The Ivo Neame Quintet's new album Strata will be launched at the Vortex on Tuesday June 9th 2015.. Sebastian asked him about the band, touring ...and about what it's like spending significant amounts of time with Scandinavians:
LJN: Why did you choose to work with the musicians who join you on "Strata"? Can we start with Jim Hart...
Ivo Neame: Jim is someone with whom I've developed a mutual language over many years of listening and playing music together. I remember playing a duo gig with him a while back and there was a moment during an improvised passage where we spontaneously played the exact same phrase at the same time! I subsequently found out that both his Dad and my Dad owned DX7's in the eighties when they first came out so this must be the root cause. :-)
LJN: And saxophonist Tori Freestone?
IN: Tori makes a beautiful sound on saxophone and she is a virtuosic flautist to boot. She can nail any written material on either instrument. She does this with an un-macho approach which is great because there is an element of that in a lot of jazz these days. I feel there is a tacit pressure on jazz musicians to be entirely self-sufficient and able to deal with any situation that arises - musical or otherwise. In terms of a playing situation, I find that if the music starts to be about trying to “prove” my worth, it won't sound that interesting.
LJN: : And on bass?
IN: Tom Farmer is a self-sufficient superhero bass player...:-) Actually, we were supposed to play a gig last year in Birmingham but unfortunately he didn’t hear his alarm clock that morning; luckily he still made the start of the gig! Joking aside, for me he is a very complete musician in terms of writing interesting material, playing in a communicative way and waking up on time. (sorry Tom)
LJN: And Dave Hamblett?
IN: Dave is a great musician with real depth to his approach. I remember him calling me to play in his band and I was struck how strong his writing was, in terms of harmony, arrangement and originality. In terms of his drumming, he has great time and the requisite musical headroom (or overskudd to borrow a Norwegian word) to simultaneously provide a cushion for the band and take risks with the music.
LJN: Are you looking forward to this tour? In what way will it differ from the previous tour with the quintet?
IN: I’m greatly looking forward to this tour because it means I can start playing music again instead of spending my life on the computer trying to promote the release of my album! We have new material to play which we didn’t play on last year’s tour. It has been a while since the last gig so it’s going to be great to continue to explore this music.
LJN: When talking about Dave Hamblett you just slipped in a Danish word. You do spend a lot of time with Scandinavians; what are they really like?!
IN: That’s a hilarious question! It’s difficult to answer that without resorting to cultural stereotypes…..e.g an often-cited opinion is that Scandinavia is synonymous with good design. People don’t say that about the UK! It’s a generalisation but, to me, it seems like forethought about design will be given to seemingly trivial things like say, a cheese cutter; as a result, Scandinavian cheese cutters work more efficiently and the users have more harmonious relationships with these and all kinds of objects. That mentality is represented by some Scandinavians that I know, particularly Anton Eger, who should probably apply to be a Scandinavian ambassador (half Swedish/half Norwegian living in Copenhagen). If you explore Scandinavian history (I don’t know it that well) you learn that Sweden has been the most belligerent of the three countries - I think Sweden occupied Denmark and Norway at different points in the last few hundred years. Seems like there’s a similar situation to the English/French love/hate relationship. Anton once told me it is very “Danish” to spend rehearsals drinking coffee instead of actually rehearsing! He probably regrets that I remember that...although Jasper Hoiby, the umbilically-attached-to-Christiania Danish dyed-in-the-wool hippie (sorry jasp!) loves his coffee that particular stereotype doesn’t apply to him. I don’t know how useful it is to make connections between individual people and national characteristics - but cultural mores do exist and are specific to particular countries. In terms of Norway, I remember being on one of Marius Neset’s gigs and he was watching cross-country skiing all day right up to the gig - apparently loads of people in Norway are obsessed with that! Marius definitely was….
I think there should be some kind of disclaimer for all the comments that I’ve made because they are all of course fantastic musicians and I feel privileged to work with all of them!
Strata (Whirlwind Recordings) will be launched at the Vortex on 9th June