In lockdown with… guitarist Nigel Price

Guitarist Nigel Price is normally one of the busiest musicians on the UK scene. Which made us particularly interested to read his lockdown Q&A…
Nigel Price. Photo credit Carl Hyde

Nigel Price. Photo credit Carl Hyde

First album you purchased as a “jazz musician”? That’s actually quite a difficult question. Only because it depends on one’s definition of ‘jazz’. I was a rocker when I was a kid but didn’t like the glam and gradually moved away via fusion – Mahavishnu Orchestra, Al Di Meola, John McLaughlin etc., which was all still before my time. It was impressive but in the end it got me down because I soon realised that I’d never be able to play like that. Then, I was in Epsom Record Collectors flicking further through ‘M’ and saw Go! by Wes Montgomery, a reissue of Movin’ Along. I was bowled over by the earthiness, the harder hitting message of simpler lines, the huge presence of the blues and the value of melody that seemed to trump everything I’d heard before. Suddenly I had found a way forward without feeling I had to be an absolute virtuoso with insane rock chops. What are you listening to right now? I’m in the middle of reviewing the entire catalogues of my favourite guitarists to publish on the Patreon site I’ve just launched, so I’ve been listening to loads of Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Jimmy Raney, Ed Bickert, Louis Stewart, Pat Martino. The list goes on. I have spent an awful lot of time listening to these records. So much so that it feels like they’re indelibly printed on my memory and it’s great to revisit them, especially right now. I’m not ashamed to say that this forced hiatus has not sat well with me at all and I’m viewing my old records like old friends, checking in with them to reaffirm my identity and using the music as comfort rather than exploring new avenues. Have you done or watched any livestream gigs since lockdown? I don’t have any beef with anybody who wants to do it. We all have to get through this somehow and I totally get that we are all missing the opportunity to play, but I have personally never viewed music as anything other than a team sport. The thought of trying to create a substitute for gigs by attempting to play without other humans in the room makes me profoundly sad. I’d personally sooner withdraw for now and wait for brighter days. Sure, I play guitar so I can make a fairly complete sound on my own but solo flights are not for me. Miserable git, eh? I’ve seen others commenting on social media that streaming performances for free only goes further towards cheapening music in a world where the industry is already on its knees. I’m not sure that I’d go that far but there is definitely a conversation to be had about it. Most memorable incident in your career or education? So many to choose from. I was booked to play at a wedding out in Buckinghamshire about 20 years ago. I know it was 20 years because I had this ghastly silver Ford Sierra with shiny silver hubcaps (long story). The sat nav took me up a country lane in a forest and I turned into the car park. I saw some balloons but the actual venue was about a quarter of a mile away at the bottom of a freshly harvested corn field. I couldn’t walk all my gear that far so I asked a guy if I could get closer. He said that some had just driven across the field and parked down by the marquee. I decided to go for it. I realised very quickly that the muddy terrain was not for regular cars but I couldn’t turn around because the hill was too steep. As I got within a couple of hundred yards of the marquee I saw the other vehicles and realised they were all huge 4×4 affairs. I also realised with alarm that there seemed to be a mound of earth and a ditch surrounding the venue that I was going to have to somehow get across. I began to feel this rising panic and had to make a decision – stop…or speed up and, er, jump it? In the heat of the moment, I went with option 2 and stamped on the accelerator. It was at that moment that I passed the edge of the forest on my left, revealing the sight of the entire wedding party of maybe 150 people in suits and dresses on a huge veranda. They all stopped, champagne in hand, and gaped incredulously at the silver chav wagon thundering across the field with the noise of the corn stalks whipping at the bodywork. It sounded like machine gun fire. The mound was coming up. I was fully committed. No way back. I actually hit the mound with the belly of the car causing a huge metallic booming sound. Time seemed to stand still as I jumped the ditch like something out of the The Dukes Of Hazzard and thumped down on the grass on the other side, sending guitars, amps and limbs flying in all directions inside the car. I managed to keep control though and calmly pulled up between two Range Rovers. Nobody said a word. I had to get a tractor to drag me out later. Instrument you wish you played? I’ve always wondered what it would be like to play an instrument that directly involves breathing, like a saxophone. Maybe there’s a heightened connection with music but then I wouldn’t be able to comp and that’s possibly my favourite thing. I love being part of the rhythm section and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Has this time in isolation inspired any new creative ideas? I’ve always wanted to get an online platform together and I’ve never had the chance up until now. I’m usually too busy with live work. In that sense this time has been helpful. I’m learning a lot about filming and editing too. I’ll be honest though, I’ve found it hard at times to remain positive. Let’s face it, we’ve completely lost, albeit temporarily, the very thing that we have worked for all of our lives. Our raison d’être. I completely acknowledge that there is currently a much more concerning situation afoot. Hell, my wife is a nurse on a Covid ward so I’m all too aware and to see her coming home from the frontline instantly stops me from complaining. However, I think I’d probably be speaking for a lot of artists in saying that it’s still pretty hard to live with the void that’s been created. I love to work and I love to work hard so it’s difficult to know how to handle enforced unemployment. I think it’s going to be a while before we get back to it so, for now, it’s just a case of survival. I guess we just have to adapt to this new reality until freedom arrives. What are you most looking forward to once this is over? I’ve always loved being around other people. I miss that more than anything. In many ways I’m not suited to being a musician as a lot of the time has to be spent alone. Even when things were ‘normal’ I struggled so this is tough for me. I guess I’m talking about the pub. I need to go to the pub. A chance to plug a friend’s music right now… I really feel for anyone who’s recently released an album. Without sales from the gigs it’s really difficult and it often takes a year, maybe two, to even recoup on the recording expenses. Trumpeter Quentin Collins has recently released an album called (ironically) Road Warrior. Everything Quentin touches turns to gold. He’s a fabulous musician and to my mind keeps the perfect balance between respect for the heritage of the music and trying new things. Tenor saxophonist Vasilis Xenopoulous recently released the excellent Dexterity, an album of the music of Dexter Gordon which coincidentally features Quentin too. This is an album that was always going to happen, Dexter being Vasilis’s idol, and he’s made a fantastic job of it. Chris Montague has just released Warmer Than Blood (nice timing, Chris!) and Brandon Allen has a stunning live album out called Gone But Not Forgotten. How poetic is that? LINK: Nigel’s Patreon site (image above)

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