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Laura Jurd: Big Footprints

Ian Patterson By

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It’s difficult to describe, but I always find it such an exciting thing about art in general–the whole universal language thing that it achieves and the way it can connect a bunch of strangers in a room. —Laura Jurd
Every few years a band appears that injects a welcome shot of adrenaline into the jazz mainstream, exciting media, promoters and fans alike—the Neil Cowley Trio, Phronesis, GoGo Penguin and Snarky Puppy all spring to mind. Dinosaur, an English quartet led by trumpeter Laura Jurd, is being widely tipped to create such waves on the strength of Its debut album, Together, As One (Editions, 2016). It's received glowing reviews, catapulting the group to the front cover of Jazzwise—the UK's leading jazz magazine—and garnering a rare five star thumbs-up from The Guardian's John Fordham. The UK has succumbed to this exciting new group and the rest of Europe beckons.

A new group? Well, not entirely. Jurd, Elliot Galvin, Conor Chaplin and Corrie Dick have been together since 2010, going under the name of the Laura Jurd Quartet. After one critically acclaimed album and six years gigging and building a musical identity, it seemed like an odd move, not to say a risky one, to change the band's name.

"A lot of the bands that I love—none of them are called the so-and-so Quartet," explains Jurd. "Because of the direction the music was heading in, and because it feels like such a band and not a fleeting project, I just didn't feel it was right anymore to call it that [Laura Jurd Quartet] anymore, though I'm sure I will do projects in the future under my own name."

The name Dinosaur and its music had been fermenting in Jurd's mind for some time. "I had this band called Dinosaur in my head, which was electric, a bit rocky, and way in the future. The music we were playing started to turn into that and I started thinking, maybe this funny little fantasy band I have in my head is actually my band," Jurd laughs. "Definitely we had to make a decision about the name before recording an album because once you've made an album as a band that's it."

Under the former LJQ moniker, the quintet recorded one album, 2012's Landing Ground (Chaos Collective), which featured Jurd's original writing for the quartet and the Ligeti String Quartet, plus Jurd's duets with cello, piano and drums. The music on Together, As One, however, is markedly different, almost as if a different band were behind the music.

"When we were making this album I had gone really deep into a lot of those 1970's Miles Davis albums, Jurd relates. "It's just where my head is at the moment. I love albums like Live Evil (Columbia, 1971) Jack Johnson (Columbia, 1971), Bitches Brew (Columbia, 1970), On the Corner (Columbia, 1972). I love listening to how Miles plays on those albums and how they develop the grooves. That's definitely a big influence," acknowledges Jurd.

"I think the trumpet, as an acoustic instrument, works so wonderfully with that electric sound, and the percussive element of the trumpet works really well in that setting. The amazing thing about all the decades of Miles' career is that they are each brilliant in their own way. I always ask myself what my desert island disc would be and if I could only take one—and it's a horrible question for me—but I think Bitches Brew would definitely be up for consideration."

Listening to Dinosaur's Together, As One, whether it be Jurd's searing trumpet lines or Elliott Galvin's Fender Rhodes/Hammond organ textures, and the Davis connection is perhaps a little obvious. Scratch just a little below the surface, however, and there are plenty of other influences at play as well, from minimalism to contemporary classical music, and from European folk elements to Scandinavian cool.

"I think it's an inevitability because of a lot of the music I've listened to," says Jurd of these influences. "I really love a lot of minimalism—Steve Reich is a big influence on me, so I can definitely hear some of that in places on the album. Yeah, harmonically sometimes it comes from a less jazzy world. There's Rhodes on a piece which is probably quite influenced by the likes of John Tavener and Arvo Part , and maybe Stravinsky as well—all kinds of things, I guess, but they're the main things that come to mind from a non-jazz world."

For Jurd, however seemingly disparate the sources of inspiration may seem, it's all part of the same musical melting pot for the twenty six year-old trumpeter. "Classical music is as much an influence on me as jazz music, whether it's with Dinosaur or a string quartet or an orchestra, or whatever. I'm just trying to find a way to include improvising musicians and to bring all my influences together, I guess."

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