Gareth Lockrane: Doing That Grooveyard Thing
There's a fine attention to detail about Lockrane's work that extends to the way his music is presented and to exceptional cover art and graphics that decorate the sleeves of his CDs, courtesy of old friends Bill Bragg and Matt Wiley. Wiley is responsible for the overall design, whilst Bragg does the cover.
"We're old friends," Lockrane says. "I really think when you get an album you should be into it before you've even put the first track onthe artwork and the design, it's all got to be one thing. Bill's fantastic. There's a lovely link, actually. We were basically friends before we were even born because our dads both taught at the same collegemy dad taught illustration and his dad taught graphics at what was Stoke Polytechnic and is now Stafford University. We're still best friends. The funny thing with the first album with the two catsthat caricature of Alex and mewe had done a load of photos where we were trying to look mean and edgy and he took one look at these pictures and sat in a corner doodling away and came up with these perfect cat icons of us two that seemed to sum up the whole thing. He just brought out the humor side of it and communicated that and it suited the music. I love what he does."
Lockrane's eye for detail may perhaps owe something to his dad. But his love of music and of film also stem from a rich and fulfilling upbringing at home and in the area of Staffordshire in which he grew up. His dad played chromatic harmonica and a bit of flute as well.
"He played a really kind of mean blues flute in 'G,'" he says laughing. "So, I was used to having this bluesy flute sound in the house. The first things I heard as a baby were James Clay, Frank Wess and Roland Kirkjust these sounds around the house from my dad. I got my first instrument when I was ten and got into jazz off my own back when I was about 14 by joining the school jazz group with some brilliant, supportive characters like my teacher at school and people on the Midlands jazz scene like Chris Gumbley, who ran a jazz club in Stafford. He was a huge influence when I was a teenager. He ran a jazz evening class in Stoke-on-Trent, where I lived back then. For a teenager's first jazz club, he ran the perfect place in Stafford, this smoke-filled room where Chris would often do this solo saxophone spot between the main sets and I'd see all these London guys come up to play. I used to have this 20-mile cycle ride to see the gigs at his club when I was a kid."
"Memories In Widescreen," from The Strut, is, in a sense, a tribute to his father, who died a few years ago. "That was about being a kid, going to the cinema with my dad," he says, "and just that feeling of the curtains opening on this huge widescreen and the whole scope of that. I just used to love that feeling. I guess I was trying to get into those internal memories of that and my dad passed away a few years ago and he really got me into music in the first place. So, it's memories of my dad and going to the movies. I think I wrote that tune round about the time I went to film school. The melody is fairly minimal and, as I said, that was the huge influence of film school because we were all encouraged to write less using minimal melodies and slowly moving harmonies. It was all these things coming together at once."
Lockrane studied for his first degree at the Royal Academy of Music in London with British jazz stalwarts such as saxophonists Stan Sulzmann and Mark Lockheart, flautist/keyboardist Eddie Parker and trombonist Hugh Fraser. It was there also that he struck up musical relationships with fellow students, trumpeter Steve and drummer Matt Fishwick, bassist Orlando le Fleming and saxophonist Osian Roberts. In 1997, his band The Jazz System, formed with Roberts, was a finalist in the Vienna Jazz Festival Grande Concours de Jazz. In 1998, he studied on the Lake Placid Jazz Course in New York with saxophonists Joe Lovano and Dick Oatts, and composer/arranger Jim McNeely and in 2000 he was a finalist in the BBC's Young Jazz Musician of the Year competition. Flautist Eddie Parker has proved an enduring influence and connects Lockrane with another important figure in the young man's lifethe late and much-loved South African musician and composer Bheki Mseleku. Parker, of course, played on Mseleku's feted, first album Celebration (WCD, 1992). Lockrane was into Mseleku's music even before he went to the Royal Academy but only met him in 2006, two years before the South African's death from an illness related to his diabetes. Following a duo rehearsal together, Lockrane began working with Mseleku