Did the piano happen first or did you get into jazz first?
“No. It was originally piano lessons with a guy called Mr. Payne, who everybody in the local area went to. And that was like £2 for half an hour. So that was in a kind of straight-laced way and then he passed away and I went to keyboard lessons and then got into jazz via this old guy who loved the early Errol Garner, Nat King Cole and Oscar Peterson. That was the way in and it wasn’t on piano, it was on an electronic keyboard. It was a little bit different leaving the acoustic piano for that.”
How old were you?
“I probably started out when I was twelve/thirteen through to about seventeen. He saw that I had a feel for jazz. Before that I was doing Abba and popular music and it went from there. I found out that he was into these old school players. Andre Previn was a favourite. It was a good introduction because it wasn’t formal. It was a nice way into it.”
Did you ever take the formal path?
“Yes, later I went to Middlesex University from 2002 to 2008, and that’s where I met Jack Kendon. But I did that a lot later. There was a big gap so I didn’t go. I went when I was 22 or 23.”
“To backtrack, I started playing quite a lot in Manchester and I led jam sessions when I was 18 and I got to know all the players on the northern scene. There are some great jazzers up there. I’d built up quite a bit of live experience before I went to university.”
What do you think you learnt the most at Middlesex, from being there as opposed to not being there?
“That’s a good question. I think first and foremost, moving out of Manchester, moving to a new city. It was a big deal for me really. I had my brothers who were down in London but it was a big deal moving, just to begin with because all the music I’d know was in Manchester and all the playing associates. I guess, really, I learnt all different styles of playing and I learnt a lot on the instrument and quite a bit on the course I guess. It gave us time to play and play with different levels of people. And London was just a big eye opener. So I would say it was 50% the course and 50% the environment in London. Heading out to jams and just being blown away and not wanting to ever get up!”
So what brought you to Brighton?
“Nothing is really that chronological because after uni I stayed in London for another five years, gigging, playing around. I always had a trio. I had a trio up in Manchester and then I set up a trio in London with Marco [Quarantotto] and Nick [Pini]. But then when I moved down to Brighton I hadn’t got a set on.”
“Why did I move down here? Good question. I think I’d done enough time in London. I already knew a few people down here from the course, the likes of Jack [Kendon] and Will [Gardner], the people who came through Middlesex. I’ve been here 3 years now and it’s got a healthy scene.”
How do you find Brighton, compared to Manchester and London?
“It’s a lot easier to get around as a starting point, and in a sense it’s got a similarity with what Manchester had. It’s local. You can dart around. You could see two or three gigs a night, if you wanted to. It’s a healthy scene, it’s got a lot of the gypsy jazz going on, which I don’t do much with but it’s good and it seems to have a lot of opportunities and people invited down from London.”
Tell us a bit about your sessions at The Joker.
“I started it about a year ago, doing monthly nights at The Joker in Preston Circus. It’s a nice pub, nice vibe and an interchanging trio with a different bassist and drummer each month. It’s just got a warm environment about it. And the next one happens to be when I’m turning older, on the 5th of February.”
What are you planning to do next?
“We’ve got monthly nights at The Joker until May and I really do need to record the trio, a trio, one of the two, finding who is available. Definitely going in the studio. My last trio CD – it’s been seven years, which is just ridiculous really. I’ll try and get more steady gigs and try and record and push that record.”
“I have a few students, it can be quite precarious but I do teach piano. I have been teaching for seven years now and I’m always willing to take people on who are willing to learn new skills.”
“I recently recorded with the Imogen Ryall Sextet so that’s hopefully being released maybe May/June. I’m really looking forward to that. That features Nigel Thomas, Pete Hill and Julian Nicholas. That was good as it was the first time I was in a studio for seven years. Maybe it warmed me up for the trio!”
What do you outside of music?
“At the moment I’ve taken a part-time job. It think that’s important for more regularity. This year I’ve made up my mind to do something un-music related to give me more time to do the trio stuff. It’s a hard balancing act and I think many people find that. I do, anyway. Some people are better at it than others. I think it’s really hard to balance doing the functions, ‘the bread and butter gigs’ as they say, and then doing the creative side. So hopefully this will free up more of the creative side that I do which maybe I don’t want to do. It’s only for this year, it’s a new thing but hopefully it will work out for me.”
Al Scott appears at The Joker in Brighton on Sunday 5th February, 5-7pm.
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