Interview: Moses Boyd
Following on from the Yussef Kamaal Trio’s stellar performance of the Idris Muhammed Songbook, Church of Sound are back with a night that's bound to be just as special.
Art Blakey's work both as a band leader, with The Jazz Messengers, and in collaborations with some of the greatest names in jazz amounts to some of the most celebrated bebop and hard-bop. The influence of Blakey's work spans decades of music and continues to do so, with some incredible new jazzcats taking the scene by storm.
Multi-award winning drummer Moses Boyd is set to take on Art Blakey's songbook alongside Theon Cross, Artie Zaitz, Binker Golding and Nathaniel Cross. Having just released his first dancefloor-ready 12", ‘Rye Lane Shuffle’, the drummer and producer continues to cause excitement among the new generation of jazz musicians. Ahead of the show, we sat down with Moses to discuss the work of Art Blakey and the importance of appreciating music that came before.
Support also comes from new-comers, Vels Trio, who bring their exciting, boundary-pushing 'Future Jazz' sound to the church in Hackney. Moses and two thirds of the Trio got together in the church for an impromptu jam. Check out the result in the short teaser video below. It's bound to get you as excited as we are!
First off, let’s talk about the work of Art Blakey. What does it mean to you?
It's deep. First of all, his contribution to drumming is immense. He's a complete powerhouse of rhythm and technically his facility is amazing, completely a unique voice on the drums. Also, as a band leader I have great respect for him in the way he used the brand of Jazz Messengers to bring through various great musicians like Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan and Cedar Walton, enabling them to have the music heard and recorded whilst under his mentorship.
Blakey has played with an incredible list of musicians, but if you had to choose one track of his or that he’s played on what would be your favourite and why?
I would say the track 'Free For All' on the album of the same name. For me it's got all the drama and excitement of Art Blakey in one song. It's a modal tune which for musicians is really an opportunity for them to stretch out and get down and dirty. He does just that, no messing around, complete unapologetic Real Swing! The frontline features Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter and the way Blakey pushes each one of their solos is just incredible.
Interpretation has always been central to jazz. How do you feel the contemporary musical landscape influences the way you interpret jazz music of the past?
I guess I'm more open in trying to find different ways to approach playing this music. There are definitely times and situations where I’ve played more strictly in the style of an era of jazz like bebop, or big band, and I think that's important in terms of really understanding the mechanics and culture of a music. But given it’s my own project I tend to be more open to trying new approaches and ideas that are for sure influenced by jazz of the past but at the same time reflective of what is going on now.
Your own music, as with a lot of other contemporary jazz, takes a lot from electronic/dance music. How much does this have an impact on your interpretations?
I try to infuse all of what I'm into into my music. Whether electronic music, reggae, souI, or grime I think it's all relevant as it's as much of an influence to me as jazz. I don't really even try to label what I do as jazz, it's just MY music. For me, all my favourite artists who I admire and respect were all encompassing and reflective of their time and space. Really that's what I'm trying to do, and being born in London I've been lucky to have been around so much music it's hard not let it influence the music I create.
This show is special for its setting within a church and the unique layout (with the audience surrounding the musicians), how do you think this will affect the performance?
I always enjoy playing in this set up, I think it makes you more focused on the real time musical experience and creates less of a band vs the audience type show. If I could I would always play like this. Playing in the church is cool as sonically each church has its own unique character and atmosphere to adapt to. I'm a strong believer in the transformative powers of music, and hopefully for anyone coming down I hope we can provide that experience. But I don't place too much emphasis on the building.
The UK jazz scene is currently popping off with artists pushing the boundaries across the board. How important are shows like this for contemporary musicians in showing appreciation to the greats of the past?
I think it's great. In any walk of life I think it’s good to hail up those that came before you. Also I think it's great because it can allow the audience to delve deeper into the history of a music. I think these kind of shows are great in letting artists show what they do whilst at the same time opening people up to the artist that influenced them.
Finally, we're really digging the Rye Lane Shuffle 12". Any hints as to what's next?
More music! Got all sorts of ideas and projects brewing. Just keep your eyes peeled.