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If you don’t know Mathew Halsall, he’s “taking jazz to new territories and to a new audience” as a musician, band leader, record label boss and DJ.
Radio 1’s Gilles Peterson is a big fan and it was a rare opportunity to see Matthew on the South coast and I just had to get an update on what he’s up to.
To be honest, I had hoped to do a WIRE magazine style ‘Virtual Jukebox’ interview but the technology was not quite up to the mark and he’d only just arrived after a five and half hour train journey from Manchester (with a coach ‘bonus’ leg from Southampton).
So no messin’, after I met him at his sound check at Piazza Express just before Christmas I was keen to know how’s the new album coming along as its been some time since the he released Colour Yes on his own Gondwana Records, “I’ve been mixing it almost non-stop. I’m no Rudy Van Gelder (Blue Note’s studio legend who is still at it, and most recently with another young trumpet player, Jeremy Pelt) but it should be finished soon”. I hope so as there’s a tour date booked for 28th April so keep your eyes open for that but I thought I’d at least get the new title out of him, he chuckles, “I can’t tell you that. There’s been at least 15 different ones already but I’ll know when I’ve found the right one”; Spiritual Surfing?
After gracing Soho’s Pizza Express and whilst mentioning Gilles Peterson, Matthew was also at the last Peterson/Forge Dingwalls reunion last year and more recently at the Koko Worldwide Awards gig. With James Blake was the name of everyone’s lips (he’s the one that broke with the underground electronica of ‘CMYK’ but has now broke into the mainstream with a new album on A&M (a label 50% founded by trumpet legend, Herb Albert) that features his version of Feist’s ‘Limit To Your Love’). “I don’t suppose KOKO is the venue for his type of piano based act but the German band (that’s Brandt Brauer Frick, check out the album You Make Me Real) were my favourites on the night”.
And even though Matthew was nominated for the ‘Best Worldwide Session’ Award, (and should have got that and the best Brownswood Podcast in our book), he didn’t get backstage, “I’m sure Gilles would have sorted it out if he’d had seen me but I prefer to mingle in the crowd and look out for friends that I don’t see very often” and he threatens “but I should be coming down south much more this year”.
Because, Matthew Halsall is not only mixing his new album, there’s a new Nat Birchall album on the way (the follow up to Guiding Spirit and Akhenaten and there’s a new project called Mathew Halsall Remixed. “This is a live jazz hip hop band where I’ve got together with Kristian Gjerstad (turntables), Clive Hunte (bass), Jason Sings (beatboxing) and MC Baba Isreal, formerly of Brooklyn and currently resident in Manchester”. With Matthew on trumpet of course, “I’m working on rearranging some of my songs in a Tribe Called Quest influenced style”. Matthew was early a hip-hop fan before he was ever into jazz, “My friends’ Dad bought some turntables and he was kind enough to let us play with them. Even then, it took me a while to understand how hip-hop bands sample records and that led me into jazz”. I suppose that’s how it happened for most of his younger fan base, if not by DJing, by finding the source records, particularly Blue Note and we’d both recommend the Blue Breaks compilation series.
There’s already a Mathew Halsall Remixed gig booked in Exeter and he hopes to play some summer festivals. He says, “MCs have got to be saying something positive for me” and apart from Baba Israel “my favourite is Roots Manuva (definitely a longstanding favourite on this site, and last seen here with Wrongtom) especially when he’s on other people’s records”. I wonder if there’s collaboration we could get the wheels in motion with these two?
And talking of which, I know Mathew would love to work with Dwight Trible (or even Daedelus) as he’s very much influenced by the old and new. Stan Tracey was in town (Poole) last week, “Did he play ‘Under Milk Wood’?” (no). “When I finished Colour Yes people were saying that they could hear how I was influenced by that and I hadn’t even heard it!” (more props for Gilles and we then talked at length about Gilles’ Impressed compilations that went onto become Jazz Britannia). “I didn’t know that there was such a scene in Britain then” but that’s not to say he hasn’t travelled or that he doesn’t have a love of the rougher side of things, “I saw Soil’n’Pimp Sessions’ in Japan New Year’s Eve in 2006 and they were fantastically good”.
They didn’t get into his DJ set that featured tracks by Art Blakey, Mulatu, Alice Coltrane and the Shawn Lee/Bei Bei version of ‘East’ and lots of re-issues by labels like Jazzman and Soundway. Simon S is planning on posting his set as a podcast (I’ll update this piece as soon as I have details) but for now, there’s my Podcast (click link HERE) and you’ll notice I played a little trick after the introduction to John Coltrane at Newport; “That’s not John Coltrane!” said Matthew and thankfully he was smiling.
He confides, “I hope one day that whatever John Coltrane had (after he made a pact with God - see Spiritual Vibes - Church Of John Coltrane), it will suddenly click into place with me”. He freely admits that he’s not the best at practicing but with his other activities to co-ordinate; he’s as equally influenced by Manchester’s Factory ‘creative’ Tony Wilson (RIP).
Hopefully Matthew got to see a bit more of Bournemouth the next day as when he played Bristol last month (“I only saw the venue and the café next door!”). As the weather was bad, it was just the type of conditions that gets the surfers out - Matthew bag isn’t exactly traditional surf music, more like spiritual surfing and it’s time to catch a wave and musically, it was a Big Saturday.
Perhaps tomorrow’s session will be as equally big [As Valet is coming over!] and thanks as ever to the Futuristic Music duo of Simon S and Deborah Jordan for organising the event and to Martin Gordon for his ever consistent DJ sets - how do you follow ‘Southern Freeez’?
Photo: “Matthew at Dingwalls relaxing with a pint, 2010” by Gerry Hectic
Matthew Halsall and Nat Birchall, St. George’s Jan 27th http://wp.me/ppNiw-6D
www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/feb/05/clubs-picks-of-the-week Jazz Chronicles, Bournemouth Boasting record fairs, live music and art exhibitions as well as some delightfully esoteric club nights, Sixty Million Postcards certainly has a more diverse outlook than the Edwards Bar, which formerly occupied this site. And their laudably widescreen approach is further illustrated with today’s launch of a laidback afternoon jazz session. It’s hosted by Simon S, from influential London-based label Futuristica Music, which has released tracks by Low Budget Soul and the London Trio among many others in a half decade of innovative sound work. For this afternoon’s curtain-raiser, expect a gentle sweep through jazz, hip-hop, soul and broken beats. Classic labels such as Blue Note, Impulse, Strata East, CTI and Black Jazz will be represented alongside contemporary outfits such as Sonar Kollektiv, Tru-Thoughts, Kindred Spirit, Wah Wah 45s and of course Futuristica Music itself.
Jazz Chronicles at Sixty Million Postcards, Exeter Road, Saturday 5thFebruary 2011 - every first Saturday of the month with resident DJs Simon S, Martin Gordon (Brownswood) and Gerry Hectic (FlyGlobalMusic) John Mitchell
Boscombe Beach Pier and Boscombe Reef Webcam www.sortedsurfshop.co.uk