Feature/Interview

Jonny Mansfield (‘Portrait’, an album in a day – 6 August)

Huddersfield-born Jonny Mansfield is a percussionist who specialises in vibraphone. His studies with Jim Hart at the Royal Academy of Music culminated in winning the Kenny Wheeler Prize, and the debut recording which ensued from that, Elftet, featured Chris Potter, Gareth Lockrane and Kit Downes. He is now planning – literally – to make an album in a day. Interview by Sebastian:

LondonJazz News: An album in a day. Why?!

Jonny Mansfield: Ha, I know right! Silly idea! Well the backstory is – I was talking as part of a Bonsai workshop and while I was rambling on, I kept coming back to one point: ‘the success of being a musician is not about winning the awards or getting great reviews, it’s the magic of creating and connecting with people, which results in developing your own process.’

I came away from the workshop thinking ‘what could I be doing to develop my process? I want to be creating and connecting with people.’ This idea of an ‘album in a day’ came to mind. So essentially on 6 August, I’ll be getting up super early and I’ll compose a set of music, record it, mix and master it, then release it at midnight.

Jonny Mansfield. Photo by Monika S. Jakubowska

LJN: Who else is involved?

JM: Just me! The music will feature a fair amount of vibraphone but I’ll also be layering up drums, synths, piano, vocals and maybe some other rogue instruments.

Each tune will be written with a different compositional method. For example, one tune might be a free improvisation on vibraphone that I transcribe and score an accompaniment around or maybe I’ll do a lyric writing exercise, then use the syntax of the lyrics as the rhythm for a drum groove. The possibilities are endless and this method of doing a different process for each tune makes the whole project feel much more manageable.

LJN: “What can possibly go wrong?”

JM: Haha! Death by jazz! This whole idea is set up to go wrong, I could miss my alarm or my computer might not turn on. However, I’m going to try to avoid those ‘ifs, buts and maybes’ and focus on what I can do to prepare before the big day. All the music will be written on the day, but I’m going to set the different compositional method for each tune beforehand.

LJN: What are the challenges in general? Surely lockdown hasn’t made it easier?

JM: Challenges in general are, for me, dealing with fluctuating highs and lows in self-confidence and how that can filter into self-worth. With that in mind, lockdown has been a real blessing for me. It’s allowed me to stop and take the time to try and answer, what is my role in society as a musician and what skills do I need to develop to be better at that role? In this lockdown situation, I think that role has become clearer as people are looking for ways to be transported (not physically), and often music is the key that allows people to unlock their imagination.

LJN: When will it be available and where?

JM: It will be available as a digital release on Bandcamp from 7 August. Bandcamp is such an amazing platform and an essential way of connecting with audiences and being fairly compensated. At a later date there’ll be a limited short run of CD and vinyl available. I will be filming throughout the day and plan to make a documentary style video going through the compositional process.

LJN: And does it already have a title?

JM: I’ve decided to call the album Portrait as, in musical terms, that’s what it will be. For better or worse it will be an accurate representation of me on that day.

LJN: What needs to happen for you to consider it a success?

JM: Not much – I’ll be chuffed if it goes platinum [laughs]. No, my intention is to capture (in audio) a clear and honest picture of where I’m at on that day. I can’t wait to see what will come out as recently I’ve been listening to a huge eclectic mix of amazing music from Terri Lyne Carrington, Immanuel Wilkins, Alicia Keys and Orlando Weeks. This is a new and exciting venture for me and I hope that the music will resonate with listeners.

LINKS: Jonny Mansfield’s Bandcamp where the album will appear at midnight on 6 August

New single SYRINGA with all proceeds to the Stephen Lawrence Trust

Jonny’s website

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