INTERVIEW: Iain Ballamy – (Preview of 21st Century Pastoral, Barbican Hall - 23rd September)

Malcolm Edmonstone and Iain Ballamy

Saxophonist and newly-appointed professor at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, Iain Ballamy, appears with Malcolm Edmonstone (Head of Jazz) and the Guildhall Jazz Band and Choir next week, 23 September 2016, at the Barbican. The concert's first half, '21st Century Pastoral – The Music of Iain Ballamy', will be followed by a programme of Brahms and Walton with the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. Sebastian sent a few email questions to Iain Ballamy: 

LondonJazz News: How long ago – and how – did you first meet Malcolm Edmonstone?

Iain Ballamy: We were introduced by drummer and mutual friend Martin France, just a couple of years ago, but it already feels like we’ve known each other for many years. From the first time we met, we instantly clicked. I was struck by what a positive and generous musician Malcolm is, as well as being a terrific piano player.

LJN: And he asked to do some arrangements?

IB: Malcolm said he would like to arrange a broad selection of my work from over the last thirty years for NYJOS (the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland). These pieces were to be rehearsed at a summer school on the Isle of Skye, and then followed by a short tour and a studio recording, to create a lasting memory of the project and give vital first studio experience to the young players.

LJN: You made a recording last summer?

IB: We spent two days at Castlesound Studios in Pencaitland, near Edinburgh, and recorded seven tunes initially; but the result way exceeded our expectations, and so another session was booked to create enough material for an album (yet to be mixed and released). The players were so accomplished, with some as young as fifteen years old. I am so proud to have worked with them and I love the arrangements Malcolm wrote – they filled me with excitement!

LJN: The Prom was a culmination....

IB: Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, we were invited to perform BBC Prom 28 at the Albert Hall last month. This was a great experience for everyone. Live on BBC Radio 3, on that stage… it almost feels like being a gladiator in the coliseum when you play that venue!

LJN: And this September concert is a next step?

IB: Now Malcolm is Head of Jazz at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, I am also acting as a professor there. We have a big concert on Friday 23rd September featuring Ballamy, Brahms and William Walton performed by the Guildhall Jazz Band and Choir, and Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. I will be soloist with the Jazz Orchestra and Choir, performing my compositions arranged by Malcolm Edmonstone.

LJN: And what are the plans after that?

IB: I would like to work on some larger jazz/orchestral crossover projects with Malcolm and to see these arrangements performed by ensembles and radio bands around the world. I am looking forward to the release of the recordings we've already made and look forward to a lifelong friendship and working relationship with the gifted arranger Malcolm Edmonstone.

The Guildhall has also explained to us the programming connection between the two halves of the concert. They write:

“The influence of jazz is well documented jazz in the works of William Walton and the jazz-style rhythms, also strongly associated with Stravinsky, are self-evident in many of his works. Walton met many jazz musicians at the Savoy Theatre and was known for his liking of music by Duke Ellington, Spike Hughes and Benny Goodman. Stephen Lloyd tells us in his book A Muse of Fire that it was Walton who first played through Spike Hughes’ work A Harlem Symphony and then went on to sketch material from the work on the back of his orchestral parts to Belshazzar’s Feast.”

LINK: Programme details/bookings for 23rd September at Barbican Hall

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