Interview: Dave Manington's Riff Raff - Tour Starts May 14th

Dave Manington's Riff Raff
Left to Right: Brigitte Beraha, RobUpdrgraff, Dave Manington,
IvoNeame, Tim Giles, Tom Challenger 

Dave Manington's Riff-Raff will be on a tour supported by Jazz Services between May 14th and July 11th. We interviewed Dave by email:   

LondonJazz News: You're a bassist, what made you choose the instrument? 

Dave Manington: I first tried the bass at school when I was the second best guitarist in a band that needed a bass player! As soon as I started playing it though I gravitated more and more to the bass, I guess whenever I listen to music of any genre I always naturally hear the bass first and the rest of the music built around it.

LJN: Are bassists natural leaders?

DM: I think so in the sense that musically they’re always in the centre of things. There have been a lot of great bass player/leaders who’ve inspired me over the years with their great writing, from Mingus, Dave Holland, Charlie Haden and Jaco Pastorius through to younger guys like Reid Anderson and Chris Lightcap. Personally I don’t particularly like being the bandleader in many respects, I’m mainly interested in writing and developing my music, but one comes with the other so here I am!

LJN: How long has it been going? Who's in the band/ why were they chosen?

The current 6 piece line up of Riff Raff has developed organically over the past 10 years. I originally started a Quartet with Ivo Neame on piano, Tim Giles on drums and Mark Hanslip on Tenor Sax (who was replaced in Riff Raff by the fantastic Tom Challenger) around the time the Loop Collective was formed in 2005, which seems a long time ago now. Brigitte Beraha and I later collaborated on some new material for the 2009 Loop Festival and it worked so beautifully that she joined the band. This new material became the starting point for this album. Soon after I added Rob Updegraff on the guitar as the final piece in the jigsaw and the music really fell into place. Rob, Tim and I have a great understanding as we were in a band at school together and have been playing with each other for over 20 years now which seems remarkable!

The main thing I look for in any collaborator is they have to have their own strong musical identity. They have to be open to listening to each other and responding/leading as they see fit in different circumstances (which could change very suddenly sometimes!). A certain level of technical wizardry and being able to read crazy melodies in 13 is preferable but more important is great improvising, either within the framework of a piece or just freely between the whole band.

LJN: What drove the concept? Particular friendships? A desire to tackle a particular repertoire? A band sound you wanted to develop?

DM: I place a great deal of importance on creating a unified `band sound’ and identity that comes from not chopping and changing personnel or getting deps in unless absolutely necessary. This means we can interpret the music flexibly each time we play it, and often pieces will be reinvented quite radically from one gig to the next, or will gradually morph as we develop a new angle on it. Much of the music has undergone many revisions this way, and each member of the band has had a lot more individual input and freedom than they might normally have in a band where they basically just turn up and sight read through the music. There needs to be a lot of trust between the musicians for it to be possible to play freely and improvise over music that may be quite complex rhythmically. Similarly, it’s important to me to know how each member of the band will play intuitively. When I write new material, I write with them and their playing in mind. If I write a new piece and take it to rehearsal, I know they’ll “get it” straight away, and soon they’ll have developed it into something much greater with their inputs. I generally end up rewriting each tune several times!

LJN: Who writes/ arranges?

DM: It’s all my own work compositionally and the arrangements. Brigitte has written beautiful lyrics for several of the tunes which have given them an extra dimension.

LJN: Is there a tune you start/ finish sets with and why?

DM: Not a Worthless Thing

This is the oldest tune on the album, having been a mainstay of the live set for many years. Brigitte’s lyrics gave an added dimension to the tune, and it’s become the encore tune for gigs which is my most melodic and upbeat tune and hopefully sends people home happy after listening to a lot of new and (sometimes) complicated music.

LJN: Is this your first tour? What are the challenges? Who needs thanking?

DM: It’s our first proper Riff Raff tour although I’ve toured smaller bands and also done short runs of gigs with Riff Raff previously. Obviously with a 6 piece band which is relatively large it’s challenging financially to get the band on the road at all, and the main thanks as ever is to Jazz Services for their support. These days a lot of jazz venues are struggling, and there are only certain venues that have an audience who will come and watch 2 sets of modern original music that’s completely new to them so I tried to choose carefully where to play.

I think it’s a big challenge for all of us as musicians/promoters/journalists to find creative ways of finding and engaging new young audiences for our music. They’re out there, but they’re not necessarily going to come along to a jazz club to check out the music there, so we need to reach out to them in other ways.

LondonJazz News: Have this magic wand. What dreams do you have for the band beyond this tour?

Dave Manington: I’m very excited about this tour and mainly just for a chance to get inside the music in a way that’s only possible with a good run of gigs. It’s the culmination of a lot of work for me since the album release last year, and at the same time it’s also the beginning of something new. I hope to be playing at least two new compositions on the first gig and work more new tunes into the set as we go. Ultimately it’s the first steps to a new album of material for next year. With the magic wand in hand perhaps I can push for more opportunities to play in major jazz festivals and on the European jazz scene over the next few years. Also for me generally I get a kick out of listening to or playing with other creative musicians. There are so many incredibly talented musicians playing in the UK these days and not just jazz musicians so it’s hard not to get inspired by hearing them play.

Tour Dates:

Weds May 14th @ Dempsey’s Bar, Cardiff
Thurs May 15th @ Soundcellar, Poole
Fri May 16th @ Bebop club, Bristol
Weds June 25th, @ e17 jazz, Walthamstow,
Thurs June 26th @ NC Jazz Club, Wellingborough
Sat June 28th @ Sherborne Jazz Club
Tues July 8th @ Parr Jazz, Liverpool
Weds July 9th @ Les Car, Sheffield
Fri July 11th @ Barton Arms, Birmingham
More info

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