PREVIEW/ INTERVIEW: James Allsopp (2014 Match&Fuse 4th October)

James Allsopp. Photo credit: Russ Escritt

Saxophonist/ composer James Allsopp's new composition ‘Ashore’ will be premièred on Friday night 3rd October at the Match&Fuse festival at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green. He will perform alongside the bassist and guitarist from the Italian band Nohaybandatrio. Rachel Maby interviewed him:

LondonJazz News: How did you choose the title of your piece?

James Allsopp: I thought it would be nice to feel like you’d come home and felt that it had calmed down, especially as the other music that I’m doing with the Italians is quite full on…I have little stories to compositions, even if they don’t necessarily make much sense, it gives me something to work with rather than it being a purely musical problem.

LJN: And how have you pieced this composition together?

JA: I wanted to keep it really simple because I think Nohaybandatrio learn mostly by ear, so I thought if I wrote something easy then we could spend more time on the music part of it, i.e. how we play together… I’ve tried to use drones and pedal points, which the Italians can interpret with their use of electronics in a different way. I don’t know enough about what electronics do to indicate a particular sound I want, but I usually feel that if I’ve written the music right it will suggest a certain sound world.

LJN: You say you’re not an electronics expert, and yet it’s an integral part to your music making and your band The Golden Age of Steam. When you compose for the group, do you imagine the electronics in your compositions or do you include that as part of the improvisatory process of your music?

JA: It feels more interactive for someone else to manipulate my sound and for me to respond to it, rather than doing it myself…We decide the sound world we want, but then there’s a lot of room for different things to happen within that... My solution to having a lot of different sounds available to me has always been to play lots of different instruments: tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, bass-clarinet and clarinet. They’re completely different characters to me and I don’t try and play them in the same way. But I love that thing of someone being able to touch a button and allow something completely new to happen.

LJN: When you compose a piece, what balance do you give between notated and improvised material?

JA: I try and write the minimum amount of music. I like to leave as much room for improvising as possible, rather than giving people a structure or strict form. I think duration is really important…I like the idea of writing something that you get lost in. Three is the magic number – you just need three things that happen, and if you can plan where those go then you’ve got a very strong structure.


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