Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

19

Lloyd Swanton: The Necks Trust Each Other to Not Push the Music Too Fast

Nenad Georgievski By

Sign in to view read count
The Australian jazz—improv—jam trio The Necks has been active for quarter century. Consisting of drummer Tony Buck, bassist Lloyd Swanton and keyboardist Chris Abrahams, The Necks' members are all seasoned jazzers who approach the trio's music rather differently. Drawing inspiration from electronica, systems music and rock, the Necks have reshaped the role of the jazz keyboard thus improvising with textures and space rather than just notes and chords. Characteristically, their performances are lengthy and their records often consist of one long composition. The trio is touring Europe and one of the places on their stops was the Skopje Jazz Festival.

All About Jazz: How would you characterize the unique aspects of The Necks?

Lloyd Swanton: I think whatever is really unique about us all stems from our decision when we first got together, that we were only ever going to play in private. Obviously we broke that undertaking! But I think, while it was in place, it allowed us to form our method of music-making completely free of any outside pressure, and nearly 30 years later we're still operating under the same principles.

AAJ: band has been active for 30 years and so far it has released 17 records. What is unique about the creative partnership the band members share? Can you talk about the collaborative process that enabled this music to happen?

LS: I don't play this way with any other musicians. (And that is as it should be!) I can't speak for myself, but I believe Chris and Tony are both utterly unique voices on their particular instruments. So, we have three distinct voices, and we have complete trust in each other, and in our method of improvising. We always try to find the positive in every texture we collectively generate; to not be judgmental. We all trust each other to not push the music too fast, or into places that it doesn't want to go. We know to stand back from the music and let it show us where it's heading.

AAJ: How has the band's chemistry evolved since the band's debut Sex up to the last Open?

LS: It is impossible to put into words, but it is very clear to hear. Again, that is as it should be. I would be very concerned if we still sounded the same after 30 years! But having said that, I feel there is still something linking the 1987 Necks with the 2014 version.

AAJ: The core of the band's playing successfully balances between jazz and ambient influences. Can you describe how you negotiate between jazz sounds, improv, and the delicate ambiences that the band manages to create?

LS: Again, not something that is easily expressed in words, but I can say that the three of us all listen, not just to jazz and ambient, but to a huge range of music, and of those various musics we form our own thoughts about what we wish to bring to The Necks' music. We don't ever discuss it with each other, but it's understood that anything we've been listening to or been working on may be offered up next time we get together to play.

AAJ: Your records feature long compositions, often a single composition that stretches over the record. How did this concept arise?

LS: Once we'd made the discovery about learning not to push a piece too urgently, we quickly found that we needed an hour or so to toss a few ideas around, find some things we liked in a few of them, maybe go off down a few dead-end paths, get the piece up in the air and really flying, and then bring it back down to land. That's for our live improvisations, at least, but it carried over to our studio albums, and the CD format had arrived just in time for us. Although we've recently done an LP with two 20 minute pieces on it, in the early days I don't think we could have fully expressed what is unique about our music in 20 or so minutes, and it would have been tragic to cut a piece in half to fit it across both sides of an LP, so the CD format was just what we needed.

AAJ: The Necks are known for their improvisatory skills. What do improvisation and composition mean to you and what, to you, are their respective merits? How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

LS: They are simply two different, but related ways of generating music. Improvising can be seen as a composition in real time, usually in a public situation, or can be a way of generating material in private, for a more formal composition, and on the other hand composition of course can be a springboard for improvisation, most obviously in jazz. Improvisation is so very natural to me; it's hard to imagine what it's like for musicians who aren't comfortable improvising.

AAJ: The band had a rare opportunity to jam with Brian Eno at the festival he curated in Sydney, Pure Scenius? What was that experience like?

LS: Just fantastic. He's such a legend, and although I don't think his music was a particularly direct influence on us, there is simply no way we could have begun thinking along the lines we have with The Necks without Brian's precedent. He is truly a pioneer and we owe a lot to him. And a very collaborative, consultative and inclusive leader. He had a "game plan" for our performances with Pure Scenius, but was absolutely interested in hearing our suggestions and took a lot on board and worked it into the process.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

CD/LP/Track Review
  • Body by Luca Canini
Radio
CD/LP/Track Review
  • Body by Mark Sullivan
  • Body by Mike Jurkovic
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Live Reviews
Catching Up With
Live Reviews
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
  • Open by Mark Corroto
Live Reviews
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Body

Body

Northern Spy Records
2018

buy
Unfold

Unfold

Ideologic Organ
2017

buy
Vertigo

Vertigo

Northern Spy Records
2016

buy
Vertigo

Vertigo

Northern Spy Records
2015

buy
The Necks: Open

The Necks: Open

ReR Megacorp
2014

buy
Open

Open

Northern Spy Records
2013

buy

Related Articles

Read Jay Clayton’s ScatLab—A Vocal Jazz Workout Catching Up With
Jay Clayton’s ScatLab—A Vocal Jazz Workout
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: December 4, 2018
Read Gary Urwin: Inside the Mind of an Arranger Catching Up With
Gary Urwin: Inside the Mind of an Arranger
by Rob Wood
Published: November 18, 2018
Read Devon Allman: Chipotle Blues Catching Up With
Devon Allman: Chipotle Blues
by Scott Mitchell
Published: November 4, 2018
Read Bobby Broom: Classic Compositions from Yesterday to Today Catching Up With
Bobby Broom: Classic Compositions from Yesterday to Today
by Corey Hall
Published: October 26, 2018
Read Stefon Harris: The Tradition of Jazz Catching Up With
Stefon Harris: The Tradition of Jazz
by Kevin Press
Published: October 16, 2018
Read Mike Stern: Living through a Jazz Clinic Catching Up With
Mike Stern: Living through a Jazz Clinic
by Rob Wood
Published: October 5, 2018
Read "Lauren Lee: On Being Uncool" Catching Up With Lauren Lee: On Being Uncool
by Suzanne Lorge
Published: May 10, 2018
Read "Devon Allman: Chipotle Blues" Catching Up With Devon Allman: Chipotle Blues
by Scott Mitchell
Published: November 4, 2018
Read "Harold Lopez-Nussa: from Havana to Indianapolis" Catching Up With Harold Lopez-Nussa: from Havana to Indianapolis
by Fernando Rodriguez
Published: September 2, 2018
Read "Frank van Berkel: New Programmer at Amsterdam's Bimhuis is Committed to Serve and to Curate" Catching Up With Frank van Berkel: New Programmer at Amsterdam's...
by Joan Gannij
Published: August 7, 2018
Read "Gary Urwin: Inside the Mind of an Arranger" Catching Up With Gary Urwin: Inside the Mind of an Arranger
by Rob Wood
Published: November 18, 2018
Read "Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the Chicago Jazz Festival" Catching Up With Stu Mindeman and trio explore a Chick Corea classic at the...
by Corey Hall
Published: August 21, 2018