Amsterdam acid jazz band Tristan are building a strong reputation in the UK as a live act. Following enthusiastically received gigs including Pizza Express Holborn, Harrogate Festival and Black Mountain Jazz in Abergavenny last year, they are back briefly this month to play Hampstead Jazz Club and Harrow Arts Centre. They will also be returning later in the year for more dates, including re-bookings due to public demand at Colchester Arts Centre and The Brook in Southampton, where they appear as support to one of their influences, the Brand New Heavies.
The group has recently released a new album – its fifth, called the Spice of Five – and took the decision to release one of the tracks, I Left My Jacket in the Van, as a single, although they’re not generally a singles-orientated band. Rob Adams spoke with keyboardist Coen Molenaar to find out more:
LondonJazz News: Was there a specific goal when you started to work on the album?
Coen Molenaar: For the first time, after having guests including Randy Brecker, strings and backing vocals on previous albums, we decided to concentrate on the sound of the five-piece core of the band. The idea for that concept was born while touring in the UK last summer. There we mostly tour with the five of us and as this was our fifth album recorded in the fifth year of the current line-up, The Spice of Five seemed like a logical step. We still like the ‘big production’ stuff but this approach, which is the way we sound live, works great. We are even planning to start the sixth album already, recording it with just the five of us too. And maybe even getting closer to the Brand New Heavies’ sound in the 1990s.
LJN: Were all the songs written before you went into the studio?
CM: Because we chose to record with only the five of us, this time the recording process was extremely fast – all the basic tracks were put down in just two sessions. The three songwriters – Sebastiaan Cornelissen (drums), Frans Vollink (bass) and myself – brought songs to the studio that were already well prepared. Evelyn [Kallansee] had already sung guide vocals for all the tracks, which really helps during the actual recording. The funny thing about the songwriting is, the three of us all write in totally different styles but when we play them together they all become ‘one thing’. All the flavours blend together into a new tasty dish.
LJN: When you’re working on a new album do you leave yourselves open to influences or do you try to avoid other music while you’re working on your own?
CM: We all have different musical backgrounds: from classical to jazz, from fusion to blues, from funk to rock and most of the time we are travelling to the studio, we play a lot of different music. For the third CD, for example, we listened to a lot of Doobie Brothers concerts and there’s always a link to the lovely music of the 1970s and 1980s: Al Jarreau, Incognito, Brand New Heavies, Earth Wind & Fire, Chaka Khan, Toto. And as a keyboards player, I love George Duke and his great mixture of jazz and soul and his tasty piano and synth sounds. His diversity in styles of music is an inspiration. So you might hear any of these people in our music.
LJN: Tell us about I Left My Jacket in the Van and the shot at the singles market.
CM: We’re not a band of youngsters who are going to be on top of the charts, although you never know, I suppose. But you definitely need some key tracks and I Left My Jacket in the Van is kind of a fun song. It started on a night in a pub in the north of England. We were just hanging around and drinking some whiskey, when our guitar player, Guy, came out with that line, “Hey man, I left my jacket in the van”. We thought that would be a brilliant escape line, especially when you’re on a date but you really need to get out of there without using the most obvious excuses like “My mama just texted” or “I need to go to the bathroom”. So that’s how it came about. Then a friend told us later that his father used this line to go on a second date with his mother. He didn’t have a jacket and she didn’t have a van.
Rob Adams is a freelance journalist who has been working with the Going Dutch project, which is bringing Dutch musicians including Tristan to the UK and Ireland,
Tristan play Hampstead Jazz Club on Thursday 23 May and Harrow Arts Centre on Friday 24 May.