Christine Tobin and Liam Noble: Unraveling Tapestry
As a writer, as well as an interpreter of other people's work, Tobin has a specific approach to songs from other writers: "With other people's songs I always try to angle the tune completely differently. Sometimes it might be a groove or a bass line that I can pick up on...then I can maybe change the chords. It just develops, but usually I do change things aroundchange the structure or the harmony." Tobin's approach to writing is less formal: "It's a bit of a mystery, really" she says, laughing: "Generally the words come first, then it'll be the chords and probably the melody will be last. But with "Closing Time" I actually wrote the melody and the lyrics first."
Tobin's next project is already in the planning stages and it will return to her more usual way of creating an album. "It'll be mostly originals. I usually throw in a couple of non-originals as well. I've got about five new songs ready so far." The album will also see a return to a larger line up of musicians. "There are seven of us altogether: Kate Shortt on cello, Phil Robson on guitar, Liam, of course, Dave Whitford on bass, Thebe Lipere on percussion and Simon Lea on drums." This is the same line up that appeared on The Secret Life Of A Girl: Tobin's "first call" group. "Yeah, it's great because they bring so much variety to the music." They are also personally close, an aspect of the working relationship that Tobin sees as vital: "For me it's quite important to develop a musical relationship...we're all good friends. I know some people thrive on animosity, but I don't."
Noble's own most recent major album is also a contrast to the Tapestry Unravelled project. Brubeck (Basho Records, 2009) finds Noble's trio tackling some of the work of pianist Dave Brubeck, and was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2010 Parliamentary Jazz Awards.
How does Noble compare the work of Carole King and Dave Brubeck? Is it a major conceptual or technical leap to move from playing Brubeck tunes to performing King songs? "In a way it is a bit of a leap, but they tap into different sides of my musical interests. With Brubeck, I had a couple of tunes that I really wanted to play and I thought that I would really like to play his stuff because I knew that it would annoy some people. I really like his music but I can see what people don't like. But that's not my priority with musicthese technical things people don't likeand there are a lot of things he was doing before Bill Evans and other people. So it felt interesting, and I thought that the fans would like it." Does this mean that British jazz audiences like familiarity? "Yes, quite a lot of them" Noble believes, "but it's a sliding scale. The average mid-point of that scale is a bit more conservative than it might be elsewhere in Europe."
As the duo play more live gigs they are starting to get some all important audience feedback. Noble is enjoying the responses: "Feedback's pretty good for the most part. It's strange, though, it's unlike a lot of jazz gigs because people know those songs and their reaction is a lot to do with hearing the songs againalmost relief that they're not disappointed. It's quite unusual for jazz musicians to take on music that's iconic in its original form. You're almost under pressure to live up to that." The audience is also different from the usual jazz audience, with many coming to gigs specifically because of the songs. Again, Noble finds this interesting and positive: "There was one gig in particular where there just seemed to be a lot of people that seemed to be from different...a different demographic...Part of the reason for doing this is to find a way of doing something that may be accessible to people but to play it in a way that we can still enjoy it...trying to play the songs like they're not already famous."
Christine Tobin/Liam Noble, Tapestry Unravelled (Trail Belle Records, 2010)
Liam Noble Trio, Brubeck (Basho Records, 2009)
Christine Tobin, Secret Life Of A Girl (Babel, 2008)
Liam Noble/Ingrid Laubrock, Let's Call This (Babel, 2006)
Liam Noble, Romance Among The Fishes (Basho Records, 2005)
Christine Tobin, Romance And Revolution (Babel, 2004)
Liam Noble Group, In The Meantime (Basho Records, 2003)
Christine Tobin, You Draw The Line (Babel, 2003)
Christine Tobin, Deep Song (Babel, 2000)
Christine Tobin, House Of Women (Babel, 1998)
Christine Tobin, Yell Of The Gazelle (Babel, 1996)
Christine Tobin, Aililiu (Babel, 1995)
Pages 1, 4: Curtis Schwartz
Pages 2, 3: Bruce Lindsay