1. Are you looking forward to playing at The Ashtead Jazz Club?
Yes immensely - Tom Early has set up something very special and exciting here! He brings together some amazingly talented musicians and I feel quite humbled to be performing with them all.
2. A lot of The AJC's audience won't have heard you sing before. What can you promise them on 16th October?
I can promise you a nice cross-section of standards from different eras and different vibes, from swing, latin, blues, soul and a hint of funk. There will also be a few jazz renditions of classic pop tunes!
3. Do you write music at all?
Yes I do but not as much at the moment but I’m hoping to focus more on this early next year - I’m working towards my debut EP for the end of next year.
4. Who do you feel has really influenced you, both as a writer and as a musician?
In my early teens I was inspired by my Dad and his old music collection - he also loves jazz and blues - he played the washboard for a skiffle band called ‘Les Hobeaux’ at the 2i's coffee bar in early 50s, same time and venue where The Beatles started out in London - the birthplace of Rock’n’Roll apparently - dad has lots of amazing stories about his time there!
There are so many musicians who have influenced me over the years - it’s a bit long and eclectic my list! My old favourites include Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Etta Jones, Nancy Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Lauren Hill, Bjork and Amy Winehouse - I love all their songs, arrangements, phrasing, the emotion in their voices and they are all incredibly fascinating individuals.
I’ve been inspired by artists from many different genres including Prince, Cocteau Twins, Sonic Youth, Jeff Buckley, Massive Attack, Radiohead, Guru, Erykah Badu, Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Cinematic Orchestra. More recently, my inspiration has come from hip-hop and cross-over artists like Flying Lotus, Kendrick Lamar, Robert Glasper, Jose James, Richard Spaven and Hiatus Kaiyote. I love jazz fusion, hip-hop, broken beats, soulful grooves, polyrhythms, beautiful harmonic chords and vocal harmonies!
5. Who are you really enjoying listening to at the moment?
I love the Australian jazz and future soul band Hiatus Kaiyote and the way they fuse everything from jazz, latin, soul, hip-hop, funk and even opera! The front woman, guitarist and vocalist Nai Palm has a dynamic and unique voice and their latest album is love letter to the whole of nature - a narrative that takes you through different soundscapes but still encapsulates the sound and spirit of jazz.
6. You lead jazz/funk outfit, RCubed. How the band get together? What are the band up to at the moment?
We all met while depping/jamming together with other bands in Cambridge almost four years ago now. I owe a lot to fellow band
member, friend, educator, arranger and pianist David Burgoyne, also a graduate from Cambridge and an astonishingly talented drummer too! David and I work together on arranging and composing songs before developing them further with the rest of the band. We’re currently working on some original arrangements and songs for some demos.
7. In a first for one of The AJC's acts, as well as your music, you are also a molecular biologist! How do you find juggling those two rather different professions?
Yes, I was a university student for 10 years! I did a degree in biology, a masters in Medical Parasitology, another masters in Computer Science and a PhD in Molecular and Computational Biology - I’m currently a research scientist in cancer biology and I work for a small biotech company. I find science enthralling, full of challenging ideas and concepts, rewarding and very creative - Cambridge is an amazing hub for this and with everyone working closely together from multiple disciplines from medicine, pharmacology, biology, engineering, art and music, it’s great place for innovation and developing new technologies and ideas.
Science, art and music are three passions that I’ve enjoyed since I was a child and keeping myself busy creatively in all three has enriched and fulfilled my life no end but I must admit balancing them all is a huge challenge (especially with two kids of my own now!) but I have a very supportive husband (another scientist), and I wouldn’t be able to make time for all of this without his support.
8. You are Co-Organiser of the highly anticipated Cambridge Jazz Festival, taking place from 19th-29th November 2015. We're going! Why do you think everyone else should?
Cambridge is a beautiful historical city with a vibrant cultural scene and there’s also an amazing amount of musical talent here! The Cambridge Jazz Festival 2015 is the first one in Cambridge since 1969 and it brings different communities together to show-case the many different genres of jazz and to provide workshops for both instrumentalists and vocalists of all ages. It’s a chance to meet and learn from world class musicians and to see and show-case local artists perform along-side world class artists such as Dennis Rollins, Julian Joseph, Stan Sulzmann, Nikki Iles, Gilad Atzmon, The London Vocal Project, The New York Standards Quartet and Hiatus Kaiyote.
There are also some amazingly talented Cambridge based artists such as the Fender Rhodes driven raw jazz funk band Resolution 88 who have recently been making waves with sell out gigs at Ronnie Scotts and Pizza Express. And also artists returning to Cambridge such as jazz, folk and blues artist, Sara Mitra who has recently released her new album with significant airplay from Jamie Cullum and Giles Peterson. And also the talented Cambridge born composer and trombonist Tom Green with his strong and assured septet - they released their debut album ’Skyline’ with mighty impressive reviews from various jazz critics including Dave Gelly and John Fordham.
There will also be classic films such as ‘Let’s Get Lost’, ‘Round Midnight’ on show and speakers. Saxophonist, writer and jazz critic, Dave Gelly will be discussing the ‘Little’ big band as typified by Miles Davis’ Birth of Cool Sessions and how this has informed the compositional style of the up-and-coming composer-arranger Tom Green. Karen Sharp will talk about her life as a world class saxophonist and how this has fed into her recent qualification as a music therapist.
I’m also looking forward to seeing the Tara Minton Quintet, who many at the AJC will be familiar with! I love Tara’s music and I'm sure she will inspire the next generation of women instrumentalists, vocalists and budding songwriters
with her harp and songwriting workshop and evening concert at the festival at Clare College.
There are some issues that I feel quite passionate about and they include music education for all ages and abilities, the benefits of music therapy and encouraging more women instrumentalists especially in jazz and I hope we can progress these issues at the festival and at future events.
There should be something here for everyone at the festival and with the generous support of sponsors, festival partners, musicians, friends and families, and with everyone's encouragement and support we can give this city a festival it richly deserves!