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Take Five With Roy Powell

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Meet Roy Powell:

Roy Powell studied piano and avant-garde composition at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester England, before defecting to jazz. He first came to prominence in 1994 with his debut recording, A Big Sky, which was hailed as "a real benchmark in British contemporary electric jazz" by Jazz on CD. He then emigrated to Oslo, Norway, where he collaborated on an album of free improvised music, Holus, which was described as "an outstanding success" by Jazz Journal International. His next release as a leader—North by Northwest,, featuring Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen has also been a critical success, as well as being selected as Best Jazz CD of 2001 by Amazon.co.uk.

Solace, which was released in 2003 received lavish praise including 4 stars in Downbeat. His piece, "Bow Out," has been performed by Oakland, Richmond, Cincinnati and Florida ballet companies, and has had performances all over the globe from Japan, Australia, and USA to Europe and Scandinavia. His recordings have appeared in the Gramophone Jazz Good CD guide, Gramophone Classical Good CD guide, the Lord Discography, The new Grove Dictionary of Jazz as well as jazz magazines in Europe and the US and radio shows in the UK, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Holland Scandinavia and the US. Powell has recorded with and played concerts with many significant musicians including Art Farmer, Eddie Daniels, Jeff Berlin, [{Hadrian Feraud}}, Lorenzo Feliciati, Reggie Washington, Bobby Shew, Anthony Braxton, Vince Mendoza, Mike Gibbs, Iain Ballamy, Martin France, Frode Berg, Erik Smith, Arild Andersen, Terje Rypdal, Mike Walker, Sigurd Kahn, Jarle Vespestad, Jacob Young, Terje Gewelt, Cuong Vu, Pat Mastelotto, Joel Harrison, Dan Weiss, Nils Olav Johansen, Dominique di Piazza, Per Mathisen, Roy Hargrove and Dave Liebman, amongst others.

Instrument(s):

Organ, piano, keyboards.

Teachers and/or influences? JS Bach, Olivier Messiaen, Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... as a kid I played "drums" with pencils on Tupperware while my dad played Fats Waller's "Alligator Crawl." It felt good, and I wanted to do it all the time. Classical piano lessons nearly derailed me, but when I finally left music college much later I knew I would become a jazz musician, as it was the only music that satisfied every aspect of me.

Your sound and approach to music: Coming from Europe I like to have a sound which references Messiaen as much as Larry Young or Dr. Lonnie on organ. I really love the attention to timbre that many Norwegian musicians have, and I think it has influenced me a lot. Another strand to my trio with Jacob Young is the fact that we were both independently following Miles' late '80s band around while we were young, and sometimes I feel that influence coming through too.

Your teaching approach: Less "scale to chord," "painting by numbers," and more "learning by listening" and "opening up the ears" to hearing new possibilities. Wayne Shorter and Kenny Wheeler as two giants of this approach.

Your dream band:

To be honest, I don't go in for that type of thinking, because I think your music is the result of the people you work with, and hopefully they are the best for that kind of music. I guess I feel I have my ideal band working now.

Road story: Your best or worst experience: Eastern European tour sticks out with many crazy episodes including playing a concert for the local organized crime boss (unknown to us at the time), and then being stopped for speeding by the cops, who, when we name-dropped the "Godfather" for whom we had just played, gave the driver back his license and sent us hurriedly on our way.

Favorite venue:

Ronnie Scott's London;

Nasjonal Jazzscene Victoria, Oslo.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why? My latest of course! Anthem is my first full Hammond organ CD, and I'm proud that it sounds good! Great sound from the mics, mixing and mastering!

The first Jazz album I bought was: A George Shearing compilation LP—loved it! Also Oscar Peterson and the Trumpet Kings on Pablo.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? A European perspective on an African-American art form Specifically, playing the Hammond in a different way to my idols Larry Young, Dr.Lonnie Smith whilst still referencing them.

Did you know...

My saxophone quartet piece "Bow Out" was made into a ballet. Performed in Oakland, Florida, Richmond and Cincinnati.

CDs you are listening to now: Miles Davis, Tribute to Jack Johnson/em>; Washed Out, Life Of Leisure; Tony Williams Lifetime, Emergency!.

Desert Island picks:

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