This Sunday we welcome the formidable talents of three ‘young guns’ on the British jazz scene to the Jazz Meet stage. Making his first appearance at Floripa will be British guitarist Ant LawÂ who joins his trio comprised of bassist Rick James and drummerÂ Marijus Aleksa for an evening of improvised groove-based jazz. Ahead of the gig, we caught up with Ant to talk about his recently released dÃ©but on 33 Jazz, his influences and what we should expect on Sunday. Here’s what he had to say…
Hi Ant, so to kick things off Â we hear you’ve recently released your first album (entitled ‘Entanglement’) on 33 Jazz, can you tell us a little about the album and the group of musicians involved?
This album is my first album of original jazz music as a leader, and features James Maddren on drums (Gwilym Simcock, Kit Downes), Tom Farmer on bass (Empirical), Michael Chillingworth on reeds (Round Trip) and John Turville on piano (Gilad Atzmon). I was lucky enough to receive a grant from JazzServices, which helped the project a great deal financially as well as with the administrative side.
LISTEN TO ‘ENTANGLEMENT’ BY ANT LAW
Eight of the nine tracks on the album are self-composed while you chose John Coltrane’s ‘Satellite’ as the only cover. It’s an interesting pick, specifically as it’s by one of the most important saxophonists in history. Are you a particular fan of Coltrane’s work and who else has influenced you during your career so far?
There is actually an arrangement of a Sonny Rollins tune on the CD too â€“ “Airegin”Â which isÂ “Nigeria” backwards! I wrote my version of it and there ended up being an extra bar in the form, so I called it “A Bar In Nigeria” but the chords are straight from his piece. I am a huge Coltrane fan. I am fascinated by all the different periods of his long career. Satellite is one of his many tunes that uses the Giant Steps chord changes, so is great fun to improvise over.
I was raised on blues, the stuff right out of the Mississippi Delta â€“ Robert Johnson, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, Howlin Wolf and Muddy Waters. Later I got into the electric stuff, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hendrix etc and then jazz. Many of my favourite artists did not focus solely on straight ahead jazz, which is something that carries through to this project. People like Herbie Hancock, Kenny Garrett, as well as lesser known people like Russell Gunn, David Fiuczynski. My favourite guitarist now is Ben Monder.
For your gig this Sunday at Floripa, you’ll be bringing a stripped back, more groove based trio. Can you tell us a bit about how that project came to light and what we can expect to hear on the night?
I used to go down to the Troy Bar session on Fridays to hear Rick James killing it with amazing drummers like Marijus (Aleksa). There were other guys too like bassist Johnny Copland and another drummer Laurie Lowe, and it still is one of my favourite places to hang out. I honestly hadn’t heard many musicians playing like them anywhere before â€“ a lot of what they do comes from church. A while back I got asked to do a gig at a jazz festival and decided to give them a call, and weâ€™ve been playing since then. The emphasis is more on improvisation within grooves, rather than exploring chord changes / harmony so the compositional forms are mostly simpler, but the grooves are a much more significant part of the music.
Taking a little step back, you initially trained on classical piano and ended up studying at both Edinburgh University and Berklee College of Music in the US. Had you already made your mind up to pursue the guitar by the time you got to university or was it something that came about as a result of your studies?
I had played guitar since I was about 10, and I always found the piano very hard. When the time came to study, I knew I wanted to play guitar for a living but I wanted to learn about other subjects too. Thatâ€™s why I ended up doing a degree in Physics. I wanted to be around normal people, not only musicians. It was hard juggling practice and gigs with studies, but I just about survived!
You’ve certainly surrounded yourself with some talented peers since your arrival in London, playing and touring with a number of your luminaries on the jazz scene and of course the likes of Leon Ware and Mica Paris. Moving forward, is there anyone you’d particularly like to hook up with and cut a few tracks together?
There are so many people Iâ€™d love to work with, Sting and Stevie Wonder for example! In the more jazzy realm Iâ€™d love to work with Kenny Garrett, Chris Potter, Ari Hoenig or Django Bates.
You’ve just completed a 27 date UK tour for the album, which must’ve been an experience for you. Did you have any favourite spots whilst travelling and how does the rest of the UK compare to London in terms of venues and the crowd?
London can be hard sometimes since everyone is so busy, sometimes other places can be more welcoming. Itâ€™s harder to get people to come out and support gigs when there is so much to choose from. Having said that, our album launch gig at Pizza Express was sold out, which was great! Audience-wise, Glasgow was great too. We also played in this idyllic town in the Lake District called Ambleside; it was lovely being there.
Join us from 5pm this Sunday at FloripaÂ as we welcome Ant, Rick and Marius to the Jazz Meet for two sets of live jazz, and DJ sets from Jazz Meet resident Rob Coley and special guest selector Scrimshire from the mighty Wah Wah 45s imprint. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s also a full menu of Brazilian inspired Sunday fare to try, as well as cheap cocktails and beers 5pm-7pm. We hope you can pass through to check out three of London’s most promising musicians from the new jazz guard.