Canadian-born Guitarist Dominic Ashworth has been working on the UK music scene for over 30 years. He talked to fellow Canadian Lauren Bush about his recent album, Psyche, which features a mix of original compositions, favourite standards and involves a plethora of talented musicians:
I’ve heard from so many people over the past few years that I should meet Dominic Ashworth as he’s a fellow Canadian, so finally getting the chance to sit down with him and talk about home and music was a real treat.
He is known for being humble and self-contained, and after spending an hour or so with him, I have to agree, but what struck me above all is that his thoughts about music and the world are rooted in sheer goodness – he has a profoundly positive outlook on how healing and joyous music can be.
His recent album, Psyche, is a testament to this mentality. And why did he make the album? He wanted it to be “like a snapshot of time. You never know about the future so you just need to do it now.”
Since he moved to London in the ‘80s, Dominic has met and worked with an abundance of great musicians who have also tended to become long-lasting friends. As we looked through the flaps of his album cover, he pointed to all the photographs and shared their stories; some were of people he still plays with on a regular basis, some were musicians that he’d toured with in the past but they were all people that he’d shared a connection with that he wanted to capture for this album.
This significance is imprinted in his CD, merely because it’s also imprinted in his life as a musician. He works hard to spread the message that jazz (and music in general) needs preserving and he shared with me many cases where he and his colleagues are working to ensure that this music stays alive. He teaches the next generation of jazz musicians at both Trinity and Goldsmiths. The trumpeter on the album, Digby Fairweather, runs The Jazz Centre UK in Southend-on-Sea. Nigel Price has taken over the Shepperton Jazz Club to keep it alive, and Derek Nash and Dominic’s band Picante will be the first ones to re-open the club. “I’m optimistic about the future because it’s part of that experience. Live music is an experience that people want,” he said confidently. “If there’s no infrastructure for jazz, then people start to wonder if the arts matter. It’s all about ‘the moment’ – people feel that. When something is happening, everyone gets it.”
“The album is laid out like a gig,” he said. “It starts quiet and introspective, and by the end, everyone’s piled in and we finish on the blues.” Each song title that we talked about, had a clear meaning to him: “This one’s for my brother… I picked that because we used to play that on tour together and man, did we have fun… this one’s for Jim Hall; I had to include this because it showcases the whole band…” In other words, there is a significance behind each title, photograph, composition…
Dominic began studying classical guitar and still has an affinity for his nylon strings. A few songs on the album feature this technique. He also features a movement from Joaquin Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez that shows off his love of Flamenco music with pianist Dorian Ford and Lydian Dhami on double bass. “I learned the whole ‘concierto’ in university but for this I just picked one!” he chuckled. It Ain’t Necessarily So and Airegin are lovely duo features with double bassist, Andy Cleyndert.
He talked a lot about how Bach had influenced him and his compositions, adding patterns and symbols into the music in a similar fashion. When jazz finally spoke to him, he found himself listening to guitarists like George Benson, Wes Montgomery and Jim Hall. Having the best of both influences means that his album is a terrific collection of all of these influences swirled together. His originals are pensive and beautiful, featuring Ford playing solo piano on Rise. He plays Crimson Kite himself, carrying a sense of movement and openness in his chosen chord progressions. In contrast to these solo excursions, the chosen standards show off the collaboration amongst friends through stellar musicianship. Caravan features just about everyone: Roan Kearsey-Lawson on marimba, Mick Foster on bass saxophone and Julian Marc Stringle on bass clarinet as well as a myriad of others. On trombone, Chris Gower, and, on soprano sax and cornet, Nash and Fairweather are featured again. The rhythm section here comprises Craig Milverton on piano, Al Swainger on double bass and Nick Millward on drums.
In a Sentimental Mood and I’m in the Mood for Love feature Nick Kacal on double bass and Brian Iddenden on the tenor sax.
The endless combinations of bands are a testament to Dominic’s influence on the scene and I’m Just a Lucky So and So sums up his approach to life and to music: it is, in essence, a testament to the gratitude that Dominic Ashworth feels towards the musical community around him. And the urge he has to give back to it, and in every way possible.