Pianist Gabriel Latchin has been making himself known on the London jazz scene for a while now and has been performing at Ronnie Scott’s and the 606 club. Gabriel has recently released his new trio album and will be touring throughout September.
Gabriel began playing piano from a young age and grew up in a house surrounded by music. “I’ve got lots of older siblings so they were all learning piano at the same time, although I’m the only one that kept it up, really. So there was a piano at home and people were playing it and I was interested. Thankfully my mum would sit with me and make me practice when I was really young because I don’t think it comes easily to five year olds to want to sit down.”
Gabriel is also keen to acknowledge the influence of his grandmother. “She showed me a few things on the piano, some boogie-woogie stuff and then eventually my first CD was a present from her, an Oscar Peterson compilation [called Piano Moods]. I think that’s quite a common story. I think Oscar is the draw for a lot of people as it’s just so accessible.”
“I look at some of my contemporaries whose parents are musicians and who did NYJO since they were 12 or whatever, and then they did the Academy. I’m the opposite of that. For me it was a lot slower. I had that CD and it took me a while to go out there and get some other ones but it was very Oscar-based at the beginning and I remember my early records, there was Piano Moods (the Oscar one), then I eventually went out and bought Ella & Louis, that album with Oscar on, and Saxophone Colossus by Sonny Rollins. I think I just went to the shop down the road and picked a few things. It wasn’t guided by anyone or anything, just kind of random. They turned out to be, still, some of my favourite recordings. But definitely Oscar was the first real draw to jazz, long before I’d heard of Cedar or Barry Harris or any of those guys.
“There was a guy a couple of years older at school who taught me the blues scale when I was about 10. And I remember being just very content with just that for a long time. He taught me a simple thing to do in the left-hand and then just the C blues scale in the right-hand. We used to jam together. And it was all fun, as a kid. And still now, when I teach, if I show someone a blues scale, immediately they like jazz. It’s amazing! I wish everyone had a chance to dabble with the blues scale, then we’d have a lot more fans.”
“That definitely took a few years of just noodling and having fun before I knew anything about proper harmony or bebop. And still I love the blues scale. It’s just the sound of jazz, and obviously the Oscar connection.”
Latchin considers himself self-taught, having learnt piano from a young age and learnt jazz from listening to recordings. “I always find it easier to work it out by ear and thinking, rather than from any kind of book. Which takes longer as well. I actually studied Economics before so I was playing on the scene up in Edinburgh while I was a student and then stayed on and began my playing career up there, in my mid-twenties and then I moved down to study it more formally.” Whilst Latchin’s studies at the Guildhall, on the postgraduate course, was useful, he is clear about the best way to learn jazz. “I think [Guildhall] helped a lot but really you’ve just got to sit down and slow things down and put some headphones on and try. And it takes such a long time but all the things that I play that I like or are good come from that, not from any kind of reading or anything.”
Gabriel has a long list of influences and admits to going through phases where he is obsessed with a particular player. “Whoever I listen to is, at that time, my favourite. I’ll be listening to Tatum and I’ll be like ‘Tatum is God’, you know. And I listen to Phineas and I think ‘I need to learn all this. Phineas is the best’. So I’ve been through phases and Phineas was a phase where I learnt…there’s a great album with Roy Haynes called We Three with Roy Haynes and Paul Chambers. So I learnt all that stuff and for a while I was playing those tunes, a few years ago, and recorded some of them. He’s just…one of a kind. There are guys with great technique, like Oscar and even Tatum but with Phineas I just love everything about it. It’s so…strong and bluesy and his feel is just unparalleled. But then at the moment I’m probably more into Barry Harris.”
“There are very specific things that Phineas did. I can probably trace back everything I play or everything I write to something. Specifically with him it’s the way he plays arpeggios, he plays melodies with two hands, often a tenth apart. There’s this tune called Sugar Ray which I’ve learnt note for note. And then I realise later when I’m playing other things that it just kind of creeps into other arrangements, but it’s like that with everything. Like Herbie Hancock’s harmony. You learn it and you live with it for a few years and then it just comes out in your playing. And I know exactly where it came from, this idea, that Barry Harris phrase or this way of playing with the left hand. Which is quite nice, actually. In a way it’s like bits of a jigsaw puzzle but it’s all part of the learning process – you hear something that you like and then you take the time to work it out and it just becomes a part of what you do. Whether you like it or not, it’s just there.”
Gabriel Latchin is increasingly in demand as a sideman and is currently performing in a range of different bands. “I play in Nat Steele’s MJQ band, which is really fun. There’s a Nat King Cole project with Atila, the singer. He’s a fantastic singer in the mould of Sinatra/Nat King Cole/Mel Torme, that whole era. He knows a million songs. We work together all the time but we’ve got this specific Nat Cole project with Tom Farmer who is actually the musical director. That’s quite fun. We did a recording. We did a tour earlier this year and we’re doing another tour next year. I love that music. Nat King Cole’s piano playing is just the best. The other singer I work with a lot is Sara Dowling. She’s definitely ‘on the up’. She’s absolutely fantastic. She’s got a few different projects but I think I play in most of them, but generally it’s the Sara Dowling Quartet that I’m in. We did a recording just recently which will be released shortly. It’s a duo album which is quite fun. And then I play with a bunch of other guys. Those are the main projects. I guess also the other name is Steve Fishwick. I play in his group and we’re doing a recording in December, which is great. It’s very different. It’s very hard music. It’s really on the edge, straight ahead stuff.”
Although the recently released album was recorded back in 2014, Latchin plans to do another one next year but release it sooner. “I plan on doing another album next year, hopefully. I’ve just had a bit of a delay with starting a family, with two very young kids: a two-year old and a two-month old, which is part of the reason why it all took so long. So hopefully next year I’ll just do another album. The older guys that I’ve spoken to have all said that it all needs to be part of a bigger plan. So it’s kind of a five to ten year plan to just put five records out and keep playing, basically, and keep doing the same thing.”
For his recent tour he’s relying on a small pool of fellow musicians who are familiar with the music on the album. “The best players are always busy. On the record is Tom Farmer and Josh Morrison. Tom’s really busy doing really high profile things elsewhere that for these upcoming gigs I’ve got Dario Di Lecce on bass. I play a lot with Jeremy Brown and Matt Home, so there’s about three guys on each instrument. It’s nice not to be too pinned down and everyone brings a slightly different flavour to it. Which is nice to go from gig to gig.”
Introducing Gabriel Latchin is released
on the Alys label.
The Gabriel Latchin Trio perform at All Saints Church, Hove on Thursday 14th September, from 1pm.
Gabriel Latchin will also be performing there with Nat Steele’s Portrait of the MJQ on Thursday 5th October, from 1pm.
For more information on Gabriel Latchin visit his website: