Brigitte Beraha (Lucid Dreamers tour, 25 March-24 July)

Vocalist Brigitte Beraha’s quartet Lucid Dreamers, with Alcyona Mick (piano/ synth), George Crowley (sax/clarinet/ electronics) and Tim Giles (drums/ electronics) has a new album, Blink, for release on 20 May with a London launch at Vortex Jazz Club on Friday 11 May. There is also a tour planned, starting in Leeds on 25 March – full list of dates below. Interview by Sebastian Scotney:

Brigitte Beraha
Brigitte Beraha. Photo credit Monika Jakubowska

 LondonJazz News: Why did you choose the name Lucid Dreamers for the band?

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Brigitte Beraha: ‘Lucid Dreamers’ is the title of the band’s first album which also refers to the title track, the first tune I wrote with the quartet in mind, when Alcyona joined forces with the already formed trio. It contains some written melodic and rhythmical fragments but the dreamlike piece itself is largely improvised. I have always been fascinated by dreams (hence my 2008 album entitled ‘Flying Dreams’) as well as lucid dreaming. I am a dreamer in life, but I’d say a lucid one! I think the name for the band is quite apt, in that as musicians together we strive to lose ourselves fully in the music while knowing the strands that connect us will never be broken. Being able to let go whilst still being aware and inclusive of each other, the space we are in and the people we are with, to be able to observe, be in the moment, be present.

LJN: What’s the story since the first album in 2020? 

BB: The first album was recorded in January 2020 and released in July that same year and by then I’d written some new material that we’d rehearsed, but suddenly no gigs or very few at least, and certainly no tour. The playing felt really great though and I really wanted to document the next stage of our development, where we were then. While the first album was recorded in a live setting (as in the same room), I decided I wanted to record in a studio with lush sound this time.

Alex Bonney, who recorded us the first time, was also there in the studio – he knew our sound and helped capture it faithfully and beautifully. As we were evolving together, the music was becoming freer, so the day in the studio was a combination of us playing the music I had written together with free improv vignettes, three of which made it onto the new ‘Blink’ album. The next stage was to finally get to tour this band, so I organised some gigs between March and July – very kindly supported by Arts Council England – with more to come in the autumn. So we are essentially touring both albums for the first time, and that’s where we are now!

Blink album tour poster

LJN: You have all worked together in different contexts for a long time and know each other well… 

BB: Yes, I’ve always loved playing with Alcyona, George and Tim, and until now it’s always been in different contexts and never all together. Tim and I both play in Dave Manington’s band, which is so special and Tim is a big part of that – he is basically one of my favourite drummers in the world and I’d always wanted to have a band with him. George I’d played less with, but had heard him in lots of different ensembles. I think the first time I played with him was in Rick Simpson’s band, and instantly knew there was a great musical connection between us. Tim and George (who also have a trio together) were obvious choices for this band, especially since they’d already been delving into electronics and with similar musical tastes to mine. As for Alcyona, well she is a whizz at everything. I guess I have known about her for the longest time, since I moved to London pretty much, and was blown away by her uniqueness and outstanding creativity. I got to know her and play with her loads in the last few years with Tori Freestone, Paul Clarvis, Stuart Hall, the LJO, Eddie Parker’s Debussy Mirrored Ensemble and again knew she was the perfect fit for this freer ensemble. I was right! This combination of musicians is insane.

LJN: Your solo album “By the Cobbled Path” has been fantastically received. And there is a track here “Doors” which seems very connected to that album – what’s the story?

BB: During the pandemic, I went on a journey with sound exploration, including what I was hearing all around me and finding music in everything. I was experimenting with the sound of objects around me, including squeaky doors etc and wrote a poem about them, because I am genuinely fascinated by them and have always been. As I was working with it, the piece took on many forms but I always intended to bring it to the quartet eventually, alongside other pieces I was writing.

At one point, ‘Doors’ had an intro which was made of loads of different door sounds I had recorded and put together, but in the end that felt too gimmicky so I never included it. “By the Cobbled Path” in a way shows my writing and creative process towards “Blink”: even though they have become very different entities altogether, of course they are bound to be connected as they essentially document my trajectory. On the new album, ‘Doors’ is meant as a vehicle for the band to improvise around the text. I love how different every version sounds when we play it together.

LJN: Lullaby sounds very clear – but also very emotional. Is it based on some kind of personal story..?

BB: I have found that “Lullaby” seems to speak to people and their own personal life stories, as we all have/had a father, even if estranged or unknown. In my case, this was written after my dad went missing – this isn’t a secret, as I posted this on Facebook in the hope that he could be located… and it was absolutely amazing to see all the support I got from everyone on there – Facebook can be good for some things it seems…

Blink album cover

LJN: Also, just as in “Cobbled Path” there is some fascinating use of electronics and ambient sounds alongside the voice and acoustic instruments…somehow the juxtaposition all sounds really natural. Is that something that you have worked on a lot? 

BB: Thank you! I’m glad it comes across that way. In fact, it’s always been a very organic process. I love the idea that our music can both be acoustic and electronic without each aspect getting in the way. I’m open to the idea that a track, even a whole set, might be played completely acoustically by one of us or vice versa, depending on how we feel and where the music is going. I’d always wanted to bring those worlds together – I’m a big fan of contemporary classical but also electronic music – and we’ve experimented and are still experimenting with this.

LJN: How will that be re-created on the tour?

BB: The beauty of this album is that everything was played live, there was no overdubbing, so we don’t have to change our set up necessarily although all of us like changing things around so that we don’t end up feeling caged in by any of it. The aim is to keep improvising! For the gigs abroad or when we’re not driving, we will have a more limited electronic set up which I am actually quite excited about as it will help keep things fresh and spontaneous. I am also excited about the variety of venues that we’ll be playing in (i.e church, concert hall, jazz club, etc.), which will also play a part in the sound world that we create. We can’t wait to get stuck in and share our music with everyone!

Blink is out on 20 May

LINKS: Blink on Bandcamp

Brigitte Beraha’s website

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