Chris Coull Interview
Trumpeter Chris Coull, now based in Hove, talks to Charlie Anderson about his jazz travels, The Three Trumpeteers and his new gig and jam session
at The Palmeira in Hove.
How did you get into jazz?
“I’d just switched school when I was 17, in sixth form and I met this guy who was a fellow brass player and he just gave me a tape of Miles Davis. I’d never heard anything like that before and I just wanted to try and play something like the tapes that I heard.”
Which period of Miles?
“It’s not a period that I’m all that fond of now. It was sort of 1965 or something. It was after Coltrane left and it was quite heavy stuff. It got me into the first great quintet with Red Garland and Paul Chambers. That was the sound. But in those days there was nothing to teach you. In the Eighties there wasn’t really even any Jamey Aebersold and real books were hard to come by. We had a little band at school and we tried to do So What. All we knew was that it went from D minor to Eb minor. The pianist would play it and I thought ‘that doesn’t sound right’. We were like a ship without a rudder, but bit by bit, you go on a jazz course or summer school and you pick it up. I think these days there’s a lot more information out there which is great.”
What happened after that?
“After that I went to university to study chemistry, so nothing to do with music. I just did music on the side. The more I got into it the more I started to practice and take it seriously. When I got my first ‘proper job’, it was in the middle of Cumbria so there wasn’t an awful lot to do after work every day. So I ended up ‘shedding’ a lot and then decided to give up my job and go to Leeds College of Music. I was a little bit older than most people, about 24/25 when I went there. So I did that for a couple of years and then I moved abroad. I went to visit my sister who was living in Kenya at the time. I got offered a job there and from there I went to the Middle East and Qatar and I just started playing lots of gigs and started setting up bands. I think about 10 years ago I set up a company called Doha Jazz. Originally it was just a way of giving myself some work, having a website and promoting my own band but it ended up being more of an agency. So that’s still going on out there, and then I moved back to Brighton 2 years ago. Since I’ve been back here, it’s been great to explore the fantastic culture that we have here. Not just the music culture of course but also theatre and art. But jazz in particular seems to be really, really flourishing in Brighton. We’re really, really lucky here. Outside of London, I don’t know if there are as many places that are as rich as Brighton and Hove. For me, personally, it’s been an absolute godsend to come back to somewhere like this after what I would almost consider to be ‘musical exile’ after ten years. There are some great players out in Qatar but there’s not the depth of players that you’ll get here. There are half a dozen or a dozen great bass players in Brighton, numerous pianists and saxophone players, guitarists and trumpeters like me, Jack [Kendon] and Gabriel [Garrick]. There’s all sorts of people to see and interact with at jazz clubs and jam sessions. So it’s really people who live here who aren’t always aware of how lucky we are.”
So, what brought you to Brighton in the first place?
“I did a summer school here about ten or fifteen years ago in Rottingdean, and met local musicians who were playing around at the time. And when we had to decide where to come back to, it’s just a beautiful place, the weather’s nice, the countryside is fantastic, the South Downs. We looked at a few different places (Suffolk, Kent, Surrey) but as soon as we started looking around Brighton and Hove, me and my family.”
Tell us about the Palmeira gigs and the jam session.
“We’ve already started with Geoff Simkins, Dan Sheppard, Terry Seabrook, Dave Trigwell and myself doing a tribute to Clifford Brown. Then it was Jason Henson plays Wes and Benson, followed by Sara Oschlag and then The Three Trumpeteers, which is myself, Jack Kendon and Gabriel Garrick as a front line playing unashamedly blistering bebop from the 1950s.”
“So each week we’ve got a featured band who are going to play a set and then after that it’s a jam session. So we’re hoping to really attract a lot of different jazz fans, because we’ve got these different bands playing, and also a lot of jazz musicians to sit in.”
“Since the Wednesday night jam at The Verdict shut, there are a couple of other things on Wednesdays but it would be nice to get something going again. Personally, I’ve really been hankering after something that I can call my own, since I’ve been back here. So it would be great to really get this off the ground and be able to run that.”
So the group The Three Trumpeteers. Is that the same band that I saw playing at Love Supreme?
“That’s right. We did a one-off gig at Love Supreme last summer and then it laid dormant for a while. Then we started it up again in January with some rehearsals. We’re playing at The Palmeira on the 13th and we’ve got a gig at The Hare & Hounds [Worthing] on 31st May and then we’re at The Verdict at some point in August. And hopefully we’ll do more after that.”
“It’s an interesting band because it’s an unusual lineup with three trumpets at the front and then a three piece rhythm section. But that lends itself to a certain sound which is really nice. I’ve done some of the arrangements but Roy Hilton has done quite a lot as well as original compositions of Roy’s. He’s a guy with a lot of experience and know-how so it’s great to have him on board.”
“A lot of people know Jack Kendon, he’s a bebop trumpet player on the Brighton scene and then there’s Gabriel Garrick, a blistering trumpet showman. So we’ve got these three trumpets who are all from roughly the same period of time in terms of the style that we play – bebop 1950s style – but each of us has a different take. Jack is probably a bit more modern, Gabriel’s got a foot in both camps, with swing and bebop, and myself, I’m more from earlier bebop, the Clifford Brown and Fats Navarro school. So it’s nice to have those differing outlooks of the same genre.”
So what are you listening to at the moment?
“I’m actually listening to a lot of different stuff as I’m training for a marathon. So I’ve got my iPod shuffle on. If you want to donate then it’s www.justgiving.com/chriscoull. I’m raising money for a great local charity, which was run by another local trumpeter Steve Lawless, called Brighton & Hove Impetus.”
“But on my shuffle I’ve got all sorts. I really like listening to big bands. Even though my heart is in bebop but I love modern big band, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. And I’ll be playing with the Straight No Chaser Big Band in their tribute to Thad Jones at The Brunswick on Sunday 3rd April. That’s one of the other things about living in Doha. There’s not enough musicians to create a big band. It’s nice here because you’ve got Studio 9, Straight No Chaser and lots of others.”
“I’m a trumpet player so of course I listen to Kenny Dorham, Clifford Brown, Woody Shaw, Freddie Hubbard, Miles of course. I quite like a lot of the modern trumpet players from New York such as Dominick Farinacci and Bruce Harris. The usual suspects, I guess, including Chet Baker and Wynton. Trumpet is an interesting instrument because you’ve got everything from Chet Baker to Arturo Sandoval and everything in between so there’s a lot of different ways that you can approach it.”
Do you play any other instruments?
“I play piano. Especially when I first worked in Doha, I was playing quite a lot of piano, just because there was a lack of pianists. Occasionally, I do the odd gig here and there, but it’s very useful for arranging and composing. I used to play the egg shaker until I was told by a certain local musician ‘don’t bother’, so that went back in the bag.”
Jazz Jam at The Palmeira, Hove
every Wednesday evening
Featured band: 8pm
Jam session: 9pm
For more information on Chris Coull: