Features/Interviews (PP)

Tom Remon (new album ‘Eagle Peak’ on Lunaria Records; launch 28 Feb ’22)

Tom Remon- Eagle Peak

UK guitarist Tom Remon has a new album out , Eagle Peak (Lunaria Records) with Shaney Forbes on drums, Mike Gorman on Hammond and Laurence Wilkins on trumpet. Launch is on 28 February – booking link below.

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In this feature about the new album, he remembers the impact which working with Tomorrow’s Warriors had on him, and talks about discovering rare tunes by Bobby Hutcherson and Donald Byrd and reflects on the Buddhist influence on his own music. Interview by Alison Bentley:

L-R: Mike Gorman, Tom Remon, Shaney Forbes, Laurence Wilkins

If your first album features guitar duets with well-known guitarist Jim Mullen (reviewed here), where do you go next? “The new album was really fun to do because  it was a chance to play with three of my favourite musicians,” says Remon. It’s a mixture of lesser-known tunes and originals.

So how did Remon get into jazz? His father played a lot of guitar-based rock music around the house: “Nirvana, Chilli Peppers, Pearl Jam… my mum used to play random compilations of classical music that she bought when I was a baby that I used to fall asleep to!” It was Remon’s high school guitar teacher Carlos Olmos who introduced him to jazz. ”…two albums in particular- Pat Metheny’s Question and Answer, which is an incredible album, and Pat Martino, that famous live album where he plays Sunny for about 15 minutes. Dave Holland and Roy Haynes were on the Metheny album and they linked back to Miles Davis and Chick Corea… Grant Green I checked out quite early, and over the last few years Peter Bernstein has become a huge favourite of mine. I’ve seen Jim Mullen play over the years… and I was blown away… Mike Gorman introduced me to him.”

Remon’s jazz education continued through membership of Tomorrow’s Warriors, where  he met Wilkins. “Laurence is a really interesting guy. He’s actually a great guitar player as well. He’s got some of that Woody Shaw language and sound, but also fronts a band called Zeñel doing electronic stuff.” Remon was just 16 when he joined the Warriors band mentored by Binker Golding. He spent two years working on a wide repertoire. “Binker would always get us to think about time and feel, and how to improvise- how to play as a band.” The Middlesex University jazz course followed, where they were “…very keen on people developing their own sound.”  Remon  studied with, among others, Nikki Iles, Chris Batchelor and Gareth Williams, “…who was always trying to get me to work on my technique so I had more facility.”

The new album has several pieces composed by other people, including Anton’s Ball by Bobby Hutcherson. “I don’t know if there are any other recordings of that,” says Remon. “It’s got those beautiful modal changes and the bar of three in the middle- I just thought it would sound really nice in an organ setting.”

Donald Byrd’s Fly Little Bird Fly is “…kind of like Giant Steps but not so rapid. The tempo is so fast you don’t have a lot of time on each set of changes. I thought it would be good if we all just traded on it. I haven’t heard a lot of that- just trading through tunes.”

Mike Gorman has contributed a piece, When I Grow Up. “He actually recorded that on a Jim Mullen CD. I thought it was great- the chord changes remind me of the Wayne thing.”

Remon arranged Porter’s Just One of Those Things: “I love that tune- I put it in 6/8, then I changed the harmony of the first eight bars so it’s major, and it suits the melody that way.”

His own compositions have a Buddhist influence. Five for Sensei is written in five over the chords to the standard Alone Together and is dedicated to Remon’s Soka Gakkai mentor, Daisaku Ikeda. “It’s the same organisation Herbie and Wayne are part of. He’s done so much to  bring this practice over the world, I wanted to show my gratitude.”

One Eternal Bond opens with a drum solo. “We were just about to record, and I said, ‘Shaney, why don’t you do an Elvin Jones kind of thing?’ It’s an incredible palette of colours. Shaney’s one of my favourite drummers and he’s so comfortable with all the idioms of this music.

“My friend the guitar player  Bernie Holland came to the session to take some pictures. There was a really nice vibe, and Bernie was really touched by that. There’s a thing in Buddhism about the bonds that we share, so this is called One Eternal Bond.”

Album Cover

Remon started writing the title track Eagle Peak, with its winding tune, when at college. “That melody is actually quite hard to play- Laurence is nailing each note! Eagle Peak is always talked about as the place the Buddha went to meditate.”

Nichiko Hori, named for a Buddhist teacher, splices an alt take drum solo with acoustic guitar. “Shaney wanted to record a drum solo at the end vamping on Sensei. A couple of months later I was at my friend’s studio, playing around  with an Ali Farka Touré-inspired guitar piece. Then I thought, it’s a nice thing to fade out the drum solo into blues guitar.”

For Remon, the recording was a very positive experience reflected in the music. “The recording session went really smoothly- it’s normally a nightmare! I’ve admired Laurence’s, Shaney’s and Mike’s playing for years. The way everything fell into place was quite an emotional experience actually.”

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LINK: Bookings for 28 February at Pizza Express

Lunaria Records

Tom Remon’s Bandcamp

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