INTERVIEW: Tom O'Grady of Resolution 88 (New Album After-glow + 2nd Cambridge Jazz Festival, 16-27 Nov)

Resolution 88 Afterglow album cover
The Cambridge Jazz Festival, 16-27 November 2016 
 has released an impressive, varied line-up for its second year. It features names such as Soweto Kinch, Laura Mvula and Anita Wardell. (FULL LINE-UP JUST PUBLISHED)

One of the headline acts is Resolution 88. Local heroes of the Cambridge scene, they will bring their signature lively jazz funk sound to La Raza, in a double bill with Binker Golding's Quartet,on Wednesday 23rd November 2016. 

Leah Williams interviewed Tom O’Grady, the band’s leader, about their new album "Afterglow,"  about November's Cambridge Jazz Fest, as well as what drew him to funk, and his experience of playing with Incognito:

LondonJazz News: You’ve taken a rather interesting path to becoming a professional musician, tell us how you got here?

Tom O’Grady: Well, I come from a very musical family. My mum’s a piano teacher and my dad’s a pianist so I started to learn the piano from a young age and it’s always been a very serious passion. When it came to deciding on a career though, I ended up going to study Engineering, thinking that it was probably safer to keep music as a part-time interest. I ended up becoming a Maths teacher in Cambridge after my studies but had continued to play a lot of music all the way through and was still really enjoying it. It got to a point where I realised that if I never really gave it a go to see where music could take me full-time then I would probably end up regretting it.

LJN: Is that how Resolution 88 came into being?

T O’G: Pretty much, yes. I went for a piano lesson with Rob Barron in London and one of the things he said that really kick-started the idea was that, aside from my own playing and practice of course, I should think about creating my own music as that’s an education in itself. I was playing a lot with local musicians on the Cambridge scene and I already knew who I really wanted to be involved - luckily they all said yes!

LJN: Reoslution 88 is described as a “hard-hitting, raw funk quartet”; is this what you set out to do from the start or is it a sound that’s evolved throughout the process?

T O’G: Well jazz funk, percussive music has always been something that I’ve listened to and taken inspiration from but in terms of writing my own music it developed quite naturally. My main ambition and drive was really just to create my own music but when I first started I wasn’t re-ally sure what kind of path that was going to take. One of my main inspirations at the time was Don Blackman and his eponymous album that was actually released the year I was born, in 1982. His music is more p-funk - quite tough 80s funk - and it’s also got vocals with it. I quickly realised through the writing process though that I was leaning more towards writing instrumental music and that was where my strengths lay. It was a combination of that natural inclination and the group of musicians we’d got together that really led the sound of our first album, Resolution 88, and, of course, the Fender Rhodes played its part in influencing the direction too.

Resolution 88 playing Ronnie Scott's. Photo credit Carl Hyde

LJN: Of course, the Fender Rhodes is a big part of your sound; how did you get in to playing this?

T O’G: Well I actually became interested in the Fender Rhodes early on when I started listening to Jamiroquai’s music at around the age of 12. The first thing you hear on their track Return of a Space Cowboy is actually a whole tone scale played on a Rhodes. I was so taken with the sound and what it brought to the music as a whole that I just knew it would end up becoming a big part of my music.

LJN: What is it you like so much about the instrument?

T O’G: There are so many things that make it such an exciting sound to work with but, to put it simply, I think the main difference between it and the piano is that the Rhodes can really blend into the sound of the band as a whole, rather than cutting through it as a soloist instrument. Putting more pressure on the keys doesn’t mean louder or bigger, it actually alters the tone and gives you so much versatility to work with.
Tom O'Grady photo credit John O'Connell

LJN: Cambridge has been a musical home to you of some sorts; how do you feel about the success of the Cambridge Jazz Festival so far?

T O’G: I think it’s amazing. It’s so incredible what they’ve managed to achieve in just two years. There’s a strong jazz and music scene in Cambridge so it’s really great that that’s being recognised and showcased there now and building more interest in the community.

LJN: You played at the Cambridge Jazz Fest last year, with Dennis Rollins as a guest trombonist. This year you’ve got Oli Savill (best known as the percussionist for Basement Jaxx) joining you. How did this come about?

T O’G: I first came across Oli when he was playing percussion with Kaidi Tatham, whose music is another of my biggest influences. Kaidi’s music heavily features percussion and it was through seeing him play live that I realised just how fundamental it is to the music - tying in the harmony as well as the rhythm. It’s definitely not just decoration. Oli’s one of the best percussion-ists around at the moment, that’s for sure, and we love playing with him.
Resolution 88 photo credit Rob Monk

LJN: Who else at the Cambridge Jazz Fest would you recommend catching?

T O’G: The line-up this year is even better than last year with some really exciting names. I’d definitely recommend Soweto Kinch. We’ve played with him before and he’s just the most incredible musician. Our music is quite complex to play but he just turned up and nailed it on the night - he’s quite something to see live. Otherwise the Misha Mullov-Abbado group are always on point and the Nigel Price organ trio will be coming off the back of a huge tour so they’ll be flying for their gig at the Festival.

LJN: Presumably, you’ll be playing music from your new album, Afterglow, for this gig?

T O’G: Yeah, we’re really excited about the new album and it’s been really well received so far. I think I learnt a lot from the process of putting out our first album and that my composition has naturally developed and become more refined since then. There are more common threads throughout, and more dynamics with a generally bigger sound. When Soweto Kinch played with us he played some second horn lines and we loved what it added to our sound. So for After-glow Alex overdubbed some second horn lines, so he’s actually playing bass clarinet as well as alto and tenor saxophone on this album.

LJN: "Afterglow" has been released on the Splash Blue label, which is run by Bluey (Jean-Paul Maunick) from Incognito, amongst others. How was it working with him?

T O’G: Oh, it’s fantastic. I’m currently filling in on keys on tour with Incognito and I’m such a big fan of their music and of Bluey himself. Being released on his label Splash Blue is so exciting because he only signs music that he genuinely wants to endorse and it’s so great to know that he’s behind us, helping to get our sound out there. He’s been so successful so we’re just happy to have the benefit of his experience and support.

Afterglow is released now and can be found on Bandcamp or iTunes.

LINKS: 
Resolution 88
Resolution 88 on Bandcamp
Cambridge Jazz Festival


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