Gareth Lockrane: Doing That Grooveyard Thing
"It was a really healthy timeback-to-back projects, not knowing how they were going to pan out but just having to dive in there as part of a team situation," he continues. "And, of course, working with non-musicians was a huge thing. You get so used to talking in 'muso' shorthand. With other musicians you take so many things as read and don't question what it is you're trying to communicate with your writing. When you're collaborating with non-muso characters you have to think 'What is this?,' 'What is the music required to communicate?' So, that's a whole new angle really'What is this piece trying to do?' In a jazz context, you're using an established structure, but with film projects it's more about moving from A to B, from beginning to end."
The music certainly is, at times, filmic but there's no sense that these tunes need visual images to come alive. They have movement and flow and there's a lithe grace and even elegance to pieces like "One For Bheki" (of which and of whom more shortly) and "Memories In Widescreen," and an earthiness to the title track and the opener, "Frizz." In fact, there's almost a hint of Lalo Schifrin about the latter. However, this is also music filled with sly twists and surprises. It might sound relaxed on the ear but it's multilayered and assured as well. Take the Roland Kirk-inflected "Whistleblower." It has almost a samba feel but there's something else going on to, as the piece threatens to become totally unhinged at various points, whilst "Method In The Madness" moves between hard-bop and Latin jazz with consummate ease. But, then, this is a very sharp, tight quintet.
Saxophonist tyro Alex Garnett kind of co-leads Grooveyard. Still young himself, Garnett's something of a cult figure to London's even more youthful young saxophonists; there's a Stanley Turrentine quality and vigor to his playing. Ross Stanley, on Hammond organ, not only has great chops, but he swings and the sound he gets from the organ is simply lovelyfull-fat but never greasywhile drummer Nick Smalley is a beast; Lockrane describes him as "this insane, tattooed maniac," certainly a compliment. That leaves Mike Outram, a wonderfully accomplished musician and one of those guitarists who just seems to have it all in the tips of his fingers, and, on several tracks, singer Nia Lynn. Lynn plays with Ross Stanley and Lockrane in the Bannau Trio and the tone of her voice is just beautiful.
If the inspiration for Grooveyard lies in the sixties/seventies organ-led soul jazz of guys like saxophonist Eddie Harris, Turrentine, pianist Les McCann and organist Jimmy Smith, Lockrane's septet is something else again. In a way, it's more of a vehicle for Lockrane's compositional ambitions and the group's No Messin' (Gailforce, 2008) won the prestigious All-Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group award for best CD in 2010.
"With the septet, during college and even before that, I'd always been into arranging and composing for larger groups," Lockrane points out. "So, with the septet there was more of a focus on having an acoustic piano trio with horn arrangements, just trying to get into the vibe of that. At the time, I was really listening a lot to Jimmy Heath and Tadd Dameron and the more contemporary guys like Jim McNeely and Walt Weiskopf. Trying to get into those kinds of zones a little bit but also trying to find a place for the flute in a larger ensemble. So, I was using a lot of alto flute trying to find a context for the instrument in a more large scale environment."
No Messin' clearly comes from the same pen as The Strut, but has more of a metropolitan jazz club feel compared to the quintet's roadhouse groove. More than that, Lockrane has then been able to pool the resources of both groups to create a big band that extends the possibilities of his unusual compositional skills still further, allowing him to explore influences as diverse as trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, arranger/orchestrator Don Sebesky and composer/arranger Maria Schneider alongside pianists Duke Ellington and Count Basie, and bassist Charles Mingus as well. As he explains, "It was just a way of getting a long-running project together where I can develop the writing, and it's gone on for about three years and I'm really happy with how it's progressed. A lot of world-class musicians have given up their time and been up for it, which is great and given me the confidence to carry on with it." Keep watchingthere should be a live album next year.