How did you first get into music?
“I was really interested in saxophone from quite a young age and I won a music competition when I was eleven and I got saxophone lessons and a saxophone. From then on I discovered Tomorrow’s Warriors, and particularly Gary Crosby. They really were the force behind getting into the music business and becoming a professional player. So I started doing Jazz Jamaica and then Gary was the one that suggested that I audition for Trinity. So I went to Trinity and did the jazz course, the Masters. After that, I guess I was in the real world! I had to forge my own way, and that’s when I created my quartet.”
Your debut album, Isang, has been critically acclaimed. Were you surprised by that?
“Yes, I definitely was surprised by that. You just never really know, especially when it’s a first album. I thought, for me, it had taken a long time to get there. There are a lot of players now who are really quite young and are bringing out their first albums in their twenties etc., so I think it was a long time coming and I guess that’s why it was more of a surprise because I really didn’t know what people would make of it.”
This might seem an odd question, but what scares you the most about the jazz world?
“That’s an interesting one. That’s really hard to answer because at the moment I’m not scared because there’s like a revival at the moment, particularly with the young players. But I guess maybe it would be sustaining the level of playing. There are times when I just haven’t played as much and you can get quite down.”
In terms of everything that you’ve learnt along the way, what advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
“Obviously have fun, because it can be very hard work. Going out to jam sessions and meeting people is a good way to go about things. For me, that’s how I met my band, through a combination of that and college. I think it’s really important to get connections and to make connections on the scene, so that when you do get your stuff together and you’re bringing out your own project, people know who you are. At least you have a good starting point.”
Tell us a bit about your band. You’ve been playing together for a while?
“Yes, we’ve been playing together for three years. Sarah Tandy, the piano player, is amazing. I met her at Ronnie Scott’s and I remember seeing her play and I just thought ‘she is sooo good’. She went to the Academy, has her own trio and she performs all over London. She does the Servant Jazz Quarters every other Friday night and that’s a great night.”
“Dan Casimir, he’s my bass player. I can’t quite remember where or when I met him because it feels like we’ve known each other forever. I think it’s through Tomorrow’s Warriors. He has just released his EP [Escapee] on Jazz Re:freshed and that’s doing really well. It’s a great EP. He does Jean Toussaint’s Art Blakey project [Roots & Herbs], he plays in the Clark Tracey Quintet and does all manner of things. He’s amazing.”
“Femi Koleoso is my drummer. He’s the youngest person in the band, he’s 21 or maybe 22. He’s an amazing player and he’s a member of Ezra Collective and they’re doing great things on the London scene. They released their EP and it was completely sold out. He’s in Jean Toussaint’s band as well, and loads of other projects. He’s a great young player.”
What’s next for you and your band. Are you planning another album?
“Definitely. At the moment I’m trying to finish writing stuff but it’s based on a book called The People Could Fly, which my mum used to read to me, and it’s basically American folklore, tales using animal imagery. It’s based around slavery but it’s tales about rabbits and other animals. It’s quite an interesting book. The main aspect of it is freedom so I’ve been writing these pieces which I hope interlock to create a new album.”
Camilla George performs at The Arena stage at the Love Supreme Festival on Sunday 2nd July at 11:30am.
She also performs at The Verdict in Brighton on Friday 25th August as part of New Generation Jazz.
Camilla George’s debut album, Isang, is available on the Ubuntu Music label.
Photo of Camilla George by Benjamin Amure.
For more information on Camilla George: www.camillageorge.com