INTERVIEW/ PREVIEW : James Maddren - Quartet, Jazz Nursery at the Golden Hind, January 29th

James Maddren.Photo credit: Melody McLaren

JAMES MADDREN's Quartet will have just its second ever outing next week, at the monthly Jazz Nursery gig aboard the Golden Hind (Pickfords Wharf, Clink St, London SE1 9DG). It is on Thursday January 29th. Sebastian interviewed one of London's first-call young drummers by email:

LondonJazz News: Has it been a busy year for you? What have been the highlights?

James Maddren: I guess is has, it’s certainly flown by very quickly. The year started with two album recordings, one with Julian Arguelles’ Band and the other with Ant Law. Both to be released this year. Some playing with familiar faces in Nikki Iles’ Printmakers, And Alex Garnett and Trish Clowes in Tangent - her album with the BBC Concert Orchestra has just been released. (The Printmakers album is also set to be released towards April/May this year).

LJN: And have there been some new departures too?

JM: Yes, there were a few new projects for me in 2014. I got a call from Sam Crockatt who had a date in the studio a few days later and wanted to record an album of some new music with Oli Hayhurst and Kit Downes. I know those guys had been doing that band for a few years, so it was great to be able to join them. It also felt very old school going into the studio having never played with this band before (although obviously lots with Kit !) and sight reading all the music in the studio.. I think It will result in an exciting album. Lots of danger!

This past year I’ve also started playing in Natalie Williams’ band. It’s a great band with Phil Peskett and Al Cherry and bassist Rob Mullarkey, her fiancé as of a few days ago, who she writes a lot of the songs with, and who plays bass in the band. In my opinion is one of the best electric bass players in the world. Absolutely incredible. Sometimes he plays something that’s so amazing I just laugh in disbelief. So it’s great to have my ass kicked in a different way.

LJN: Is this quartet your first project as leader?

JM: Yes. I always have thoughts about other projects too. I do a gig with someone, or hear someone and I think “wow! I want to start a band with you in it”. Then the next day I think the same thing with another group of musicians. I guess I’m very lucky to play with and be surrounded by people that make me feel that way! Just a shame I’m terrible at putting bands together!

LJN: Do you write a lot of music?

JM: No. I think I’ve spent too much time just trying to get some drumming basics together which is a terrible excuse… I should write more, I guess it’s my New Year's resolution. I used to do it a lot at school, almost every day I sat at the piano (I am terrible at the piano) but I loved to experiment with chords and figure things out by ear. Trial and error if you will!

LJN: Who are your composing gods?

JM: I remember the first time I heard Kenny Wheeler’s Music for Large and Small Ensembles I was about 13 or 14 and spent that year almost only listening to that trying to recreate those sounds on the piano. He has to be up there as a composing god of mine.

Monk.. I love his writing. I love the way each melody influences the way in which you want to improvise over the form. So the improvising becomes an extension of the composition. I love that. Makes everything become more relevant!

Obviously there a several others. Wayne Shorter, Ornette, Paul Motian to name a few!

LJN: What made you choose these people Calum Gourlay, Julian Siegel and Mike Chillingworth in particular ?

JM: Well, put simply, I love playing with them. They have all have a great sound, great feel and they are not afraid to make bold decisions when playing music (which in turn can make others in the band have to make a decision). That last one is an important one for me. I want to play with people who aren’t afraid of making strong musical decisions, taking risks and in turn aren’t afraid of me making strong decisions and taking risks. Because we know if the music all starts to fall apart we can find a way to catch each other. So I guess trusting the musicians you're playing with is a big thing.

Also, I think it’s in the risk-taking and strong decision-making to play something, or play nothing. Or to decide to play something and you don’t even know if you can physically do it or not until you’re caught up in it. That is when the music we make becomes more exciting and more human. That’s also very important for me. Those things that often people think of as errors or mistakes. For me they are what makes music honest and are what makes each musician unique... (having said that. as a musician It's very hard to accept what you perceive to be mistakes in your own playing)....Sorry, A little rant there!

So I trust these guys and I love hearing them push themselves and I love the way they push me too!

LJN: No harmony instrument ? What kind of vibe are you going for?

JM: Well I think without a harmony instrument, first of all there is a lot more space, if that's not stating the bleedin' obvious! Calum also has an incredible sound and he plays in tune, which is something I love to hear in bass players. And I guess in playing together for such a long time we have a sound together which I wanted to be the foundation of this band. As well with no harmony instrument, the role of the drums could become more melodic (all non-drummers laugh...). Maybe not in terms of pitch, but in terms of phrasing.

LJN: This quartet has had just one previous appearance right?

JM: We did. It was at the Con a few years ago. At this rate maybe we’ll record in 2035 :)


LINKS: Jazz Nursery
James Maddren at Whirlwind Recordings

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