Starting out as a one-off gig paying tribute to Sonny Rollins, this sax-bass-drums trio took on a life of its own as three generations of jazz musicians brought both their shared influences and different playing experiences to form QOW Trio. The group’s debut album is released on Ubuntu Music on 5 February. Interview by Leah Williams:
LondonJazz News: How did the QOW Trio get started?
Eddie Myer: I was speaking to Spike Wells at The Verdict jazz club down here in Brighton and he mentioned he’d like to do something in a trio. I’d been working on another project with Riley and I immediately thought, ‘I bet if those two met they’d hit it off straight away’. So we gave it a try and it just worked.
Riley Stone-Lonergan: We played what was initially a one-off gig as a tribute to Sonny Rollins, but since then it’s very much evolved into something else. We just really enjoyed playing together; it felt very loose and free and natural.
LJN: Why Sonny Rollins?
EM: If you talk about chordless trios then it always comes back to Sonny because he pioneered that form. But once we all found ourselves in a room we realised that was just a central point from which we could start. Perhaps because we’re multi-generational as well we have this big timeline that extends in both directions and we found all these other influences of other great sax players and sax and drum combos coming in.
LJN: Do you think being a multi-generational trio brings something different to your sound?
EM: It does bring something particular. As individuals, our playing experience is different so we all come at the same thing from different angles but find a common ground and dialogue there. It makes it all seem fresh.
RSL: Spike’s playing is also so authentic. It’s more than learning it in the classroom or on a record, it really feels like he’s been there and done it, it’s very deep.
LJN: As well as Sonny, do you all share other musical influences?
RSL: Spike and I realised we have a shared love of and obsession with Lester Young. We’ve talked about him at length, which has been really lovely as Spike is probably one of the most knowledgeable people about him I’ve ever met. Then Eddie and I share a love for 70s free music, like Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Dewey Redman.
EM: And also some more contemporary players like Walter Smith and Joel Frahm. What’s fun about this trio is the feeling that it can pull in references from anywhere, because it’s so free and we can move from one thing to the next and it all seems to fit.
LJN: Was there a particular moment when you realised this would become more than a one-off?
EM: I remember there was some great interplay between Riley and Spike where they really started talking to each other. Even though they’re from different jazz generations, there was that shared language and understanding right there and that was the moment I thought, ‘OK, it seems like there’s something happening here.’
LJN: How was the album recorded?
RSL: It was great fun, just a really informal session. We called some tunes and standards, some we’d done before, some we hadn’t, and it just immediately felt really good. Even the tune we played as a warm-up, You Do Something To Me, ended up on the record. Listening to that you can just immediately tell that there’s a special feeling to the album.
EM: Also Ben Lamdin at Fish Market Studio did such an amazing job with the sound and the setup. He really understood how to capture the natural open sound of the drums and just the trio generally. Working with Martin Hummel at Ubuntu has also been great. He’s really got behind the project and is doing so much for jazz music in the UK right now so it’s wonderful to be part of that family.
LJN: Was that the sound you wanted, relaxed and free rather than polished?
RSL: Definitely, I would always prioritise vibe and feeling over accuracy. There’s a lack of honesty with something really polished I think and you can sometimes lose personality that way. Especially with improvised music; if you’re truly improvising, it won’t be perfect. But that’s the beauty of it for me.
LJN: Why did you decide to name the trio after the Dewey Redman track QOW, also featured on the album?
EM: The tune QOW is off a rare Dewey Redman record he did on ABC in the 70s on vinyl. It’s got some trio tracks on it that are so clearly rooted in earlier traditions but also seem so futuristic as well. That way of being really open and free but so rooted in tradition seemed to sum up what we’re all about.
LJN: You decided to release the record on vinyl as well as CD and streaming…
EM: I’m a big fan of vinyl. I think it’s good practice to limit yourself and say what you’ve got to say in a maximum of 20 minutes on each side. There’s also the whole listening ritual that goes with it, having to get up, take it out of the sleeve, put it on the turntable, give it a bit of a wipe and then sit down and listen to it. It’s good to nurture that in contrast to the world of streaming and the new listening habits that come with that.
LJN: How about an album launch? Will you be doing something online?
RSL: The plan had been to do a little tour at the end of February. Seemed like it might be reasonable when we were talking about it mid-2020 but of course that hasn’t panned out so for now we’ll have to let the music speak for itself.
EM: Spike is in a very at-risk group, so before QOW Trio can play live again, we’ll have to feel very confident it’s safe for him to do so. Perhaps a livestream with no audience might be a possibility at some point.
LJN: Any final thoughts?
EM: Watch this space – QOW Trio will be playing to the people at some point so keep an eye out and hopefully we’ll be at people’s local jazz venues sometime in 2021.
RSL: I’m really proud of this album and really excited for people to hear it. I feel like it was a special session we did.
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Categories: Feature/Interview (PP)