morocco and Algeria, and has worked this into his own compositions while still retaining the essence of jazz influences including Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett.
“The two crucial elements in music for me are strong melodies and rhythms that draw people in so that they stay with you as you improvise,” he says. “They’re what attract me when I’m listening. They don’t necessarily have to be happening simultaneously – one or the other can grab the attention initially – but if you have both going on in the music, that makes it all the stronger and that’s what we strive to achieve.”
Clouts scored a triumph when his latest album, Umoya, was picked up for release through the emergent jazz wing of respected classical label Odradek in 2015. His quartet will be playing tracks from Umoya and previous album, The Hour of Pearl, on tour as well as showcasing new pieces including Rubik’s Rubric, which draws on the West African Yoruba rhythms that fed into Cuban music, as he works towards his group’s next recording.
“Nothing beats touring for getting new material into shape,” he says. “One or two other newer pieces are written in unusual time signatures and the idea there is not to draw attention so much to their metres but to make them sound interesting rhythmically while at the same time having them flowing naturally. I’m really looking forward to going out and playing them to people with this band.”
Friday 12 April Aberjazz at Peppers, Fishguard
Saturday 13 April Ucheldre Centre, Holyhead
Saturday 4 May The Archduke, London
Thursday 16 May Davenham Jazz
Friday 17 May Upfront Gallery, Penrith
Saturday 18 May Jazz at St James, Leith, Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May The Globe, Newcastle