British pianist Andrew McCormack has toured with Kyle Eastwood and Jamie Cullum, as well as composing for his own trio. Now based in New York, he tours the UK this month.
What can we expect to hear at your gig at The Verdict in Brighton on Friday 13th March?
“The music we’re playing on this UK tour is taken mainly from my latest CD, First Light which was written and recorded after my first year living in New York City. Although a trio album, for this tour I’ve expanded the line up to include saxophonist Mark Lockheart as special guest. I’ve also developed a couple of newer pieces for this line up which we will be premiering on the tour.”
How would you describe your approach to playing the piano?
“I’m really just trying to be connected to the masters of the jazz canon but to play in the moment and speak with my own voice. I want to communicate my own ideas but using a musical language that’s recognisable to audiences.”
What have you learnt since moving to New York and how do you think it’s affected your playing and composing?
“It was a really humbling experience first moving to New York, I was broken down to nothing and had to build myself back up again. I learnt quite a few important things about myself and musically I realised I need to build on and focus on my more unique strengths whilst still addressing my weaknesses. I was forced to ask the question, ‘what do I have to contribute?’. If one wants to put themselves out there as an artist, this needs to be figured out.”
In terms of composing, where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?
“I had a great classical composition teacher in Mark-Anthony Turnage who really got me switched on to the beautiful craft of composition and showed me all sorts of techniques and methods as well as examples in the masterworks.”
“In terms of the album, the music I was hearing and the musicians I was playing with strongly influenced the writing. Whether a rhythmic idea or melodic shape, NYC is a very stimulating place and yet I was still using some of the composing methods I’d learnt from Turnage including starting work very early in the morning which is where the piece, First Light originally got the title.”
Your tour is one of the last ever Jazz Services National Touring Support Scheme (NTSS) due to funding cuts. How do you feel about this and what impact do you think the cuts will have on the UK scene?
“I am extremely lucky to have benefitted from the last NTSS award and I would have lost a considerable sum out of my own pocket to make the tour work. One could argue that it would’ve been an investment on my part but it’s not sustainable to do that year after year. In the past, a record label would effectively loan the money to cover an artist’s touring as they would see a return in album sales. This model has gone and although the demand for live music has in no way diminished, it can be tough to make the ends meet especially at the smaller more provincial jazz venues which are no less important to play.”
“I only hope we see something positive in the next few years come as a result of losing Jazz Services Tour Support; both the musicians and the venues will have to up their respective games to ensure audiences can gain access to quality music in a way that’s financially viable but that doesn’t compromise artistic goals.”
Andrew McCormack appears at The Verdict in Brighton with Mark Lockheart on Friday 13th March 2015.
His album, First Light, is out on Edition Records.
Photo by Claire Cousin
This interview was conducted by Charlie Anderson and appeared in the March 2015 issue of The Sussex Jazz Magazine, available by subscribing here.