INTERVIEW: Laura Jurd. (Human Spirit, album launch at The Forge, 14th January, and touring)

Trumpeter/composer Laura Jurd has the launch gig for her second album "Human Spirit" on the Chaos Collective label on 14th January at The Forge, and is touring. Sebastian interviewed her about it:

LondonJazz News: You launched your debut CD Landing Ground at the end of 2012, how have the last two years been?

LJ: The last two years have been great. I've really enjoyed sharing the music on that record with audiences across the UK and had my first experience of touring my own music. It has been a pleasure making music and having a shedloads of fun with Elliot (Galvin), Conor (Chaplin) and Corrie (Dick) at various jazz festivals and venues.

LJN: The Human Spirit project started at the end of 2013? What got it going?

LJ: I was commissioned by the EFG London Jazz Festival to write a set of new music for the 2013 festival. I'd been playing a lot with Blue-Eyed Hawk and I was really keen to do a project of my own with vocals (Lauren Kinsella). I then wrote some music for the musicians in that band plus the addition of some of my favourite brass players/improvisers - Chris Batchelor and Colm O'Hara. Taking care of the low frequencies - Mick Foster on bass saxophone.

LJN: But you had worked quite a bit already with Lauren Kinsella?

LJ: Yes I've been playing with Lauren for a few years now. She's great to write for as I feel I've got to know her voice well through playing together. She can make some incredible, abstract sounds with her voice as well as being able to deliver a melody very beautifully - so it was great to make the most of that in this record. I guess a lot of the record is just 'straight up' singing of melodies, but the odd splash of improv was inevitable!

LJN: What is Human Spirit about?

LJ: This record is a celebration of human beings! I don't think I really meant it to be initially, but I think having written all the pieces many of them are inspired by some of wonderful people I have encountered - all from different parts of my life too. It seems all too easy for people to get cynical and down about the world nowadays, and of course there's all sorts of difficult and sad things going on in the world. I think I just wanted to express the magic of people everywhere (without wanting to sound cringeworthy) and how exciting it is that we even exist! Celebrity scientist Brian Cox said this great thing on a TV series recently about what makes human beings so unique from other creatures (as far as we know) - our ability to look at a stick and see a spear! How cool is that?

LJN: The difference this time is that Landing Ground was an instrumental album. You've written the words. Do they come first or does the music?

LJ: Sometimes the words came first and sometimes afterwards. There were times when they happened at the same time as well. It was the first time I'd written words so it was an interesting experience.

LJN: Has your composing developed / gone further? In what ways?

LJ: I've been massively enjoying listening to a lot of rocky records. Nirvana, Gorillaz, The Beatles, Sting, Zappa, Zorn - all sorts really. I've always been drawn to that world but perhaps in a more concentrated way recently. I'm often secretly wishing I played the electric guitar and I think this is just a jazz trumpet players' way of getting that out of their system! I think you can still hear some things reminiscent of the music on Landing Ground but then there's drum grooves, distorted guitar, bass saxophone, a horn section and a vocalist. So yeah, the music is different from before.

LJN: Any particularly good moments as the Human Spirit project has developed?

LJ: Chris Batchelor's solo on the title track. I keep telling everyone it was me - but here I am, coming clean on London Jazz news :-)

LJN: Did you always have the plan to record Human Spirit, or was that a decision along the way?

LJ: As soon as I started writing the music I thought it might be a good project for my second record. Once I heard the music played by everyone I don't think I could resist documenting it in album format!

LJN: When / where / for how long did you record? How did the recording go?

LJ: We recorded at a great residential studio in Wales called Giant Wafer. I think we spent 3 days there and had the brilliant Alex Killpartick engineering. The session went really nicely with the help of my good friend and amazing drummer Simon Roth. Simon produced Landing Ground and did the same for Human Spirit. He knows my playing and my music better than almost anyone, so his presence is invaluable.

LJN: Only one member of your quartet which you lead (drummer Corrie Dick) is on this album. How did Conor Chaplin and Elliot Galvin deal with the disappointment ? :) Does the quartet still have a life?

LJ: Elliot has been furiously practising guitar since receiving the news! But seriously, even though Elliot and Conor both played on Landing Ground - I see that project as separate to my quartet. And Human Spirit doesn't include the instruments that they play anyway. My quartet plays other music and has been playing and developing a sound throughout all of these recording projects. My quartet is my first and foremost band, my one and only and I thank the heavens everyday that these 3 superhero musicians have come in to my life. One day I'd love to record my quartet but for now I'm keeping a lid on that idea and waiting for the right opportunity/label and the right time. Until then, we'll be invading a town near you soon I hope.

LJN: A seven-piece band..... Have you had some success raising funding?

LJ: I found out a couple of months back that my Grants for the Arts application to the Arts Council England had been successful. I was delighted with the news. I had booked 11 dates and would have had to completely change tack if we didn't receive the funds.

LJN: What else is happening for you? What's coming up after the tour? Playing-wise / composing-wise ?

LJ: Quite a lot....

- This weekend I'm off to do my first European festival gig with my quartet at International Jazzfestival Münster in Germany so that's exciting.

- Later this year with a have a date or two around the UK including a double-billing with my arch-nemesis Nick Malcolm's quartet at the much loved Con Cellar Bar.

- After my own tour this January I'm straight off on tour with Leeds-based saxophonist Matt Anderson's band 'Wild Flower' who have a list of UK dates in February.

- In other news, Blue-Eyed Hawk are recording a session for BBC Radio 3 in the spring. We'll be playing pieces inspired by Franz Kafka, as part of a Kafka festival that they're curating.

- As for anything else... who knows.


9th January - The Cube, Derby
14th January - The Forge, Camden, London
15th January - Hidden Rooms, Cambridge
16th January - Colston Hall, Bristol
19th January - Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
20th January - The Harlington Centre, Fleet
23rd January - The Verdict, Brighton
27th January - The Black Swan, Newcastle
28th January - Glasgow TBC
29th January - The Blue Lamp, Aberdeen
30th January Wakefield Jazz

News of Laura Jurd's Dankworth Prize in 2011
News of Laura Jurd's WCoM Prize 2012 
Live review of Blue-Eyed Hawk from 2012
Laura Jurd did the first LondonJazz News podcast interview in 2012
John Fordham's 5 best albums of 2012
Geoff Winston drawing

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