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David Lyttle: Leading Jazz Into The Hinterlands

Ian Patterson By

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Equally rewarding for Lyttle, is the fact that this Irish tour is an entirely independent effort. "The tour is completely unfunded and we're doing okay. I'll happily accept funding but I do think if you can't do your thing without funding something is not quite right." In fact, the funding Lyttle got from the Arts council of Northern Ireland for his USA road-trip project was the first time he had ever received that sort of support. "It was fantastic to receive that kind of support and endorsement for my work," acknowledges Lyttle, "but I stayed independent for fifteen years before getting into that kind of thing. You have to find a way to do whatever it is you do independently too."

Whilst Lyttle is approaching this Irish tour as he would any other, musically speaking, it's still special in other regards. "I'm very passionate and caring about what I do. Part of it is sharing the music and part of it is trying to break down these misconceptions about the music. On the islands people might be appreciative that we've come. I'm interested in seeing their home, seeing where they live and how they live. We'll play for the schools, it's not just like another tour date for us—it's not really about that. I think if you can convey that then it becomes a bit more meaningful for them."

The template of this Irish tour maybe points the way for young, up-and-coming jazz musicians, as well as more veteran practitioners, to forge a career and play more than just a handful of dates. It's perhaps also an alternative to the obligation that many musicians feel to teach in order to pay the rent. "I really do believe that," affirms Lyttle. "It's becoming harder and harder to make a living from recorded music and the city experience is becoming more and more difficult. It's just so expensive to live. Also, because the city has been so culturally relevant, these small places have been overlooked."

For Lyttle, the touring is in the blood. "Touring is how you reach your heights. That's why all the great players that we all admire are so good, because they're constantly touring. They're not just playing concerts here and there, they're going on tour, going deeper and deeper and getting better every night.

"I don't have a problem being out there performing two hundred gigs a year—that's what I always wanted to do. It's also a return to what it used to be. If you go back to the 1920s and 1930s and you think of someone like Robert Johnson—even before jazz as we know it—who travelled from town to town playing for whatever he could get—room, board, booze, a bit of money, and then he moved onto the next town. He was sort of a folk hero rather than a celebrity. Later, jazz bands had their own buses and trains. They were constantly on the road and they played everywhere."

This Irish tour then, sees Lyttle and Leighton reconnecting with time-honored tradition. "It's a return to an old-fashioned existence as a musician," says Lyttle, "and I think that's great."

For details of David Lyttle and Joseph Leighton's duo tour into the hinterlands of Ireland check out David Lyttle's website

Photo Credit: Paul Brown

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