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Catching Up With

Stan Sulzmann: Neon Quartet

By Published: October 24, 2012
AAJ: Back in the 1960s, what was the nature of your musical training?

SS: It certainly wasn't academic! I grew up playing in rock and roll bands. Aged 15, I was in the Wimbledon Palais house band playing Top 20 hits and wearing a mohair suit. I used to go down the Flamingo in Soho and sit in with Georgie Fame
Georgie Fame
Georgie Fame
b.1943
keyboard
and the Blue Flames, Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band. A lot of jazz musicians played in those bands because it was a way to make money. Being around them, I learnt a lot.

Then I worked in bands on Atlantic passenger liners. Birdland had closed, but I got everywhere else, the Village Vanguard, plenty of clubs were still presenting jazz. That was an education too.

So by the time I came off the boats, I was pretty experienced. But a year or so later, I became a mature student here at the Royal Academy. There wasn't a jazz course, I was studying saxophone. [Saxophonist] John Dankworth
John Dankworth
John Dankworth
1927 - 2010
saxophone
was my teacher. I'd worked with some really fine older musicians over the previous few years, and one or two of them suggested that I could usefully do some formal study of the instrument.

AAJ: You've recorded some great music with big bands. Are we going to hear more of that in the near future?

SS: Keeping the big band on the road is obviously not practical. We do occasional festival gigs. But next year, I'm hoping there will be a mini-tour, four or five nice gigs in decent places. The problem with a big band is you have to have funding, and that's never easy to get.

I've got a load of new music ready, of course, I'm always writing. I've done a collection of arrangements of tunes by British jazz musicians that I'd like us to record-Nikki Iles, [saxophonist] Iain Ballamy
Iain Ballamy
Iain Ballamy
b.1964
sax, tenor
, John Taylor, John Parricelli, [guitarist] Mike Walker
Mike Walker
b.1962
guitar, electric
, Kenny Wheeler, [guitarist] Jim Mullen, [pianist] Kate Williams. It's an ongoing project, really; there's no end to it.

AAJ: Finally, what gets you out of bed in the morning?

SS: I'm a simple person. I was a Cockney lad in Islington. I just lived to go out and play music. I still do. I get moved by the power of music. There's a Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Ben Webster
1909 - 1973
sax, tenor
solo on [saxophonist] Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
Oliver Nelson
1932 - 1975
arranger
's More Blues And The Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1964) that I use for teaching. He's only played three notes and I'm in tears. I do believe there's a power in music-it could be rhythm, it could be harmony-that takes you out of yourself. You feel elevated. That's what I've always wanted, to be outside, up there, to get in that place. It's a lovely feeling.

Selected Discography

Neon Quartet, Subjekt (Edition, 2012)

Neon Quartet, Catch Me (Edition, 2010)

Neon, Here To There (Basho, 2008)

Stan Sulzmann/Marc Copland/Larry Grenadier/Bill Stewart, Jigsaw (Basho, 2004)

Kenny Wheeler, Music For Large And Small Ensembles (ECM, 2002)

Stan Sulzmann, Birthdays, Birthdays (Village Life, 2000)

Stan Sulzmann, Treasure Trove (ASC, 1996)

Stan Sulzmann/Marc Copland, Never At All (FMR, 1992)

Stan Sulzmann, Feudal Rabbits (Ah Um, 1991)

Photo Credit

Stan Sulzmann
Stan Sulzmann
Stan Sulzmann

saxophone


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