Tom Green Interview
Trombonist and composer Tom Green is a graduate of the Royal Academy jazz course and his septet released their debut album last year to critical acclaim. He appears later this month at The Verdict in Brighton as part of the successful New Generation Jazz series.
How did you first get into jazz?
“I was lucky and had an amazing piano teacher when I was growing up, who had a huge love of the great jazz composers like Hoagy Carmichael, Rodgers and Hart, all of those guys who composed for shows at the time and wrote a lot of the standards everyone still plays today. So he got me playing jazz on the piano without me even realising that’s what I was doing! Then when I started learning trombone, I met some other young musicians on county music courses who were interested in improvising – James Davison who plays trumpet in the Septet was one of them. He had grown up playing in his dad’s trad band so we started playing together a bit and going to jam sessions in Cambridge. Then I really caught the bug and started practicing improvisation properly.”
What process do you go through when you compose a piece of music?
“I almost always write at the piano rather than the trombone – I’ve got a big scrapbook of half-finished ideas on manuscript paper that I add to whenever I compose, and it’s actually quite rare to take one to becoming a finished piece! I generally either just mess around, or start with a certain idea or mood of what I want to write and let things evolve from there. I never write straight into Sibelius on a computer as I think it stops you having as much freedom as pencil and paper and pushes the music in a certain direction – having pre-defined bar lengths and time signatures for example. I find I’m quite quick to come up with ideas, it’s finishing them and putting them together into a well-structured piece that takes time. Only when I’ve got almost all of the material together do I put things into Sibelius.”
Which arrangers have influenced you and what have you learnt from them?
“My favourite writer to listen to is Maria Schneider – she has an amazing grasp of harmony but always writes a beautiful melody which ties everything together, so you don’t realise the complexity of everything that’s going on underneath. Also the way she structures her pieces has really influenced me – she often uses improvisation as a way to take the pieces from one section to another, rather than any sort of traditional head-solos-head structure.”
Your septet album Skyline was well received last year. Do you have any plans for more recordings?
“At the moment we have a lot of new material that wasn’t recorded on Skyline which we will be playing at the Verdict in September, but I’m waiting for the right moment to think about the next album. I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted on an artist residency for a week in November where I’ll spend a lot of time writing new music – whether that’s for the septet or a new group I haven’t decided yet. Another recording is definitely on the cards soon though!”
What other projects are you involved with at the moment?
“The collective big band I’m a part of and write for, Patchwork Jazz Orchestra, just won the Peter Whittingham award to put on a number of mini-festivals across London over the next few years. I also play in the Brass Funkeys, a New-Orleans style brass band who play a lot of original material and a lot of festivals over the summer, so that keeps me quite busy! Finally my record company, Spark Label, are just about to release our second album on 1st September, “Scrapbook” featuring compositions by pianist and composer Angus Bayley, alongside an Arts Council funded UK tour, so look out for that too.”
Tom Green Septet perform at The Verdict on Friday 30th September.
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