Ian Price Interview
Tell us a bit about where you’re from and how you got into jazz.
“I’m from Shropshire. At the time I grew up in the 70s and 80s there wasn’t much jazz in Shropshire. In the 80s I had a job in a TV shop and CD players had just come out and I remember hearing a walking bass line in the middle of a Sade record. I was like “what’s that?” and “I want that” so I would just listen to this walking bass line over and over again. And then I had to find out what it was, where it came from. I suppose I must have heard it on the TV but I was never aware of it.”
“Then I joined a band and there was this older guy who played me Kind of Blue and he gave me some album by some trumpet player who I’d heard died young and that turned out to be Clifford Brown. So that was my introduction. Kind of Blue – I went to the record shop the next day and ordered it on vinyl. It took about two weeks to come and I listened to it every night for about 15 years.”
“Then I met a few guys who knew about jazz and they introduced me to the Real Book. This guy turned up with all these books to a rehearsal and said to me “Do you know St. Thomas? Giant Steps?” and I didn’t know anything, but I soon got down to it.”
“Then I had a friend who lived in Brighton and I came down to visit. I stepped off the train and I thought “Yeah, I want to live here. This is the place for me“, just standing outside Brighton Station. So I managed to get down here a few months later and that’s when the real jazz started happening. Somebody put me in touch with Ian Hamer so I went and saw him playing at The Lift [a former jazz venue on Queens Road] and he told me to come and sit in with his big band.
About 1998 I met Terry Seabrook. I saw his band, Cubano Bop, play on the beach and it absolutely blew me away. The next day I remember looking around the record shops trying to find out what this music was. The main part of it, I suppose, was salsa. Within a few weeks I got a call from Terry and he asked me to come and play in his band so that was a big step forward for me. And I’ve been playing in various bands of Terry’s since then, for the past 15 years. I get to play in a lot of different places with him and a lot of different people and great trumpet players. Also I played in his Milestones project with the likes of Alan Barnes, Matt Wates, Martin Shaw. I’m very lucky.”
Tell us a bit about your forthcoming album.
“I’ve done a lot of recording but I’ve never released anything. I listen to it and I don’t like it. I’m recording next month with John Donaldson, Dave Whitford and Spike Wells. A long overdue first album. It’s all ready to go, I’ve written everything. I’ve always written quite a lot but I tend to play things once and then put them on the shelf. But this time, I’ve written all this music over Christmas last year with a spurt of inspiration. I’ve got an album’s worth of stuff, contemporary stuff that’s written specifically for that band. I love John Donaldson’s playing. And also Spike Wells – this guy is just an amazing drummer. And the two of them work well together. I’ve played with Dave Whitford a few times, again with Terry Seabrook, and I think Dave is the right man for the band.”
“I’ll either look for a label or put it out myself. An album these days is more for getting work, really, rather than for making a fortune. It’s a contemporary jazz album, that’s what it is. Just tenor saxophone I think. Maybe a bit of soprano. I’m just about to get a new soprano saxophone. I’m looking forward to that.”
“Both John and Spike, they’re musicians that I hold in high esteem. I’ve heard it said of Spike that he reads your mind when you’re playing, and he does. And Donaldson as well, he’s always feeding ideas. I can play with these guys all day long.”
“There’s a great thing about writing your own music. For instance, you’re on a gig and you stand back and listen to everyone else. And you think “Did I write this? Did I really write this?” I put the chord structure together but to stand back and listen to someone else interpret it, that’s the exciting thing. And to hear those two guys doing it, that’s a big kick. I’m looking forward to recording the album and then hearing what they’ve got to say on my tunes.”
“I’m also making a gypsy jazz record with four of my favourite guitarists – young guys Remi Harris, Bar Zalel from Paris, Kourosh Kanani, and an old guy called Jason Henson. I’m going to make a record with a core rhythm section and each one of those guys.”
So, at the moment, you play saxophone, flute and also clarinet.
“I’ve been playing a lot more clarinet since I’ve been playing gypsy jazz. I never felt like a complete saxophone player until I could play clarinet. It’s a bit more difficult. I got one in 2005 and on and off over the years I picked it up for a week and then put it down. Then, a couple of years ago I took a gig that was just clarinet so I thought ‘I’d better get in some practice’. So I went and did this gig and probably made a right hash of it but I found that each time I did a gig on the clarinet I got a little bit better as I learnt something about how not to play it. And then I started to get quite serious about it and thought “I can’t carry on playing terrible clarinet“. So I’m getting there now. I’ve been through about six clarinets trying to find the right one. It’s a minefield. But the clarinet – I love it. I’m addicted to the thing. I bought a bass clarinet and that’s fun. Clarinet is one of my main focuses at the moment.”
“I’ve got a capacity to practise really boring stuff, like scales. I can practice scales and I like it, I enjoy it. And when I teach I expect everyone else should enjoy it. For me, that’s the quickest way if you’re learning a new instrument, the first thing is to absolutely nail those scales and then you’ve got all the material, the building blocks. Get those out of the way and then start on the language and practise as much as you can.”
“I’m just a jobbing musician who plays all sorts of different styles. Sometimes I have to play pop music, soul music. And that’s my life: just trying to play different instruments in different styles to fit in different situations. Then there’s the more creative side which I think of as my more honest side, where I’m playing my own music. The reason it slots into the jazz genre is because that’s what I love. I love that swing bass line, going back to when I first hear it on that Sade album. But going back to that, that’s the thing that really drives me. So I suppose my music is based around that, but on the way I’ve picked up lots of different things like a love for Brazilian music. I love classical music, particularly twentieth century music. I grew up listening to my mum and dad’s record collection which contained lots of classical music. I go back to things. I’m listening to a lot of Tchaikovsky at the moment. I get a lot of joy out of that and hopefully that comes through in my music. That’s music to me – just trying to get on with it and give people some pleasure whilst enjoying it myself.”
The Ian Price Quintet (feat. Jack Kendon) perform at The Verdict, Brighton on Saturday 19th April, 2014.
For more information on Cubana Bop: www.cubanabop.com
Photo by Eric Pozza / CanberraJazz.net
Ian Price sadly passed away in August 2014.
More information can be found on this website: www.ianpricemusic.co.uk