We caught up with jazz saxophonist Jason Yarde ahead of his and pianist Andrew McCormack’s UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica concert at LSO St Luke’s on Tuesday 27 November to find out what to expect from the concert and his long-standing relationship with the LSO.
You have a long history with the LSO and LSO St Luke’s, how did it all start?
My compositional relationship with the LSO started through me holding a place on the LSO Panufnik Young Composers Scheme back in 2006. Composers are invited to write a piece for the orchestra which is work-shopped in front of an audience at LSO St Luke’s, most gratefully having been mentored in my case, by Colin Mathews along the way. This led to me scoring an original piece and a series of arrangements for Hugh Masekela for when he was to make his LSO soloist debut. Both of these strands have gone on to be further developed and performed again and I’m currently working on a new commission for the Orchestra to perform next April.
How did you first meet Andrew and what did you first work on together?
Andrew and I met through Tomorrow’s Warriors, a young jazz workshop group spearheaded by Gary Crosby. We ran a monthly jam session at the Watermans Art Centre. I lead the group and Andrew sat in with the band one night and then went on to do cover gigs, eventually taking over the piano chair in the new line-up. We’ve since gone on to work on a great variety of projects together for other bandleaders before establishing this duo over 10 years later.
What did it feel like the first time you picked up an instrument?
I wish I could truly remember the first time I picked up an instrument! I see the sheer joy and enthusiasm in my two year old son’s face when he plays any instrument and it’s been a great reminder of the ‘how, what and why’ that I constantly try to draw from. I remember being extremely happy as I was one of only three people who got to fast-track to the alto saxophone in my secondary school but in hindsight, I wish I started on the clarinet like everybody else!
Your website has a great name, ‘Joy and Ears’. What does ‘Joy and Ears’ mean to you?
In short, it represents two of the most important elements of music making and sharing for me. You have to listen, sometimes very intensively but it always has to have some level of enjoyment.
How did the name come about?
Well, it’s very simple really so I won’t ‘spell’ it out… I have fellow college mate and saxophonist Rob Townsend to thank for time spent doodling on his computer many years ago!
What was the thinking behind your new album with Andrew, ‘Places and other Spaces’? Will we hear much from this album at the concert and do you have any favourites on there?
All the music bar one piece is an original composition by either or both of us and after taking stock of the recordings we made out at Dartington it seemed most of the pieces were about people or places. To be honest we were favouring ‘Faces and Places’ but it has been used to very good effect already! So although the ‘Places’ part is quite obvious, ‘Other Spaces’ firstly refers to a method of instant, joint composition we used for the record. The idea being that with little discussion we produce music together that occupies ‘other’ sonic spaces than we might otherwise arrive at. We will hopefully have time to demonstrate this at LSO St Luke’s along with a good sprinkling of other tracks from the album. ‘Anitbes’ and ‘Hill Walking’ are favourites of ours and it seems audiences like them live and on record I really like how Andrew and I combined on ‘Holding Pattern’ but we tend not to play it live.
What are you most looking forward to about your concert at LSO St Luke’s?
It’s a beautiful space to play in especially for acoustic instruments – relatively large yet greatly intimate, so we are really able to hone in on the music. Besides material from our first two albums we will hopefully be unleashing some material from or third album to be released next April, potentially with some very special guests…
What would you say to someone who wasn’t sure whether to give the concert a go?
If none of the above has convinced anybody… COME ON DOWN! It’s a really exciting time for us as we get ready to develop material and record and LSO St Luke’s has got to be one of the best venues in town (if not the country) to witness Andrew and I on this particular journey.