One of the headline acts of Scarborough Jazz Festival is violinist Nigel Kennedy who will be playing with guitarist John Etheridge and his band.
Jazz Festival Mike Gordon chats to John Etheridge.
MG: John, we are really excited about you coming to this year’s festival to play with Nigel Kennedy. Of course you’re a regular visitor to Scarborough and play almost annually at Scarborough Jazz @ The Cask. I hope you look forward to these visits?
JE: Scarborough has a unique quality as a town and I always look forward to coming here as a visitor and especially to the Festival which I’ve played a number of times and also my regular appearances at Scarborough Jazz Club .
The audience are discerning, responsive and open-minded as you’d expect from a town with such a rich cultural heritage.
MG: Of course John you have performed before at the festival.
JE: The festival is always a big highlight for me – the atmosphere and stagings are excellent. I’ve played I think twice recently - with the Zappatistas and most recently in a duo with Chris Garrick which got a particularly good response.
MG: You’re well known for crossing musical genres – for example the very contrasting time you were with Soft Machine and the tours with the classical guitarist John Williams and the legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli. This must be very demanding?
JE: I suppose it is demanding in a way. But the important thing for me is that I do not approach a musical situation from a fixed position re a cherished personal style. It’s also not a matter of having an arsenal of genres to bring to the table.
I think it’s a matter of absorbing the feel of the music and responding accordingly. For instance in the Soft Machine I find myself playing high energy electric guitar solos, whereas with John Williams I will be concentrating on playing my parts as well as possible and creating parts that complement what John is doing.
The first is more improvisational, the second more formal. When I played with Stephane Grappelli he was very keen that we did not play ‘Hot Club’ cliches and wanted to hear something more personal and exploratory.
This was very encouraging to me and helped bring me out. He was inspiring to work with.
MG: Your musical relationship with Nigel Kennedy goes back a long time. Tell me something about that.
JE: I first met Nigel when I was playing with Grappelli. He was a young lad in shorts. They used to charge through Tiger Rag together. I then reconnected with him in 1989 for a concert at Snape Maltings and then in 1993 started to play regularly in his Jazz and Rock projects.
This went on for quite a number of years but the concert at Scarborough is a kind of getting back together which I’m really excited about as we had a very fruitful relationship for a long time and he is an electric performer as everybody knows.
MG: Can you tell me about the sort of music you will be playing with Nigel Kennedy and about the members of the band.
JE: The band is completed by Yaron Stavi on bass and Mark Fletcher on drums. Yaron is a powerful player and has been seen for many years with Gilad Atzmon. Mark is the brilliant drummer I’ve worked with for years and is capable of handlingany direction in the music that is taken. We will most probably start with an acoustic set which will comprise originals by Nigel and myself peppered with some Reinhardt/Grappelli tunes.
The second set will be amplified and may well be more improvised and subversive with a broader palette of sonic colours.
Hold on to your hats!
The Scarborough Jazz Festival runs at the Spa from Friday September 26 to Sunday September 28.