Saxophonist Allison Neale talks to SJM about her influences and her upcoming gigs in Sussex.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into jazz.
“I started on flute when I was about eight years old and my father is a really big jazz fan so I grew up listening to his records. He had a lot of the great records and also a lot of West Coast records, Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz, the Brubeck Quartet, Paul Desmond, Jim Hall and Chet Baker, Bill Evans. I just grew up listening to a lot of those records and then started flute. I did my classical training on flute and then when I was in my mid-teens I started the saxophone and it all just took off from there. I used to really practice with my Dad’s records and that’s really how I got into jazz. I really started listening from a very, very young age and got into that way.”
You’re really into the West Coast style of jazz?
“I think I was very much drawn to that way of playing because I really liked the melodic sound of the horns, a slightly lighter horn sound, although I did listen to a lot of Charlie Parker. I really love Bird. And also Jackie McLean and Sonny Stitt and guys like that. So I’ve listened to a whole cross-section of music but I think I’m mostly drawn, naturally, to the sound of the West Coast players and also partly because I play flute that had a bit more of a bearing on my sound as well. I drew the sounds of Frank Wess and Bobby Jaspar and that contributed to my alto sound so I think really those were the players that I was attracted to soundwise and hopefully that comes out in my playing.Definitely Art Pepper and players like that, Herb Geller and Bud Shank. I used to listen to a lot of them when I was younger, too.”
Tell us about some of the projects that you’re involved in. I’m a big fan of [vibraphonist] Nathaniel Steele.
“Nathaniel’s a great friend of mine and musically we are very compatible. we’re really into the same music (bebop and West Coast) and Nathaniel is a big advocate of Milt Jackson and we’re currently doing a great band together called Neale Meets Steele and Nathaniel is on my new record which came out in January. We’ve been working on that band for quite a while and we’ve got quite a few gigs coming up. I also work just purely with my quartet, which is the same rhythm section and I’m doing a project with saxophonist Chris Biscoe which is based on the recordings of Gerry Mulligan and Paul Desmond, the piano-less recordings. So I’m currently involved in that and that’s a newer project that I’m doing.”
In September you’re playing at All Saints Church in Hove (Wednesday Sept. 9th at 1pm).
“That’s right. It’s with a wonderful piano player called Rob Barron and he’s very much in the Wynton Kelly mode and we’ve got a lovely duo gig coming up and I’m looking forward to that. He’s one of my favourite piano players on the scene today so I’m very much looking forward to that and I’m hoping to record with him in the future as well.”
So, what are your plans for the future? Are you already working on another album?
“Well hopefully making a duo album will be my next project and then hopefully another quartet album, another album with Nathaniel which will be more Neale Meets Steele. Quite excitingly, we’re putting together a series of gigs coming up in the London Jazz Festival. We’re both co-promoting those, which is going to be called Bopfest and it’s going to be at the The Elgin in Ladbroke Grove, during the week of the London Jazz Festival, which starts, I think, on 17th November through to Sunday 22nd. We’re going to be putting a series of bebop gigs on, including ourselves, for that week. It will also feature people like Steve Brown, Leon Greening, Rob Barron Quartet with Colin Oxley, Mark Crooks Quartet. That should be quite exciting and a project that both me and Nathaniel are working on.”
Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?
“It’s quite interesting that there’s a Sussex Jazz Magazine. Is that purely your venture?”
There’s a team of people working on the magazine as volunteers.
“That’s brilliant. Sussex is such a great area for jazz. I do quite a few gigs there, in Brighton and obviously Chichester Jazz Club where I’m going to be playing in September with Neale Meets Steele so I think that’s absolutely fantastic.”
For more information on Allison Neale visit her website:
Her album I Wished On The Moon is available on Trio Records.
Allison appears at All Saints Church, Hove on Wednesday 9th September (1pm) and at Chichester Jazz Club on Friday 18th September.