The violin playing of Wakefield-born violinist Dominic Ingham has been described by Kit Downes as “a rare treat”. After graduating from Guildhall last summer, Ingham will be launching his debut album Role Models next month. Peter Jones found out more:
There are certain instruments that don’t, on the face of it, seem to sit well with jazz – bagpipes, penny whistle, hurdy gurdy… But the violin, despite its scarcity on the jazz scene, has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with the improvising art-form, most memorably perhaps in the hands of Stephane Grappelli, Stuff Smith and Jean-Luc Ponty. A notable modern exponent is our very own Richard Jones. And now another candidate has stepped up to the mark – Dominic Ingham, member of well-regarded UK band Bonsai. An outfit that featured the unusual front-line of violin (Dominic) and trombone (his older brother Rory), Bonsai attracted much acclaim and did a European tour. Now Dominic Ingham has an album – Role Models – under his own name, and had been scheduled to be setting out on an Arts Council-funded UK tour to promote it…
Like all the best music, the album is genre-defying, although it’s easy to detect the folk-influenced melodies, supported by jazzy rhythms and harmonies. You can hear this in the stately Fall, which also features Dominic Ingham’s wordless vocal. Then there’s room for rhythmically-oriented pieces like Phones. Ingham’s signature violin sound is sinuous and lyrical, as in Daydreaming, a tune as inward and contemplative as the title suggests.
The Inghams are a musical family: both parents are saxophonists. Born in Wakefield, Dominic seemed destined for a career in classical music, having already been a member of the National Youth Orchestra. But when he enrolled at Chethams School of Music in Manchester, the 16-year-old discovered that he preferred jazz. This was largely through the enthusiasm of his teachers – Iain Dixon, Steve Berry and Les Chisnall – although it took a little while for Dominic to see how the switch from classical to jazz violin could work. Apart from Didier Lockwood, whose light, airy style he has always admired, he had not particularly enjoyed the jazz violinists he had heard up until then, being more enthused by the likes of Michael Brecker and Pat Metheny.
But he persisted, and started listening to more contemporary players and composers, especially trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and his musical collaborator, saxophonist Walter Smith III. These, along with Chilean guitarist and composer Camila Meza, were among the role models that inspired the title of his own album. In order to raise the money, he made a video and launched a crowd-funding appeal. This paid for the recording at London’s Livingston Studio with a quintet that includes Jonny Mansfield (winner of 2018 Kenny Wheeler Prize) on vibes. Mansfield was also the drummer in Bonsai. He and Dominic Ingham have known each other since their early teens, and on this album the contrasting combination of the vibraphone’s percussive attack with the sustain of the violin is what creates the band’s unique sound.
In fact, none of the band are strangers: pianist David Swan was taught – and introduced to jazz – by Ingham’s father, and he and Dominic were in the same year at the Guildhall. Bass player Will Sach, a native New Yorker, came to London to study, and is another musician with whom Ingham has played for a number of years. And Boz Martin-Jones was perfect for the band for his sensitivity on the drums and ability to shape original music.
For one still in his 20s, Dominic has already achieved a lot: as well as playing with Bonsai, he has been a member of Jonny Mansfieldʼs Elftet, and performed with Camila Mezaʼs Nectar Orchestra, and indie rock band Blaenavon. He has toured the UK and Europe, taking in Ronnie Scotts, The Barbican, the Royal Albert Hall, Heaven, and Manchester’s Band on the Wall, as well as the Love Supreme Jazz Festival and the EFG London Jazz Festival. (pp)
Role Models is released on 12 June 2020