Saxophonist, improviser and composer Lara Jones is a member of award-winning trio J Frisco and quartet Beyond Albedo. Born in rural Somerset, she studied in Leeds and is now based in London.
As a soloist, Lara has recently received The Jerwood Jazz Encounters Fellowship, a commission to develop her solo audio-visual practice into an interactive installation in train stations. Her recent completion of Manchester Jazz Festival’s hothouse talent development programme has seen her release her debut solo album of saxophone & electronics Ensō.
We caught up with her during lockdown about finding solace in favourite music, memories of live performance and having focused time to finish her new album:
First album you purchased as a “jazz musician”?
I discovered jazz quite late in my music education. I was originally training as a classical saxophonist but sought out lessons in jazz to ensure that I could improvise… little did I know at the time that improvisation would define my practice in years to come! I had a lovely teacher called Jim Corry who introduced me to saxophonist Stefano Di Battista, and his album Round About Roma; a beautiful cinematic blend of a jazz quartet and symphony orchestra. It was the perfect introduction to jazz through a medium I could understand at the time. I still listen to it now and I think somewhere along the way it’s inspired the soundtrack nature to my compositions.
What are you listening to right now?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Joni Mitchell, I always seem to come back to her music in harder times, and also been really enjoying revisiting some of Esperanza Spalding’s albums. I’ve felt a desire to listen to female vocals during this time… lots of Nina and Ella too of course.
Have you done or watched any livestream gigs or events since lockdown?
I watched a lot of Jazz North’s online broadcast and I’ll be taking part in Manchester Jazz Festival’s online festival. I really respect that people are trying to find ways to keep music sharing going and I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve watched and/or been involved with so far, but I have to admit, I feel it really doesn’t replace the experience and buzz you get in a gig. I miss the sound of a decent PA and audience interaction and the vibes you get on stage with other musicians. I know we’re all missing it though and it’s definitely better to be doing something than nothing if you’re able to.
Most memorable moment in your career or education?
It’s hard to pick one, I’ve had so many powerful moments and lessons over the past few years. But if I had to, I’d say playing London Jazz Festival with my band J Frisco (with Megan Roe and Jemma Freese). We had the opportunity to support The Guest Stars – a band that inspired us in unimaginable ways to do what we do. They were the first all-female band we discovered that seemingly stood for the same beliefs as us. To hear their music live was one thing, but to meet them and support them was just incredible. We are so grateful to Blow The Fuse (Alison Rayner and Deirdre Cartwright) for booking us for this gig. I will never forget stepping out to their brilliant audience on Kings Place stage. Everything about that gig was magical, I felt a solidarity and energy that night that I will never forget.
Instrument you wish you played?
I absolutely adore the sound of the piano, it’s one of my favourite sounds in the world. If I did it all again, I think I’d train as a classical pianist.
Has this time in isolation inspired any new creative ideas?
Luckily, just prior to lockdown, I completed a week-long residency at Capel Y Graig, a beautiful chapel space in Wales where I recorded my solo album Ensō. I’ve spent this time editing and mixing all the tracks together, it’s been quite a long process and needed that focused time. I feel grateful that through all this I’ve been able to dedicate myself to something that I’ve wanted to do for many years. I’ve just released the album and I’m now starting to think about ways I can collaborate with others!
What are you most looking forward to once this is over?
Gigging! I just can’t wait to gig again; see and play with my brilliant bands and get on a stage and make a lot of noise!
I also cannot wait to go away somewhere remote, in the trees or by a lot of fresh water with my partner and little boy.
A chance to plug a friend’s music right now…
I’d absolutely recommend checking out Faye MacCalman, a composer and improviser on sax, clarinet and voice. She leads a brilliant trio called ‘Archipelago’ and she’s also got a really beautiful solo set. She’s a fantastic person and I highly recommend following what she gets up to, she’s working on some exciting commissions at the moment and I can’t wait to hear the results!
LINKS: Discover Lara’s album Ensō