Sunday, March 9, 2014

Interview with Benet Mclean


Benet Mclean is a jazz pianist, singer, writer and violinist, who I have caught a couple of times playing in London. Ahead of his Wakefield Jazz gig on Friday 14th March I caught up with him for a chat on the email! For more details of the gig please check
Some of you might have spotted him playing in Jay Phelps band last week at Seven Jazz Leeds!

MBS - Is this tour an album tour or will there be other material being played in Wakefield?
BM - Everything's gone by in a bit of a blur recently. I've been involved in another project called Projections of Miles which has been good and I've had several dates with my own group in places such as Derbyshire , Lincoln & more. This date in Wakefield marks the end of a string of dates for us . . . I wouldn't quite call it a tour but it certainly has been an interesting ride. We're playing a mix of stuff , some as yet unrecorded too. I would say 60% from the previous albums and 40% new music (to be recorded in the future). We're really excited about the new release on 33 Jazz Records "Benet M. Live @ the 606" and we want to build on the kind of sounds and ideas we got on that album.

MBS - You have been a pianist and keys player in other peoples bands in your career has this informed your own music?
BM - That's a good question. Inevitably I think it has. Immediately Kevin Haynes Gruppo Elegua comes to mind. My tenure with Dennis Rollins' Bad Bone & Co was really helpful for me to observe presentation options (if that makes sense?). Knowing there are different ways to present the music. I don't wanna get on the straight-aheader's nerves - but I've never really been to interested in turning up to a gig, having a beer and kinda going on and jamming on standards with pretty much the same formula on every tune. I've always been attracted to different ways of doing things i think. Even some of the people that i was so fortunate enough to have as mentors & musical colleagues when I was a child growing up (such as Yehudi Menuhin, my amazing school music teacher Miss Osborne, Kora player and composer Tunde Jegede & many more) have really had a lasting vibe to me. I feel lucky and feel I'm just as much a fan of music as being a musician - when heroes of mine come and play at Ronnie Scott's in London - myself and a couple of friends alway bring albums of the appearing artist to hopefully get an autograph !

MBS - Do you ever sing with a pianist other than yourself?
BM - A few times, yes. I used to sing backing vocals in this 'super-in-vogue' club in London called the Ten Rooms. Celebrities used to be sitting around drinking. The music was loud!! The music was a far cry from the bebop that we love.

MBS - This is your third album as a leader, what is the inspiration behind this one?
BM - Yes, I'm excited about this album - it was recorded last year & is a live album recorded at one gig at the 606, also featuring superb saxophonist Duncan Eagles. I'm not as enthusiastic about live albums that feature material sort of collected from the best parts of gigs. You probably get a stronger selection in a way - but I think might lose the "live at the gig" feel of the album. This album is not only from one gig but it's pretty much from one set too . . . it's pretty much our 2nd set from that gig. I have trouble digging my own stuff though - a lot of times I just hear what could have been better.

MBS - When song writing what comes first, the lyric, the melody, the rhythm or the Harmony?
BM - For me every time it's different. And I'm not a prolific writer too. If an idea comes to me that seems to be leading to a new song then I get the pen and paper out. But I hardly ever sit down and say "right I'm gonna write something now". If it comes then cool . . . but otherwise i'm cool with that too. I'm also, I guess one of my contemporaries, that never uses a computer at any stage of the writing process & still even handwrite all the parts for the band. I like computers and all . . . but I guess I'm just old fashioned. For me the music writing process is head,heart,time to evolve, then pen,paper.

MBS - What makes you want to interpret a particular song?
BM - If it moves me - if it kind of gets inside you.

MBS - You have a healthy interest in art, do you paint?
BM - Not so much these days - I have exhibited some of my paintings and drawings in the past. But honestly I don't really see myself as a fully fledged artisan. It's just something I might do if I'm not doing much creative music for a period you dig?

MBS - Do you like Marmalade?
BM - Love Marmalade actually. Love it... I wanna get paid in Marmalade for the next gig please

Here is one of Benet's youtube clips paying homage to the great jazz pianists as a taster of what to expect on Friday

For more about Benet please check out his web site