“This is a really good opportunity to hear something brand new,” says tuba player Adrian Miotti of Neoteric Ensemble. The release of the band’s debut album is imminent and launch date is 8 November at Pizza Pheasantry in Kings Road, Chelsea. Feature by Martin Chilton.
Tuba player Adrian Miotti says that he and trumpeter Toby Street picked Neoteric Ensemble as the name for their band because it captured the freshness and innovation at the core of their new collaboration. “We wanted something that means new, exciting and bold and the word stuck out because it is edgy and exciting,” says Miotti.
The six-piece group – which also features saxophonist Rob Buckland, Sarah Field on saxophone and trumpet, James Fountain on trumpet and Richard Watkin on trombone, launch their debut album, Neoteric Ensemble Volume 1 (Ulysses Arts) in London, at a concert at PizzaExpress Live’s The Pheasantry venue in Chelsea on Wednesday 8 November.
As youngsters Miotti and Street both received a musical education at the Bromley Youth Music Trust – and they bring a variety of influences and enthusiasms to their new project. Miotti, who was born in Bromley in 1978, jokes that he was the sort of “weird teenager” who fell in love with classical music at a young age. He possessed an eclectic taste that encompassed everything from electronic dance band The Prodigy to Tchaikovsky. He discovered jazz at a later age, firstly through Frank Sinatra and later through discovering a love of big band music that was nurtured by trombonist Bobby Lamb, under whom he studied at Trinity College of Music in London.
Street, who was born in Beckenham in 1990, adores classical music, too, but his inspirations are more centred on the jazz world. He idolised trumpeter Wynton Marsalis – partly because of the American’s ability to play classical and jazz at such a high level – as well as old Blue Note and Verve trumpet stars such as Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown. “I love Brown’s albums where he has ensembles and a lot of brass,” Street says in an interview with London Jazz on zoom.
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Their captivating new album fuses jazz and classical music, with added Latin American grooves and African rhythms, all the record showcases bold new contemporary compositions from Charlotte Harding, Dan Jenkins, Misha Mullov-Abbado, Andy Panayi and Mark Nightingale.
“The music at our first gig will be a real mix,” says Miotti. “We want to attract people from the classical and the jazz world. We are not a group who wants to be pigeonholed. We want to reach out to all audiences, classical and jazz, and that is our mantra. We want to draw in audiences who are interested in new, exciting music and then build up a loyal following.”
The sweeping music on their album, including Harding’s ‘Neo’, are technically challenging, with lots of notes flying around for the brass players, and Miotti admits to being particularly taken with Abbado’s African infused ‘The Effra Parade’, which he says the ensemble are excited to be able to play for a live audience. “It is a jewel in the crown, a work of genius from a great composer,” he adds. Panayi’s ‘Pandemic’ deals with the recent global Covid crisis.
Music has come from within the ensemble, too. Buckland’s ‘Soundscapes’, which was originally part of a set of 10 duets for two saxophones, took the movements ‘Mojito’, ‘Fjord’ and ‘Bosh’ and re-orchestrated them for Neoteric. Starting up his own band has also given Street the impetus to compose, and his delightful ‘Karatina Market’ is an Afro-Jazz harmony that fuses slick melodies with a busy bass line and choral counter melodies. It is another highlight of a fine album. “I wanted to write some African-inspired jazz and I had a Brecker Brothers track in mind when I wrote it,” Street explains. “Karatina is a bustling market in Kenya and I looked at photographs of the scenes and was inspired to write a piece around it, even though it is a place I have not visited. I have always done a little bit of writing and setting up the group provides a really good platform for getting my material out there, and gives me confidence to do it. I have really enjoyed the writing aspect.”
Both are them are in-demand session and recording musicians and teachers and they spend a fair amount of time in studios – Miotti has just finished a session at Abbey Road working with world-renowned Finnish group Nightwish – but they are both looking forward to having more creative control and freedom through their work with Neoteric Ensemble.
“One of the main reasons for us setting up a group was to do something we have not seen before. We moved on from the original idea of a brass quintet and decided to add saxophone to create a blend of sound that people might not necessarily have heard before,” says Street. “We hope what we are bringing is a brand-new repertoire, none of which has been performed before.”
Street also says that forming a new ensemble has been “a massive learning curve”, as the pair have been forced to get to grips with dealing with the commercial, marketing and modern social media promotional side of the music business. It is a challenge both musicians have relished, however, especially because it has meant reaping the creative rewards that have gone with the hard graft. As Miotti puts it: “Neoteric Ensemble gives us the chance to be creative on our own terms. As a freelancer, it is great to be able to create new work for yourself and to get more control over our artistic endeavours. That is what drove me and Toby. Our first gig will be really exciting after a couple of years of putting in all the groundwork. We know it will be a slow burner but we want to get our music out there, get peoples’ attention and see whether they like it.”
The band’s name is an amalgamation of words and the ‘ensemble’ part was carefully chosen. The concept gives them scope, as Miotti says, “to augment or diminish the group” and he explains that future projects could see different collaborations, with additions such as soloists or vocalists. They have already worked with respected composer Colin Towns, and his “ballet-oriented” piece might even get an airing at The Pheasantry.
Crowds can expect something new and vibrant, with lots of chat and interaction with the audience. “It is our first gig and when people come to hear us we realise they might not know what to expect,” says Miotti. “But we believe our music has proper artistic value and that people will be thrilled to hear music they have not heard before.” Street agrees. “This is a really good opportunity to hear something brand new,” he says.
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Neoteric Ensemble Vol 1 is released on Ulysses Arts in collaboration with ECN Music.