It is roughly a decade since saxophonist and clarinettist James Allsopp led a band, Golden Age of Steam. He has formed a new quartet, the James Allsopp Quartet and is looking forward to some early gigs with this band, notably a Vortex date on 13 April. Interview by Sebastian
LondonJazz News: Who is in the new band?
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- Steve Buckley- Alto saxophone and bass clarinet: Steve is one of my favourite saxophonists of all time and I’ve wanted to write some music that we could play together for ages.
- Tom Herbert- electric bass : I’ve played with Tom on and off over the years, first subbing in for either saxophonist in Polar Bear and then in Mark Lockheart’s Ellington in Anticipation project. He’s such a brilliant, creative musician and I love how he uses the electric bass. The sounds that he brings to the music open up so many possibilities to write for.
- Dave Storey- drums : I have played a lot with Dave over the last 8 years. He’s a really special musician. I feel like we have really learned from each other’s playing and phrasing. I wanted to bring that deep understanding and groove into this band.
LJN: And no harmony instrument involved ?
JA: No! I’ve really enjoyed the freedom when improvising that opens up without a harmony instrument. Also it leaves lots of space in the texture for Tom’s electronic effects
LJN: And what instruments are you playing?
JA: I’m playing tenor saxophone and bass clarinet
LJN: And there are people from different generations? Was this important/ deliberate or did it just happen?
JA: Yes, it wasn’t deliberate, these were the people who’s sound I heard when I started thinking about the music. I thought that it would be a harmonious combination of people, both musically and personally.
LJN: Why did you take such a long break from bandleading and what have been your other main projects in the interim?
JA: I had some studying to do! I think there were lots of musical elements that I enjoyed that I needed to figure out how to bring together. I also needed to learn how to make the sounds that I like making without injuring myself.
I’ve been playing in Dave Storey’s trio (with Conor Chaplin on bass) we’ve made 3 albums together that I’m really proud of, and I had fun writing material for this lineup that was more straight ahead than the way I normally write. It helped me learn how to bring those elements into the compositions for this quartet.
Our 3rd album “Circeo” comes out on 3rd May and the single of the title track is out on April 14th.
I love playing in Nostalgia 77, we’ve made a bunch of albums over the years, I really like the way Ben Lamdin and Riaan Vosloo approach music and recording.
I’m a proud member of “Sly and the Family Drone”. I love playing music with electronics and having my baritone saxophone playing smashed through a load of effects and spat out through a giant amplifier is a glorious, visceral experience!
I’ve been making different kinds of music with Andrew Plummer from sad slow songs with “WSR Redux” to punky art rock with “Snack Family”.
LJN: Will the band play your compositions and what directions has your recent writing taken?
JA: We are playing my compositions.
I keep trying to simplify the music I write to allow as much space for interaction between the musicians. When I go and see a gig that’s what I enjoy- the musicians in conversation having fun.
How do you think you (or your writing) have changed/ developed in recent years?
I feel like I’m a lot closer to bringing the different musical elements I like together into something coherent without feeling like I’m “putting on a hat” in different settings.
LJN: You have roles as teacher of saxophone and also of Alexander Technique. Does the teaching affect the way you play and the way you choose to live your life?
JA: Alexander technique is very important to me. Without it I wouldn’t still be playing, due to back and shoulder injury.
As I’ve got deeper into it I feel it has made me a happier person and better listener in music and in life.
LJN: Are there already any clips of the new band anywhere on video??
JA: This tune is “Red Sky” a psychedelic anthem for sun worshipers.
This tune is “Slinky” a sneaky, groovy tune
LJN: What are your hopes / plans for JAQ
JA: I hope we can make an album this year, we’ve had a nice run of gigs and the music is feeling nicely bedded in.
LINK: James Allsopp’s website
I have heard them twice now. At Finch’s cafe in London Fields and at the East Side in Leytonstone. Tremendous band. Well worth going out to see
Heard them yesterday at the Vortex and they were fantastic ! Go and see them if you can.